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CM

YK
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THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, 2014
10 THE HINDU THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, 2014
NOIDA/DELHI
EDITORIAL
K
erala has moved expeditiously to curb the
availability of Indian Made Foreign Liquor
and get on to the road to total prohibition.
Whether the decision is the outcome of intra-
party manoeuvres in the Congress, or of a genuine quest
for the public good, it bodes well for the State from the
social standpoint. Indeed, the State could serve as a
testing ground on this front for the rest of the country.
Kerala has one of the highest per capita consumption
rates for hard liquor among Indian States, and there is a
predominant sentiment against it given its deleterious
effects. Yet, there really was no known proclivity, or
demand, in favour of prohibition among the two dom-
inant political formations in the State. There has been
no organised temperance movement of note in recent
times but for occasional pleas by certain cultural
leaders and the Church. The likes of the Gandhian, M.P.
Manmadhan, who led an anti-liquor movement, albeit a
feeble and largely symbolic one, in the 1970s and 1980s,
have been all but forgotten. This background does give a
certain unreal quality to the sudden decision. However,
the fact that shutting out liquor could bring signicant
electoral dividends, given the large constituency of vot-
ers, including women, who are affected by and feel
strongly against it, would not have been lost on Chief
Minister Oommen Chandy. This will also staunch the
ow of money from liquor contractors into the kitty of
political parties, come election-time.
It remains to be seen if the government is able to
sustain the decision in the face of the loss of revenue
and expected opposition from the powerful lobby that
thrives on gains made from the business. A range of
political and administrative and even legal challenges
lie ahead of it in the implementation of the policy. A
principal challenge will come from the loss of excise
revenue. Hopefully, the health dividends that will ac-
crue will set off the losses, even if not in the account
books in the short term. The enforcement challenges in
terms of stopping bootlegging and smuggling from
neighbouring States, and the whole business going un-
derground, will be stiff. The oft-heard argument that
curtailing availability seldom serves the purpose, does
not take into account the fact that a signicant segment
of new drinkers would be dissuaded by the curbs. The
government should meanwhile come clean on the ques-
tion of toddy as well; its continued sale would surely
contradict the declared policy. Livelihood issues of tod-
dy-tappers should be addressed. Measures for the reha-
bilitation of large numbers of alcohol-addicts will be no
mean task. It will become clear soon if the Kerala
experiment is sustainable, given its impact on the ex-
chequer and given the problems of enforcement as well.
Keralas
challenge
T
he past two decades have seen the
world experiencing, with alarming
regularity, outbreaks of viral diseas-
es like Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (SARS), bird u and swine u.
These have caused alarm and spread panic
not only in populations that are directly af-
fected but also in places away from the loca-
tions of these outbreaks. Even before
memories of these outbreaks have faded,
there are new outbreaks; the recent re-emer-
gence of the Ebola virus, for example, has
underscored the fact that humans are in-
creasingly and continuously at risk fromlife-
threatening viral diseases, and that the un-
expected can be expected anytime. These
emerging infectious diseases that occur in
most parts are generally connected with a
rapid growth in population. Human activities
like changes in land use, increased urban-
isation and high population density in cities,
increased contact with wild animal reser-
voirs, climate change and a deterioration in
health-care systems, particularly in develop-
ing and poor countries are the major causes.
Spread and impact
The current outbreak of the Ebola virus in
some West African countries is unpreceden-
ted and seems to have spun out of control.
What started inthree of the poorest countries
in West Africa Guinea, Liberia and Sierra
Leone already ravaged by political turmoil
and civil war, has now spread beyond their
borders. The epidemic which the World
HealthOrganization(WHO) says has affected
more than a million humans has already
claimed more thana thousand lives. Although
officially reported cases are between 2,000-
3,000, it is quite likely, as it often happens in
such cases, that the actual number of those
affected is much more.
In the current outbreak, the rst reported
case was that of a two-year-old boy who died
on December 6, 2013, which was soon fol-
lowed by the deaths of his mother, his three-
year-old sister and his grandmother. By the
end of March2014, the disease had erupted in
many locations and the outbreak was termed
as unprecedented. By end July, it had
caused widespread panic, fear and disruption,
including steps that led to the closure of bor-
ders between the affected countries. The
deathof a nurse inLagos, Nigeria, onAugust 6
and, since then, several more cases in that
country, have added an entirely different di-
mension to this extraordinary health threat.
The Ebola disease is severe, with mortality
rates as high as 90 per cent, caused by rapidly
acquired haemorrhagic fever. The Ebola virus
was identied in 1976 in two different out-
breaks one in Sudan, and the other in the
Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), in a
village close to the Ebola river fromwhich the
disease derives its name. Five species of the
Ebola virus characterised so far have been
named after the locations of their emergence:
Zaire (EBOV), Bundibugyo (BDBV), Sudan
(SUDV), Ta Forest (TAFV) and Reston
(RESTV). Several outbreaks in Africa were
caused by the rst three species. The current,
and by far the worst, outbreak in West Africa
is caused by the most lethal of the above ve
species the EBOV. These outbreaks have
infected both human and non-human pri-
mates including the chimpanzee and the go-
rilla, causing a substantial loss of lives among
these species. What exactly triggers the Ebola
outbreaks remains poorly understood, but
periodic and unpredictable outbreaks are fol-
lowed by the disappearance of the virus into
its natural reservoirs, though only to
reappear.
After an incubation period of two to 20
days, the Ebola infection shows a sudden on-
set of the disease resulting initially in u-like
symptoms: fever, chills and malaise. As the
disease progresses, it results in multi-system
involvements indicated by the person experi-
encing lethargy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
and headache. Haemorrhagic conditions usu-
ally set in at its peak, resulting in uncon-
trolled bleeding, shock, convulsions and
severe metabolic disorders. Fatal clinical
signs come up early, with death occurring
within about two weeks. In non-fatal cases,
the fever resolves itself and is generally co-
related with the hosts ability to mount an
antibody response, suggesting the possibility
of a protective mechanism.
The transmission route
The Africanfruit bat is considered to be the
natural host for the Ebola viruses as well as
the major source of human infection. The
chimpanzee and the gorilla can also carry the
virus and infect humans but they are merely
accidental hosts and not natural reservoirs.
How the human rst gets infected in an out-
break is not clear but close contact with bats
is considered to be the major reason. Ebola
then spreads through direct contact with
body uids of an infected person which in-
cludes blood, urine, saliva, semen and indi-
rect contact with environments
contaminated with such uids. Close contact
with infected dead persons can also cause the
infection. However, unlike u viruses, Ebola
does not spread through air.
Treatment options
Although the very thought of Ebola raises
and creates fear and panic, the risk of in-
fectionfroma visit to anEbola affected area is
extremely low. The risk even for health-care
providers who directly deal with Ebola pa-
tients alsoremains low if all basic precautions
are taken. In this context, media reports
about some doctors making a bid to leave
hospital locations inEbola-affected countries
not only comes as a surprise but also raises
medical, ethical issues.
While Ebola virus infections can be easily
diagnosed with certainty in laboratories
through standard tests like ELISA and RT-
PCRassay, obtaining samples frompatients is
extremely risky and can only be conducted
under highly sophisticated containment fa-
cilities. Unfortunately, Ebola infections have
occurred in places where these facilities are
not readily available. Another difficulty expe-
rienced in its detection is that initial symp-
toms are similar to those of many other
fever-causing diseases like inuenza, malaria,
typhoid, cholera and other viral haemorrhag-
ic fevers.
Currently, there is no vaccine or drug that
canprevent or cure the disease. Experimental
vaccines are being developed but they are in
early stages of development. Since working
with a virus as lethal as Ebola is extremely
hazardous, research and developmental ac-
tivities can only be undertaken in high-level
bio-safety laboratories. Therefore, it is very
difficult to carry out these activities in coun-
tries with poor scientic infrastructure. De-
veloping countries like India, China and
Brazil, which have a highly developed scien-
tic and pharmaceutical industrial base, and
skilled manpower, should take the initiative
in working towards solutions to diseases like
Ebola. However, evenwhendrugs and/or vac-
cines are developed, testing for their efficacy
will pose serious scientic and ethical chal-
lenges. These are still early days of research
and a highly coordinated approach and lead-
ership will be required to nd cures.
Two American aid workers who contracted
the disease in West Africa and their treat-
ment in Atlanta, U.S., are being closely
watched by world healthagencies. This repre-
sents the rst example inmodernmedicine of
the treatment of patients with therapeutic
agents yet to be tested in humans; unusual
situations leading to unusual methods! Such
unprecedented measures, recently also en-
dorsed by WHO, raise ethical issues and si-
multaneously capture both the hopelessness
as well as the helplessness of the current
situation.
How and why did the present outbreakspin
out of control? Why did the world neglect
what was happening in West Africa? Perhaps
lessons learnt from previous Ebola out-
breaks, particularly in Uganda in 2000 and in
Gabon and Congo in 2001-3, about the dis-
ease being greatly reduced through education
and increased awareness led to some compla-
cency. There are no simple explanations
about why the epidemic was allowed to
spread as far as it has, except for the fact that
this time, the epidemic occurred in extremely
poor countries with very fragile health care
and poor infrastructure. Contrast this with
the SARS outbreak in 2003 in China and
Hong Kong which threatened to spread to the
western world, when highly coordinated con-
trol and prevention efforts were put in place
in record time. The present negligence
around the containment of the Ebola out-
break becomes even more intriguing when
one nds that the horrors of Ebola infections
are well-known enough to become themes of
Hollywood lms like Outbreak.
Containment measures
The current outbreakhas shownnosigns of
abatement. The immediate need is to reach
out to the communities living through its
horrors. Given that there is no effective treat-
ment or vaccine, raising awareness through
educative messages and providing much
needed health care has to be the top priority.
Public health messages should focus on re-
ducing the riskof animal-to-human, as well as
human-to-human transmission, particularly
through body uids. Containment measures,
including burial of the dead, should be strictly
enforced. Given that this outbreak is happen-
ing in very poor settings, the provision of
basic supplies including gloves, masks, disin-
fectants and basic drugs must be immediately
ensured. Equally, or perhaps even more im-
portant, is the setting up of active surveil-
lance systems to detect the early onset of the
disease in susceptible animals and humans.
Travel to and fromlocations where the Ebola
epidemic continues to rage should be done
with care, and anyone developing fever on
account of such travel should immediately be
reported to the health authorities for obser-
vation and treatment, if necessary.
The current outbreak is sure to subside,
though unfortunately only after consuming
many lives. At the same time, it is bound to
reappear somewhere, sometime, and mostly
for man-made reasons. Unfortunately, it
might happen before long. Would the world
have learnt from the present deadly out-
break? If and whenEbola strikes again, would
it be able deal withit better? Hopefully during
the lull, scientists, researchers and the indus-
try would treat Ebola as a common enemy
that must be defeated with modern medicine
and better health-care infrastructure. Mod-
ernisation and development should not be-
come the key reasons for viruses to take
centre stage.
(Prof. Virander S. Chauhan, former
director of the International Centre for
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology,
New Delhi, is an active researcher in
infectious diseases and vaccinology.)
Ebolas re-emergence, a wake-up call
Scientists, researchers and the pharmaceutical
industry should treat Ebola as a common enemy
that must be defeated with modern medicine and
better health-care infrastructure. Modernisation
and development should not become the reasons
for such viral outbreaks to take centre stage
Virander S. Chauhan

India, China and Brazil, which have a highly developed


scientic and pharmaceutical industrial base, should work
towards solutions to such diseases.

Generational shift
Although it is sad to see veterans
including L.K. Advani and M.M.
Joshi being left out of the BJPs
parliamentary board, the phasing
out of the old and the ushering inof
the new is the inevitable law of
nature and society. There is no
ignominy or disrespect meant:
they are still MPs and are part of
the BJP's Margadarshak Mandal.
The party organisation has been
given a younger prole and
invested with greater energy,
dynamism and commitment, only
strengthening Mr. Modis hands.
A.N. Lakshmanan,
Bangalore
The generational shift in the BJP
that left some leaders out of its
parliamentary board makes Mr.
Modi the ultimate seat of power in
the party. The decision will help
the BJP adapt to the changing
scenario and make decision-
making processes easier in future.
Raisun Mathew,
Doha
Both Mr. Joshi and Mr. Advani
were sidelined during the Lok
Sabha election as well. The latest
move, therefore, is not surprising.
A.B. Vajpayee is already out of
politics. The times are changing
and seniors should give up their
posts at the right time to avoid
embarrassments later.
Anandambal Maniam,
Mumbai
The ascent to power of the Modi-
Shah duo was a clear sign of a
generational shift in the BJP. The
sidelining of the stalwarts, which
began when they were denied seats
of their choice in the 2014 election,
is now complete. It is indeed
unfortunate that Mr. Advani and
Mr. Joshi could themselves not see
the writing on the wall.
C.V. Aravind,
Bangalore
Setback?
The Bihar Assembly by-election
results are being widely seen as a
setback for the BJP. But they are
not so. In2010, the BJPwonsix out
of the 10seats that went tothe polls
now, in alliance with the JD(U),
whereas now it has won four
almost on its own strength, with
the LJPas an alliance partner. This
has happened in spite of the RJD
and the JD(U) coming together.
The BJP has thus successfully
encountered the combined RJD-
JD(U)-Congress strength, even
without Narendra Modi
campaigning directly.
R. Prabu Ananth,
Coimbatore
On the ground, there is very little
evidence to conclude that the
results are a setback for the BJP.
By-polls can well be aberrations,
often pinned on local or individual
factors. But equally, they can
provide clues to larger drifts.
K.S. Padmanabha,
Secunderabad
Historic verdict
The Supreme Court verdict
holding coal block allocations since
1993 illegal is a historic one. It will
send the stern message that the
plundering of national wealth by
vested interests at the cost of the
exchequer will be dealt with rmly.
The guilty should be given
exemplary punishment. The
money siphoned off in the process
should be recovered, along withthe
interest, from companies and
persons concerned to make good
the huge loss to the exchequer.
Ranjit Kumar Paul,
New Delhi
The verdict has indeed exposed
how the screening committee
allowed the allocation of the
precious resource in an arbitrary
manner without a transparent
procedure in place. Such
aberrations do not surprise any
more as corruption has reached
mammoth proportions. That the
governments of the day kept vested
interests above the national
interest in the allocation of coal
blocks is a fraud on the nation.
R. Prabhu Raj,
Chennai
We are appalled to learn that our
natural resources have been looted
over the years with active help
from the government while the
steel frame looked on. Former
Coal Secretary P.C. Parakhs
contention that he was only
implementing government policy
is not acceptable. Dubious policies,
however sugar-coated, need to be
resisted. Everyone responsible
should be made accountable.
Ahamad Fuad,
Kochi
Shocking
The report that the Supreme Court
has sought a full-edged
investigation into the illegal sale of
arms by army officials (Aug. 27) is
shocking. I was a cadet at the
Indian Military Academy, Dehra
Dun, more thanhalf-a-century ago.
I remember the harsh punishment
I received for just losing an empty
case of a red blank round during
anexercise 12 days restriction.
This meant no going out on
weekends, always remaining
dressed in Field Service Marching
Order, and extra arms drill twice a
day. Here we have senior army
officers getting away with near-
murder after paying a pittance as
ne or being reprimanded. We
veterans, many of us inour twilight
years, can only protest by hanging
our heads in utter shame.
C.V. Venugopalan,
Palakkad
The nexus between army officials
and arms dealers is shocking. More
shocking is the fact that the guilty
were let off with mild punishment.
Surely, the unsavoury practice will
shatter the credibility of the army
in the eyes of people, besides
sullying its image generally. A
thorough probe is warranted to
stemthe rot in the army.
P.K. Varadarajan,
Chennai
Monster unleashed
Almost all human rights violations
and atrocities committed the world
over since the Second World War
have been perpetrated by either
the U.S. or by monsters such as al-
Qaeda and the ISthat are indirectly
spawned by the American foreign
policy (IS, Frankensteins
monster unleashed, Aug. 27).
Analysing the U.S. bombing of
Tripoli (1986), Stephen Shalom
wrote in Imperial Alibis (1993): If
terrorism is dened as politically
motivated violence perpetrated
against non-combatant targets,
then one of the most serious
incidents of international
terrorismof the year was precisely
this U.S. raid on Libya.
C.V. Sukumaran,
Palakkad
The Frankensteins monster that
the IS has grown into did not
appear out of thin air. Western
ideological encouragement of
Islamic jihadists has led to the
threat looming large over
international security. In opposing
the Assad regime, the U.S. ended up
creating a worse situation for not
only Syria but the whole world. The
Obama administration seems to
have learnt nothing.
Sarbani Mohapatra,
Kolkata
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Letters emailed to letters@thehindu.co.in must carry the full
postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
T
he new NDA governments rst annual For-
eign Trade Policy (FTP) statement will be un-
veiled soon. Normally presented after the
Union Budget, the FTP has usually concen-
trated on measures to boost exports and reduce trans-
action costs. It cannot explicitly reduce import or export
duties which are in the domain of the budget. Howev-
er, the incentives for exporters have indirect implica-
tions for the exchequer. Employment generation in
India through exports of manufactured goods has been a
key objective of the FTP, which remains despite the
change in nomenclature from the previous Exim Policy
that was focussed on exports. A proactive policy on
imports is equally necessary in a scenario where India is
integrating with the rest of the world. Within the coun-
try there are minimal import restraints. A consistent
policy framework is necessary to deal with items such as
imports of gold and petroleum. Recently, the FTP has
outlined ambitious plans for the diversication of ex-
ports, both in terms of the range of products and the
destination countries. These commendable efforts have,
however, not improved Indias export performance
which, like world trade itself, remains below par.
The new governments orientation to trade cannot be
really different from that of its predecessor. The Prime
Minister, while inaugurating a port-based special eco-
nomic zone, urged manufacturers to join in export pro-
motion. In his Independence Day speech he called for a
make in India movement, which has the potential to
turn India into a global manufacturing hub. The empha-
sis in the FTP will naturally vary depending on current
circumstances. Multilateral trade as embodied by the
WTO received a setback with India holding out against a
previously agreed Trade Facilitation Agreement. While
India has its own reasons preserving the norms for
domestic food security the fact is that the failure in
Geneva has spurred moves towards free trade agree-
ments (FTAs), regional pacts, bilateral agreements and
so on. These are inferior to rule-based multilateral
trade, irrespective of any short-term gains they might
confer. The Commerce Ministers call for a comprehen-
sive review of the performance of all FTAs is note-
worthy. India already has 14 agreements in force,
including one with the ASEAN grouping of 10 countries,
and is negotiating several others. Both India and China
have free trade agreements with ASEAN, and unless
cumbersome procedures relating to country of origin
are scrupulously followed, India might face a ood of
duty-free Chinese goods. Besides, FTAs have not exactly
delivered on their promise of larger trade between sig-
natories. These factors will surely weigh, even as India
prepares to renegotiate stalled issues of the Doha round.
Framework to
boost exports
CARTOONSCAPE