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Economic Development Always Comes with Dash of Urbanization

The causal factor is the people that are attracted towards cities as urban areas are hubs of activity and growth

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Economic, Development, Urbanization
Empirical studies have shown that nearly all countries that have attained middle-income status were urbanized. Pixabay

Economic development always comes with a dash of urbanization. That is almost an economic truism. Empirical studies have shown that nearly all countries that have attained middle-income status were urbanized by at least 50 per cent, and all high-income countries were at 70 to 80 per cent level of urbanization. The causal factor is the people that are attracted towards cities as urban areas are hubs of activity and growth. The concentration of talent in urban areas drives productivity and spurs job creation and growth. This explains the strong linkage between urbanisation and growth of economies as a whole.

The view that cities are the epicentre of economic growth are supported by the fact that with only 50 per cent of the world population, cities generate more than 80 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As a result, the composition of cities is such that they are home to a greater number of young and working-age population relative to rural areas, which makes these regions critical for capturing the demographic dividend. Thus, cities in the developing world should be the focus of growth strategy due to their economic size, population composition, and innovative edge.

So, the path to higher growth for an economy like India should be through its urban areas. It must be noted, however, that India has had a curious trend in urbanisation. As per the 2011 Census, 31 per cent of India was urbanised. This is projected to be at 34 per cent by the World Bank currently. By contrast, about 55 per cent of the world has urbanised on an average. Indian urbanisation trends have been slow with an annual growth rate of 2.76 per cent between 2001 and 2011. In fact, the rate of urbanisation in the first decade of the new millennium has been slower than most of the second half of the previous century when urbanisation grew in excess of 3 per cent annually until the 1990s.

These figures show that India is not urbanising at a growing pace as is often argued. Also, in what the World Bank has termed “messy”, the physical space occupied by Indian cities is growing much faster than the population growth in these areas. Satellite analysis of night lights in South Asian cities shows that urban areas are expanding at the rate that was slightly more than 5 per cent annually while the population growth in them has been a little less than 2.5 per cent per year. This curious trend can be a reflection of the growth of slums and sprawl in the periphery of cities. Thus, it can be argued that urbanisation in India and the manner in which it is taking place has immense scope for improvement.

Economic, Development, Urbanization
Economic development always comes with a dash of urbanization. Pixabay

On the other hand, as more and more Indians migrate to urban areas with aspirations of a better quality of life and opportunities, it becomes increasingly challenging to meet those demands. Growing urbanisation brings with it a severe stress on the city infrastructure, basic services, housing, land use and environment. The inability to meet these challenges constrains the potential of cities to gain from the agglomeration economies as productivity is severely hampered. A range of policy issues need to be addressed to remedy these regional issues facing India as they can unlock immense growth potential for the country.

First, at times there is little clarity on the responsible body of governance for urban areas. The Census differentiates between statutory towns and census towns. While the latter are governed by municipalities, census towns, which are areas that have a minimum population of 5,000, at least three-fourths of its male population engaged in non-agricultural activities, and have a population density of at least 400 per square kilometre, are classified as urban areas but are considered rural for all other matters, especially governance. This results in a chaotic development of urbanisation. India had almost 4,000 census towns as of 2011.

Second, India still lacks devolution of power to local areas despite having decades of constitutional ability to do so. The 74th Constitutional Amendment of 1992 gave the state governments power to transfer a set of 18 municipal functions to urban local governments as they have greater knowledge of service delivery at the local level. However, most of the states have refrained from devolving all of these powers to local governments. Town planning, for instance, still rests with a lot of states. It is problematic for urban local bodies to be accountable to the people but not having the power to deliver services to them.

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Finally, to add to the constraints of local governments, the introduction of GST has limited their source of fiscal revenue as taxes like octroi and local body tax were subsumed within it. This imposed a heavy strain on the functioning of local bodies as they had relied heavily on revenue from these sources. The GST revenue, thus, should have been shared with local bodies as well. This has not been done; severely limiting the ability of urban local bodies to implement development plans and provide services. India needs to address these issues facing its urban economies to access the full potential that they present for being drivers of economic growth. . (IANS)

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Researchers Develop New Tool That Can Detect Cancer

The technology could be used as a screening tool to help rule out cancer, which could mean fewer unnecessary follow-ups

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Cancer
The devices distinguish cell types with higher specificity than previous methods, thus the researchers hope their work might improve diagnosis, and give Cancer therapies better aim. Pixabay

Researchers from Duke University in the US, have created a new Cancer-Detecting Tool, which uses tiny circuits made up of DNA to identify Cancer cells by the molecular signatures on their surface.

According to the study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the research team fashioned the simple circuits from interacting strands of synthetic DNA that are tens of thousands of times finer than a human hair.

Unlike the circuits in a computer, these circuits work by attaching to the outside of a cell and analysing it for proteins found in greater numbers on some cell types than others.

If a circuit finds its targets, it labels the cell with a tiny light-up tag.

Because the devices distinguish cell types with higher specificity than previous methods, the researchers hope their work might improve diagnosis, and give cancer therapies better aim.

For the findings, the research team designed a DNA circuit that must latch onto that specific combination of proteins on the same cell to work.

“As a result they’re much less likely to flag the wrong cells,” said study researcher John Reif.

Each basic element of their DNA circuit consists of two DNA strands.

Cancer
Researchers from Duke University in the US, have created a new Cancer-Detecting Tool tool, which uses tiny circuits made up of DNA to identify Cancer cells by the molecular signatures on their surface. Pixabay

The first DNA strand folds over and partially pairs up with itself to form a hairpin shape.

One end of each hairpin is bound to a second strand of DNA that acts as a lock and tether, folding in such a way to fit a specific cell surface protein like a puzzle piece.

Together these two strands act to verify that that particular protein is present on the cell surface.

To look for cancer, the circuit components are mixed with a person’s cells in the lab.

If any cells are studded with the right combination of proteins, the complete circuit will attach.

Adding a strand of “initiator” DNA then causes one of the hairpins to open, which in turn triggers another in a chain reaction until the last hairpin in the circuit is opened and the cell lights up.

Cancer
For the findings, the research team designed a DNA circuit that must latch onto that specific combination of proteins on the same cell to work to detect Cancer. Pixabay

Test runs of the device in test tubes in Reif’s lab showed it can be used to detect leukemia cells and to distinguish them from other types of cancer within a matter of hours, just by the strength of their glow.

The devices can be easily reconfigured to detect different cell surface proteins by replacing the tether strands, the researchers said.

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The technology could be used as a screening tool to help rule out cancer, which could mean fewer unnecessary follow-ups, or to develop more targeted cancer treatments with fewer side effects.

In the future, Reif plans for the DNA circuits to release a small molecule that alerts the body’s immune system to attack the cancer cell. (IANS)