Antimicrobial Resistance

In Context

  • Recently, a strand of antimicrobial-resistant gonorrhoea outbreak has hit Kenya.

More about the news

  • About:
    • The outbreak of Neisseria gonorrhoeae is not just a threat to the citizens of the East African anchor state but the region as a whole, according to experts. 
    • The outbreak is a major concern among health practitioners, especially happening at a time WHO endeavours to end STIs as a public health concern by 2030.
  • More about Gonorrhoea:
    • About:
      • Gonorrhoea is the second-most common disease to be sexually transmitted across the world after chlamydia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
      • The medics said the drug-resistant super gonorrhoea was first detected in samples taken from sex workers in the capital city, Nairobi, and other urban areas like Kiambu County.
    • Drug resistance:
      • Some of the drugs that got 100 per cent resistance included ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone, which are in the current STI treatment algorithm in Kenya.
      • The United Nations health agency blamed the drug resistance of some strands of gonorrhoea on the overuse of antibiotics, genetic mutations of the bacteria and repeated use of poor-quality drugs, in its regular reports.
  • Other diseases with the concern of antimicrobial resistance:
    • Other diseases that medics have expressed concern over due to total antimicrobial resistance include various strains of SARS-CoV-2, ebola virus disease, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever and marburg virus disease.
    • The same has been reported regarding some strains of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Rift Valley fever, severe acute respiratory syndrome, Nipah and henipaviral diseases.

More about the Antimicrobial resistance

  • About: 
    • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death
    • Difference between Antibiotic & Antimicrobial resistance:
      • Antibiotic resistance refers specifically to resistance to bacteria. Antimicrobial resistance refers to resistance to bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
  • Issue:
    • 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.
  • Causes:
    • Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve to evade antibioticsOveruse 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.
    • Other drivers of antimicrobial resistance include the lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for both humans and animals, poor infection and disease prevention and control in healthcare facilities and farms, poor access to quality, affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics, lack of awareness and knowledge.
  • How does it work?
    • 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.
    • But 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.


  • Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as developing a drug that will permanently overcome antibiotic resistance. 
  • 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.
  • Modifying existing antibiotics:
    • Scientists have been working on the issue from many different angles. One approach is to modify old antibiotics so they overcome resistance.
  • Developing new antibiotics:
    • Another strategy is to make brand-new drugs, but this approach hasn’t been very successful in recent decades.
    • 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).
    • But central to the issue is that antibiotic resistance develops quickly whereas antimicrobials — the basis of antibiotic drugs — are developed slowly.
  • Global efforts:
    • Overcoming antibiotic resistance will require tremendous international effort dedicated to the problem.
Measures Taken to Rising Anti-Microbial Resistance in India National programme on AMR containment:It was launched during the 12th FYP in 2012-17National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (NAP-AMR): It has a focus on the One Health approach & was launched on 19th April 2017 with the aim of involving various stakeholders ministries/departments.AMR Surveillance Network:  ICMR established the AMR surveillance and research network (AMRSN) in 2013, to generate evidence and capture trends and patterns of drug resistant infections in the country.AMR Research & International Collaboration: ICMR has taken initiatives to develop new drugs /medicines through international collaborations in order to strengthen medical research in AMR.India’s National Action Plan for containment of AMR:It  focuses on an integrated One Health approach and involves coordination at the state, national and international levels.Key priority of National Health Policy 2017:In its National Health Policy 2017, India has identified managing AMR as a key priority and since then the health ministry has taken several initiatives to nip the epidemic that is growing fast globally.

Government Representation in Collegiums

In Context

  • Recently the Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has written to Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud to give suggestions on the appointment of judges.

More about the news

  • Government representative in Collegiums:
    • According to Union Minister Rijiju’s letter, government representatives should be a part of the Supreme Court and High Court Collegiums. 
    • This would be a major departure from the existing system where the Collegiums comprised solely of senior judges.
  • Significance:
    • Union Minister’s latest recommendation is markedly different as, instead of proposing a new forum altogether (like NJAC), he recommends changing the existing mechanism of judicial appointments to include representatives of the centre.
  • Criticisms: 
    • Undermining independence of judiciary:
      • According to critics, this is going to grossly undermine the very idea of independence of the judiciary and shall unsettle the fine balance as envisaged through the constitution.
    • Non-inclusive:
      • While the proposed NJAC included greater and more diverse representation of India’s political heads, adding solely a representation of the ruling government is seen by many as an egregious attack not only on the independence of the judiciary but also on the competitive balance between the ruling party and the opposition.

About Collegium system

  • About:
    • Judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court are appointed by the provisions mentioned in Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution of India.
      • Articles 124 and 217 state that the President shall appoint judges to the Supreme Court and high courts after consultation with the Chief Justice of India and other judges.
  • Composition:
    • The Supreme Court Collegium consists of the CJI and four senior-most judges of the apex court. 
    • High Court Collegium consists of the Chief Justice of the High Court and two senior-most judges of that particular court. 
  • Recommendations: 
    • Crucially, recommendations made by the Collegium are binding: while the government can flag concerns and ask the Collegium to reconsider, if the Collegium chooses to reiterate its recommendations, they become binding.
  • Significance of the system:
    • The collegium system was created to maintain the basic structure of the Constitution by keeping the judiciary independent. 
    • It was also to ensure that the Chief Justice of India does not impose his or her individual opinion regarding the appointment of judges, but rather it is a collective opinion of the entire body.  
  • Issues with the current collegium system:
    • The collegium system does not provide any guidelines or criteria for the appointment of the Supreme Court judges and it increases the ambit of favouritism
    • In the collegium system, there are no criteria for testing the candidate or for doing a background check to establish the credibility of the candidate
    • The absence of an administrative body is also a reason for worry because it means that the members of the collegium system are not answerable for the selection of any of the judges.
About MoP (Memorandum of Procedure)About:The Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) is the official playbook agreed upon by the government and the judiciary on the appointment of judges. Significance:It is a crucial document that governs the collegium system of appointing judges.Since the collegium system evolved through a series of ruling by the Supreme Court, and is not based on legislation, the MoP is the bedrock of the process of appointments.Re-negotiation of MoP:The MoP was sought to be re-negotiated after the SC in 2015 struck down the constitutional amendment that had brought in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).After the NJAC Act was struck down, the SC directed the government to finalise the existing MoP by supplementing it in consultation with the Supreme Court collegium, taking into consideration eligibility criteria, transparency, establishment of a new secretariat and a mechanism to deal with complaints against proposed candidates.About NJACAbout:The NJAC is the central feature of a long-standing proposal to do away with the Collegium. In 2014, through the 99th Amendment to the Constitution, the government passed a bill that would set up the NJAC, giving it significantly more say in the appointment of judges.Composition:The NJAC was to comprise The Chief Justice of India as the ex officio Chairperson, Two senior-most Supreme Court Judges as ex officio members, The Union Minister of Law and Justice as ex officio member, and Two eminent persons from civil society — one of whom would be nominated by a committee consisting of the CJI, Prime Minster and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the other would be nominated from the SC/ST/OBC/minority communities or women. Repeal:However, after a Supreme Court judgement struck down this new amendment, the government was forced to repeal the law.

Way Ahead

  • The Minister’s suggestion, if put into practice, would fundamentally alter the system by putting a government representative in the Collegium itself. 
  • While it is unclear what specific powers this representative will have, just the mere presence of a non-judicial member is likely to change things.
  • The matter is very critical and complex because, on the one hand, the judiciary should act independently, but on the other hand, the legislature and the executive cannot be completely excluded.

Does ChatGPT have an Ethical Problem?

In News

  • Recently, concerns have been raised by academics and teachers about ethical dilemmas associated with the potential of ChatGPT.


  • As a language model, ChatGPT does not have the capacity for ethical reasoning or decision-making. Thus, It can be used for a variety of purposes, some of which may raise ethical concerns.
  • OpenAI has an Ethical AI team that works to ensure that models are used in ways that align with values of safety, fairness, and explainability.
  • OpenAI’s most recent and powerful AI chatbot, ChatGPT, was opened to users in November 2022 to test its capability.
  • Although, ChatGPT is programmed to block obvious requests to write phishing emails or code for hackers, but more seasoned hackers often trick the bot into correcting or enhancing malicious code they have partially developed by phrasing their request in an innocuous way.

What is ChatGPT?

  • It is a large language model developed by OpenAI.
  • It was first released in 2019 and has been updated multiple times since then.
  • It is based on the GPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer) architecture.
  • ChatGPT is pre-trained on a massive amount of text data from the internet, allowing it to generate text that is similar in style and content to the input it was trained on.
  • It is an autoregressive model that predicts the next word given all the previous words in the input.
  • It is a transformer model, which uses an attention mechanism to weigh the importance of each word in the input while predicting the next one.
  • It is available through OpenAI’s GPT-3 API, which allows developers to easily integrate the model into their own applications.

Importance of ChatGPT

  • Chatbots and conversational AI: ChatGPT can be fine-tuned to understand and respond to natural language input, making it well-suited for building chatbots and other conversational AI applications.
  • Language generation: ChatGPT can be used to generate coherent, fluent, and natural-sounding text, making it a powerful tool for tasks such as language translation, summarization, and text completion.
  • Arts creation: It can be used to generate poetry, and other forms of text, making it a useful tool for industries such as media, publishing, and advertising.
  • Language model fine-tuning: It can be fine-tuned to specific tasks such as sentiment analysis, question answering, and named-entity recognition.
  • Business use-cases: It can be used to generate product descriptions, customer service responses, and other forms of business-related text, potentially increasing efficiency and reducing the need for human-generated content.
  • Research: ChatGPT can be used as a tool for researchers studying natural language processing, machine learning, and AI.

Major issues

  • Bias: Like other AI models, ChatGPT may perpetuate and even amplify biases present in the data it was trained on. This can lead to unfair and inaccurate predictions or generated text.
  • Misinformation: ChatGPT may generate text that is factually incorrect or misleading, especially when it is used to generate news articles, social media posts, or other forms of content that can spread rapidly online.
  • Privacy: ChatGPT may be used to generate text that contains personal information, such as names, addresses, or other sensitive data. This can raise privacy concerns and lead to potential misuse of the data.
  • Misuse: ChatGPT can be used to generate text for nefarious purposes such as creating fake news, impersonating others, or spreading hate speech.

Ethical conundrums

  • As per UNESCO World Commission on Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), following major areas will face ethical dilemma:
    • Education:  Given the effects on the job market, employability, and civic engagement, ethical thought, critical thinking, responsible design approaches, and new skills are important.
    • Science: Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies introduce new research capacities and techniques, which has ramifications for our conceptions of scientific understanding and explanation as well as a new foundation for decision-making.
    • Cultural identity and diversity: AI technologies have the potential to enhance the cultural and creative industries, but they also carry the risk of increasing the supply of cultural content, data, markets, and income in the hands of a small number of actors, potentially having detrimental effects on the diversity and pluralism of languages, media, cultural expressions, participation, and equality.
    • Communication and information: AI technologies play an increasingly important role in the processing, structuring and provision of information thus, automated   journalism   and   the   algorithmic can give rise to disinformation, misinformation, hate speech and emergence of new forms of societal narratives.

Way Ahead

  • Although ChatGPT is a strong tool with many possible applications, it is crucial to take into account and deal with any ethical dilemmas that can occur when utilising the model.
  • It’s crucial to remember that these problems may be avoided by using the model appropriately, giving it the proper training data, and regularly observing the model’s output, all of which OpenAI strives to achieve.

Cancer in India: A Status Report

In News

  • Recently, a report by the American Cancer Society stated that Deaths due to cancer have declined by 33% in the United States since 1991.

Key Points

  • US:
    • Declining number of deaths: 
      • This has translated into 3.8 million fewer deaths.
    • Reason of decline: 
      • Early detection, 
      • Lower rates of smoking,
      • Improvements in cancer treatment.
    • Types of cancer:
      • A steep reduction of 65% in the rates of cervical cancer in women in their early 20s between 2012 and 2019.
      • The first cohort to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) vaccine. 
  • India: 
    • Rising cases and deaths: 
      • Trend in India is not even close to similar.
      • Even with improvements in treatment, both the incidence of cancer and mortality continue to rise in the country.

Image Courtesy: 

  • Types of cancer:
    • The rates of cervical and smoking-related cancers have gone down in India as well. 
    • However, the incidence of lung and breast cancers has increased.
  • Trends: 
    • One in nine Indians will develop cancer during their lifetime.
    • One in 68 men will develop lung cancer
    • One in 29 women will develop breast cancer.
  • Women v/s men: 
    • The incidence of cancer is higher among women — 103.6 per 100,000 in 2020 compared to 94.1 among men. 
    • Among men, the most common cancers were of:
      • Lung, 
      • mouth, 
      • Prostate, 
      • Tongue, and 
      • stomach; 
    • For women, they were:
      • Breast, 
      • cervix, 
      • Ovary, 
      • Uterus, 
      • Lung.

Why are some cancers on the decline and others continue to rise?

  • Decline: 
    • The incidence of cervical cancer has dropped in India over the last 50 years from 45 to 10 per 100,000 population. Its rates have declined because of later marriages, fewer children, better hygiene, and vaccination.
      • It can be prevented with HPV vaccination, with vaccines becoming cheaper, the government plans a campaign soon to fight it off completely.
    • The rates of tobacco-related cancers — oral, oesophageal — cancers are also coming down.
      • This is largely due to tobacco laws that have brought down smoking in public places.
  • Rise: 
    • There is an increase in rates of breast cancer, especially in urban centres. Its rate has gone up because of the same reasons — later age of marriage, having the first child at a later age, not breastfeeding, and a high protein diet.
    • There is no specific intervention for breast cancers other than screening because what causes it is unknown.

Improvements in Cancer Treatments and its Impact

  • The cure rate for various cancers is rising and the cases of people who have completely beaten cancer are also rising.
  • Types: 
    • The cure rate for pancreatic cancer has doubled from 3% 50 years ago to 6%. 
    • For prostate cancer, it has gone up from 60% to 100%. 
    • And for breast cancer it has improved from 50% to 90% with newer treatments.
  • Screening for the three most common types of cancer — breast, cervical, and oral — has already started through the government’s upgraded health and wellness centres. This, coupled with other government programmes, has meant people are reaching hospitals sooner.
    • Cervical, breast, and oral cancers account for 34% of cancers in India, so screening for them is good.
    • It has to be more focused in order to achieve mortality gains
    • Dual stain testing is the best tool for screening for cervical cancer, while a low-dose CT in those with a history of smoking is the best for lung cancer. 
    • Breast self-examination cannot be standard screening for breast cancer. 

Way Ahead

  • Better screening and treatment centres are needed.
  • More comprehensive linkages between screening centres and hospitals are essential to reduce cancer mortality in the country.
  • In order to reduce mortality, it is important to ensure that people get diagnosed early on and receive timely treatment.
  • There are several programmes of the government that are working independently and in silos. They need to be coordinated so that once a person is screened, they do reach a hospital.
  • There must be many more cancer care facilities.

Microfinance Institutions (MFI)

In News

Recently, a Report stated that Microfinance Institutions (MFI) will play a leading role in the growth process of India.

Key Points

  • Support system: 
    • MFIs have acted as a financial support system to low-income households by offering credit access to six crore borrowers in the last few years.
  • Changes with time: 
    • From February 2017 to June 2022, the MFI sector underwent several transformations in terms of inclusivity and expansion
  • Expected Growth: 
    • The global market size of the MFI industry is expected to grow by USD122.46 billion from 2021 to 2026 at a compound annual growth rate of 11.61 per cent.
  • Coordinated efforts: 
    • Global development agencies and several governments have made concerted efforts to alleviate poverty through micro-credits.
  • Digitalised MFIs:
    • From 2017 onwards, the Indian MFI industry embraced the digital route by using online delivery channels, mobile banking and e-wallets.

What is Microfinance?

  • Microfinance is a form of financial service which provides small loans and other financial services to poor and low-income households.
    • The definition of “small loans” varies between countries. In India, all loans that are below Rs. 1 lakh can be considered as microloans.
  • Microcredit is delivered through a variety of institutional channels viz:
    • Scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) (including small finance banks (SFBs) and regional rural banks (RRBs)).
    • Cooperative banks.
    • Non-banking financial companies (NBFCs).
    • Microfinance institutions (MFIs) registered as NBFCs as well as in other forms.

About Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs)

  • MFIs are financial companies that provide small loans to people who do not have any access to banking facilities.
  • MFI promotes financial inclusion which enables the poor and low-income households to come out of poverty, increase their income levels and improve overall living standards. 
  • It can facilitate achievement of national policies that target poverty reduction, women empowerment, assistance to vulnerable groups, and improvement in the standards of living. 
  • Growth: 
    • The Indian microfinance sector has witnessed phenomenal growth over the past two decades in terms of increase in both the number of institutions providing microfinance as also the quantum of credit made available to the microfinance customers. 


  • It helps low-income households to stabilize their income flows and save for future needs. 
  • In good times, microfinance helps families and small businesses to prosper, and at times of crisis it can help them cope and rebuild.
  • It makes credit available easily thereby bettering the income and employment scenario.
  • It helps in serving the under-financed sections such as women, unemployed people and those with disabilities.
  • Families benefiting from microloans are more likely to provide better and continued education for their children.


  • The diverse nature of customer segments, such as small farmers, vendors and labourers, will be tough to cater to.
  • The consumer behaviour and loan requirements for different customers may require varied levels of services with financial products and digital literacy.
  • The dependence on physical modes of interaction poses a challenge for MFIs to reach last-mile borrowers, which has been evident during the pandemic when group gatherings could not be held.

Way Ahead

  • The future course of the industry will be determined by the ability of MFIs to forge partnerships, develop new products and investment channels and leverage technology.
  • Technological integration will be able to assist MFIs in providing services as well as repayment collection processes.
  • RBI should encourage all institutions to monitor their impact on society by means of a ‘social impact scorecard’.

Venus mission ‘Shukrayaan’

In News

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is yet to receive approval from the Indian government for the Venus mission and the mission could, as a result, be postponed to 2031.

  • ISRO received an allocation of ?13,700 crores in the 2022-2023 budget, marginally higher than the year before. The bulk was diverted to the human spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan. 

About the mission, 

  • Timeline: ISRO had originally hoped to launch Shukrayaan I in mid-2023 but cited the pandemic when it pushed the date to December 2024.
    • Other ISRO missions, including Aditya L1 and Chandrayaan III, have also been affected by manufacturing delays and commercial launch commitments.
    • The idea was born in 2012; five years later, ISRO commenced preliminary studies after the Department of Space received a 23% hike in the 2017-2018 budget. 
  • Overview of Mission: Shukrayaan I will be an orbiter mission. Its scientific payloads currently include a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar and a ground-penetrating radar.
    • The mission is expected to study Venus’s geological and volcanic activity, emissions on the ground, wind speed, cloud cover, and other planetary characteristics from an elliptical orbit.

Progress of other countries 

  • Both the U.S. and the European space agencies have Venus missions planned for 2031 — referring to VERITAS and EnVision, respectively — while “China might go anytime: 2026, 2027.


In  News

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) has listed Neelakurinji ( Strobilanthes kunthiana) under Schedule III of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, including it on the list of protected plants.

Image Courtesy:

About Neelakurinji

  • Kurinji or Neelakurinji is a shrub that grows in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India.
  • It is a shrub of the Acanthaceae family that famously blooms once every 12 years. 
  • Scientific Name: Strobilanthes kunthiana.
    • Strobilanthes is a genus of about 350 species of flowering plants in the family Acanthaceae, mostly native to tropical Asia and Madagascar.
  • In the Western Ghats region, nearly 70 varieties of Neelakurinji plants have been identified. 
  • The Eravikulam National Park, near Munnar, is known for widespread blooming of the kurinji, with the next flowering season expected in 2030.


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