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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 25th June’20 | PDF Download

How to battle depression

  • When a young person who had many years of productive life left, who was a National Olympiad Winner in Physics, and who left a career in mechanical engineering to become a talented and popular actor, takes such an extreme step, it’s a collective loss to the nation.
  • Life is sometimes filled with anxiety, internal conflict, disharmony, uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
  • One tends to feel like a stranger to one’s self.
  • There are many factors that cause stress in modern life.
  • More engagement with technology and less with people
  • More focus on “success” (the ends) rather than the process of learning (the means)
  • Never-ending aspirations
  • Relationship issues
  • Impatience while doing tasks, for this is a generation looking for instant gratification
  • Too many choices and the limitations of the human mind to choose wisely
  • With the bridging of gender inequalities, increase in employment of women, growth and development of urban and peri-urban areas, interference of the media and social media in every aspect of life, and disruption in the traditional joint family system, there is an underlying strain on the socio-cultural fabric.
  • Some of this stress, if not handled well, can push human beings into depression.
  • Some interesting cases and studies throw light on the coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression. Viktor Frankl, who was detained in Nazi concentration camps, studied the source of depression and found that it is the lack of meaning in life.
  • Individuals who are able to discover meaning tend to achieve the will and strength to endure life.
  • That brings us to the next question: how do we find meaning in life? Meaning can be found in love and work.
  • Love for fellow beings is what motivates a person to work or take action.
  • If we can base our actions and work on a shared love for family members and society at large, we can find effective meaning in life.
  • ‘The Art of Living’ involves managing the self for others.
  • Prescriptions for depression and anxiety can be found in the writings of Rabindranath Tagore.
  • Tagore believed that being socially connected was an antidote to the mental estrangement that plague-affected people were undergoing in 1918.
  • In an essay, he suggested that we generate bonhomie between the affected and those who were not, because the ill were not the enemy; the illness was.
  • For immunity from psychological suffering, what was required was a design of togetherness, which Tagore insisted was ingrained in the famous Rig Vedic dicta, Yatra Visvam Bhavati Ekanidam (where the whole world meets in a single nest) and Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
  • A depressed person may not want to connect initially.
  • Every Indian citizen is unique as he/she undertakes life’s journey in this diverse and vibrant democracy.
  • The onus lies on society and the immediate family to identify the unique talents in each member of society/ child and nurture them, so that people don’t feel neglected/isolated.

Bad to worse

  • In another round of tit-for-tat manoeuvres, India, followed by Pakistan, has decided to halve the strength of diplomatic missions in each other’s capital.
  • Ill-treatment and torture of Indian personnel posted in Islamabad, in clear violation of their diplomatic rights.
  • Pakistan’s contention was that the two men arrested were carrying fake currency.
  • But it is more likely the action was a response to arrests and the expulsion of two Pakistani High Commission officials accused of espionage last month, who were also taken into custody by Indian security officials.
  • New Delhi also accused Pakistan High Commission officials of maintaining “links to terror organisations” as a reason for its decision.
  • While expulsions of diplomats are not uncommon between countries as inimical to each other as India and Pakistan are, this is the first time such a measure has been taken since 2001.
  • Then, the Parliament attack in December 2001, and the largest military mobilisation of the time along the India-Pakistan border, Operation Parakram, were the triggers.
  • Eventually, after a thaw in ties, and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan for the SAARC summit in 2004, the move was reversed and diplomats were gradually taken back to a full strength of over a 100 in each High Commission.
  • The latest decision follows not one event, but a general downslide in relations in the past year.
  • After the Pulwama attack last February, the Balakot air strike and the August 5 decision to amend Article 370 of the Constitution and reorganise Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan have snapped all trading ties, downgraded missions — now without High Commissioners — and shut down most diplomatic activities.
  • India and Pakistan have had no talks since 2015, when PM Modi visited Lahore, and the External Affairs Ministers met a few months later.
  • All sporting and cultural exchanges are at an end, and visas are rarely granted, apart from the rare exception being made for the Kartarpur corridor inaugurated last year.
  • From the LoC, where ceasefire violations continue to claim lives of soldiers and civilians on both sides, to practically every multilateral forum India and Pakistan are a part of, both sides are at daggers drawn.
  • Even on non-contentious issues such as cooperating on the coronavirus pandemic as a part of the SAARC grouping, or collaborating against the recent locust invasion that affected the region, Islamabad and New Delhi are unable to find common cause.
  • While the present seems bleak, the future does not augur well for a change, particularly as India-China tensions occupy New Delhi’s concerns and focus.
  • The decision to reduce mission strengths is unlikely to impact working relations between India and Pakistan at present.
  • It is a sign, however, that just when it seems ties between the two neighbours cannot get much worse, they do.

Signalling intent

  • The Centre’s decision to make it mandatory for vendors on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) procurement platform to specify the country of origin of new products listed by them is on the face of it unexceptionable, aimed as it is at promoting India-made goods.
  • Apart from the place of manufacture, the platform’s administrators have also sought details on the extent of local content and set guidelines on the percentage of localisation for enabling procurement in the case of bids of a specified value.
  • The weaponisation of trade ties, especially one where India’s reliance on imports from China now extend̥s beyond smartphones and low-cost electronics to heavy machinery and active pharmaceutical ingredients, is a double-edged sword and fraught with risks for the Indian economy as well.
  • For India to wean itself off these dependencies will take time.
  • The fact is that enhancing manufacturing capacities with improved efficiency and reduced cost would require an overhaul of bureaucratic processes.
  • Attaining genuine self-reliance is a long and capital intensive process that would require far greater investment in education, skill-building and infrastructure.
  • The GeM move on country of origin is at best symbolic.
  • For now, policymakers ought to tone down any trade-linked rhetoric and give diplomats and military negotiators the room to smoothe ties.

The U.S. trial at The Hague

  • S. President Donald Trump’s authorisation of new sanctions on the International Criminal Court (ICC) is an act of retaliation against the UN body’s high-profile investigation to bring justice to victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  • In March, the Hague Court’s Appeals Chamber unanimously authorised investigation into alleged atrocities by U.S. troops in Afghanistan since May 1, 2003 as well as other alleged crimes committed since July 1, 2002 in the Central Intelligence Agency’s so-called black sites in Poland, Romania and Lithuania.
  • The court overturned a 2019 pre-trial chamber decision and admitted the 2016 preliminary findings of the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.
  • Bensouda’s report claims systematic atrocities of torture, summary executions, forced disappearances and rape, in which the Taliban, the Haqqani Network and Afghanistan’s defence forces were also implicated.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also said that the new measures would be deployed to shield Israel, which faces a separate inquiry following Ms. Bensouda’s application last December.
  • Trump’s June 11 executive order, which decries the investigations of U.S. personnel as a threat to American national security and foreign policy, slapped asset freezes and family travel bans on investigators.
  • It relates to Israel’s settlements on the West Bank and the 2014 invasion of Gaza, resulting in hundreds of Palestinian casualties.
  • The latest sanctions could in theory apply to victims and witnesses, besides lawyers and researchers assisting investigators.
  • The U.S. has always refused to recognise ICC jurisdiction over U.S. personnel on the grounds that it is not party to the Rome Statute that underpins the court.
  • In 2002, the George W. Bush administration suspended its signature to the Statute, when it failed to win backing to restrict the court’s remit solely to cases where the accused belonged to a ratifying state.
  • The 1998 Rome Statute provides for the prosecution of crimes committed in the territory of any one of the 123 states-parties, even if the accused come from a non-member nation.
  • This is the basis for the current investigation wherein Afghanistan and the three European nations.
  • The location of the alleged crimes, are within the ICC’s jurisdiction, even if the U.S. remains outside.
  • Meanwhile, after nearly 20 years of Afghanistan’s brutal civil war, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, the country’s political future seems highly uncertain.
  • The situation has thus strengthened the perception that the real aim behind the agreement was to demonstrate America’s troop reduction before Trump hit the campaign trail on his re-election bid.

Follow Protocols (ToI)

  • In a prudent move, Ayush ministry has directed Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved to stop advertising and publicising its claims about its recently launched Covid-19 treatment medicines.
  • Patanjali was touting its latest ayurvedic formulations, Coronil and Swasari, as the world’s first cure for Covid.
  • In fact, it claimed that clinical trials had been conducted for the formulations and that 69% of the Covid-positive test subjects turned negative in three days while all test subjects were cured in a week.
  • However, Ayush ministry has said that it was neither aware of the facts of Patanjali’s claims nor cognisant about the scientific study carried out on the formulations.
  • The ministry has now asked Patanjali to provide it with details of the medicines and results data of the study.
  • This is welcome as finding effective treatment for Covid is serious business.
  • All medicines and vaccines have to undergo rigorous trials and scientific validation processes.
  • Such unverified cures will end up doing more harm as people may avoid scientific treatment protocols and go for these so-called magic potions, thinking they are thereby protected from infection.
  • With more than 5 lakh Covid cases and counting in India, the last thing we need is people falling for unapproved drugs and becoming super spreaders.
  • In fact, Ayush ministry itself had issued a circular to states on June 2 to take necessary action against instances of misleading information, fake claims and misbranding of products in relation to Covid control.
  • This is no time for alchemy.

The many questions about Favipiravir

  • Pandemic has not only exposed the dire situation of the public health infrastructure, but also the opacity with which drug/medical device approvals are granted in India.
  • We have had many controversies over the last few months:
    • The use of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 patients
    • Grant of licences for diagnostic kits for COVID-19
    • The specificity of serological tests for detecting antibodies against the virus.
    • Another controversy is brewing due to the opacity surrounding the regulatory approval granted to Favipiravir for the treatment of COVID-19 patients with mild or moderate symptoms.

No scientific consensus

  • The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, an Indian pharmaceutical company, to sell generic versions of Favipiravir for the treatment of COVID-19.
  • This drug, originally invented by a Japanese company, was meant to treat influenza.
  • After the outbreak of COVID-19, doctors in China and Russia started using it to treat COVID-19 patients although there is no scientific consensus on the efficacy of the drug.
  • On what basis did the DCGI grant approval?
  • Will the underlying data be made publicly available to the medical community?
  • While the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules, 2019 allow the DCGI to grant approvals for the use of certain drugs based on approvals granted overseas, they do not absolve it from making their rationale for such decisions public.
  • There is no information on the DCGI’s website explaining the scientific basis of its approval of Favipiravir for COVID-19.
  • Evidence-based medicine requires the testing of pharmaceutical drugs through randomised clinical trials (RCT) wherein one set of patients get a placebo (or an alternate therapy) and the other set of patients gets the investigational drug.
  • Neither the doctors nor the patients know who gets what drug.
  • If the set of patients that gets the investigational drug shows a better outcome, it can be presumed that the drug has a demonstrable therapeutic effect on the disease in comparison to the comparator.
  • This is the gold standard for demonstrating the efficacy of a drug in treating a particular disease.
  • The data collected from such clinical trials are usually published in a peer-reviewed journal where they are subject to scientific scrutiny.
  • According to the Clinical Trials Registry of India (CTRI), Glenmark’s study was meant to be carried out on 150 patients at 12 different hospitals in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi with the aim of comparing Favipiravir with “standard care” provided to patients with mild or moderate COVID-19.
  • The decision to enrol patients with “mild” COVID-19 is baffling given that virtually all these “mild” cases often resolve themselves without any intervention.
  • Further, the CTRI does not explain the nature of the “standard care” being provided to the patients.
  • The Japanese regulator, which approved this drug for influenza, mandated a warning to be printed on the packaging of this drug for early embryo toxicity and teratogenicity, specifically cautioning its use in women in the early stages of pregnancy.
  • Subsequent to a scandal in 2012, the DCGI instituted a system of review by a Subject Expert Committee (SEC) to decide whether a new drug should be approved for the Indian market.
  • The SEC was meant to have external experts who were specialists in the field of therapy being considered. After a SEC approval, the DCGI is required to take the final call on whether to approve a drug.
  • Thereafter the information on which such decisions were made was required to be disclosed because the Right to Information Act requires such a disclosure.
  • However, in this case, the minutes of the meetings, the composition of the SEC and the clinical trial results submitted to the SEC/DCGI are not available on the DCGI’s website.
  • A culture of secrecy around drug approvals serves no purpose except to benefit pharmaceutical companies.
  • At ₹103 a tablet, the manufacturer stands to make a fortune once there are bulk orders for this drug.

NEWS

  • CABINET
    • Government announced historic reforms in space, banking and animal husbandry sector today.
    • Cabinet meeting held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ratified the decision of boosting private sector participation in space sector in the country.
    • Union Atomic Energy and Space Minister, Dr. Jitendra Singh informed that that government will constitute Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACE) for effective socio-economic usage of space technology.
    • Singh added that, the Public Sector Enterprise, New Space India Limited (NSIL) will endeavour to re-orient space activities from a supply driven model to a demand driven model, thereby ensuring optimum utilization of our space assets.
    • Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar informed that Urban Cooperative and Multi State Cooperative banks will be brought under direct supervision of Reserve Bank of India.
    • Javadekar said, government has also taken a decision to develop an International Airport in Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh.
    • Emphasizing the impetus which the decision will provide to International Tourism in the country by connecting the Budhha Circuits, the minister informed that it will also help in development of all nearby tourist destinations including Sarnath and Gaya among others.
    • Javadekar also informed that government has extended a 2 per cent interest waiver to nearly 9 crore 37 lakh Mudra Shishu loan borrowers.
    • The government introduced a 15 thousand crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund for infrastructure related development in animal husbandry, dairy and livestock related enterprises.
    • Landmark decision: aims to provide employment to nearly 35 lakh youths in the country.
    • Under the scheme, upto 90% of loan for starting such enterprises will be given by banks.
    • Government has also extended an Interest subvention of 3 per cent on all such loans under the scheme.
    • The Development Fund will incentivise infrastructure investments in dairy, meat processing and animal feed plants.
    • Eligible beneficiaries under the Scheme would be Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), MSMEs, Section 8 Companies, Private Companies and individual entrepreneurs.
    • In another major announcement, the minister informed that the tenure of OBC Commission, set up to suggest better ways for effective transfer of benefits to the Other Backward Classes in the country, has been extended till 31st January of next year.
    • He also informed that as part of India’s Look East Policy, ONGC will invest over 900 crore rupees for research and development of two Gas blocks in Myanmar.
  • Indian Armed Forces contingent participated in the Victory Day Parade at Red Square Moscow.
    • Russia is celebrating the 75th anniversary of victory of the then Soviet People in Second World War.
    • The Tri-Service contingent of the Indian Armed Forces comprised of 75 all ranks and marched along with contingents of Russian Armed Forces and 17 other countries.
    • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was among the special invitees to the event.
    • British Indian Armed Forces during World War-II were one of the largest Allied Forces contingents which took part in the North and East African Campaign, Western Desert Campaign and the European Theatre against the Axis powers.
    • These campaigns witnessed sacrifice by over 87 thousand Indian servicemen beside 34 thousand 354 being injured.
    • Union Minister of State PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Dr Jitendra Singh e-inaugurated Devika Bridge in Udhampur on River Devika and ‘Puneja Bridge’ on strategically important under construction Bhaderwah-Basholi-Pathankot National Highway in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir Union territory.
    • The Bridge on River Devika in Udhampur has been completed by Border Roads Organisation within fifteen months time while Puneja Bridge was constructed by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in 36 months.
    • Mr Singh said, Doda is the only district in the country where not one but three big tunnels are being built.
  • Passport Seva Divas
    • This day is celebrated to commemorate enactment of Passports Act on 24 June 1967.
    • External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar today said there has been a complete transformation of passport delivery service in the last six years.
    • He said, there is widespread recognition in the country and within the government that the passport delivery porgramme has improved by leaps and bounds.
    • Dr Jaishankar said, his Ministry has taken significant initiatives for the simplification of Passport Seva rules.
    • The number of documents have been reduced and passport issuance process has been eased.
    • He stressed that real reform on the ground is about the small things and rules and processes must keep getting simplified.
    • TB Report 2020
    • Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan released the annual TB Report 2020 through a virtual event.
    • According to the report, over 24 lakh TB patients have been notified in 2019.
    • This amounts to a 14 percent increase in TB notification as compared to 2018.
    • Near-complete on-line notification of TB patients have been achieved through the NIKSHAY system.
    • There has been a reduction in the number of missing cases to 2.9 lakh cases as against more than 10 lakhs in 2017.
    • The Minister also released a Joint Monitoring Mission report, a manual on Direct Benefit Transfer to TB patients under NIKSHAY system, a Training Module, and the quarterly newsletter NIKSHAY Patrika. He said, there is a need to come together to fight against TB and the stigma.
    • Due to easy availability of molecular diagnostics, the proportion of children diagnosed with TB increased to 8 percent in 2019 compared to 6 percent in 2018.

 

 

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