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Current Affairs Analysis

29th August 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

China’s One Country Two Systems policy; National Register of Citizens (NRC); Abdul Kuddus v Union of India case; Code of conduct; Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal; Antimicrobial resistance (AMR); Antimicrobial Resistance; Swine Flu; REDD+ Himalaya programme; REDD+; Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); Asian Short Clawed Otter; Smooth-coated otters; Indian Star Tortoise; Oldest parasite DNA; Coprolites; Biometric Seafarer Identity Document (BSID); etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
August 29, 2019

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Common code of conduct proposed for legislative bodies

Government Schemes & Policies

  • 1971 as NRC base year cannot protect Assam’s indigenous, says NGO

Issues related to Health & Education

  • 10 years of H1N1 influenza: outbreaks in India, infection trends in the states

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Star tortoise, otters get higher protection at CITES
  • ICFRE-ICIMOD’s REDD+ Himalayan programme extended till 2020

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Hong Kong’s ‘borrowed time’ – worry about 2047 hangs over protests
  • Russia supports France plan to revive JCPOA

Science & Technology

  • India Launches World’s First Ever Facial Bio-Metric Data Based Seafarer Identity Document
  • Scientists discovered oldest parasite DNA in Argentina
  • New ₹9.3 crore study to check antibiotic resistance in Ganga

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here 

Polity & Governance

Common code of conduct proposed for legislative bodies

Vice President has called on political parties to evolve a consensus on a code of conduct for their members so that people do not lose faith in political processes and institutions.

venkaiah_naidu

About Code of conduct for Politicians

  • A code for Union ministers was adopted in 1964, and state governments also adopted it.
  • In 1997, the Supreme court adopted a Charter called the 15 point “Restatement of Values of Judicial Life” to serve as a guide for Judges. It was ratified and adopted by Indian Judiciary in the Chief Justices’ Conference 1999.
  • A Code of Conduct for members of Rajya Sabha has been in force since 2005, however, there is no such code for Lok Sabha.

Code in Rajya Sabha

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  • The First Report of the Ethics Committee was adopted in 1999.
  • The Fourth Report was adopted by Rajya Sabha in 2005 and a 14-point Code of Conduct for members of the House was formed.

Major provisions of the 14-point code are:

  • If Members find that there is a conflict between their personal interests and the public trust which they hold, they should resolve such a conflict in a manner that their private interests are subordinated to the duty of their public office.
  • Members should not always see that their private financial interests and those of the members of their immediate family do not come in conflict with the public interest and if any such conflict ever arises, they should try to resolve such a conflict in a manner that the public interest is not jeopardised.
  • Members should never expect or accept any fee or benefit for a vote given or not given by them on the floor of the House, for introducing a Bill, for moving a resolution or desisting from moving a resolution, putting a question or participating in the deliberations of the House or a Parliamentary Committee.
  • It mandated to maintain ‘Register of Member’s Interests’ in such form as may be determined by the Ethics Committee which shall be available to members for inspection on request.

Code in Lok Sabha

Lok-Sabha-IASToppers

  • The first Ethics Committee in Lok Sabha was constituted in May 2000.
  • The Report of the Ethics Committee, with regard to amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, was presented in 2014.
  • Its recommendations were included in the report of the Rules Committee of Lok Sabha tabled in Lok Sabha in August 2015.
  • It said that the Ethics Committee will formulate a Code of Conduct for Members and suggest amendments or additions to the Code of Conduct from time to time.

Code of conduct in other countries

  • The Canada has a ‘Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’ code with powers to examine violations of the Conflict of Interest Code at the request of another Member or by Resolution of the House or on his own initiative.
  • Germany has had a Code of Conduct for members of the Bundestag since 1972.
  • The US has had a Code since 1968.
  • Pakistan has a Code of Conduct for members of the Senate.

Need for Code of Conduct for Politicians

  • The politicians representing their constituencies in the Parliament have several times brought ill-repute to the institution with their incivility.
  • Creating ruckus in the Parliament, making unacceptable remarks and disrupting the House proceedings are some of the major allegations they face.
  • Tenure of some of the politicians is also fraught with severe charges of impropriety.
  • Although the Parliament Speaker cannot penalize the members on grounds of misconduct, under Rule 374 A of the “Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha”, the Speaker can suspend members creating disorder in the House.
  • However, the feasibility of the provision has been questioned and the experts consider that this rule is against the spirit of the Constitution.
  • It has been long since a parliamentary panel had recommended a 14-point code of conduct that somewhat outlines what’s expected from the politicians.

Way Forward:

  • It’s time that such recommendations are tabled in the Parliament and all its clauses are scrutinized under the aegis of a standing committee.
  • Only after a rigorous debate in both the Houses of Parliament, should the bill be passed and made into a law, which will be binding on all the politicians irrespective of their seniority and party affiliation.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

Government Schemes & Policies

1971 as NRC base year cannot protect Assam’s indigenous, says NGO

One of the Assam-based organisations that has been pursuing cases related to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has said that the NRC cannot protect the indigenous people of the State if 1971 remains the base year for identifying foreigners.

national-register-of-exclusion--IASToppers

What is the issue?

  • The Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (ASM), an umbrella organisation of several indigenous groups, had challenged the Constitutional validity of the cut-off date (March 24, 1971) for detecting and deporting foreigners.
  • This date was agreed upon while signing the Assam Accord in August 1985 to end a violent agitation against foreigners in Assam.
  • They had demanded 1951 as the cut-off year (instead of 1971) for determining citizenship as in other parts of India, as many migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan and later Bangladesh entered Assam from 1951 onward.

What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

NRC,_Assam-IASToppers

  • The NRC was introduced to identify illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and recognise the Indian citizens in Assam.
  • It was first prepared in 1951 and Assam is the only state having this arrangement.
  • Under NRC, immigrants who have documents proving that they entered Assam before 1971 will be considered Indian citizens and others have to show that they their ascendants have lived in Assam even before 1971.
  • The NRC list is being updated under the monitoring of the Supreme Court for the first time since 1951 to identify illegal migration into Assam.
  • In 2018’s NRC draft, 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore applicants were included leaving out over 40 lakh people. The final NRC list is scheduled to be released on August 31, 2019.

Background

  • In 1971, Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan. The liberation war led to a massive influx of migrants to India until 1983.
  • In 1983, the Parliament enacted the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act (IMDT Act) which laid down the procedure to detect illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and expel them from Assam.
  • This Act was applicable to only Assam, while the Foreigners Act, 1946 was applicable to all other states.
  • The Assam Movement against illegal immigration eventually led to the historic Assam Accord of 1985 which created a special category of citizens in relation to Assam.

It inserted Section 6A in the Citizenship Act which decided three classes of immigrants:

  1. Those who came into the state before 1966 will be citizens of India.
  2. Those who came into the state between 1966 and 25th March, 1971 were to be taken off the electoral rolls, and regularised after ten years.
  3. Those who came into the state post 25th March,1971 will be detected and expelled in accordance with law.
  • However, the provisions of the IMDT Act made it difficult to deport illegal immigrants. Hence, it was held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Sarbananda Sonowal case in 2005. In the Sonowal case, the court considered classification based on geographical considerations to be a violation of the right to equality under Article 14.
  • This was eventually replaced with the Foreigners (Tribunals of Assam) Order, 2006, which again was struck down in 2007.

Challenges in proving Assam citizenships

NRC exclusion

  • Women are especially in danger of exclusion from the citizenship register. Typically, they have no birth certificates, are not sent to school, and are married before they become adults.
  • Therefore, by the time their names first appear in voters’ lists, these are in the villages where they live after marriage, which are different from those of their parents.
  • Poor Migrant workers often travel to other districts of Assam in search of work, as construction workers, road-builders and coal-miners.
  • In the districts to which they migrate, the local police frequently record their names as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The police then mark them out as illegal immigrants. They receive notices from foreigners’ tribunals located in districts far away from their home districts.

Doubtful voters

  • In the mid-1990s, the then Chief Election Commissioner, as a one-time measure, directed officials to identify “doubtful voters” by marking a “D” against their names on the voters’ list, to temporarily bar them from voting or standing for elections, until an inquiry was completed.
  • However, the power was vested permanently with junior officials who could doubt the citizenship of any person at any time without assigning any reason. The “D” also debarred them from being included in the draft NRC.

Identify any suspect to be a foreigner

  • The Assam Police can identify any suspect to be a ‘foreigner’. Police claim in most cases is that the person was unable to show them documents establishing his or her citizenship.
  • However, People consistently deny that the police didn’t even asked for documents before identifying as foreigner.

Foreign tribunals

National Register of Citizens (NRC) 5 IASToppers.com

  • All cases referred by the police, related to the grating of citizenship on Assam, are heard by Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs).
  • There are now FTs in which not a single person has been declared an Indian citizen over several months.
  • Even if a person finds her name in the NRC, the police can still refer her case to an FT and an election official can even deem him/her to be a “D”-voter.
  • Article 20 of the Constitution includes as a fundamental right that “no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once”. But this principle is violated in FTs.
  • Even after an FT had confirmed a person to be an Indian citizen, another FT and often the same FT has the power to issue notice to the same person to prove her legitimate citizenship again.

Flaws in Foreigners Tribunals

  • Foreigners Tribunals were established by a simple executive order.
  • Qualifications to serve on the Tribunals have been progressively loosened.
  • Tribunals are given powers to refuse examination of witnesses if in their opinion it is for vexatious (causing trouble) purposes
  • They are not required to provide reasons for their findings.
  • Foreigners Tribunals are bound to accept evidence produced by the police
  • As per report, as many as 64,000 people have been declared non-citizens without being heard in court as these people are often not even served notices telling them that they have been summoned to appear.

What is Abdul Kuddus v Union of India case?

  • In this case, petitioners argued that if a foreign tribunal rejects citizenship to a person, it should not mean that his/her name cannot be added in NRC.
  • They argued that the Foreigners Tribunal and the NRC should be kept entirely independent of each other, and without according primacy to one over the other.
  • The Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ arguments, and held that the opinion of the Foreigners Tribunal was final and binding on all parties including upon the preparation of the NRC.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

10 years of H1N1 influenza: outbreaks in India, infection trends in the states

In April 2009, the first case of influenza A H1N1 was reported in Mexico. Later the infection spread and a total of 214 countries were affected by the pandemic worldwide. Ten years since, influenza H1N1 has become a seasonal virus.

H1N1-influenza-2-IASToppers

H1N1 virus in various states of India

10-years-of-H1N1-influenza-IASToppers

  • Maharashtra has reported the highest number of H1N1 cases (33,284) and deaths (3,637) since H1N1 came in 2009.
  • Rajasthan is the worst hit in 2019 with more than 5000 cases of H1N1.
  • Increased testing in states like Rajasthan and Gujarat has resulted in more cases being reported.
  • In 2017, the virus showed epidemiological characteristics different from previous years. While cases used to come mainly from western parts of India and localised to districts like Pune, northeastern states like Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, which had never reported influenza A (H1N1) cases in the past, notified 44 cases in 2017.
  • In 2019, Tripura (31 cases), Sikkim (8), Meghalaya (2) and Manipur (2) also reported the H1N1 cases.

About Swine Flu

swine flu 11

  • Swine influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that normally only affects pigs. It is commonly caused by H1N1 strains of swine influenza A virus.
  • However, other strains, such as H1N2, H3N1 and H3N2 also circulate in pigs. While it is not usual for people to get swine flu, human infections do occasionally happen, mainly after close contact with infected pigs.
  • Swine flu is contagious, and it spreads in the same way as the seasonal flu.

Origin

  • In 2009, a new strain of swine influenza virus, called Influenza A (H1N1), emerged in Mexico, and started to cause illness in humans. The World Health Organisation said that this new strain of influenza, can spread from person to person. Later, the it declared the swine flu pandemic officially.

Spread

  • Swine influenza is present in all pig-producing countries around the world. Outbreaks in pigs occur throughout the year. However, many countries routinely vaccinate pigs against swine influenza.

Symptoms

Swine Flu 2019 2

  • When people are infected with swine flu viruses, their symptoms are usually similar to those of seasonal influenza. These include fever, tiredness, and lack of appetite, coughing and a sore throat.
  • Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhoea. Some people infected with influenza A (H1N1) have had severe illness and died.
  • However, in most of the cases the symptoms of influenza A (H1N1) have been mild, and people have made a full recovery.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Star tortoise, otters get higher protection at CITES

India’s proposal to upgrade the protection of star tortoises (Geochelone elegans), the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) and small-clawed otters (Anoyx cinereus) in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on Wild Fauna and Flora) have been approved.

cites

  • These species have been listed under Appendix I of CITES and will now enjoy the highest degree of protection as there will be a complete international ban enforced on their trade.

About Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

CITES-CoP-2019 2

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) was adopted in March 1973 to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species.
  • The goal of the CITES is to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of any species.
  • The convention resulted from a resolution adopted at a 1963 meeting of member countries of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The formal text of CITES was entered into force in 1975.
  • CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.
  • It is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The number of state parties to the convention are 183and more than 5,800 animal and 30,000 plant species had been classified.
  • CITES classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on how threatened they are:

Appendix I lists endangered species that are at risk of extinction. It also prohibits outright the commercial trade of these plants and animals; however, some may be transported internationally in extraordinary situations for scientific or educational reasons.

Appendix II species are those that are not threatened with extinction but that might suffer a serious decline in number if trade is not restricted; their trade is regulated by permit.

Appendix III species are protected in at least one country that is a CITES member and that has petitioned others for help in controlling international trade in that species.

  • In addition to plants and animals and their parts, the agreement also restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as clothing, food, medicine, and souvenirs.

About Asian Short Clawed Otter

  • The Asian Short Clawed Otter is the smallest of all the Otter species.
  • Its name comes from the very small claws on its fingers, they rely on their sensitive fingers to forage for their prey, and so do not have the long claws which most otters have.
  • Being amphibious, they spend roughly half of their time on land, and half in the water.
  • It lives in wetland of India and Southeast Asia.
  • They have two layers of dense fur and a layer of body fat to keep them warm in the water.
  • One of the key organisations involved in the conservation of the Asian short-clawed otter is the IUCN Otter Specialist Group, which has developed a network of biologists across Asia that are conducting field surveys and popularising this species’ conservation.

About smooth-coated otters

  • Smooth-coated otters are the largest of Asia’s otters.
  • They are characterized by a very smooth, sleek pelage.
  • They are found in areas where freshwater is plentiful, preferring shallow and placid waters.
  • Major threats to Asian otter population are loss of wetland habitats due to construction of largescale hydroelectric projects, conversion of wetlands for settlements and agriculture, reduction in prey biomass, poaching and contamination of waterways by pesticides.
  • Poaching for pelt and other body parts that are believed to possess therapeutic properties. Few nomadic hunting tribes eat otter flesh.

About star tortoise

  • Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is found in western India and extreme southeastern Pakistan (e.g., Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and the Thar Desert in Pakistan), southeastern India (Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu) and in Sri Lanka.
  • Star tortoises from northern India are larger and darker than those from southern India, which tend to be smaller and have more contrasting, star-like shell patterns.
  • Indian star tortoises are oviparous, their eggs have a hard but brittle shell that is quite porous.
  • 90% of trade of star tortoises occurs as part of the international pet market.
  • The species is categorized as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a decline greater than 30% was predicted by 2025 if the exploitation continued or expanded.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

ICFRE-ICIMOD’s REDD+ Himalayan programme extended till 2020

The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme being carried out in the himalayan states jointly by Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has been extended till July 2020.

ICFRE-ICIMOD’s-REDD+-Himalayan-programme-IASToppers

About REDD+ Himalaya programme

  • The Himalaya programme was launched in January 2016 in Mizoram to addresse the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in India’s Himalayan states.
  • The project is supported by the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety ministry of

the-Hindu-Kush-Himalayan-region-IASToppers

  • It was implemented in four countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region— Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal.
  • The programme contributes directly to the ‘Transboundary Landscape Regional Programme’, which was developed collectively by the countries of the region.
  • It is a cross-border initiative whose main aim is to protect and use the landscapes of the Himalayas in such a way that they provide goods and services sustainably for the population of the whole region.

What is REDD+?

About REDD+

REDD+ means “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”.

  • It is a mechanism developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2005 to mitigate climate change through enhanced forest management in developing countries.
  • This mechanism has been enshrined in the Paris Agreement of 2015.
  • It aimed to create incentives for communities so that they stop forest degrading practices.
  • It is a global endeavour to use carbon sequestration potential of the forests to manage climate change within accepted limits of tolerance.
  • More than 300 REDD+ initiatives have taken off since 2006.

Background

  • Initially, REDD was focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. However, in 2007 the Bali Action Plan, formulated at the thirteenth session of UNFCCC, stated the need for a comprehensive approach to mitigating climate change.
  • Hence, in 2010, at COP-16 as set out in the Cancun Agreements, REDD became REDD-plus (REDD+), to reflect the new components including Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, Conservation of forest carbon stocks and Sustainable management of forests.

Criticism

  • Large-scale finance for REDD+ has been a major issue as carbon markets have not materialised and international funding commitments for REDD+ have been much lower than expected.
  • REDD+ implementation costs have been high and benefits for local communities from REDD+ projects have been minimal.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

Hong Kong’s ‘borrowed time’ – worry about 2047 hangs over protests

Protests in Hong Kong, now in its 13th consecutive week, have brought a decades-old policy of the People’s Republic of China back into focus – One Country Two Systems.

ONE-COUNTRY-TWO-SYSTEMS-2-IASToppers

What is Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests?

  • The Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, started in April 2019, are a series of demonstrations in Hong Kong to remove an extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong government.
  • It allows suspects accused of crimes such as murder and rape to be extradited to mainland China from Hong Kong to face trial.
  • As per the bill, Hong Kong will also handover individuals accused of crimes in Taiwan and Macau to China. Macau, like Hong Kong, is a Chinese special administrative region with significant autonomy.

hong kong

Protesters’ concerns

  • China will use the changed law to target political opponents in Hong Kong.
  • Due to China’s flawed justice system, extradited suspects are likely to face torture.
  • The change in the law will add another problem to Hong Kong’s already crumbling autonomy.
  • It will not just affect Hong Kong’s reputation as an international finance centre, but also its judicial system.

What is China’s One Country Two Systems policy?

ONE-COUNTRY,-TWO-SYSTEMS-IASToppers

  • One country, two systems is a constitutional principle formulated by Deng Xiaoping, the Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for the reunification of China during the early 1980s.
  • His plan was to unify China and Taiwan under the ‘One Country Two Systems’ policy, while promising high autonomy to Taiwan.
  • China’s nationalist government, which was defeated in a civil war by the communists in 1949, had been exiled to Taiwan.
  • He suggested that Taiwan can run its separate economic and administration system, but under Chinese sovereignty. However, Taiwan rejected the Communist Party’s offer. The Taiwan has since been run as a separate entity from the mainland China.

Background

  • The British took the control of Hong Kong in 1842 after the First Opium War with Qing dynasty of China.
  • In 1898, the British and the Qing dynasty of China signed the Second Convention of Peking, which allowed the British to take control of the islands surrounding Hong Kong, known as New Territories, on lease for 99 years.
  • Britain promised Peking that the islands would be returned to China after the expiry of the lease, in 1997.
  • Macau, on the other side, had been ruled by the Portuguese from 1557. They started withdrawing troops in the mid-1970s.
  • In the 1980s, Deng’s China initiated talks with both Britain and Portugal for the transfer of the two territories. In talks, China promised to respect the region’s autonomy under the ‘One Country Two Systems’ proposal.
  • In 1984, China and the U.K. signed the ‘Sino-British Joint Declaration’ in Beijing, which set the terms for the autonomy and the legal, economic and governmental systems for Hong Kong post 1997.
  • Similarly, in 1987, China and Portugal signed the Joint Declaration on Macau in which China made similar promises for the region of Macau after it was handed over to China.
  • Hong Kong returned to Chinese control in July 1997, and Macau’s sovereignty was transferred in December, 1999. Both regions became Special Administrative Regions of China.
  • The regions would have their own currencies, economic and legal systems, but defence and diplomacy would be decided by China.
  • Their Constitutions would remain valid for 50 years till 2047 for Hong Kong and 2049 for Macau. It is unclear what will happen after this term.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

 Russia supports France plan to revive JCPOA

Russian President met with his French president to discuss a way out of the stalemate over the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran-nuclear-deal

  • Recently, French President met with Russian president and suggested to either soften sanctions on Iran or creating a compensation system to improve the living conditions of Iranians.

To know more about Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal, refer to IASTopper’s Mains article: https://www.iastoppers.com/iran-nuclear-deal-mains-article/

 

Science & Technology

India Launches World’s First Ever Facial Bio-Metric Data Based Seafarer Identity Document

India has become the first country in the world to issue Biometric Seafarer Identity Document (BSID), capturing the facial bio-metric data of seafarers.

53S_FIRST_FACIAL_BIOMETRIC-BASED_ID-IASToppers

About the Biometric Seafarer Identity Document (BSID)

  • BSID was launched by the Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Chemical & Fertilizers.

WORLD’S-FIRST-FACIAL-BIOMETRIC-BASED-ID-1-IASToppers

  • BSID is an improvement over the two finger or iris based bio-metric data, with modern security features.
  • The BSID card is in confirmation of the Convention No. 185 of the International Labour Organisation on BSID. India ratified the Convention in October 2015.

Significance:

  • It will give a fool proof identification to Indian seafarers which will facilitate their movement, provide ease of getting jobs and help in identifying them from any location in the world.

Need:

  • The shipping sector is seeing major developments in the areas of coastal shipping, inland waterways and other maritime activities, leading to generation of employment in the sector.
  • The total number of Indian seafarers who were employed on Indian or foreign flag vessels increased by 35% in 2019.
[Ref: Business Standard, Live mint]

 

Scientists discovered oldest parasite DNA in Argentina

Scientists have found the oldest parasite DNA ever recorded in the ‘coprolite’ of a prehistoric puma in Catamarca province of Argentina.

DNA in Argentina

What is Coprolites?

  • Coprolites are the fossilised faeces of animals that lived millions of years ago. They are trace fossils, meaning not of the animal’s actual body.

Significance

Coprolite-2-IASToppers

  • Scientists can analyse Coprolites’s shape and size and depending on the location they were found in.
  • Scientists can figure out the animal from which they came as well as uncover what those animals ate. For example, a spiral-shaped coprolite may of an ancient shark or another kind of fish.
  • Moreover, if there are bone fragments in the faeces, it tells scientists that the animal might have been a carnivore. Tooth marks can reveal how the animal ate.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

New ₹9.3 crore study to check antibiotic resistance in Ganga

The government has commissioned a ₹9.3 crore study to assess the microbial diversity along the entire length of the Ganga and test if stretches of the 2,500 km long river contain microbes that may promote antibiotic resistance.

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Objectives of the project

  • To indicate the type of contamination (sewage and industrial) in the river and threat to human health (antibiotic resistance surge)
  • Identifying sources of Eschericia coli, a type of bacteria that lives in the gut of animals and humans. While largely harmless, some species have been linked to intestinal disease as well as aggravating antibiotic resistance.

Implementation of the project

The project will be undertaken by the

  • Motilal Nehru Institute of Technology, Allahabad
  • The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur
  • Sardar Patel Institute of Science & Technology, Gorakhpur
  • Start-up companies: Phixgen and Xcelris Labs, which will provide genome sequencing services

This project is expected to least two years.

Earlier attempts

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  • There have been several studies that have looked at microbial diversity in the Ganga but these have been isolation.
  • In 2014, researchers sampled water and sediments along the Ganga in different seasons. They find that levels of resistance genes that lead to superbugs were about 60 times greater during the pilgrimage months of May and June than at other times of the year.

Antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or superbugs happens when microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs. These microorganisms are also termed as “superbugs”.
  • As a result, the medicines or drugs become ineffective and infections persist in the body further increasing the risk of spread to others.

Dangers of AMR

  • AMR causes a reduction in the effectiveness of medicines, making infections and diseases difficult or impossible to treat.
  • AMR is associated with increased mortality, prolonged illnesses in people and animals, production losses in agriculture, livestock and aquaculture. This threatens global health, livelihoods and food security.
  • AMR also increases the cost of treatments and care.

Why are bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics?

antibiotics

  • Overuse and misuse of antibiotics allows the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Every time a person takes antibiotics, some bacteria are killed, but resistant bacteria are left to grow and multiply. Hence, taking antibiotic repeatedly multiply its growth some resistant bacteria are always left when on take antibiotic.
  • Widespread use of antibiotics for common cold, flu etc. is an example of how overuse of antibiotics can promote the spread of antibiotic resistance.

How do bacteria become resistant to antibiotics?

  • Neutralize an antibiotic by changing it in a way that makes it harmless.
  • Push an antibiotic back outside of the bacteria before it can do any harm.
  • Change their outer structure so the antibiotic has no way to attach to the bacteria it is designed to kill.
  • Bacteria can also become resistant through mutation of their genetic material.

India’s vulnerabilities to AMR

  • Bacteria spread easily in India because half of Indians defecate outdoors, and much of the sewage generated by those who do use toilets is untreated. As a result, Indians have among the highest rates of bacterial infections in the world and collectively take more antibiotics, which are sold over the counter here, than any other nationality.
  • A study found that Indian children living in places where people are less likely to use a toilet tend to get diarrhoea and be given antibiotics more often than those in places with more toilet use.
  • All those drugs that create resistance to antibiotics find their way into hospital sewage, which is mostly dumped untreated into rivers, canals and pits in the surrounding community where pregnant women can become infected.
  • Equally worrisome has been the rapid growth of India’s industrialised animal husbandry, where antibiotics are widespread. Most large chicken farms here use feed laced with antibiotics banned for use in animals in the United States.
  • Also, antibiotics are still readily available over the counter, and people still self-medicate. The Indian government has notably failed to institute and implement real regulations to stop chemists from handing out antibiotics like cheap candy.

National Action Plan to combat Antimicrobial Resistance

  • In 2017, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare announced the India’s National Action Plan.

Objectives

The National Programme for Containment of AMR is under implementation in 12th Five Year Plan with the following objectives:

  • To establish a laboratory-based surveillance system by strengthening laboratories.
  • To generate quality data on AMR for pathogens of public health importance.
  • To generate awareness among healthcare providers and in the community regarding the rational use of antibiotics.
  • To strengthen infection control guidelines
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

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