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Oppn during UPA years and SC judgments must share responsibility for current economic mess

Government must recognise that fear and enterprise don’t go together. Keep the ED and the CBI at bay and ensure that income tax authorities act within the law. Enterprise alone can help fuel our economy. Otherwise the Ides of March are not far away.

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kapil sibal

The machinations to form and topple governments may be a priority for grabbing and sustaining political supremacy. However, with the economy tumbling for six straight quarters and GDP growth at 4.5 per cent (July-September quarter), we are in trouble. Tax receipts in Q2 (April-October) at Rs 6.83 lakh crore, with an expenditure of Rs16.55 lakh crore are worrying.

The output of eight core industries in October contracted by 5.8 per cent compared to October 2018 with six of the eight sectors witnessing negative growth. Coal production fell by 17.6 per cent, crude output by 5.1 per cent, steel production by 1.6 per cent, natural gas by 5.7 per cent, cement by 7.7 per cent and electricity consumption by 12.4 per cent.

Various international agencies have cut down their GDP predictions for the current financial year by 1.5 per cent on an average. The RBI, too, on December 6 lowered the growth estimate to 5 per cent in 2019-20 from 6.1 per cent. What is required is not patience, as the finance minister persuades us to believe, but urgent prescriptions to address structural issues.

What are these issues? First, the wheels of economic growth are undergoing qualitative changes. Automation and artificial intelligence are replacing manpower. Consequently, Indian industry is bound to suffer. While the adoption of both AI and automation by domestic industry is inevitable, it will also lead to a substantial loss of jobs. In recent years, we have seen job losses in IT and other labour-intensive sectors, which have in the past fueled growth.

Second, it is imperative for our labour force to acquire skills to meet the needs of the fourth industrial revolution. To do that, we need to affect structural changes in our education system as children move from school to higher education.

Instead, the Ministry of Human Resource Development is more concerned with changing the way we look at our past than reflecting upon the needs of the future. One might resurrect the heroes of the past but what we need is to put in place an environment to discover and encourage our heroes of the future. Unless we create an ecosystem in which our graduating students acquire the skills to meet the demands of the economy, we will not get the appropriate labour force required by industry.

Third, the contribution of both the Opposition during the UPA years as well as judgments of the Supreme Court to the economic mess that we find ourselves in. The C&AG’s preposterous theory of presumptive loss in telecom latched on to by the then Opposition, resulted in a judgment cancelling telecom licences, which killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. Subsequent auctions of spectrum resulted in high bids. The revenue earnings of telecom operators were insufficient to discharge the debt to banks for loans taken to buy spectrum.

Little was left for investment in infrastructure for mobile telecom efficiency. The result is, today, the sector which was efficient and highly competitive is reeling with a debt of close to Rs 8 lakh crore. Soon, the telecom sector may see the emergence of a duopoly. The telecom sector would have thrived but for the legacy of unsustainable prescriptions forced upon it. Auction money was viewed as a source of revenue to enrich the treasury rather than ploughing it back into the sector for investments in infrastructure.

The story of another sector, coal, is even more depressing. The SC, in an allegedly historic judgment, set aside all coal allocations since the early ’90s. The government, upon such cancellations, assured the Court that coal production will see a new sunrise with the auction of coal mines. The result was the opposite. The auctioned coal mines had no takers and those who participated in the auction, preferred to have their securities encashed rather than pay the balance amount for the auctioned mines. Consequently, the import of coal has increased at an alarming pace, adding to cost since coal is the raw material for several industries.

Coal India has not been able to meet the increasing demands of our emerging economy. Coal is the life blood of every industry including power, steel, and cement. As a result of these auctions and the SC judgment, the power sector is in the doldrums. The NPAs of banks reaching more than Rs 10 lakh crore is partly the result of the mindless protests by the Opposition and the SC judgments.

Fourth, is the crisis in agriculture as we promise to double farmers’ income — a daunting task with agricultural growth at 2 per cent per annum. We need innovative policies in agriculture. Use of technology to increase productivity per acre, rational policies to reduce the mindless exploitation of groundwater and remunerative returns for the farmer are imperatives. The plight of indebted marginal farmers too must be addressed.

Crucial sectors of the economy that generate employment are in decline. Thirty million of the 100 million employed in the textile industry, our second largest employer, for a variety of reasons both domestic and global, have lost their jobs. Close to 3.5 lakh workers in the automobile industry have been laid off as auto sales have slumped to a two-decade low. With increasing incidents of lynching, the leather industry is facing challenges with local units closing down.

The cumulative effect of all the above coupled with the mindless decision of demonetisation followed by the implementation of a flawed GST made matters worse. These decisions paralysed the economy. The result: Economic growth is eluding us. Tax breaks for industry already flushed with cash will see no immediate outcomes. The key is to boost incomes of those at the bottom of the pyramid.

Finally, government must recognise that fear and enterprise don’t go together. Keep the ED and the CBI at bay and ensure that income tax authorities act within the law. Enterprise alone can help fuel our economy. Otherwise the Ides of March are not far away.

This article is originally published on on December 12, 2019 The Indian Express. The writer, a senior Congress leader, is a former Union minister.

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Male sex hormones may help treat breast cancer: Study

While endocrine therapy is standard-of-care for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, resistance to these drugs is the major cause of breast cancer mortality.

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breast cancer

Sydney : Researchers have found new evidence about the positive role of androgens, commonly thought of as male sex hormones but also found at lower levels in women, in breast cancer treatment.

In normal breast development, estrogen stimulates and androgen inhibits growth at puberty and throughout adult life.

Abnormal estrogen activity is responsible for the majority of breast cancers, but the role of androgen activity in this disease has been controversial.

The new research published in the journal Nature Medicine showed that androgens have potential for treatment of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

A cancer is called estrogen receptor positive if it has receptors for estrogen, according to Breastcancer.org.

Using cell-line and patient-derived models, the global team, including researchers at the University of Adelaide and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, demonstrated that androgen receptor activation by natural androgen or a new androgenic drug had potent anti-tumour activity in all estrogen receptor positive breast cancers, even those resistant to current standard-of-care treatments.

In contrast, androgen receptor inhibitors had no effect.

“This work has immediate implications for women with metastatic estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, including those resistant to current forms of endocrine therapy,” said lead researcher Theresa Hickey, Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide.

“We provide compelling new experimental evidence that androgen receptor stimulating drugs can be more effective than existing (e.g. Tamoxifen) or new (e.g. Palbociclib) standard-of-care treatments and, in the case of the latter, can be combined to enhance growth inhibition,” said Wayne Tilley, Director of the Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories, Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide.

Androgens were historically used to treat breast cancer, but knowledge of hormone receptors in breast tissue was rudimentary at the time and the treatment’s efficacy misunderstood.

Androgen therapy was discontinued due to virilising side effects and the advent of anti-estrogenic endocrine therapies.

While endocrine therapy is standard-of-care for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, resistance to these drugs is the major cause of breast cancer mortality.

“The new insights from this study should clarify the widespread confusion over the role of the androgen receptor in estrogen receptor driven breast cancer,” said Elgene Lim, a breast oncologist and Head of the Connie Johnson Breast Cancer Research Lab at the Garvan Institute.

“Given the efficacy of this treatment strategy at multiple stages of disease in our study, we hope to translate these findings into clinical trials as a new class of endocrine therapy for breast cancer.”

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Azim Premji and Dr Devi Shetty chosen for PCB awards

Besides them 25 senior journalists have been selected for the ‘Press Club Annual Awards’, a release said.

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Azim Premji Wipro

Bengaluru, Jan 19: The chairman of Wipro Limited Azim Premji and the founder chairman of Narayana Health Dr Devi Prasad Shetty are among those who have been selected for the annual awards given by the Press Club of Bangalore.

Premji has been chosen for ‘Press Club Person of the Year’, while Dr Shetty and actor-Director Sudeep Sanjeev have been selected for the ‘Press Club Special Award.’

Besides them 25 senior journalists have been selected for the ‘Press Club Annual Awards’, a release said.

Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa will facilitate the awardees at a function scheduled for the third week of February, it said.

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Elizabeth Olsen: Nepotism creates fear that you don’t deserve the work you get

The actress added that she “always had this need to prove myself to everyone around me that I work really hard”, adding: “I couldn’t walk in a room without everyone already having an opinion.”

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Elizabeth Olsen

Los Angeles, Jan 19 : Hollywood star Elizabeth Olsen says she once thought of changing her surname and distance herself from the success of her family because it was insanity growing up in the spotlight.

“It was insanity. There were times when my sisters would always be spotted and I would be in the car with them and it would really freak me out. It has helped me navigate how I want to approach my career,” said the actress, whose older sisters are Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen.

The actress added that she “always had this need to prove myself to everyone around me that I work really hard”, adding: “I couldn’t walk in a room without everyone already having an opinion.”

Elizabeth opened up om the fears of nepotism.

“The thing about nepotism is the fear that you don’t earn or deserve the work. There was even a part of me when I was a little girl that thought if I’m gonna be an actress I’m going to go by Elizabeth Chase, which is my middle name. And then, once I started working, I was like, ‘I love my family, I like my name, I love my sisters. Why would I be so ashamed of that?’ It’s fine now,” she said.

The actress said fame has made her more of a homebody.

“Fame has also made me someone who is more of a homebody than maybe I would like to be but I know where not to go. If I could do whatever I wanted for the day, I’d start with the gym, then I’d go to the grocery store, because it’s my favourite thing,” Elizabeth told The Sun.

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