Brief of newspaper articles for the day bearing
relevance to Civil Services preparation
- Opinions & Editorials
. Pranab gives assent to central rule in Arunachal Pradesh
President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday evening approved the Union Cabinet’s recommendation for the imposition of President’s rule on Arunachal Pradesh.
Apart from the rule under which an Assembly has to meet every six months, the deadline for which expired in Arunachal Pradesh on January 21, there were other compelling reasons to impose President’s rule.
. Caste System has left imprint on genes: Study
The twisting strands of DNA tell tales of the consolidation of the caste system.
A study by researchers from the National Institute of BioMedical Genomics (NIBMG) in West Bengal has looked at the genes of various communities to answer the question” when did caste become the dominant norm for ethnic communities of the region?”
Sample for the study:-
The samples ranged in caste, linguistic as well as geographic variations: from “upper caste” — Gujarati, Manipuri, West Bengal Brahmins and Marathas — to Dravidian communities — Pallan, Irula, among others — to Central and Eastern Indian tribes — Ho, Santhal, Birhor.
From Andaman and Nicobar islands, the Jarawa and Onge tribes were chosen for the study — and these tribes were found to have ancestries closer to the Pacific Islanders than those in mainland India.
Observations of the study:-
For most upper-caste communities, endogamy (that is marrying within one’s caste) started nearly 70 generations ago, or around the time of the Hindu Gupta period around 1,500 years ago.
A lot of social transformation took place during the Gupta period. Notable among these was the enforcement of social strictures against marriage between castes, as enshrined in the Dharmasastra . This reveals that some social norms leave imprints on the DNA, which can be reconstructed by careful genetic studies
Pala Dynasty (West Bengal Brahmins):-
By looking at the block lengths of ancestral genes, the team could pinpoint the era when mixing of castes ended. In the case of West Bengal Brahmins, marriages with the northeastern communities continued until the arrival of the 8th century Pala dynasty which cut off these regions.
Chalukyas and Rashtrakuta (Marathas):-
For the Marathas, it was during Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas (nearly 1,100 years ago) when warriors (Kshatriyas) were drawn from the peasantry class and eventually, the mixing of the population with tribes and Dravidian communities halted.
Mixing of tribes:-
Unsurprisingly, it was mixing between tribes of various ancestries that ended the last.
Patriarchy and Elite Dominance:-
However, the researchers have noted that “mixing” of genetic populations continued in an “asymmetric” trickle after this. Upper caste populations continued to give genetic inputs to lower caste and tribal populations — but not vice-versa.
This is “consistent with elite dominance and patriarchy” of the upper cast
Male members of upper caste communities have had off-spring with other communities, but the reverse is not seen. This is possible by an elite group [sharing the similar genes] dominating non-elite groups
The study also shows the complex ancestries that now make up the Indian population.
Previous studies show that most Indians could trace their roots in Ancestral North Indians (ANI) and Ancestral South Indians (ASI) genes; the NIBMG team shows a significant presence of the Ancestral Tibeto-Burman (ATB) genes in communities in the North-East as well as Ancestral Austro-Asiatic (AAA) genes among the tribal populations of east and central India.
. India sets up and example in subsidized TB diagnostics
The Indian private sector offers the cheapest price for the WHO-approved Xpert MTB/RIF, a molecular test for diagnosing TB. India also has the highest number of private labs offering the test, with 113 labs offering it at a subsidised rate.
It is a part of a novel initiative — Improving Access to Affordable & Quality TB Tests (IPAQT) — that was launched in India in March 2013
Waiving the duty:-
The cost of the test will see a further drop if the Indian government waives off customs duty of 31 per cent levied on Xpert machine and reagents.
There is a provision to waive import duties for life saving drugs and products, and HIV kits, for example, are duty-waived. Something similar is necessary for the WHO-endorsed TB tests.
Access to accurate tests at subsidised price is very important in India as nearly 80 per cent of the population in India first seek the private sector.
If one out of every four TB patients in the world is an Indian, one in eight TB patients in the world is a privately treated Indian patient.
Besides increasing the access to the highly reliable and sensitive test, all labs that become a member of the Initiative abide to ban the unreliable serological test. India banned serological test for TB in June 2012.
Other Benefits of IPAQT:-
Also, TB notification by the member labs has improved dramatically as IPAQT helps them with the process of notifying all TB cases.
While the sensitivity of smear microscopy is about 50 per cent, Xpert has 90 per cent sensitivity (in smear positive cases) and 98 per cent specificity.
It can also indicate resistance to rifampicin — a first-line TB drug.
. Lance Naik Goswami gets Ashok Chakra posthumously
Ashok Chakra is the country’s highest peacetime gallantry award.
Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami of the Special Forces, was killed while taking part in back-to-back operations in Jammu and Kashmir that led to the killing of 10 terrorists in 11 days.
He was awarded the Ashok Chakra for exhibiting “most conspicuous gallantry in personally eliminating two terrorists and assisting in evacuation of his wounded colleagues”.
. African economies shaken by slowdown in China
Many African economies are tumbling, quickly.
China’s economy is slowing down and its demand for Africa’s commodities is reducing.
Rapid economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa fuelled hopes of a prosperous new era.
The world’s poorest continent was finally emerging, with economies that were no longer dependent on the fickle global demand for Africa’s raw resources.
The outlook across the continent has grown grimmer, especially in its two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa.
Their currencies fell to record lows this month as China, Africa’s biggest trading partner, announced that imports from Africa plummeted nearly 40 per cent in 2015.
The International Monetary Fund has in recent months sharply cut its projections for the continent.
Credit rating agencies have downgraded or lowered their outlook on commodity exporters like Angola, Ghana, Mozambique and Zambia, which were the darlings of international investors until just over a year ago.
Many economists expect South Africa, the continent’s most advanced and diversified economy, to slide into a recession this year, a projection disputed by the government.
As Africa’s biggest exporter of iron ore to China, South Africa is suffering from a slump in mining, as well as in other sectors like manufacturing and agriculture.
Like the currencies of many commodity-exporting nations, South Africa’s rand has declined sharply in recent months because of the worldwide fall in prices of raw materials and because of poor government policies.
The weak rand will make it more painful for South Africa, which is experiencing the worst drought in a generation and is usually an exporter of agricultural products, to import corn, the nation’s staple.
Higher food prices could pose a challenge to the government.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and oil producer, is reeling from the crash in crude prices, at the same time dealing with Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group that has long terrorised the nation.
With oil accounting for 80 per cent of government revenue, the government may also lack the resources to quell potential unrest in the Niger Delta, the source of the country’s oil.
Weakening currencies will make it harder for Nigeria — and many other African governments — to repay China for loans used to build large infrastructure projects.
As the slumping economies have underscored the continent’s growing vulnerability to changes in China, businessmen have quieted much of the heady talk of “Africa rising,” a catchphrase that symbolised the continent’s fortunes.
But experts also see bright spots on the map. While previously high-flying commodity exporters, like Angola and Zambia, have been hit hardest by China’s slowdown, other countries are showing greater resilience.
“The ‘Africa rising’ narrative wasn’t true, but neither is the diametrically opposed argument that Africa is no longer rising,”
East African countries, including Kenya and Ethiopia, which have been forced to diversify their economies in part because of their dearth of commodities, will probably continue to enjoy robust growth.
Opinions & Editorials
. Minority Status
Earlier this month, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted before the Supreme Court that Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was never intended by Parliament to be a Muslim university.
This rekindles a sensitive and old controversy about the minority character of this historic university.
This not only involves many legal questions of great significance but is also intrinsically linked to the sentiments of India’s largest minority.
The protection of the minorities is an article of faith in the Constitution of India.
The making of the controversy:-
The legal battle over the AMU’s minority character dates back to October 20, 1967, when the Supreme Court in S. Azeez Basha and another versus Union of India concluded on narrow and technical grounds that the AMU was established by the Central legislature and not by Muslims.
After a prolonged struggle, in 1981, Parliament passed an amendment to the 1920 act to restore the AMU’s minority status.
The word “establish” in the title of the act was deleted ,clarifying that the university was “an educational institution of their choice established by the Muslims of India” and which “was subsequently incorporated” as the AMU.
The AMU was then entrusted with the responsibility of promoting “the educational and cultural advancement of the Muslims of India”.
Later a division bench of the Allahabad High Court in 2005 once again held that the AMU was not a minority university. The court even questioned the competence of Parliament to overrule the Supreme Court decision as it was “disentitled to assume the role of a court of appeal”.
It was based on the argument that a university can only be established either by an act of the Central or state legislature.
Why AMU can be called a minority institution?
We should not overstate the role of the Central legislature and underplay the role of those who really founded the AMU.
The role of the 1920 act had more declaratory than constitutive value. The 1920 act merely gave recognition to an existing entity and did not “establish” it.
We should not forget that Muslims established the AMU in the only manner in which a university at that time could have been established.
Muslims also contributed a sum of Rs 30 lakh was collected by Muslims in 1920 to constitute a permanent endowment to meet the recurring expenses of the proposed university
It is the duty of the government to ensure that the rights guaranteed to minorities are not turned into a “teasing illusion and promise of unreality”.
. Hidden hunger and the Indian health story
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are three goals a country’s health system must aim for:
- To improve health
- To be responsive to legitimate demands of the population
- To ensure no one is at risk of serious financial losses because of ill health
NFHS Survey- Positive note:-
The extensive survey, covering 13 states and two Union territories, shows improvement on a number of parameters—total fertility ratio, infant mortality rate, under-five mortality rate, percentage of institutional births, nutritional status of children and increased reach of Janani Suraksha Yojana (a safe motherhood intervention) and health insurance.
Cause for concern:-
Despite the declining percentage of the number of women and children suffering from anaemia in the past few years, the high absolute numbers are worrying.
Incidentally, anaemia accounts for 20% of the maternal deaths that take place in the country
Around 40% of India’s children under the age of five are stunted (low height-for-age), nearly 15% are wasted (low weight-for-height) and 30% are underweight (low weight-for-age).
Schemes for improving Health:-
The Integrated Child Development Scheme was started in 1975 to look into the health and well-being of mothers and children.
The National Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the National Rural Health Mission and the Public Distribution System have had overlapping nutrition objectives.
The National Nutritional Anaemia Prophylaxis Programme meant to maintain the adequate amount of iron and folate in expecting lactating mothers, children from aged 1-5 and anaemic adolescents was implemented as early as 1970.
Unfortunately, efforts to spread awareness and widen the reach of these programmes progressed at a snail’s pace and supply of low-quality food and drugs as well as leakages due to corruption remained inherent in the system.
The infamous incidents of midday meals poisoning children cast these latter problems in sharp relief.
Structural and Operational Deficiencies in Mid day Meals Scheme:-
The Indian health system needs to address its structural and operational deficiencies.
In the latter instance, millets and fortified food should be incorporated in midday meals to tackle the problem of hidden hunger (micronutrient deficiency). Fortification enhances the nutrients present in salt, rice, wheat, milk and so forth, and millets have higher nutrient levels than cereals.
An independent system for quality checks and outsourcing of activities like midday meals to private companies is also necessary here.
Currently, laboratories designated to execute a quality check on samples from schools every month consistently fail to do so. And stocking food, monitoring cooking, serving and maintaining records compromise the productive time of the faculty.
Take the complicated issue of funding. India has time and again been criticized for allocating a meagre 1% of GDP (gross domestic product) for health in its annual budget.
This does not, however, account for state expenditure in the sector. And health spending should be about more efficient utilization of funds rather than just a higher quantum of funds.
Efficiency measures actual output against standard expected output. WHO has time and again mentioned that it is possible to get better value for money in the health sector.
The per capita availability of inputs like the number of primary health centers, doctors, infrastructure like number of hospital beds and institutionalized deliveries are significant variables for enhancing efficiency.
The lack of comprehensive, state-level localized information—a necessity in a country where human development indicators vary widely across states—is a major obstacle in working out the necessary policy measures for increasing efficiency.
State specific Data:-
A joint initiative by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the health ministry, among others, to gather state-specific data with the first set of data estimates to be released this year will help in some measure.
If India has to reap its demographic dividend in an ageing world, it should have its citizens hale and healthy. As the world’s first ever anatomist Herophilus once remarked, “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”
By: ForumIAS Editorial Team