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October 12, 2023 @ 7:30 am - 11:30 pm



India has initiated ‘Operation Ajay’ to evacuate its citizens from conflict-ridden Israel. This significant operation, announced by External Affairs Minister, involves the arrangement of special chartered flights for the safe return of Indian nationals. This evacuation effort follows ‘Operation Kaveri,’ which successfully brought back thousands of Indian citizens from Sudan earlier this year.

Key Points:

  • Escalating Conflict: The conflict in Israel escalated with Israel launching a massive military strike against the Gaza Strip, and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon joining the fray, prompting Israeli airstrikes. The situation has also led to the cancellation of many international flights.
  • Operation Scale: The scale of ‘Operation Ajay’ will depend on the demand from Indian nationals wishing to return. The government will expand its capacities as needed.
  • Indian Nationals in Israel: There are approximately 900 Indian students enrolled in Israeli universities, along with numerous Indian professionals and domestic workers. A significant part of Israel’s population consists of Indian-origin Jews.
  • Initiated Response: Operation Ajay was launched in response to the request for assistance, particularly concerning Indian pilgrims stuck in Bethlehem in Palestinian territories.

‘Operation Ajay’ reflects India’s commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of its nationals abroad. This effort demonstrates India’s proactive approach in responding to crises and providing support to its citizens in times of need.



India, as a rapidly growing economy, faces significant challenges related to energy consumption, climate change, and development aspirations. Fossil fuel consumption contributes to global warming, necessitating immediate and deep emissions cuts. Achieving net-zero emissions while meeting developmental goals requires a shift towards clean energy sources.

Challenges of Energy Consumption and Climate Change:

Rapid Economic Growth: India’s fast-paced economic growth drives increased energy demand, primarily met by fossil fuels.

Global Warming Crisis: Fossil fuel consumption is a major contributor to global warming, which poses an existential threat to humanity. The global consensus is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045–2070.

Developmental Aspirations: India aims to attain a Human Development Index (HDI) comparable to advanced nations, which requires a significant increase in per-capita energy use.

The Limitations of Renewable Energy:

Renewable Energy Deployment: While India is making significant progress in renewable energy deployment, including solar and wind, it alone may not be sufficient to meet the energy demand of a developed India.

Scale of Energy Requirement: To support a developed India, the clean energy requirement is estimated at around 25,000–30,000 TWhr/yr, more than four times the current energy consumption.

Nuclear Energy as a Solution: Given the limitations of renewables, rapid scaling up of nuclear energy is considered necessary. India needs to overcome unwarranted fears surrounding nuclear energy.

Clean and Safe Energy: Nuclear energy is recognized as one of the cleanest and safest energy sources for countering climate change, particularly with a closed nuclear fuel cycle.

A Six-Pronged National Strategy for Nuclear Energy:

  • Indigenous 700 MWe PHWR: The 700 MWe Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) should serve as the primary source for base load electrical capacity Fifteen more such units are already under construction in a fleet mode. Multiple public sector units (PSUs) should be leveraged for implementation.
  • Small Modular Reactors (SMRs): Develop indigenous Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) at sites vacated by retiring coal plants. Importing large reactors may make electricity production unaffordable. Collaboration with NTPC and other industrial partners is vital.



The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council recently addressed longstanding ambiguities in the GST regime and implemented rate changes, bringing clarity to certain tax treatments. While this is a positive step, there is a need for broader reform in the GST system.

Clearing Ambiguities and Rate Adjustments:

  • The GST Council resolved multiple tax treatment ambiguities that have persisted since the launch of the GST regime in 2017, including issues related to corporate and personal guarantees for bank loans.
  • It reduced the GST on molasses from 28% to 5% to lower cattle feed costs and improve cash flows for sugar mills, enabling them to pay farmers’ dues more promptly.
  • One significant decision was to not impose GST on extra neutral alcohol (ENA) used for alcoholic liquor. This clarity was sought by the industry for years.

Frequent Council Meetings:

The GST Council, which met only twice in 2022, convened four times in the current year, addressing anomalies in previous decisions and harmonizing age norms for GST Appellate Tribunals.

Consumers and producers should focus on the Council’s commitment to discuss the future of GST Compensation Cess and its potential replacement with a surcharge. The cess extension, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, should align with broader GST reforms.

Holistic Reform Needed:

The GST regime requires a comprehensive reform plan that includes a roadmap for integrating currently excluded items like electricity, petroleum, and alcohol.

Despite robust revenue inflows, the long-overdue rationalization of the complex, multi-rate GST structure has not been addressed.

While the recent GST Council meetings have addressed some pressing issues and provided clarity, it is crucial to formulate a holistic reform plan for the GST regime.



Hemochromatosis, often referred to as “bronze diabetes,” is a rare genetic disorder characterized by iron overload, which can lead to severe organ dysfunction.

Types of Hemochromatosis:

  1. Hereditary Hemochromatosis: This genetic disorder is driven by a mutation in the HFE gene, leading to excessive iron absorption in the intestines. Individuals with this condition accumulate iron in their system, posing risks to vital organs, including the liver, heart, and pancreas.
  2. Secondary Hemochromatosis: Unlike hereditary hemochromatosis, secondary hemochromatosis is typically caused by external factors such as frequent blood transfusions, iron supplementation, or certain medical conditions. Iron accumulation in secondary hemochromatosis can occur more rapidly and impact organ function.

Signs and Organ Involvement:

  • Liver: Cirrhosis is present in 70% of hemochromatosis patients, with an increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Pancreas: Iron deposition in the pancreas leads to diabetes, which affects approximately 50% of symptomatic patients.
  • Joints: Joint pain and arthroplasty may occur as a result of iron accumulation.
  • Heart: Iron deposition in cardiac muscle fibers can cause congestive heart failure, dilated cardiomyopathy, and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Hypogonadism: Impotence can result from iron-induced hypothalamic or pituitary failure.
  • Skin: Skin hyperpigmentation may occur when iron stores exceed five times the normal levels.


  • Initial investigation involves measuring serum transferrin saturation and serum ferritin
  • Elevated ferritin levels in women (>200 mcg/L) or men (>300 mcg/L) or high transferrin saturation (>40% in women or >50% in men) should prompt further testing.
  • Genetic testing for HFE mutations can confirm the diagnosis in over 90% of cases.


  1. Standard treatment for primary hemochromatosis is therapeutic phlebotomy, which involves removing red blood cells, the main mobilizer of iron.
  2. Phlebotomy is performed regularly to reduce iron levels, with less frequent sessions once levels have normalized.
  3. The goal is to achieve a ferritin level of less than 50 mcg/L.
  4. Phlebotomy helps improve insulin sensitivity, skin pigmentation, and fatigue, but it may not reverse cirrhosis, hypogonadism, or arthroplasty.



The relationship between traditional medicine and modern, evidence-based medicine is a subject of debate and discussion in the healthcare community. Recent incidents, such as the legal case filed by a manufacturer of indigenous drugs against a medical practitioner, have brought this issue into the spotlight.

Coexistence of Medical Systems

Traditional Medicine: Various traditional medical systems, such as Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha, have their pharmacopeia in India. These systems have been practiced for centuries and have their own principles and therapies.

Modern Medicine: Modern medicine has evolved into a science-based discipline, primarily from the late 19th century. Advances in technology, scientific thinking, and methodology have made modern medicine highly effective.

Principles of Modern Medicine:

  • Scientific Basis: Modern medicine is based on rigorous scientific research and testing, ensuring the safety and effectiveness of therapies.
  • Falsifiability: Advances in the 20th century, including the idea of falsifiability, led to critical evaluation of medical therapies. Ineffective treatments were abandoned.

Assessing Traditional Medicine:

  • Physiological Basis: Traditional medicine systems may lack a sound physiological basis due to historical limitations in understanding the human body. However, they often emphasized the importance of basing diagnoses and therapies on a sound understanding of the human body.
  • Epistemology: Ayurveda, for example, has evolved from faith-based beliefs to reason-based epistemology, allowing it to integrate new knowledge and ideas.

Integration and Evaluation:

  • Modern Drug Development: Modern medicines are often single-ingredient, and the exact amount of active principles is carefully measured. In contrast, Ayurvedic medicines are commonly combinations, and how these components interact is uncertain.
  • Scientific Evaluation: To enhance the acceptance of Ayurvedic medicines in the scientific community, they should be evaluated using modern scientific methods that respect the integrity of traditional formulations. New investigational methods and trial designs must be developed to assess Ayurvedic therapies without compromising their holistic approach.

Government Policy:

Evidence-Based Appraisal: Government policies should aim to provide evidence-based healthcare to the population. Traditional medical systems should be evaluated, useful components retained, and integrated into a coherent healthcare system.

A Disservice to Evidence-Based Medicine:

  • Open-Mindedness and Scepticism: Blanket denunciation of traditional systems hinders the scientific spirit. Open-mindedness, tempered by scepticism, is essential for scientific progress.
  • Cultural Heritage: Dismissing traditional medical knowledge disregards valuable experience passed down through generations and overlooks cultural achievements.


The coexistence of traditional and modern medicine is a complex issue. An evidence-based appraisal of traditional medical systems, respectful integration of valuable knowledge, and the development of modern evaluation methods are essential. Government policies should prioritize the health of the population and should not be hindered by false ideas of nationalism.



The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has released guidelines for Bima Vahaks, a women-centric distribution channel, as part of its strategy to promote insurance inclusion in rural areas. These guidelines aim to support the ‘Insurance for All’ goal, with Bima Vahaks playing a crucial role in delivering Bima Vistaar, an affordable and comprehensive insurance product.

Guidelines for Bima Vahaks:

Role of Bima Vahaks: Bima Vahaks, both individual and corporate, will be equipped with handheld electronic communication devices integrated with insurers’ electronic platforms. Their primary responsibility is to promote and provide Bima Vistaar and other products specified by IRDAI.

Restrictions on Fees: Bima Vahaks are not allowed to charge any fees or collect additional charges from policyholders, except for insurance premiums.

Operational and Conduct Standards: The Life Insurance Council and General Insurance Council will jointly establish common operational and conduct standards for Bima Vahaks. This includes defining educational requirements, commission structures, training, terms of appointment, data management, and compliance.

Implementation and Expansion:

Effective Date: The guidelines will take effect upon the launch of Bima Vistaar, and the specific date will be notified separately by IRDAI.

Geographic Coverage: Every insurer is required to engage individual and corporate Bima Vahaks, with a focus on extending insurance coverage to every Gram Panchayat. All Gram Panchayats should have Bima Vahaks deployed by December 31, 2024.

Supporting Rural Areas:

Scope of Work: Bima Vahaks will be instrumental in raising awareness about insurance in rural areas. Their responsibilities may include assisting with proposal forms, facilitating customer KYC processes, issuing insurance policies, coordinating and supporting policy and claims services, and aiding in claims settlements.

Lead Insurers for States: IRDAI has previously appointed lead insurers for states to access untapped rural regions. The introduction of Bima Vahaks aligns with this initiative to strengthen the presence of insurance services in rural India.



The Supreme Court has directed the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) to address concerns related to the distribution and usage of highly polluting pet coke. Pet coke, short for petroleum coke, is a solid carbon-rich material obtained from the final cracking process during crude oil refining. It is increasingly being used as a substitute for coal in various industries due to its higher calorific value and other favourable properties.

Key Points:

Petroleum Coke (Pet Coke): Pet coke is a byproduct of the refining process of crude oil. It is a solid substance composed of carbon, and its properties make it an attractive alternative to coal in various industrial applications.

Advantages of Pet Coke:

  • Higher Calorific Value: Pet coke offers a higher calorific value compared to coal, making it an efficient source of energy in industrial processes.
  • Hydrophobic: Pet coke is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water, making it a suitable choice in applications where moisture resistance is essential.
  • Low Volatility: Pet coke has lower volatility, reducing the risk of emissions and accidents.
  • Low Ash Residue: The combustion of pet coke results in lower ash residue, contributing to cleaner industrial processes.


October 12, 2023
7:30 am - 11:30 pm
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