a) Split wide open

No single party securing the necessary majority of 326 out of 650 seats in the House of Commons is not an unprecedented outcome in U.K. politics: it happened, for instance, in 2010 and in 1974. Yet the spectacle of non-majority party leaders seeking to meet the Queen the morning after in a bid to somehow cobble together a standing coalition government elicited sarcasm. Indeed, it is a winding path laden with avoidable pitfalls that has brought the U.K. to this cross roads. When Prime Minister Theresa May announced in April that she was calling snap elections in less than two months, little did she imagine that her sky-high favour ability ratings and hopes for a thumping mandate for a hard Brexit would rapidly fizzle out. The Conservative Party leadership may have blundered in confusing the narrow win for the Leave campaign with a sense of public faith in the “strong and stable leadership” that Ms. May promised, not realising that the underlying voter intentions driving the two may be entirely distinct, even contradictory. Faith in a national leadership is driven by a broad swathe of domestic policy promises and outcomes, and unfortunately for the Tories voters assessed them as coming up short. The push for Brexit was, however, powered by a more limited desire for economic distance from the European Union, which voters may have believed another leader could deliver. The “other leader” of the moment, of course, is Labour Party chief Jeremy Corbyn, who masterfully channelled his long experience of engaging freely with the public to underscore a subtle contrast in leadership style compared to Ms. May, considered to be aloof and surrounded by a small circle of advisers to the exclusion of many even from among her own party. Similarly, the government’s “dementia tax” goof, plans to cut 20,000 police officers at a time when the country was vulnerable to the terror attacks of the sort witnessed in recent weeks, and talk of ending universal free school lunches contrasted embarrassingly with Labour’s manifesto. Yet, it would be unwise to view the result as a victory of any sort for Labour. Ms. May’s government could cling on with the support, from the inside or outside, of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which won 10 seats. In one sense the British people have dealt themselves a difficult hand politically, for they now have to live with the prospect of continuing uncertainty on the direction that their country will take with regard to Brexit and also other domestic concerns. The silver lining may be that by exercising their democratic rights they have given voice to their collective political opinions; and whoever helms their nation would do well to understand all the nuances of their choice.

b) Proper protocol

The revision of antibiotics classes by the World Health Organisation in its list of essential medicines is a welcome step in the global initiative to push back against antimicrobial resistance, the phenomenon of bacteria becoming resistant even to the most potent drugs. With a graded approach to the use of antibiotics, under which some medicines are reserved for the most resistant microbes, the WHO list can stop their misuse as broad-spectrum treatments. The Indian Council of Medical Research issued a warning two years ago, based on studies conducted in hospitals, that resistance to antibiotics was found in 50% of patients. A large number of infants were dying due to infections that did not respond to treatment. Antibiotics have had great success, extending the frontiers of medicine for over 70 years. But Alexander Fleming, who discovered the first antibiotic, himself foresaw the danger of relying too much on them. The revised WHO classification can mitigate the problem if the many issues associated with use of the drugs can be monitored and regulated. Within the realm of medical practice, the prescription of antibiotics is often guided by such factors as patient demand, competing alternative treatment systems, and even financial incentives. Close scrutiny of these by national stewardship programmes such as those initiated by the ICMR is needed. There are also environmental factors, including the widespread use of antibiotics on farm animals, that require more research to determine their role in building resistance. One of the key aspects of the WHO’s guidance is the availability of a first-line ‘access’ group of antibiotics at all times. Other drugs are placed under a ‘watch’ category as second choice, or as ‘reserve’ to be deployed as a last resort. Clearly, this system underscores the need for universal access to essential medicines both in the public health system and for patients cared for by private practitioners. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which has promised health assurance for all, must come out with a framework to ensure this. Access to speedy and accurate diagnosis is equally important in order to deploy the correct antibiotic early. While the medical community can be sensitised to its responsibility to prevent antimicrobial resistance, it will take enlightened policies on housing, sanitation and hygiene education to prevent new infections and the spread of disease-causing organisms: hand-washing, for instance, is extremely beneficial. Drug-resistant microbes pose a serious challenge today to treat, among other things, pneumonia, infection of blood and surgical sites, and meningitis. The quest for new classes of drugs goes on. An effective response demands scrupulous adherence to prescription discipline of the kind advocated by the WHO. India has severe asymmetries in the delivery of health care: rural-vs-urban, and poor-vs affluent patients, to name just two. It will take good public health policies, sufficient funding and determined leadership to overcome antibiotic resistance.


1) Cobble

Meaning: Roughly assemble or produce something from available parts or elements.

Example: The film was imperfectly cobbled together from two separate stories.

Synonyms: Devise, Contrive

Antonyms: Break, Destroy

2) Coalition

Meaning: A temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government.

Example: A coalition between Liberals and Conservatives.

Synonyms: Alliance, Union

Antonyms: Disunion, Disconnection

3) Elicited

Meaning: Evoke or draw out (a reaction, answer, or fact) from someone.

Example: I tried to elicit a smile from Joanna.

Synonyms: Obtain, Bring out

4) Sarcasm

Meaning: The use of irony to mock or convey contempt.

Example: She didn’t like the note of sarcasm in his voice.

Synonyms: Mockery, Ridicule

5) Laden

Meaning: Heavily loaded or weighed down.

Example: A tree laden with apples.

Synonyms: Loaded, Burdened

Antonyms: Empty

6) Pitfalls

Meaning: A hidden or unsuspected danger or difficulty.

Example: The pitfalls of buying goods at public auctions.

Synonyms: Hazard, Danger

7) Snap

Meaning: Break suddenly and completely, typically with a sharp cracking sound.

Example: Guitar strings kept snapping.

Synonyms: Split, Fracture

Antonyms: Hold

8) Brexit

Meaning: A term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Example: A Brexit is considered a real possibility for the first time in four decades.

9) Fizzle out

Meaning: To gradually end, often in a disappointing or weak way.

Example: They went to different universities and their relationship just fizzled out.

10) Swathe

Meaning: Wrap in several layers of fabric.

Example: His hands were swathed in bandages.

Synonyms: Wrap, Envelop

11) Tories

Meaning: (In the UK) a member or supporter of the Conservative Party.

Example: A poll showed the Tories thirteen points behind Labour.

12) Dementia

Meaning: A mental illness that causes someone to be unable to think clearly or to understand what is real and what is not real.

Example: A new study on age-related dementias.

Synonyms: Mental illness, Madness

13) Goof

Meaning: Behave in a silly way or playful way / make a mistake.

Example: They started goofing around in front of the cameras.

Synonyms: Miscalculation, Miscue

Antonyms: Correct, Succeed

14) Manifesto

Meaning: A public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.

Example: He may fudge key issues in the Labour manifesto.

Synonyms: Platform, Programme

15) Dealt

Meaning: Have commercial relations with / cope with or control (a difficult person or situation).

Example: Life had dealt very harshly with her.

Synonyms: Treat, Handle

16) Helms

Meaning: Manage (an organization) / a position of leadership.

Example: The President is at the helm of the Ship of State.

Synonyms: Leadership, Guide

17) Nuances

Meaning: A subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.

Example: He was familiar with the nuances of the local dialect.

Synonyms: Overtone, Variation

18) Broad-spectrum

Meaning: Denoting antibiotics, pesticides, etc. effective against a large variety of organisms.

Example: Pre-treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

19) Foresaw

Meaning: Be aware of beforehand; predict.

Example: We did not foresee any difficulties.

Synonyms: Anticipate, Predict

20) Relying

Meaning: Depend on with full trust or confidence.

Example: I know I can rely on your discretion.

Synonyms: Depend, Count

Antonyms: Distrust

21) Realm

Meaning: A field or domain of activity or interest.

Example: The realm of applied chemistry.

Synonyms: Domain, Sphere

22) Scrutiny

Meaning: Critical observation or examination.

Example: Every aspect of local government was placed under scrutiny.

Synonyms: Inspection, Survey

Antonyms: Glance, Cursory look.

23) Deployed

Meaning: Bring into effective action.

Example: Small states can often deploy resources more freely.

Synonyms: Utilize, Employ

24) Pose

Meaning: Behave affectedly in order to impress others.

Example: Some people like to drive kit cars, but most just like to pose in them.

Synonyms: Posture, Attitudinize

25) Meningitis

Meaning: A serious disease in which there is inflammation of the meninges, caused by viral or bacterial infection, and marked by intense headache and fever, sensitivity to light, and muscular rigidity.

26) Quest

Meaning: Search for something.

Example: They quest wisdom.

Synonyms: Search, Seek

27) Scrupulous

Meaning: (Of a person or process) careful, thorough, and extremely attentive to details.

Example: The research has been carried out with scrupulous attention to detail.

Synonyms: Careful, Honest

Antonyms: Dishonest, Careless