Introduction to Social and Religious Reforms

Introduction to Social and Religious Reforms

 

This article deals with ‘ Introduction to Social and Religious Reforms – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

 

Introduction

  • Main reason why Britain emerged as powerful nation was it accepted modern civilization first among all nations . But in India , intentionally they followed the policy to stall the change in society . Changes did occur & Indian society did tried to change but not due to British policies but due to efforts by some progressive Indians
  • These efforts happened first in Bengal  because it came under British control first . First lot of Indians who studied in Western English knowledge also created  in Bengal at end of 18th Century. New intellectual stirrings created reformed mentality . They didn’t reject Indian tradition but sought to change certain unreasonable aspects of Hindu society which didn’t conform to their rationalist ideas. Later British officials also joined the race &  this provided legitimacy to the reform agenda of the Utilitarian reformers like Bentinck
  • But problem was , this mentality was confined to a small circle of English Educated elite.  Series of reforms followed but they remained on paper . Problem was they never attempted to develop modern social consciousness from below . Should have followed bottom up approach not top down approach .  Reform from above remained ineffective .
  • Untouchability  as an issue of social reform had to wait until the beginning of the twentieth cen­tury and the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian  public life  after World War One .
  • Lacking in a broad social base, the reformers of the early nineteenth century thus exhibited an intrinsic faith in the benevolent nature of colonial rule and relied more on legislation  for imposing reform  from above. There was very little or no attempt to create a reformist social conscious­ness at the grass-roots level, where religious revivalism later found a  fertile ground.

 

The reform movement broadly fell under two categories

Reformist Movement
  • Eg Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj & Aligarh Movement
  • Relied on reason & conscience. Wanted to purge outdated elements from the religion which didn’t pass on the scale of  reason .
Revivalist Movement
  • Eg Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission & Deoband Movement
  • Relied upon traditions & wanted to go back to their self made golden past

 

 

Side Topic :Why Britishers tried to reform Indian Society in 19th Century 

There were various reasons for this

  • Several ideological influences in Britain, such as Evangelicalism, Utilitarianism and free trade thinking.
  • For renewal of Charter of company
  • Pro socio religious thrust in contemporary England =>  Progressive Whig Party came into power
  • Role of christian missionaries

 

But the Company’s government was still tentative about interfering for fear of adverse Indian reaction unless a section of the Indian society was prepared to support reform. Such a group was soon to emerge through the introduction of English education

 

Status of Woman  & Responses by Indian Society

  • Status of woman became main focus of the reforming activities of colonial state as well as educated Indians
  • At that time, way in which  civilisations were ranked , position of woman was one of important criteria & here Indians were increasingly under attack by western observers from missionaries to civilians . Indian civilisation was  despised because it assigned such a low status to women
  • Hence, Indian Intelligentsia responded to this civilisation critique by advocating & supporting reforms to improve status of woman in Indian society
  • But such reforms remained very restricted to only few women belonging to high class because women remained  recipient of male patronage & never became involved in these reformist projects as conscious subjects of their own history .

 

Upper Class Women vs Peasant Women

  • Peasant woman were better compared to Upper caste woman during that time
  • They didn’t practice Purdah System , Right to Remarry was there  & Sati was also not that widespread among Peasant class unlike Higher caste

 

India-Japan Relations

India-Japan Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Japan Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

History

Till Independence

  • Buddhism in Japan dates back to 538 AD
  • Rabindranath Tagore met Okakura Kakuza
  • SC Bose sought Japan’s help in his fight against Britishers
  • The sole dissenting voice of Judge Radha Binod Pal at the War Crimes Tribunal struck a deep chord among the Japanese public that continues to reverberate to this day

During Cold War

  • After 1952 , US & Japan signed security agreement where US took responsibility of Japanese security &  Japan was not allowed to have military too
  • Indo – Japanese relations started with upbeat like Japanese PM visit to India in 1957 & Nehru’s return visit + Japanese crown Prince Akihito’s visit to India taking relations to highest level
  • But later, Cold war started to impact relations and nothing substantive came out till fall of USSR barring Suzuki’s investment 

1990 – 1998

  • Two events had marked impact & these  were 
    • Fall of USSR leading to end of cold war
    • Process of Liberalisation started in India
  • Japanese Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) started  to flow which helped to plug the gaps in economic development
  • 1991: Japan was among the few countries that bailed India out of the BoP crisis
  • 1993: Narsimha Rao’s Look East policy started &  played important role in shaping ties with Japan
  • Till 1998, bonhomie was seen in bilateral relations between India & Japan

Pokharan II Nuclear Explosion & Japanese Reaction

  • Nuclear tests were conducted during  Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime  in 1998
  • Japan is very sensitive towards nuclear test & weapons because of her past experience
  • Japan completely froze ties with India . All the aid & loans that  Japan was giving were cancelled 
  • Lowest point in bilateral relations & pressurised India to roll back its program

Beginning of New Era

  • PM Yoshiro Mori  visited India in 2000 & signed a Landmark treaty ‘ Global Partnership in 21st Centuary ‘.  Subsequently sanctions were lifted in 2001
  • India is the only country with which Japan has  Annual Summit Meetings alternating between  Delhi & Tokyo 
  • 2011: conclusion of CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement)
  • 2017 Visit Ahmadabad : Shinkansen / Bullet Train funded by Japanese Funds inaugurated by Shinzo Abe

Different Aspects in Indo-Japan Relations

Export -Import

  • CEPA signed in 2011 => bilateral trade increased due to this
  • Trade – $20 billion

Japanese FDI

  • Japan is the 4th largest investor in India
  • 1800 Japanese companies are operating in India
  • Modi  has setup “Japan+  Team” in PMO, to help Japanese investors

Largest Donor

  • Japan is the largest development assistance donor & 30% of the total ODA from Japan comes to India
  • Some projects funded by Japan
    • New Delhi metro network. 
    • Mumbai -Ahmadabad High Speed Rail
    •  Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC),
  • Outside India- Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGR)  will be taken jointly.

Currency Swap

  • (2019) – $75 billion currency swap that Japan Offered to India => in time of emergency, India can get $ 75 billion in dollars or yen in return for rupees.

Nuclear Agreement Signed

  • Japan and India reached broad agreement in Dec 2015 on Civil Nuclear Cooperation

Indian diaspora

  • Merchants settling since 1870 . Number increased during WW I when Japanese goods were sought to fill the void of European goods.
  • In recent years, there has been a change in the composition of the Indian community with the arrival of a large number of professionals:
    • IT professionals & engineers working for Indian & Japanese firms
    • professionals in management, finance, education, and S&T research
  • Nishikasai area in Tokyo is emerging as “mini-India”.

Rare Earth Metals

  • India will supply rare earth metals to  Japan– for making defence and high tech electronics.
  • At present, China is the biggest producer of rare earth 

Security Issues

Ensuring freedom of navigation in Indo-Pacific region.

Chinese Treat

  • Assertive China threat to both
    • China vs Japan : Scars of old rivalry + Conflict over Senkaku island  
    • China vs India : Aksai Chin + Arunachal Pradesh + String of Pearls in Indian ocean

Malabar Exercise

  • Annual India, US & Japan naval exercise to ensure freedom of navigaion

Japanese help in Strategic Infrastructure Building

  • Japan  helping India to build roads & other critical  infrastructure in NE 
  • Investing  in Andaman & Nicobar 

US-2 Amphibious Aircraft

  • India is planning to buy US-2 Ambhibious Aircraft from Japan
  • Amphibian aircraft meaning it can land both on land as well as water.
  • This will be the first time since WW2, that Japan will make an overseas military sale

India & Japan complement each other

  • Japan has ageing population & India has young population (team from Japan came to attract youth from IITs to work in Japan)
  • They have surplus capital & we need capital
  • India has resources , they have technology
  • India’s prowess in services and Japan’s excellence in manufacturing

Indian Diaspora and Issues

Indian Diaspora and Issues

This article deals with ‘Indian Diaspora and Issues – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is meant by Diaspora?

  • Indian Diaspora is a generic term to describe the people who
    • migrated from territories that are currently within the borders of the Republic of India.
    • It also refers to their descendants. 
  • Diaspora is currently estimated to number over 26 million, composed of “NRIs” (Indian citizens not residing in India) and “PIOs” (Persons of Indian Origin who have acquired the citizenship of some other country).

Distribution

  • India has the second largest (first being China) Diaspora in the world.
  • The overseas Indian community estimated at over 26 million is spread across every major region in the world. The major concentration of Indian diaspora is in Middle East (11 Million) , U.S.A, U.K, Canada, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and South Africa respectively.
Indian Diaspora and Issues

Trends of Indian Diaspora

  • Overseas Indian community is the result of different waves of migration over hundreds of years driven by a variety of reasons-mercantilism, colonialism and globalization. 

Changing nature

  • British times => Indentured Labour to Fiji, Kenya, West Indies, Mauritius etc
  • In the last three decades of the 20th century the character of migration began to change and a ‘new Diaspora’ led by
    • High skilled professionals moving to the western world
    • Semi-skilled contract workers moving to the Gulf, West and South East Asia emerged.

View of Various leaders towards Diaspora

JL Nehru Although we want to maintain close relationship with Indian Diaspora but Diaspora should re-affirm their commitment to Country they are settled in and integrate themselves in that country
Present Since 2002 (since formation of Singhavi Committee) , Indian government has started to view Diaspora as their important asset which can help in foreign policy and safeguarding Indian interests abroad.

Earlier Government viewed Diaspora as burdensome & refused to help them in various crisis

  • 1964 Myanmar crisis when 3 lakh India businessmen expelled & their businesses nationalised
  • 1972 : When 70,000 Indians faced  persecution in Uganda by Idi Amin regime

Role of Indian Diaspora in development of country they are settled in

  • They have also contributed to the growth and development of the country of their residence. For example, Silicon Valley represents the success of Indians. 4 out of 10 startups in the region are Indian.
  • Becoming important part of Government and political establishments and helping in nation building  .
    • Canadian Government has 4 Ministers (including Defence Minister of Indian Origin)
    • More than dozen MPs in UK are of Indian origin
    • US representative to UN (Nikki Halley (Randhawa)) is of Indian Origin
    • Portugual PM Dr Coasta is of Indian (Goa) origin (he was Chief Guest at 2017 Pravasi Bhartiya Divas held in Bangaluru)
    • Leo Varadkar – Former Ireland PM

How they help India

They help Home Country ie India in various ways. Instances are 

  • It is the source of large inflows of remittances, which has been helping balance the current account. According to the World Bank Indian diaspora sends highest amount of remittances back home (followed by China)
  • During Indo-US Nuclear Deal, US Indians played part in lobbying for India
  • Many Indians invest in philanthropic activities back in India especially in their AlmaMater
  • Mauritian President is generally of Indian Origin and always act as important ally in Indian Ocean. China has not been able to make deep inroads in Mauritius .
  • They are investing in Indian . States to which they belong try to woo them . Eg : Punjab organises Progressive Punjab Summit and Punjabi NRIs are given special invitation for doing investments
  • Help to re-develop after disasters . Eg :
    • Kerala Diaspora helped Kerala during 2018 floods
    • UAE government proposed to give ₹700 crore to Kerala recognising the contribution of Keralites in building UAE & their importance in country and economy

Remittances send by Indians 

Remittances : World Bank Ranking

India 72 (billion $)
China 64
Philippines 30
Mexico 22
Nigeria 21

Major Issues

  • Dual Citizenship: Majority of Indian diaspora want to retain their Indian citizenship along with the citizenship of the country of their residence.
  • Customs and Immigration Official Issues : The commonest grievance of the Diaspora is the ill treatment, harassment and the demands for illegal gratification it encounters at the hands of our customs and immigration officials at the points of entry.
  • Threat to their employment (Nitaqat Law): It is aims to replacing a large section of overseas workers with locals in Saudi Arabia. Because of this, overseas workers from Kerala, TN etc. affected.
  • Threat to their security by IS: In view of the recent cases of violence in the Middle East, there has emerged a new threat the very security of oversees workers in the region. For example, the recent kidnapping of Indian workers by IS group.
  • Evacuation from War Zones : Explained Below

Side Topic : Evacuation of Indians

  • Various Evacuations done by Government till now
2016 Sankat Mochan From South Sudan (Civil War going on in South Sudan)
2015 Raahat Yemen (Civil War between Government and Houthi Rebels )
2011 Op Safe Home Coming Libya (Civil War after Arab Spring)
2006 Sukoon Lebanon
1990 ——- From Kuwait (Airlift movie made on this)

Do we need Evacuation Policy / Doctrine

  • India has conducted more than 30 evacuation operations across Africa, Asia, and Europe, including its largest-ever civilian airlift of 110,000 people from the Persian Gulf in 1990. However , India does not have a comprehensive evacuation policy to evacuate Indian stranded in conflict zone.

Why We need Evacuation Policy

  • US, UK, and the NATO have institutionalised Non-Combatant Evacuation operations (NEO) doctrine. Among the developing countries, Brazil too has institutionalised a standard operating procedure (SOP).
  • India has more than 25 million strong Diaspora and in that  11 million Indians are in West Asia which is becoming unstable with growth of ISIS   
  • Fast Reaction : Whenever such situation arives, Government and Officials can take steps at earliest to save Life of Indians.
  • Will establish clear chain of command and in case of failure , responsibility can be properly expressed

How to make and what it can include

  • Take lessons from  India’s  previous Evacuation Operations  and best practices  along with Evacuation Plans of US, UK, NATO etc
  • India’s diplomatic cadre must be given specific training to operate in hostile environments. 
  • Assign a greater role to its armed forces, in particular by strengthening the Navy and Air Force’s capacity to operate in tandem with civilian authorities. 
  • Government must establish a permanent civil reserve air fleet that pools aircraft from all Indian airlines based on pre-established requisition and reimbursement process.
  • Invest in new technologies to better monitor the diaspora’s profile and mobility

Steps Taken

  • India setup Dr LM Singhavi Committee (High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora)  in 2002 which gave various recommendations. (Almost all steps taken by the Government are based on this report like starting Pravasi Bhartiya Divas , giving more importance to Diaspora etc

  • For giving special focus to the issues pertaining to the Indian diaspora, the government set up a dedicated Ministry of oversees Indian affairs in 2004. It provides all round services to the diaspora. (Again merged with External Ministry. Retrograde step)
  • Government has started, since 2003, the organization of Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas, to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India. 
  • The government has launched various social security schemes for Indian diaspora living abroad, like
    • Pravasi Bhartiya Bima Yojana, 2006
  • Skilling for Foreign Jobs
    • Swarnapravas Yojana : focuses on skill development of Indians  who want to go abroad  in select sectors that face skill shortages in the international labor market, and increase their employability  
    • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana : PKVY has exclusive program to train Indians seeking jobs abroad which train them in suitable skill sets 
  • Various online platforms for Diaspora
    • MADAD App : To help NRIs in distress relating to work permit, visa , employer issue
    • E-Migrate Portal : Recruiting Agents have to register here
  • Schemes to know about India  and their roots
    • Know India Programme was launched as a three-week Orientation programme for diaspora youth (aged 18 to 30) conducted with a view to promote awareness on different facets of life in India and the progress made by the country in various fields (latest such program conducted in Dec 2017) .
    • Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is running a scheme known as “Tracing the Roots” to facilitate PIOs in tracing their roots in India.
  • Oversees Citizenship of India Scheme (OCI): The Scheme provides for benefits comparable to citizens in certain fields, like in economic and education fields etc. PIO Card was merged with OCI Scheme as well
  • State level initiatives : States like Punjab with huge diaspora have started NRI police stations and NRI Sabha to deal with cases and issues of NRIs.

What more can be done

  • To ensure that Diaspora members feel welcomed on their arrival in India and also recall warmly their visits, a friendlier reception at their point of entry; easier procedures for immigration and customs clearances that are marked by courteous service are essential
  • To address the problems of our overseas blue-collar workers, following should be implemented at the earliest possible.
    • Establishing a welfare fund for repatriated overseas workers in distress;
    • Monitoring and supervision of both the employment contracts, and conditions of our overseas workers by our Missions;
    • Launching compulsory insurance schemes covering the risks faced by our overseas workers;
  • Diaspora can make a significant contribution to the growth of tourism in India. PIOs make frequent visits to their home state or  their relatives. There should be greater focus on promoting tourism among 2nd generation PIOs.
  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Indian Diaspora could be constituted.This Committee could also act as a focal point for interaction with Parliamentarians of Indian Origin in other countries. Such exchanges are essential in order to bring about greater understanding and amity between them. 
  • Giving Voting Rights to Indians living abroad . Procedure through which it can be done like e-ballot or on Indian Consular office etc can be debated

BT Cotton

BT Cotton

This article deals with ‘BT Cotton  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is BT (Bacillus Thuringeinsis) ?

  • BT is gram positive soil dwelling bacterium
  • Commonly used as natural pesticide
  • Bt refers to Bacillus Thuringienesis Soil Bacterium from which the genes are introduced in to the native cotton and brinjal varieties. BT gene  produce a protein in the cotton crop that is toxic to the boll worms and stem borers (pests) 
  • This can be introduced in any crop like Cotton (Bt Cotton) , Brinjal (Bt Brinjal) etc.

 Bt Cotton

Positive Effects

  • Government gave approval to grow Bt Cotton in 2002 & as a result India witnessed an astounding revolution in the cotton sector, not seen for another crop.
    • Cotton production saw 178% increase
    • India emerged as largest global players in cotton. India is presently largest producer of cotton (surpassing China)

Issues

  • Issue is,  increasing farmer suicides in Karnataka, MP and Vidharbha region.  Farmers are using expensive GM seeds in drought prone region
  • There are other problems too –
    • High input cost of seeds,
    • Genetic erosion of local varieties,
    • farmer’s dependence on private seed companies whose sole aim is profit maximisation.
  • Recently, Cotton plantations in various parts of the country have been hit due to infestation of Pink Bollworm (PBW).  Reason :
    • Absence of crop rotation
    • Not growing 20-30% normal cotton along with BT Cotton

DNA Fingerprinting

DNA Fingerprinting

This article deals with ‘DNA Fingerprinting  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is DNA Fingerprinting ?

  • Also called DNA typing, DNA profiling, genetic fingerprinting, genotyping, or identity testing
  • DNA profiling, or DNA fingerprinting, is a forensic method used to identify a person using unique signature found in her DNA.
  • In this, DNA samples are matched to prove the identity of person. The most commonly used technique is Short Tandem Repeat Technique but we needn’t go into detail of how it is done . Just knowing the name of technique is more than enough for us.

Uses

  • Identify criminals &  convicts in cases of murder and rape
  • Powerful tool for settling paternity disputes and identifying dead persons
  • Used for detecting genetic disorder , pedigree analysis and identifying genetic stock

In India

  • Pioneering work was done by Lalji Singh  at Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology (CCMB) , Hyderabad
  • Other centres are :
    • Centre for DNA Fingerprinting  & Diagnostics (CDFD) Hyderabad
    • Central Forensic Science Laboratory , Kolkata

DNA Based Technologies(Use & Regulation) Act, 2018

Introduction

There are large number of

  • Missing persons
  • Unclaimed dead bodies

DNA fingerprinting can help & government is trying to come up with Bill

There are other uses too

  • Maternity & paternity issues to know about real parents
  • Rape case convict can be found using DNA
  • Evidence of presence of person on scene of crime
  • DNA is accepted as evidence under Evidence Act. Hence, can help in  increasing conviction rate

Issues with DNA fingerprinting

  • Lack of regulation
  • Privacy issue
  • Lack of DNA Labs and Experts
  • Unscientific forensic data collection technique by police

Working

  • Use of DNA Data:  DNA testing is allowed only in respect of matters listed in the schedule to the Bill (such as,  paternity suits).
  • Permission for use of DNA Data:  While preparing a DNA profile,
        • Authorities are required to obtain consent for collection  if offence carries a punishment of up to 7 years.
        • If the offence carries more than seven years of imprisonment or death, consent is not required.
  • Two new bodies will be created (PB & DB)
DNA Regulatory Board
  • To supervise  DNA Data Banks and DNA Laboratories.
DNA Data Bank

(National & State)

  • Data Banks will store DNA profiles received from DNA laboratories
  • Protection of information: 
        • Board is required to ensure that all information relating to DNA profiles with the Data Banks, laboratories and other persons are kept confidential
        • DNA data can only be used for identification of the person (and not for extracting any other information (like Health Vulnerabilities to be used by Insurance companies))
  • Option for deletion of data – There is also provision for defined instances for deletion of profiles and destruction of DNA profiles (like if chargesheeted person whose DNA samples have been stored in DNA Data Bank has been aquitted by Court)
  • Penalties: Any violation would attract imprisonment up to three years and a fine up to 1 lakhs.
Issues
Privacy Issues 

  • In absence of any Data Protection Act, DNA information stored in Data Bank can be vulnerable

Technology

  • Critics say that DNA Matching tech is not entirely foolproof . There are chances ,even if very low of erronous results
  • Problems of cross-contaminating samples, mislabelling samples, misrepresenting test results and intentionally planting DNA

Unscientific investigation

  • In India, instead of forensic investigators and scientists, an untrained constable goes to crime scene first, who does not know how to scientifically collect evidences and in the process destroys vital DNA evidence

Lack of DNA examiners

  • according to international practice one DNA examiner can take 100 cases per year . As of now there are 40,000 unclaimed dead bodies each year & 400 examiners required but. India has total of 35-40 examiners .

No improvement in conviction rates

  • Over  last 25 years; most countries have adopted a DNA fingerprinting law and have developed databases for use primarily in criminal investigation, disaster identification and forensic science. However, DNA tests have not led to an improvement in conviction rates in countries where it is already being followed.

Pros

Is already happening , Better to do it in regulated way

  • Experts say that apprehensions of data misuse & privacy are more in case of absence of regulation

Privacy

  • Very limited information is proposed to be stored (just 13 sets of numbers out of billions ) . This can tell nothing about individual except to act as unique identifier
  • Moreover , DNA will be collected from very limited persons those in conflict with law

Utility

  • We need to move from eyewitness evidences to forensic evidence of which DNA is integral part

Gene Therapy

Gene Therapy

This article deals with ‘Gene Therapy – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is Gene Therapy?

Using gene manipulating techniques to treat genetic diseases by replacing defective gene with healthy gene  or bolstering the immunity of body.

Types of Gene Therapy

It can be of two types

Somatic Cell Gene Therapy – Gene Therapy in normal cells
– Person will be treated for particular disease
Germ Cell Gene Therapy – Gene Therapy in Germline Cells
– For next generation ie Next generation will not be affected by genetic disorder

Techniques

Same techniques which we used in Gene Editing like CRISPR Cas 9 etc (it is one of the application of Gene Editing only)

Gene Therapy

Some real examples

Yescarta – To treat blood cancer (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia)
– Yescarta is Gene Therapy to treat it.
– Developed by Novartis  

Side Note : It is given designation of Orphan Drug . Orphan Drug is  medicine that is intended to treat diseases so rare that sponsors are reluctant to develop them under usual marketing conditions.

Problems

  • Same as Gene Editing
    • Efficacy Issues
    • Side effects of virus delivery tools
    • Inclusivity issues since they are expensive
    • Playing with god (science vs conservatives)
    • Issues in case of Multi gene disorders and effect of the environment
  • Short lived nature of gene therapy : Patients will have to undergo multiple rounds of gene therapy. 
  • Immune response : Anytime a foreign object is introduced into human tissues, the immune system has evolved to attack the invader.
  • Grey areas in treatment : The treatment of human diseases through gene therapy for solely medical purpose is argued to be correct, however enhancement of human reproductive cells or altering/improving a normal person by gene manipulation are controversial areas as it may turn mankind into commodity.
  • Equal Access to treatment – The gene therapy at present has high cost

Gene Editing

Gene Editing

This article deals with ‘Gene Editing  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Definition

Genome editing is an approach in which the genome sequence is directly changed by adding, replacing, or removing DNA bases  .

Method

  • Genome is relatively resistant to change. To deter any changes from being inadvertently made to DNA, cells have inherent mechanisms to proofread and repair their genetic code. Remarkably, researchers have been able to take advantage of the cell’s DNA repair mechanisms to achieve genome editing.
  • To accomplish this, scientists can use
    • Artificially engineered enzymes called nucleases act as molecular scissors and are used to crack open DNA strands.  
    • Once break is introduced in DNA, cell will detect the problem  & quickly activate repair machinery.
    • DNA sequence designed to be inserted is also send along with a nuclease, such that when a cut is made in the DNA, the cell’s own repair mechanism can use the DNA sequence supplied to replace an existing DNA sequence .
  • This method allows scientists to directly change genetic makeup of cells 

Uses in Humans

Gene Therapy Somatic Cell Gene Therapy
– Gene Therapy in normal cells Person will be treated for particular disease

Germ Cell Gene Therapy
– Gene Therapy in Germline Cells For next generation
– Next generation will not be affected by genetic disorder  
Enhancement genetic engineering Insertion of a gene to try to ‘enhance’ a known characteristic; for example, the placing of an additional growth hormone gene into a normal child  
Eugenic genetic engineering attempt to alter or ‘improve’ complex human traits, each of which is coded by a large number of genes; for example, personality, intelligence, character, formation of body organs, and so on.

Note : Similarly, Gene Editing can be done in Plants and Animals to alter their genetic makeup and giving them desired characteristics and make Genetically Modified Crops and Animals

Concerns

Gene delivery tools Genes are inserted into body using vectors which are usually viruses

Viruses can produce other problems like
– Toxicity
– Immune response
– Inflammatory response
– Gene control and  targeting issues  
High costs Whole process is quite expensive and hence not inclusive  
Playing with god    
Informed consent It is impossible to obtain informed consent for germline therapy because the patients affected by the edits are the embryo and future generations.  
Limited knowledge of the functions of the genes Scientists know functions of limited genes  and worst is in some cases scientists don’t know whether particular gene is performing more than one function  
Might lead to designer babies & commodification of children  

There are currently four families of engineered nucleases (Molecular Scissor) being used:

  • Mega nucleases
  • Zinc finger nucleases
  • Transcription Activator like  Effector based Nucleases (TALENs)
  • CRISPR- Cas System    (Most advanced & important)
Gene Editing

CRISPR/Cas9 system of Germline Editing

  • CRISPR Cas 9 is the revolutionary technique for Gene Editing with very high efficacy
    • CRISPR : It is mechanism which Bacteria uses to protect itself from viruses . In this system, DNA is plucked out of Virus and inserted in little bits into chromosome of bacterium. In this way, Bacteria records over time the viruses it has been exposed to so that cells are protected from those viruses in future .
    • Cas 9 is cutting enzyme
Stage 1 Guide RNA is shepherded with Cas 9 System RNA to guide Cas 9 to Targetted position Cas 9 to make a cut  
Stage 2 Cas 9 locks onto DNA & unzips it (both strands are divided)  
Stage 3 Cas 9 snips the DNA creating break in both strands   
Stage 4 Cell repairs the break using piece of single stranded DNA injected into the cell  
CRISPR Gene Editing

Why CRISPR technology is revolutionary

  • It is cheaper (than already existing technology)  
  • Efficacy is very high
  • Made production of designer baby a reality
  • Treatment of diseases which are caused by faulty gene sequences like CFTR 
  • Livestock improvement
  • Bioremediation

Uses and Problems now

  • Its applications are immense and it has made designer baby a reality . Since it will have wide range of ethical and social implications, inventors Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier have called for Moratorium on it till proper consensus on its use is made .
  • Scientists are calling for bringing extinct species back to life using this technology like Oxford Universities project on reviving Mammoth .

Stem Cells

Stem Cells

This article deals with ‘Stem Cells  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What are Stem cells

Class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types.

Stem cell should be:

  • Undifferentiated cells having ability to divide & differentiate itself into specialized cells.
  • Importantly should have the capability of self-renewal, i.e. reproduce itself.
Stem cell differentiation

Type of Stem Cells

1.Embryonic Stem cells

  • Derived from the embryo
    • Humans reproduce sexually i.e. need a sperm and an eggs
    • The sperm fuses with the egg to form a fused product called zygote. This cell divides itself to form different organs like  eyes, heart, lungs etc. i.e.one cell capable of producing an organism
    • Hence, embryonic cells have ability to differentiate itself into different specialized cells.
  • They are Totipotent ie can become any specialised cell &’organ

2. Non embryonic /somatic/ adult stem cells

  • Exist throughout the body after embryonic development. Found inside of different type of tissues  such as brain, bone marrow, blood , blood vessels , Skeletal muscles , skin & liver
  • Remain in a quiescent or non living state for years until activated by disease or tissue injury
  • Can divide or self renew indefinitely , enabling them to generate a range of cell types from the originating organ or even regenerate the entire organ
  • Generally adult stem cells are limited in their ability to differentiate based on their tissue of origin 
  • Adult stem cells are rare in mature tissues, hence isolating these cells from an adult tissue is challenging, and methods to expand their numbers in cell culture have not yet been worked out.

3. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs)

  • Adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell like state

Potency of Stem Cells

  • Stem cells are categorized by their potential to differentiate into other types of cells.
  • Embryonic stem cells are the most potent since they must become all types of cell in the body.

1.Totipotent

  • Ability to differentiate into all possible cell types.
  • Examples are the zygote formed at egg fertilization and the first few cells that result from the division of the zygote.

2. Pluripotent

  • Ability to differentiate into almost all cell types.
  • Examples include embryonic stem cells and cells that are derived from the mesoderm, endoderm, and ectoderm germ layers that are formed in the beginning stages of embryonic stem cell differentiation.

3. Multipotent

  • the ability to differentiate into a closely related family of cells.
  • Examples include hematopoietic (adult) stem cells that can become red and white blood cells or platelets.

4. Unipotent

  • the ability to only produce cells of their own type, but have the property of self-renewal required to be labeled a stem cell.
  • Examples include (adult) muscle/Somatic stem cells.

Controversy regarding Embryonic Stem Cells

  • Stem cells are generally derived from embryos as adult stem cells are difficult to extract. But human right advocates view this as equivalent to murdering a child
  • It was also against the religions and was vehemently opposed especially in USA . Republican governments were totally against this as they are in favor of promoting christian ethics

Converting ordinary cell to Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell – Gurdon & Yamanaka

  • Single cell in the form of Zygote formed after fertilisation of egg and sperm differentiate to specialist cells like heart cells , liver cells, skin cells etc. Earlier it was thought that this natural process is irreversible
  • But  Gurdon  and Yamanaka identified the genes to make any cell pluripotent and also showed that cell can be programmed to any specific cell like Bone Marrow or heart cell
  • This solved the issue of killing of embryos to get Stem Cells
Stem Cells

Gist : Problems in using Stem Cells

  • Issue of Embryonic Stem Cells : Right to Life of Embryos + Christian sentiments
  • Efficacy of Stem Cell Therapy : iPSC’s doesn’t has 100% efficacy and in many cases reprogrammed cells can result into cancerous cells by rapid division
  • Inclusivity issue : Stem Cell therapy is very expensive and poor cant afford it. Hence, it is not inclusive .

What are the applications of Stem cells?

  • Stem Cells can cure several illnesses
    • Parkinson’s disease [A degenerative disorder caused by cell death in brain – became very common in developed nations due to increase in Life expectancy]
    • Alzheimer
    • Cancer
    • Spinal Cord Injury
    • Treatment of Autism
    • Blood related diseases (like Sickle Cell Anaemia)
    • Diabetes
    • Heart and Arterial Related diseases
  • (Regenerative Medicine) Can be used in organ transplants : Using Stem cell, full fledged organ can be made  and since it is made from cells of person’s body, their rejection rate is almost nill.
  • Study how an organism develops from a single cell .

Stem Cell Therapy Status  in India

  • Western Countries have strict regulations and restrictions on use of Stem Cells but no such regulation was earlier present in India . Due to lack of regulation and cheap treatment, large number of terminally ill patients were coming to India for treatment.
  • April 2018 : Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has proposed to amend Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 to bring Stem Cells and Stem Cell based products under legal regulation
    • Under the amendments, Stem Cells and products that are substantially altered will be treated as drugs and will have to seek regulator’s approval (Drug Controller General of India) before being marketed .
  • Various ICMR Guidelines
    • ICMR’s  National Guideline for Stem Cell Research in 2017.
    • Stem Cell Use Ethical Guidelines by ICMR  
  • MoUs
    • Indo – Japan Stem Cell Research Collaboration
    • India – UK Stem Cell Research
  • Research Centre : DBT Centre in Bangalore dedicated to Stem Cell Research (In-STEM)

Genetically Modified Crops

Genetically Modified Crops

This article deals with ‘Genetically Modified Crops  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-3 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

 

 

 

Genetically Modified Foods /Crops

  • Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering, unlike similar food organisms which have been modified from their wild ancestors through selective breeding
  • GM foods were first put on the market in the early 1990s
  • GM aids the development of specific traits in crops like:
Herbicide resistance Viral resistance
Pest resistance Slow ripening
Fungal and  bacterial resistance Quality improvement – protein and oil
Value addition – vitamins, micro and macro elements  

 

Pro-GM crops in India

  • By 2050, the world’s population is expected to expand from 7 billion to 9 billion.  Yet the amount of farm land is shrinking. GM Crops is the only way to feed  growing population.

 

  • Resistance to pests and protecting the environment: Scientists can give crops built-in resistance to pests (eg : Bt gene) . That means less need for pesticides that are potentially harmful to the environment.

 

  • Higher income for farmers: GM crops cut costs for consumers and raise livelihoods for farmers

 

  • There is little evidence  to validate  perceived dangers by GM Crops. GM brinjal has since been approved and grown in neighbouring Bangladesh without causing any environmental or health hazards. 

 

  • They are necessary to fight malnutrition . Eg Bio fortification –  increasing vitamins and micro-nutrients in staple crops . Examples include
        • Golden Rice = Vitamin A
        • DRR Dhan – 45 (rice) = Zinc
        • Dhan Shakti (Bajra) = Iron

 

  • We cant stop the import of GM foods which is produced in the world . Hence, there is no point in restricting their cultivation in India and losing ground to foreign competitors. Eg India annually imports 3 million tonnes of soyabean oil  which is predominantly GM

 

  • Father of green revolution – Norman Borlaug recommends GM crops for food security too

 

  • Face climate change => GM crops with suitable genetic editing can help to make crops that can withstand the stress like high temperature or drought etc

 

 

Anti-GM crops

MS Swaminathan  has called GM crops to be failure due to unbearable costs of seeds and inputs on poor farmers as well as stagnation yields of Bt cotton at 500 kg / ha (lower than China & Egypt)

  • GM crops isn’t purely scientific issue & is situated at a socioeconomic & political nexus involving market monopolies in seeds  leading to suicides.

 

  • Farmer Suicides : introduction of  GM cotton is the cause for increasing farmer suicides in Karnataka, Vidharbha region.  Farmers are using expensive GM seeds in drought prone region

 

  • Farmers don’t cultivate indigenous varieties & results in  biodiversity loss. Vidarbha district in Maharashtra, India, is nearly a 100% Bt cotton (of the total cotton area) producing region. Local varieties of cotton seeds have almost disappeared

 

  • Terminator Genes in Hybrid Seeds : Hybrid GM seeds are  ‘programmed’ in such a way that they lose their ‘hybrid vigour’ so new  seeds must be purchased every planting season.

 

  • Loss of vigour : GMCs gradually lose their vigour.
        • Eg : White pest attack on cotton in Punjab clearly showthis.
        • Monsanto also accepted that Bt Cotton is now susceptible to Pink Ballworm .

 

  • Stringent labelling requirements are required when they are cultivated because those who are consuming GM food have right to know that. But in India, vegetables are sold loose and this is not possible.

 

  • Parliamentary committee says GM crop benefit only rich farmers & companies like Monsanto are filled with monopolistic characteristics .

 

  • GM crops require more water, fertilisers unlike what they are always advertised to.

 

While billion dollar companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta have scientists lobbies who conduct research and publish researches in high numbers in favour of GM crops and trying to push it in India. There is nothing wrong in using GM crops but we should remember that Dow chemicals are behind Bhopal Gas Tragedy and Bayer was Endosulfan supplier. Such billion dollar companies often hide harmful effects of GM in long terms.

 

 

Way forward

Legal measure – There should be a liability clause, like in case of US , where liability is huge in case the GM tech effects the regular varieties of crops. It will ensure that seed companies take proper precautions in fear of penalty

 

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Biological Diversity act, 2002 must be effectively implemented.

 

Need of National Policy on GM Crops.

 

BIMSTEC and India

BIMSTEC and India

This article deals with ‘BIMSTEC and India Relations – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

1997 BIST-EC ie Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation was formed which was headquartered in Dhaka  
2004 – Nepal and Bhutan joined
– BIST-EC was renamed to BIMSTEC
– BIMSTEC = Bay of Bangal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation  

BIMSTEC is sector-driven cooperative organization
– Initially started  with six sectors— trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries.
– In 2008, expanded to embrace eight more sectors— agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change  
2004 Talks on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) started between BIMSTEC nations
2008 2nd Summit held in Delhi
2014 3rd Summit in Nay Pyi Taw (New Capital of Myanmar)  
2016 BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit  held on side-lines of 2016 BRICS Summit in Goa
=> India started to promote BIMSTEC instead of SAARC.  
Aug 2018 4th BIMSTEC Meet held in Nepal  
2019 BIMSTEC leaders were invited for Prime Minister’s swearing in ceremony. (in 2014 SAARC leaders were invited ) => can be seen as change in policy

Why BIMSTEC is important for India

Alternate to SAARC

  • Due to Pakistan’s hostility , SAARC is not able to achieve anything substantial. In such a situation, BIMSTEC presents a viable alternative to SAARC

Strategic

  • Making Indian stronghold in Indian Ocean Region and tackle intrusion of  China 
  • In line with India’s policies namely
    • Neighbourhood First Policy
    • Act East Policy

Economic Benefits

  • India, being a party to the BIMSTEC can utilise the FTA agreement once signed 
  • Provide investment opportunities to Indian companies
  • Market to Indian companies ( 20% of world population living in BIMSTEC area)
  • Great Tourism Potential

Benefit North East

  • This trade has potential to benefit NE as well. Energising it would also accelerate India’s Act East policy. Various projects already running will help in this
    • India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway
    • India-Myanmar Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project

Potential: Trans border Connectivity

  • BIMSTEC= 20% of world’s population
  • BIMSTEC countries have combined gross domestic product (GDP) close to $2.7 trillion.
  • BIMSTEC  FTA & BIMSTEC Motor Vehicles Agreement are on cards which when signed will bolster trade .
  • Bay of Bengal Tourism can rival Caribbean Tourism (SL PM Ranil Wikramsinghe enthusiat for this)
  • Buddhist heritage sites for religious tourism can help in this regard too

Challenges

  • India, the largest member of the grouping, has  been criticised for not providing a strong leadership to BIMSTEC.
  • Both Thailand and Myanmar are criticised for having ignored BIMSTEC in favour of ASEAN. 
  • It took more than 15 years to setup Secretariat for BIMSTEC which was setup in 2014 in Dhaka
  • Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are not included which are important part of Bay of Bengal littoral
  • Noodle bowl effect’ of regionalism  at work as formation of another sub-regional initiative, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Forum, with the proactive membership of China, created doubts about the exclusive potential of BIMSTEC.
  • Issues of refugee  and ethnic tension among BIMSTEC member countries would pose a challenge to the grouping.
  • So far, BIMSTEC has held only 4 summit meetings 

BIMSTEC, though valuable, is no substitute as this leaves  out our troublesome western periphery

 Revival of BIMSTEC (& death of SAARC) 

  • BIMSTEC leaders were invited for Prime Minister’s swearing in ceremony. This is seen as indicator of India’s policy of engaging neighbours and keeping Pakistan out as in 2014 SAARC leaders were invited for the swearing in ceremony.

Why Change

  • Stagnation of SAARC is a key reason for India to reach out to BIMSTEC as the stagnation limited the scope of India’s growing economic aspirations
  • BIMSTEC also carries a lot of economic promise. 
    • BIMSTEC countries have combined gross domestic product (GDP) close to $2.7 trillion.
    • Despite an adverse global financial environment, all seven countries were able to sustain average annual rates of economic growth between 3 and 7.5 percent from 2012 to 2016. 
    • Bay of Bengal is also rich in untapped natural resources, with reserves of gas and other seabed minerals, oil and also fishing stocks.
  • Bay of Bengal could rival the Caribbean as a high-end tourist destination
  • Better connectivity with BIMSTEC countries opens up opportunities for Indian coastal states and North East states to unlock the potential for development in the region.
  • Strategically, BIMSTEC is a platform to counter assertive China in South and Southeast Asia, where it has undertaken investments through the Belt and Road initiative. 

Why SAARC remains relevant

  • SAARC, as an organisation, reflects the South Asian identity of the countries. BIMSTEC despite its achievements is not tied with such  identity 
  • South Asian countries are closely tied in their socio-political state as they face similar threats and challenges like terrorism, similar economic challenges, disaster etc.
  • Although BIMSTEC offers lot of potential but it has remained as ineffective as SAARC. The relatively rich /powerful countries are India and Thailand. If they take lead, others will follow. But in recent times, Thailand is caught up in internal coups & India too has remained passive till recent times .

But Foreign ministry officials reminding the importance of SAARC say that it is too early to write the obituary for SAARC. They also point out that while SAARC is run by a formal charter and  has a structural order to its functions, BIMSTEC is still only a friendly club of countries who have some common economic interests (counter = BIMSTEC has no written charter and thus more flexible.  )