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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 27th June’20 | PDF Download

Science vs nonsense

  • The unrelenting spread of COVID-19 has set off both mass anxiety and a clamour for a panacea.
  • Fear paves the way for profiteers.
  • Patanjali Ayurved’s recent claim of having discovered a “cure” and the publicity that this garnered, bypassing every regulatory requirement without any serious consequence so far, shows that India’s regulatory checks and balances are wanting.
  • Quackery and the potency of ‘magic drugs’ are a part of life in India.
  • As it now emerges, the company has probably misrepresented the drug’s efficacy.
  • The clinical trial tested the drug on 45 and another 50 were administered a placebo.
  • All of the participants had tested positive for the virus.
  • On the third day, 31 who were given the drug recovered and 25 of those on the placebo recovered.
  • Nor submitted it for peer-review.
  • Therefore, the company’s claim of a cure by all accounts was a clear subversion of the scientific process.
  • When hydroxychloroquine was being touted as a potential wonder drug for COVID-19, some of India’s scientists were quick to join a global opprobrium that raised methodological issues with a study in The Lancet, that claimed no effect — and even harm — from HCQ.
  • Thus, more than the outcome, it is the method deployed that ought to be scrutinised by scientists to reinforce public trust in scientific assessment.
  • There has always been a tension between traditional Indian systems of medicine and pharmaceutical drugs but there is now consensus in India’s regulatory system that claims by both systems of developing safe efficacious drugs must pass clinical trials.
  • It is well within the domain of institutions of the ICMR or the CSIR or national science academies to call out a breach of due process in the appraisal of any drug, whether allopathic, ayurvedic or homeopathic.

Getting out of the ‘guns, germs and steel’ crisis

  • India faces a “guns, germs and steelcrisis.
    • There are Chinese “guns” on the borders.
    • There are coronavirus “germs” in our bodies.
    • There are “steel” makers and other businesses on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • Arguably, this is the gravest confluence of military, health and economic crises threatening our nation in more than a generation.
  • Each of these would qualify as an independent, large crisis by itself, warranting a specific resolution.
  • The Chinese military threat calls for immediate and strategic action by our defence and foreign affairs
  • The COVID-19 health epidemic is here to stay and needs constant monitoring by the Health Ministry and local administration.
  • The economic collapse is an enormous challenge that needs to be overcome with prudent policy.
  • India’s war against Pakistan in Kargil in May 1999 provides hints of the financial burden of a military threat.
  • India’s defence expenditure in the war year shot up by nearly 20% from the previous year.
  • It also forced the then government to increase India’s defence budget for the next financial year to 2.7% of nominal GDP, the highest in decades.
  • A portion of India’s land in Ladakh has been grabbed by China.
  • Surely, India is bound to assert its rights, which will necessitate higher expenditure.
  • India’s defence budget has been whittled down to just 2% of GDP for the financial year 2021.
  • China’s defence budget is nearly four times larger.
  • In all likelihood, the Chinese conflict will stretch central government finances by an additional one to two percentage points of GDP, as India staves off the current threat and shores up its defence preparedness.
  • The health pandemic has exposed India’s woefully inadequate health infrastructure.
  • The combined public health expenditure of States and the central government in India is a mere 5% of GDP, compared to China’s at 3% and America’s at 9%.
  • The COVID-19 epidemic is expected to linger on for another two years until a suitable vaccine is available at large.
  • Many public health experts are of the opinion that the central government will need additional funds of the equivalent of at least one percentage point of GDP to continue the fight against COVID-19.
  • It is no secret that the extreme national lockdown has thrown India’s economy into utter disarray.
  • India’s economy has four major drivers people’s spending on consumption, government spending, investment and external trade.
  • Spending by people is the largest contributor to India’s economic growth every year.
    • For every ₹100 in incremental GDP, ₹60 to ₹70 comes from people’s consumption spending.
  • The lockdown shut off people from spending for two full months, which will contract India’s economy for the first time in nearly five decades, regardless of a strong agriculture performance.
  • Potential new sources of revenue such as a wealth tax or a large capital gains tax are ideas worth exploring for the medium term but will not be of much immediate help.
  • The only option for the government to finance its needs is to borrow copiously, which will obviously push up debt to ominous levels.
  • When government debt rises dramatically, there will be a fourth dimension to the “guns, germs and steel crisis”; a “junkcrisis. With rising debt levels, international ratings agencies will likely downgrade India’s investment rating to “junk”, which will then trigger panic among foreign investors.

The pandemic imposes a steep learning curve

  • Across the world, education has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In the wake of the pandemic, other countries have embraced online education with mixed enthusiasm.
  • Many universities in the United Kingdom and the United States have announced that the coming academic year will be held mainly online.
  • From a purely pedagogic point of view, it is clear that technology will play a bigger role in education in the coming years.
  • Courses that traditionally need a laboratory or practical component are an obvious example where online classes cannot offer an alternative.
  • The adoption or integration of technology in education also depends on the specific institution and its location: there is a huge digital divide in the country in terms of bandwidth and reliable connectivity, as well as very unequal access to funding.
  • Beyond classroom lectures and courses, there has been a serious impact on academic research in all disciplines.
  • There is need for close personal interaction and discussion in research supervision, and it is not clear when and how doctoral research and supervision can resume.
  • In addition, the related economic crisis has consequences for funding, both of research as well as for the maintenance of research infrastructure.
    • These are very long-term effects.
  • This is a chance to re-imagine higher education in India.
  • For long this has been elitist and exclusionary; education has been less about learning and more about acquiring degrees.
  • If going online loses the human touch, the advantage of becoming available to many many more people who aspire to learn is worth the trade.
  • Gandhiji’s “Nai Talim” put a high premium on self study and experiential learning, for instance.
  • Digital tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) — already used in teaching language — can be adapted to deliver personalised instruction based on the learning needs for each student.
  • The use of AI can improve learning outcomes; in particular, this can be a boon for teaching students who are differently-abled.
  • The adoption of online education needs to be done with sensitivity.
  • What is needed at this time is imagination and a commitment to decentralisation in education.
  • Pedagogic material must be made available in our other national languages; this will extend access, and can help overcome staff shortages that plague remote institutions.
  • The state will have to bear much of the responsibility, both to improve digital infrastructure and to ensure that every needy student has access to a laptop or smartphone.

NEWS

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi says Atma Nirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rojgar Abhiyan will provide employment opportunities to migrant workers and promote local entrepreneurship.
    • Mr Modi yesterday inaugurated Atma Nirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rojgar Abhiyan through video conferencing.
    • Speaking on the occasion, Mr Modi said that UP will benefit immensely from clusters of industries being created to promote such local products across the country under the Atma Nirbhar Rojgar Abhiyan.
    • PM expressed satisfaction in the manner in which Uttar Pradesh has turned the disaster into an opportunity, the way people were engaged during this pandemic.
    • He said that more than 30 lakh migrant labor from all over the country returned to their villages in UP in the last few weeks.
    • The Prime Minister said the UP Government acted very promptly in providing free rations to the poor and the migrant labor under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. This was provided for those even without ration cards.
    • He said that in addition to this, about 5 thousand crore rupees were also directly transferred to the Jan Dhan account of 75 Lakh poor women of Uttar Pradesh.
  • India warns China against attempts to alter status quo along the Line of Actual Control.
    • India’s ambassador to China Vikram Misri said that Chinese attempt to alter status quo can also have “ripples and repercussions” in the broader bilateral relationship.
    • He said that actions taken by the Chinese forces on the ground have damaged “considerable trust” in the bilateral relationship and demanded that Beijing stop its activities in eastern Ladakh.
    • Mr Misri said, it is entirely the responsibility of the Chinese side to take a careful view of the relations and to decide which direction the ties should move.
    • He said, maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border is essential for progress in the rest of bilateral relationship between India and China.
    • Bihar government has decided to provide government jobs to one member each from the families of the five martyrs who lost their lives in the standoff with Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
  • This decision was taken in cabinet meeting which was chaired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
  • Recovery rate of Covid-19 patients improves to over 58 per cent; Exceeds active cases by more than 96 thousand.
    • The meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers, GoM on COVID-19 chaired by Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, will be held in New Delhi today.
    • The GoM will be briefed about the latest status, response and management of COVID-19 in the country.
    • The GoM is expected to be briefed on the progress made in the spheres of the tasks assigned to the 11 Empowered Groups.
    • It will also be apprised about the growing medical infrastructure in the country.
    • Health Ministry said, the graded, pre-emptive and pro-active steps taken by the Centre along with the States and Union territories for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19 are showing encouraging results.
    • Serological survey begins today in Delhi amid rising of corona cases.
    • This survey will be conducted in all the districts of Delhi to understand the proportion of population exposed to corona infection.
    • Two age categorizations have been set to conduct the survey, one is for below 18 years of age group and another for above 18 years.
    • Depending upon the level of sero-prevalence of infection, appropriate public health interventions can be planned and implemented for prevention and control of the disease.
    • As per the Indian Council of Medical Research, periodic sero-surveys are useful to guide the policy makers to conduct surveys in high risk areas or vulnerable population who has been infected in the past and has now recovered.
    • The survey will involve collection of blood samples from randomly selected individuals.
    • Blood samples will be collected for detecting IgG antibodies and it would be conducted using an IgG ELISA kits.
  • Uttar Pradesh Government to form a dedicated force for industrial security.
    • Uttar Pradesh government has decided to form a dedicated force for security of courts, metro rail, airports, industrial establishments, banks and other organizations in the state.
    • Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed officials to constitute the Uttar Pradesh Special Security Force (UPSSF) for this purpose.
    • The force will be given special training and will be provided with security equipment.
    • It can be placed at important establishments including religious places also.
    • Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu today paid tributes to great nationalist and illustrious author Bankim Chandra Chatterjee on his birth anniversary today.
  • In a tweet, Mr Naidu said, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee composed the national song ‘Vande Mataram’ which personifies India as the Mother Goddess and became the mantra of India’s struggle for Independence, inspiring countless freedom fighters.
  • India’s covid tally now 5 lakh
  • Schools to be shut till July 31st.
  • No commercial international flights till July 15.
  • Calls for desi Diwali by not using Chinese goods.
  • Migrant workers are now returning to the cities giving hope to economy as trains from UP, Bihar seen full.
  • Russia agrees to look at Advancing S-400 delivery.
  • Spirited 99 year old lady MARCELINE who beat the Covid virus and recovered in 9 days.

 

 

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