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The Hindu Analysis Free PDF Download

Date: 09 October 2020

Winter Is Coming

  • Data suggests that the first Covid wave is now receding for India at large.
  • It’s finally happening
  • On Wednesday active cases dropped nationally for the sixth consecutive day, with the seven-day average of daily cases dropping every single day since September 16.
  • Is this good augury for the festive season?
  • Kerala is a case study in the perils of complacency.
  • After gathering national and international accolades in the earlier months of the pandemic, it recorded its highest peak in daily cases on Wednesday (along with Karnataka and Bengal).
  • The key reason it emerged as the state with the highest number of active cases per million population is that it let its guard down during Onam.
  • Maharashtra had a lower key Ganesh Chaturthi and still paid the price.
  • It’s foolish and dangerous to refuse to learn these lessons.
  • Over in Bengal for example, doctors are pleading that laxity in maintaining health protocols during Durga Puja will cause a tsunami of infections.
  • Face masks are not only great from a public health perspective but also from an economic perspective, as they are a cheap substitute for costly lockdowns.
  • The Centre’s launch of a massive awareness campaign for the proper use of masks, physical distancing and washing hands has much to deliver in this context.
  • It bears reminding that not only have countries like the US and Spain seen second waves stronger than the first, winter is coming.
  • What we know is that seasonal viruses become more active during this season, which also sees air pollution weakening north India’s lungs.
  • To sum up, even if the first Covid wave has peaked in India, it’s no time to take a chill pill.

Scissoring the DNA

  • Revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, the biggest game-changer in biology in recent years
  • The Prize awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna – 8 years after they developed the tool.
  • While the tool is most often used to make a cut in the DNA, newer approaches are being attempted to add or make minor changes to the DNA.
  • All these approaches may at some time in the future make it easy to “rewrite the code of life”.
  • The gene-editing technology has opened up a vast window of opportunity.
  • In the last six years, the tool has enabled scientists to edit human DNA in a dish and early-stage clinical trials are being attempted to use the tool to treat a few diseases, including inherited disorders/diseases and some types of cancer.
  • Though in 2016 China began the first human clinical trial to treat an aggressive form of lung cancer by introducing cells that contain genes edited using CRISPR-Cas9, the use of the tool has so far been limited to curing genetic diseases in animal models.
  • Last year, a Chinese researcher used the tool to modify a particular gene in the embryo to make babies immune to HIV infection, which led to international furore.
  • Though no guidelines have been drawn up so far, there is a general consensus in the scientific and ethics communities that the gene-editing technique should not be used clinically on embryos.
  • It is being tried out in agriculture primarily to increase plant yield, quality, disease resistance, herbicide resistance and domestication of wild species.
  • It has also brought in sweeping changes to breeding technologies.

Avoidable uncertainty

  • October 9: RBI will release its 3rd bi-monthly monetary policy statement for 2020-21
  • This will be at the culmination of a three-day review of the pulls and pressures in the economy by the monetary policy committee (MPC).
  • This is the first such instance of the RBI deferring its bi-monthly review in recent years.
  • That the terms of the government’s first set of MPC nominees would expire at the end of August was known from the time it was constituted four years ago.
  • The new members — academic Ashima Goyal with interests in the interplay of fiscal and monetary policies, noted agriculture economist Shashanka Bhide, and former SEBI member and financial markets scholar Jayanth R. Varma.
  • A lot has transpired since the last policy review; official data revealed a 23.9% contraction in the economy in Q1, jobs and incomes remain under pressure, and inflation continues to reign above the 6% upper limit of the price stability mandate agreed to in 2016 by the RBI and the Centre, which entailed the setting up of the MPC.
  • The government has for now stuck to its ₹12-lakh crore borrowing plan, which includes space for ‘unforeseen’ spending.
  • Also, States need to borrow more in the coming months including to meet GST compensation shortfalls.
  • An almost casual approach towards continuity in such an important policy review body, at a time when markets are keen to know India’s fiscal and monetary stance and the RBI’s inflation and growth projections for the year, is unacceptable and sends a clumsy signal to global investors.
  • Some lateral thinking may be needed to conjure up fresh stimulus measures for the stuttering economy, but policy mandarins should not lose sight of routine decisions.
  • With the last two RBI Deputy Governors’ vacancies being filled after protracted gaps of about six months each, appointment processes, especially for critical financial policy roles, are clearly in need of an urgent overhaul.

Keeping vigil even during unusual times

  • The latest India-specific data on COVID-19 infections is alarming.
  • The Karnataka State Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the CAG to conduct a special audit into the purchase of COVID-19 equipment within 15 days, and where the PAC chairman H.K. Patil ‘chaired a meeting of the panel and instructed the CAG to constitute a special team of its employees to get the audit of all purchases of COVID-19 equipment’ highlights the role and significance of the national audit office in these unusual times.
  • The panel also asked the CAG to ‘conduct an audit of expenditure incurred by the State government under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • The government had used the SDRF amount for purchase of equipment in various districts.
  • The political allegation that funds (to the tune of ₹2,000 crore) were siphoned off to purchase inferior quality of personal protective equipment kits, sanitisers, ventilators, masks and other equipment at prices higher than those prevailing in the market is a serious one.
  • Emergency procurement to save lives and reduce sufferings are a chance to obfuscate rules and procedures, and can happen at all levels.
  • If audited by the CAG, there can be substantial improvement in disaster management.
  • It will usher in better transparency, integrity, honesty, effective service delivery and compliance with rules and procedures and governance.
  • People’s health is a priority audit theme and so is big-ticket public expenditure.
  • Audit objectives may include the procurement of equipment and drugs for CGHS wellness centres and polyclinics, laboratories and hospitals.
  • CAG’s performance audits are driven by economy, efficiency and effectiveness, the audit will focus on expense tracking and achievement of outputs and outcome, in qualitative and quantitative terms. .
  • Resources are being used economically efficiently and effectively for achieving the planned objectives and that benefits have gone to the targeted beneficiaries.

Winning back trust in vaccines

  • Trump - repeatedly claimed - COVID-19 vaccine would be available by mid-October
  • ‘Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19’ - released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has dashed that possibility.
  • The FDA has made it clear that “data from Phase 3 studies should include a median follow-up duration of at least two months after completion of the full vaccination regimen to help provide adequate information to assess a vaccine’s benefit-risk profile.”
  • The FDA guidance comes after the White House had blocked its release due to concerns that the guidelines would delay the arrival of the first dose until after election day.
  • FDA hopes that the guidance on COVID-19 vaccines “helps the public understand our science-based decision-making process that assures vaccine quality, safety and efficacy for any vaccine that is authorised or approved”.
  • The FDA’s initiative to build public trust in COVID-19 vaccines is one of the many steps taken by stakeholders to address the concerns about new vaccines developed and tested at speeds unknown before.
  • In September, nine vaccine manufacturers came together to sign a joint pledge to assure the public that they would develop and test COVID-19 vaccines in accordance with “high ethical standards and sound scientific principles” and always keep the “safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals the top priority”.

NEWS

  • PM Modi asserts India undertook structural reforms amidst global pandemic to usher in revolutionary changes in country
  • PM Modi launches Jan Andolan campaign on COVID-19 Appropriate Behaviour; Urges people to wear mask, wash hands & follow social distancing
  • IAF demonstrates its resolve, operational capability & will to effectively engage with adversary when need arises: Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria
  • Filing of nominations ends for 1st Phase of Bihar Assembly Elections
  • Govt starts procurement of Kharif Crops at MSP in full swing
  • Union Minister & LJP patron Ram Vilas Paswan passes away
  • President, PM, MIB condole demise of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan
  • Govt facilitates repatriation & international travel of over 20 lakh people through different means since 6th May: Civil Aviation minister
  • New agriculture reforms will bring ease of living for farmers: Dr Jitendra Singh
  • Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' virtually inaugurates Gyan Circle Ventures
  • BRICS Bank approves funds for Delhi-Meerut rapid rail, Mumbai metro; aims to reduce journey time from Delhi to Meerut to 60 minutes
  • Armenian PM calls on international community to act decisively & recognize independence of Nagorno-Karabakh
  • American poet Louise Glück wins 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature
  • American poet Louise Glück wins 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature
  • Around 86% of COVID-19 positive people in UK had no symptoms