The gap within: on inter-State disparities

India, as the world’s fastest-growing major economy, may well be catching up with the richer economies in terms of absolute size. But economic convergence within the country remains a distant dream as poorer States continue to lag behind the richer ones in economic growth. A report from the rating agency Crisil found that the inter-State disparities have widened in recent years even as the larger economy grows in size and influence on the global stage. Many low-income States have experienced isolated years of strong economic growth above the national average. Bihar, in fact, was the fastest-growing State this year among the 17 non-special category States evaluated by the report. But they have still failed to bridge their widening gap with the richer States since they have simply not been able to maintain a healthy growth rate over a sustained period of time. Richer States like Gujarat, for instance, have been able to achieve sustained economic growth and increase their gap over other
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A reckless experiment: on gene-edited babies

The saga of the Chinese scientist who created the world’s first gene-edited babies last November has forced researchers everywhere to take a hard look at the ethics of gene-editing. Chinese authorities have since condemned the researcher, He Jiankui, with a government report this week saying he violated both ethics and laws. But though Mr. He’s actions drew international outrage, they weren’t revolutionary in technological terms. Editing DNA to correct disease mutations has been possible for a while now, which means others can also do what Mr. He did. The promises of such gene-editing are boundless; over a dozen clinical trials are currently on to treat diseases like HIV, multiple myeloma and other forms of cancer, using the Crispr-Cas9 editing system. But none of them involve editing the so-called human germ-line; instead, they have restricted themselves to fixing genetic flaws in sick adults. In contrast, Mr. He deactivated a gene in two human embryos, which means that the changes he
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Editorial

Inflation conundrum

The multi-month low retail and wholesale inflation prints for December pose an interesting challenge for policymakers and the central bank. Inflation in Consumer Price Index (CPI), at 2.19% in December, is at an 18-month low, while the WPI, at 3.8%, is at an eight-month low. The Reserve Bank appears to have been blindsided by the CPI number, which is way below projections made during its last few monetary policy pronouncements. The RBI has maintained a CPI projection of 4.4-4.8% for the second half of fiscal 2019. Even in the October policy announcement, the bank projected 3.8-4.5% retail inflation in the second half with upside risk, and even changed its policy stance to “calibrated tightening” from “neutral”. The MPC and the RBI may well want to reassess the robustness of their inflation projection mechanism in light of the data coming in. When the new Governor, Shaktikanta Das, sits down with the monetary policy committee (MPC) in early February he may well have to return to a

Editorial

A wide Democratic field

As expected, the array of presidential hopefuls for the 2020 U.S. election has widened considerably on the Democratic Party side, with at least eight candidates declared running, another six likely to run, and a further eight potential entrants sitting on the fence. Some analysts put the total size of the potential Democratic aspirational pool at 34. The latest addition to the list was Kamala Harris, a first-term Senator from California and daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants. Ms. Harris enters this crowded arena with the heft of her star power, having accumulated considerable political capital through her tough questioning of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees — including then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who admitted that being grilled by Ms. Harris made him “nervous” — and other notables. Nevertheless, she was beaten to it by the New Year’s Day announcement of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a top-tier Democrat who also took on Mr. Trump over policy issues

Editorial

Death by design: on jallikattu

In situations involving humans and animals, Murphy’s law takes a strong hold: if things can go wrong, they most likely will. Jallikattu may have drawn the attention of animal rights activists for the innumerable accounts of cruelty to bulls, but the deaths fall mostly on the human side of the ledger. The animals suffer but generally survive the ordeal, while a few youth lose their lives. A tragedy as in Viralimalai in Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu, where two men were gored to death by bulls, was waiting to happen. Whatever the precautions taken, and there were many, one cannot prepare for the behaviour of a rampaging bull. Viralimalai jallikattu may not be as famed as the Alanganallur or Palamedu events, but this year it had the full weight of the government behind it. The event was organised by Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar, a bull-owner himself, in an attempt to create a ‘record’ for the largest number of bulls in a single arena. The event got a bigger profile with Chief

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