St Status For Koch-Rajbongshis
# Gs-1 # Gs-2 # Tribes And Their Development
- An “exiled” leader of West Bengal has hinted at his community, the Koch-Rajbongshi, being granted Scheduled Tribe (ST) status in Assam.
- A self-proclaimed king of Cooch Behar in northern West Bengal and a spiritual leader has been living in Chirang near Bongaigaon town for a few years.
- He had claimed to have been in exile for fighting for the “independent state” of Cooch Behar.
Tribes in Assam
- The anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests have brought demands of the Adivasis and tea tribes in Assam to the forefront.
- The Adivasis, comprising 106 sub-groups, are the largest of the six communities demanding the Scheduled Tribes (ST) status.
- The several others are Chutiya, Koch-Rajbongshi, Moran, Matak, and Tai-Ahom.
- The Adivasis comprise 18% of Assam’s population.
- The grant of ST status to these communities will make Assam a tribal-majority State.
- The tea garden workers were originally brought by the British from Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra
- Pradesh and West Bengal to work in the tea plantations of Assam during mid 19th century. Later they permanently settled in Assam.
- They are known to be tea and ex-tea garden tribes, who are recognized as Other Backward Classes (OBC) by the Government.
- These people not only constitute a sizable chunk of the population in the State but also play a major role in tea production of the State (about 53% of the total tea production of the country).
- Economically, they are quite backward and literacy level among these communities is extremely low.
- Thus, they are demanding ST status in the state of Assam.
- Koch Rajbongshi is an ancient tribe originally from the ancient Koch kingdom. The word "Rajbongshi" literally
- means "royal community".
- The homelands of this ancient tribe include West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and various North-Eastern parts of India.
- They speak Rajbongshi/Rajbanshi language. This language is also spoken in Bangladesh and Nepal.
- The Rajbongshi was primarily animist (perceiving all things animated and alive.), but later on, they followed Hinduism/Sanatana (both Shaiva and Vaishnavite), A few sections of Rajbongshi people were also found to be followers of Christianity.
- The Moran community is one of the aboriginal tribes of Assam.
- In the 13th century, they lived in the south eastern region of the Brahmaputra valley.
- They had their own independent kingdom before the advent of the Ahoms.
- It is possible that it is a tribal word that means a group of people like, Mising, Mulung, Mung Tai, etc.
- In the early 17th century, Aniruddhadeva converted them to Vaishnavism and thus brought about the regeneration of their society and culture.
Greater male connectivity project
# GS-3 # project assistance
The Reserve Bank of India informed on February 11 that the Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) will provide USD 400 million to the Maldives to fund Greater Male Connectivity Project.
- Exim Bank had signed an agreement with the Maldives government on October 12, 2020, for providing Government of India supported Line of Credit (LoC) of USD 400 million for the Greater Male Connectivity – (Male to Thilafushi Link) project in the Maldives.
- The agreement under the Line of Credit is effective from 28th January 2021.
- The terminal utilization period is 60 months after the scheduled completion date of the project.
- The 6.7 km Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) will be the largest civilian infrastructure project in the Maldives.
- It will connect Male with three neighboring islands – Gulhifahu, Villingili, and Thilafushi.
- India will fund the implementation of a major connectivity project in the Maldives through a USD 100 million grant and a USD 400 million line of credit.
- In addition to this project, a ferry service between India and Maldives will be started to boost trade and commerce.
Medical termination of pregnancy
#Gs-2 # Health # Social Justice
- The Kerala High Court allowed the medical termination of a young rape survivor’s pregnancy that had crossed the legally permissible period for the procedure.
- The court permitted the medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) on a petition by the mother of a 16-year-old girl.
- Her pregnancy had crossed 28 weeks, the oldest to be cleared by the Kerala High Court.
Medical termination of a young rape survivor’s pregnancy
- As many as 194 women filed writ petitions in the Supreme Court seeking permission for abortion between June 1, 2016, and April 30, 2019.
- As many as 97 of these cases involved rape victims, 82 of whom were less than 18 years old.
- Foetal abnormality was cited as the reason for seeking abortion in 88 of the cases.
- Section 19 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 requires any person aware that a minor is pregnant to report her to the police, regardless of the girl’s consent.
- However, to avoid getting involved in legal proceedings, doctors refuse to treat and perform abortions on minors.
- As the POCSO Act does not distinguish between consensual sex and rape, every underage pregnancy is treated the same way.
- Doctors also cite the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Technique Act of 1994 to refuse abortion.
- Originally enacted to crack down on sex-selective abortions that were thought to be the cause of the declining sex ratio in the country, Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Technique Act requires radiologists to not declare the sex of the foetus to the mother.
- No provision in the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Technique Act prohibits abortion, yet doctors refuse, particularly after the second trimester, fearing prosecution under the act.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- In January 2020, the Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 allowing women to seek abortions as part of the reproductive right and gender justice.
- The Bill seeks to amend Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.
- Before 1971, abortion was criminalized under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, describing it as intentionally 'causing miscarriage'.
- The Bill proposes the requirement of the opinion of one registered medical practitioner (instead of two or more) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation (foetal development period from the time of conception until birth).
- It introduces the requirement of the opinion of two registered medical practitioners for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
- It has also enhanced the gestation limit for ‘special categories’ of women which includes survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women like differently-abled women and minors.
- It also states that the “name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed”, except to a person authorised in any law that is currently in force.
Steps Taken by the Government for Safe Abortions
- The Government provides safe and comprehensive abortion care (CAC) services to women in health facilities under RMNCH+A (Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health) program of National Health Mission.
- Guidelines on Comprehensive Abortion care services and Medical Methods of Abortions (MMA) have been provided to all the States.
- Provision of funds to States/ UTs for the operationalization of safe abortion services at health facilities.
- Provision of Funds to States to plan and implement comprehensive “Information Education & Communication/ Behaviour Change Communication (IEC/BCC)” activities for maternal health including safe abortion care.
- Capacity Building of Medical officers in Safe Abortion Techniques and of ANMs, ASHAs and other functionaries to provide confidential counseling for safe abortion and promote post-abortion care.
- Training of ASHAs to equip them with skills to create awareness on Comprehensive abortion care issues in women in the community and facilitate women in accessing services.
- Certification to private and NGO sector facilities to provide quality Comprehensive Abortion Care
- Supply of Nischay Pregnancy detection kits to sub-centers for early detection of pregnancy.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy(SMA)
#Gs-3 # Rare Diseases
- A gene therapy costing 16 crore is the only shot at life for nearly 200 children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1, a rare genetic disease, in Karnataka.
- Last month, the therapy - Zolgensma - was offered free to a 14-month-old baby from Bhatkal (Uttara Kannada) who was the lucky winner of a lottery through a compassionate access programme by Novartis, the Swiss drugmaker.
- This lottery is held once in two weeks for SMA children across the world and doctors at Baptist Hospital, that has a dedicated Paediatric Neuromuscular Service, are hoping more children will benefit.
- The therapy is a one-time infusion that takes about an hour.
- The therapy was approved by U.S. regulators in May 2019 and has since then turned into a miracle drug for this rare disorder that destroys a baby’s muscle control.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)
- SMA is a disease caused by loss of nerve cells, which carry electrical signals from the brain to the muscles.
- The protein needed for this signalling is coded by a gene for which everyone has two copies - one from the mother and the other from the father.
- A child develops this disorder only if both the copies are faulty. Without treatment, this disease is ultimately fatal.
- The disease as it progresses, makes it extremely difficult for the babies to carry out basic activities like sitting up, lifting their head or swallowing milk.
- The current treatment options range from medicines, which increase these proteins, to replacing the faulty gene.
A revolutionary treatment
- Zolgensma is a revolutionary treatment, which works by supplying a healthy copy of the faulty gene, which allows nerve cells to then start producing the needed protein.
- That halts deterioration of the nerve cells and allows the baby to grow more normally.
- The drug has a 14-day shelf life and when it was sent from U.S. for the Bhatkal baby, it was stuck with customs for three days in mid-January making doctors jittery.
38 babies die
- 38 babies had succumbed to the rare disease over one-and-half years in Karnataka.
- A Bengaluru-based couple have taken to crowd funding on ImpactGuru.com to cover the cost of Zolgensma for their 10-month-old baby Janish diagnosed with SMA.
National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases, 2017
- The policy highlights the measures and steps, both in the short as well as in the long term, that need to be taken to deal comprehensively with rare diseases.
- The policy intends to constitute an Inter-ministerial Consultative Committee to coordinate and steer the initiatives of different ministries and departments on rare diseases.
- It also mentions for the creation of a corpus fund at Central and State level for funding treatment of rare diseases.
- The policy aims to create a patient registry for diseases housed in Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
- However, recognizing the higher cost of treatment for rare diseases, the policy also seeks to strike a balance between access to treatment with health system sustainability.
- It also aims to create awareness among health professionals, families of patients and the public in general, about rare diseases.
Amazon Moves SC In Future Cases.
#Gs-2 # Governance
- E-commerce major Amazon moved the Supreme Court to stay the operation of a Delhi High Court order of February 8, which had revoked an earlier direction to Future Group to maintain status quo on the sale of its retail assets to Reliance Industries.
- Amazon said the February 8 order was ‘ex-facie arbitrary and illegal’.
- The order was passed by a Division Bench of the High Court on an appeal filed by Future Retail Limited (FRL).
- The bench’s order had countermanded a February 2 order by a Single Judge of the High Court, which had directed FRL to maintain status quo on the deal with Reliance pending a final order.
- It is evident that the Single Judge order to maintain status quo was directed for the limited purpose of protecting the substratum of the dispute till a detailed order was issued.
- However, the High Court, instead of waiting for a detailed order, has issued the interim order (February 8) staying the operation, implementation and execution of the Single Judge order without giving any reasons.
The “balance of convenience”
- Amazon urged the apex court to protect its interests by granting an ex parte stay on the deal between FRL and Reliance.
- The U.S. firm said the court should intervene to protect its rights as the “balance of convenience” was in its favour.
- Respondents [Future Group] have unequivocally stated that they will continue to take steps to complete the transaction.
- The greater the progress made towards the completion of the transaction, the harder it will be to unravel it.
- Over time, the interests of additional third parties may also become entwined and be subsequently compromised.
- It added “irreparable harm” would be caused if the court did not stay the February 8 order.
- Amazon argued that an appeal, as preferred by FRL against the Single Judge’s order, was barred under Section 17(2) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.