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Detailed News Articles: 24 June 2019

1. Plea in SC seeks protection for non-Nagas in Dimapur

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition has been filed challenging certain sections of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 which gives unbridled power to a State to prescribe Inner Line Permit (ILP).

What is Inner Line Permit?

  • ILP is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period.
  • It is obligatory for Indian citizens from outside those states to obtain a permit for entering into the protected state.
  • The document is an effort by the government to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India.
  • The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 gives powers to a State to prescribe ILP.
  • Section 2 of the Regulation empowers a State government to prescribe ‘Inner Line’ to prohibit citizens of India or any class of such citizens going beyond the prescribed line without a pass.

Background:

  • The regulation that dates back to the colonial-era regulation was passed by the British government to create monopoly in business.
  • However, it now continues to be used in India, officially to protect tribal cultures in northeastern India.
  • ILP is mandatory for Indian citizens of other states entering Nagaland through any of the check gates across the interstate borders.
  • Dimapur – Nagaland’s largest city and port head, was the only place in the state which did not require an ILP.
  • The State Cabinet took a decision to extend the operation of the 1873 Regulation in Dimapur, and at present, it is also included for ILP.
  • When Nagaland acquired statehood, Dimapur, being a part of Assam, was legally and constitutionally excluded from the Naga Hills and from Sixth Schedule.
  • However, there is not much clarity as to how it was again included in the State of Nagaland after exclusion from Sixth Schedule.

Details:

  • The petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to provide directions to the central government and the Government of Nagaland to take appropriate steps for the protection of life and liberty, properties and other fundamental rights of non-Nagas living in the commercial hub of Dimapur.
  • The inclusion of Dimapur for ILP has raised several concerns.
  • Gujaratis, Rajasthanis, Biharis, Jharkhandis, Bengalis, Gorkhas, Bodos, Dimasas, Karbis, Garos, etc. have been regarded as outsiders by the government of Nagaland. This accounts to racial discrimination.
  • The non-Nagas with landed properties, properties with commercial shops, godowns, those staying as tenants, and many locals who earn their income by means of collecting house rent from tenants would be adversely affected.
  • The petition argues that Dimapur cannot be converted exclusively for hills tribes on racial ground when it was never an integral part of the Naga hills.
  • It is also argued that the imposing ILP would create a monopoly of trade, commerce, business only for new settlers who have come down to Dimapur from the Naga Hills.
  • It would bar perpetual residency and right to free moment to others.
  • Concerns are raised about such concept being adopted by all the North Eastern states which would dilute the citizenship and restrict Fundamental Rights.

2.  Plants may be spreading superbugs to humans

A study has found that Plant-based foods could transmit antibiotic resistance to the microbes living in the gut.

Issue:

  • Antibiotic-resistance is a threat to global public health and is an economic burden.
  • In order to prevent Antibiotic-resistance infection, it is critical to understand how these bacteria are transmitted.
  • Recent researches have shown plant-foods serve as vehicles for transmitting antibiotic resistance to the gut microbiome.

Details:

  • Spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs from plants to humans is different from outbreaks of diarrheal illnesses caused immediately after eating contaminated vegetables.
  • Superbugs can colonise the intestines for long periods of time, and while escaping, cause an infection.
  • Such superbugs are asymptomatic.
  • “Superbugs” is a term used to describe strains of bacteria that are resistant to the majority of antibiotics commonly used today.

Conclusion:

There is an urgent need for tackling food-borne antibiotic-resistance from a food chain perspective including plant-foods and meat.

3. Reimagining the NITI Aayog

The editorial talks about India’s fiscal federalism and proposes redesigning it around its four pillars.

Background:

  • India’s Constitution-makers thought of India as a union of States with a centripetal bias, meaning that the union is stronger than the states.
  • The idea was to preserve the unity and integrity of a newly fledged nation.
  • Since then, the Indian economy, polity, demography and society have undergone many changes. The new aspirational India is now firmly on a growth track.

Fiscal imbalances:

  • Federations face vertical and horizontal imbalances.
  • A vertical imbalance occurs because the tax systems are designed to yield much greater tax revenues to the Central government in comparison with the State governments; while the Constitution mandates relatively greater responsibilities to the State governments.
  • The horizontal imbalances arise because of differing levels of achievements by the States owing to differential growth rates and their developmental status in terms of the state of social or infrastructure capital in the state.
    • It involves two types of imbalances.
    • Type I is to do with the adequate provision of basic public goods and services.
    • Type II, is due to growth accelerating infrastructure or the transformational capital deficits.
    • Type II imbalances are known to be historically conditioned or path dependent.

Details:

The First Pillar:

  • Traditionally, Finance Commissions have dealt with fiscal imbalances in India in a stellar manner, and must continue to be the first pillar of the new fiscal federal structure of India.

The Second Pillar:

  • Removing both the types of horizontal imbalances clearly comprises two distinct policy goals and calls for two different policy instruments.
  • It is here that NITI Aayog 2.0 must create a niche, assume the role of another policy instrument and become the second pillar of the new fiscal federal structure.
  • In the past, the Planning Commission used to give grants to the States as conditional transfers using the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula. Now there is a vacuum especially as the NITI Aayog is primarily a think tank with no resources to dispense. This renders it toothless to undertake a transformational intervention.
  • It can be argued that the Finance Ministry is the other alternative to deliver the goods in this regard but it is ill-suited to do this; its primary duty is to concern itself with the country’s macro-economic stability and the proper functioning of the financial system rather than be an instrument of growth at the sub-national level.
  • It is best that the Union Finance Commission be confined to focussing on the removal of the horizontal imbalance across States of the Type I: i.e. the basic public goods imbalance.
  • And to tackle the horizontal imbalance of the Type II the NITI Aayog is the most appropriate institution.
  • NITI Aayog 2.0 must be allocated significant resources to promote accelerated growth in States that are lagging, and overcome their historically conditioned infrastructure deficit, thus reducing the developmental imbalance.
  • NITI Aayog 2.0 should also be mandated to create an independent evaluation office which will monitor and evaluate the efficacy of the utilisation of such grants.
  • It must be also accorded a place at the high table of decision-making as it will need to objectively buy-in the cooperation of the richer States as their resources are transferred to the poorer ones.

The Third Pillar:

  • The same perspective will have to be translated below the States to the third tier of government.
  • This is crucial because intra-State regional imbalances are likely to be of even greater importance than inter-State ones.
  • Decentralisation, in letter and spirit, has to be the third pillar of the new fiscal federal architecture.
  • For this, the missing local public finance must be birthed.
  • One of the ways for this is through the creation of an urban local body/panchayati raj institutions consolidated fund.
  • This would mean that the Constitution will need to be amended to ensure that relevant monies directly flow into this consolidated fund of the third tier.
  • Through such constitutional amendments, the Centre and States should contribute an equal proportion of their CGST and SGST collections to the consolidated fund of the third tier.
  • Further, the State Finance Commissions should be accorded the same status as the Finance Commission.
  • The 3Fs of democratic decentralisation – funds, functions and functionaries must be vigorously implemented.

The Fourth Pillar:

  • The fourth pillar and in a sense what is central and binding is the model GST.
  • The GST in its present form, it is far from flawless, needs further simplification and extended coverage.
  • The goal of single rate GST with suitable surcharges on “sin goods,” zero rating of exports and reforming the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) and the e-way bill must be achieved quickly.
  • The GST Council should adopt transparency in its working, and create its own secretariat with independent experts also as its staff. This will enable it to undertake further reforms in an informed and transparent manner.

These four pillars with the GST as an enduring glue holding the pillars together would create the new fiscal federal architecture and strengthen India’s unique cooperative federalism.

2. Lacklustre meet – On GST Council’s meeting

Context:

The GST council’s meeting was held under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The focus of the first GSTC meeting under the new government indicates that the centre is keen to iron out gaps in GST implementation, while curbing tax evasion.

Details:

  • First GST Council meet under new govt. focuses on checking profiteering. Despite demands of tax cuts from the industry, the Council focused on anti-evasion measures and simplification of rules.
  • There were anticipations about the council considering a significant cut in tax rates across the board in order to help spur consumer demand that has been sagging.
  • However, the meeting saw just a few minor changes to the existing structure and procedures under the GST.
  • It seems as though the government was worried about the revenue implications of any significant across-the-board tax cut.
  • The meeting ended with some changes in procedure that is expected to tackle tax evasion and make GST filing easier.
    1. Aadhaar has been approved as sufficient proof to obtain GST registration.
    2. The tenure of the National Anti-Profiteering Authority has been extended by two years, till November 2021.  This decision sends out a signal that it could become a permanent feature under GST.
    3. The anti-profiteering clause assumes that government action is absolutely necessary in order to pass on the benefit of tax cuts to consumers, or else tax cuts may simply end up adding to the profits of businesses.
    4. The council increased the quantum of penalty that could be imposed by the authority on profiteering companies, from the current maximum of Rs. 25,000 to an additional 10% of the profiteered amount. This does not send a promising message to the business community.
    5. Deadline for filing returns has been extended by two months to August- end.
  • Now that the Council has approved the extension of the NAA by two years, one would expect the government to define the rules as to what constitutes profiteering. This is imperative to reduce potential interpretational disputes.

4. Walking a diplomatic tightrope

US Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo to visit India this month to meet his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. The onus of managing a bilateral relationship that they both know is critical, without appearing to be undermining the nationalist, cultural and economic agendas of their leaders, which mirror each other, and hence create a situation of likes repelling each other lies on both the parties.

Details:

  • A general presumption informing scholarship on international relations is that there is a non-negotiable and unchanging precept of national interest that determines the conduct of nations.
  • Modi and Mr. Trump are two leaders who are rewriting the notion of national interest itself.
  • For instance, secularism was considered to be India’s national interest and soft power until recently and immigration and trade were considered to be in America’s national interest.
  • Trump and Mr. Modi are guided by nationalisms that have cultural and economic components. In both, their views converge in some aspects and conflict in some others.
    • Ex: on the cultural front, they could cooperate on global Islamism. But the growing presence of Indians in America is a source of conflict.
    • The sustained squeeze on Indian guest workers entering the U.S., particularly through the H-1B visa programme, is a case in point.

Challenges:

  • India needs Investment, technology, arms, but does not want finished products (other than arms) or foreign ideas — Christianity, an open global market, the right to self-determination, human rights, Western strands of democracy coming through missionaries, international bodies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
    • This has been expressed through higher tariffs on imports and restrictions on global NGOs.
    • This list does not entirely correspond to what Mr. Trump wants to sell — he wants to sell only finished products at lower tariffs, and keep technology and capital within the borders of America protected.
  • Trump’s approach to international ties gives precedence for commerce over the strategic, and workers over corporations.
  • Multinational corporations wanted cheap manufacturing in China and Southeast Asia and U.S. policy enabled that pursuit.
    • Corporations wanted cheap labour from India by outsourcing work and importing workers into the U.S.
    • But Mr. Trump does not want American work coming to India, or Indian workers going to America; Mr. Modi wants both.
  • When Mr. Trump sees India and China as two similar countries that are taking advantage of America with protectionism, weak intellectual property protection, and higher emissions under the climate treaty, the strategic reason for India-U.S. alignment, which is the menacing rise of China, gets weakened.
  • One war that Mr. Trump wants to end (in Afghanistan) and another war that he appears to be itching to begin (with Iran) have major implications for India and its ties with the U.S. India wants America’s continued engagement in Afghanistan and peace with Iran.

Conclusion:

Over the last two years, there has been steady progress in the U.S.-India relationship. Strategically, both sides have seen the other as playing a crucial role in their Asia strategies—for the U.S., its Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy; for India, its Act East policy. This has paved the way for deeper diplomatic, defense, and security cooperation. However, even as the relationship has progressed steadily on many fronts, a number of problems have arisen. Both Mr. Mi8ke and Mr. Jaishankar have the task of navigating a bumpy ride.

5. The Hindu Explains: How litchi toxin is causing the deaths of undernourished children in Muzaffarpur

Background

  • Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in few districts of Bihar has so far claimed the lives of over 100 children.
  • Most of the deaths have been attributed to low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia).

What is acute encephalitis syndrome (AES)?

  • AES in short, it is a basket term used for referring to hospital, children with clinical neurological manifestations which include mental confusion, disorientation, convulsion, delirium or coma.
  • Meningitis caused by virus or bacteria, encephalitis (mostly Japanese encephalitis) caused by virus, encephalopathy, cerebral malaria, and scrub typhus caused by bacteria are collectively called acute encephalitis syndrome.
  • While microbes cause all the other conditions, encephalopathy is biochemical in origin, and hence very different from the rest.
  • There are different types of encephalopathy. In the present case, the encephalopathy is associated with hypoglycemia and hence called hypoglycemic encephalopathy.

Is encephalitis different from hypoglycaemic encephalopathy?

  • The two conditions show very different symptoms and clinical manifestations.
  • Fever on the first day is one of the symptoms of encephalitis before the brain dysfunction begins.
  • While fever is seen in children in the case of hypoglycaemic encephalopathy, fever is always after the onset of brain dysfunction (actually due to the brain dysfunction).
  • And not all children exhibit fever. Some children have no fever, while others may have mild or very high fever.
  • The blood sugar level is usually normal in children with encephalitis but is low in children with hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.

What happens in hypoglycaemic encephalopathy?

  • However, in hypoglycaemic encephalopathy, children go to bed without any illness but manifest symptoms such as vomiting, convulsion and semi-consciousness early next morning (between 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.).
  • At that time, the blood sugar level is low, hence the name hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.

What killed so many children in Bihar?

  • In a majority of cases, children died due to hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.
  • According to a PIB release hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level) was reported in a “high percentage” of children who died.
  • Unlike hypoglycaemic encephalopathy, encephalitis does not cause low blood sugar level so death in a high percentage of children couldn’t have been due to encephalitis.

Why has it affected only young children in Bihar?

  • It is an observed fact that malnourished children between two to 10 years fall ill and die due to hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.
  • It is not known why older children or adults do not suffer the same way.
  • This clear discrimination by age is also a reason why the underlying cause of the illness cannot be a virus.
  • A virus does not discriminate by age, and children younger than two years too are affected by Japanese encephalitis.
  • It has also been documented that most of the children falling ill are from families camping in orchards to harvest the fruits. These children tend to collect and eat the fruits that have fallen on the ground.
  • Hypoglycaemic encephalopathy outbreaks are restricted to April-July, with a peak seen in June. This is because litchi is harvested during this period.

Role of Litchi

  • In 2012-2013, a research shown that a toxin found in litchi fruit that was responsible for causing hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.
  • In 2017, an India-U.S. team confirmed the role of the toxin called methylene cyclopropyl glycine (MCPG).
  • Early morning, it is normal for blood sugar to dip after several hours of no food intake.
  • Undernourished children who had gone to sleep without a meal at night develop hypoglycaemia.
  • The brain needs normal levels of glucose in the blood. The liver is unable to supply the need.
  • So the alternate pathway of glucose synthesis, called fatty acid oxidation, is turned on. That pathway is blocked by MCPG.
  • Litchi does not cause any harm in well-nourished children, but only in undernourished children who had eaten litchi fruit the previous day and gone to bed on an empty stomach.

How is MCPG hazardous?

  • The toxin acts in two ways to harm the brain and even cause death.
  • Because of the toxin, the body’s natural mechanism to correct low blood glucose level is prevented thus leading to a drop in fuel supply to the brain.
  • This leads to drowsiness, disorientation and even unconsciousness.
  • When the toxin stops the fatty acid conversion into glucose midway, amino acids are released which are toxic to brain cells.
  • The amino acids cause brain cells to swell resulting in brain oedema. As a result, children may suffer from convulsions, deepening coma and even death.

What can be done to prevent this?

  • By making sure that undernourished children do not eat plenty of litchi fruit.
  • Ensuring that they eat some food and not go to bed on an empty stomach.

Can hypoglycemic encephalopathy be treated?

  • Yes, hypoglycaemic encephalopathy can be easily treated with infusing dextrose (a simple sugar that is made from corn and is chemically identical to glucose).
  • Infusing 10% dextrose not only restores blood sugar to a safe level but also stops the production of amino acid that is toxic to brain cells by shutting down the body’s attempt to convert fatty acid into glucose.
  • Together with dextrose infusion, infusing 3% saline solution helps in reducing oedema of the brain cells.
  • The concentration of ions in the fluid outside the brain cells becomes more than what is inside the cell; this causes the fluid from the cells to come out thus reducing oedema and damage to brain cells.
  • If dextrose infusion is not started within four hours after the onset of symptoms, the brain cells may not recover but will die.
  • As a result, even if they survive, children suffer from various aspects of brain damage — speech getting affected, mental retardation, muscle stiffness/weakness and so forth.

Thank you!

 

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