Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Current Affairs 21 May-2021


  • Epidemic:
  • Militarisation of Arctic
  • Colombo Port City
  • Pradhan Mantri Swastya suraksha yojana
  • Oil Seeds
  • Van Dhan Yojana



Context: Declare mucormycosis an epidemic: Centre to States.


  • The Union government has asked the States to declare mucormycosis, the fungal infection being reported in COVID19 patients, an epidemic under epidemic diseases act,1897.
  • Declaring it an epidemic would lead to health facilities screening for it and reporting all such cases to the government.
  • Rajasthan, Telangana and Tamil Nadu have declared it an epidemic.

What is an Epidemic?

  • An epidemic is the rapid spread of disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time.
  • An epidemic may be restricted to one location; however, if it spreads to other countries or continents and affects a substantial number of people, it may be termed a

      What is Epidemic diseases act, 1897?

  • The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 is a law which was first enacted to tackle bubonic plague in Bombay state in former British India. The law is meant for containment of epidemics by providing special powers that are required for the implementation of containment measures to control the spread of the disease.
  • The Act has been routinely used to contain various diseases in India such as swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue.
  • In 2018 the Act was enforced as cholera began to spread in a region of Gujarat. In 2015, it was used to deal with dengue and malaria in Chandigarh and in 2009 it was invoked in Pune to combat swine flu and in 2020 to combat Covid19.
  • It enables government to declare diseases as ‘Notifiable diseases’ which make it mandatory for all facilities to report suspected and confirmed cases to health department an to Integrated Disease Surveillance Program.
  • The Act gives flexibility to States in making Regulations under the Act to devise their own strategies and responses in a given situation that would be peculiar to their conditions.

 What is Mucormycosis?

  • Mucormycosis (previously called zygomycosis) is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes.
  • The disease mainly affects the skin, lungs and brain.
  • It is caused by a group of molds called Mucoromycetes.
  • It mainly affects people who are on medication.
  • The lungs or sinuses of the recovering COVID patients get affected after they inhale fungal spores from the air.


  • It causes redness around the eyes, nose.
  • Also, the person suffers from headache, fever, bloody vomits, shortness of breath, altered mental status.


Mucormycosis might lead to loss of eyes or or upper jaws. Such patients might require a surgery! The treatment of Mucormycosis includes infusion of saline, Amphotericin and other anti-fungal therapies.


2.Militarisation of Arctic


  • The US has expressed concerns about increased military activities in the Arctic during Arctic Coucil meeting of Foreign Ministers.


  • At a meeting of Arctic Council Foreign Ministers in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the group should maintain its focus on peaceful cooperation on environmental issues, maritime safety and the well being of indigenous people in the region.
  • Blinken stressed the importance of upholding “effective governance and the rule of law” to ensure that arctic remains a region free of conflict.
  • This comes after Russia defended its military activities in the strategic region.
  • President Vladimir Putin has in recent years made Russia’s Arctic region a strategic priority and ordered investment in military infrastructure and mineral extraction, exacerbating tensions with Arctic Council members.


  • Increased military activities in the Arctic increase the dangers or prospects of accidents and undermines the shared goal of a peaceful and sustainable future for the region.
  • Arctic is rapidly opening up to commercial activities due to the effects of Climate change.

Arctic council:

  • It is an Intergovernmental forum which addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and people living in the Arctic region.
  • It is Not a treaty-based international organization but rather an international forum that operates on the basis of consensus.
  • The decisions, recommendations or guidelines of the Arctic Council are non-enforceable and strictly the prerogative of the individual state.
  • Its mandate explicitly excludes military security.
  • The 1996 Ottawa Declaration lists the following countries as Members of the Arctic Council: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.
  • In addition, six organizations representing Arctic indigenous peoples have status as Permanent Participants. They include: the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North and the Saami Council.
  • Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to non-Arctic states, along with inter-governmental, inter-parliamentary, global, regional and non-governmental organizations that the Council determines can contribute to its work.


3.Colombo Port City

Context: Sri Lanka Parliament passes Bill on China backed Port City


  • The development comes after the Supreme Court gave go ahead with few amendments
  • The $1.4billion Colombo Port City was launched in 2014.
  • The mega infrastructure project is currently being built on land reclaimed alongside Colombo’s sea front.
  • Aim is to develop the city as a Financial hub.
  • It is the largest single foreign investment by China in Sri Lanka among the other massive infrastructure projects.
  • The Port City will attract billions of dollars for trade, banking and offshore services similar to what is available in Dubai and Singapore.
  • The Port City will be administered by a commission with various powers to fast track investment approvals.
  • All transactions within the Port City will be denominated in foreign currency and all salaries earned by any worker will be tax-exempt which can make the city into a tax haven for foreign investors.


       Concerns for Sri Lanka:

  • Political opposition and civil societies in Sri Lanka is opposing this project as it affects Sri Lankas’s Sovereignty as it may lead creation of a ‘Chinese Conclave’
  • Environmentalists and Fisher folks are opposing it as it will have negative effect on fish population.
  • Sri Lanka might be pushed into debt trap.

Concerns for India:

  • It shows increasing china’s presence in south Asia and its acceptance by the countries as a torch bearer for the region which India wants for itself.
  • Over the past decade, China has replaced India as the major trading partner of several South Asian countries.
  • The project site’s proximity to the Indian coastline.
  • Chinese presence in the vicinity is not welcomed especially when India already has many unresolved issues with China.
  • This deal came at a time when India’s confrontation with China in Ladakh is yet to be resolved.
  • Recently, the Sri Lankan government cancelled the contract with India and Japan for the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT).
  • The tripartite agreement, signed by India, Sri Lanka and Japan, proposed to develop the ECT, which is located at the newly expanded southern part of the Colombo Port.
  • For India, the ECT deal was important as around 70% of transhipment that takes place through it is India-linked. The ECT is also considered more strategic than any other in Colombo Port.

Way Forward:

India must list its strengths and weaknesses when it is participating in the third country on developments. Apart from that India must establish the neighbourhood constituencies and should have a dialogue with the concerned political, economic, social and cultural actors.


4.Pradhan Mantri Swastya suraksha yojana:

Context: The Central government has approved setting up 22 new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) so far under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) out of which six are already fully functional.

About PMSSY:

  • PMSSY was announced in 2003 with objectives of correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/ reliable tertiary healthcare services and also to augment facilities for quality medical education in the country.
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is the nodal ministry to implement the scheme.
  • PMSSY has two components:
  1. Setting up new AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences).
  2. Up gradation of government medical colleges in various states.
  • The project cost for up gradation of each medical college institution is shared by the Centre and the state.

Other Initiatives Related to Healthcare Sector:

  1. National Health Policy (NHP) 2017:
  • Aims to provide healthcare in an “assured manner” to all, the NHP 2017 strives to address current and emerging challenges arising from the ever-changing socio-economic, technological and epidemiological scenarios.
  1. National Health Mission:
  • NHM was launched by the government of India in 2013 subsuming the National Rural Health Mission and the National Urban Health Mission.
  • The main programmatic components include Health System Strengthening in rural and urban areas for – Reproductive-Maternal- Neonatal-Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A), and Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases
  1. Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi (PMSSN)
  • A single non-lapsable reserve fund for Health from the proceeds of Health and Education Cess.
  1. PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Scheme:
  • Announced in the Union Budget 2021-22.
  • Aims to develop capacities of primary, secondary, and tertiary care health systems even in the last miles of the nation, and developing a modern ecosystem for research, testing and treatment in the country itself.


5.Oil Seeds:

Context: To achieve self-sufficiency in edible oils Union Government formulates Kharif Strategy 2021.


  • To achieve self-sufficiency in the production of oilseeds, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has adopted a multi-pronged strategy.
  • Under the strategy, the Government of India has approved an ambitious plan for the free distribution of high yielding varieties of seeds to the farmers for the Kharif season 2021 in the form of mini-kits.

Why such strategy?

  • India is the fourth largest vegetable oil economy in the world after the USA, China and Brazil.
  • Today, the oilseeds account for 13% of the cropped area in the country. Still, India is the largest importer of palm oil in the world.
  • Due to diverse agro-climatic conditions and geographical locations, farmers are able to grow all the nine annual oilseeds viz. groundnut, rapeseed, soybean, sunflower, seasame, safflower, niger, castor and linseed.
  • In India, oilseeds are second most important crop after cereals sharing 14% of the country’s gross cropped area and accounting for nearly 3% of GDP.
  • India needs a three fold increase in the oilseeds production in the next 35 years.

Oilseed production in India:

  • Total Oilseeds production in the country during 2019-20 is estimated at 34.19 million tonnes which is higher by 2.67 million tonnes than the production of 31.52 million tonnes during 2018-19.
  • Further, the production of oilseeds during 2019-20 is higher by 4.54 million tonnes than the average oilseeds production.

Challenges for its production:

  • Climatic stresses
  • Unfavourable farming conditions.
  • Oilseeds cultivation is mainly undertaken on marginal land by resource poor farmers who are generally reluctant to provide necessary inputs for increasing the productivity.
  • Nearly 82% of the oilseeds area fall under rainfed farming where climatic vagaries cause damage to crops.
  • Studies have indicated emergence of biotic threats (diseases) which have the potential to disrupt the production patterns and regional crop preferences in a significant manner.

Measures to improve oilseeds production

  • Promote oilseeds cultivation in areas where there is assured irrigation.
  • Widen the scope of research, technology, diffusion and institutional intervention to re-energise the oil sector.
  • Increase public research spending in oilseeds crops for development of biotic and abiotic tolerant varieties.
  • Develop newer high yielding varieties of groundnut and mustard
  • Provide incentives to private sector participation in processing and value addition in oilseeds crops.
  • Ensure availability of inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides and credit and extension services.
  • Implement market reforms and policies, such as contract farming and public-private partnership in production and processing, to ensure a competitive market for oilseeds and edible oil along with adequate protective measures to avoid unfair competition from the international markets

Government initiatives:

  • Tilhan Mission
  • National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm

The Government of India through the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm has the objective to augment the availability of edible oils and reduce the import of edible oils by increasing the production and productivity of oilseeds and oil palm.

As a result of the above efforts, the production of oilseeds has increased from 27.51 million tonnes in 2014-15 to 37.31 million tonnes in 2020-21 (2nd advance estimates), while the area has increased from 25.99 million hectares to 28.82 million hectares and yield from 1075 kg/hectares to 1295 kg/hectares during the same corresponding period.


6.Van Dhan Yojana 

In News:

  • The Van DhanVikas Kendra Clusters provide the Van DhanVikas Kendras economies of scale, livelihood and market-linkages, as well as entrepreneurship opportunities to nearly 6.67 lakh Tribal forest gatherers in 23 states and 2 UTs.
  • The success of the programme can be gauged from the fact that already 50 lakh tribals have been impacted by the Van Dhan start-ups programme up until now.
  • Incredible stories of entrepreneurship while retaining their age-old practices and traditions is an example of how Van DhanYojana is benefitting the tribal population.

Van Dhan Scheme:

  • The Van Dhan Scheme is an initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and TRIFED.  It was launched on 14th April, 2018 and seeks to improve tribal incomes through value addition of tribal products.
  • The scheme will be implemented through Ministry of Tribal Affairs as Nodal Department at the Central Level and TRIFED as Nodal Agency at the National Level.
  • At State level, the State Nodal Agency for Minor Forest Produces and the District collectors are envisaged to play a pivot role in scheme implementation at grassroot level.
  • The tribals will be trained on sustainable harvesting, collection, primary processing, and value addition.
  • These Kendras play a significant role in the economic progress and development of tribes. They also help the tribals utilize their natural resources in the best possible way providing them with a sustainable livelihood based on Minor Forest Produce from the Minor Forest Produce-rich areas.
  • It will help in increasing enterprise among rural women, make them economically independent.
  • The central and state governments will provide necessary support by creating infrastructure and providing an enabling environment for undertaking value addition on systematic scientific lines

Minor Forest produce:

  • Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is a major source of livelihood for tribals living in forest areas.
  • The importance of MFPs for this section of the society can be gauged from the fact that around 100 million forest dwellers depend on MFPs for food, shelter, medicines and cash income.
  • It provides them critical subsistence during the lean seasons, particularly for primitive tribal groups such as hunter gatherers, and the landless.
  • Tribals derive 20-40% of their annual income from MFP on which they spend major portion of their time. This activity has strong linkage to women’s financial empowerment as most of the MFPs are collected and used/sold by women. MFP sector has the potential to create about 10 million workdays annually in the country.


  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs launched the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) in 1987.
  • TRIFED has two significant functions:
  1. Retail Marketing of Tribal Products
  2. Development of MFP (Minor Forest Produce)


  • Promoting and encouraging Socio-Economic development of the tribal community by improving and developing the market of the tribal commodities.
  • TRIFED acts as a medium and a facilitator that helps the tribes sell their products.
  • Some of the tribal products include tribals art, textiles, metal craft, tribal painting pottery, etc.
  • These products and their sale contribute to a major part of their income.



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