Moving away from traditional diet might be a reason
Admitted to a hospital
- It has been a week since M. Rani, a 40-year-old Kurumbar woman residing in Kil Sembakarai in Coonoor, received a blood transfusion at the Coonoor Government Hospital.
- Rani, who complained of dizziness and fatigue before being rushed to hospital, is among half of the Kurumbar residents residing in the village, who are either malnourished or are anaemic
The 37 Kurumbar families residing in the village had earlier been growing a variety of crops, including ragi, corn and millets, which they used to consume for a relatively wholesome nutrient meal
However, with more people moving out from the village, giving up farming and working on the tea estates nearby in Adderley, necessitating a change in diet predominated by rice from the ration shop, local residents say that their health indices have fallen correspondingly in the subsequent year
Subsistence on rice
Locals still rely on harvesting forest produce, including yams and vegetables, but most families subsist primarily on the rice given to them at the ration shops
Rice-based diet leading to deterioration of health
Tribal rights activists working in the belt believe that the diet of the tribal people, which has become rice-based, could be leading to a deterioration of their health in the long run
Anaemia, thalassemia, and sickle-cell anemia, are occurring at a higher rate of incidence among tribals in the Nilgiris when compared with other communities
Author states that until now, India’s fight against antibiotic-resistance was focussed on getting people to cut down on unnecessary antibiotic consumption but, for the first time, the 2017 National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance talks about limiting antibiotics in effluent being dumped by drug makers into the environment. This is because when these drugs contaminate soil and water, the scores of microbes that live there grow drug-resistant. But only a tiny proportion of these environmental microbes trigger disease in humans
So why is resistance among them a problem?
The answer lies in the intimacy shared between environmental bacteria and human pathogens
- Typically, a pathogen, say Klebsiella pneumoniae ( pneumoniae), that causes pneumonia, can take two routes to antibiotic resistance
- Spontaneous gene mutation: The first is for its own genes to mutate spontaneously to help fight the drug. This is a long-winded route, because mutations take time to spread through a bacterial population
- Horizontal gene transfer: The second route, a shortcut known as horizontal gene transfer, is for the bug to borrow resistance genes from its neighbours
Scientists believe that many human pathogens today picked up their resistance genes from the environment through this shortcut
The case of Ciprofloxacin
It is an antibiotic launched by the German company Bayer in the mid-1980s. Ciprofloxacin was the most effective among the quinolone class of antibiotics in fighting gram-negative bacteria such as K. pneumonia
Scientist thought that resistance against Cipro was unlikely. Why?
Because bacteria would need multiple resistance mutations to fight cipro, and because such multiple mutations are rare, scientists thought resistance was unlikely
So, how did Ciprofloxacin resistance spread?
Despite of above factor, within a decade, ciprofloxacin resistance had spread globally
- Horizontal gene transfer helped: Scientists learnt that bacteria such as pneumoniaehad been helped along by horizontal gene transfer
- Borrowed a gene: They seemed to have borrowed a gene called qnrA, which conferred resistance to ciprofloxacin, from a sea and freshwater bacterium called Shewanella Today, researchers think the Shewanellaspecies may be the environmental source for qnr (quinolone resistance) genes
- Similar detective work suggests that another set of genes, which triggered an epidemic of resistance to some cephalosporin antibiotics in the early 21st century, came from a soil-dwelling species called Kluyvera
Soil and water species have a stockpile of resistance genes, which jump to pathogens now and then
Age of antibiotics: explosion of resistance genes
Studies suggest that the earliest antibiotic-resistance genes in nature are millions of years old. But when humans starting manufacturing antibiotics in the 1950s, a dramatic shift occurred
- Large doses of these drugs seeped into the environment through poultry and human excreta, and waste water from drug makers and hospitals. This led to an explosion of resistance genes in soil and water microbes
- Examples: In 2007, Swedish investigators found that water in a pharma effluent treatment plant had both high levels of ciprofloxacin as well as novel resistance genes, never seen in microbes elsewhere. Such genes were also found in effluent from a hospital in Pune
How likely are these genes to make the journey from living harmlessly in environmental bacteria to human pathogens that sicken people?
That is the question, and we do not know the answer,” says Luigi Rizzo, an environmental engineer who studies technologies to remove antibiotic-resistance germs from wastewater for a European project called ANSWER or ‘Antibiotics and mobile resistance elements in wastewater reuse applications: risks and innovative solutions’
Transmission of genes
When the Swedish researchers compared the numbers of qnr genes in the faeces of people living in Hyderabad’s antibiotic-polluted regions and elsewhere, they found no difference. This seems to imply that the flow of genes from the environment to humans is a rare event
- Instead, most transmission happens from one human to another
Why we should be cautious despite the rarity of flow of genes from environment to humans?
We live in unprecedented times where environmental bacteria, pathogens and antibiotics are mixing like never before. This means such rare events are almost inevitable. Once they jump to human bugs, resistance-genes can spread across continents in a few days, thanks to international air travel
In 2009, when a deadly resistance gene was discovered in a Swedish patient who had recently travelled to New Delhi, researchers assumed the gene was picked up in India and named it the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 (NDM-1)
- Reaction of the Indian government: The Indian government saw this nomenclature as a public relations disaster, arguing that there was no evidence of the gene’s Indian origin.
Whether NDM-1 came from New Delhi or not is still a bone of contention. But the worry is that if India doesn’t move quickly, wastewater in pharma clusters could give rise to new genes as dangerous as NDM-1. Once such genes jump to humans, they will, no doubt, blaze their way across the planet. When this happens, it will be more than a public relations disaster for India. It will be a death sentence for Indians as well as thousands across the globe
Read More: You can read more on antimicrobial resistance here
Wassenaar arrangement admits India as its member
What has happened?
The Plenary meeting of the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) held on 6 to 7 December 2017 in Vienna, Austria, has decided to admit India, which will become the Arrangement’s 42nd participating state. The necessary procedural arrangements for India’s admission will be completed shortly
- India will get access to high technology, which will help address the demands of Indian space and defence sectors
- It help India to raise its stature in the field of non-proliferation, even though it is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT
- It will also boost New Delhi’s chances of joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
- It will facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high-tech items for our defence and space programmes
- While membership of the Arrangement would not automatically entail any preferential treatment from other WA members, it would create the grounds for realignment of India in the export control policy framework of other WA members, including eligibility for certain licensing exceptions
Since its civil nuclear deal with the US, India has been trying to get into export control regimes like Wassenaar Arrangement and the NSG. In June last year, India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) as a full member
Polity and governance:
- The time has come when the society must realise that a woman is equal to a man in every respect
- The provision [Section 497] really creates a dent in the individual independent identity of a woman when the emphasis is laid on the connivance or consent of the husband,” the court said. “This is tantamount to subordination of a woman where the Constitution confers equal status [on women]
Provisions that court shall examine
The court will examine two aspects of the penal provision
- One, why does Section 497 treat the man as the adulterer and the married woman as a victim?
- Two, the offence of adultery ceases the moment it is established that the husband connived or consented to the adulterous act. So, is a married woman the “property” of her husband, a passive object without a mind of her own?
Rights & wrongs (TH Op-Ed)
Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill
Author states that the news that Centre has brushed aside a parliamentary standing committee’s report and plans to introduce the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill without changes is a disappointment
SC’s landmark order
The process of recognising the rights of the community and seeking to protect it by legislation gained momentum in 2014, when the Supreme Court gave a landmark verdict in the NALSA case
- The court recognised the community as a third gender entitled to the same rights and constitutional protection as other citizens
- It called for an end to discrimination based on gender against those who do not conform to the gender assigned to them at birth
- The court also ruled that transgender persons had a positive right to make decisions about themselves, express themselves and participate in community life
- SC directed the government to accord them ‘socially and educationally backward’ status so they could benefit from affirmative action
Bill is brought up
- In 2014, a private member’s Bill moved by DMK MP Tiruchi N. Siva was passed in the Rajya Sabha. In the Lok Sabha, the government introduced its own Bill, which was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment.
The Standing Committee, in its July 2017 report, suggested some modifications and additions to the draft
- Disagreement over definition of transgender: In particular, it disagreed with the definition of ‘transgender’ in the draft Bill and wanted modifications to bring it in line with global norms. The Committee felt that the definition violated the principle that transgender persons have a right to self-identification of their gender
Issues with the Bill
- Activists and experts have pointed to the absence of any reference to the implications of criminal and civil laws that are based on the traditional gender binary i.e. male & female
- Benefit of reservation should be extended to transgender category
In the domain of legislation, disagreements over drafts are natural. It is up to the government of the day to adopt an inclusive approach towards divergent opinions and come up with the best law possible. Ignoring the opinions of experts and parliamentary committees does not help the process. The Centre should revisit its draft and incorporate the inputs of the standing committee and an expert panel that submitted a report in 2014.
Read More: Transgender Bill issue has also been covered here
EC seeks more time to comply with February order
What has happened?
- The Bombay High Court has directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to inform it about the steps taken to remove all unauthorised hoardings, posters from across the city
- It also asked the Election Commission to inform about the steps taken to ensure that political parties do not indulge in defacement of public properties
Filing of reply
Bench has directed the authorities to file their respective replies by January 9 next year
- Order to BMC: In February this year, the court had passed a detailed judgement directing the BMC to remove all hoardings, banners and advertisements put up illegally by political parties or their members, and to initiate action against them
- Order to EC: In a related order passed at the time, the court had directed the Election Commission to impose conditions on political parties at the time of their registration mandating that the parties will not indulge in defacement of properties and also follow all provisions of the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act and the laws governing sky signs and advertisements
Submissions by BMC & EC
While the BMC submitted today that it has taken several steps to rid public spaces in the city of unauthorised posters, and hoardings, the EC sought some more time to comply with the high court’s order
Reservation under RTE Quota
What is being planned?
With the aim of improving the efficacy of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the State government is planning to ensure that aided schools too start reserving seats for students from weaker sections in the neighbourhood
As per Section 12 (1) (b) of the RTE Act, aided schools shall provide free and compulsory elementary education to such proportion of children admitted based on the annual recurring aid or grants so received bears their annual recurring expenses, subject to a minimum of 25%.
With less than a month to go for the deadline to link Aadhaar with PAN, the Centre on Friday extended the deadline to March 31, 2018
Why this decision?
“In view of the difficulties faced by some of the taxpayers, the date for linking of Aadhaar with PAN was initially extended till August 31, 2017, which was further extended to December 31, 2017,” the I-T Department said
“It has come to notice that some of the taxpayers have not yet completed the linking of PAN with Aadhaar. Therefore, to facilitate the process of linking, it has been decided to further extend the time for linking of Aadhaar with PAN till March 31, 2018,” the statement added
- Section 139AA: Under the provisions of the recently introduced Section 139AA of the Income-Tax Act, 1961, with effect from July 1, 2017, all taxpayers with an Aadhaar number or Enrolment number are required to link it with their PAN by the stipulated deadline
- Deadline unchanged for linking mobile phones & Aadhaar:: The deadline for linking Aadhaar and mobile phones remains unchanged February 6
- Subscribers have to visit authorised retailers with the phone that has the SIM to be linked
- Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao examined the progress of works on various components of the Kaleshwaram irrigation project being carried out at several places in North Telangana
- The Chief Minister physically examined key components of the project such as Medigadda and Annaram barrages and pump-houses and made aerial survey of other works
- CM also examined the works pertaining to the Kanthanapally project at Thupakulagudem barrage site in Jayashankar Bhupalapally district and the first phase works of Telangana Super Thermal Power Project being set up by National Thermal Power Corporation at Ramagundam as part of his visit
Check on quality
Citing the breach of earthen dam of the Mid Manair Reservoir due to heavy rains last year, Mr. Chandrasekhar Rao directed the irrigation authorities and work agencies to take higher care on the quality of works and also take up strong flood banks at the main barrages – Medigadda, Annaram and Sundilla. He told the officials to complete the work on the pump-houses before the commencement of the next monsoon season
Meanwhile, the police authorities heaved a sigh of relief with the incident-free conclusion of the Chief Minister’s visit as it was in the Maoist-infested areas and the Medigadda barrage site is only about 20 km away from the site of encounter in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, where seven Maoists were killed on Wednesday
Read More: Why is Kaleshwaram project important?
NGT’s order on Art of Living rightly asserts the fundamental principle of green law — polluter must pay
What has happened?
The National Green Tribunal has closed the matter of the World Culture Festival held by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AoL) in March 2016, which had degraded the Yamuna floodplain in Delhi
NGT’s decision: AoL must pay
- NGT has held that AoL has damaged the ecosystem of the plain and that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had wrongfully permitted it to conduct the event
- The DDA has been directed to evaluate the damage and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s organisation must pay for the restoration of the flood plain
- AoL had put up Rs 5 crore pursuant to an earlier order, but will now have to pay on actuals
- It has pointed out that a floodplain should not be regarded as waste or fallow land, but as a commons, since it is instrumental in the cleansing of river waters, recharging of aquifers and the maintenance of wetland habitats populated by numerous species
- It has observed that the government and the people have a duty to protect it
Top-office bearers participated
But how could the government do its duty, when its top office-bearers had attended the event and shared the dais with the promoters? Only Pranab Mukherjee, then president, stayed away
It is heartening that the NGT has done its duty and gone by the book, demonstrating that the polluter pays principle, which is the bedrock of environmental law, must stand, no matter how well-connected and politically influential the perpetrator may be