The Hindu: Editorial Summary April 14, 2017.

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1) Wages of neglect:

Context:

The death of more than 60 children in the span of few days in Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital at Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh due to shortage of oxygen has jolted the conscience of the nation.

Afterthoughts about the tragedy:

  1. This was an entirely preventable tragedy.
  2. A High Level Judicial Enquiry is the need of the hour.
  3. It should clearly establish to what extent the disruption of oxygen supply to the extremely sick was a cause of deaths.
  4. The inability of the hospital to pay off the large unpaid bills to the private company should be inquired.
  5. State and Central government should try to curb the annual peaks of disease and deaths.

Way forward:

  1. Robust medical infrastructure to reduce the incidence of Japanese encephalitis.
  2. Addressing weak social determinants namely housing and sanitation should be the priority.
  3. Arresting the ease of transmission of mosquitoes due to ecological changes.
  4. Arresting the viral transmission pathways from animals and birds.
  5. Systematic implementation of Mission Indradhanush.
  6. Improving pediatric intensive care units in priority districts on a war footing.
  7. Indian Council of Medical Research should launch a commission for Uttar Pradesh, treating it as public health emergency.

Long Term Goals:

  1. Center should improve its overall record on achieving acceptable levels of health parameters.
  2. Moving towards a Universal Health Care system which is non commercial which is regulated to contain cost.
  3. Giving everyone affordable access to Doctors, diagnostics and treatment.

2) Sound And Fury:

Context:

U.S. President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric against North Korea and equally strident counter threats by Pyongyang have made the situation in the Korean Peninsula drastically worse.

Causes for the stand off:

  1. North Korea developing a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.
  2. S. President Donald Trump’s reply that the country would be met with fire and fury never seen by the world.
  3. Kim Jong Un, the North Korean Leader’s reply that Hwasong-12 ballistic missiles would be launched towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
  4. S.A. and South Korea are going ahead with massive sea, air and land exercises later this month despite the gloomy situation.

Consequences of the current standoff:

  1. Failure of American efforts to surrender North Korea with threats.
  2. Instead of diffusing the situation, Donald Winner’s rhetoric escalated it.
  3. Even a limited strike by the U.S.A. will be taken by the volatile leader of North Korea as a threat to his regime.
  4. The demilitarized zone of South Korea will come under attack from North Korean artillery.

The Way Ahead:

  1. Sanctions and Wargames in the region to weaken and intimidate North Korea should be abandoned since it has brought no results.
  2. A more pragmatic effort from countries like Russia, China and Germany to diffuse tension.
  3. There must be efforts from either side to reach out to the other diplomatically.
  4. Direct negotiations with Pyongyang is recommended.
  5. S.A and its leadership should behave like responsible power.

 

3) An odd leniency:

Context:

On the night of August 07, Vikas Barala the son of the Haryana BJP chief, and his friends are alleged to have stalked Varnika kundu, the daughter of a bureaucrat, on the streets of Chandigarh.

Sexual Violence in India:

  1. The conversation on sexual violence in India continues to be centered on rape.
  2. Other sexual offences like Stalking, Eve teasing and Voyeurism are trivialized.

The Legal shortcomings:

  1. Before the 2013 amendment, the law was ill equipped to deal with the offence of stalking.
  2. Section 509 of Indian Penal Code was inadequate because the burden of proof fell on the victim.
  3. Section 354 of Indian Penal Code necessitated the use of physical force.
  4. The phrase “outraging the modesty of women” is not defined anywhere in the law.
  5. This left its interpretation open ended.
  6. The Information Technology Act 2000, also lacks adequate provisions to deal with electronic stalking.
  7. Section 66E of the IT Act 2000 requires the intentional capturing, publishing and transmission of an image without their consent.

The Legal course correction:

  1. As a result of the mass outrage and public pressure after the Nirbhaya gang rape in Delhi in 2012, changes came in.
  2. A three member Committee headed by Justice J.S. Verma, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was constituted to recommend amendments to the Criminal Law.
  3. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 was passed by the Indian Parliament.
  4. The varied dimensions of sexual violence against women were recognized.
  5. The scope of the offence of Rape was expanded.
  6. Definition and Recognition of stalking as a standalone offence.
  7. Section 354 – D of the IPC makes both physical and electronic stalking an offence.
  8. Woman’s disinterest was given primacy. (Subsection 1)
  9. Online monitoring of a woman’s behavior too was criminalized. (Section 2)

Opposition to the amendments:

  1. Subsection 2 of Section 354 – D, some believe, goes too far.
  2. Allegations of arbitrary use is strong.
  3. These oppositions are prevalent despite the three exceptions to the offence.
  4. Exceptions themselves are vague and can prove to be an escape clause.
  5. Stalking is culturally normalized.

The Parochial discourse:

  1. Sexual violence of varying degrees and forms is routine.
  2. Only grave forms dominate our understanding.
  3. Other minor forms such as stalking and eve teasing are normalized.
  4. They are romanticized and encouraged by the popular culture.
  5. Violence against woman should involve bodily harm is the imagination of society and the laws.
  6. There were deep resistance to amendments even from parliamentarians.
  7. Making stalking a non bailable offence was rejected by some of them.
  8. Only repeated stalking is criminal offence.
  9. This has lead to trivialization of the issue.
  10. Example: 2015 Australian court verdict.

Way forward:

  1. We should realize that rape is a heinous crime but it is not the only form of sexual violence.
  2. Minor sexual offences like stalking, eve teasing and voyeurism deprive women of their fundamental right to occupy public space without fear.
  3. We need to broaden our narrative on sexual violence.
  4. We should recognize the multitudes of breaches which minor sexual offences brings.

4) Beauty and the regulatory beast:

Context:

Are designer babies a threat? If it is then how real is the threat?

The threat of designer babies:

  1. The threat of designer babies originates from a revolutionary technique involving the editing of our genes by bacterial DNA scissors called CRISPR.
  2. CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.
  3. The gene editing technique using such DNA scissors is titled CRIPSR/Cas9.
  4. It was the subject of a patent battle between University of California and MIT/Broad Institute.

The utility of CRISPR/Cas9:

  1. CRISPR has been tested across an array of domains.
  2. Example: Gene based therapy to tackle heart impairments and degenerative eye disorder.
  3. Pest resistant crops under agro bio technology.

The threats posed by CRISPR/Cas9:

  1. The blurring line between cure and cosmetics is fast blurring.
  2. It is an ethical conundrum.
  3. Hence prevent the purely cosmetic and pave way for the life saving medical interventions.

A regulatory Solution:

  1. A robust regulatory structure could establish the safety and efficacy of these techniques.
  2. Just like the drug regulatory regimes which requires them to submit clinical trial data.
  3. This gives them a stamp of safety.
  4. But genetic changes and alterations take years to manifest and side effects too.
  5. Hence adoption of an incremental case by case approach can be tried.
  6. Insisting on a foolproof safety data in the early stages could hinder it altogether.
  7. And voluminous safety data doesn’t ensure the safety of the drugs.

The Way forward:

  1. Balancing out innovation imperative with that of ethics is needed.
  2. As a first step, one must insist on a rigorous regulatory standard for interventions.
  3. All data related to safety and efficacy of the new technologies should be put out in the public domain.
  4. The arguments of Intellectual property rights by Corporates should be ignored.
  5. Therefore, encouraging more transparency and openness is the need of the hour.
  6. Opening up this trial data to the wider public, scientists and doctors.
  7. It should be a democratic regulatory enterprise premised on openness and public participation can ensure dangers are kept at bay.

5) A full antibiotics course:       

Context:

A single analysis piece published in the BMJ journal makes a strong case for carrying out research in shorter antibiotic courses.

Arguments against full antibiotic course:

  1. Authors say that patients who are not admitted in hospitals might be best advised to stop treatment when they feel better.
  2. This goes against WHO’s advice to patients to always complete the full prescription, even if you feel better.
  3. WHO’s argument is that the above promotes the growth of drug resistant bacteria.
  4. The BMJ article argues that this is not evidence based and incorrect.
  5. It gives an erroneous impression that its safe to stop antibiotics when a patient feels better.

Addressing the confusion:

  1. To address the confusion, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention slightly changed the WHO’s advice.
  2. It asked patients to take antibiotics exactly as prescribed and doesn’t ask patients to decide when to stop medication.
  3. Patients cannot stop antibiotics when they feel better.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics

  1. Viral infections, Over medication, self medication, and stopping treatment are already leading to problems.
  2. These tendencies if encouraged, can lead to dangerous outcomes especially Tuberculosis.
  3. Example: The growth of drug resistant Tuberculosis strains is because patients discontinuing medication midcourse when they feel better.
  4. Hence the BJM article failed to clarify that its suggestions were limited to common bacterial infections.

Conclusion:

  1. There is no evidence to support the concept that patients can stop antibiotics when they feel better.
  2. Because there are several patient groups such as adults, children, elderly and immuno compromised ones.
  3. Data on all these groups are unavailable.
  4. Whether a short/long course, patients should not decide to stop taking antibiotics when they feel better.

 

6) Women and the freedom of expression in social media:

Context:

The tweet of Bengaluru based journalist Dhanya Rajendran and the online abuse heaped on her by the self styled fans of actor Vijay.

Shortcomings:

  1. The accounts of those who issued rape and death threats have not been suspended by twitter.
  2. The lack of prompt response from twitter.
  3. Twitter’s shortcomings in controlling regional language content fell short.

 

Consequences:

  1. Misogynist trolling, sexist and sexual abuse and threats create an atmosphere of intimidation.
  2. This leads to self censorship or women quitting the platform altogether.
  3. The lack of impunity with which trolls operate was not highlighted.

Conclusion:

1.Public discourse is plunging to new lows in the cyberspace.

  1. Need for critical distinction between discussion, advocacy and incitement.

Way forward:

  1. Freedom of expression is an inalienable right and expressing an opinion about a film, a policy or a politician on a forum that calls itself social media is a natural extension of that inalienable right.
  2. Focus should be on the role of powerful technology platform to create a space that eschews hate misogyny, and bigotry.