1.Big vision, hazy detail (The Hindu)

2.DNA barcodes reveal adulteration in traditional medicines. (The Hindu)

1.Big vision, hazy detail (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of India-US relations(GS paper III)


  • S. Secretary of State Mr. Tillerson has recently travelled to India and Pakistan, mentioned that both countries are “important elements” in the U.S. policy for stabilising South Asia and characterised China a destabilising force.
  • According to the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson India and America are “two bookends of stability, on either side of the globe” and the “emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership” has the potential to anchor the rules based world order for the next hundred years.

Mr. Tillerson’s talks in New Delhi

  • Tillerson made progress in developing a common vision, but appear to have made little movement on the specifics. For instance, he is said to have “minced no words” when it came to tackling Pakistan’s support to terrorist safe havens. Yet, the groups he referred to are not those that directly threaten India, but Afghanistan and, by extension, the U.S. soldiers based there.
  • As for Indian hopes of increasing trade and development aid to Afghanistan through the Chabahar route, Mr. Tillerson’s assurance that Washington does not seek to bar legitimate trade is welcome.
  • However, it remains to be seen whether India can significantly ramp up cooperation with Iran to further its interests in Afghanistan at a time when the U.S. maintains its policy of isolating the Iranian leadership.
  • Both Indian and U.S. officials spoke in detail, in public statements, about building an alternative coalition to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative as well as its aggressive moves in the South China Sea, yet Mr. Tillerson did not add clarity on where the funding would come from.
  • India and the U.S. have taken great strides in aligning their vision and their hopes for future partnership, but reality often trips up such lofty goals. One reason is geography, while American troops remain in Afghanistan, it is difficult for the U.S. to completely disengage from Pakistan.
  • For India, while a maritime relationship with the U.S. is desirable, geographic proximity to China makes a very close alliance with the U.S. difficult. The other issue pertains to the strategic confusion within Washington and Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from U.S. commitments in Asia, Europe and at the UN, drawing questions about its reliability as a partner.

Way ahead

  • Tillerson’s explanation of the new South Asia policy of the U.S. calls into question the interpretation of it as an acceptance of the Indian line, and a rejection of Pakistan’s position. Mr. Tillerson’s first full fledged foreign policy speech mentioned that- it is an excellent approach from India’s perspective. As all issues that bring our countries closer, and underscored the importance of the partnership have been touched.

Question– Discuss the recent developments between India-US relations.


2.DNA barcodes reveal adulteration in traditional medicines. (The Hindu)

Synoptic line- It throws light on the impact and concern with respect to adulteration in traditional medicines. (GS paper III)

Traditional Medicines

  • Traditional medicines in the large unorganized market contain spurious plant extracts and, sometimes, heavy metals that pose serious risks to health, an exhaustive genetics-based study has revealed.
  • The set of studies shows that traditional medicinal markets are replete with unrelated plant materials that substitute for endangered or rare ones, while the final product, in some instances, contains heavy metals, particularly lead.
  • In a review published in the journal Drug Safety, scientists from Bangalore, working with their counterparts in Canada, have called for a herbal trade authentication system to address concerns over widespread adulteration.

Tracing the genes

  • In 2008, while attempting to trace the genetic history of Phyllanthus (Leaf flower),it was a surprise to see claims of the plant being used in abundance in herbal medicines, despite its relative rarity.
  • Taking samples from 12 wholesale markets across south India (such as Bengaluru, Kollam, Madurai and Thiruvananthapuram), their DNA analysis showed that nearly 25% of samples were not Phyllanthusamarus (used to treat hepatitis), but a mixture of other species which did not contain the curative elements of phyllanthin and hypophyllanthin.
  • It focused the attention on species adulteration and developed DNA barcodes — short genetic sequences, much like a supermarket barcode, which becomes an identifying mark — for 150 species commonly used in traditional medicine.

Highly Adulterated

  • Between 2010 and 2016, five published studies or reviews detailed the scale of the adulteration.
  • Ashoka bark, which is used to cure many ailments including leucorrhea, uterine disorders, and as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial drug — whose harvesting is highly regulated under forest laws — was found to have an astounding 90% adulteration by seven other species, including papaya or drumstick bark in Tamil Nadu and Sal trees in Central India.
  • Bark and roots, which are powdered before sale, are the most adulterated, while for fruits such as Garciniaindica [kokum], adulteration is rarer.
  • Subsequent analysis of market samples from across the country showed the widespread adulteration of other species:
  • Seena — used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, from constipation to arthritis — was adulterated between 8% to as much as 50%;
  • Sida species, used for analgesic or anti-bacterial properties, was 80% adulterated.
  • The recently published review lists more than 30 medicinal varieties where adulteration has been studied.

Concern mounts

  • The researchers have suggested a policy framework which includes setting up of laboratories that use DNA-based tools and a quality assurance certification for raw products in herbal markets.
  • Unlike chemical drugs which are certified at the product stage, for traditional medicine, the certification needs to happen in markets where it is in raw form.
  • The concern is echoed by practitioners of traditional and alternative medicine too.

Impact unclear

  • While the effect of the phenomenon on humans is yet to be assessed, what is becoming clear is that lead found in a few traditional medicines is causing harm.
  • The National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI) at St. Johns Hospital in Bengaluru — which coordinates with more than 30 national centres — says the second highest cause of lead poisoning among their patients, who complain of nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, headaches, was through the intake of traditional medicines. The majority of patients are, however, from the lead battery sector.
  • Since 2014, the centre has detected more than 100 herbal products with lead ranging from 90 parts per million (ppm) to 7,000 ppm. A 2008 study co-authored by Dr. Venkatesh estimated that lead, mercury and arsenic could be present in up to 20% of traditional medicinal products.

Question: Medicine Adulteration is pervasive, persistent, and peculiar despite dedicated laws. With references to efforts that may be made by respective state governments, how can medicine adulteration be removed? Discuss.