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What is Zika?
- Zika is a flavivirus spread mainly by mosquitoes.
- It belongs to the same genus as dengue and chikungunya.
- It is the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the Zika virus.
- There is some evidence that Zika has been in India for long.
- In the year, 1954, a survey was conducted in India, which found several Indians with Zika antibodies. However, this evidence wasn’t conclusive, because other flaviviruses, like dengue, can also trigger Zika-neutralising antibodies.
- The first confirmed Indian case occurred in 2016 in Gujarat.
- After this case, three more cases were detected, before the 2018 Rajasthan outbreak. Despite its long presence in Asia, Zika outbreaks in this region have been benign. This changed with a large French Polynesian outbreak in 2013 and a larger Brazilian one in 2015.
From the Recent News
- In the state of Rajasthan, 72 people have been infected with the Zika virus.
- In these cases, Zika is causing fever, rash, muscle and joint pain.
- However, the symptoms from the French Polynesian and Brazilian outbreaks are different. They were linked to deadlier conditions such as microcephaly.
- Conditions such as microcephaly are characterized by instances in which the child of a Zika-infected mother is born with an abnormally small head.
- It is important to note that there is no cure for microcephaly at birth.
- In rare cases, patients also developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes potentially fatal muscle weakness.
- Currently, officials in India are watching out for these complications, since the Rajasthan strain is closely related to the Brazilian strain.
- Recently, Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare held a high level meeting to review the activities for prevention and control of Zika virus and Seasonal Influenza.
- Shri Nadda reassured the states for all support from the Union Government. For control of Zika virus in Rajasthan, the Health Minister emphasized on the need for continuous monitoring. He stated that the Union Health Ministry is in regular contact with the State officials.
- Shri Nadda stressed on the need for undertaking exhaustive control measures including intensive fogging for next month in order to ensure vector control in the area.
- He also stressed on strengthening surveillance to facilitate the early identification of cases. The Union Health Minister urged the people to not panic and cooperate with the health officials in controlling the breeding of the vectors. He further said that there was no shortage of medicines and testing kits and required support will be provided to the State.
- Shri Nadda further directed for mounting aggressive communication campaigns in the state. He stated that awareness is the key in controlling the vector borne diseases and no stone should be left unturned to reach out to the people. Noting that community participation is a crucial area in prevention, the Union Health Minister urged all the stakeholders to start rigorous awareness campaigns regarding the preventive steps to be taken at the community level. He stated that the Union Health Ministry is working along with the State government, the local authorities and the Municipal Corporation for augmenting and strengthening their efforts in vector control, surveillance and awareness activities.
- He specifically instructed that early detection, reporting and proper categorization of patients is critical for Seasonal Influenza management. Minister has instructed National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to monitor the cases on a daily basis. He suggested that States shall ensure that proper awareness is created regarding the prevention and management of Seasonal Influenza. All States shall also ensure that sufficient supplies of drugs and testing kits are maintained at the State level. Further, all cases which require hospitalization shall be monitored intensively both at district and State level so as to ensure that fatalities can be avoided. Availability of sufficient functional ventilators for critical case management is important and States shall be advised accordingly. NCDC& EMR shall coordinate with the States to provide training for ventilator management, if need be.
- Currently, about 4.5 lakh people at the outbreak site in Rajasthan have been brought under surveillance.
- Although steps to halt mosquito breeding have been initiated, it is to be noted that controlling the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the Zika virus, is very challenging.
- What compounds matters is that controlling the spread becomes even harder as the mosquito is widely prevalent in India.
- Also, the infection remains asymptomatic in about 80% of cases. This allows the virus to silently spread from one person to another.
- It can also spread from a pregnant mother to the foetus.
- Even when the infection manifests, the symptoms are very mild and non-specific, making it difficult to correctly and easily diagnose it.
- It must also be noted that a study published in the journal Neurology India found 14 out of 90 patients with the Guillain–Barré syndrome.
- The Guillain–Barré syndrome is a neurological complication seen in Zika-infected adults.
- An important point to note here is that four of the 14 patients also tested positive for an anti-dengue antibody. There is a remote possibility that the virus is circulating in some parts of India and could cause an epidemic at some point.
- Since Zika infection during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects, particularly microcephaly (small size of the head), all the 22 pregnant women infected must be monitored.
- Also, as there is no cure for microcephaly at birth, there should be campaigns to educate people living in the outbreak area to avoid sex, particularly with the intent of getting pregnant, till the outbreak is under control.
- The long winter ahead in north India and the imminent onset of the northeast monsoon in the eastern coast of India is conducive for the mosquito to multiply and spread. This calls for a high level of alert.
- The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which places them among the “the most vulnerable groups of the forcibly displaced”.
Who are the Rohingyas?
- Rohingya are an ethnic group, largely comprising of Muslims, who predominantly live in the Western Myanmar province of Rakhine.
- They speak a dialect of Bengali, as opposed to the commonly spoken Burmese language.
- Though they have been living in Myanmar for generations, Myanmar considers them as persons who migrated to their land during the Colonial rule. So, it has not granted Rohingyas full citizenship. According the 1982 Burmese citizenship law, a Rohingya (or any ethnic minority) is eligible for citizenship only if he/she provides proof that his/her ancestors have lived in the country prior to 1823. Else, they are classified as “resident foreigners” or as “associate citizens” (even if one of the parent is a Myanmar citizen).
- Since they are not citizens, they are not entitled to be part of civil service. Their movements are also restricted within the Rakhine state.
The Turning Point of 2012
- It is important to note that Myanmar was ruled by the military junta until 2011.
- Myanmar has been accused of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine by the United Nations.
- It deported thousands of Rohingya’s to Bangladesh in the seventies and the citizenship law was also enacted by the junta.
- Things changed little for the Rohingya even after the political reforms in 2011 that eventually led to the first general elections in 2015.
- Sectarian violence between Rohingyas and Rakhine’s Buddhist natives began flaring up in June 2012, following the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman in a Rohingya-dominated locality.
- The riots, which were triggered as a result, went on for almost a month with causalities on both the sides.
- Thousands of Rohingyas fled their homes and sought refugee in neighbouring Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation. Some of them sought asylum in South East Asian nations of Thailand, The Phillipines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
- This ethnic conflict flared up as religious violence spreading to the other provinces of Myanmar.
The Indian Context:
- Some experts believe that as India is the subcontinent’s biggest nation and also a neighbour to both Bangladesh and Myanmar, as well as the country most likely to be affected if the numbers of Rohingya refugees continue to grow, India in fact should be showing the most initiative in this crisis.
- Experts have also suggested that it may be necessary for India to put its own concerns about repatriation on hold until it is able to work with both Bangladesh and Myanmar on the issue, preferably in a trilateral format.
- Finally, the government must also iron out internal contradictions on India’s refugee policy.
- Even though India is not a signatory to any UN refugee convention, India has a proud tradition of giving a home to neighbours in distress: from Tibetans in 1960s to East Pakistanis in the 1970s, from Sri Lankans in the 1980s to the Afghans in the 1990s.
- In the past, Muslim-majority countries such as Bangladesh and Malaysia, at the receiving end of refugee flows from Myanmar numbering in the tens and even hundreds of thousands, have acted forcefully to prevent the Rohingya from entering their territories.
- However, in the year 2017, everything changed, with Bangladesh, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan at the forefront of international demands to stop the flight of refugees from Myanmar, in an effort to lower their suffering.
- Behind this change lay a number of causes. These causes include the humanitarian, political and economic emergency created by the influx of refugees among Myanmar’s neighbours, to growing Muslim protests around the world at the treatment of the Rohingya.
- The crisis also presented an opportunity for politicians to claim leadership in an otherwise fragmented Muslim world by demanding relief and justice for the Rohingya.
A few international examples are noteworthy:
- Turkey’s President made strong statements about the crisis, putting it at the top of the agenda at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
- His wife made a highly publicised trip to Bangladesh to be filmed and photographed in Rohingya camps, while donating and promising more Turkish aid.
- Countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia also competed to deliver assistance in Rakhine state while engaging the Myanmar government in talks.
- Further, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh spoke about the plight of the refugees at the UN and demanded safe zones for the Rohingya in Myanmar.
In conclusion, the Rohingya cause represents the return of states to leadership roles within the Muslim world.
- The Article 35A was inserted in the Indian Constitution by the Presidential Order of 1954. The Article 35A yields special rights and immunities to the permanent residents of the Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of Indian citizen.
- In the light of this article a non-permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir cannot enjoy any Government facilities.
- Article 35A is a provision incorporated in the Constitution giving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature complete freedom to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare.
- The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.
How was Article 35A incorporated?
- Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet. The controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. This provision allows the President to make certain “exceptions and modifications” to the Constitution for the benefit of ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Thus, Article 35A was added to the Constitution as a testimony of the special consideration the Indian government accorded to the ‘permanent residents’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
There has been a poor turnout in the Kashmir valley for local polls.
- Just over a third of the electorate (35.1% provisionally) turned out to vote in the four-phase urban local body elections
- Experts believe that this is a wake-up call to the Union government.
- It is important to note that the turnout was not expected to be high.
- The two main regional parties, the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party had given the call for a boycott.
- Their immediate protest was over the legal challenge in the Supreme Court to Article 35(A) of the Constitution that accords special powers to the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to decide who are the “permanent residents” of the State and on whom special rights and privileges can be conferred.
- Given the boycott by these two parties and others, there was little political mobilisation in the Valley.
- However, in Jammu, where both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have a strong base and where issues such as Article 35(A) don’t have as much resonance, there was greater participation.
- It is important to note that the absence of any viable political competition in the local body polls in the Valley will only undermine the institutions and the victors.
- Unfortunately, with the collapse of the PDP-BJP coalition government in June this year, the absence of Kashmiri parties from the fray could heighten alienation at the street level.
- The reversal is discouraging as voter turnouts had increased significantly in this decade, growing ever since the mid-1990s.
- It is important to note that even between periods of intense protests, Assembly and parliamentary elections saw increased turnouts despite boycott calls by separatist groups.
- This indicated a willing acceptance of the need to engage in electoral democracy to address civic concerns even if there were substantive differences and anger with the State and Central governments over issues such as security, human rights violations and the status of J&K.
- However, the inability of the PDP-BJP government to come up with a coherent response to the unrest and protests that raged in 2016-17, and the subsequent imposition of Governor’s Rule have only heightened matters.
- Further, experts believe that the work of the Centre’s interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, to carry forward a dialogue with various groups and individuals in the State has also not been enough to arrest misgivings in the Valley.
- Finally, it has been suggested that the Centre must see the lack of participation in the polls in the Valley as a serious sign of alienation among the people and double down on ways to forge greater engagement.
- In what is India’s first large outbreak of the Zika virus, afresh 100 cases have been detected so far Jaipur itself.
- A look at how the virus spreads and the big risk it involves — the possibility of babies being born with a defect:
- Zika is a viral infection, spread by mosquitoes.
- The vector is the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue and Chikungunya.
- First identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys, Zika was detected in humans five years later.
- Sporadic cases have been reported throughout the world since the 1960s, but the first outbreak happened only in 2007 in the Island of Yap in the Pacific.
- In 2015, a major outbreak in Brazil led to the revelation that Zika can be associated with microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small and underdeveloped brains.
Transmission of Zika Virus
- Infected people can transmit Zika sexually.
- Fears around Zika primarily involve microcephaly, especially when pregnant women are infected.
- Generally, the virus is not considered dangerous to anyone other than pregnant women.
- Some countries that have had a Zika outbreak, including Brazil, reported a steep increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome — a neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis and death, according to WHO.
- In 2017, following a study on Brazil’s confirmed cases, the US National Institutes of Health study estimated the fatality rate at 8.3%.
- Most people infected with the virus do not develop symptoms.
- When they are manifested, the symptoms are similar to those of flu, including fever bodyache, headache etc.
- WHO says these symptoms can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest and plenty of water.
- If the symptoms worsen, people should seek medical advice.
- Additional symptoms can include the occasional rash like in dengue, while some patients also have conjunctivitis.
- The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is estimated to be 3-14 days.
Preventive Measures against Zika
- Mosquito control measures such as spraying of pesticides, use of repellents etc. are widely suggested.
- Because of the possibility of congenital abnormalities and sexual transmission, there is also focus on contraceptives.
- WHO requires countries to counsel sexually active men and women on the matter to minimize chances of conception at the time of an outbreak.
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