Khasi council order on father’s surname sets off war of words in matrilineal Meghalaya
A tribal council’s order not to issue a Scheduled Tribe (ST) certificate to any Khasi person who adopts the surname of her or his father has triggered a war of words in matrilineal Meghalaya.
The Khasis, numbering about 1.39 lakh, are one of the three indigenous matrilineal communities in the north-eastern State. The other two are Garos and Jaintias.
The Voice of the People Party (VPP), an 18-month-old political entity that won four Assembly seats in the February 27 election, has been critical of the order of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) order about a month ago.
In that order, the KHADC directed the headmen of all villages and urban localities across the Khasi domain not to issue ST certificates to those who adopt their father’s surname instead of sticking to tradition by taking their mother’s clan name.
“I will fight for my children if there is an attempt to take away their right of being called Khasis,” VPP president and MLA Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit said at a public meeting in the State’s Nongpoh recently.
His children are using his surname. “Why can they not be considered Khasi when my wife and I are Khasis?” he asked.
“We cannot use the surname of the father as we are a matrilineal society. This is applicable to Basaiawmoit and every other Khasi,” KHADC’s chief executive member, Titosstarwell Chyne said.
He alluded to sections 3 and 12 of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act, 1997, which says only those following the custom of using their mother’s surname will be identified as a Khasi.
Asserting that the KHADC was committed to the preservation and protection of the age-old tradition of the community, Mr. Chyne also said it is mandatory for any Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi needs to obtain the Khasi tribe certificate for applying for the ST certificate for her children.
Men’s rights activists among the Khasis have been fighting for switching over from the matrilineal to the patrilineal system since the 1960s.
A bid by a group called Iktiar Longbriew Manbriew, meaning right to live, was short-lived but its successor, Syngkhong Rympei Thymmai (home and hearth restructured) has been sustaining the crusade since its birth in 1990. The Syngkhong Rympei Thymmai has more than 4,000 members today.
Matrilineal System of Inheritance:
- The three tribes of Meghalaya — Khasis, Jaintias, and Garos— practise a matrilineal system of inheritance.
In this system, lineage and descent are traced through the mother’s clan.
- In other words, children take the mother’s surname, the husband moves into his wife’s house, and the youngest daughter (khatduh) of the family is entrusted the full share of the ancestral – or the clan’s – property.
The khatduh becomes the “custodian” of the land, and assumes all responsibility associated with the land, including taking care of aged parents, unmarried or destitute siblings. The khatduh cannot sell the property, without permission of her mother’s brother (maternal uncle) — since he technically belongs to the mother’s clan, through which descent is traced.
- This inheritance tradition applies only to ancestral or clan/community property, which has been with the family for years. The self-acquired property can be distributed equally among siblings.
- In this traditional set-up, if a couple does not have any daughters, then the property goes to the wife’s elder sister, and her daughters.
- If the wife does not have sisters, then the clan usually takes over the property.
India must not excessively rely on a few large markets
This financial year is off to a subdued start on the trade front. Goods exports slumped to $34.6 billion in April, the lowest since last October — the worst month for outbound shipments in 2022-23. This was the third successive contraction in exports, and 12.7% below last April’s numbers. Imports shrank by a sharper 14% to trip to a 15-month low of under $50 billion. A slowing global economy had been hurting exports through the second half of 2022-23, with declines in four of six months. But April’s initial estimates are troubling not just because they represent the steepest fall in recent months but also signal a sudden shift in sequential momentum akin to the use of emergency handbrakes. This March, despite lingering global demand weakness, exports had hit a nine-month high of nearly $42 billion while imports were $60 billion. The new Foreign Trade Policy enunciated a two trillion-dollar export goal to be achieved in seven years. Its first month of implementation could not have been off to a shakier start. The prospects of last year’s healthy 14.7% growth that lifted total exports to about $776 billion being replicated in 2023-24 look bleak already.
One may draw some succour from the trade deficit easing to a 20-month low. But managing the trade deficit cannot be the goal for policymakers. Falling imports also indicate that domestic demand, India’s proclaimed insulation against global headwinds, is ebbing. Moreover, when imports of petroleum (down 14%), and gems and jewellery plummet, they also affect exports of value-added end products. Petroleum exports shrank 17.5% in April, while jewellery shipments slipped at 30%, marking the seventh contraction in 10 months even as other job creators such as textiles have been hit hard. That commodity prices have cooled from last year is only one reason for the shrinking trade basket. Officials concede there does not seem to be any immediate respite likely from faltering global demand. China’s opening up of the economy may have prompted a global trade growth forecast hike (from 1% to 1.7%) for 2023 from the WTO, but recent Chinese data have been underwhelming about the recovery momentum. Reluctant European and North American markets are only expected to speed up goods orders by September for the festive season, while services exports that have held up through the recent trade turmoil, may slow too. India must use this slack period to review its overall trade stance, the reliance on a few large markets, and pursue greater integration with global value chains and multilateral trading arrangements. These would yield better outcomes than fresh measures to hold down the import bill.
Why spurious liquor kills
What has the World Health Organization said about the consumption of alcohol? What happens inside the body after methanol ingestion? What are the industrial applications of methanol? What are the effects of methanol poisoning? Can such poisoning be treated?
The story so far:
As of 10 p.m. on May 16, as many as 22 people had died after consuming spurious liquor in the Chengalpattu and Villupuram districts of Tamil Nadu, while more than 30 others were still being treated in hospitals. The incidents occurred barely a month after the State government said that it had brought such deaths under control. They are also tinged with an element of surprise because liquor sales in Tamil Nadu are wholly controlled by the State, via more than 5,300 outlets. The State government is currently in the process of closing 500 outlets.
What is the alcohol in liquor?
Liquor is differentiated by its alcohol content — from the 5% or so of beer to the 12% or so of wine to the 40% or so of distilled spirits (all by volume). In the beverages consumed for recreational purposes, the alcohol in question is almost always ethanol. Technically, in this context, ethanol is a psychoactive drug that, in low doses, reduces the level of neurotransmission in the body, leading to its typical intoxicating effects.
Contrary to popular belief, the World Health Organization has found that “no level of [its] consumption is safe for our health”. Long-term use leads to dependence, heightens the risk of some cancers and heart disease, and may eventually cause death.
Ethanol (C2H5OH) is one carbon atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms and one more carbon atom; the second carbon atom is also bonded to two hydrogen atoms and the hydroxyl group, also known as the ion OH–. Inside the body, it is metabolised in the liver and the stomach by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes to acetaldehyde. Then aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzymes transform the acetaldehyde into acetate. The adverse effects of alcohol consumption, from the hangover to a cancer, are due to acetaldehyde.
What is spurious liquor?
Spurious liquor is characterised by the liquid mixture containing methanol as well. The police have thus far determined that the spurious liquor in both the Chengalpattu and Villupuram incidents arose from the same source, and that arrack sellers had purchased industrial-grade methanol from factories and sold it to the victims. (Arrack is distilled from the fermented sap of the palm tree.) In many older cases, such liquor is typically a home-made liquor, such as arrack, to which methanol was added to strengthen the intoxicating effects (in colloquial parlance, its kick) and/or to increase its bulk volume.
The Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations 2018 stipulate the maximum permissible quantity of methanol in different liquors. These values span a wide range, including “absent” in coconut fenny, 50 grams per 100 litres in country liquor, and 300 grams per 100 litres in pot-distilled spirits.
What is methanol?
The methanol molecule (CH3OH) consists of one carbon atom bonded with three hydrogen atoms and one hydroxyl group.
Schedule I of the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules 1989 includes methanol. The Indian Standard IS 517 applies to how the quality of methanol is to be ascertained, and together with the Tamil Nadu Denatured Spirit, Methyl Alcohol, and Varnish (French Polish) Rules 1959, what signage, methanol packaging should carry. The most common way to produce methanol is to combine carbon monoxide and hydrogen in the presence of copper and zinc oxides as catalysts at 50-100 atm of pressure and 250°C. In the pre-industrial era, going back to ancient Egypt, people also made methanol (together with several other byproducts) by heating wood to a very high temperature.
Methanol has several industrial applications, including as a precursor to acetic acid, formaldehyde, and aromatic hydrocarbons. It is also used as a solvent and as antifreeze. In Tamil Nadu, the manufacture, export, import, storage, and sale of methanol requires licences under the 1959 Rules.
How does spurious liquor kill?
The deadliness of spurious liquor arises from methanol.
According to James Manor, emeritus professor of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, “In every hooch tragedy in the history of India — and of the world since 1945 — the poison has been methanol.” The human body contains infinitesimal quantities of methanol (4.5 ppm in the breath of healthy individuals, per a 2006 study) as a result of eating some fruits. But even for an adult, more than 0.1 ml of pure methanol per kilogram of body-weight can be devastating.
Once ingested, methanol is metabolised in the liver by ADH enzymes to form formaldehyde (H-CHO). Then ALDH enzymes convert formaldehyde to formic acid (HCOOH). The accumulation of formic acid over time leads to a baneful condition called metabolic acidosis. Acidosis can lead to acidemia, a condition wherein the blood’s pH drops below its normal value of 7.35, becoming increasingly acidic. The blood’s pH is normally maintained by a balance between an acid, like carbon dioxide, and a base, like the bicarbonate ion (HCO3–). As methanol is metabolised, the concentration of the bicarbonate ion drops, leading to the acid gaining the upper hand. Formic acid also interferes with an enzyme called cytochrome oxidase, which in turn disrupts cells’ ability to use oxygen and leads to the build-up of lactic acid, contributing to acidosis.
According to a paper published by Archives of Toxicology in January 2022, consuming methanol also leads to “methanol-induced optic neuropathy …, a serious condition that may result in long-term or irreversible visual impairment or even blindness [due to] damage and loss of function of the optic nerve and retina”.
Methanol-poisoning can also cause cerebral edema, haemorrhage, and death.
How can such poisoning be treated?
Once methanol is ingested, the body takes some time to completely eliminate it. One estimate suggests that as much as 33% is still left behind after 48 hours. It is completely absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract and the blood-methanol level can reach its maximum value within 90 minutes. There are two immediate ways to treat methanol poisoning. One is to administer ethanol (of a pharmaceutical grade, by healthcare workers). This may sound counter-intuitive but ethanol competes very well with methanol for the ADH enzymes. As a result, the methanol is kept from being metabolised to formaldehyde.
The other option is to administer an antidote called fomepizole, which has a similar mechanism — it slows the action of the ADH enzymes, causing the body to produce formaldehyde at a rate that the body can quickly excrete, preventing the deadlier effects from kicking in. Both courses of action are limited by the availability of their characteristic compounds. Fomepizole is expensive whereas pharmaceutical-grade ethanol needs to be administered under supervision.
Healthcare workers may also have the individual undertake a dialysis to remove methanol and formic acid salts from the blood, and mitigate damage to the kidneys and retina. They may also administer folinic acid, which encourages the formic acid to break up into carbon dioxide and water. Both fomepizole and folinic acid are in the WHO’s list of essential medicines.
The formic acid would have begun accumulating in dangerous amounts around 18-24 hours after ingestion, affecting the optic nerve, kidneys, the heart, and the brain. Ophthalmic effects have been observed in 50% of those who have consumed methanol, and they become apparent within 24 hours.
If the individual consumed ethanol along with the methanol, the damage may not be evident until after a few days, further delaying treatment and increasing mortality.
As of 10 p.m. on May 16, as many as 22 people had died after consuming spurious liquor in the Chengalpattu and Villupuram districts of Tamil Nadu, while more than 30 others were still being treated in hospitals.
The deadliness of spurious liquor arises from methanol. The human body contains infinitesimal quantities of methanol (4.5 ppm in the breath of healthy individuals, per a 2006 study) as a result of eating some fruits. But even for an adult, more than 0.1 ml of pure methanol per kilogram of body-weight can be devastating.
In Tamil Nadu, the manufacture, export, import, storage, and sale of methanol requires licences under the State’s Denatured Spirit, Methyl Alcohol, and Varnish (French Polish) Rules 1959.
According to James Manor, “In every hooch tragedy in the history of India — and of the world since 1945 — the poison has been methanol”
Illicit liquor (Hooch):
Hooch’ is a term used for spurious alcoholic preparations.
Any alcoholic beverage made under unlicensed conditions is called illicit liquor. Usually, sub-standard raw material is used, often this is spiked with other chemicals.
The term hooch is popular slang for illicit liquor. The origin of the term hooch is said to come from the Hoochinoo Indians of Alaska.
What makes it poisonous?
Under unregulated conditions, methanol or methyl alcohol can be produced with the desired ethanol.
Sometimes, industrial methyl alcohol or denatured spirit (mixture of ethanol and methanol) is added by illicit brewers to save costs and in the mistaken belief that it’ll increase potency.
Methyl alcohol is extremely toxic — 10 ml can cause blindness and 30 ml can cause death within 10 to 30 hours. It is like ethyl alcohol in taste and smell.
Can cause Blindness and other serious health problems even Death also.
Ethyl alcohol and fomepizole are used as antidotes, inhibiting the metabolizing of methyl alcohol so that it passes through urine.
Advanced treatment requires haemodialysis to remove toxic substances from the bloodstream.
Why do people consume these?
- Cheap alternative
- Demand-Supply relation
- Due to liquor ban
What Constitution has to say on Alcohol-
- Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) (Article 47):
- It mentions that “in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”
- While DPSPs are not in themselves legally enforceable, they set goals that the state should aspire towards to establish conditions under which citizens can lead a good life.
- According to the Seventh Schedule, alcohol is a state subject, i.e., state legislatures have the right and responsibility to draft laws regarding it,
- including “the production, manufacture, possession, transport, purchase and sale of intoxicating liquors
India moves closer to getting its first indigenous vaccine against dengue
Drug makers Serum Institute of India and Panacea Biotec respond to call for Phase 3 clinical trials; according to a senior official, the trials, being done to evaluate efficacy, safety and immunogenicity of vaccine, could start close to August
Moving a step closer to developing India’s first vaccine against dengue, drug-makers Serum Institute of India and Panacea Biotec have submitted their responses to the call by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for an Expression of Interest for collaborative Phase 3 clinical trials for indigenous manufacturers.
The Phase 3 trial is being done for evaluation of efficacy, along with safety and immunogenicity of tetravalent dengue vaccine candidate developed by Indian manufacturers. Trials could start close to August for the adult vaccine, a senior health official said.
The ICMR says the dengue viral disease causes significant morbidity and mortality across the globe and in India, 2 to 2.5 lakh cases are reported annually.
The global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically with about half the world’s population now at risk. Though an estimated 100-400 million infections occur each year, over 80% are generally mild and asymptomatic. Hence, in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified dengue to be one among the top 10 global health threats.
As of now, there is no specific treatment for dengue/severe dengue. “Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop effective vaccines against dengue viral disease,” the ICMR said.
Giving details about the two potential vaccines, Nivedita Gupta, Head of Virology, ICMR, said that the Serum Institute of India’s vaccine initiated one/two studies in paediatric population and the plan for Panacea’s vaccine is to conduct Phase 3 randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 10,335 healthy adults (aged 18-80) in 20 sites (ICMR-funded).
She added that the Phase 3 protocol has been approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (January 2023) and the company is trying to upscale vaccine production with the trials expected to start in August-September.
The ICMR has noted that the desirable characteristics of a dengue vaccine includes acceptable short- and long-term safety profile (no antibody-dependent enhancement), inducing protection against all four serotypes of dengue, reducing risk of severe diseases and deaths, inducing a sustained immune response and effectiveness irrespective of the earlier sero-status and age of the individual.
READ OUR STORY | TRACING THE LINK BETWEEN DENGUE OUTBREAKS AND THE MONSOON
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease that has rapidly spread to all tropical regions.
Dengue virus is transmitted by female mosquitoes mainly of the species Aedes aegypti and, to a lesser extent, Ae. albopictus.
Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics, with local variations in risk influenced by climate parameters as well as social and environmental factors.
Causes and symptoms of Dengue
Dengue virus belongs to the family Flaviviridae, having four serotypes that are spread by the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes.
- There are four dengue virus serotypes and it is possible to be infected four times.
- These mosquitoes are also vectors of chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika viruses.
- The ideal conditions for this species of mosquitos are usually between the latitudes of 35° North and 35° South with an elevation of 1000 meters (3300 ft).
- They usually bite during the early morning and in the evening, though it does not mean that they will specifically bite at these hours.
- A single bite is more than enough to be a cause for infection.
- A female mosquito that bites an infected person with dengue becomes infected during the initial 2-10-day febrile period.
- After 8-10 days, the virus spreads to other tissues including the mosquito’s salivary glands and is subsequently released into its saliva.