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Indian Express Editorial Analysis

7-March-2024

1. The thin-fat Indian

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as this analysis delves into the complex interplay between undernutrition, obesity, and the burden of diseases like diabetes, offering a nuanced understanding of societal health issues.
Context:
  • The Global Burden of Disease study highlighted in The Lancet underscores the significant global challenge posed by the coexistence of undernutrition and obesity.
  • While many reports are cross-sectional, Indian data offers a distinctive perspective, particularly regarding the evolution of diabetes and obesity among individuals who experienced early-life undernutrition.
  • This analysis delves into the unique challenges faced by India, emphasizing the legacy of undernutrition, the emergence of diabetes and obesity, and the potential solutions rooted in understanding nature’s wisdom.
Legacy of Undernutrition in India:
  • India grapples with a historical legacy of undernutrition, evident in comparisons with European populations.
  • While Europeans experienced a significant increase in height over the last two centuries, Indians showed minimal growth.
  • However, there’s a positive trend in the current generation, indicating improved nutrition.
  • This transition from long-term deprivation to rapid development underscores the need for comprehensive nutritional strategies.
Early Life Undernutrition and Diabetes/Obesity:
  • The juxtaposition of “obesity day” and “women’s day” highlights a critical link often overlooked: the impact of early life undernutrition on the emergence of diabetes and obesity.
  • Neglecting the nutrition and health of young mothers over centuries has resulted in the intergenerational transmission of health challenges.
  • Research suggests that addressing maternal nutrition and health during pregnancy can mitigate the risk of diabetes and obesity in offspring, emphasizing the importance of preventive measures over reactive interventions.
Understanding Diabetes and Obesity in India:
  • The experiences of a doctor at BJ Medical College and Sassoon Hospital in Pune provide insights into the unique characteristics of diabetes among Indians.
  • Despite lower obesity rates compared to Westerners, Indians exhibit a higher prevalence of diabetes at a younger age.
  • Research conducted during the 1980s revealed a phenomenon termed “thin-fat” Indian, wherein Indians with lower BMI still exhibit metabolic markers associated with obesity.
  • This discovery led to the recognition of central obesity and its role in insulin resistance among Indians.
Intrauterine Programming and Epigenetics:
  • Collaboration with experts shed light on the concept of intrauterine programming, wherein malnutrition during fetal development alters organ structure and function, predisposing individuals to metabolic disorders later in life.
  • Studies on Indian newborns revealed a higher fat percentage despite lower birth weights, indicating the influence of intrauterine conditions on future health outcomes.
  • The concept of epigenetics underscores the role of adverse intrauterine experiences in shaping disease risk, offering avenues for intervention through maternal health and nutrition initiatives.
Investing in Maternal Health and Future Generations:
  • Recognizing the multifaceted impact of maternal health on future generations, national policies targeting adolescent girls and women of reproductive age aim to improve maternal nutrition and metabolic health.
  • The “Developmental Origins of Health and Disease” framework underscores India’s significant contributions to understanding early-life determinants of health.
  • By prioritizing investments in maternal health, India can foster resilience among future generations, mitigating the burden of obesity and diabetes.
Conclusion:
  • India faces a dual challenge of undernutrition and the emergence of diabetes and obesity, rooted in historical legacies and intrauterine experiences.
  • Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that prioritizes maternal health, nutrition, and metabolic well-being.
  • By investing in preventive strategies and understanding the developmental origins of health and disease, India can pave the way for healthier future generations, shifting from reactive healthcare to proactive interventions.
What are Overweight, Thinness, and Obesity?
Body Mass Index:
  • BMI is a measure of weight-to-height commonly used to classify underweight, overweight, and obesity in adults.
  • It is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters (kg/m²).
  • For example, an adult weighing 58 kg and standing 1.70 m tall will have a BMI of 20.1 (BMI = 58 kg / (1.70 m * 1.70 m)).
Obesity and Overweight:
  • Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a health risk.
  • Overweight is a condition of excessive fat deposits and Obesity is a chronic disease that occurs when the body stores excess calories as fat.
  • Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and certain cancers.
  • Childhood obesity is associated with serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of related illnesses.
  • Obesity is one side of the double burden of malnutrition, and today more people are obese than underweight in every region except the South-East Asia Region.
Thinness and Underweight:
  • Thinness and Underweight refers to having a lower-than-normal body weight relative to height. It is often associated with insufficient calorie intake or underlying health conditions.
  • Underweight is one of the four broad sub-forms of undernutrition.
  • An adult is considered underweight if their BMI is less than 18 kg/m2. School-aged children and adolescents are considered underweight if their BMI is two standard deviations below the mean.
  • Undernutrition manifests in four broad forms: wasting, stunting, Underweight, and micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Being underweight can lead to various health problems, including osteoporosis, skin, hair, or teeth issues, frequent illnesses, fatigue, anaemia, irregular periods, premature births, impaired growth, and increased mortality risk.
PYQ: Which of the following is/are the indicators/ indicators used by IFPRI to compute the Global Hunger Index Report? (2016) 1) Undernourishment 2) Child stunting 3) Child mortality Select the correct answer using the code given below: (a) 1 only (b) 2 and 3 only (c) 1, 2 and 3 (d) 1 and 3 only Ans: (c)
Practice Question:  Discuss the intricate relationship between early-life undernutrition, obesity, and the emergence of diabetes, with specific reference to India’s unique socio-economic context. How can interventions targeting maternal health and nutrition mitigate the burden of these diseases in future generations? Explain with reference to recent research findings and their implications for public health policies. (250 words/15 m)

2. An antidote called empathy

Topic: GS1 – Society – Role of women and women’s organization
GS4 Attitude – Its influence and relation with thought and behaviour This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as this article delves into the complexities surrounding Women’s Day celebrations, highlighting the discrepancy between public gestures of respect for women and underlying societal attitudes.
Context:
  • As Women’s Day approaches, the familiar spectacle of superficial acknowledgments floods various sectors of Indian society.
  • From corporate boardrooms to college canteens, from social media influencers to politicians, all participate in this annual charade.
  • Despite the well-meaning outrage over news stories of violence against women and the enjoyment of Women’s Day discounts, the underlying hypocrisy remains evident.
  • While publicly encouraging respect for all women, there exists a stark contrast in private attitudes, where respect seems reserved only for those deemed “respectable” by societal standards.
A Call for Genuine Feminization:
  • Amidst the cynicism surrounding Women’s Day celebrations, there arises a call to shed the facade and earnestly ponder the means to credibly feminize Indian institutions.
  • This entails moving beyond mere tokenism, counting the number of women in power, or valorizing those who have achieved recognition.
  • Rather, it necessitates rescuing institutions from the language of power and glory and transitioning towards a paradigm of care and empathy.
Challenges in Institutional Culture:
  • The entrenched masculine culture within key institutions poses a significant obstacle to feminization efforts.
  • Traits like competitiveness and assertiveness are often prioritized, perpetuating a culture of dominance.
  • Mere representation of women in decision-making roles is insufficient; instead, emphasis should be on promoting diversity of experiences, emotional literacy, and privilege-checking among decision-makers.
Recognizing Recognition Gaps:
  • Sociological insights, particularly from scholars like Michele Lamont, highlight the concept of recognition gaps, wherein certain social groups face disparities in worth and cultural membership.
  • Institutions must serve as buffers to provide recognition to stigmatized groups, emphasizing affirmative action that prioritizes historically marginalized communities.
Transforming Mindsets and Values:
  • Addressing the mindset of scarcity and dominance ingrained from childhood is crucial for fostering empathy and inclusivity among future generations.
  • Education systems must promote understanding and recognition of diverse experiences, challenging existing biases and narrow worldviews.
Valuing Care Work:
  • A feminized society acknowledges and values the labor of care, moving away from self-centeredness towards collective well-being.
  • Policies should prioritize investing in the care economy, adequately compensating care workers, and mitigating the trade-offs women face between caregiving and career advancement.
Ensuring Safety Nets and Social Security:
  • Safety nets and social security measures are imperative for ensuring the well-being of all individuals, irrespective of gender.
  • A feminized society prioritizes the establishment of universal systems of economic assurance and risk insurance, addressing the vulnerabilities faced by marginalized communities.
Conclusion:
  • Addressing the crisis of Indian masculinity requires embracing feminist principles that prioritize empathy and care over aggression and competition.
  • A feminized India liberates the discourse on equality from tokenism and power dynamics, fostering a culture of genuine empathy and inclusivity.
What are the Key Points about International Women’s Day?
About: It is celebrated annually on 8th March. It includes:
  • Celebration of women’s achievements,
  • raising awareness about women’s equality,
  • lobbying for accelerated gender parity,
  • fundraising for female-focused charities, etc.
Brief History:
  • Women’s Day was first celebrated back in 1911 by Clara Zetkin, who was a German. The roots of the celebration had been in the labour movement across Europe and North America.
  • However, it was only in 1913 that the celebrations were shifted to 8th March, and it has remained that way ever since.
  • International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975.
  • In December 1977, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.
Theme in 2024:
  • The United Nations has decided this year’s theme as ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’ is aimed at tackling economic disempowerment. While the campaign theme for the same year is ‘Inspire Inclusion.’
  • Though this campaign, the importance of diversity and empowerment in all aspects of society is emphasized.
  • Also, the campaign theme underscores the crucial role of inclusion in achieving gender equality.
PYQ: What are the continued challenges for women in India against time and space?  (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2019)
Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges and opportunities in feminizing Indian institutions. How can policies and societal attitudes be transformed to promote genuine gender inclusivity and address systemic barriers faced by women in decision-making roles? (250 words/15 m)

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