29 November, 2020

  • Ayurvedic doctors and sanction for surgeries Social Issues
  • RT-LAMP: a new technology for detecting COVID-19 S&T
  • Scaling new heights Economy
  • India to host SCO summit tomorrow I.R
  • Question for the day

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: Ayurvedic doctors and sanction for surgeries | Page 12

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social Issues

    Sub Theme: Healthcare  |UPSC

    Context: On November 20, the Central Council of Indian Medicine, a statutory body set up under the AYUSH Ministry to regulate Indian systems of medicine, issued a gazette notification allowing postgraduate (PG)Ayurvedic practitioners to receive formal training for a variety of general surgery, ENT, ophthalmology and dental procedures. The decision follows the amendment to the Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurveda Education) Regulations, 2016, to allow PG students of Ayurveda to practise general surgery. 

    Is this decision legally sound and medically practical ? 

    • The Central Council of Indian Medicine by amending the Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurvedic Education) Regulations, 2016, has allowed postgraduates students in Ayurveda undergoing ‘Shalya’ (general surgery) and ‘Shalakya’ (dealing with eye, ear, nose, throat, head and neck, oro-dentistry) to perform 58 specified surgical procedures.
    • This move too was immediately opposed by many allopathic professionals. The AYUSH Ministry subsequently clarified that the ‘Shalya’ and ‘Shalakya’ postgraduates were already learning these procedures in their (surgical) departments in Ayurvedic medical colleges as per their training curriculum, and the amendment merely added clarity and definitions to the 2016 regulations concerning post-graduate Ayurveda education.

    Can short-term training equip them to conduct surgeries and will this dilute the medicine standards in India?

    • As such, the postgraduate Ayurvedic surgical training is not short-term but a formal three-year course. Whether the surgeries conducted in Ayurvedic medical colleges and hospitals have the same standards and outcomes as allopathic institutions requires explication and detailed formal enquiry, in the interest of patient safety.

    Will non-allopathic doctors who have undergone training be restricted to practise in rural areas having poor doctor-patient ratios?

    • As of now, no such restriction exists that limits non-allopathic doctors, including those doing Ayurvedic surgical postgraduation, to rural areas. They have the same rights as allopathic graduates and postgraduates to practise in any setting of their choice.

    How can the problem of allopathic surgeons unwilling to practise in rural areas be solved ?

    • The shortage and unwillingness of allopathic doctors, including surgeons, to serve in rural areas is now a chronic issue.
    • The government has tried to address this by mechanisms such as rural bonds, a quota for those who have served in rural service in postgraduate seats, as well as, more recently, a plan to work on increasing the number of medical colleges and postgraduate seats.
    • However, we would probably still continue to fall short of enough trained specialists in rural areas.
    • We need to explore creative ways of addressing this gap by evidence-based approaches, such as task-sharing, supported by efficient and quality referral mechanisms.
    • The advent of mid-level healthcare providers, such as Community Health Providers in many States, is also an opportunity to shift some elements of healthcare (preventive, promotive, and limited curative) to these providers, while ensuring clarity of role and career progression.

    Is it sensible to allow Ayurvedic surgeons to only assist allopathic surgeons, rather than perform surgeries themselves?

    • The AYUSH streams are recognised systems of medicine, and as such are allowed to independently practise medicine.
    • They have medical colleges with both undergraduate and postgraduate training, which include surgical disciplines for some systems, such as Ayurveda.
    • There is, however, a difference in approach in the systems of medicine, and hence models, which allow for cross-pathy.
    • However , an apprenticeship model for Ayurvedic surgeons working with allopathic surgeons might fall into a regulatory grey zone. It might require re-training Ayurvedic practitioners in the science of surgical approaches in modern medicine. Even then, there might be a limit to what they are allowed to do. Any such experiment can put patient safety in peril, and hence, will need careful oversight and evaluation.

    Can this lead to substandard care?

    • Many patients prefer to receive treatment exclusively from AYUSH providers, while some approach this form of treatment as a complement to the existing allopathic treatment they are receiving.
    • For invasive procedures, like surgery, the risk element can be high. Patients have a right to know and understand who their surgeon would be, what system of medicine they belong to, and their expertise and level of training.
    • There should not be a difference in quality of care between urban and rural patients — everyone deserves a right to quality and evidence-based care from trained professionals.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: RT-LAMP: a new technology for detecting COVID-19 | Page 11 

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science and Technology  

    Sub Theme: RT- LAMP Technology  |UPSC                

    Context:  Considering the shortcomings in finding results for COVID-19 through RT-PCR Test and COVID-19 Serology tests, the article mentions that there is an urgent need for a better technique for COVID-19 testing which is in the form of RT-LAMP (Reverse Transcriptase loop-mediated isothermal amplification) technology. Although the LAMP technique has been used in western countries for the past five years or more, the technique is new to the Indian IVD industry.

    About RT-LAMP Technology

    • Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) is a novel method that can rapidly amplify a specific nucleic acid with high specificity under isothermal conditions with the use of 4 to 6 specifically designed primers
    • This is a one-step nucleic acid amplification method to multiply specific sequences of RNA of the coronavirus.
    • Here, the RNA is first made into cDNA (copy DNA) by the usual reverse transcription. Then, the DNA is amplified by the LAMP technique.
    • This amplification occurs by auto-cycling strand displacement DNA synthesis, which is catalyzed by Bst DNA polymerase (which is an enzyme)
    • Bst DNA polymerase is an enzyme having heat-resistant property and a strand-displacemen
    • DNA amplification occurs by means of the strand displacement activity of the Bst DNA polymerase
    • When detecting the RNA genome of a pathogen such as an RNA virus, LAMP has been merged with reverse transcription (RT) into RT-LAMP to allow nucleic acid amplification
    • So far, the LAMP method has been applied to the detection of various microbes and pathogens in environmental, food, and clinical samples, including protozoa, bacteria, and viruses.
    • Several uses of LAMP for pathogen detection have been commercialized into LAMP kits.

    Benefits of LAMP Technology

    Constant Temperature - RT-LAMP technology is done at 65 degrees C, where the DNA amplification is done at a constant temperature. Whereas RT-PCR test needs different temperatures in one cycle. The temperature of the solution has to be changed from 92 degrees C to 56 degrees C and again to 72 degrees C every two minutes, and this cycle has to be repeated. 

    Expensive Machines for RT-PCR Test - In order to change the temperature constantly, RT-PCR Test needs expensive thermal cycler as well as the real time PCR machines which is not needed in LAMP Test.

    More Amplification of DNA - Quantity of DNA amplified in the LAMP technology is hundred thousand times more than that is taking place in PCR. Therefore the final assay is possible with a simple colour reaction.

    Fast Result- Results using LAMP Technology can be obtained within 30 minutes and positive samples are amplified as early as 10 minutes. This may be compared with the PCR technique which needs 8–10 hours for completion. 

    Can be stored at Lower Temperature - Another advantage of using LAMP technology is that the reagents are to be stored at 4 degree Celsius (ordinary fridge), whereas the PCR-based reagents are to be stored and transported at minus 20 degrees Celsius and needs deep freezers that escalate the cost of the COVID Test.

    Greater Accuracy – Validated by ICMR- The LAMP technology has been recently validated by the Indian Council of Medical Research with sensitivity 98.7% and specificity 100%. Thus the LAMP technology is superior to the PCR technology–based COVID-19 kits where specificity is around 95% only. Thus, in the case of LAMP-based kits, the Positive predictive value is 100% and Negative predictive value is 98.8% with accuracy of 99.38%. Way Forward

    • The Article suggests that considering the user friendly technique, procedure’s speed, simplicity and cost-effectiveness allow LAMP Technology to be the ideal method to diagnose COVID infections in India at a much faster and accurate rate.
    • Diagnostics have recently developed the LAMP technology indigenously, and their kit has been validated and approved by the ICMR for marketing. It is named LUME Screen nCoV.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Scaling new heights | Page 12

    UPSC Syllabus: | Mains: GS Paper-III – Space Technology and sectors of economy  

    Sub Theme: Commercialisation of space sector  | UPSC   

    Context: Collaboration between NASA and SpaceX is stunning because of the sheer extent of the frontier it is trying to breach. With its reusable rockets, large capsules to carry payloads and crew and competitive pricing, SpaceX has revolutionised the space sector.

    • In India too, government has started to cede its control over the space industry, starting from hiring of vendors and active outsourcing of rocket components to the present idea of allowing external agencies to use ISRO facilities.
    • Collaboration between NASA and SpaceX is remarkable because it has in fact taken the American space programme to a level that had not been possible for NASA to achieve by itself. Having their own rockets to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and back has prevented Americans from spending hugely on the mission, as they were doing earlier. This was possible only because of NASA’s active collaboration with SpaceX. Thus, the opening up of the space sector could have many more such advancements in store.
    • Space tourism could become more common as space travel becomes less expensive. There are companies now, such as Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, that will offer space flights, albeit for a very high fee.
    • Perhaps this is the stepping-stone to a future colony on the Moon, and should it come through, we will not be without Internet connections there.

    Why private sector should be involved in space industry?

    Increasing Demand- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s annual budget has crossed Rs. 10,000 crore and will grow annually. However, demand for space- based services in India is far greater than what ISRO can provide. Therefore, private sector investment will provide the additional boost in the sector. It will also increase entrepreneurship in the space sector after recent decision of central government on opening up the sector for private participation.

    Overall growth of space sector- Private sector participation is needed to ensure overall growth of the space sector. ISRO has a strong association with the industry, particularly with Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and large private sector entities like Larsen and Toubro. But most of the private sector players are Tier-2/Tier-3 vendors, providing components and services. The Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) role is restricted to ISRO. Role of private industries should be increased.

    Very less global contribution- The global space industry is estimated to be $350 billion and is likely to exceed $550 billion by 2025. Despite ISRO’s capabilities, India’s share is estimated at $7 billion (just 2% of the global market). Private sector role is must to increase India’s contributions globally.

    International trends and experience– Elon Musk’s “SpaceX” and its high profile projects have highlighted the increasing significance of the private players in the space sector. In India, despite the various strategic, security and regulatory constrains, a limited private ecosystem has evolved around the ISRO. Private are merely contracting with national space agencies to build satellites and subsystems. Contrarily, the current trend is developing entire vertically integrated operations without licensing or purchase agreements with national agencies.

    Various Benefits of private sector’s participation in space industry

    Greater pool of resources - Public resources- land, labour, capital are limited. Private sector participation will open new pool of resources and talent. It will bring more funding, and experience into space exploration activities.

    Human Capital- Restricting space activities to ISRO, limits proper utilisation of talent all over the country. With demographic dividend, private sector participation can exploit the talent across the nation contributing a lot to space explorations in India.

    More time for ISRO- Today every space mission is done by ISRO, whether its communication satellite or any weather monitoring satellite. With increased role of private player, ISRO can concentrate more on its pathbreaking innovations like Reusable PSLVs, Cryogenic rockets, mars inhabitation.

    Technological advancement– Commercialisation will also develop better technologies which is important. It will allow integration of many other technologies like artificial intelligence into space exploration activities. With experience from space activities, private sector can increase role of technology in other areas.

    Risk Sharing- Every launch consists Risk. Privatising helps in sharing the risk of cost factor. Failure costs will be distributed. Also with increased private participation, failures will reduce due to increased available human capital and mind. Joint venture brings the knowledge from various stakeholders minimises failures and increases productivity.

    Commercial demand- There is need to enhance internet connectivity for the masses, which is another demand pull factor for increased commercial interest in space. Asteroid mining is also another potential area that looks promising, with scope for monetisation and disrupting commodity markets.

     

    Issues and Concerns of private participation in space industry

    Data Risk– Though space it gives an opportunity to entrepreneurs but raw data of ISRO in the hands of public is sensitive and consists of danger of misuse or improper utilisation of data.

    Regulation- Though its a profitable investment, regulation of private sector participation is not easy. The time taken for regulatory clearances and unstable political institutions can cause delays and hurdle in decision making of investors.

    Revenue loss– ISRO will loose a fair amount of money it is earning through its space activities. This will reduce government revenue.

    Unfair commercial practices– Allowing private sector may lead to lobbying and unfair means to get space projects or launch of any satellite for their own profit. It may also lead to leakage of sensitive information by private players to other countries and companies to make profit.

    Some recommendations

    A facilitating foundation – To be able to even debate commercial space in India and their viability within the government, or to make specific recommendations to the government, there needs to be a neutral facilitating foundation without any self-interest.

    Demarcating space and defence – Issues around national security will always be a concern with privatising space activities. However, this will only hold back the country in expanding products/services. This may also lead to an ecosystem of Indian space entrepreneurs creating holding companies in space commerce friendly countries and operating their product/service, eventually creating loss of high-technology jobs and tax revenues for the country. The recent decision of government to open up space sector will help in private players participation.

    Promoting startups – It will boost startups by private players and will encourage young scientists to take future steps in this regard. A dedicated fund vehicle can be set up which would disburse money based on a national prize event, similar to Google’s XPrize, with industry leaders being the primary promoters (with the backing of ISRO), and bringing potential investors and stakeholders on the same table to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in this sector.

    ISRO and Antrix providing mentorship – The emergence of Bengaluru as an IT and aerospace hub for the country should be leveraged for the space industry. Dedicated infrastructure to enable technology development (e.g. Berlin Adlershof) should be allocated to space ventures emerging from India to assist them in the startup stage. In addition, mentorship by senior ISRO and Antrix executives will ensure they operate within the Indian space policy framework but are still able to leverage technical expertise built by ISRO in an appropriate manner.

    Space laws – The enactment of space legislations to define regulatory, legal and procedural regimes with transparent timelines for pursuing space activities by the private space industry is currently at a nascent stage.

    Manufacturing in space sector – The government has taken significant steps in the creation of an active investor mindset by rolling out programmes like ‘Make in India’. But no significant proposals have been mooted for manufacturing space-related systems in India. So there is a need for a transparent strategy on how the potential of the space sector can be leveraged under this programme.

    Establishing think-tanks – There is scope to establish an independent, wholly space- activities-focused think-tank similar to the European Space Policy Institute, constituting distinguished experts in the space field while preserving its independence in the preparation of its various research outputs, research materials and expert gatherings. Such a think-tank will not only provide a fair assessment of national goals but also, potentially, key insights on space programme management, dual-use of technologies, economic impacts of space expenditures, space law, international cooperative space agreements, etc.

    Setting up industry-academia linkups – Actively engaging academia as well as the industry is of significant importance – especially for creating systemic changes in establishing a leading research environment. One of the excellent methods of moving away from an ‘islands of excellence’ model to actively promoting interdependent engagement is by creating flagship programmes (where each of these stakeholders have concrete involvement in deliverables and gain significant benefits having long term ecosystem prospects of spin-offs). Such templates are already available with programmes such as Hodoyoshi by the Japanese government.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: India to host SCO summit tomorrow |Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International organisations  

    Sub Theme: Shanghai Cooperation Organisation  | UPSC        

    Context: India to host virtual  SCO summit Tomorrow  

    What is SCO?

    • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation aiming to maintain peace, security and stability in the Eurasian region
    • Prior to creation of SCO in 2001 , there was Shanghai Five - Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
    • Currently has 8 members – Kazakhstan , China , Kyrgyzstan , Russia ,Tajikistan , Uzbekistan , India and Pakistan

    Objectives

    • Strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states.
    • Promoting effective cooperation in -politics, trade & economy, research & technology and culture.
    • Enhancing ties in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, etc.
    • Maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.
    • Establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political & economic order.

    Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

    • Heads of State Council – The supreme SCO body which decides its internal functioning and its interaction with other States & international organisations, and considers international issues.
    • Heads of Government Council – Approves the budget, considers and decides upon issues related economic spheres of interaction within SCO.
    • Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs – Considers issues related to day-to-day activities.
    • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) – Established to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism. Based in Tashkent.
    • SCO Secretariat – Based in Beijing to provide informational, analytical & organisational support.

    Operations and mandate

    • Initially, the SCO focused on mutual intraregional efforts to curb terrorism, separatism and extremism in Central Asia.
    • In 2006, SCO’s agenda widened to include combatting international drug trafficking as a source of financing global.
    • In 2008, SCO actively participated in bringing back stability in Afghanistan.

    Importance for India - India’s membership of SCO can help in achieving regional integration, promote connectivity and stability across borders.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: New species of gecko found in the Eastern Ghats |Page 11

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment & Biodiversity

    Sub Theme: Geckos in India  | UPSC    

    Context:  A new species of lizard, the smallest known Indian gekkonid (The team gave it a common name – Sabin’s Nellore dwarf gecko.) has been discovered in the Eastern Ghats. Studies show that the species belonged to the genus Cnemaspis. In India, 45 diverse species of Cnemaspis have been found, of which 34 are from the Western Ghats.

    12th Gecko Species found Outside Western Ghats

    • The newly discovered dwarf gecko - Cnemaspis avasabinae is the twelfth species to be discovered outside the Western Ghats and also the first species reported from the Velikonda Range in Andhra Pradesh.
    • This discovery suggests that the genus may be even more widely distributed than previously thought.
    • Cnemaspis is one of several groups of gecko that are very diverse and widespread over much of peninsular India.
    • Thus, more species needs to be found in places not surveyed earlier. This is because in the past, it was thought that there were only a few species of gecko many of which were relatively widespread.
    • But now it is likely that each hill range or isolated forest patch may have its own species in peninsular India especially outside Western Ghats.
    • Special Features of the new Specie
    • The most interesting find was that the males of the species lacked femoral pores. Generally, most variants of lizards have femoral pores in both the sexes, and the secretions from these pores play a role in communication.
    • The new species was sighted in a dry evergreen forest among the rocks beneath a small stream at a height of less than 200 metres above sea level and measured less than 2.9 cm.
    • The dorsal colour of the head, body and tail of the reptile is grey-pink with six pairs of dark brown patches.

    Researchers also found two Species of Gecko in 2018

    • Researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Thiruvananthapuram and Zoological Survey of India and National Centre for Biological Sciences have found two new species of geckos –
    • The Spot-necked Day Gecko
    • Anaimudi Day Gecko
    • The Spot-necked Day Gecko and the Anaimudi Day Gecko, both very distinctly-patterned lizards are found only in the higher reaches of the Agasthyamalai and Anamalai hill ranges in the Western Ghats.

    About Geckos

    • Geckos are reptiles which adapt to different habitats from rain forests, to deserts, to cold mountain slopes.
    • Over a long period of time, geckos have developed special physical features to help them survive and avoid predators.
    • Gecko tails serve many purposes. They help balance their weight as they climb branches, they act as fuel tanks to store fat, and as camouflage to help them disappear into their environment. Geckos are also able to shed their tails if a predator grabs them.
    • Velikonda Range
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