The HINDU Notes – 07th September 2019 - VISION

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Sunday, September 08, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 07th September 2019


📰 ‘Indus Valley settlers had a distinct genetic lineage’

Genome shows no Steppe pastoralist or Iranian farmer link.

•Throwing fresh light on the Indus Valley Civilisation, a study of DNA from skeletal remains excavated from the Harappan cemetery at Rakhigarhi argues that the hunter-gatherers of South Asia, who then became a settled people, have an independent origin. The researchers who conducted the study contend that the theory of the Harappans having Steppe pastoral or ancient Iranian farmer ancestry thus stands refuted. The finding also negates the hypothesis about mass migration during Harappan times from outside South Asia, they argue.

•Vasant Shinde, the professor who headed the Rakhigarhi Project said on Friday that researchers had successfully sequenced the first genome of an individual from Harappa and combining it with archaeological data, found that hunter-gatherers of South Asia had an independent origin, and authored the settled way of life in this part of the world.

•“They do not contain genome from either the Steppe region or ancient Iranian farmers. The genetic continuity from hunter gatherer to modern times is visible in the DNA results,” Prof. Shinde, affiliated to the Department of Archaeology, Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Pune, said.

•The study, he said, finds that the same hunter-gatherer communities developed into agricultural communities and formed the Harappan civilisation.

•The researchers also suggest that there was a movement of people from east to west as the Harappan people’s presence is evident at sites like Gonur in Turkmenistan and Sahr-i-Sokhta in Iran. “As the Harappans traded with Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and almost all across South Asia, there was bound to be movement of people resulting in a mixed genetic history. India had a heterogeneous population right from the beginning of settled life,” Prof. Shinde said. There was a hint that settled life and domestication went from South Asia to West Asia.

•The Rakhigarhi study was reported in a paper titled “An Ancient Harappan Genome Lacks Ancestry from Steppe Pastoralists or Iranian farmers” in the journal Cell on Thursday.

Origins of farming

•In Europe, ancient-DNA studies have shown that agriculture tended to spread through an influx of people with ancestry in Anatolia, in modern day Turkey.

•The new study shows a similar dynamic in Iran and Turan (southern Central Asia), where the researchers found that Anatolian-related ancestry and farming arrived around the same time.

•In South Asia, however, the story appears quite different.

•Not only did the researchers find an absence of Anatolian-related ancestry, they saw that Iranian-related ancestry in South Asians comes from a lineage that separated from ancient Iranian farmers and hunter-gatherers before those groups split from each other, nearly 9,000 years ago.

•The researchers, therefore, concluded that farming in South Asia was not due to the movement of people from the farming cultures of the west and that local foragers adopted it.

•“Researchers find no trace of the Anatolian-related ancestry that is a hallmark of the spread of farming to the west, but the Iranian-related ancestry they detected in South Asians comes from a lineage that separated from ancient Iranian farmers and hunter-gatherers before those groups split from each other,” a statement highlighting the findings says. 

•“Prior to the arrival of steppe pastoralists bringing their Indo-European languages about 4,000 years ago, we find no evidence of large-scale movements of people into South Asia,” David Reich, a geneticist and a co-author of the study, based in the United States, said in a statement. 

📰 Bear hug: On India strengthening relations with Russia

India’s push to ‘Act Far East’ strengthens relations with traditional ally Russia

•Unveiling the Russian edition of India’s ‘Look East, Act East’ policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Thursday to extend a $1 billion Line of Credit to Russia’s Far East region (RFE). Speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, set up by Russian President Vladimir Putin to attract investment to the farthest outlying East Siberian and Arctic-pole areas of the country, Mr. Modi said that the announcement of the LOC, expected to help finance Indian business projects in the region, will be the “take-off point for Act Far East”, and will further strengthen bilateral ties. Mr. Modi’s visit saw several initiatives being launched towards increasing the value of economic ties between the two countries, which, at approximately $10 billion in terms of bilateral trade, lags far behind their strategic partnership and defence relationship. In the past year alone, India has contracted defence deals worth about $14.5 billion from Russia. Chief among the 50 agreements signed this week were those on energy exploration and procurement, including a specific MoU on cooperation on LNG supplies to India, and a maritime route from Vladivostok to Chennai which will be used for energy trade as well. The two sides also agreed on a five-year ‘roadmap’ for cooperation on prospecting for hydrocarbons and LNG in the Far East and the Arctic, building on a history of Indian investment in oilfields in the region.

•Beyond the bilateral aspect, the PM’s pivot to Russia’s Far East has far-reaching strategic implications. The emphasis on energy from this region is as much a bid to benefit from explorations and trade routes in the Arctic that are becoming accessible due to global warming, as it is reflective of India’s desire to diversify its energy sources away from an unstable West Asia. The investment in the Far East, which is often neglected given that Russia is seen as a European power in the post-Soviet era, also underlines India’s desire to draw Russia into its strategic forays in the Indo-Pacific. The government has said it welcomes cooperation with other countries for investments in RFE, notably Japan, which has in the past few years warmed up to Russia, despite their bitter territorial dispute in the region. This interest is seen as India’s attempt to not only keep a traditional friend close, but to ensure some space in the current clinch between Russia and China. China’s cross-border investment in RFE accounts for 71% of the total direct foreign investment of $33 billion. Above all, the push to ‘Act Far East’ allows India to demonstrate its commitment to an area of concern for Moscow, thus reassuring its traditional partner that in an increasingly polarised world, India is confident of working with multiple alignments, even if they are at cross purposes with each other.

📰 Empowering primary care practitioners

It is important to reclaim health care from ivory tower structures called ‘hospitals’ and incentivise general practitioners

•What is special about Japan in the context of health-care services is that it managed to contain the clout of specialists in its health-care system and accorded a prominent voice to its primary care practitioners (PCP) in its decision-making processes.

•Hospitals, for the early part of Japan’s history with modern medicine, catered only to an affluent few. The government limited the funding of hospitals, restricting them to functions like training of medical students and isolation of infectious cases. Reciprocal connections between doctors in private clinics and hospitals were forbidden, thwarting the possibility of the two groups creating a strong nexus; on the other hand, a sturdy lobby of clinic-based PCPs evolved to tip the balance in favour of primary health care. The Japanese Social Health Insurance was implemented in 1927, and the Japanese Medical Association (JMA), then dominated by PCPs, was the main player in negotiating the fee schedule.

•In India, on the contrary, a hospital-oriented, technocentric model of health care took early roots. Building urban hospitals through public investment enjoyed primacy over strengthening community-based, primary health care. Alongside this, a private sector with rampant, unregulated dual-practice system (doctors practising in both public and private sectors simultaneously) flourished. This allowed doctors to constitute a powerful group held together by coherent interests. This influential doctors’ community, which saw a lucrative future in super-specialty medicine, buttressed the technocentric approach, which also happened to concur with the tastes of the affluent and the middle class. This trajectory of events has had an enormous impact on the present-day Indian health care.

Focus on hospitalisation

•While the well-to-do section has always rooted for ‘high-tech’ medical care, this preference has now trickled down to even the subaltern section, which lacks the wherewithal to pay for such interventions. Colossal health insurance schemes like Ayushman Bharat that harp on providing insurance to the poor largely for private hospitalisation — when the most impoverishing expenses are incurred on basic medical care — are at least partly influenced by the passionate popular demand for the so-called high-quality medical care and bespeak the deformity in the health-care system today.

•The way this has affected medical manpower and its dynamics also warrants attention. It took 37 years after the landmark Bhore Committee report (1946), which highlighted the need for a ‘social physician’ as a key player in India’s health system, to finally recognise family medicine as a separate speciality — and another decade and a half to actuate a postgraduate residency in family medicine.

•The highest professional body representing doctors in this country, the Medical Council of India (MCI), itself came to be dominated by specialists with no representation from primary care. There is a proposal to replace the MCI with a National Medical Commission (NMC) but the situation is unlikely to be much different with the new organisation.

•The current opposition to training mid-level providers under the NMC Act 2019 is another example of how the present power structure is inimical to primary health care. Despite the presence of evidence proving that practitioners of modern medicine (say medical assistants) trained through short-term courses, like those of a 2-3 year duration, can greatly help in providing primary health care to the rural population, any such proposal in India gets robustly opposed by the orthodox allopathic community. Proposals to train practitioners of indigenous systems of medicine, like Ayurveda, in modern medicine are also met with similar opposition.

•Such medical assistants, and non-allopathic practitioners, have time and again been written-off as ‘half-baked quacks’ who would only endanger the health of the rural masses. Such criticism ignores the fact that nations like the U.K. and the U.S. are consistently training paramedics and nurses to become physician assistants or associates through two-year courses in modern medicine.

Examples of U.K., Japan

•Many countries, including the U.K. and Japan, have found a way around this by generously incentivising general practitioners (GPs) in both pecuniary and non-pecuniary terms, and scrupulously designing a system that strongly favours primary health care. What this careful nurturing has meant is that while a community of professionals in our part of the world has thwarted positive change, professionals of the same community in these countries have helped defend that very positive change.

•Three broad takeaways emerge. One, it is imperative to actively begin reclaiming health from the ivory towers called ‘hospitals’. This could help in gradually changing the expectations of the layman and reversing the aspirations of medical professionals from being unduly oriented towards high-tech, super-specialty care. Given the current trends, however, this looks like a far-fetched possibility.

•Two, we need to find a way to adequately empower and ennoble PCPs and give them a prominent voice in our decision-making processes pertaining to health care. This can create a bastion of primary health care professionals who can then fight to keep their enclave unscathed. Three, a gate-keeping system is needed, and no one should be allowed to bypass the primary doctor to directly reach the specialist, unless situations such as emergencies so warrant. It is only because of such a system that general practitioners and primary health care have been able to thrive in U.K.’s health system. In view of the current resurgence of interest in comprehensive primary health care in India, one earnestly hopes that these key lessons will be remembered.

📰 UAPA amendment: respond to pleas, apex court tells govt

Petitions say Act confers govt with ‘discretionary, unfettered and unbound powers’ to categorise a person as a terrorist

•The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Union government to respond to petitions challenging its decision to amend the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act giving it powers to categorise anyone as a terrorist.

•A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to the Centre on petitions filed by Sajal Awasthi and NGO Association for Protection of Civil Rights, which said the amended law allowed the government to freely encroach upon the fundamental rights of dignity, free speech, dissent and reputation.

•The petitions said the UAPA Amendment Act of 2019, passed by Parliament, conferred the Centre with “discretionary, unfettered and unbound powers” to categorise a person as a terrorist.

•The law could now be used by the government to bring a person into disrepute, and even worse, rob him or her liberty. The heavy burden to prove the entire government machinery wrong would lie on the person.

•“The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 seeks to substantially modify Chapter VI of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and Section 35 and 36 therein. The new Section 35 of the UAPA Act, 1967 empowers the Central government to categorise any individual as ‘terrorist’ and add name of such a person in Schedule 4 of the Act,” Mr. Awasthi contended.

Right to reputation

•The petition said the right to reputation was an intrinsic part of fundamental right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and tagging an individual as “terrorist” even before the commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind over it, did not amount to following the ‘procedure established by law’.

•“The right of dissent is a part and parcel of fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2). The UAPA, 2019 empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose indirect restriction on right of dissent which is detrimental for our developing democratic society,” it said.

•Instead of preserving the dignity of an individual, the government sought to encroach upon it, it added.

📰 India, South Korea seal logistics pact

MoU to extend logistical support to each other’s Navies signed

•India and South Korea concluded a military logistics agreement during the ongoing visit of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to Seoul. The two countries also formulated a forward-looking road map to take bilateral defence industry cooperation to the next level, the Defence Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

•“The Ministers exchanged views on regional and international developments of mutual interest. Two MoUs to further defence educational exchanges and extend logistical support to each other’s Navies were signed,” the statement said on the talks between Mr. Singh and his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo.

•A defence source said this foreign cooperation initiative would greatly help interoperability.

•“India will be able to get assured logistic support when it operates in the Indo-Pacific in the ports of South Korea.” Such agreements extend the reach, presence and sustainability of Navy ships when deployed at great distances from home ports, the source added.

•On the road map, Mr. Singh said it had listed a number of proposed areas of cooperation in land, aero and naval systems, research and development cooperation and collaboration in testing, certification and quality assurance.

•Mr. Singh also invited the South Korean industry to explore the feasibility of local production of items, used in main weapon systems imported by Defence public sector undertakings (PSUs).

📰 Prepare plan for protection of the Great Indian Bustard: NGT

Centre told after plea on high mortality rate

•Noting the high mortality rate of the Great Indian Bustard, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Centre to prepare a time-bound action plan within two months for protection of the birds.

•A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel also constituted a joint committee comprising officials of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ministry of Power and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

•The committee was asked to prepare an action plan for the implementation of suggestions put forth by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

•The WII in its report also said steps should be taken to reduce poaching of the specie and other wildlife in the Thar landscape.

📰 FinMin to monitor PSUs’ investments

•In a bid to boost demand in the economy by spurring public sector investment, the Finance Ministry on Friday held a meeting with the heads of public sector firms and decided to set up a dashboard to constantly monitor the investments made by Ministries and PSUs.

•It also asked the Ministries and CPSEs to expedite the payment of pending dues for their procurements.

•“In order to boost capital expenditure of the Union government so as to pump liquidity in the market to boost demand, Finance Ministry of Finance held meeting with the heads of Maharatna and Navratna Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and Financial Advisors (FAs) of infrastructure Ministries,” the government said in a release.

•“Ministry of Finance would constantly monitor the progress of large infrastructure projects for the Ministries as well as the CPSEs, and follow-on meetings would be held,” the government said in a release. “For this purpose, the Ministry [of Finance] will develop a dashboard for enabling Ministries to upload figures on a periodic basis,” it added.

•The meeting was co-chaired by Economic Affairs Secretary Atanu Chakraborty and Expenditure Secretary G.C. Murmu.

•The meeting also covered the capital expenditure by various the CPSEs and Ministries, which were told to adhere to the expenditure plans and accelerate investment activities. The Ministries and CPSEs were also asked to monitor and release payments for procurements and other contracts without delay. They were also asked to fast-track the resolution of outstanding payments that have been held up on account of disputes.

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