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Essential key terms from the last week’s news headlines or between the lines categorised as per the relevance to the UPSC-CSE syllabus along with the MCQs followed.
Why in news?
— The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023, held in the Swiss town of Davos, ended Friday – a conference that started in a world possibly fundamentally altered, but whose processes and outcomes remained pretty much business as usual.
— The theme this year was ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’.
— On the economy
Most business leaders were upbeat about the economy, with US and the European Union (EU) seemingly beyond the risk of a recession now. China ending its zero Covid curbs and opening shop again added to the positive outlook. Indeed, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He made a strong pitch about his country’s opening up, saying a “noticeable increase of import, more investment by companies, and consumption returning back to normal can be expected” in 2023. “If we work hard enough, we are confident that in 2023, China’s growth will most likely return to its normal trend,” Liu said in his address on January 17.
However, central banks of the major economies cautioned that concerns still remained, and said they would keep interest rates high to ensure inflation is under check.
“Stay the course’ is my mantra,” European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. The US Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard was quoted as reminding investors that “inflation remains high, and policy will need to be sufficiently restrictive for some time.
Many also pointed out that China opening up could mean a rise in its energy consumption, thereby driving up energy prices.
Also, as the richer nations look to focus inwards, protecting their own workers, energy sufficiency, supply lines, etc., concerns were raised that this policy direction would hit developing economies. Raghuram Rajan, former Reserve Bank of India Governor, was quoted by Reuters as saying, “This becomes a rich-country game, right? We can subsidise this, you can subsidise that – what about the poor countries, who have limited fiscal room? They get left out in the cold.”
— On Ukraine
Ukraine kept up its demand for more military aid to fight its war against Russia, and more financial aid to rebuild after the war, saying the reconstruction fund commitments should start coming in now and not after the war ends. “The more we do now, the less we will have to do in reconstruction,” Odile Françoise Renaud-Basso, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was quoted saying by Reuters.
While Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a video address, First lady Olena Zelenska went to Davos in person. In his address, Zelenskyy made an indirect criticism of the US and Germany dithering over sending tanks to his country. “There are times where we shouldn’t hesitate or we shouldn’t compare when someone says, “I will give tanks if someone else will also share his tanks,” Zelenskyy was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Everyone agreed upon the need for green energy and the need for more money to flight climate change. According to the WEF’s website, “The World Economic Forum, supported by more than 45 partners launched the Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA), a global initiative to fund and grow new and existing public, private and philanthropic partnerships (PPPPs) to help unlock the $3 trillion of financing needed each year to reach net zero, reverse nature loss and restore biodiversity by 2050.”
Greta Thunberg and other activists organised a protest, with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Fossil fuels have got to go”. Pakistan brought up the issue of a loss and damage fund for the developing countries.
The EU raised concerns over a US green energy law that benefits products, such as electric vehicles, made in America. But West Virginia senator Joe Manchin said the idea was not to hurt any other country but to benefit the environment. “You better be able to do it quicker, faster and better than any place in the world and then share it with your friends. That’s what we’re going to do,” Manchin, a Democrat, said.
The AP reported that “International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, when asked for one thing she would change to accelerate the net zero transition, said she would lock the US, China, India and European Union in a room. “Let them out after they sign in blood a commitment to work together to save the planet,” she said.
— Projects launched
The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that more than 50 “high-impact initiatives” was launched at the event. Maharashtra Institution for Transformation (MITRA) signed a partnership with the forum on urban transformation to give the state government “strategic and technical direction”, PTI reported, while a thematic centre on healthcare and life sciences is to be set up in Telangana. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI) aims to develop new vaccines for future pandemics.
— Who needs Davos
The jarring spectacle of the Davos event – where the uber-rich and powerful fly in on private jets to talk about poverty alleviation and climate action – came in for criticism yet again. However, others pointed out that despite its flaws, the conference is an opportunity for many decision-makers to meet and interact with each other. As the Economist editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes put it, while the talks at Davos can be described as “highly-caffeinated speed dating”, more conversation and communication is better than less contact and less communication.
Point to ponder: What are the main findings of WEF survey?
The theme for 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos meeting is:
(a) ‘History at a Turning Point’
(b) ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’
(c) ‘The Great Reset’
(d) ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’
Why in news?
— A recent study in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases held that “hybrid immunity” provides better protection against severe Covid-19, while all immunity against a re-infection wanes within a few months. The study is based on a meta-analysis of 11 other studies on the protective effectiveness of previous SARS-CoV-2 (Covid) infection and 15 studies on the protective effectiveness of hybrid immunity.
Anonna Dutt Explains:
What is hybrid immunity?
— Hybrid immunity is gained from a previous infection plus vaccines – either the primary doses or both primary and booster doses. The study said that a hybrid immunity offers a “higher magnitude and durability” of protection as compared to infection alone, emphasising the need for vaccination.
— However, with the faster-spreading omicron variants leading to more infections and consequently more people developing this hybrid immunity, the study suggested that booster doses may be delayed.
“We already know that hybrid immunity provides the best protection – an infection after vaccination acts like a booster. Getting a natural infection – best after vaccination so that the risk of death is lower – provides better protection than vaccines alone because it prepares the body against the entire virus, rather than say just the spike protein,” said Dr Pragya Sharma, director, Andaman & Nicobar Islands Institute of Medical Sciences.
— Protection against severe disease and hospitalisations from a Sars-CoV-2 infection alone was found to be 82.5% at three months after the last shot or infection. This protection stood at 74.6% at 12 months and 71.6% at 15 months. Protection against reinfection declined faster, standing at 65.2% at three months and dropping to 24.7% at 12 months and 15.5% at 15 months.
— In comparison, hybrid immunity with just the primary vaccine doses was found to be 96% at three months and 97.4% at 12 months. The same can offer 69% protection against reinfection at three months, dropping to 41.8% at 12 months.
— The effectiveness of hybrid immunity gained from infection coupled with the primary as well as a booster dose stood at 97.2% at three months and 95.3% at six months. The same immunity was found to be 68.6% effective at three months and 46.5% at six months.
Implications of the findings
— The study said, “These results provide information that can be used to tailor guidance on the number and timing of SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations.”
— It said that in regions with high Sars-CoV-2 sero-prevalence, the primary vaccination – focused mainly on those at the highest risk of severe disease such as the old or co-morbid – can offer high protection against severe disease and hospitalisation for at least one year.
— As per the World Health Organisation, the global sero-prevalence – presence of antibodies against Sars-CoV-2 whether because of infection or vaccination – stood at 67% as of October 2021. Two-thirds of Indians had these antibodies as early as June-July 2021 after the delta variant wave earlier that year.
— The other key recommendation is to roll out booster vaccine drives whenever an increase in the number of infections is expected.
(Source: Study finds ‘hybrid immunity’ most effective against severe Covid: the findings, implications explained by Anonna Dutt)
Point to ponder: Indian inflection of herd immunity’ has deep cultural roots. Discuss.
With reference to recent developments regarding ‘Recombinant vector Vaccines’, consider the following statements (2021):
1. Genetic engineering is applied in the development of these vaccines.
2. Bacteria and viruses are used as vectors.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Why in news?
— Since antibiotics were introduced to the world in the mid-20th century, deaths attributable to infections dropped from over 50% to 10-15%. Experts have been warning for decades that the threat of antibiotic resistance could take us back in time to when even simple infections were deadly.
— A study in 2019 found more than 1 million people a year died from infections linked to microbes that are resistant to antibiotics — more than those who died due to malaria or with HIV/AIDS.
— Experts describe antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. They predict that if the problem remains unsolved, 10 million people could die as a result by 2050.
What causes antibiotic resistance?
— Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve to evade antibiotics. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the biggest drivers of resistance. That means that the more we use antibiotics, the worse the problem of antibiotic resistance becomes.
— Antibiotics work by binding to a specific target protein on a bacteria, then entering to kill it from the inside. Penicillin, for example, weakens the bacterial cell wall, causing the cell to disintegrate.
— The most common ways bacteria evade antibiotics come from mutations that allow them to stop drugs from binding to bacteria. It’s like the bacteria changed the locks so the antibiotic key no longer opens the cell door.
“Bacteria can also achieve resistance by producing proteins that inactivate or modify the antibiotic, so it no longer binds to the bacteria. Or the target protein is mutated so the antibiotic can no longer bind to it,” said Gerry Wright, a biochemist who specializes in antibiotic resistance.
— However, worst of all is when bacteria evolve many of these mechanisms in backup, so even if you overcome one, other resistances might fill the gap.
How to solve the problem?
— Antibiotic resistance will always be with us. It’s the nature of evolution by natural selection that means bacteria will always find ways to evade antibiotics.
— However, experts are optimistic we can find ways to limit antibiotic resistance in the next decades, at least enough to stop the issue from spiraling into a bigger crisis.
“I’m hopeful we can overcome the concerns about antibiotic resistance. Scientists in the field are dedicated to solving these big problems and preserving our ability to control infectious diseases that is so important to our quality of life,” said Wright.
— Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as developing a drug that will permanently overcome antibiotic resistance. It’s incredibly complex science, even more so than finding a vaccine for a virus such as COVID-19. For one, there’s huge diversity among bacteria — not all drugs work on a given organism, and not all organisms are killed by a given drug.
Option 1: Modify existing antibiotics
Scientists have been working on the issue from many different angles. One approach is to modify old antibiotics so they overcome resistance.
“Penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics have undergone many rounds of modifications by medicinal chemists to improve their drug-like properties and overcome resistance,” said Wright.
But Wright explained that the ability to tinker with these structures is not infinite. It’s more of a delaying tactic than fundamentally fixing the core issue of antibiotic resistance.
“At some point, there are diminishing returns in that new compounds either have poor drug-like properties or toxicities that make them unsuitable,” he said.
Toxicity is the ability of a substance to have a poisonous effect and either cause harm or death.
Option 2: Develop new antibiotics
Another strategy is to make brand-new drugs, but this approach hasn’t been very successful in recent decades.
“The reality is that the last genuinely new chemical structure that has resulted in a drug that is currently being used in humans was discovered in the mid-1980s,” Wright said.
But there are some signs of progress. For one, scientists are now armed with much more sophisticated drug discovery technologies, not least artificial intelligence (AI).
“Examples of scientific innovations include computational machine learning approaches to screen drugs in silico, and methods to screen many different combinations of compounds for antibiotic effects,” said Blainey.
“In silico” refers to experiments performed via computer simulation.
These new innovations are helping scientists overcome older challenges in drug discovery. The hope is that antibiotic-resistant drugs can be pushed through drug development pipelines quickly enough for them to make an impact in global health care.
But central to the issue is that antibiotic resistance develops quickly whereas antimicrobials — the basis of antibiotic drugs — are developed slowly. Scientists hear the clock ever ticking.
Is the Global fight against antibiotic resistance lacking ?
— As with the race for COVID-19 vaccines, overcoming antibiotic resistance will require tremendous international effort dedicated to the problem. But that’s exactly what’s missing.
“What makes the resistance challenge so acute in 2023 is that there is no longer a well-organized, well-funded, and functioning pipeline of new drug candidates, yet resistance continues to emerge,” said Wright.
— Reports indicate there were 43 antibiotics in clinical trials or pending approval in December 2020. For comparison, over 1,300 anticancer agents were at similar stages of development.
— Blainey said that many of the issues here came from the commercialization of drug development.
“Sadly, some large companies have given up their antibiotics programs based around commercial considerations and several small companies developing new antibiotics have failed financially before their candidates reached the clinic. We really need more investment in all antibiotic discovery strategies,” he told DW.
What else you should know?
— In the short term, some experts want more regulation of antibiotics so their use is limited to situations when they are strictly necessary. The hope is this will buy us some time to slow down antibiotic resistance while drug discovery catches up.
— Antibiotics are not well regulated in many parts of the world. For example, antibiotics were “flying off the shelves” during the COVID-19 pandemic in India, where people can buy them over the counter in pharmacies.
— Limiting the use of antibiotics in agriculture would also have a major impact, experts say.
— The EU and US have banned the use of antibiotics for livestock growth, and in 2022, the EU brought in legislation to prohibit all forms of routine antibiotic use in farming.
(Source: How bad is the problem of antibiotic resistance, and how to solve it by Deutsche Welle)
Point to ponder: What is The Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) report?
Which of the following are the reasons for the occurrence of multi-drug resistance in microbial pathogens in India? (2019)
(a) Genetic predisposition of some people.
(b) Taking incorrect doses of antibiotics to cure diseases.
(c) Using antibiotics in livestock farming.
(d) Multiple chronic diseases in some people.
Why in news?
— The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday (January 16) published a discussion paper on “loan loss provision”, proposing a framework for adopting an expected loss (EL)-based approach for provisioning by banks in case of loan defaults.
— The RBI’s proposal is based on the premise that the present “incurred loss”-based approach for provision by banks is inadequate, and there is a need to shift to the “expected credit loss” regime in order to avoid any systemic issues.
Hitesh Vyas Explains:
What is loan-loss provision?
— The RBI defines a loan loss provision as an expense that banks set aside for defaulted loans. Banks set aside a portion of the expected loan repayments from all loans in their portfolio to cover the losses either completely or partially. In the event of a loss, instead of taking a loss in its cash flows, the bank can use its loan loss reserves to cover the loss.
— Since the bank does not expect all loans to become impaired, there is usually enough in the loan loss reserves to cover the full loss for any one or a small number of loans when needed.
— An increase in the balance of reserves is called loan loss provision. The level of loan loss provision is determined based on the level expected to protect the safety and soundness of the bank.
And what is the expected loss-based approach?
— Under this practice, a bank is required to estimate expected credit losses based on forward-looking estimations, rather than wait for credit losses to be actually incurred before making corresponding loss provisions.
— As per the proposed framework, banks will need to classify financial assets (primarily loans, including irrevocable loan commitments, and investments classified as held-to-maturity or available-for-sale) into one of three categories — Stage 1, Stage 2, or Stage 3 — depending upon the assessed credit losses on them, at the time of initial recognition as well as on each subsequent reporting date, and make necessary provisions.
Stage 1 assets are financial assets that have not had a significant increase in credit risk since initial recognition or that have low credit risk at the reporting date. For these assets, 12-month expected credit losses are recognised and interest revenue is calculated on the gross carrying amount of the asset.
Stage 2 assets are financial instruments that have had a significant increase in credit risk since initial recognition, but there is no objective evidence of impairment. For these assets, lifetime expected credit losses are recognised, but interest revenue is still calculated on the gross carrying amount of the asset.
Stage 3 assets include financial assets that have objective evidence of impairment at the reporting date. For these assets, lifetime expected credit loss is recognised, and interest revenue is calculated on the net carrying amount.
What are the benefits of this approach?
— The forward-looking expected credit losses approach will further enhance the resilience of the banking system in line with globally accepted norms. It is likely to result in excess provisions as compared to shortfall in provisions as seen in the incurred loss approach, RBI said in the discussion paper.
What is the problem with the incurred loss-based approach?
— The incurred loss approach requires banks to provide for losses that have already occurred or been incurred.
— The delay in recognising expected losses under an “incurred loss” approach was found to exacerbate the downswing during the financial crisis of 2007-09. Faced with a systemic increase in defaults, the delay in recognising loan losses resulted in banks having to make higher levels of provisions which ate into the capital maintained precisely at a time when banks needed to shore up their capital. This affected banks’ resilience and posed systemic risks.
— Further, the delays in recognising loan losses overstated the income generated by the banks which, coupled with dividend payouts, impacted their capital base because of reduced internal accruals — which too, affected the resilience of banks.
(Source: Loan loss provision by banks: Why has RBI proposed a new forward-looking approach? by Hitesh Vyas)
Point to ponder: High rate of defaults in education loans is a worrying sign for poor students. Discuss.
Why is the offering of “teaser loans” by commercial banks a cause of economic concern?(2011)
1. The teaser loans are considered to be an aspect of sub-prime lending and banks may be exposed to the risk of defaulters in future.
2. In India, the teaser loans are mostly given to inexperienced entrepreneurs to set up manufacturing or export units.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Why in news?
— The Supreme Court on Friday held that chargesheets are not ‘public documents’ and enabling their free public access violates the provisions of the Criminal Code of Procedure as it compromises the rights of the accused, victim, and the investigation agencies. Before dismissing the PIL seeking directions to the police or investigating agencies like the ED or the CBI, a two-judge bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar also cautioned against the possibility of ‘misuse’.
Khadija Khan Explains:
What is a chargesheet?
— A chargesheet, as defined under Section 173 CrPC, is the final report prepared by a police officer or investigative agencies after completing their investigation of a case.
— After preparing the chargesheet, the officer-in-charge of the police station forwards it to a Magistrate, who is empowered to take notice of the offences mentioned in it.
— The chargesheet should contain details of names, the nature of the information, and offences. Whether the accused is under arrest, in custody, or has been released, whether any action was taken against him, are all important questions that the chargesheet answers.
— Further, when the chargesheet relates to offences for which there is sufficient evidence against the accused, the officer forwards it to the Magistrate, complete with all documents. This forms the basis for the prosecution’s case and the charges to be framed.
“The charge-sheet is nothing but a final report of the police officer under s. 173(2) of the CrPC,” the apex court held in its 1991 ruling in K Veeraswami vs UOI & Ors.
— A chargesheet must be filed against the accused within a prescribed period of 60-90 days, otherwise the arrest is illegal and the accused is entitled to bail.
How is a chargesheet different from an FIR?
— The term ‘chargesheet’ has been expressly defined under Section 173 of the CrPC but ‘First Information Report’ or FIR, has not been defined in either the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or the CrPC. Instead, it finds a place under the police regulations/ rules under Section 154 of CrPC, which deals with ‘Information in Cognizable Cases’.
— While the chargesheet is the final report filed towards the end of an investigation, an FIR is filed at the ‘first’ instance’ that the police is informed of a cognizable offense or offence for which one can be arrested without a warrant; such as rape, murder, kidnapping.
— Further, an FIR does not decide a person’s guilt but a chargesheet is complete with evidence and is often used during the trial to prove the offenses the accused is charged with.
— After filing an FIR, the investigation takes place. Only if the police have sufficient evidence can the case be forwarded to the Magistrate, otherwise, the accused is released from custody under Section 169 of the CrPC. The law laid down by the Supreme Court in 1967 in Abhinandan Jha & Ors vs Dinesh Mishra reiterates this.
— Finally, the FIR should be filed at the first instance of receiving knowledge of the occurrence of a cognizable offense. According to Section 154 (3) of the CrPC, if any person is aggrieved by the refusal of authorities to file FIR, they can send the complaint to the Superintendent of Police, who will either investigate himself or direct it to their subordinate.
— A chargesheet is filed by the police or law-enforcement/ investigative agency only after they have gathered sufficient evidence against the accused in respect of the offenses mentioned in the FIR, otherwise, a ‘cancellation report’ or ‘untraced report’ can be filed when due to lack of evidence.
Why is a chargesheet not a ‘public document’?
— Dismissing the plea, the Court held that a chargesheet cannot be made publicly available as it’s not a ‘public document’ under Sections 74 and 76 of the Evidence Act, as argued by the petitioners’.
— Section 74 of the Evidence Act defines ‘public documents’ as those which form the acts or records of sovereign authority, official bodies, tribunals, and of public offices either legislative, judicial or executive in any part of India, Commonwealth or a foreign country. It also includes public records “kept in any State of private documents”.
— Meanwhile, Section 76 of the Evidence Act mandates every public officer having custody over such documents to provide its copy pursuant to a demand and payment of legal fee, accompanied by a certificate of attestation along with the date, seal, name and designation of the officer.
— While dictating its order, the Court said that reliance on Sections 74 and 76 was ‘misconceived’ and added, “Documents mentioned in Section 74 of the Evidence Act can only be said to be public documents, certified copies of which are to be given by the concerned public authority having the custody of such a public document. Copy of chargesheets along with necessary public documents cannot be said to be ‘public documents’ under Section 74 of the Evidence Act.”
— The Court also clarified that as per Section 75 of the Evidence Act, all documents other than those listed under Section 74’ are private documents.
— The Court rejected the petitioner’s reliance on a 2016 ruling of the Supreme Court in ‘Youth Bar Association of India vs UOI’, where it directed all police stations in the country to publish copies of FIRs online within 24 hours of registration, except in cases where offenses were of sensitive nature.
— The Court rejected the reliance on its judgment by saying that the directions given by it in the 2016 ruling only applied to FIRs and could not extend to chargesheets.
— “This was done so that if the innocent accused are harassed, they are able to get relief from the competent court and are not taken by surprise,” the Court said in reference to its 2016 judgment. The direction was issued in favor of the accused in that case and could not be stretched to the public at large, the Bench added.
(Source: ‘Chargesheets are not public documents’: Breaking down the SC ruling by Khadija Khan)
Point to ponder: Why are chargesheets not public documents?
With reference to chargesheet, consider the following statements:
2. They are not ‘public documents’ and enabling their free public access violates the provisions of the Criminal Code of Procedure.
Which of the above statements are correct?
(a) Only 1
(b) Only 2
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
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