Q1) What is Gene editing? What are the benefits and challenges associated with gene editing?
Genome editing technologies allow changes to an organism’s DNA where genetic material can be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.
- Editing crops to withstand harsher growing conditions, or to include naturally occurring pesticides and herbicides, would improve crop yields.
- With livestock, gene editing can be used to produce leaner meat, to make livestock more resistant to infection, to remove allergens from eggs and milk, to reduce the use of antibiotics and to provide for human nutrition and animal welfare.
- In medicine, gene editing is being used to engineer mosquitoes so they no longer spread viruses such as malaria or Zika.
- Gene editing of goats, chickens, and rabbits may allow pharmaceuticals to be manufactured more quickly, at higher yields, and at lower cost than by way of traditional laboratory methods.
- It would help alter sperm, eggs, and early stage embryos to protect a child against inheritable diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and forms of cancer.
- Such techniques could also potentially be used to select for specific physical traits or to boost human performance by way of denser bones and greater endurance, creating so-called designer babies.
- There are concerns about the environmental and health impacts of genetically modified crops.
- Off-target mutations are unintended mutations in the genome that may affect other genes.
- The cost of germline editing technology remains very high.
- The technology could be used for non-therapeutic modifications and this will open the door to the loss of human diversity and eugenics
Q2) Why the Government wants to ban social media during communal riots? How do social networking sites affect India’s security? Should it be regulated?
As technology adoption increased, it is posing new challenges to the security architecture. The cases of exodus of North East people and Muzaffarnagar riots are examples of this emerging trend.
How social networking sites affect security:
- As they provide anonymity to the generator of content, it is difficult to pin down on culprits.
- Mostly the information spread is not verified and caters to the agenda of some anti social elements.
- Due to their mass reach and easy transmission abilities, the rumors reach large groups quickly making it difficult for security agencies to challenge them.
- The rapid spread of false information through social media is among the emerging risks identified by the World Economic Forum in its Global Risks 2013 Report. Fake News are the reason behind killings of many individuals thought to be child lifters.
- Many national and international users such as the political parties, NGO’s, hackers pose a serious threat to the individuals using the social media.
However, from a long term perspective, regulating the social media may not be the most ideal solution. As technology grows, so will the challenges. In such a scenario, engaging with the medium and optimising its potential for our advantage is the way forward.
The Mumbai Police has launched a project called “Social Media Lab” that monitors relevant information from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, as well as all other open sources in the public domain. Such initiatives could reduce the potential security threats from social media.
Q3) Constitution of India is a mere extension of Government of India Act, 1935. Do you agree, give reasons in support of your argument?
Government of India Act, 1935:
- Establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of provinces and princely states as units. It divided the powers between the Centre and units in terms of three lists—Federal List, Provincial List and the Concurrent List.
- Abolished dyarchy in the provinces and introduced ‘provincial autonomy’ in its place.
- It also introduced responsible governments in provinces where governor was required to act with the advice of ministers responsible to the provincial legislature.
- Adoption of dyarchy at the Centre. The federal subjects were divided into reserved subjects and transferred subjects.
- Introduced bicameralism in 6 out of 11 provinces.
- Extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled castes), women and labour (workers).
- Abolished the Council of India, established by Government of India Act of 1858.
- Provided for the establishment of a Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit of the country.
- Provided for the establishment of Provincial Public Service Commission and Joint Public Service Commission for two or more provinces.
- It provided for the establishment of a Federal Court, which was set up in 1937.
The Constitution of India has borrowed most of its provisions from the Government of India Act of 1935. The structural part of the Constitution is largely derived from the GOI Act,1935. Features borrowed into the constitution:
- Federal scheme
- Role of federal judiciary
- Office of the governor
- Emergency provisions
- Public service commissions
- Administrative details
Q4) The success of Soil Health Card scheme depends on rationalisation of fertilizer subsidies. Discuss.
A Soil Health Card meant to give each farmer soil nutrient status of land holding and advice on the dosage of fertilizers and also the needed soil amendments, that should be applied to maintain soil health in the long run.
Why it depends on rationalising fertiliser subsidies:
- Distorted fertiliser subsidies that subsidise urea over other nutrients is distorting the mandated N P K ratio of soil. The ratio of NPK usage should be 4:2:1. In Punjab, this ratio is 61:19:1.
- Urea subsidy is directly paid to the producers, so there is no incentive, to discipline the cost of production, for producers as subsidy is provided covering the cost of production.
- Agriculture needs many minerals and nutrients. The subsidies only allow few of them and thus distorts adopting organic methods of farming.
- Overuse of urea has even caused groundwater pollution along with decline in soil fertility especially in Punjab and Haryana region. This was asserted by the recent Economic Survey.