1.Anatomy of a decline (The Indian Express)

2.Drug For Chikungunya (The Hindu)

1.Anatomy of a decline (The Indian Express) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue on the effect of declined growth on various sectors. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Indian growth indicators have been in constant decline, in the April-June quarter, growth plummeted to a dismal 5.7 per cent. The growth for fiscal 2017-18 is projected to be below 7 per cent, this will not provide enough room to the finance minister to increase allocations in sectors starved of funds.

Performer of different sectors

  • The United Nations lowered India’s growth estimates to 6.7% for FY17 as compared to the 7.1% in FY16. The UN’s trade and development report mentioned that the informal sector, which still accounts for at least one-third of the country’s GDP and more than four-fifths of employment, was badly affected by the government’s ‘demonetisation’ move and it may be further affected by the rollout of the goods and services tax (GST).
  • We cannot expect increased allocations in education, health, agriculture, rural development, transportation, women and child welfare when the next budget will be presented. Reduced allocations in MGNREGA will further hurt the poor.
  • Demonetisation was followed by the ill-timed imposition of a flawed GST, which had a lethal effect on the informal sector. MSMEs are ill prepared for compliance issues. Glitches in the GSTN network have further hurt the businesses. Beneficiaries of downstream procurement now require registration. Without that businesses will seek alternatives and procure from those already registered. This has caused unexpected business disruptions.
  • The poor growth indicators had left very little space for the government to manoeuvre and reverse the downward spiralling of the economy; it will leave business communities to grapple with the challenges of an uncertain economic environment.
  • For the economy to grow at a constant 7 per cent, exports must pace upward of 15 per cent annually, but the exports are not competitive unless interest rates come down and the rupee declines substantially.
  • Our textile sector awaits modernisation but the leather sector is unlikely to recover in the near future. Pharmaceutical pricing policy has also dampened prospects of investments. Absence of robust exports means a slowdown in manufacturing which in turn impacts employment.
  • Farm sector is also under stress; around 12,000 farmer suicides were in 2015 alone, these are the result of the crisis bedevilling agriculture. Nearly 70 per cent of those occupied in agriculture have holdings of 1 hectare and less, which is not enough to sustain families.
  • Most are marginal farmers entirely dependent on the vagaries of the weather. Drought and floods play havoc and the consequent dependence on moneylenders entangles them in a vicious debt cycle. In good times, even with bumper yields, prices crash and the farmer loses. The real problem is the absence of a ready market when the crop is harvested. Absence of cold chains to preserve fruits and vegetables makes for a buyers’ market.
  • But we need to shift to horticulture and commercial cropping to increase farmers’ income. Loan waivers may give a temporary reprieve but that is not a solution. To deal with other ailments there is need to think out of the box. To sustain high growth, agriculture must grow at 4 per cent per annum.
  • The telecom sector is undergoing consolidation. Auction of spectrum at Rs 56,000 crore for 5 megahertz has crippled the industry. It is under debt of around Rs 4 lakh crore. As the Jio is the new disruptive player. Competitors are crying foul.
  • Discoms in the power sector are reeling under debt. The politics behind subsidised power is the villain. Lack of demand for power is evidence of industrial slowdown. There are no takers for coal blocks put up for auction. Major players in the steel sector are facing insolvency. Mining is at a standstill, with court orders strangulating it with their vice-like grip. Core sector growth is, therefore, tepid.
  • Real estate is also under mess. Homebuyers are up in arms and major players will soon face insolvency. Slowdown in construction activity impacts not only jobs but also impacts the demand for steel, cement, sanitary ware and other inputs which are an integral part of construction activity.

Question– Explain the impact of economic slowdown in various sectors, also suggest some measures to address the situation.

2.Drug For Chikungunya (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of the new research for Chikungunya. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease which has emerged as a bigger threat than dengue for people living in north India than those in southern states that have had their share of outbreaks over the past decades. Government data from last year shows out of 64,000-odd Chikungunya cases reported from across the country, only about 18,000 were reported from the states down south.
  • Currently, there is no cure for the disease and treatment is focused more on relieving the symptoms. A drug to treat Chikungunya virus infection is in the offing, and in vitro studies carried out by a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) show some promise.

About

  • Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952. It is an RNA virus that belongs to the alphavirus genus. The name “Chikungunya” derives from a word, meaning “to become contorted”, and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.
  • Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The virus is transmitted from human to human by the bites of infected female mosquitoes.
  • Most commonly, the mosquitoes involved are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two species which can also transmit other mosquito-borne viruses, including dengue. These mosquitoes can be found biting throughout daylight hours, though there may be peaks of activity in the early morning and late afternoon.

The research

  • The researcher team used an existing drug piperazine, safety of the drug is already known and hence the trials on animals and humans will be more to understand the efficacy of the drug in treating Chikungunya infection. Piperazine is used for the treatment of worm infections. The antiviral drug indinavir used for treating HIV positive people is a piperazine-based molecule. The derivatives of piperazine are used as anti-histamines and anti-depressants drugs too.
  • Based on crystal structure, the researchers ascertained that the drug molecule binds to the hydrophobic pocket of capsid protein of Aura virus. Drug binding studies were also carried out using Chikungunya virus and it was found that the binding of the drug at the capsid protein was better in the case of Chikungunya virus. The function of capsid protein is essential for the virus budding and replication of virus.
  • According to the journal in Antiviral Research, on studying the antiviral activity of piperazine molecule against Chikungunya, it was found that the molecule inhibits virus replication. In the presence of this drug, the amount of virus released by infected cells is less.  The drug showed very good antiviral activity.
  • The researchers were not able to directly observe a reduction in the budding process. But it was observed a reduction in the virus release from infected cells and hypothesise is that the drug inhibits the budding of the virus as well. Once the drug binds to the target, the capsid protein’s interaction with the enveloped protein of virus is inhibited and hence the virus release from infected cells is affected.
  • Virus replication and budding are correlated. The monkey cell lines were infected with very low virus concentration and then allowed to grow. After 24 hours, the number of virus being released by the infected cells was studied. If the virus is able to replicate then should find more virus, which was not the case.
  • The Chikungunya viral load had reduced by 98% at the end of 24 hours but increases at 48 hours indicating that inhibition of virus replication becomes less at the end of 48 hours compared with 24 hours.
  • This could be because the drug does not kill all the virus at the end of 24 hours and the drug supplied initially is already bound to the capsid protein target in the virus. So when the virus reinfects nearby cells and replicates, there is not enough drug to bind to the new capsid protein molecules being produced.

Way ahead

  • The drug is already approved for use in humans and toxicity studies in animals will not be needed. But studies on animals to evaluate the antiviral activity and hence, the efficacy has to be carried out.  If results from animal trials are encouraging then we might start human clinical trial.

Question– Even as India targets the elimination of malaria by 2030, other deadlier mosquito-borne diseases have been spreading rapidly nationwide. Between 2012 and 2016, there has been a 300% rise in the cases of Chikungunya, dengue followed, at 157% and Japanese encephalitis, at 124%. Critically analyse the steps taken by the government.