IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 26th September 2018
India ranks 158th in ‘human capital’ score, behind Sudan
Part of: Prelims and mains II – Health, Education and Human resource
- The study is conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the request of the World Bank.
- It is the first of its kind to measure and compare the strength of countries’ “human capital”.
- The study underscores that when a country’s human capital score increases, its economy grows.
Rank of India and its neighbourhood
- India ranks 158th in the world for its investments in education and health care, according to the first-ever scientific study ranking countries for their levels of human capital.
- It is an improvement from its position of 162 in 1990.
- The nation is placed behind Sudan (ranked 157th) and ahead of Namibia (ranked 159th) in the list. The U.S. is ranked 27th, while China is at 44th and Pakistan at 164th.
- South Asian countries ranking below India in this report include Pakistan (164), Bangladesh (161) and Afghanistan (188). Countries in the region that have fared better than India in terms of human capital include Sri Lanka (102), Nepal (156), Bhutan (133) and Maldives (116).
- India is falling behind in terms of health and education of its workforce, which could potentially have long-term negative effects on the Indian economy.
- The study is based on analysis of data from sources, including government agencies, schools, and health care systems.
- As the world economy grows increasingly dependent on digital technology, from agriculture to manufacturing to the service industry, human capital grows increasingly important for stimulating local and national economies.
- The study underscores that when a country’s human capital score increases, its economy grows.
- Components measured in the functional health score include stunting, wasting, anaemia, cognitive impairments, hearing and vision loss, and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. And Learning is based on average student scores on internationally comparable tests.
Ranking of other countries and improvements; an overview
- The study places Finland at the top. Turkey showed the most dramatic increase in human capital between 1990 and 2016.
- Asian countries with notable improvement include China, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam.
- Within Latin America, Brazil stands out for improvement.
- All these countries have had faster economic growth over this period than peer countries with lower levels of human capital improvement.
- In addition, the greatest increase among sub-Saharan African countries was in Equatorial Guinea.
Unemployment among educated youth at 16%: study
Part of: Prelims and mains III – Unemployment
- With higher growth rates not having translated into more jobs and increases in productivity failing to spur a commensurate rise in wages, the government ought to formulate a National Employment Policy.
- Confirming the spectre of jobless growth, the study contends that this divergence between growth and jobs had increased over time.
- In the 1970s and 80s, GDP growth was around 3-4% and employment growth was about 2%.
- Currently, the ratio of GDP growth to employment growth is less than 0.1.” That means that a 10% increase in GDP results in a less than 1% increase in employment.
- The study uses government data to show that total employment actually shrank by seven million between 2013 and 2015, and cites private data to posit that an absolute decline has continued in the years since.
- Unemployment has risen to more than 5% overall, and the study slices the data to show that in geographic terms, north Indian States are the most severely affected, while in demographic terms, young people with higher education levels suffer an unemployment rate as high as 16%.
- While wages are rising in almost all sectors, hidden within the positive data is the worrying fact that rural wage growth collapsed in 2014, and has not risen since.
- In the organised manufacturing sector, though the number of jobs has grown, there has also been an increase in the share of contract work, which offers lower wages and less job security.
- Labour productivity in manufacturing sector is six times higher than it was 30 years ago; however, managerial and supervisory salaries have only tripled in the same period, while production workers’ wages have grown a measly 1.5 times.
- Women’s participation in the paid workforce is still low, but the situation is unequal across States.
- In Uttar Pradesh, only 20 women are in paid employment for every 100 men, while that figure jumps to 50 in Tamil Nadu and 70 in Mizoram and Nagaland.
- With regard to earnings, the caste gap is actually larger than the gender gap.
- Dalits and Adivasis are over-represented in low-paying occupations, and severely under-represented in higher-paying ones, the study reveals. They earn only 55-56% of upper caste workers’ earnings, the data shows.
SC forms prison reforms panel
Part of: Prelims and mains II – Judiciary, Social justice
- The Supreme Court on Tuesday formed a Committee on Prison Reforms chaired by former apex court judge, Justice Amitava Roy, to examine the various problems plaguing prisons in the country, from overcrowding to lack of legal advice to convicts to issues of remission and parole.
- The judgment came on a letter from former Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti highlighting the overcrowding in prisons, unnatural deaths of prisoners, gross inadequacy of staff and the lack of trained staff.
- Issuing a slew of directions, the Bench has directed the committee to examine the extent of overcrowding in prisons and correctional homes and recommend remedial measures, including an examination of the functioning of Under Trial Review Committees, availability of legal aid and advice, grant of remission, parole and furlough.
- The panel would also probe the reasons for violence in prisons and correctional homes and recommend measures to prevent unnatural deaths and assess the availability of medical facilities in prisons and correctional homes and make recommendations.
- It would assess the availability and inadequacy of staff in prisons and correctional homes, suggest training and educational modules for the staff and assess the feasibility of establishing open prisons.
- The committee has been asked to recommend steps for the psycho-social well-being of minor children of women prisoners, including their education and health.
- Further to examine and recommend measures for the health, education, development of skills, rehabilitation and social reintegration of children in observation homes, places of safety and special homes established under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
- The court asked the committee to complete the collection of data and information and make submit it in a year.
- The Amitava Roy Committee need not confine itself to these four issues but can comprehensively examine and respond to the dire necessity of reforms in prisons.
Mosquito population made extinct with genetic tweak
Part of: Prelims and mains II & III– Health, Biotechnology
- Scientists succeeded for the first time in wiping out an entire population of malaria-carrying mosquitos in the lab using a gene editing tool to programme their extinction.
- So-called gene drive technology works by forcing evolution’s hand, ensuring that an engineered trait is passed down to a higher proportion of offspring — across many generations — than would have occurred naturally.
- In experiments with the species Anopheles gambiae, scientists at Imperial College London tweaked a gene known as doublesex so that more females in each generation could no longer bite or reproduce.
- After only eight generations, there were no females left and the population collapsed due to lack of offspring.
- The next step will be to test the technology in a confined laboratory setting that mimics a tropical environment. It will be at least five-to-ten years before it would be considerd to test any mosquitoes with gene drive in the wild
Need to eliminate malaria causing mosquitos
- This breakthrough shows that gene drive can work, providing hope in the fight against a disease that has plagued mankind for centuries.
- Malaria sickened more than 200 million people worldwide in 2016 and killed nearly 450,000. It remains one of the most deadly of infectious diseases.
- 2016 marked the first time in over two decades that malaria cases did not fall year-on-year, despite aggressive and well-funded anti-malarial campaigns.
- Traditional approaches to controlling mosquitoes — especially the use of insecticides — is becoming less effective, mainly due to the build-up of resistance.
- Previous attempts by the same team and others to induce the genetically programmed extinction of mosquitos in the laboratory ran into “resistance” in the form of mutations that fought back against the high-tech engineering.
The doublesex gene targeted in the experiments is deeply “conserved”, meaning that is formed tens or even hundreds of millions of years ago and is today shared by many insects with only minor variations.
Calls for a moratorium
- Some scientists and technology watchdog groups have called for a moratorium on gene drive research.
- According to critics, the ability to eradicate species and natural populations at will with synthetic gene drive is not to be celebrated but should rather sound an alarm.
- There are ecological risks from manipulating and removing natural populations, such as destroying food webs and shifting the behaviour of diseases, as well as social risks of disrupting agriculture and enabling new weapons.
- The issue will be squarely on the agenda in November in Egypt at a UN Biodiversity summit, which has mandated one of its technical committees to assess gene drive’s potential risks and benefits.
Amazon arm backs data localisation
Part of: Prelims and mains II & III– Privacy and national security
- Amazon invested in data centres in India so that it can assure the government that all the data stays in the country.
- There is opposition from experts and foreign firms over proposed data localisation norms in India.
- The draft ‘The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018’ proposes that critical personal data of Indian citizens be processed only in data centres located within the country, while personal data may be transferred outside India.
- However, at least one copy of the data will need to be stored in India. The proposal has been termed as “regressive” and a “trade barrier” by experts.
- Amazon assured that they provide customers with the access to tools so that they can determine where the data is located, they can monitor.
- It is all about data security, it comes down to whether one can be assured that if one hosts data in a particular location, that’s going to stay secure and people don’t have access [and] who shouldn’t have access to it.
- In India, an application called ReUnite uses Amazon Rekognition to find lost children.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, etc.
- Health and Social Security
Long road ahead: on Ayushman Bharat scheme
- Ayushman Bharat has been rolled out as a health protection scheme that will provide guaranteed access to treatment that is free at the point of delivery to about 40% of the population.
- It is the essential first step on the road to universal health coverage.
- Since the Centre has announced that 10.74 crore families identified through Socio-Economic Caste Census data will be given an annual ₹5 lakh cover under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (the insurance component of the scheme).
- The late start makes it virtually impossible for all those who are technically insured to avail of the services that state agencies must make available, within a reasonable time-frame.
- The allocation of just ₹2,000 crore during the current year to the PMJAY cannot provide the promised cover to the large population sought to be included.
- Not all States and Union Territories are in a position to raise their own share, and a few have not even joined the scheme. The challenge of funding, therefore, remains.
- Without adequate budgetary commitments, the implications of pooling the financial risk for such a large segment of the population through insurers or state-run trusts or societies make the outcomes uncertain.
- Guaranteeing health-care access using private or public facilities presumes tight cost control. In the case of the PMJAY, this is to be achieved using defined treatment packages for which rates are prescribed.
- Costs are a contested area between the care-providers and the Centre, and many for-profit hospitals see the government’s proposals as unviable.
- In the absence of adequate preparation, the Ayushman Bharat administration is talking of a rate review.
- The State governments should have been persuaded to regulate the hospital sector under the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010.
- The law broadly provides for standardisation of facilities and reasonable rates for procedures.
- Apprehensions of fraud have prompted Ayushman Bharat administrators to announce that some key treatments should be availed through public sector institutions. But public facilities have been neglected for long.
- It is essential to reduce the pressure on secondary and tertiary hospitals for expensive treatments by investing in preventive and primary care facilities.
- The 150,000 health and wellness centres of the National Health Protection Mission can play a valuable role.
- The first-order priority should be to draw up a road map for universal health coverage, through continuous upgradation of the public sector infrastructure.
Connecting the dots:
- Ayushman Bharat is the essential first step on the road to universal health coverage. Comment.
TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Science and technology, Biotechnology
Editing our genes
- American biochemist Jennifer Doudna, one of the pioneers of the gene editing tool Crispr-Cas9, woke up in a cold sweat after she dreamt of Adolf Hitler.
- He was wearing a pig mask, and wanted to understand the tool’s uses and implications.
- She acknowledges the “truly incredible power” of the technology, “one that could be devastating if it fell into the wrong hands.”
- Crispr, an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, harnesses the natural defence mechanisms of bacteria to alter an organism’s genetic code.
- It’s likened to a pair of molecular scissors, a cut-and-paste technology, that can snip the two DNA strands at a specific location and modify gene function. The cutting is done by enzymes like Cas9, guided by pre-designed RNA sequences.
- This pre-designed RNA sequences ensure that the targeted section of the genome is edited out.
- The elegance of this editing tool has transformed medical research, and gives rise to the question: can a faulty gene be deleted or corrected at the embryonic stage?
Examples of gene editing or corrections
- Researchers in China used a variation of Crispr. Instead of snipping strands, they swapped DNA letters to correct Marfan Syndrome, an inherited disorder that affects connective tissue.
- It was done on 18 viable human embryos through in-vitro. Two of the embryos, however, exhibited unintended changes. All were destroyed after the experiment.
- In 2017, American biologist used Crispr to repair a genetic mutation that could cause a deadly heart condition.
- It was done on embryos in such a way that the faulty gene would not be passed down the family tree.
- The findings are the focus of an ongoing debate, with several scientists sceptical of whether the gene was corrected. Can accuracy be guaranteed in early stage embryos?
Significance of gene editing
- As our understanding grows, we will have the potential to edit out genes that cause fatal diseases.
- We will perhaps one day have the potential to use the very same mechanisms to edit out undesirable traits in human beings. This raises the spectre of eugenics.
- Bioethicists expressed concern over the clinical application of such research.
- Can we — and should we — control or dictate evolution?
- These are still early days in a new frontier of genome engineering. Researchers are only beginning to understand the power — and fallout — of gene editing.
- Studies have shown that edited cells can lack a cancer suppressing protein.
- Bioethicists fear abuse of gene editing, not just by misguided governments hoping to create a ‘superior’ race, but also by the private sector preying on a parent’s desire to create a perfect child.
For now, it remains a distant prospect, but silencing science or hijacking the debate is not an answer. The burden of this knowledge cannot be borne by science alone.
Connecting the dots:
- What is gene editing? Elaborate in the light of Crisper cas9 and respective examples of application of gene editing technology.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) The CRISPR-Cas system often in news is related to?
- Rice Intensification
- Gene Editing
- Space Research
- Cyber Attack
Q.2) Graphical curve which advocates a relationship between inflation and unemployment in an economy is called
- Laffer’s curve
- Phillips curve
- Friedman curve
- Rahn curve
Q.3) About various types of unemployment, consider the following statements:
- If in an economy, there is surplus workforce in one sector and there is short supply of workforce in the other sector then it is known as disguised unemployment.
- Disguised unemployment is found in agriculture sector in India.
- Frictional unemployment is caused by periodical increase and decrease in the growth of economy.
Which of the statements given above is/are incorrect?
- 1 and 3 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 2 only
- 1, 2 and 3
A change in the Maldives
A blueprint by bureaucrats
Building from debris
Doable and daunting
The Supreme Court can’t stop criminal politicians
Does trade retaliation make sense?