Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 05 August 2023

WHO report on tobacco control measures

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

Bengaluru finds special mention in a World Health Organisation (WHO) report on tobacco control measures released. Hundreds of enforcement drives, putting up ‘No Smoking’ signs, and creating awareness about the effects of smoking and second-hand smoke resulted in a 27% reduction in smoking in public places in the city, the report said. Across the world, there are 300 million fewer smokers today, with the prevalence of smoking declining from 22.8% in 2007 to 17% in 2021.

Measures of the report

  • Fifteen years ago, WHO had developed the MPOWER measures – monitor tobacco use and prevention policiesprotect people from tobacco smoke; offer help to quit tobaccowarn about dangers of tobacco; enforce bans on tobacco advertising; and raise taxes on tobacco products.
  • The report assesses the implementation of these measures.

What does the report say?

  • In the 15 years since the MPOWER measures were first introduced, 5.6 billion people in the world – or 71% of the entire population – remain protected by at least one of the measures. This has increased from just 5% of the population in 2008.
  • The number of countries implementing at least one MPOWER measure has increased from 44 countries in 2008 to 151 in 2022. At least four countries – BrazilTurkiyeNetherlands, and Mauritius – have implemented all the measures.
  • WHO urges all countries to put in place all of the MPOWER measures at best-practice level to fight the tobacco epidemic, which kills 8.7 million people globally, and push back against the tobacco and nicotine industries, who lobby against these public health measures.
  • With a focus on second-hand smoking, the report says that almost 40% countries now have completely smoke-free indoor public spaces.

The report has some bad news as well.

  • There are at least 44 countries in the world that still do not implement any MPOWER measure.
  • There are 53 countries that do not completely ban smoking in healthcare facilities. And only half of the countries have smoke-free workplaces and restaurants.
  • The director general of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also flagged the dangers of e-cigarettes.
  • In the report, he said, “But progress so far is being undermined by the tobacco industry’s aggressive promotion of E-cigarettes as a safer alternative to cigarettes.

How does India fare?

  • When it comes to India, the report states that the country has the highest level of achievement when it comes to putting health warning labels on tobacco products and providing tobacco dependence treatment.
  • With 85% of cigarette packs carrying health warnings both on the front and back, India figures among the top 10 countries in terms of the size of health warnings. The cigarette packets in the country also carry a toll-free number for a quit-line.
  • India has also banned the sale of e-cigarettes, and banned smoking in healthcare facilities and educational institutions.
  • The report ranks the implementation of these bans an 8 out of 10 in healthcare facilities, 6 in schools, and 5 in universities.


Govt’s Bill on IIMs over their autonomy

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The government has brought a Bill in Parliament giving itself significant say in the appointment and removal of Directors of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), and in initiating inquiries. The Indian Institutes of Management (Amendment) Bill, 2023, introduced in Lok Sabha, seeks to make changes in the law that governs the administration and running of IIMs. The proposed changes have triggered concern over their potential to erode the autonomy of the IIMs.

What is the purpose of the Bill?

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Institutes of Management Act, 2017 which declared 20 existing IIMs as “institutions of national importance with a view to empower these institutions to attain standards of global excellence in management, management research and allied areas of knowledge.
  • Under the 2017 Act, the Director of an IIM is appointed by a Board of Governors, and the government has a limited say in the process.
  • The proposed amendments essentially seek to alter this situation, and to give the government an expanded role in the appointment of the IIM Director.

How is this change proposed to be effected?

  • Section 5 of the amendment Bill says that “After section 10 of the principal Act, the following section shall be inserted, namely— ’10A. (1) The President of India shall be the Visitor of every Institute’” covered under the IIM Act.
  • The Bill prescribes three primary roles for the Visitor: to make appointments, to audit the working of institutions, and to conduct an inquiry.

What is the current process of appointment of the Director?

  • Section 16(2) of the 2017 Act says “the Director shall be appointed by the Board, on such terms and conditions of service as may be prescribed.”
  • Section 16(1) says the “Director shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute and shall provide leadership to the Institute and be responsible for implementation of the decisions of the Board”.
  • Section 16(3) says “the Director shall be appointed out of the panel of names recommended by a search-cum-selection committee to be constituted by the Board”.
  • The Board chairperson will head the search-cum-selection committee, which will also have “three members chosen from amongst eminent administratorsindustrialistseducationistsscientiststechnocrats and management specialists”.


Mineral iron is important in ocean ecosystems

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

According to new research published in Nature, mineral forms of iron play an important role in regulating the cycling of this bio-essential nutrient in the ocean. The discoveries pave the way for future research into the relationship between the iron and carbon cycles, as well as how changing ocean oxygen levels may interact.

More about the research

  • The research, led by the University of Liverpool and involving collaborators from the United StatesAustralia, and France, aims to fill a knowledge gap in ocean science.
  • The early Earth's ocean was low in oxygen and high in iron, which served as a catalyst in many biological reactions. These include photosynthesis, which oxygenated the earth's system through its proliferation.
  • Because iron is less soluble in well-oxygenated seawater, precipitation and sinking of iron oxides resulted in a decrease in iron levels.
  • As a result, iron now plays a critical role in regulating ocean productivity and thus ecosystems throughout the modern ocean.
  • It is thought that organic molecules called ligands, which bind ironregulate iron levels above their soluble thresholds.
  • This viewpoint has underpinned the representation of the marine iron cycle in global models used to investigate how future climate changes will affect levels of biological productivity.
  • However, oceanographers have been perplexed as to why there appeared to be a much larger loss of iron due to insolubility in the ocean than would be expected based on the measured high levels of ligands.
  • In general, ocean models built in accordance with the expected pattern have performed poorly in reproducing observations.

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