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By Rajesh Ghosh
The 1999 General Elections took place under some sort of a national security crisis as the Indian Army had only a month ago claimed victory over the Pakistani army. Earlier that year one vote proved too much for the Vajpayee-led government as it lost the confidence vote just by that margin.
The elections, therefore, were a test of the robustness of the Indian democracy. Under such tremendous upheaval, the BJP-led NDA came out victorious.
The following five years under the leadership of Vajpayee was, in many ways, monumental for India not only economically but also politically.
In view of his achievements and widely appreciated statesmanship, the Modi-led government declared, last year, that December 25 (Vajpayee’s birthday), would be observed as ‘Good Governance Day.’
Having taken into cognizance the relevance of the day, let us walk back into the intrigue of history and discover the major achievements of Vajpayee, the statesman.
On the economic front, the Vajpayee government continued with the economic liberalization initiated by the Narasimha Rao government a decade back. The unprecedented economic growth witnessed in India from 2004, after the end of his term, is on many accounts a result of the major structural changes brought about his government.
The process of privatization saw a major boost during his period, especially in the telecom sector with spectrums being sold, for the first time, to private players with the aim of improving quality. The Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), then a major public sector telecom company, was privatized, opening the sector to competition.
Other major achievements included information technology, industrial parks and special economic zones (SEZ) across the country which have since bore major fruits for the country.
His vision went beyond India as he saw the importance of bringing on board the Indian diaspora, for they were a major source of investment and economic growth. To realize this, he launched the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Saman’ in honor of the diaspora.
But his major economic achievements, which were also his pet projects, were the National Development Highway Project and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Accepting this achievement, the UPA in 2013 admitted before the Supreme Court that in the five years under Vajpayee nearly 50% of the total length of National Highway in 32 years was constructed.
On the foreign policy front, his work was cut out by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the freshly concluded three-month war with Pakistan. But it’s during these adverse times the statesmanship of a leader is truly tested. And he passed these with flying colors.
In early 2000 he welcomed President Bill Clinton in a first bilateral engagement at the highest level in 22 years. It also came close at the heels of the Pokhran nuclear test in 1998, which was strongly condemned by the US.
This was seen by many as a major achievement by Vajpayee as it symbolically represented the gradually changing US foreign policy, which till then had isolated India. It brought about major breakthroughs in the economic and trade ties between the two nations. Further engagement with the US in his term laid the foundations for the milestone nuclear agreement which was later, in 2008, inked by Dr Manmohan Singh.
But his foreign policy highlight was his initiation in the thawing of the frozen Indo-Pak relations after Kargil. His gesture of inviting Parvez Musharraf, who presided over the Kargil war and had subsequently become Prime Minister after orchestrating a coup, was hailed within the foreign policy circles. The visit, however, achieved little in concrete outcomes.
His second term as Prime Minister also saw a raft of crises in foreign affairs ranging from the hijacking of an Air India aircraft in 1999 to the Parliament attack in 2001. Both these events brought India perilously close to a military expedition. But his statesmanlike acumen handled these crises with impeccable resilience.
Vajpayee the politician also had another side to him which molded him into a unique political leader. He was also a renowned poet. In Vajpayee’s words – “My poetry is a declaration of war, not an exordium to defeat. It is not the defeated soldier’s drumbeat of despair, but the fighting warrior’s will to win. It is not the dispirited voice of dejection but the stirring shout of victory.”
On this spirited note as we remember the good governance of Vajpayee, the statesman and poet, let us strive to learn and adapt his policies to suit the contemporary challenges. (image courtesy: mptravelogue.com)
Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for lifesaving transplants.
Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.
Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn't trigger rejection.
"It had absolutely normal function," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the surgical team last month at NYU Langone Health in New York. "It didn't have this immediate rejection that we have worried about."
This research is "a significant step," said Dr. Andrew Adams of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not part of the work. It will reassure patients, researchers and regulators "that we're moving in the right direction."
The dream of animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation, dates to the 17th century with stumbling attempts to use animal blood for transfusions. By the 20th century, surgeons were attempting transplants of organs from baboons into humans, notably Baby Fae, a dying infant, who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
With no lasting success and much public uproar, scientists turned from primates to pigs, tinkering with their genes to bridge the species gap.
Pigs have advantages over monkeys and apes. They are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods and organs comparable to those of humans.
Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. The blood thinner heparin is derived from pig intestines. Pig skin grafts are used on burns, and Chinese surgeons have used pig corneas to restore sight.
Kidney ready for transplantation from a live donor Image credit: wikimedia commons
In the NYU case, researchers kept a deceased woman's body on a ventilator after her family agreed to the experiment. The woman had wished to donate her organs, but they weren't suitable for traditional donation.
'Good could come from this'
The family felt "there was a possibility that some good could come from this gift," Montgomery said.
Montgomery himself received a transplant three years ago, a human heart from a donor with hepatitis C because he was willing to take any organ.
"I was one of those people lying in an ICU waiting and not knowing whether an organ was going to come in time," he said.
Several biotech companies are in the running to develop suitable pig organs for transplant to help ease the human organ shortage. More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for kidney transplants. Every day, 12 die while waiting.
The advance is a win for Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, the company that engineered the pig and its cousins, a herd of 100 raised in tightly controlled conditions at a facility in Iowa.
The pigs lack a gene that produces alpha-gal, the sugar that provokes an immediate attack from the human immune system.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the gene alteration in the Revivicor pigs as safe for human food consumption and medicine.
But the FDA said developers would need to submit more paperwork before pig organs could be transplanted into living humans.
"This is an important step forward in realizing the promise of xenotransplantation, which will save thousands of lives each year in the not-too-distant future," said United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt in a statement.
Experts say tests on nonhuman primates and last month's experiment with a human body pave the way for the first experimental pig kidney or heart transplants in living people in the next several years.
Raising pigs to be organ donors feels wrong to some people, but it may grow more acceptable if concerns about animal welfare can be addressed, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, who will help develop ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"The other issue is going to be: Should we be doing this just because we can?" Maschke said. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Transplant, Pig, Human, Kidney, FDA
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Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing air quality early warning system (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR was launched on Tuesday.
The website for the DSS (https://ews.tropmet.res.in/dss/) is designed to help the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) by delivering quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and its 19 surrounding districts; the contribution of emissions from eight different sectors in Delhi; and the contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighbouring states.
These information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said.
The need was stated by the CAQM, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, during a meeting held in January 2021.
Recently, the Commission reviewed the progress made by IITM and had in principle approved the current version of DSS for air quality management in the Delhi-NCR. The IITM has also developed a new website for DSS with the entire system made operational, the release said.
Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while launching the website for AQEWS on the occasion of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' week organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, "DSS is a significant contribution to 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' on behalf of MoES and IITM and suggestions are invited on this issue."
The website also has a feature whereby the users can create their own emission reduction scenarios (from 20 different districts, including Delhi) so as to examine the possible projected improvement in air quality in Delhi for the next five days.
"This information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degradation of air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to ameliorate the same. With a plethora of quantitative data, the AQEWS integrated with DSS could become a user-friendly tool for air-quality management in and around Delhi," the release said. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Delhi, India, Pollution, IITM, Ministry of Earth Sciences
On the first day of the two-day meeting of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders on Tuesday, discussions were held on important issues related to education and the National Education Policy-2020. Apart from senior RSS leader Suresh Soni, representatives of various organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar -- working in the field of education -- were present in the meeting in New Delhi.
According to sources, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who attended the meeting on behalf of the government, shared information related to the National Education Policy-2020 and the government's policy on important issues related to the education sector. Pradhan also shared details of the efforts being made by the government in the field of education.
Discussions were also held regarding the impact of the situation arising out of Corona and how much it has affected the education sector. In the meeting, the RSS leaders asked several questions and provided suggestions to the Union Minister regarding the education policy of the government.
According to the sources, RSS wants the policy to be implemented expeditiously. All aspects related to the policy were discussed in Tuesday's meeting. On the second and the last day of the meeting on Wednesday, special issues related to education will be discussed in which representatives of various organisations of the Sangh, Union Ministers and several BJP leaders will be take part.
Meanwhile, in order to convey its point of view to the government on various issues, the Sangh keeps on calling such coordination meetings related to specific issues, in which RSS representatives -- working in that particular area -- provide feedback to the government. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: BJP, RSS, New Education Policy, Education, India