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Daily Current Affairs 15.02.2022 (Govt. bans 54 new Chinese mobile apps, ASI reviving underwater division, The Palk Bay fisheries conflict: A tale of competing livelihoods and a depleted catch, The fight against antimicrobial resistance)

Daily Current Affairs 15.02.2022 (Govt. bans 54 new Chinese mobile apps, ASI reviving underwater division, The Palk Bay fisheries conflict: A tale of competing livelihoods and a depleted catch, The fight against antimicrobial resistance)

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1. Govt. bans 54 new Chinese mobile apps

The Centre on Monday banned over 50 new Chinese mobile applications, including Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade, Tencent Xriver, Nice Video baidu and Viva Video Editor, citing concerns over privacy and national security.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had issued interim directions for blocking 54 apps, sources said, adding these were allegedly collecting sensitive user data, which were being misused and transmitted to servers outside India.

2. ASI reviving underwater division

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is in the process of reviving its underwater archaeology wing that had become defunct over the years, Culture Ministry officials said.

A senior official told The Hindu that the underwater wing was being revived, while the details of excavations and projects to be taken up were yet to be decided.

Another official said the ASI had appointed Alok Tripathi, an expert in underwater archaeology, as its Additional Director General in 2021.

The Ministry has also informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture that the underwater wing would be revived.

The standing committee had highlighted the need for reviving underwater archaeological sites in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Odisha in its report on February 2.

Archaeological Survey of India

The Archaeological Survey of India or ASI is an attached agency of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of India.

  • It engages in archaeological research and conservation, and protection and preservation of ancient monuments and archaeological sites in the country.
  • ASI regulates all archaeological activities conducted in the country through the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act), 1958.
  • It also regulates the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
  • It was founded in 1861 by a British Army engineer who took a keen interest in archaeology in India, James Cunningham.
  • Archaeological pursuits started much earlier, in the 18th century, when Sir William Jones formed the Asiatic Society in 1784 together with a group of antiquarians.
  • Alexander Cunnigham is also known as the ‘Father of Indian Archaeology’.
  • It is a statutory body after independence, under the AMASR Act, 1958.
  • The ASI is headed by a Director-General and is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • ASI has more than 3500 protected monuments and archaeological sites of National Importance that it protects and preserves.
  • ASI publications:
    • Ancient India
    • Epigraphia Indica
    • Indian Archaeology: A Review

Archaeological Survey of India Activities

The ASI performs and regulates all activities related to archaeological research and excavation in India. It also preserves and maintains historical monuments and sites.

  • It conducts archaeological excavations and explorations.
  • It maintains, conserves and preserves protected monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.
  • It engages in the chemical protection of monuments and antiquarian remains.
  • It performs the architectural survey of monuments.
  • It conducts epigraphical and numismatic studies.
  • It sets up site museums.
  • It gives training in archaeology.
  • It publishes material in archaeology.
  • It also conducts archaeological expeditions outside India.
  • It engages in horticultural operations in and around archaeological sites.
  • It regulates the AMASR Act and the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, among others.

ASI Circles

The ASI has about 30 circles into which it has divided the whole country for the maintenance of monuments and carrying out archaeological work. The list of ASI circles (as of April 2021) are given in the table below.

Agra Aizawl Amravati 
Aurangabad Bangalore Bhopal 
Bhubaneswar Chandigarh Chennai 
Dehradun Delhi Dharwad 
Goa Guwahati Hampi 
Hyderabad Jabalpur Jaipur 
Jhansi Jodhpur Kolkata 
Lucknow Mumbai Meerut 
Nagpur Patna Raipur 
Rajganj Rajkot Ranchi 
Sarnath Shimla Srinagar 
Thiruchirapalli Thrissur Vadodara 

There is a mini circle at Leh, Ladakh.

3. The Palk Bay fisheries conflict: A tale of competing livelihoods and a depleted catch

Why are both the fishing communities from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka at odds with each other?

For over a decade now, fishermen of India and Sri Lanka have been unable to agree on how to share the fishes in the narrow Palk Strait which separates the two countries.

The main contention between the fishermen on either side is about the use of “bottom trawling”, the fishing method used by fishermen from Tamil Nadu. In this method, fishermen set out on mechanised boats and drag large fishing nets through the seabed. While they primarily target fish species and shrimps, the practice also scoops out eggs, young fishes, and other marine organisms damaging the seabed.

Apart from customary condemnations and denials whenever there are fishermen deaths, there is little effort from authorities on either side to find a solution to this problem.

The story so far: The Sri Lankan Navy on Saturday arrested 12 Indian fishermen from Rameswaram district, Tamil Nadu, and seized two of their fishing boats on charges of engaging in illegal fishing activity. This is the third such arrest in a fortnight, prompting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin to, yet again, write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking the Centre’s immediate intervention to secure their release. The development comes about 10 days after fishermen in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, held a large protest, demanding strict implementation of Sri Lankan laws against illegal fishing by foreign vessels.

Though a long-dragging issue dominating Indo-Lanka bilateral ties, the recent weeks saw an escalation in tensions between fishermen following the death of two Jaffna fishermen, reportedly in mid-sea clashes with their Tamil Nadu counterparts. Sri Lanka has termed the fisheries conflict a diplomatic “flashpoint”, threatening ties that are on the mend after a period of strain.

What is the backstory?

For well over a decade now, fishermen of India and Sri Lanka have been unable to agree on how to share the fishes in the narrow Palk Strait separating the two countries. The Strait begins just north of Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula and spans about 100 km at its widest point. It is known to be a breeding ground for rich marine resources, especially shrimp.

Although India and Sri Lanka agreed to divide the Strait with an imaginary boundary line in the 1970s —the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) – Indian fishermen, from the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, and from Puducherry, are frequently arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for “poaching” or engaging in “illegal” fishing activity in Sri Lankan waters. Several rounds of bilateral negotiations between the two governments and talks between fishing community leaders from both sides have been held over the years, but a solution remains elusive.

What is the conflict, and between whom?

The main contention between the fishermen on either side is not so much about territorial rights, as historically both sides have amicably shared marine resources in the stretch. It is more to do with the use of “bottom trawling”, the fishing method used by fishermen from Tamil Nadu.

A group of daily-wage fishermen set out on mechanised boats, owned by other affluent fishermen, and drag large fishing nets through the seabed. While they primarily target fish species and shrimps, the practice of bottom trawling scoops out eggs, young fishes, and other marine organisms that eventually die and are thrown back into the sea.

The primary conflict here is between the Tamil Nadu trawler owners and the northern Sri Lankan fishermen, who are trying to rebuild their livelihoods after Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009. Until then, they were denied access to the sea at different points and displaced from their homes.

It is in the post-war decade that the Sri Lankan fishermen started voicing concern about depleting catches, owing to incessant trawling by the Indian fishermen. With the Indian side of the IMBL already ravaged by decades of high profit-yielding bottom trawling, they flock to the Sri Lankan side, with relatively less damage and therefore, more marine resources.

The clash now is essentially over competing livelihoods of two Tamil-speaking fisher communities, with a glaring asymmetry in power and resources. The Tamil Nadu fishing community, especially the trawler owners, are not only wealthier but also very politically influential. The northern Sri Lankan fishermen, on the other hand, are coming out of a brutal war, braving enormous losses and destruction. They use modest boats to practice traditional fishing and get little state support to resurrect their livelihoods.

Why is it yet to be resolved?

One reason is the growing human cost of the conflict —five Indian fishermen returned home dead last year after the Sri Lankan Navy allegedly attacked them mid-sea. More recently, the death of the two Jaffna fishermen has aggravated the anger on the Sri Lankan side as well.

For years now, India has urged Sri Lanka to adopt a humanitarian approach when it deters Indian fishermen. However, when fishermen deaths occur, apart from customary condemnations and denials, there is little effort from authorities on either side to ensure investigations are completed and perpetrators brought to book.

Secondly, New Delhi tried diverting Tamil Nadu fishermen to deep sea fishing methods to wean them away from bottom trawling in the Palk Strait. But the initiative did not take off as planned , and the fishermen still resort to trawling, and often get caught by Sri Lankan authorities.

Thirdly, Tamil Nadu is yet to agree to the chief demand of northern Tamil fishermen — to stop bottom trawling to restore trust between the fishermen on both sides, and provide a real opportunity to re-commence talks, which they prefer over confrontation.

The northern Tamil fishermen repeatedly acknowledge Tamil Nadu’s solidarity and support extended to Sri Lankan Tamils during the years of war and later. But they also remind their brothers across the Palk Strait that solidarity does not justify exploitation of resources on which their lives and livelihoods depend.

4. The fight against antimicrobial resistance

AMR is a leading cause of death around the world, with the highest number of deaths occurring in low-resource settings

Bacterial antimicrobial resistance occurs when changes in bacteria causes the drugs used to treat the infection to become less effective. A paper authored by Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators states that around 4.95 million deaths were associated with bacterial anti microbial resistance in 2019 alone.

The paper is an analysis of the burden of AMR, producing estimates for 204 countries and territories, 23 bacterial pathogens, and 88 drug-pathogen combinations in 2019. The six leading pathogens for deaths associated with resistance included E. coli, S. aureus, K. pneumoniae, S. pneumoniae, A. baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They have been registered as priority pathogens by WHO.

The indiscriminate use of antibiotics, no proper sanitation and the lack of awareness among the public about the dangers of AMR are some of the reasons which need to be tackled in order to fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Ramya Kannan

Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators, “Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis”, The Lancet, January 19, 2022,

After two years of relentless conversations about one pathogen that has ruled over the world causing over 52 lakh deaths in this period, The Lancet recently woke the world up to six other deadly pathogens (individually, or in combination with certain drugs) wrecking havoc in 2019, as a result of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). A late January 2022 publication in the peer-reviewed journal estimated that 4.95 million deaths were associated with bacterial anti microbial resistance in 2019. Bacterial antimicrobial resistance occurs when changes in bacteria causes the drugs used to treat the infection to become less effective.

Arguably the first such comprehensive study on AMR globally, the paper authored by Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators states that AMR is a leading cause of death around the world, with the highest number of deaths occurring in low-resource settings. “Understanding the burden of AMR and the leading pathogen-drug combinations contributing to it is crucial to making informed and location specific policy decisions, particularly about infection prevention and control programmes, access to essential antibiotics, and research and development of new vaccines and antibiotics,” the authors have recommended.

Research on a massive scale

The study is an analysis of the burden of AMR, producing estimates for 204 countries and territories, 23 bacterial pathogens, and 88 drug-pathogen combinations in 2019. They obtained data from multiple data sources — including from published studies (microbiology data, in patient data, data on multiple causes of death, and pharmaceutical sales data), and directly from the collaborators on the Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance project, members of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors collaborator network. Additionally, they computed two counter factual scenarios — one where all drug resistant infections are replaced by susceptible infections, and secondly, a scenario where all drug resistant infections are replaced with no infections. The deaths and burden of AMR were estimated in these two scenarios, and served as a measure to inform the development of potential intervention strategies.

The six leading pathogens for deaths associated with resistance included E. coli, S. aureus, K. pneumoniae, S. pneumoniae, A. baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They accounted for 73.4 % of the deaths attributable to AMR, and have been identified as priority pathogens by WHO.

While the study was done in 2019, it is possible that the intervening epidemic has worsened the situation in terms of pushing AMR levels further. Dr. V. Ramasubramanian, Senior consultant, Dept of Infectious Diseases, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, explains that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of antibiotics went up. The tendency was also to use antibiotics for patients on a ventilator with fever. Secondly, due to the large number of patients during the peaking waves, lack of appropriate infection control (as will be done in the case of patients with resistant bacteria) was rendered impossible. He points out that antibiotics are the only batch of drugs, used in one person, that can impact the rest of the community. When the gut biome is modified and excreted, it can lead to contamination of lands and water sources, thus spreading resistant bacteria further in the community.

“We have always known that the burden of AMR in the world was huge. If action was not taken it was not because of the lack of data,” says Abdul Ghafur, infectious diseases expert, Apollo Hospitals, and architect of the Chennai Declaration. “It is because at the global level, we lost momentum.” India had framed its AMR policy in 2017, but only three States have initiated a state plan of action. According to official sources, 11 States are still working on a state plan of action.

Action plan to control AMR

“We should apply the principles of COVID control to AMR control. By whom was the most effective strategies against COVID deployed? By the public. If you look at global strategy, the public have been consistently kept out of the picture. We should involve the public, carpet bomb them with information and announce an AMR action plan that will involve them in control. Another major strategy would be to ensure hygiene and sanitation in all places. In a study that we conducted among healthy volunteers, 14 % of them were carrying colistin-resistant bacteria in the gut, that had a food source, they did not contract it in a hospital, Dr. Ghafur said.

AMR, reasons Dr. Ramasubramanian, is a classic case of ‘tragedy of the commons’ where a perfect solution is elusive. “You have got to use antibiotics, they are life saving. But there are so many factors that impact on such use such as using the right drugs, following the right quantity/schedule, over the counter issue of antibiotics, exposure to antibiotics used in certain sectors in farming and poultry as well as the lack of clear guidelines to follow (by the medical community) and incentives by the pharma industry to write out prescriptions for antibiotics …”. The authors of the paper also make a strong case for improving sanitation across the world, as part of an intervention strategy to prevent infections. Along with implementing hospital based prevention programmes, community based programmes that will improve hygiene, water and sanitation is essential. This is particularly important in low and middle income countries where the burden of AMR is highest and a clean water and sanitation network difficult to come by.

They have also suggested that preventing infections through vaccinations will automatically reduce the need for antibiotics. Currently, vaccines are available only for one of the six leading pathogens (S pneumoniae) but vaccine programmes are reportedly on for some others as well.

The way forward

Reducing exposure to antibiotics that are used in the farming sector and poultry industry is also key. In this context, Dr. Ghafur points out that India’s move to ban colistin usage in the poultry industry will go a long way in reducing the AMR burden in the country.

Antibiotic stewardship, or minimising the use of antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, remains at the core of the fight against AMR. It is in this aspect that Dr. Ghafur indicates the strong involvement of the community.

It is the hope of all collaborators, who continue to fight the big war with bacterial antimicrobial resistance, before, and through pandemics, that this new data provides the urgency and fresh momentum for global action to counter the single biggest burden that poses a major threat to human health.

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