Topic: GS-I: History
September 4, 2019 was the 194th birth anniversary of Dadabhai Naoroji, the “Grand Old Man of India”, who was among the first leaders who stirred national consciousness in the country.
- Born in 1825 at Navsari, in present-day Gujarat, Naoroji was a prolific scholar with varied interests. His distinguished political career aside, Naoroji was a professor of Gujarati, mathematics, and natural philosophy, and also worked as a businessman.
- Naoroji’s lasting intellectual contribution was to expound the ‘Drain Theory’. He was closely involved with the Indian National Congress in its early phase, and served as the first Indian member of the British parliament.
Early work in England
- Naoroji began rousing public opinion in England on Indian issues in 1855, after he moved from India to Liverpool for business. His first agitation, in 1859, concerned recruitment to the Indian Civil Service (today’s IAS). During this period, Naoroji worked closely with Irish leaders in England, who found common cause with the Indian nationalist movement.
- In 1865 and 1866, Naoroji helped found the London Indian Society and the East India Association respectively. The two organisations sought to bring nationalist Indians and sympathetic Britons on one platform. As the secretary of the East India Association, Naoroji travelled in India to gather funds and raise national awareness.
Leader of the Indian National Congress
- In 1885, Naoroji became a vice-president of the Bombay Presidency Association, was nominated to the Bombay legislative council by Governor Lord Reay, and helped form the Indian National Congress. He was Congress president thrice, in 1886, 1893, and 1906.
- The first session of the Congress in 1885 passed a resolution calling for the formation of a standing committee in the British House of Commons for considering protests from legislative bodies in India. Naoroji dedicated his efforts towards this objective when he returned to England in 1886.
Election to the British parliament
- Naoroji first ran for the British Parliament in 1886, but did not get elected. His second bid in 1892 was successful, when he won the Central Finsbury seat on a Liberal Party ticket.
- In the British Parliament, Naoroji worked to bring Indian issues to the fore. In 1893, he helped form an Indian parliamentary committee to attend to Indian interests. The membership of the committee significantly grew in numbers in the coming years, becoming an important lobbying force.
- Naoroji was a vocal critic of the colonial economic policy in India. In 1895, he became a member of the royal commission on Indian expenditure.
- A moderate himself, Naoroji acted as a liaison between nationalist Indians and British parliamentarians.
- Dadabhai Naoroji was among the key proponents of the ‘Drain Theory’, disseminating it in his 1901 book ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’.
- Naoroji argued that imperial Britain was draining away India’s wealth to itself through exploitative economic policies, including India’s rule by foreigners; the heavy financial burden of the British civil and military apparatus in India; the exploitation of the country due to free trade; non-Indians taking away the money that they earned in India; and the interest that India paid on its public debt held in Britain.
Leprosy and TB in India
Topic: GS–II: Health
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It usually affects the skin and peripheral nerves, but has a wide range of clinical manifestations.
- In India, screening for disease is usually associated with non-communicable rather than communicable diseases. However, since last month, India has embarked on a large-scale plan to screen all children for leprosy and tuberculosis.
- An estimated 25 crore children below the age of 18 will be screened for the two infectious diseases, and if a person is suspected to have either of the two, s/he will be sent to a higher centre for confirmation.
- The existing Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) infrastructure will be used for the screening.
Why it is necessary
- Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae.
- It usually affects the skin and peripheral nerves, but has a wide range of clinical manifestations. The disease is characterized by a long incubation period that is generally 5-7 years. It is a leading cause of permanent physical disability. Timely diagnosis and treatment of cases, before nerve damage has occurred, is the most effective way of preventing disability due to leprosy.
- Tuberculosis infection, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is one of the most common communicable diseases in India, its transmission fuelled by unhygienic, crowded living conditions.
- It is said that most Indians carry the bacterium and the infection flares up when their immunity levels are low, like when they are malnourished or suffering from conditions like AIDS in which the body’s immune system is compromised.
- Both diseases are infectious and India has a substantial burden — its tuberculosis burden is the highest in the world. Children tend to be more prone to catching infectious diseases from their peers because of long hours in confined spaces and more bodily contact than in adults. Addressing the problem early would ensure that the infection cycle is broken.
- In case of leprosy, it could mean prevention of disability. The programme would also give preventive medication to people who have come in contact with the confirmed cases.
- For TB, India’s malnutrition burden is an additional risk factor. As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 (2015-16), 35.7 per cent children below age five are underweight, 38.4 per cent are stunted (low height for age) and 21 per cent are wasted (low weight for height) in the country.
The burden in India
- India eliminated leprosy in 2005 — WHO defines elimination as an incidence rate of less than one case per 10,000 population. All states except Chhattisgarh and the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli have eliminated leprosy. However, 1.15 lakh to 1.2 lakh new leprosy cases are still detected every year.
- TB kills an estimated 4,80,000 Indians every year — an average over 1,300 every day. India also has more than a million “missing” cases every year that are not notified. Most remain either undiagnosed or unaccountably and inadequately diagnosed and treated in the private sector. The problem in the latter case is that many of these patients do not complete the full course of the antibiotic, thus exposing the bacterium to the medicine without fully killing it. This is trigger enough for the bacterium to evolve into a version of itself that is resistant to that particular drug.
The mission focus
- Launched in 2013 under the National Health Mission, RBSK is focused on preventing disease and disability in children. “Child Health Screening and Early Intervention Services” basically refer to early detection and management of a set of 30 health conditions prevalent in children less than 18 years of age. These conditions are broadly defects at birth, diseases in children, deficiency conditions and developmental delays including disabilities, together described as 4Ds.
- Until now, neither leprosy nor TB were a part of the programme. In 2017, India had set a target of elimination of leprosy by 2018, going by the Budget speech that year. The deadline has passed but leprosy remains a challenge in a country that launched the National Leprosy Eradication Programme way back in 1955.
- For tuberculosis, the global Sustainable Development Goal target is to end the disease is 2030. However, there is a new urgency in India’s TB control efforts since last year, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi suo motu advanced the deadline for India to end TB to 2025.
The burden of rabies
Topic: GS–II: Health
India’s drug price regulator, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has held consultations with the manufacturers of anti-rabies vaccines and various states, to normalise the supply of anti-rabies vaccines after a shortage was reported in some parts of India.
More in news:
- The shortage of anti-rabies vaccine is not new in India. On August 13, the Delhi High Court directed the Centre, the state government, and municipal bodies to stock sufficient supplies of the vaccine in the national capital. The order was passed in response to a plea by an advocate alleging that government hospitals didn’t hold a sufficient supply of the vaccines.
Burden of rabies
- In 99% of cases worldwide, the infection is transmitted through the bite of an infected dog. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, India bears over a third of the global burden of rabies, and accounts for 59.9% of deaths from the disease in Asia, and 35% globally
- Ninety-five per cent of the deaths associated with rabies occur in Asia and Africa; 80% of these are of people living in rural areas. The WHO says that the cost of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) — the regimen of human rabies immunoglobulin and anti-rabies vaccine that is administered on the day of the exposure and on subsequent days to prevent becoming infected — is the highest in Asia.
- Dog-mediated rabies has been eliminated from Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Japan, and several Latin American countries, according to the WHO. Australia and many Pacific Island nations have always been free from dog-mediated rabies.
Vaccine shortage in India
- Chiron Behring Vaccines Pvt Ltd, based in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, is one of the largest manufacturers of anti-rabies vaccines in the world, with a capacity to produce 15 million doses annually in a WHO pre-qualified plant. Chiron was recently acquired from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) by biotechnology major Bharat Biotech International Ltd.
- India, which has a stray dog population of perhaps 100 million, is estimated to need 35 million doses of the anti-rabies vaccine. India is estimated to currently face a shortage of about 15 million doses, as a significant chunk of the vaccines produced in the country is exported.
A dangerous disease
- There is no cure for rabies, which is a viral disease and is transmitted from the saliva of a rabid animal to humans. It is fatal by the time of clinical onset.
- Symptoms include fever, pain, unexplained and unusual pricking or burning sensation at the wound site. The virus spreads to the central nervous system through the nerves, eventually leading to the inflammation of the brain, subsequently resulting in death.
- Even so, it is a 100% vaccine-preventable disease, when treatment is given immediately.
Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA)
Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology
Among all the causes that will eventually cause the extinction of life on Earth, an asteroid hit is widely acknowledged as one of the likeliest. Over the years, scientists have suggested different ways to ward off such a hit, such as blowing up the asteroid before it reaches Earth, or deflecting it off its Earth-bound course by hitting it with a spacecraft. Now, scientists have embarked on a plan to test their expertise with the second of these two methods.
- It is an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defence. The mission, which includes NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA). During September 11-13, asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from around the world will gather in Rome to discuss its progress.
- The target is the smaller of two bodies in the “double Didymos asteroids” that are in orbit between Earth and Mars. Didymos is a near-Earth asteroid system. Its main body measures about 780 m across; the smaller body is a “moonlet” about 160 m in diameter.
- The project aims to deflect the orbit of the smaller body through an impact by one spacecraft. Then a second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effect of this collision.
Tools of the mission
- NASA is building the Double Asteroid Impact Test (DART) spacecraft for launch in summer 2021. It is planned to collide with the target at 6.6 km/s in September 2022. Flying along with DART will be an Italian-made miniature CubeSat, called LICIACube, to record the moment of impact.
- ESA’s contribution is a mission called Hera, which will perform a close-up survey of the post-impact asteroid, acquiring measurements such as the asteroid’s mass and detailed crater shape. Hera will also deploy a pair of CubeSats for close-up asteroid surveys and the very first radar probe of an asteroid. All this would allow researchers to model the efficiency of the collision. This can help turn this experiment into a technique that could be repeated, as needed, in the event of a real threat.
Air pollution in Indian homes
Topic: GS-III: Environment
Household air pollution has emerged as one of the key causes of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), and 12% of all CVDs in low-income countries are attributable to it, a new report has said. Hypertension is the largest risk factor for CVD in low-income countries (which include India), followed by high non-HDL cholesterol and household air pollution.
- The report is one of two from a study by the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiologic (PURE), both published online in The Lancet and presented at the European Society of Cardiology 2019. One report looks at common diseases, hospitalisation and death; the other at CVD risk factors in middle-aged adults in 21 countries.
What it means for India
- In the report that looked at risk factors for CVD, researchers enrolled 1,55,722 participants between January 2005 and December 2016. These included 35,793 from five low-income countries, including India.
- Household air pollution is a greater risk factor for CVD in India than diabetes, tobacco use, low physical activity and poor diet. An earlier report from a PURE study (Lancet Respiratory Medicine 2014) showed that Indians had the lowest lung function among the 21 countries studied.
- The report is one of two from a study by the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiologic (PURE), both published online in The Lancet on Tuesday and presented at the European Society of Cardiology 2019.
- At least 65% of homes in India use biomass fuel for cooking and heating. In urban areas, the use of mosquito coils, dhoop sticks and agarbattis contribute to high household air pollution.
CVD and cancer
- The other report, which followed 1,62,534 middle-aged adults in the 21 countries, found that CVD remains the leading cause of mortality among middle aged adults globally, but this is no longer the case in high-income countries, where cancer is now responsible for twice as many deaths as CVD.
- It was estimated that 55 million deaths occurred in the world in 2017, of which approximately 17.7 million were due to CVD.
India among top 10 nations in gold reserves
Topic: GS -III: Economic Development
India’s gold reserves have grown from 357.8 tonnes in the first quarter of 2000 to 618.2 tonnes in 2019. Reuters
More in news:
- India has pipped the Netherlands to move into the list of top ten countries in terms of total gold reserves.
- According to the World Gold Council, India has gold reserves totalling 618.2 tonnes, which is marginally higher than the Netherlands’ reserves of 612.5 tonnes.
- Interestingly, in terms of individual countries, India actually ranks ninth since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) occupies the third position after the U.S. and Germany.
- According to the latest release by the World Gold Council, U.S. leads the country list with total gold reserves of 8,133.5 tonnes followed by Germany with 3,366.8 tonnes.
- While the IMF is ranked third with a holding of 2,451.8 tonnes, it is followed by Italy (2,451.8 tonnes), France (2,436.1 tonnes), Russia (2,219.2 tonnes), China (1,936.5 tonnes), Switzerland (1,040 tonnes) and Japan (765.2 tonnes) before India at the 10th spot.
- India’s entry into the list of top ten countries comes at a time when the quantum of monthly purchases is the lowest in over three years.
- India’s gold reserves have grown substantially in the past couple of decades from 357.8 tonnes in the first quarter of 2000 to the current 618.2 tonnes.
- India’s neighbour Pakistan has seen its standing unchanged at the 45th position with total gold reserves of 64.6 tonnes.
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