May 2021 : The Hindu Editorials Summary Compilation for Civil Services
- QUESTION : Exemplify the structure and pattern of migration in India. Highlight the issues faced by them due to covid-19 Pandemic along with discussing some solutions that can be provided by center and state governments to resolve this.
- QUESTION : Discuss the current issues caused by covid-19 pandemic in countries like India, social security in its modern form has been a response to many issues arising out of the development process.
- QUESTION : Discuss the important factors driving the migration of healthcare workers from India to other countries by suggesting the measure to stem their migration so that they can stop this process.
- QUESTION : Changes on the geopolitical horizon offers India-Japan relations multiple avenues to deepen their ties. Discuss the areas of cooperation and shared concerns for India and Japan.”
- QUESTION : A lethal second wave and critical shortage in oxygen supply have crippled India’s fight against Covid. Why did India fail to foresee the crisis and what can it do to mitigate it?
- QUESTION : Did India’s vaccine diplomacy hurt its fight against Covid and discuss why Covid vaccine producer India faces major shortage of doses ?
- QUESTION : Discuss the concept of “One health Approach” analysing it’s significance in handling zoonotic diseases and give key measures to strengthen the “ONE HEALTH” concept in India?
- QUESTION : Critically evaluate the major impacts of covid-19 pandemic on the foreign policy of India and give suggested measure to overcome this .
- QUESTION : The quota policy for Marathas needs an urgent revisit. Comment
- QUESTION : Why are the implications of patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccine for the global health equity? What were the reasons for opposition to waiver proposal?”
- QUESTION : Factors that introduce friction in the sustainability of India’s bilateral relations with the Britain and identify the areas in which both the countries can find fresh basis for the bilateral relations?
- QUESTION : Discuss the long standing issues with respect to Intellectual property enforcement and protection in India, suggest key measures to resolve these major issues.
- QUESTION : Local governance is constitutionally recognized, but not empowered in India”, examine the given statement in the backdrop of the effect of ongoing Covid-19 crisis and how can decentralised governance help for fighting against covid-19 pandemic?
- QUESTION : Critically examine the importance of public health service in a developing country like India and what are the major challenges that India is facing due to covid-19 pandemic and effective measures to be taken?
- QUESTION : Covid-19 Pandemic is worsening inequality in income and opportunities impacts some sections disproportionately in India and due to this discrimination based on gender, caste, and other factors peoples are facing multiple challenges. Critically evaluate this with effective solutions.
- QUESTION : Global and strategic significance of India-China relationship. How these relations can be strengthened?
- QUESTION : Discuss about the methodology to be used in the regulation of adoption of a child in India and what are the reforms necessary to further simplify the process considering an illegal adoption and child trafficking .
- QUESTION : How latest EdTech hampers the ethical code of conduct and suggest the effective ways to deal with the challenges associated with the adoption of online education mode ?
- QUESTION : Define the term “ Enforced Disappearance” and it is a continuous crime in East Asian region that needs a comprehensive approach to fight against it”.
- QUESTION : Detail the challenges that are being faced by medical education in India and how is the improved role of the private sector in medical education an answer to these challenges?”
- QUESTION : India-Israel relationship has gradually moved beyond defence sector cooperation into a more comprehensive one but internal conflicts between Israel and Palestine can hamper these ongoing developments . Critically analyse the relationship between both nations by giving effective solutions to pacify these conflicts between Israel and Palestine.
- QUESTION : Establishing the National Tribunal Commission (NTC) will definitely entail a radical restructuring of the present tribunals system. Discuss
- QUESTION : Critically analyse the situation in India due to Covid-19 pandemic and how is right to life being undermined when it comes to the Vaccine policy ?
- QUESTION : The current geopolitical situation appears to be complex due to the indirect involvement of multiple stakeholders . Analyse this statement
- QUESTION : Examine the significance of social security in India and also discuss why the universalisation social security remains an unsatisfied aspiration in the new code on social security”.
- QUESTION : What are the consequences or implications of ‘politicization of security cover ’ in India ? Analyse Critically
- QUESTION : What are the weaknesses of bureaucracy in India? Suggest the measures to improve the quality of public service delivery in India
- QUESTION : “Mucormycosis can be a new challenge in India as far as the overburdened health system is concerned and give some important ways to tackle this disease.” Critically analyse
- QUESTION : Suggest some key reforms in the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 and discuss recent issues related to child pornography and effective steps to curb this.
- QUESTION : American troops begin to leave Afghanistan and it could have implications for the whole region and beyond especially India . Discuss.
- QUESTION : Give two-state solution to resolve long running Israel-Palestine conflict.
- QUESTION : “The IT Rules 2021 have been criticised for exceeding the rulemaking power under Section 69A of the IT Act. Examine the scope of the criticism.”
- QUESTION : Give the significance of the Covid-19 pandemic data as an essential weapon against this pandemic. Critically analyse.
- QUESTION : Examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and on Indian economy at the same time . Suggest the measures to mitigate the impact.
- QUESTION : Critically examine the importance of public health systems in India during covid-19 like pandemics and what are the loopholes in the health infrastructure and appropriate steps to be taken to improve this ?
- QUESTION : Discuss various threats and challenges to cyber-security in India and name the initiatives that are being taken by the government of India to tackle such threat ?
- QUESTION : The need and benefits of imposing eco tax as part of environmental fiscal reforms and what is the status of environmental tax in India ? Discuss
- QUESTION : Discuss the key challenges faced by the States in the GST regime and What would be the impact on States as a guarantee of 14% growth in tax revenue in July 2022?”
- QUESTION : How can you say that Covid pandemic and rural distresses are the two prominent reasons behind the current slowdown in the Indian economy? Justify
QUESTION : Exemplify the structure and pattern of migration in India. Highlight the issues faced by them due to covid-19 Pandemic along with discussing some solutions that can be provided by center and state governments to resolve this.
AN ISSUE OF LIVES VERSUS LIVELIHOODS
- Challenges faced by Migrants due to Covid-19 Pandemic
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The government is not showing any Apathy towards Migrant communities to address the challenges faced by them. It is despite their increased vulnerability to the shocks in the economy.
- The second wave of the Pandemic has once again led to the enforcement of Strict to moderate lockdowns in states.
- This has resulted in a loss of jobs for Informal workers employed in many industries. Majority of the migrants work in the informal sector.
- Despite their increased vulnerability in the informal sector, government efforts to support them through policymaking have been inadequate.
ABOUT MIGRANTS :
- Migrants are ‘mobile by default’, They are a product of growing rural distress and inadequate official policies failing to support the ailing rural economy.
- They benefit the urban economy by providing cheap labour to manufacturing units and cheap services to households.
KEY CHALLENGES FACED BY MIGRANTS :
- Unemployment in urban areas due to Pandemic induced Economic distress.
- Lack of access to accommodation.
- A lack of sustainable income and savings to ensure food due to near insolvency.
- Reverse migration by paying exorbitant costs for travel.
- Falling victim to COVID-19.
- Lack of livelihood opportunities in their hometowns in the rural economies.
- Lack of new job opportunities, due to shrinking National Rural Employment Guarantee Act allotments by the government.
- Lastly, Lack of legal status as a working population.
CAUSES OF INTERNAL MIGRATION IN INDIA :
- Urbanization: Rural-urban migration is a major characteristic of urban transition in India. The rates of urbanization influence rural-urban wage differences. An increase in the demand for labour in urban areas and better wages increase migration.
- Marriage: Marriage is an important social factor for migration. As observed by Census 2011, the majority of the women migration is due to marriage.
- Employment: The prime reason for migration from rural to urban areas and urban to urban areas in search of better employment in industries, trade, transport and services.
- For Example, significant numbers of people from drought-prone regions—e.g. from areas of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra—migrate seasonally to work in brickmaking, construction, tile factories, and agricultural work. Such migration is of both rural-rural and rural-urban streams.
- Education: Due to the lack of educational facilities in rural areas, people migrate to urban areas for better academic opportunities. In the 2011 census, about 1.77% of people migrated for education.
- Lack of security: Political disturbances and interethnic conflicts is another reason for internal migration.
THE PHENOMENON OF MIGRATION :
- Migration is the movement of people away from their usual place of residence, across either internal (within country) or international (across countries) borders.
- As per the Census 2011, India had 45.6 crore migrants in 2011 (38% of the population) compared to 31.5 crore migrants in 2001 (31% of the population).
- Between 2001 and 2011, while population grew by 18%, the number of migrants increased by 45%.
- In 2011, 99% of total migration was internal and immigrants (international migrants) comprised 1%.
WAY FORWARD :
- Government should strive to calculate the official estimate of migrant workers, either incoming or reverse. This will help in objective policy planning.
- Need to alleviate rural distress by providing support to the ailing agriculture economy.
- There is a need to provide some short-term relief for migrant workers and their families to support their livelihood during the Pandemic.
- Migrant workers should be provided with legal backing.
- Modifications in the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 are required to strengthen the health and safety conditions of workers in establishments.
- Recognition of circular migrants as part of India’s urban population.
- Relaxing the restrictions that prevent migrants from accessing vital benefits such as food rations in their destination cities. Reconfiguring the domicile-centric public distribution system can help migrants.
- Prioritising dedicated transport options for migrants to prevent overcrowding, especially along high-intensity migration corridors.
- Special Measures should also take into account the particular situation of migrant women, who are among those most economically vulnerable and impacted by the situation.
- India has to start working on the current data of internal migrants. Further In-depth understanding of the cause and effect of internal migration is the need of the hour.
QUESTION : Discuss the current issues caused by covid-19 pandemic in countries like India, social security in its modern form has been a response to many issues arising out of the development process.
A BULLET TRAIN TO HUNGER
- Expansion of Social Security Nets
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The pandemic has highlighted the importance of expanding social security nets
- The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have hurt the poor on multiple fronts of healthcare, livelihood and hunger. Both urban and rural regions are facing difficulties, however, miseries in rural regions were less due to wide coverage of social security net.
SITUATION IN 2020 :
- The April 2020 lockdown brought immense misery for the people of India. It’s been almost a year and masses have now learned to adapt to the new normal.
- Nonetheless, the situation for the poor has been worse as they were hit on multiple fronts including healthcare, livelihood and hunger.
DISMAL STATE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC :
- The State of Working India report 2021 shows that nearly half of formal salaried workers moved into informal work between late 2019 and late 2020. Further, the poorest 20% of the households lost their entire income in April and May 2020.
- Greater Hardships for Urban Regions: Hunger Watch (HW) Survey 2021 was conducted in 11 States in October 2020. It found that:
- In October, 26% had no income in rural areas while 30% had no income in urban areas.
- While 54% in urban areas had to borrow money for food, it was 16% lower for rural respondents.
- Urban respondents were 15 percentage points worse off compared to their rural counterparts across 13 key parameters.
- Disproportionate impact on Vulnerable sections: As per HW survey, the situation is worse when data is observed in terms of caste, religion, and other special forms of vulnerability.
- For instance, 60% of Muslims, 51% of Dalits, and 56% of single women-headed households went to bed without a meal at least once.
- However, some form of relief was provided by social security nets during these turbulent times.
RELIEF PROVIDED BY SOCIAL SECURITY SCHEMES :
- National Food Security Act: Under this, 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population are entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains each month at subsidised prices.
- The government announced additional grains for the poor under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
- Further, an additional entitlement of 5 kg of foodgrains per individual and 1 kg of pulses per household for free was available. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) cardholders under the NFSA, were eligible for this benefit.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA): It guarantees 100 days of work a year to every rural household with an aim to enhance the livelihood security of people.
- There was a 47% increase in person-days of work under MGNREGA in 2020-21 in comparison to 2019-20. Further, a record 72 lakh households completed 100 days of work in one year.
WHY LESS DISTRESS IN RURAL AREAS – REASONS ?
- Employment guarantee schemes like MGNREGA are not available for urban regions.
- The coverage of rural regions is more under NFSA in comparison to urban areas i.e. 75% versus 50%.
- The availability of ration cards was higher in rural regions than urban areas. Around 56% of respondents had NFSA cards in rural regions while only 27% had them in urban areas.
SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM ?
- According to the ILO, Social Security is a comprehensive approach designed to prevent deprivation, give assurance to the individual of a basic minimum income for himself and his dependents and to protect the individual from any uncertainties.
- It is also comprised of two elements, namely:
- Right to a Standard of Living adequate for the health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.
- Right to Income Security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond any person’s control.
WAY FORWARD :
- The Central government must immediately expand the coverage and quantity under the NFSA for at least one year.
- It should increase MGNREGA entitlements to 200 days per household from the current 100 days commitment.
- States like Odisha and Himachal Pradesh have already added 50 days and increased it to 150 days in a year.
- A guaranteed urban employment programme on the lines of MGNREGA can provide protection to the urban poor.
- Further, the government must offer a wage compensation of Rs. 7,000 per poor household for the next few months.
- In a nutshell, we need to expand the social security net in order to meet basic requirements of at least 33 crore poor households in India.
QUESTION : Discuss the important factors driving the migration of healthcare workers from India to other countries by suggesting the measure to stem their migration so that they can stop this process.
INDIA’S HEALTH WORKERS BRAIN DRAIN
WHY IN NEWS ?
- India is currently undertaking one of the largest vaccination programmes in the world. However, India is also facing shortages of health workers across various health institutions.
INDIA’S HEALTH WORKERS MIGRATION :
- For several decades, India has been a major exporter of healthcare workers to developed nations particularly to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Europe and other English-speaking countries.
- Due to this, India has 1.7 nurses per 1,000 population and a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1,404.
- The WHO norm is 3 nurses per 1,000 population and a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1,100.
- The distribution of doctors and nurses is heavily skewed against some regions. Moreover, there is high concentration in some urban pockets.
- As per OECD data, 69,000 Indian trained doctors worked in the UK, US, Canada and Australia in 2017.
- In these four countries, 56,000 Indian-trained nurses were working in the same year.
- There is also large-scale migration of health workers to the GCC countries.
- There is no real-time data on high-skilled migration from India as in the case of low-skilled and semi-skilled migration.
GLOBAL EFFORTS TO RETAIN HEALTH SERVICE :
- With the onset of the pandemic, countries in dire need of retaining their healthcare workers have adopted migrant-friendly policies.
- OECD countries exempted health professionals with a job offer from the travel bans.
- Some countries processed visa applications of healthcare workers even during the lockdown period.
- UK has granted free one-year visa extensions to eligible overseas healthcare workers and their dependents whose visas were due to expire before October 2021.
- France has offered citizenship to frontline immigrant healthcare workers during the pandemic.
REASONS OF MIGRATION FROM INDIA ?
- Low wages in private health sector
- Reduced opportunities in the public sector
- Lack of government investment in healthcare
- Delayed appointments to public health institutions
- Indian nurses are mostly from lower middle-class families and have to take loans to complete their nursing education.
GOVERNMENT EFFORTS :
(1) Non-issuance of NORI
- In 2014, it stopped issuing No Objection to Return to India (NORI) certificates to doctors migrating to the US.
- NORI certificate: US government requirement for doctors who migrate to America and seek to extend their stay beyond three years.
- The non-issuance of the NORI would ensure that the doctors will have to return to India at the end of the three-year period.
(2) Emigration Check Required (ECR) category
- Government has included nurses in the Emigration Check Required (ECR) category.
- Aim: to bring transparency in nursing recruitment and reduce exploitation of nurses in the destination countries.
- This policy requires nurse recruitment to be done through six state-related employment agencies.
- It makes it mandatory for the nurses to accept international contracts that are approved by the government.
- However, above government efforts did not much succeed in measuring the brain drain of Indian Health forces.
- We require systematic changes that could range from increased investment in health infrastructure, ensuring decent pay to workers and building an overall environment to motivate them to stay in the country.
- The government should focus on framing policies that promote circular migration and return migration — policies that incentivise healthcare workers to return home after the completion of their training or studies.
- It could also work towards framing bilateral agreements that could help shape a policy of “brain-share” between the sending and receiving countries.
- The 2020 Human Development Report shows that India has five hospital beds per 10,000 people — one of the lowest in the world.
- Increased investment in healthcare, especially in the public sector, is thus the need of the hour.
- This would, in turn, increase employment opportunities for health workers.
- There is need for systematic changes that could range from increased investment in health infrastructure, ensuring decent pay to workers and building an overall environment that could prove to be beneficial for them and motivate them to stay in the country.
QUESTION : Changes on the geopolitical horizon offers India-Japan relations multiple avenues to deepen their ties. Discuss the areas of cooperation and shared concerns for India and Japan.”
THE RISING SUN IN INDIA-JAPAN RELATIONS
- Indo-Japan Relations
WHY IN NEWS ?
- India- Japan relations will mainly center around the goal of containing aggressive China. A glimpse of it can be seen in the recent Japan-U. S meeting.
- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to visit India as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic normalizes.
- Outcomes of the recent Japan – US meeting gave a glimpse of what India can expect from Japan.
OUTCOMES OF THE RECENT JAPAN-US MEETING :
- Both the countries assured their commitments to the joint security partnership. The treaty is significant given China’s recent aggressiveness in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas as well as in the Taiwan Strait.
- Since the nature of conflict is changing, both sides acknowledged the importance of extended deterrence through cooperation on cybersecurity and space technology.
- A Competitiveness and Resilience Partnership, or CoRe was announced to support funding of new-age technologies.
- The funding will be used for the deployment of secure 5G networks to build digital infrastructure in developing countries.
- Given the Chinese ambitions to dominate the development of new-age technologies such as 5G and quantum computing the announcement of CoRe is significant. For instance, China recently pledged to invest $1.4 trillion in emerging technologies.
- Both the countries expressed their willingness to continue pressure on China to reform China’s offensive economic practices. Such as violations of intellectual property rights, forced technology transfer, excess capacity issues, and the use of trade-distorting industrial subsidies.
- Both the countries emphasized their vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law, freedom of navigation, etc.
- They also expressed their continued support for the QUAD. Further, they criticized China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, suppression of protests in Hong Kong, and military aggression towards Taiwan.
EXPECTATIONS FROM UPCOMING INDO-JAPAN MEETING :
- Balancing China: A continuation of the balancing security policy against China that began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe in 2014, can be expected as a major priority.
- Collaboration in Frontier Technologies: During the Shinzo Abe years, India and Japan put together a digital research and innovation partnership that ran the gamut of technologies from AI and 5G to the Internet of Things and space research.
- Economic Cooperation: Economic ties and infrastructure development are likely to be top drawer items on the agendas of New Delhi and Tokyo.
- Japan is likely to reaffirm support for key manufacturing initiatives such as ‘Make in India’.
- Further, India will be keen to secure continued infrastructure investments in the strategically vital connectivity projects currently under way in the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Evolving Multilateralism: The Suga-Modi Summit would undoubtedly devote much attention to evolving a joint strategy towards key third countries and multilateral bodies.
- In years past, New Delhi and Tokyo have collaborated to build infrastructure in Iran and Africa, provide vital aid to Myanmar & Sri Lanka and hammer out a common Association of Southeast Asian Nations outreach policy in an attempt to counter China’s growing influence in these corners of the globe.
- Prompting Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Further, no meeting would be complete without an affirmation of India and Japan’s support for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and continued willingness to work with the Quad, which is fast emerging as a central pillar of the security strategies of both nations.
WAY FORWARD :
- Resolving Data Localisation Issues: India and Japan should attempt to resolve disagreements over India’s insistence on data localisation and continued reluctance to accede to global cybersecurity agreements such as the Budapest Convention.
- Expediating Economic Convergence: While Japan has poured in around $34 billion in investments into the Indian economy over the course of the last two decades.
- Japan is only India’s 12th largest trading partner, and trade volumes between the two stand at just a fifth of the value of India-China bilateral trade.
- Thus both sides should envisage expediating the economic convergence.
- Shinzo Abe, in his book, Utsukushii Kuni E (Toward a Beautiful Country), expressed his hope that it would not be a surprise if in another 10 years, Japan-India relations overtake Japan-U.S. and Japan-China relations.
- Thus far, New India has every reason to believe that Japan’s Yoshihide Suga is willing to make that dream a reality.
QUESTION : A lethal second wave and critical shortage in oxygen supply have crippled India’s fight against Covid. Why did India fail to foresee the crisis and what can it do to mitigate it?
MEDICAL OXYGEN CRISIS IN INFIA
- State of Medical O2
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Medical oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of COVID affected patients. A shortage of medical oxygen at hospitals in many parts of the country in the wake of the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 infections has caused multiple deaths across country.
HOW MUCH OXYGEN DOES INDIA PRODUCE ?
- Union Health Ministry has said that India had a daily production capacity of 7,127 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen, which it asserted was sufficient given that the countrywide medical oxygen consumption as of April 12 was 3,842 MT.
- The 7,127 MT capacity that the Ministry referred to was the overall oxygen-producing capacity, including the volumes produced for industrial use,
- Recently, the Centre has restricted the supply of oxygen for all non-medical purposes, except a list of exempted industries that includes pharmaceuticals, food, oil refineries and oxygen cylinder makers. This has meant that the major share of output has been earmarked for medical use.
- PMO has said in release that the production of LMO [liquid medical oxygen] in the country has increased from 5,700 MT/day in August 2020 to the present 8,922 MT (on April 25, 2021). The domestic production of LMO is expected to cross 9,250 MT/day by the end of April 2021.
REASONS THAT LEAD TO SHORTAGE ?
- Caught off guard by steep demand: While the Union government did constitute an inter-ministerial Empowered Group (EG2) of senior officers in March 2020 to ensure the availability of essential medical equipment, including medical oxygen, to the affected States, the group appears to have been caught off guard by the sheer scale and speed of the rise in infections.
- Failure of Demand Forecasting: Oxygen demand projections have woefully lagged behind actual requirements thus causing the crisis. The demand for medical oxygen, which prior to the onset of the pandemic last year was at about 10% of overall output, or 700 MT/day, has skyrocketed in recent weeks, to ~5700MT/day, with the incidence of patients suffering acute respiratory distress having sharply spiked during the current second wave.
- Increased Demand by States: while Uttar Pradesh doubled its requirement forecast to 800 MT from 400 MT earlier, Delhi said it would need 700 MT as of April 20, a 133% increase from the 300 MT it had previously sought.
- Poor Logistical Preparation: The logistical preparation for a second wave in India appears to have been wholly inadequate. With just 1,224 cryogenic tankers available for transporting LMO, there have not been enough vehicles to carry medical oxygen in quick time to critical locations. As a result, supplies ran out with replenishment not reaching on time and many seriously ill patients gasping to death.
CHALLENGES WHILE SUPPLY :
- Prior to the pandemic, a bulk of the health sector’s medical oxygen requirement had been met with supplies delivered either in form of oxygen cylinders containing the element as a high-purity gas or through dedicated cryogenic tankers that transport the oxygen in liquid form and deliver them to storage tanks at hospitals.
- The stand-alone facilities for the production of oxygen, including the medical variant, have so far been geographically concentrated mainly in clusters in the eastern, southern and western parts of the country, thus necessitating the transportation of the element over distances by road.
WAYS TO BOOST OXYGEN SUPPLY :
- The Centre is taking a multi-pronged approach to address the crisis.
- Diversion from Steel Plants: For one, it has decided to deploy surplus stocks of the element available with steel plants across the country, including Public Sector Units.
- Logistical Support by Government: The movement of transport tankers for LMO is now being closely monitored and the Indian Railways and the Indian Air Force have been roped in to help ferry tankers by both rail and air .
- Tankers augmentation: The PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) has also issued directions to oversee the conversion of argon and nitrogen tankers for use as oxygen tankers. Production of additional cryogenic tankers is also underway to augment fleet capacity.
- Usage of Industrial Cylinders: Separately, industrial cylinders have been permitted to be used for medical oxygen after due purging, and the Health Ministry is placing orders for another one lakh oxygen cylinders.
- Decentralised approach for producing oxygen: Union Health Ministry is also expediting on a war footing the commissioning of 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants that can generate oxygen from the air at various hospitals across the country.
- International Assistance: For now, the government is also accepting assistance from abroad with several countries, including Russia and Singapore, despatching oxygen equipment.
LIQUID MEDICAL OXYGEN :
- It is high purity oxygen suitable for use in the human body. So, it is used for medical treatments.
- This oxygen provides a basis for virtually all modern anaesthetic techniques, restores tissue oxygen tension by increasing the oxygen availability, aids cardiovascular stability, etc.
- The WHO includes this on their List of Essential Medicines.
- According to the Drug Prices Control Order, 2013, LMO is placed under the National List of Essential Medicies (NLEM)
GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES TO INCREASE THE AVAILABILITY OF MEDICAL OXYGEN :
- Under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare(MOHFW) delegated its powers to the NPPA. Especially to take all necessary steps to regulate the availability and pricing of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) and oxygen cylinders.
- Further, to ensure the availability of oxygen at a reasonable price the NPPA capped the price of medical oxygen cylinders and LMO for six months(in September).
- Recently, Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute(CMERI) develops an Oxygen Enrichment Unit(OEU) that could provide crucial support to COVID-19 patients. An oxygen enrichment unit is a device that concentrates the oxygen from the surrounding air.
- Mapping of oxygen sources for 12 high burden state: The Centre-appointed Empowered Group-2 mapped the medical oxygen capability in 12 States having high disease burden. Such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, Delhi, etc.
- Identification of hospitals for installing PSA plants: Recently the MOHFW sanctioned the installation of 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption plants at hospitals to augment oxygen capacity by over 154 Metric Tonnes.
- During the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, industrial oxygen producers were allowed to produce LMO.
- Oxygen is essential for hospital care. India is improving its capacity drastically. But till then it is the responsibility of doctors to use the oxygen effectively.
QUESTION : Did India’s vaccine diplomacy hurt its fight against Covid and discuss why Covid vaccine producer India faces major shortage of doses ?
UNDER-REPORTING DOES HURT THE COVID FIGHT
- India’s fight against covid-19
WHY IN NEWS ?
- To achieve universal vaccination, India needs to work on a few out-of-the-box solutions for vaccine shortage. For example, increasing the gap between vaccination effectively.
MORE ABOUT :
- The New Vaccine Policy aims to vaccinate people above 18 years. The Policy came into force on May 1. But a few states have postponed the vaccination program citing a shortage of the vaccine.
VACCINE SHORTAGE ?
- According to the Co-WIN Portal, India is producing roughly 2 million vaccines a day. And the number of vaccines administered daily is roughly 2.3 million to 2.5 million. So, technically the production capacity falls below even the daily requirement.
- As of April 29, India’s 9.1 % of the population received one dose of vaccine. Similarly, only 1.9 % of the population received both doses.
- Since India announced the new vaccination policy, the demand for vaccines has increased three times, but the supply of vaccines remains the same.
TACKLING THIS VACCINE SHORTAGE ?
- At present, India is expecting a few million doses of Russian vaccine Sputnik.
- Similarly, Covishield vaccine maker Serum Institute of India also going to improve their scale-up production to 100 million doses per month soon.
- Also, the Covaxin manufacturer Bharat Biotech is expecting to scale up the production to 50-60 million doses a month.
- Despite these developments, the next few month’s production is unlikely to go beyond 150 million doses a month.
Interval between two doses:
- Covishield: Phase 3 trials of the Covishield vaccine found out that the second dose offered after 12 weeks of the first dose will provide the best result and protection. So the best option to take the second dose of vaccine is 12 weeks for Covishield.
- However, due to urgency, second doses administered after six to eight weeks also improved efficacy over time.
- Covaxin : The second dose of Covaxin can be taken four to six weeks after the first.
PRESENT CONDITION OF VACCINE IN INDIA :
- At present India’s routine immunisation programmes for children are administered at a four-week gap in India. But globally they follow an eight-week gap. The reason for the lower gap between vaccination in India is due to,
- Operational reasons: India’s distribution of vaccines in two phases with a long gap might create a delay in vaccination.
- Low coverage: If the gap between vaccination is increased then people might not vaccinate at the correct time.
AVOIDING THE VACCINE SHORTAGE :
- India should increase the gap for Covishield to 12 weeks. This is because India needs to control the progress of the pandemic. The Covishield trials have shown that the higher the gap, the greater the proven efficacy. Furthermore, it has other advantages as well. Such as,
- Increasing the gap between vaccination will give some time to manufacturers to produce the vaccine.
- It allows more people to take at least one shot of the vaccine. Immunologically, it is understood that even one dose can activate the immune system. Here, the vaccine will make the natural infection a sort of booster infection and protect people for a longer time than the non-vaccinated individual.
- Like the US, India also needs to ensure evolving guidelines on vaccination. This will ensure more vaccination of single dose.
- The United States’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) initially came up with a vaccination gap of three-month. Later the CDC reduced this gap to one month.
- Knowing the truth is better for both public and policymakers to gauge the true state of the pandemic.
QUESTION : Discuss the concept of “One health Approach” analysing it’s significance in handling zoonotic diseases and give key measures to strengthen the “ONE HEALTH” concept in India?
A ‘ONE HEALTH’ APPROACH THAT TARGETS PEOPLE, ANIMALS
- The battle against COVID19 should also be used as an opportunity to meet India’s ‘One Health’ targets
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The father of modern pathology, Rudolf Virchow, emphasised in 1856 that there are no dividing lines between animal and human medicine.
- This concept is ever more salient as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The recent discussions that took place around World Veterinary Day (April 24, 2021) focused on “One Health”.
WHAT IS ‘ONE HEALTH ?’
- One Health is an approach that recognizes that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and shared environment.
- One Health issues include zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food safety and food security, vector-borne diseases, environmental contamination etc.
RECENT CHALLENGES IN ONE HEALTH GOAL IN INDIA :
- Veterinary manpower shortages,
- Lack of information sharing between human and animal health institutions,
- Inadequate coordination on food safety at slaughter, distribution, and retail facilities.
INDIA’S FRAMEWORK :
India’s ‘One Health’ vision derives its blueprint from the agreement between the tripartite-plus alliance comprising:
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),
- World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), World Health Organization (WHO) and
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
In 2008, above three organization came together with United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Bank to develop a framework entitled “Contributing to One World, One Health-A Strategic Framework for Reducing Risks of Infectious Diseases at the Animal-Human-Ecosystems Interface”.
National Standing Committee on Zoonoses
- In keeping with the long-term objectives, India established a National Standing Committee on Zoonoses in 1980s.
Centre for One Health.
- Recently, government have sanctioned funds for setting up a ‘Centre for One Health’ at Nagpur.
Efforts by Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying
- The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) has launched several schemes to mitigate the prevalence of animal diseases since 2015.
- The funding pattern of these schemes are: 60:40 (Centre: State); 90:10 for the Northeastern States, and 100% funding for UTs.
- Under the National Animal Disease Control Programme, ₹13,343 crore have been sanctioned for Foot and Mouth disease and Brucellosis control.
- DAHD will soon establish a ‘One Health’ unit within the Ministry.
- DAHD has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the National Action Plan for Eliminating Dog Mediated Rabies.
- This initiative aims for mass dog vaccinations and public education to render the country free of rabies.
- Need: 97% of human rabies cases in India are attributed to dogs.
Assistance to States from Centre
Government is working to revamp programmes that focus on capacity building for veterinarians and upgrading the animal health diagnostic system such as Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases (ASCAD).
o In revised component, there is increased focus on vaccination against livestock diseases and backyard poultry.
o To this end, assistance will be extended to State biological production units and disease diagnostic laboratories.
THREATS POSED BY ZOONOTIC DISEASES :
- Studies indicate that more than two-thirds of existing and emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.
o Anthropozoonotic infections (transferred from humans to animals) are also dangerous.
- There are more than 1.7 million viruses circulating in wildlife, and many of them are likely to be zoonotic.
- WHO estimates that rabies (a zoonotic disease) costs the global economy approximately $6 billion annually.
Thus, the transboundary impact of viral outbreaks in recent years such as Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Avian Influenza has reinforced the need to consistently document linkages between the environment, animals, and human health.
ZOONOTIC DISEASES :
- The diseases, which “spillover” from animals to humans are referred to as zoonotic diseases.
- They represent more than 60% of emerging infectious diseases worldwide.
- The destruction of the natural environment, globalised trade and travel and industrialised food production systems have created numerous pathways for new pathogens to jump between animals and humans.
WAY FORWARD :
- Consolidating existing animal health and disease surveillance systems.
- Developing best-practice guidelines for informal market and slaughterhouse operation (e.g., inspections, disease prevalence assessments)
- Creation of mechanisms to operationalise ‘One Health’ at every stage down to the village level.
- Future decisions regarding human development must embrace both people and nature at its core with sustainability at the forefront.
- Establish a transboundary network of partner institutions across India that is involved in education and research related to zoonotic and infectious diseases.
- In this context, awareness generation, and increased investments toward meeting ‘One Health’ targets is the need of the hour.
QUESTION : Critically evaluate the major impacts of covid-19 pandemic on the foreign policy of India and give suggested measure to overcome this .
A COVID-19 BLOT ON INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY CANVAS
- India’s Foreign Policy and COVID-19
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic second wave have far-reaching strategic implications on India’s Foreign policy.
POSSIBLE REASONS :
- India’s traditional primacy in the neighborhood region was built on a mix of material aid, political influence and historical ties.
- Its political influence is steadily declining, its ability to materially help the neighbourhood will shrink in the wake of COVID-19, and its historical ties alone may not do wonders to hold on to a region hungry for development assistance and political autonomy.
In the Indo-Pacific:
- Being boxed in a China-dominated region will provide New Delhi with little space to pursue its regional, let alone global, geopolitical ambitions except in the Indo-Pacific region.
- While the Indo-Pacific is geopolitically keen and ready to engage with India, the pandemic could adversely impact India’s ability and desire to contribute to the Indo-Pacific and the Quad.
- However, New Delhi is pivotal to the Indo-Pacific project, but with India’s inability to take a lead role and China wooing smaller states in the region away from the Indo-Pacific with aid and threats, the Indo-Pacific balance of power could eventually turn in Beijing’s favour.
- Domestic political contestations in the wake of the COVID-19 devastation in the country could also limit India`s strategic ambitions. General economic distress, a fall in foreign direct investment and industrial production, and a rise in unemployment have already lowered the mood in the country. The central political leadership, therefore, is likely to focus on COVID-19 recovery and the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2022.
- Domestic political preoccupations will further shrink the political elite’s appetite for foreign policy innovation or initiatives.
- One potential impact of COVID-19’s devastating return and the damage it has done would be that India might be forced to be more conciliatory towards China.
- China has, compared to most other countries, emerged stronger in the wake of the pandemic.
- The world, notwithstanding its anti-China rhetoric, will continue to do business with Beijing — it already has been, and it will only increase.
Depressed foreign policy
- Post-COVID-19, Indian foreign policy is unlikely to be business as usual. The diplomatic bandwidth for expansive foreign policy goals would be limited, leading thereby to a much-depressed Indian foreign policy.
- The pandemic would, at the very least indirectly, impact India’s policy of maintaining strategic autonomy. A post-COVID-19 India might find it harder to resist demands of a closer military relationship with the U.S.
WAY FORWARD :
- Cooperation: COVID-19 will also do is open up new regional opportunities for cooperation especially under the ambit of SAARC, an initiative that already saw some small beginnings during the first wave of the pandemic.
- Regional health multilateralism: India might do well to get the region’s collective focus on ‘regional health multilateralism’ to promote mutual assistance and joint action on health emergencies such as this.
- Being on par: Classical geopolitics should be brought on a par with health diplomacy, environmental concerns and regional connectivity in South Asia.
- As the diplomatic bandwidth for expansive foreign policy goals would be limited, in post-Covid-19, Indian foreign policy is unlikely to be business as usual. However, Covid-19 may have opened precisely such an opportunity to the world’s least integrated region.
QUESTION : The quota policy for Marathas needs an urgent revisit. Comment
- Maratha Reservation
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Supreme Court’s five Judge bench declared the Maratha Reservation law of Maharashtra to be unconstitutional and invalid.
- The Maratha quota law was declared unconstitutional as it violates the quota limit in the State in excess of 50%.
- The findings in the report by M.G.Gaikwad Commission was struck by the SC.
- These findings created a base for enactment of Maratha quota law, which now stands null and void.
- The SC also struck the Bombay High Court’s judgement validating Maharashtra’s SEBC Act of 2018.
- In 2019, the High Court reduced the quantum of reservation recommended by the Gaikwad Commission. However, the Supreme Court termed any such reductions to be ultra vires.
- The Supreme Court observed that the law violated the principles of Equality enshrined in Article 14 and The right to due process of Law in Article 21.
- The Supreme Court also refused to revisit the Indra Sawhney Judgement of 1992 that fixes the reservation limit at 50%
- The Court termed the limit of 50% with ‘extraordinary circumstances’ as a Goldilock Solution.
- Other than Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu , Haryana and Telangana exceeded the capping of 50%in reservation.
MARATHA RESERVATION :
- Marathas are the politically dominant, marathi speaking community of Maharashtra who consists of nearly 1/3rd of the state’s population.
- They comprise mainly landowners and peasants.
- Traditionally, they have been identified as the warrior caste.
- The community still plays a crucial role in rural parts of the Maharashtra state – politically, socially and economically.
- The State witnessed massive protests in the period 2016-18 for reservation of seats for the Maratha community in government jobs and educational institutions.
- In 2017, M.G.Gaikwad commission was set up for analysing if there was a need for reservation for the community or not.
- The findings of the commission concluded that the community should be given reservation under the SEBC with specifying the quantum of the reservation percentage.
- In 2018, Maratha community was given reservation under SEBC Act.
- This was challenged in Bombay High Court where as a result, the High court reduced the percentage of reservation from 16 to 13 in jobs and 12 in educational Institutions.
- The Maratha reservation had raised the reservation to 64%-65% in the State.
- In 2020, the Supreme Court put a stay on the law and it was declared null and void on May 5, 2021.
RESERVATION IN INDIA :
- Reservation in India, after independence was considered necessary for the betterment of the downtrodden section of society which has undergone grave injustice in the past.
- However, the need to have Reservation has always been a debatable topic.
- Indian Constitution, under Article 15, allows the government to make special provisions for advancement of socially and educationally backward communities. This can be in the form of reservation of seats in educational institutions and jobs etc.
- In 1979, Mandal Commission, also known as the backward class commission was set up under the chairmanship of B.P.Mandal.
- This was done under Article 340 to analyse the conditions of socially and educationally backward class and take corrective measures to improve their state.
- Report was submitted in 1980 by the commission where it recommended the reservation of 27% in government jobs for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Initially, the reservation was made for only 10 years.
- However, due to political interests and other factors, extension was given to this period and from time to time the government approved for the extension of reservation for various communities.
- In 1992, The Mandal Case , also known as Indra Sawhney Case, the scope and extent of Article 16(4) was examined.
- Several Observations were made under this case –
- ‘Creamy layer’ among OBCs must be excluded from reservations.
- Reservations should be limited to initial posting and no reservations should be made in promotions.
- Total reservation quota must be capped at 50% except ‘extraordinary situations’.
- ‘Carry Forward Rule’ is valid provided that it does not violate the 50% limit.
- Establishment of Permanent body for examination of addition and deletion from the list of OBCs.
- In M.Nagaraj Case (2006), The SC laid three conditions for promotion of SCs and STs in public employment.
- In Jarnail Singh Case (2018), the Supreme Court recommended for consideration of application of creamy layer concept to SCs and STs to prevent socially advanced people belonging to these groups from reaping benefits of reservation.
FOLLOWING THESE RECOMMENDATIONS :
- Ram Nandan committee was established to identify the creamy layer.
- In 1993, the National Commission for Backward Classes were established by Parliament. 102nd Constitutional Amendment (2018) gave constitutional status to this commission and Article 338-B was added in the constitution.
- Several new provisions were added to Article 16 from time to time.
- 76th Amendment Act added Tamil Nadu Reservations act to Ninth schedule that prevents it from the purview of judicial review as it exceeds the 50% limit.
102nd AMENDMENT ACT OF 2018 :
- It introduced Articles 338B and 342A in the Constitution.
- Article 338B deals with the newly established National Commission for Backward Classes.
- Article 342A empowers the President to specify the socially and educationally backward communities in a State.
- It says that it is for the Parliament to include a community in the Central List for socially and backward classes for grant of reservation benefits.
CHALLENGES WITH RESERVATION POLICY IN INDIA :
- Reservation was introduced with an intent to provide equal treatments to unequals. However, the policy of reservation has been misused time and again preventing the original beneficiaries from gaining benefits.
- In several cases, due to reservations deserving meritorious students are deprived of opportunities leading to gross injustice.
- Several states like Tamil Nadu have exceeded the capping of 50% reservation quota.
- Many people have been able to raise their status by means of reservation and are on par with the unreserved population. Thus, the need for reservation for them is questionable.
- Reservation based on caste has been a challenge related to reservation policy.
- In many instances, the ‘creamy layer’ is benefited by reservation and the weak remain impoverished.
- Reservation on one hand has left many unreserved populations on the receiving end as a large population still remains poverty stricken,unemployed and illiterate.
- The present reservation policy is seen to be highly inefficient. It has led to increased inequalities in the society.
- In recent times, many communities like Patidars of Gujarat, Jats of Haryana have come forward demanding for reservation.
WAY FORWARD :
- There is a need to revisit the reservation policy in India. Reservation should not be seen as a sole solution for societal problems faced by communities.
- The criteria for reservation should be restructured in order to allow the needy to get access to jobs, opportunities and education.
- The need for repeated extension of reservation raises questions regarding the approach adopted for development of underprivileged sections of the society.
- The plight of an unreserved population without jobs, education cannot be ignored.
- Regular surveys and collection of data related to implementation of reservation policy must be carried out to improve the efficiency of the policies.
- Objective of the reservation model should be shifted from equality to equity. Reservation should not be seen as a mere tool for tapping votes from the public.
- The government can achieve Social inclusion by better education policies, enhancing the skill development of backward communities, not by providing more reservations. So, providing more and more reservation gradually is itself not a permanent solution.
QUESTION : Why are the implications of patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccine for the global health equity? What were the reasons for opposition to waiver proposal?”
THE FIG LEAF OF PATENT PROTECTION HAS TO DROP
- US supported patent waiver in covid-19 time
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The implications of patent waiver for Covid-19 for global health equity.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- Recently, the US agreed to support the India-South Africa proposal, seeking a waiver of patent protection for technologies needed to combat and contain COVID-19.
- Response to the proposal was divided during earlier debates at the WTO.
- While many low and middle income countries supported it, resistance came from the U.S., the United Kingdom, the European Union, Switzerland, Australia and Japan.
- Since the WTO operates on consensus rather than by voting, the proposal did not advance despite drawing support of over 60 countries.
- Predictably, the pharmaceutical industry fiercely opposed it and vigorously lobbied many governments.
- Right-wing political groups in the high income countries sided with the industry.
ISSUES WITH REASONS GIVEN FOR OPPOSITION TO WAIVER PROPOSAL :
1) Quality and safety of vaccine production in low and middle-income countries
- It was argued that the capacity for producing vaccines of assured quality and safety was limited to some laboratories.
- So, it is argued that it would be hazardous to permit manufacturers in low and middle-income countries.
- However, pharmaceutical manufacturers have no reservations about contracting industries in those countries to manufacture their patent-protected vaccines for the global market.
2) Licenced manufacturing
- The counter to patent waiver is an offer to license manufacturers in developing countries while retaining patent rights.
- This restricts the opportunity for production to a chosen few.
- The terms of those agreements are opaque and offer no assurance of equity in access to the products at affordable prices, either to the country of manufacture or to other developing countries.
3) Supplying vaccines through COVAX facility
- It was also stated that developing countries could be supplied vaccines through the COVAX facility, set up by several international agencies and donors.
- While well-intended, it has fallen far short of promised delivery.
- Some U.S. states have received more vaccines than entire Africa has from COVAX.
4) No availability of extra capacity for vaccine production
- Critics of a patent waiver say there is no evidence that extra capacity exists for producing vaccines outside of firms undertaking them now.
- Even before the change in the U.S.’s position, manufacturers from many countries expressed their readiness and avidly sought opportunities to produce the approved vaccines.
- They included industries in Canada and South Korea,suggesting that capable manufacturers in high income countries too are ready to avail of patent waivers but are not being allowed to enter a restricted circle.
- The World Health Organization’s mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub has already drawn interest from over 50 firms.
- Instead of arguing that capacity is limited, high-income countries and other donors should be supporting the growth of more capacity to meet the current and likely future pandemic.
- They should learn from the manner in which India built up capacity and gained a reputation as a respected global pharmacy by moving from product patenting to process patenting between 1970 and 2005.
5) Time required to utilise patented technology is long
- Patent waivers are also dismissed as useless on the grounds that the time taken for their utilisation by new firms will be too long to help combat the present pandemic.
- But many countries have low vaccination rates and variants are gleefully emerging from unprotected populations.
- This makes it difficult to put the end date for the pandemic to end.
6) China factor
- An argument put forth by multinational pharmaceutical firms is that a breach in the patent barricade will allow China to steal their technologies, now and in the future.
- The original genomic sequence was openly shared by China, which gave these firms a head start in developing vaccines.
ISSUE OF REWARDING INNOVATION FINANCIALLY :
- Much of the foundational science that built the path for vaccine production came from public-funded universities and research institutes.
- Further, what use is it to hold on to patents when global health and the global economy are devastated?
- It is often argued that for defending patent protection, is that innovation and investment by industry need to be financially rewarded to incentivise them to develop new products.
- Even if compulsory licences are issued bypassing patent restrictions, royalties are paid to the original innovators and patent holders.
WAY FORWARD :
- Developing countries must take heart from his gesture and start issuing compulsory licences.
- The Doha declaration on TRIPS flexibilities permits their use in a public health emergency.
- High-income countries and multilateral agencies should provide financial and technical support to enable expansion of global production capacity.
- The U.S.-supported patent waiver in the COVID fight has the potential to bring in much-needed global health equity.
QUESTION : Factors that introduce friction in the sustainability of India’s bilateral relations with the Britain and identify the areas in which both the countries can find fresh basis for the bilateral relations?
IN IRELAND’S COMPLEX TROUBLES, LESSONS FOR INDIA
- Riots in Ireland and India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Recently, communal riots broke out in Ireland. India can take a few lessons from that. A committed political leadership should take responsibility for peoples’ social and economic problems and should make efforts to alleviate their miseries.
- Recently, communal clashes broke out in Ireland between the Protestant pro-British loyalist unionists and the Catholic pro-Irish nationalists.
- The Protestant pro-British loyalist unionists wanted that Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom forever.
- Whereas, the Catholic pro-Irish nationalists, wanted that Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland.
POSSIBLE REASONS OF THESE RIOTS ?
The riot is a result of many problems such as ideology towards change, resistance to change, and sustained political and social inertia towards the misery of vulnerable sections.
- Political leadership’s apathy towards addressing social issues.
o Even after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Good Friday Agreement in 1998, both religious communities experienced little or no peace.
o Poverty, deprivation, lack of social and economic opportunities and persistent high unemployment affects both nationalist and loyalist similarly in Northern Ireland.
o It has also resulted in an abnormal number of suicides between 1998 and 2014.
o The localities most deprived during the pre-agreement communal riots remain the most deprived areas within Northern Ireland today.
- Differences in ideologies towards change (Brexit). While the Catholic pro-Irish nationalists wanted to stay with European Union, the Protestant pro-British loyalist unionists campaigned for Brexit.
o However, 56% of electorates in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union. This has resulted in a special protocol for Northern Ireland.
o It provided for the territory to remain in the customs union and single market of the European Union while protecting its status as part of the United Kingdom. Much of the present anger relates to this specific protocol.
HISTORY OF IRELAND :
- Ireland is an island that lies to the west of the British mainland and has two separate politically independent territories.
- Northern Ireland which is about 1/6th of the total island is a part of the UK and is administered as a relatively autonomous region.
- The rest of the island forms the ‘Republic of Ireland’ and is an independent sovereign nation since 1922.
- Religious Tensions – The Republican Ireland has a predominantly catholic population of native Irish dissent.
- Contrarily, Northern Ireland has a Protestant majority of British dissent, with a significant Catholic minority of Irish dissent.
- Between 1960s and 1990s, Northern Ireland saw political tensions between pro-UK protestant unionist and Catholic nationalists.
- While the former had the backing of the government and were wealthy, the latter wanted to merge with the Republican South.
- After prolonged negotiations, the 1998 “Good Friday Agreement” ended tensions to a great extent.
LESSONS CAN BE LEARNT BY INDIA :
- A functioning democracy must ensure a daily commitment to address communal issues with vigilance, tolerance, and compromise.
- Political leadership should take responsibility for peoples’ social and economic problems and work towards eliminating prejudices within communities.
- Political parties should be aware that, creating religious tensions between communities will severely damage every section of society as well as political and national institutions .
- If leaders of both the countries succeed in laying down mutually beneficial terms of endearment, future governments might be less tempted to undermine the partnership
QUESTION : Discuss the long standing issues with respect to Intellectual property enforcement and protection in India, suggest key measures to resolve these major issues.
A TRIPS WAIVER IS USEFUL BUT NOT A MAGIC PILL
- IPR and India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The United States has declared its support for a temporary waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
- In October 2020, India and South Africa, at the WTO, proposed waiving Sections 1, 4, 5, and 7 of Part II of the TRIPS agreement.
It covers copyrights, industrial designs, patents, and undisclosed trade information related to the prevention, containment, or treatment of COVID-19.
- The U.S.’s support of the TRIPS waiver is a significant step forward in the global fight against the pandemic.
- Legally, the waiver is surely possible since Article IX of the WTO Agreement allows for waiving obligations in ‘exceptional circumstances’, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The richer countries that house the giant pharmaceutical corporations producing COVID-19 vaccines and medicines oppose the move. The countries would now negotiate on the text of the waiver at the WTO.
- Waiver on medicines: The U.S. supports waiving intellectual property (IP) protections on COVID-19 vaccines.
o However, India and South Africa proposed a waiver not just on vaccines but also on medicines and other therapeutics and technologies related to the treatment of COVID-19.
o Medicines useful in treating COVID-19 and other therapeutics must be also included in the waiver.
- Lack of access to technological ‘know-how’
o Waiving IP protection does not impose a legal requirement on pharmaceutical companies to transfer or share technology.
o Therefore, governments would have to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to transfer technology using various legal and policy tools including financial incentives.
- HIV crisis in Africa: In 2003, in the aftermath of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, the WTO waived certain TRIPS obligations to increase the accessibility of medicines in countries that lacked manufacturing capability.
o The obligation contained in Article 31(f) of TRIPS that medicines produced under a compulsory licence are predominantly for the domestic market of that country was waived.
o It paved the way for the export of such medicines to a country that lacked manufacturing capability.
o Stringent conditions: However, this waiver was subject to several stringent requirements such as
the drugs so manufactured are to be exported to that nation only;
the medicines should be easily identifiable through different colour, or shape;
only the amount necessary to meet the requirements of the importing country are to be manufactured;
the importing country has to notify the WTO’s TRIPS Council.
o Given these cumbersome requirements, hardly any country, in the last 17 years, made effective use of this waiver.
- Domestic IP regulations: While a TRIPS waiver would enable countries to escape WTO obligations, it will not change the nature of domestic IP regulations.
o Therefore, countries should start working towards making suitable changes in their domestic legal framework to operationalise and enforce the TRIPS waiver.
o The Indian government should immediately put in place a team of best IP lawyers who could study the various TRIPS waiver scenarios and accordingly recommend the changes to be made in the Indian legal framework.
The TRIPS waiver would work well only if countries simultaneously address the non-IP bottlenecks such as technology transfer, production constraints, and other logistical challenges such as inadequacy of supply chains and unavailability of raw materials to manufacture vaccines and medicines.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR) :
- They are legal rights aimed at protecting the creations of the intellect, such as inventions, the appearance of products,
literary, artistic and scientific works and signs, among others.
- Types of Intellectual Properties
o Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks, Trade Secrets, Right of publicity .
TRADE-RELATED ASPECTS OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (TRIPS) :
- It covers most forms of intellectual property including copyright, patents, geographical indications, trademarks, industrial designs, trade secrets, and exclusionary rights over new plant varieties.
- TRIPS came into force on 1 January 1995.
- The TRIPS Agreement is a minimum standards agreement, which allows Members to provide more extensive protection of intellectual property if they so wish.
3 MAIN FEATURES OF THE AGREEMENTS ARE :
- In respect of each of the main areas of intellectual property covered by the TRIPS Agreement, the Agreement sets out the minimum standards of protection to be provided by each Member.
- The second main set of provisions deals with domestic procedures and remedies for the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
- Dispute settlement. The Agreement makes disputes between WTO Members about the respect of the TRIPS obligations subject to the WTO’s dispute settlement procedures.
- In addition the Agreement provides for certain basic principles, such as national and most-favoured-nation treatment, and some general rules to ensure that procedural difficulties in acquiring or maintaining IPRs do not nullify the substantive benefits that should flow from the Agreement.
COMPULSORY LINCENCES FOR EXPORT OF MEDICINES :
- The flexibilities identified in the Doha Declaration include “the right to grant compulsory licences”.
- The Doha declaration on TRIPS flexibilities permits their use in a public health emergency.
- A compulsory license is issued by a government authority or a court to make certain use of a patented invention without the consent of the patent holder.
- This mechanism is generally present in most patent laws, is recognized as a permissible option or flexibility under the TRIPS Agreement.
NEED OF IPR?
- The progress and well-being of humanity rest on its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture.
- Encourages innovation: The legal protection of new creations encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation.
- Economic growth: The promotion and protection of intellectual property spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.
- Safeguard the rights of creators: IPR is required to safeguard creators and other producers of their intellectual commodity,
- goods and services by granting them certain time-limited rights to control the use made of the manufactured goods.
- It promotes innovation and creativity and ensures ease of doing business.
- It facilitates the transfer of technology in the form of foreign direct investment, joint ventures and licensing agreement.
INDIA AND IPR :
- India is a member of the WTO and committed to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Agreement).
- India is also a member of World Intellectual Property Organization, a body responsible for the promotion of the protection of intellectual property rights throughout the world.
- India is also a member of the following important WIPO-administered International Treaties and Conventions relating to IPRs.
- Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure
- Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
- Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization
- Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
- Patent Cooperation Treaty
- Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks- Madrid Protocol.
- Washington Treaty on Intellectual Property in respect of Integrated Circuits.
- Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol.
- Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms.
- Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities.
NATIONAL IPR POLICY :
- The National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy 2016 was adopted in May 2016 as a vision document to guide future development of IPRs in the country.
- It’s clarion call is “Creative India; Innovative India”.
- It encompasses and brings to a single platform all IPRs, taking into account all inter-linkages and thus aims to create and exploit synergies between all forms of intellectual property (IP), concerned statutes and agencies.
- It sets in place an institutional mechanism for implementation, monitoring and review. It aims to incorporate and adapt global best practices to the Indian scenario.
- Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, has been appointed as the nodal department to coordinate, guide and oversee the implementation and future development of IPRs in India.
- The ‘Cell for IPR Promotion & Management (CIPAM)’, setup under the aegis of DIPP, is to be the single point of reference for implementation of the objectives of the National IPR Policy.
- India’s IPR regime is in compliance with the WTO’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
- Government’s effort to strengthen National IPR policy, IP appellate tribunal, e-governance and commitment to abide by the TRIPS agreement of WTO in letter and spirit will help in improving perception of India globally.
- An efficient and equitable intellectual property system can help all countries to realize intellectual property’s potential as a catalyst for economic development and social & cultural well-being.
QUESTION : Local governance is constitutionally recognized, but not empowered in India”, examine the given statement in the backdrop of the effect of ongoing Covid-19 crisis and how can decentralised governance help for fighting against covid-19 pandemic?
A DECENTRALISED APPROACH COULD HELP TURN THE TIDE AGAINST COVID-19 PANDEMIC
- Decentralisation and Covid-19
WHY IN NEWS ?
- As the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic continues, the inadequacies of health and medical care systems are exposed in India.
- Thus, to respond with speed and agility, the decentralization of governance is a must.
o Decentralization is the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from central government to local governments or quasi-independent government organizations and/or the private sector.
SUGGESTIONS FOR DECENTRALISED GOVERNANCE FOR FIGHTING AGAINST COVID CRISIS :
(1) Community participation is key:
- To counter the second wave, the government will need the active participation of everyone at the community level across the country for covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccinations.
o Example of impact of community participation: During the bubonic plague of 1665-66, English village, Eyam’s inhabitants quarantined themselves to prevent the spread of the plague. Ultimately, the plague was contained.
- Local communities can rally together to enforce covid-appropriate behaviour.
o Example: Several resident welfare associations in Bengaluru have been organizing covid vaccination drives in apartment complexes.
- Community involvement can also play a key role in planning vaccination camps, identifying vulnerable households, supporting elderly and those in quarantine.
(2) Lessons from success stories:
- During the first covid wave, the central government had given guidelines to support the states in tackling this crisis, which led to unique district level response strategies.
o This decentralized approach had led to the creation of success stories such as the ‘Kerala model’, the ‘Bhilwara model’, the ‘Dharavi model’ or the ‘Karnataka model.’
o Also, the ‘Kerala model’ of oxygen self-sufficiency needs to be emulated by other Indian states.
- Centralized covid task forces and war rooms are good, but are not effective in delivering real-time rapid responses. Thus, district-level models should be continue to be adopted to tackle the pandemic.
(3) Tiered vaccine pricing:
- The transformation from centralized immunization drive to allowing states to expand the scope of vaccinations was appreciable.
o State governments can rapidly work out effective strategies to immunize their populations.
- However, multiple price points for Centre, State and Private Sector for vaccine has led to confusion. This could slow the pace of vaccine procurement because there will be multiple buyers negotiating with manufacturers.
- In this context, the private sector (private hospitals and corporate sector) can be provided price flexibility based on the volumes procured.
Thus, giving local governance structures the freedom to craft their own strategies is key as they have the advantage of on ground information when it comes to tackling a public health emergency.
QUESTION : Critically examine the importance of public health service in a developing country like India and what are the major challenges that India is facing due to covid-19 pandemic and effective measures to be taken?
A NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE IN INDIA
- India’s Health System during Covid-19
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The recent surge in Covid-19 infections has exposed the gaps and problems in the Indian Healthcare infrastructure.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS :
- Hospitals are over burdened and healthcare staffs are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
- There was a myth that private hospitals are well equipped, this myth has been busted.
- The situation has been worsened and military and railway has taken responsibility of transporting oxygen to the required places.
- Supreme Court has been forced to step up to call for a national plan to deliver oxygen and vaccines.
REBOOT THE TIRED SYSTEM :
- Pandemic exposed the fundamental problems plaguing the Indian healthcare system. All the dimensions be it physical infrastructure, manpower and health management everything has been collapsed.
There is no any epidemic response mechanism and our public healthcare system is woefully underprepared. So yes, we need a reboot.
- No separation of Covid hospitals from non-Covid hospitals: Leading researchers always raised concerns that having Covid and non-Covid patients in the same hospital leads to multiple issues. Common sense dictates that due to common entry and exit points, common lobby, common lifts, common toilets, canteen etc there is a very high risk of spread of virus from covid patients to non covid patients increasing the risk to life of patients with heart, kidney, lungs diseases etc.
- Doctors, surgeons and all healthcare workers under tremendous stress: Doctors have been experiencing stress at multiple levels.
- Many are besieged with the fear of contracting the extremely contagious coronavirus disease themselves. The risk to them makes their family members vulnerable too. Many doctors have died in India from covid.
- In certain rural areas, the doctor¬population ratio is over 1:40,000.
- Medical expenses constitute the major reason for personal debt in India, whether the causes are episodic afflictions or, for example, those caused by environmental conditions which none can escape, such as air pollution (accounted for 1.7 million deaths in India in 2019)
NEED A SYSTEM ON BRITISH NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE :
- The British National Health Service plan was drafted in the 1930s, as problems worsened there in healthcare services.
- The NHS resulted into a mighty achievement in public policy, politics, and the provision of top¬class universal healthcare, including training, research, and changing engagement with the public as society changes.
- This service is funded entirely from general taxation. Its budget includes payment to general practitioners, which remain private providers, but are paid by the state for treating NHS patients.
- Under this, Items listed in general practitioners’ prescriptions incur no charges in the devolved regions of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In practice only a proportion of patients in England have to pay for prescription items.
- Under NHS, all hospital treatment and medicines are free, as are outpatient and follow¬up appointments.
- British public shares the costs through their taxes, and almost without exception receive treatment
- NHS is the largest employer in the U.K. Its current budget is about 7.6% of GDP, but despite its size and scale, it provides highly localised access to care.
- Problems in the NHS
- unintended inequalities in the time and attention given to patients of different social classes
- huge and frequent reorganisations imposed by Central government
- ideologically driven underfunding
BOTTLENECKS PERVADING THE INDIA’S HEALTH SERVICE DELIVERY :
Gaps in healthcare infrastructure: To provide universal access of health care we need to fulfill the health infrastructure gaps.
o Even if private healthcare caters to around 70% of India’s population there are still very low levels of health care facilities- eg. 1.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people in the country.
Inadequate Public Funding: Public health expenditure is still very low in India, at just little more than one percent of GDP.
High out-of-pocket expenses: Poverty is the real issue in India where three fourths of the population live below or at subsistence levels.
o In such a situation over 80 per cent of ambulatory care is supported through out-of-pocket expenses. And many of the people fall into poverty and debt.
Acute shortage of skilled personnel: Due to double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, India will be requiring around twice the number of doctors, triple the number of nurses and quadruple the number of paramedic and support staff.
o However, we are still far behind the WHO benchmark (1 doctor/1000) and currently have about 0.65 doctors and 1.3 nurses per 1,000 people in the country.
Some other bottlenecks: Non-availability of drugs, lack of advanced laboratory facilities and equipment, a severely constrained health workforce along with poor delivery mechanism for health care are also bottlenecks of Indian healthcare system.
WAY FORWARD :
- Union government has to re-evaluate and urgently improve upon the funding in public healthcare infrastructure.
- The manpower crisis plaguing the healthcare sector has to be managed with efficient and targeted vocational training.
- The Government must spend more in healthcare to create a more robust and all-encompassing public healthcare system.
- India is facing an unprecedented crisis possibly the worst since Independence. Several areas of its healthcare provision needs to revive to create an Indian National Health Service.
- However, the need of the hour is an adequate investment, for creating a health system that can withstand any kind of public health emergencies, deliver universal health coverage and meet the targets of SDG.
QUESTION : Covid-19 Pandemic is worsening inequality in income and opportunities impacts some sections disproportionately in India and due to this discrimination based on gender, caste, and other factors peoples are facing multiple challenges. Critically evaluate this with effective solutions.
DECODING INEQUALITY IN A DIGITAL WORLD
Inequality Due To Covid-19 Pandemic
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the use of digital technologies in India, even for essential services such as health and education.
- However, the pandemic has raised inequalities in multiple fronts including health, education and economy.
ECONOMIC INEQUALITY :
- Several surveys conducted over the past 12 months suggest widespread job losses and income shocks among those who did not lose jobs.
- The super-rich have even become richer. However, the bulk of the Indian population is suffering a huge economic setback.
- As per Oxfam’s annual report on inequalities, in India, the wealth of billionaires increased by 35% during the lockdown and by 90% since 2009.
o Out of a total 12.2 crore g who lost their jobs, 75%, which accounts for 9.2 crore jobs, were lost in the informal sector.
EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITY :
- According to National Sample Survey data from 2017, only 6% rural households and 25% urban households have a computer.
- Access to Internet facilities is 17% in rural areas and 42% in urban areas.
- A Survey shows that between 27% and 60% could not access online classes for a range of reasons:
o Lack of devices,
o Shared devices,
o Inability to buy data packs,
o Lack of stable connectivity
o Lack a learning environment at home.
25% Indians lived in single-room dwellings in 2017-19.
- Several students took their own lives because they could not cope with the online education system.
- Peer learning has also suffered.
- When students who did not study in English-medium schools come to colleges where English is the medium of instruction, they struggled. Yet, surrounded by English speakers, many managed to learn the language.
- However, due to online teaching, such learning is not possible.
HEALTH CARE INEQUALITY :
- India’s has low public spending on health which is 1% of GDP.
- As a result, the share of out of pocket (OOP) health expenditure (of total health spending) in India was over 60% in 2018.
- Even in United States, OOP was merely 10%.
- Currently, developing an app is being seen as a solution for allocation of various health services such as oxygen. However, app-based solutions can exclude the poor entirely, or squeeze their access to scarce health services further.
- In vaccination too, the use of CoWIN to book a slot makes it that much harder for those without phones, computers and the Internet.
- The digital health ID project is being pushed during the pandemic when its merits cannot be adequately debated.
- Electronic and interoperable health records are the purported benefits.
- For patients, interoperability (i.e., combining patient data such as x-rays, past medication at one place) can be achieved by decentralising digital storage (i.e., smart cards) as France and Taiwan have done.
- Given that India lack a data privacy law in India, it is very likely that health records will end up with private entities without consent.
WAY FORWARD :
(1).The report itself suggests a few important measures to bridge the inequality. Such as;
o Re-introduction of wealth tax and one-time COVID-19 cess of 4% on taxable income of above 10 lakhs. According to the report’s estimate, a wealth tax on 954 richest families can raise 1% of India’s GDP.
o The report mentions India has to grow first then only it can distribute the wealth. Focusing on distribution now can lead India into a low-income equilibrium trap.
(2).The government needs to focus on the Promotion of Labour Intensive Manufacturing post-covid phase like Textile, Construction, Footwear, Clothing, etc.
(3).The Government also has to utilize the time to trains persons in skill development: A skill-led economy is the need of the hour to completely utilize India’s demographic dividend towards equality.
(4).The State has to be the dominant provider of merit goods such as health, education, nutrition, etc. This can be achieved by increasing the budgetary spending on health, education to the desired 6% of GDP.
- Unless health expenditure on basic health services is increased and unless laws against medical malpractices are enforced strictly, apps such as Aarogya Setu, Aadhaar and digital health IDs can improve little.
QUESTION : Global and strategic significance of India-China relationship. How these relations can be strengthened?
EVALUATE THE LADAKH CRISIS, KEEP CHINA AT BAY
- Indo- China Relations
WHY IN NEWS ?
- After over a year, the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh shows no signs of resolution. Disengagement has stalled, China continues to reinforce its troops, and talks have been fruitless.
- Even if disengagement continues, the relationship will remain vulnerable to destabilising disruptions. On the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and beyond, India’s military and political leaders will need to learn the right lessons from Ladakh, to ensure they are better postured to meet the challenge of Chinese coercion.
3 LESSONS FOR INDIA :
Revamp Military Strategy:
- A doctrinal focus on denial will give the Indian military greater capacity to thwart future land grabs across the LAC.
- Military strategies based on denial are more useful than strategies based on punishment. The Indian military’s standing doctrine calls for deterring adversaries with the threat of massive punitive retaliation for any aggression, capturing enemy territory as bargaining leverage in post-war talks.
- In contrast, the Indian military’s high-water mark in the crisis was an act of denial — its occupation of the heights on the Kailash Range on its side of the LAC. This action served to deny that key terrain to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and gave the Indian Army a stronger defensive position from which it could credibly defend a larger segment of its front line.
POLITICAL COSTS :
- China is more likely to be deterred or coerced with the threat of political costs, rather than material costs.
- In contrast, India successfully raised the risks of the crisis for China through its threat of a political rupture, not military punishment. A permanently hostile India or an accidental escalation to conflict were risks that China, having achieved its tactical goals in the crisis, assessed were an unnecessary additional burden while it was contending with the instability of its territorial disputes and pandemic response.
LONG TERM LEVERAGE OVER INDIAN OCEAN :
- India should consider accepting more risk on the LAC in exchange for long-term leverage and influence in the Indian Ocean Region.
- From the perspective of long-term strategic competition, the future of the Indian Ocean Region is more consequential and more uncertain than the Himalayan frontier.
- At the land border, the difficult terrain and more even balance of military force means that each side could only eke out minor, strategically modest gains at best.
- In contrast, India has traditionally been the dominant power in the Indian Ocean Region and stands to cede significant political influence and security to China.
WAY FORWARD :
- Increased military modernization exercise at both areas LAC as well as Indian Ocean.
- Rebalancing India’s strategic priorities will require the central government, through the Chief of Defence Staff, to issue firm strategic guidance to the military services.
- Ability of the national security apparatus to overcome entrenched bureaucratic and organisational-cultural biases is another way forward.
- Mutual understanding in relations
- To strengthen exchanges and cooperation, promote convergence of interests and achieve common development.
- India has suffered unequal strategic costs from the Ladakh crisis. Chinese troops continue to camp on previously Indian-controlled land, and worse, India may jeopardise its long-term leverage in the more consequential Indian Ocean Region. But if India’s leaders honestly and critically evaluate the crisis, it may yet help to actually brace India’s long-term position against China.
QUESTION : Discuss about the methodology to be used in the regulation of adoption of a child in India and what are the reforms necessary to further simplify the process considering an illegal adoption and child trafficking .
HOW TO ADOPT A CHILD LEGALLY
- Child Adoption In India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Government authorities have come down heavily against such social media post which circulated the message for the adoption of ‘Covid orphans’ who lost both parents to the virus.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- Earlier, Health ministry has been guided by Union Ministry for Women and Child Development (WCD) that parents infected with Covid-19, admitted to hospitals, should declare in a form who their children should be handed over to if they die.
- However, WCD clears that the form does not mean that the existing procedure for adoption will be circumvented in these cases. Such declaration was for child welfare authorities’ aide, which will still be bound to follow due procedure for adoption of any child.
- The cases of child trafficking are on the rise as many children under the age of 18 have been orphaned due to the pandemic.
PROTECTION UNDER LAWS :
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) law: It is a secular law enacted in 2015.
- As per this, all persons are free to adopt children.
- However, persons professing the Hindu religion are free to adopt under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956.
- Children of relatives can also be adopted under this Act.
- Only such children declared legally free for adoption under the Juvenile Justice Act by prescribed procedures can be adopted.
- A person or organisation offering or receiving such children for adoption in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act and the Adoption Regulations invites punishment up to three years and a fine of ₹1 lakh, or both.
- Juvenile Justice Rules, 2016 and Adoption Regulations of 2017 followed the Juvenile Justice law to create the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
- CARA is a statutory body for the regulation, monitoring and control of all intra-country and inter-country adoptions.
- It became pivotal in granting a ‘no objection’ certificate for all inter-country adoptions, pursuant to India becoming a signatory to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions.
- India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thus, protections afforded to children became a legal mandate of all authorities and courts.
LEGAL PROCESS FOR ADOPTION :
- Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), as the nodal agency for adoption, is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
- CARA through its associated or recognised adoption agencies regulated the adoption of orphaned (parents have died),
- abandoned (parents have deserted) and surrendered (parents legally gave up custody) children.
- There are three laws which govern adoption in the country:
- The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956, which is applicable to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.
- the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890, which is applicable to Muslim, Parsi, Christian and Jews in adoption.
- the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act .
- Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) has to upload his/her application for adoption and relevant documents on CARA’s website to adopt a child in India.
- Specialised Adoption Agency (SAA), recognised by CARA then conducted home study of the PAP, and uploaded details on the website.
- SAA then shared the profiles of children identified as legally free for adoption with the prospective parents, who are supposed to reserve a child within 48 hours.
- SAA is then supposed to match the child with the prospective parent within a period of 20 days.
- District Magistrate grants final approval in adoption cases.
PROCEDURE FOR NON RESIDENTS :
- Non-resident persons approach authorised adoption agencies in their foreign country of residence for registration under CARINGS.
- After checking the eligibility (foreign adoption agencies checked in case of Non resident person) as per their seniority profiles of children are offered to them.
- CARA then issues a pre-adoption ‘no objection’ certificate for foster care, followed by a court adoption order.
- A final ‘no objection’ certificate from CARA or a conformity certificate under the adoption convention is mandatory for a passport and visa to leave India.
WAY FORWARD IN STOPPING AN ILLEGAL ADOPTION AND CHILD TRAFFICKING :
- The procedure must reach easily to the masses through an outreach programme on social media, newspapers and TV, with a warning that not to entertain any illegal adoption offers.
- The legal process of adoption must be adequately publicised.
- Other stakeholders like National and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights can step up their roles as vigilantes, as they are empowered by law to take effective action against those engaging in illegal activities.
- Social activists, NGOs and enlightened individuals must report all the incidents that come to their notice and respective State Legal Services Authorities must stamp out such unlawful practices brought to their attention.
- Media can play a decisive role by publicise and shame all those involved in this disreputable occupation.
- A joint private-public venture must come into motion . Every citizen of the nation has a role to play in eradicating this unhealthy practice.
QUESTION : How latest EdTech hampers the ethical code of conduct and suggest the effective ways to deal with the challenges associated with the adoption of online education mode ?
EDTECH NEEDS AN ETHICS POLICY
- EdTech and Ethical Policy
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Since the onset of the pandemic, online education has replaced conventional classroom instruction .This exercise has forced teachers to become facilitators in online learning rather than being content providers. However, the lack of a regulatory framework in India along the lines of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe could impinge on the privacy of students who now use educational technology apps for learning.
DATA STORAGE BY EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS :
- The Educational Technology apps have the advantage of being able to customise learning to every student in the system.
- To perform such customisation, the apps collect large quantities of data. These data are analysed in minute detail to customise learning.
- The latest devices have sensors like GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer and biometric sensors, camera and microphones.
- These provide data about the learner’s surroundings along with intimate data like the emotions and attitudes experienced and expressed via facial expressions and body temperature changes.
- In short, the app have access to the private spaces of the learner that one would not normally have access to.
POSSIBLE CURRENT CHALLENGES IN THIS EDTECH :
- Researchers of educational content and app developers are being forced to be make such structure that gains maximum information of a student, in order to stay competitive.
- The safeguards that traditional researchers are subject to are either missing or minimal in research that the EdTech industry promotes.
- Children use these apps without parent or adult supervision. Thus, intrusion of privacy can happen unnoticed.
- The concept of informed consent is not meaningful since there are no proper primers to explain to stakeholders the complex indicators in simple terms.
- Since India does not have protection equivalent to the GDPR, private data collected by an EdTech company can be misused or sold to other companies with no oversight or protection.
SUGGESTIONS FOR ETHICAL RESEARCH ON STUDENTS :
- Researchers dealing with human subjects need to comply with ethics rules that committees of their respective research organisations formulate, along with global standards.
- Before any research on human subjects, researchers have to submit detailed proposals to their respective ethics committees and obtain their permissions.
- A researcher working with children should have to convince schoolteachers, parents, and school managements about the nature of the research to be undertaken, type of data to be collected etc.
- There should be an option for learner to opt out of the study at any point of time without any repercussions.
- To address above situation, it is necessary to formulate an ethics policy for EdTech companies through the active participation of educators, researchers, parents, learners and industry experts.
- For that, EdTech companies would have to be encouraged to comply in the interest of a healthier learning ecosystem by addressing issues of fairness, safety, confidentiality and anonymity of the user.
QUESTION : Define the term “ Enforced Disappearance” and it is a continuous crime in East Asian region that needs a comprehensive approach to fight against it”.
THE CRIME OF ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES MUST END
- Enforced Disappearances in Myanmar
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Since the coup in Myanmar, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) has received reports of enforced disappearances from the family members of victims. There is concern that there will be a plethora of cases of enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, and even murder if the situation continues to deteriorate.
- Myanmar is not the only country in Asia that enforced disappearances are becoming a major concern. There are other leaders and regimes that have the mistaken notion that they can do anything to maintain their power. Regretfully, this includes using enforced disappearances as a tool to suppress the people.
ABOUT ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE ?
- An enforced disappearance is defined by several constituent elements.
- First, it is characterised by the deprivation of liberty, where persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty.
- Second, there are grounds for seeking governmental responsibility for the act, including of officials of different branches or levels of government or by organised groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of, the government.
- Third, such an act typically occurs in the context of a state’s continuous refusal to take relevant action, including refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND :
- Enforced disappearances became widely known to the world in the 1970s and the early 1980s during the ‘Dirty War’ in Argentina where the Argentine military dictatorship committed the forceful disappearances of some 30,000 of its own citizens while denying that they kidnapped, tortured, and murdered them.
- To fight against these gross and systematic human rights violations, the UN Commission on Human Rights established the Working Group in 1980 as the first special procedure mechanism of the UN Commission on Human Rights.
EXAMPLES IN ASIA :
- In China, under the pretext of re-education to prevent terrorism, members of the Uyghur minority ethnic group are forcibly sent to what Chinese authorities call ‘vocational education and training centers’, with no information on their whereabouts and fate given to their families.
- Sri Lanka has experienced more than three decades of domestic conflict, which was accompanied by various forms of enforced disappearances.
- Increasing numbers of enforced disappearances are being reported in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and it does not seem that the situation will improve in the near future.
WAY FORWARD :
- Ratification of treaty: The international community adopted the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2006, which became effective in 2010. Among 63 member states of the treaty, only eight states from the Asia-Pacific region have ratified or acceded to the treaty. Only four East Asian states — Cambodia, Japan, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka have ratified it.
- Reject the culture of impunity: Asian countries should consider their obligations and responsibilities more seriously and reject a culture of impunity in order to eradicate enforced disappearances.
- Comprehensive approach: They should also understand that their domestic criminal law systems are not sufficient to deal with the crime of enforced disappearance. An enforced disappearance is a continuous crime that needs a comprehensive approach to fight against it.
- The international community must strengthen its efforts to eradicate enforced disappearances at the earliest.
- The pain and suffering of the family members do not end until they find out the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones.
- Mothers looking for sons, wives looking for husbands, and the children looking for parents demonstrate the endless chain of tragedy in our contemporary world. This human atrocity must end immediately.
QUESTION : Detail the challenges that are being faced by medical education in India and how is the improved role of the private sector in medical education an answer to these challenges?”
REFORMING MEDICAL EDUCATION :
- Medical Education Concerns and Reforms
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The article highlights the issue of shortage of doctors in India and issues with the involvement of private sector in it.
- Despite public health being a state subject, the central government is the key actor in designing health policies and programmes.
- The Centre’s top think tank Niti Aayog released a document on “Scheme to link new and/or existing private medical colleges with functional district hospitals through PPP” for feedback from stakeholders.
- Such district hospitals need to have at least 750 beds — nearly half as “market beds” and the rest as “regulated beds”. Market beds would have a market price tag, which would help subsidise the regulated beds.
- The guiding principles for the public-private participation scheme are based on the international best practices.
- Under this, the concessionaire will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the medical college and also operate and maintain the associated district hospital.
- These guidelines can be adopted by interested states particularly those struggling to infuse funds in the healthcare sector and where district hospitals are not up to the mark.
NITI AAYOG’S REASONING BEHIND THIS PROPOSAL :
- It is practically not possible for the Central/state government to bridge the gaps in the medical education with their limited resources and finances.
- There is a need for the scheme to “augment medical seats and also rationalize costs of medical education.
- The model will resolve the issues of shortage of medical colleges and upgradation of district hospitals.
CURRENT MAJOR CONCERNS BEFORE MEDICAL FIELD :
- Lack of human resources: The serious shortage of health workers, especially doctors, in some northern States is a major impediment for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.
- Regional imbalances: The workforce crisis has been aggravated by the imbalances within the country.
- For instance, the doctor-population ratio in northern States is far short of the required norm, while the southern States, barring Telangana, have enough doctors in possession.
- There is also a general lack of adequate staffing in rural areas.
- Market-oriented approach: The government’s market-oriented approach towards medical education is alienating the poor.
- To meet the significant shortfall of qualified doctors in northern States, scaling up of medical education is warranted.
- The NITI Aayog’s proposal of allowing private entities to take over district hospitals for converting them into teaching hospitals with at least 150 MBBS seats, may sound attractive but there are reasons to be deeply concerned.
- Corporatisation: The private sector in medical education will be encouraged; it will also directly aid the corporatisation processes of healthcare provisioning while the under-resourced public health system will be a collateral damage.
- Impact on the poor: This policy will further compromise quality and access to healthcare, mainly for poor patients.
- District hospitals are considered as the last resort for the poor.
- The corporatisation will make the services very costly and exclude them from getting care.
- Shortages in under-served areas: Private players treat medical education as a business.
- Thus, it would shut the door on a large number of medical aspirants who would otherwise have a strong motivation to work in rural areas but do not have the means to finance themselves.
- Additionally, the medical graduates trained in such private sector ‘managed’ medical colleges will prefer to find employment in corporate hospitals and not in rural areas to regain their investment.
- Not aligned with SDG goals: Further, this proposal is not aligned with India’s national health policy goals like achieving universal health care and health equity. Instead, it will widen health inequalities further.
- Failure of PPP model: The government should learn from previous cases of public-private partnerships (PPPs).
- It was expected that markets would help increase access to primary and tertiary care for the poor through private players, but the evidence supporting their effectiveness is very limited.
- In fact, many PPPs had to be shelved owing to the non-compliance of the agreement conditions by the private sector under which they were also supposed to cater to the non-paying patients.
- Fixing accountability: Even if some beds are meant to be free, patients who are not paying can become “low priorities or can be turned down on various pretexts. It can be difficult to fix accountability on private parties in such a mode.
WAY FORWARD :
- Making health a public good: Medical education is a public good as its purpose is to improve the population health and decrease disease burden.
- The pandemic has provided us an opportunity to make medical education a public good once again.
- Public investment: There should be a substantial step-up in public investment in medical education.
- By establishing new medical colleges, the government can increase student intake as well as enhance equitable access to medical education.
- It must allocate adequate financial resources to strengthen the overall capacity of existing medical colleges to enrich student learning and improve output.
- Solving doctor shortage, therefore, needs long-term thinking and commitment from the political leadership.
- India’s health systems have been confronting numerous challenges. In order to effectively address these challenges, our health systems must be strengthened.
QUESTION : India-Israel relationship has gradually moved beyond defence sector cooperation into a more comprehensive one but internal conflicts between Israel and Palestine can hamper these ongoing developments . Critically analyse the relationship between both nations by giving effective solutions to pacify these conflicts between Israel and Palestine.
CEASE THE FIRE
- Conflict Between Israel and Gaza
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The recent riots, mob violence, and airstrikes between Arabs and Jews tore through cities across Israel and Gaza continued to kill civilians.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- In the last week of April, 2021, Israeli security services removed metal barriers around the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
- In the weeks that followed, Palestinians continued to protest Israeli police practices limiting access to the Old City’s holy sites. It led to a number of clashes with police.
- During this period of time, tensions aroused in the Palestinian-majority Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem because the Israeli government ordered a number of Palestinian families to leave their homes.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND :
- United Kingdom controlled the area, known as Palestine, after the ruler of area was defeated in WW1.
- It was the land inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab majority.
- Tensions between the two peoples grew when Britain started a project, establishing a ‘national home’, in Palestine for Jewish people.
- For Jews, it was their ancestral home, but Palestinian Arabs also claimed the land and opposed the move.
- Between the 1920s and 40s, the more number of Jews arrived there because of persecution in Europe during the Holocaust of WWII.
- Violence between Jews and Arabs, and against British rule, escalated by this.
- In 1947, the United Nations adopted Resolution 181, known as the Partition Plan.
- It sought to divide the British Mandate of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states with Jerusalem becoming an international city.
- That plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arab side and never implemented.
- On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was created, sparking the first Arab-Israeli War. The war ended in 1949 with Israel’s victory and displacement of Palestinians into 3 places: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip.
CREATION OF ISRAEL :
- British rulers left the area without settling the issue in 1948. At this moment Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.
- As expected Palestinians objected and a war followed, with troops from neighbouring Arab countries invaded Israel.
- During the war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes (the catastrophe also called Al Nakba).
- In this war, Israel managed to control most of the territory.
- Jordan occupied land which became known as the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza.
- Jerusalem was divided between Israeli forces in the West, and Jordanian forces in the East.
1967 WAR :
- Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of the Syrian Golan Heights, and Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
- Most Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in neighbouring Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
WHAT IS THE PRESENT SITUATION ?
- Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.
- Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
- The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise Israel’s claim to the whole of the city. Abraham Accord mediated by the USA was signed between Israel, UAE and Bahrain in 2020.
- Israel has built settlements in these areas and more than 600,000 Jews now live in Jerusalem.
- Palestinians consider it illegal under international law and are obstacles to peace.
ISRAEL’S IMPERIALISM :
- The whole issue is a part of a long history of settler colonialism, where indigenous (Palestinians) were displaced and the UN decision was imposed on them. The Palestinian cause has been either forgotten or more or less abandoned.
- Israel’s actions have the characteristic of imperial modes of governance:
- dispossession of property
- creation of second-class citizens
- maintenance of oppressively governed enclaves
- licence for state impunity
- Recent clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque can be seen as part of a long pattern of pushing out Palestinians from territory Israel wants to claim.
- Israel knows that a 19th century-style total ethnic expulsion is not possible.
- So, Israel is using a thousand cuts to dispossess Palestinians of their homes.
- This displacement or imposing unethical rule on Palestinians was earlier supported by Imperialist Britain in the early 20th century and the US now (mediated Abraham Accords).
- The imperial violence of Israel will only escalate terrorist violence of Hamas and Fatah. This can give opportunity to other players (Russia and Iran) of the world to jump into the chaos.
HOW MIDDLE EAST AND OTHERS RESPOND ?
- Issue of Jerusalem is emotional for Arab countries and their people.
- The recent tensions will test Israel’s newfound relations with its new Arab neighbours, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, as well as neighbouring Egypt and Jordan.
- The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and others have condemned Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.
- United States supported Israel to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks but mentioned Jerusalem must be a place of co-existence.
- European Union condemned Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel and called on all sides to aim for de-escalation and to prevent more civilian casualties. It also condemned evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, calling them illegal.
- India calls on both sides to avoid changing the status-quo on the ground and urged restraint of all parties and to adhere to Security Council resolution 2334.
MORE ABOUT GAZA :
- It is a 25-mile-long strip of land between Israel and Egypt along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.
- Both Gaza and the West Bank, a separate block of land between Jordan and Israel’s internationally recognized borders, are under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority but since 2007 Gaza has effectively been governed by Hamas, an Islamist organization.
- It is home to around two million people.
- Long an Israeli-occupied buffer zone between Israel and Egypt, Israeli forces left Gaza in 2005 though Israel continues to control the airspace and territorial waters.
- Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the militant group seized control. Several escalations since spring 2018 have almost developed into full-blown conflicts.
ABRAHAM ACCORDS ?
- In 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and then Bahrain agreed to normalize relations with Israel, making them only the third and fourth countries in the region following Egypt and Jordan to do so.
- The agreements, named the Abraham Accords, came more than eighteen months after the mediation of United States hosted Israel and several Arab states for ministerial talks in Warsaw, Poland.
OSLO ACCORDS OF 1993 & 1995 :
- It mediated the conflict, setting up a framework for the Palestinians to govern themselves in the West Bank and Gaza, and enabled mutual recognition between the newly established Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government.
- It expanded on the first agreement, adding provisions that mandated the complete withdrawal of Israel from 6 cities and 450 towns in the West Bank.
SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 2334 ?
- It reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
SOME KEY POINTS ON INDIA-ISRAEL BILATERAL TIES :
- Though India officially recognised Israel in 1950, the two countries established full diplomatic ties only on January 29, 1992. As of December 2020, India is among 164 United Nations (UN) member states to have diplomatic ties with Israel.
- India has its embassy in the second-largest Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Israel, meanwhile, has its embassy in India in Delhi. It also has consulates in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
- Jerusalem, which Israel considers as its capital, is also considered by Palestine as its capital city. This is why most countries have their embassies in Israel in the city of Tel Aviv. The United States recognised Jerusalem in December 2017, and shifted its embassy there in May 2018.
- In 1997, Ezer Weizman became the first President of Israel to visit India. In 2000, then home minister Lal Krishna Advani became the first Indian minister to visit Israel. The same year, Jaswant Singh became the first foreign minister of India to visit the country. Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in 2003.
- The current Prime Ministers of the two countries, Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu, have visited the other’s country in recent years. While Modi visited Israel in July 2017, Netanyahu arrived in India next January; Modi broke protocol to personally receive him at the airport. Netanyahu, too, had personally received Modi in 2017.
- During his visit to Israel, Modi met Moshe Holtzberg, one of the youngest survivors of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Now grown up, Moshe lost his parents in the attacks, and was rescued by his nanny, Sandra Samuel.
- Moshe, who turned 14 last November, came to Mumbai in 2018, accompanying Netanyahu on the trip. During Modi’s visit to Israel, the first by an Indian PM, the boy had expressed his wish to visit Mumbai.
- India is the largest buyer of military equipment from Israel, which, in turn, is the second-largest defence supplier to India, after Russia. India is also the tenth-largest trade partner of Israel, and the third-largest from Asia.
INDIA’S STAND ON THIS ISSUE :
- India recognised Israel in 1950 but it is also the first non-Arab country to recognise Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinian.
- India is also one of the first countries to recognise the statehood of Palestine in 1988.
- In 2014, India favoured UNHRC’S resolution to probe Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza. Despite supporting the probe, India abstained from voting against Israel in UNHRC in 2015.
- As a part of Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018 to treat both the countries mutually independent and exclusive.
- In June 2019, India voted in favor of a decision introduced by Israel in UN ECOSOC that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian non-governmental organization.
- So far India has tried to maintain the image of its historical moral supporter for Palestinian self-determination, and at the same time to engage in the military, economic, and other strategic relations with Israel.
ROLE OF THE USA:
- The President of the US, Joe Biden, has stated that Israel has the right to defend itself and has called for ending the conflict as soon as possible.
- In the UNSC, the US has blocked any discussion on the issue by using its veto power even though 14 out of 15 members called for an urgent meeting on the issue.
- A certain section of the Democratic lawmakers in the US believes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for such escalation and has called to put pressure on him to end the conflict.
- However, the US has less leverage because of Donald Trump’s action of unilaterally siding with Israel over Jerusalem, which the Palestinians consider as their capital, and the vacillation of Biden over putting pressure on Israel.
- The US is also trying to shift its focus from the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific to tackle China.
ROLE OF REGIONAL POWERS :
- The Arab nations are also divided. On the one hand, Iran and Turkey are champions of the Palestine cause and on the other hand, Saudi Arabia and UAE have improved their relations with Israel.
- Qatar, Egypt, and Turkey are trying their best to calm the situation.
- Russia is also playing its role, with Hamas and Israel being in constant talks with Russian authorities.
- China is also actively engaged in the situation.
WAY FORWARD :
- The world at large needs to come together for a peaceful solution but the reluctance of the Israeli government and other involved parties have aggravated the issue more. Thus a balanced approach would help to maintain favourable relations with Arab countries as well as Israel.
- All regional powers should envisage peace between the two countries on line of Abraham Accords.
- Both Israel and Palestine should immediately resume the peace talks under the guidance of the UNSC.
- There must be proper adherence to UNSC resolution 2334. It concerns the Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”.
- The February 2021 ICC Ruling should be implemented in spirit. It allows the ICC to investigate persons committing war crimes in the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
- India should leverage its growing influence in the world to counsel Israel to exercise restraint and move towards a two-state solution.
- It should continue to use its voice in the United Nations and work with major states in the world towards that end without directly participating in the peace process.
- Any successful peace initiative would need to resolve the four core issues that have plagued the peace process: West Bank borders/settlements, Israeli security, Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem.
QUESTION : Establishing the National Tribunal Commission (NTC) will definitely entail a radical restructuring of the present tribunals system. Discuss
RESTRUCTURING THE TRIBUNALS SYSTEM
- NTC and Tribunal System in India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Centre has abolished several appellate tribunals and authorities and transferred their jurisdiction to other existing judicial bodies through the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021.
KNOWING MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- The Ordinance bypasses the usual legislative process and abolishes several tribunals such as the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal without any stakeholder consultation.
- This move of the Union government is against the Supreme court directions in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank (2019).
o Judicial impact assessment required prior to abolishing the tribunals through this Ordinance.
- The ordinance has incorporated the suggestions made in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India (2020).
o The composition of a search-cum-selection committee and its role in disciplinary proceedings.
o It has also fixed a four-year tenure for Chairpersons and members of tribunals “notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, order, or decree of any court” by blatantly disregarding the court’s direction for fixing a five-year term.
- The Finance Ministry has been vested with the responsibility for tribunals until the National Tribunals Commission (NTC) is constituted.
KEY CONCERNS :
- The Centre is yet to constitute a National Tribunals Commission (NTC).
o It will act as an independent umbrella too:
Supervise the functioning of tribunals,
Appointment of and disciplinary proceedings against members, and
To take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the tribunals.
- The idea of an NTC was first mooted in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997).
- Establishing the NTC will definitely entail a radical restructuring of the present tribunal’s system.
- In India, executive interference in the functioning of tribunals is often seen:
o In matters of appointment and removal of tribunal members,
o In the provision of finances, infrastructure, personnel and other resources required for the day-to-day functioning of the tribunals.
- Initiating dialogue and promoting awareness about the NTC is vital for overcoming the government’s inertia in establishing such a body.
- Developing an independent oversight body for accountable governance requires a legal framework that protects its independence and impartiality.
o If the institutional design is not properly conceived, partisan interests can twist the law to serve political or private interests.
ADVANTAGES OF NTC:
- The NTC could therefore pave the way for the separation of the administrative and judicial functions carried out by various tribunals.
- A ‘corporatised’ structure of NTC with a Board, a CEO and a Secretariat will allow it to scale up its services.
- It will provide requisite administrative support to all tribunals across the country.
ADMINISTRATIVE DUTIES OF NTC :
- It could set performance standards for the efficiency of tribunals and their own administrative processes.
- It could function as an independent recruitment body to develop and operationalise the procedure for disciplinary proceedings and the appointment of tribunal members.
- NTC deciding salaries, allowances, and other service conditions, subject to regulations of members would help maintain tribunals’ independence.
- Administrative roles also include:
- Providing support services to tribunal members, litigants, and their lawyers.
- For this purpose, it would need to be able to hire and supervise administrative staff, and to consolidate, improve, and modernise tribunals’ infrastructure
ABOUT TRIBUNALS :
- It’s a Quasi-Judicial body set up to deal with problems such as resolving administrative or tax-related disputes.
- It performs a number of functions like adjudicating disputes, determining rights between contesting parties, making an administrative decision, reviewing an existing administrative decision etc.
- They were not originally mentioned in the constitution, rather introduced in 1985.
- They take a load off the already overburdened courts.
- Tribunals have no code of procedure whereas court follows code of procedure strictly.
- Constitutional Provision:
- Tribunals were incorporated in the Indian Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 on recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee.
- Article 323-A deals with Administrative Tribunals. It can be established only by the parliament.
- Article 323-B deals with the establishment of tribunals by the Parliament and the state legislature for the adjudication of disputes relating to the following matters:
- Foreign exchange, import and export
- Industrial and labour
- Land reforms
- Ceiling on urban property
- Elections to Parliament and state legislatures
- Rent and tenancy rights
- Under article 323B, Parliament and State legislatures both can establish tribunals with respect to matters falling within the legislative jurisdiction.
TYPES OF THESE TRIBUNALS :
o Administrative Tribunals:
- Set-up by an act of parliament i.e., Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 under Article 323 A of the Constitution.
- It adjudicates disputes and complaints with respect to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to the public service and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union and the States.
Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 gives three types of tribunals:
- Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) established by the centre.
- At the request of the state government, the centre may establish administrative tribunals for the state employees.
- Two or more states may have joint tribunals known as Joint Administrative Tribunal (JAT) with the power of administrative tribunals of those states.
o Other tribunals for settling various administrative as well as tax disputes:
- Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT),
- Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT),
- National Green Tribunal (NGT),
- Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) and
- Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT)
- The way to reform the tribunal system is to look at solutions from a systemic perspective supported by evidence. Establishing the NTC will definitely entail a radical restructuring of the present tribunals system.
QUESTION : Critically analyse the situation in India due to Covid-19 pandemic and how is right to life being undermined when it comes to the Vaccine policy ?
PRIORITISING THE RIGHT TO LIFE
- Right to Life and Vaccine Policy
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The majority of India’s working population is today reeling from the impact of multiple crises: a health emergency; massive job losses, declines in incomes from work; and significantly increased mass hunger and worsening nutrition.
SURVEY BY HUNGER WATCH :
- Even after lockdown was lifted last year, two-third families reported eating less than they did before the lockdown, and a reduction in healthy food.
- For a quarter of the families surveyed, incomes had fallen by half.
- It also found that hunger was higher in urban India compared to rural.
JUDICIARY, HUNGER AND RIGHT TO LIFE :
- The Supreme Court on May 13 directed the Centre and the State governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to provide free rations without insisting on ID proof to all migrant workers and to run kitchens providing free meals twice a day.
- The directive shows that the apex court acknowledged a hunger crisis in the country that needed urgent state action.
- It did not extend the facility to the country as a whole;
- It did not extend the facility to cover cash payments by the state besides meals and ration;
- It made the facility a state largesse rather than a right.
- Had SC recognised a universal right to livelihood as the basis for its verdict, deriving from the right to life, the above three lacunae would have been overcome.
VACCINE POLICY AND RIGHT TO LIFE :
- Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is essential for defending one’s right to life.
- Government must respect everyone’s right to life and must make the vaccine equally available to all irrespective of the recipient’s capacity to pay.
- India is making people (aged 18-45 years) pay to be administered these vaccines in private clinics. Contrast this to US (most privatised medical systems) where vaccines is provided for free to all.
WHAT SHORTCOMINGS DID COME WITH VACCINE POLICY OF INDIA ?
- Government did not ensure adequate production through compulsory licensing of more producers.
- Government did not order enough vaccines.
- It reneged on its responsibility to provide these vaccines to State governments.
- It introduced differential pricing, forcing State governments to compete with each other and with private clinics to buy vaccines.
- It allowed price rise by Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India.
A FEW IMPORTANT CASES CONCERNED WITH ARTICLE 21:
- AK Gopalan Case (1950): Until the 1950s, Article 21 had a bit of a narrow scope. In this case, the SC held that the expression ‘procedure established by law’, the Constitution has embodied the British concept of personal liberty rather than the American ‘due process’.
- Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India Case (1978): This case overturned the Gopalan case judgement. Here, the SC said that Articles 19 and 21 are not watertight compartments. The idea of personal liberty in Article 21 has a wide scope including many rights, some of which are embodied under Article 19, thus giving them ‘additional protection’. The court also held that a law that comes under Article 21 must satisfy the requirements under Article 19 as well. That means any procedure under law for the deprivation of life or liberty of a person must not be unfair, unreasonable or arbitrary.
WAY AHEAD :
- Monthly cash transfer, of about ₹7,000 per household for at least three months to those without regular formal employment, over and above the provision of free meals and rations.
- Expanded production and central procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, and distribution to States for free immunisation to all;
- Increased resources to the Integrated Child Development Services to enable revival and expansion of their programmes.
- Making the MGNREGS purely demand-driven, with no ceilings on the number of days or the number of beneficiaries per household.
- Covering urban India with a parallel MGNREGA scheme that would also cater to the educated unemployed.
- A 1.5% wealth tax levied on only the top 1% of households will be adequate to fund the above measures of government.
- State needs to take a range of measures that prioritise the right to life, which also remains the surest way of initiating assured (and equitable) economic recovery
QUESTION : The current geopolitical situation appears to be complex due to the indirect involvement of multiple stakeholders . Analyse this statement
THE CZAR BRINKMANSHIP MUST SEEK PEACE
- Russia-Ukraine Stand off
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The recent stand-off between Russia and Ukraine has created a complex geopolitical situation due to the indirect involvement of its multiple stakeholders, including the United States, Turkey and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
GLIMPSE OF BACKGROUND :
- Russia subsequently annexed “Crimea” (Russian speaking province in Ukraine) by force and declared its sovereignty over it with people’s support.
- It has so far claimed about 10,000 lives and displaced millions with no lasting resolution in sight.
- Though the 2014-15 Minsk peace accords prohibited air strikes and heavy artillery firing, the dispute still prevails as low-intensity combat.
- After Crimea’s annexation in 2014, Russia gained control over both sides of the Kerch Strait, which is the only access to the port town of Ukraine through the Sea of Azov.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- Increased tensions between Ukraine and Russia can be viewed as a continuation of the unresolved conflict of 2014.
- The ‘illegal annexation of Crimea’ has become a buzzword in international politics.
- Russia has been constantly painted as an aggressor and a hostile power.
- Russian-backed separatists involved in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine have been fighting with Ukrainian troops.
- From the beginning of April 2021, Moscow has allegedly deployed thousands of troops as well as tanks and artillery near Ukraine’s eastern border.
- It has also mobilised troops in the annexed Black Sea region of Crimea.
- Ukraine, ask for an intervention from the U.S. and NATO.
NATO RESPONSE :
- NATO Secretary-General invited the Ukrainian Foreign Minister to the NATO headquarters for a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission on the security situation in Ukraine.
- NATO announced that it would continue to provide significant political and practical support to Ukraine.
- Ukraine is approaching the US as well, apart from NATO for more firm support in case of more provocation by Russia, because Ukraine is not the member state of NATO.
- NATO recognised Ukraine as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner, along with Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan, and Sweden.
- This partnership aims to maintain and deepen cooperation between countries that have made significant contributions to the NATO-led missions and operations.
US STANCE :
- Under the new administration of Joe Biden, the US took a more resolute stance towards this conflict.
- It is ready to support Ukraine militarily if the need arises.
- The US supports the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
SUPPORTED BY TURKEY :
- Turkey reassured that it will stand by Ukraine amidst the current tensions with Russia in the recent summit of the 10th anniversary of the Ukraine-Turkey strategic partnership.
- Turkey has not acted in concurrence with Russia during several conflicts, e.g., in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
RUSSIA RESPONSES :
- The cornerstone of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is insufficient communication.
- A lack of direct messages from Moscow creates room for misinterpretations and exaggerations on the part of Ukraine and its western supporters.
- According to the Russian Defense Ministry, deployment of Russian troops on the eastern Ukraine border, was just a ‘three-week drill’ meant to test combat readiness to respond to NATO’s threats.
- Russia is aware of the ‘red line’ beyond which another geopolitical endeavour, that might entail serious repercussions from the international community.
- So current military build-up can be viewed as another round of muscle-flexing exercise.
NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANISATION (NATO):
- It’s a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (NAT) (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949, by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.
- The Articles 5 of the NAT (invoked once in 2011 following the 9/11 attack on the world trade centre) state that if one member of the alliance is attacked in Europe or North America, it is to be considered an attack on all members.
- This will effectively put Western Europe under the “nuclear umbrella” of the US.
- As of 2019, there are 29 member states, with Montenegro becoming the latest member to join the alliance in 2017.
- France withdrew from military command of NATO in 1966 but remained a member of NATO. However, it rejoined the command in 2009.
SEA OF AZOV :
- It is linked by the narrow Strait of Kerch (about 4 km) to the Black sea.
- The sea is bounded in the northwest by Ukraine and in the southeast by Russia.
INDIA-UKRAINE RELATIONS :
- Immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Government of India recognized the Republic of Ukraine as a sovereign independent country in December 1991.
- The Embassy of India in Kyiv was established in May 1992 and Ukraine opened its Mission in New Delhi in February 1993.
- India and Ukraine enjoy warm and friendly relations and cooperate in areas like Culture, Arts, Education, Mutual Legal Assistance, Outer Space cooperation.
- India and Ukraine also have significant defense cooperation. Ukraine has been a source of military technology and equipment for India since its independence.
- Indian companies are collaborating with Ukrainian companies in this area.
- India is dependent on Ukraine’s military-industrial complex which plays an instrumental role in the modernization and upkeep of its air force.
o Ukraine also has a significant size of the Indian community excluding students, it is estimated to be about two thousand.
o There are above 8,000 Indian students enrolled in various Ukrainian medical/technical universities
WAY FORWARD :
- All the stakeholders in the ongoing crisis should focus on establishing a constructive dialogue among themselves using clear and unambiguous language.
- Both countries do need support from the global community, but not in a military form.
- There is a need for a platform (similarly to the Minsk Agreements) that will facilitate negotiation, mutual consensus and possible compromises, as well as engagement with mediators.
- The long-term solution should be sought out in order to break the vicious cycle of animosity and misunderstanding.
- In the destabilised world, there is need to adjust to the fast-changing balance of power and correlate with the countries around us. Negotiations and consensus is the need of the hour
QUESTION : Examine the significance of social security in India and also discuss why the universalisation social security remains an unsatisfied aspiration in the new code on social security”.
A COLLAGE OF LAWS THAT LEAVES THE WORKER OUT IN THE COLD
- Social Security related issues in India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- As COVID-19 destroys lives and livelihoods, an unprepared government has rendered low-paid, informal workers, who constitute 91% of the workforce, totally hapless, pushing them further into poverty. This has resulted in highlighting certain issues the newly adopted Social Security Code 2020 that needs to be corrected for the benefit of unorganised workers.
SOCIAL SECURITY CODE (SSC ) 2020 :
- The Parliament of India in September 2020 passed a Social Security Code (SS Code 2020).
- The SS Code, once in place, will merge eight existing labour laws including Employees’ Compensation Act 1923, Employees’ State Insurance Act 1948, Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952, Maternity Benefit Act 1961, Payment of Gratuity Act 1972, and Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008.
MAJOR ISSUES :
- Problem of registration and associated issues: The code proposes that both the central and State governments will formulate schemes for unorganised workers.
- The legal framework as proposed in the Code and Rules, implies that the basic onus lies on informal workers registering as beneficiaries.
- Most informal workers are footloose casual workers (26% of all workers) and self-employed (46% of all). They move from one place to another in search of livelihoods. Furnishing proof of livelihood and income details in the absence of tangible employer-employee relations is very difficult.
- Lack of awareness among informal workers regarding social security schemes, lack digital literacy and connectivity are additional knock-on effects.
- Maternity benefit: Under the SS Code, the provision of maternity benefit has not been made universal. Maternity benefit is presently applicable for establishments employing 10 workers or more. The definition of ‘Establishment’ in the proposed code did not include the unorganised sector.
- Hence, women engaged in the unorganised sector would remain outside the purview of maternity benefit.
- Employees Provident Fund: The SS Code maintains that the Employees’ Provident Fund Scheme will remain applicable, as before, to every establishment in which 20 or more employees are employed.
- Thus, for informal sector workers, access to employees’ provident fund remains unfulfilled too in the new code.
- No conceptual distinction between gig and platform workers: This new Code attempts to reconfigure the social security landscape for the unorganised sector, defined to cover diverse occupations that include the self-employment too. Gig and platform workers have been defined separately — the conceptual distinction between self-employed and gig workers is left unstated.
- Dual Authority: Under the Code, both Central and State governments will formulate schemes on clearly demarcated areas. This means dual authority for an individual unorganised worker.
- What is not specified is who will be the implementing authority at the State level, and the fragmentation of SS for unorganised workers will continue.
WAY FORWARD :
- A universal social security such as healthcare, old age pensions etc would have been easier to implement.
- A minimum income guarantee, which prevented them from falling into debt; debt is currently exploding among the poor as their incomes collapsed.
- There is an urgent need for simplifying things and avoidance of multiple authorities before the Code goes into effect.
- If the goal of the Central Government is not to universalise social security for unorganised workers in the foreseeable future (as it should have been), it should consider confining its role to advising State governments for effective implementation of existing schemes.
- However, the SS Code does not still provide for universal social security for 91 per cent of India’s workforce. This is especially disappointing given that the demographic dividend of young workers who can support the aged and ageing will shrink from 2030 onwards, and disappear at the end of the decade.
QUESTION : What are the consequences or implications of ‘politicization of security cover ’ in India ? Analyse Critically
OVERSTEPPING THE NORM
- Politicisation of Providing Security Cover
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The recent order by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for providing security cover to 77 MLAs of BJP who were elected earlier this month after the West Bengal Assembly poll is not only unprecedented but appears politically motivated.
HOW NORMS ARE BEING OVERSTEPPED ?
- In practice, decisions to provide security to persons under threat is taken by a committee in the MHA, which comprises officials from the Ministry, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Delhi Police and senior officials of the Central Armed Police Force.
- While the IB prepares the list of persons under threat and the degree of threat, the committee decides on the force to be deployed depending upon the place where the person is located.
- In these meetings, the threat perception of each of the person to be secured is discussed one by one and not collectively for any group as such.
- The threat perception for each of the persons (77 BJP MLAs) was not discussed thus giving rise to suspicions of political motivations.
HAD SUCH KIND OF SECURITY COVER BEEN PROVIDED EARLIER ?
- In the past, such deployment of central forces for the protection of individuals was done in Punjab and in Jammu and Kashmir, when these regions were rocked by unrest & militancy.
- Since militants tried to sabotage the process of elections, poll candidates were generally targeted.
- The Central government, therefore, took blanket decisions to provide security to every candidate till the elections got over.
IMPLICATION OF THIS MOVE :
- Unhealthy sign for Centre-State relations: Law & order and protection to citizens including MLAs is the responsibility of State Police. But by deploying central forces, the Centre has sent a clear signal that it does not rely upon the State government to provide fool-proof security to the BJP MLAs.
- Wrong signal to other police forces: The Central government’s distrust of officers who are considered close to a State’s ruling dispensation does not bode well for police officers across the country.
- Increased number of protected persons: In 2019, as many as 66,043 police and CAPF personnel were deployed to protect 19,467 Ministers, Members of Parliament, judges and bureaucrats, against the sanctioned strength of 43,556 personnel.
- Impacts Training schedule: Constant deployment of CAPF personnel on protection duties impacts their training schedule. After the initial eight-week training for VIP protection, the personnel have to undergo a two-week refresher training periodically to hone their skills.
- Status Symbol: Having security cover has now become a status symbol which doesn’t bode well with democratic culture of society, where everyone is equal.
ABOUT SECURITY COVER :
- There are six kinds of central security covers: X, Y, Y plus, Z, Z plus, and SPG.
- The Special Protection Group protects only the Prime Minister while the other type of securities can be provided to anyone based on the Centre’s assessment.
- The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) are the two forces tasked with providing security to VIPs.
HOW IS A SECURITY COVER PROVIDED ?
- An MHA committee decides regarding the security cover.
- It comprises officials from the Home Ministry, the Intelligence Bureau, Delhi Police, and senior officials of the Central Armed Police Forces.
- The Intelligence Bureau prepares the list of persons under threat and the degree of threat. Whereas the committee decides on the force to be deployed depending upon the place where the person is located.
- The threat perception of every person is discussed one by one and not collectively for any group.
WAY AHEAD :
- To curb the tendency of demanding security personnel around themselves, leaders and prominent persons should be asked to bear the expenditure,
- Members of Parliament and leaders with criminal records should be charged a fee for the security personnel deployed to protect them.
- Thus, there is a need to charge a fee for the security personnel deployed to protect legislators and other prominent persons. This would curb the tendency of unnecessarily demanding security personnel around themselves.
QUESTION : What are the weaknesses of bureaucracy in India? Suggest the measures to improve the quality of public service delivery in India
THE OUTDATED NATURE OF BUREAUCRACY
- Public Governance and Bureaucracy in India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Outdated nature of public bureaucracy has to be accounted for the ineffective response to the COVID-19 crisis in India. A new public governance model based on collaborative governance need to be institutionalised.
ISSUES WITH WEBERIAN MODEL OF BUREAUCRACY :
- The Weberian bureaucracy model that India follows suffers from the following challenges. It needs improvements to make Indian bureaucracy more efficient.
- Weberian bureaucracy still prefers a generalist bureaucracy over a specialist.
- bureaucracy prefers leadership based on position over leadership of function.
- Leadership of function is when a person has expert knowledge of a particular responsibility in a particular situation.
- In leadership of function, every official involved in a particular role responds to the situation rather than relying on directions from above authority.
IMPLICATIONS OF WEBERIAN MODEL :
- The rigid adherence to rules has resulted in the rejection of innovation.
- The hierarchical nature of work flow and cumbersome clearance processes even during the period of crisis results in delayed efforts.
- Negligent of Specialist role results in policy failure and ineffective planning
CHALLENGES FACED BY THE BUREAUCRACY AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES INCLUDE :
- Shortfall in personnel: Overall shortage of personnel, especially in mid-level and higher level services as highlighted by the Baswan Committee Report (2016) leads to delay in service, burden on existing staff, etc.
- Undue political interference: This often results in frequent transfers of those who challenge the political executive, de-motivating others from taking a stand, thus undermining the public’s faith in bureaucracy.
- Lack of specialized skills among bureaucrats: In decisions regarding promotion and staffing, general competency is valued. However, lack of specialised skills can make them redundant in a fast changing world.
- Detachment from the public: This leads to a gap in policy formulation and implementation, especially regarding welfare activities, if bureaucrats are unaware of the ground reality.
- Increased corruption: High level of corruption in bureaucracy is associated with low levels of investment and growth.
- Lack of transparency and accountability: This can result in discretionary decisions by officers for their personal benefits.
- Resistance to change: Bureaucracy has often been criticized for its resistance to change towards adopting technology and decentralization of governance.
REFORMS REQUIRED TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES :
- Implementing a fixed tenure for bureaucrats.
- Proper compensation and privileges to curb corruption.
- Further, there should be strict vigilant mechanisms and proper implementation of anti-corruption laws.
- Digitization in the administrative process and communication of bureaucratic decisions to the public thereby ensuring proper channelization of resources.
- Lateral entry of experienced officers.
- Strengthening accountability mechanisms by intensive reviews at mid-career stage and comprehensive evaluation mechanisms to rank officers on their functional skills, domain expertise, behavioural competence and integrity.
- Officers should be assigned to different departments early in their careers to develop specific domain expertise.
- They should also go on regular field visits in order to assess ground reality.
- Hindrances to bureaucratic functioning should be adequately addressed so that bureaucracy remains a steel frame that holds the country together.
SUGGESTIONS ADDRESSING THESE ISSUES :
- The reform often suggested in India is new public management. It promotes privatisation and managerial techniques of the private sector as an effective tool to improve public service delivery and governance.
- However, failure of private sector in public service delivery as witnessed during Covid19 and wide spread social inequality and regional variations in development had made this idea infeasible in India.
- The model of new public governance based on collaborative governance will be the most appropriate solution.
- In this model, the public sector, private players and civil society, especially public service organisations (NGOs), work together for effective public service delivery.
- All agencies will be involved in policy formulation and implementation.
- Openness to reforms: It needs flexibility in the hierarchy, a relook at the generalist versus specialist debate, and an openness to reforms such as lateral entry and collaboration with a network of social actors.
- All major revolutions with huge implications on public service delivery have come through the collaboration of public bureaucracy with so-called outsiders.These include the Green Revolution (M.S. Swaminathan), the White Revolution (Verghese Kurien), Aadhaar-enabled services (Nandan Nilekani) and the IT revolution (Sam Pitroda).
- New public governance is the future of governance, especially public service delivery.
QUESTION : “Mucormycosis can be a new challenge in India as far as the overburdened health system is concerned and give some important ways to tackle this disease.” Critically analyse
- Black Fungus As A New Challenge
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The rise in mucormycosis cases underlines the need for diabetics to get the full vaccination.
- There is now a growing number of mucormycosis cases being reported in COVID-19 patients.
- The Health Ministry has now asked all States to classify mucormycosis, a fungal infection, as a notifiable disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 and few States have complied.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO BE NOTED :
- The infection is caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes, which are commonly found in the environment; the fungi are largely harmless under normal circumstances.
- Breathing in the fungi spores can cause an infection in the lungs or sinuses which can spread.
- Even when blood sugar is under control, indiscriminate steroid use can cause an increase in blood sugar levels, making such patients more susceptible to mucormycosis infection.
- WHO “strongly recommends” that corticosteroids such as dexamethasone be used in treating patients with severe and critical COVID-19, they should not be used in non-severe COVID-19 patients.
- The absence of any new or repurposed drugs to effectively treat COVID-19 patients and the lack of clear guidelines in using certain drugs have led to indiscriminate drug use, including steroids.
- The rise in mucormycosis infection cases in diabetic patients; self-medication with steroids should be avoided at any cost.
- Most importantly, in COVID-19 patients with diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels using insulin can help prevent mucormycosis infection.
- Amphotericin-B an antifungal drug can be used to treat mucormycosis.
o However it was limited till recently, five manufacturers in India are in the process of ramping up production.
- The infection can be cured without even surgery if detected early. This is one more reason why people, particularly those with diabetes, should get vaccinated soon.
o Since complete vaccination prevents severe disease, diabetics will not need steroids, and hence will not suffer from mucormycosis.
- It is a class of drug that lowers inflammation in the body.
- They also reduce immune system activity.
- They ease swelling, itching, redness, and allergic reactions, doctors often prescribe them to help treat diseases like:
- Corticosteroids resemble cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by the body’s adrenal glands.
- The body needs cortisol to stay healthy. Cortisol is a major player in a wide range of processes in the body, including metabolism, immune response, and stress.
- It is a common corticosteroid used in autoimmune conditions and allergic reactions.
- It is used to treat conditions that cause inflammation, conditions related to immune system activity, and hormone deficiency.
ABOUT MUCORMYCOSIS :
- Mucormycosis is a rare but serious infection that is caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes. Colloquially termed ‘Black Fungus’
- Mucormycosis largely affects people who have health problems or use medicines that depress the body’s ability to combat germs and illness.
- It reduces the ability to fight environmental pathogens.
- It most commonly afflicts the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air.
- It can also happen on the skin after a burn, cut or other type of skin wound through which the fungus enters the skin. It can also affect the brain.
- People having co-morbities, variconazole therapy, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression by steroids or prolonged ICU stay can get predisposed to the fungal infection.
- Warning signs include headache, fever, coughing, blood vomits, breathlessness and altered mental status.
ITS TYPES :
- Rhinocerebral (Sinus and Brain) Mucormycosis: It is an infection in the sinuses that can spread to the brain.
It is the most common in people with uncontrolled diabetes and in people who have had a kidney transplant.
- Pulmonary (Lung) Mucormycosis: It is the most common type of mucormycosis in people with cancer and in people who have had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant.
- Gastrointestinal Mucormycosis: It is more common among young children than adults, especially premature and low birth weight infants less than 1 month of age, who have had antibiotics, surgery, or medications that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
- Cutaneous (Skin) Mucormycosis: It occurs after the fungi enter the body through a break in the skin (for example, after surgery, a burn, or other types of skin trauma).
It is most common among people who do not have weakened immune systems.
- Disseminated Mucormycosis: It occurs when the infection spreads through the bloodstream to affect another part of the body.
The infection most commonly affects the brain, but also can affect other organs such as the spleen, heart, and skin.
BASIC PREVENTIVE MEASURES TO BE FOLLOWED :
- Cleaning and replacement of humidifiers (for those using Oxygen Concentrators)
- Sterile normal saline should be used in the humidifier bottle and changed daily.
- Masks should be disinfected daily
WAY FORWARD :
- People with the following medical conditions should be more careful, they should constantly monitor their health and also take the following preventive measures.
- Diabetic Patient (uncontrolled diabetes) & Steroid usage & COVID Positive – all three combined together place one under high risk of getting this infection.
- Those who are taking steroids should also keep checking their blood sugar levels. In most cases, one who is not diabetic finds that after taking steroids, the blood sugar level shoots up to 300 to 400. Hence, it is essential to continuously monitor one’s sugar level.
- Hence diabetic patients should always monitor and control their blood sugar level.
- Since complete vaccination prevents severe disease, diabetics will not need steroids, and hence will not suffer from mucormycosis.
QUESTION : Suggest some key reforms in the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 and discuss recent issues related to child pornography and effective steps to curb this.
EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF POCSO
- POCSO ACT And Its Key Issues
WHY IN NEWS?
- Over the last nine years, India has sought to “protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography” through the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). But POCSO has not been without controversy or deficiency.
- Recently, the Supreme Court had to injunct an interpretation of ‘skin-to-skin contact’ given by the Bombay High Court.
- Another fundamental defect of POCSO is its inability to deal with historical cases.
- With growing international jurisprudence around these issues, and in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, India must revise its legal and procedural methods to deal with historical child sexual abuse.
ABOUT POCSO ACT, 2012 :
- Most of the cases with respect to sexual offences against the children go unreported. To deal with this issue and provide safer environment to the children government has brought in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
SALIENT FEATURES :
- Gender Neutral: The Act is gender neutral and ensures the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child.
- Definition of child: Any person below eighteen years of age.
- Definition of child pornography: Any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child which include photograph, video, digital or computer-generated image indistinguishable from an actual child, and image created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict a child.
- Aggravated sexual assault is considered when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority. E.g., family member, police officer etc.
- Punishable: People who traffic children for sexual purposes are also punishable under the act.
- The Act prescribes stringent punishment graded as per the gravity of the offence, with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life, and fine.
SALIENT FEATURES OF POCSO RULES,2020 :
- Mandatory police verification: The new rules include the provision of mandatory police verification of staff in schools and care homes, procedures to report sexual abuse material (pornography), imparting age-appropriate child rights education among others.
- Reporting to Special Juvenile Police Unit: For a crackdown on child pornography, any person who has received any pornographic material involving a child or any information regarding such pornographic material shall report the contents to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) or police, or the cybercrime portal.
- Child protection policy: Under the rules, the State Governments have been asked to formulate a child protection policy based on the principle of zero-tolerance to violence against children, which shall be adopted by all institutions, organizations, or any other agency working with or coming in contact with children.
- Periodic training: The Central Government and every State Government shall provide periodic training including orientation programmes, sensitization workshops and refresher courses to all persons coming in contact with the children, to sensitize them about child safety and protection.
- Age-appropriate curriculum: The Centre and State Governments have been asked to prepare age-appropriate educational material and curriculum for children, informing them about various aspects of personal safety, including measures to protect their physical and virtual identity and to safeguard their emotional and mental wellbeing, prevention and protection from sexual offences and reporting mechanisms.
- Orientation programme: According to rules, orientation programme and intensive courses may also be organized for police personnel and forensic experts for building their capacities in their respective roles on a regular basis.
- Background check: Any institution housing children or coming in regular contact with children, including schools, crèches, sports academies or any other facility for children must ensure a police verification and background check on a periodic basis of every staff.
KEY ISSUES :
- Increasing child pornography: Child pornography is rising with sharing of nude contents of a child who is not considered mature until 18 years of age.
- Less conviction rate: Only a fraction of the incidences of sexual abuse against children enters the criminal justice system, amongst which only a minuscule fraction end in a conviction. The 2016 data of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said that only 11% of the total of POCSO cases have been decided by the trial courts in that year, which meant that 89% of the cases were still pending across the country.
- Sexual abuse: Statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau also reveals that there has been a steady increase in sexual crimes against children. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007, over half of the children surveyed reported having faced some form of sexual abuse.
- Deterrent: The rules are expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions incorporated.
- Protection of child: It would help to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensures their safety and dignity.
SPECIAL COURTS :
- The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences under the Act.
- It incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences.
WAY FORWARD :
- Implementation of POCSO Act: Problems related to implementation of POCSO Act such as lack of adequate special courts, lack of sensitisation for investigators and prosecutors in dealing with child victims, poor rate of convictions etc. need to be resolved urgently.
- Special courts: The Supreme Court direction to set up special courts within 60 days of the order in each district having more than 100 pending cases under the act must be complied with urgently.
- Sensitisation: Awareness and sensitisation of people is equally important to prevent the crime itself.
- Encouraging children to speak: Children should be given a platform and proper environment to speak against such abuse.
- Education: Providing sex education to children, which is neglected in India. This makes them more aware of various protective laws, good touch-bad touch etc.
- Allow delayed reporting and prosecution with regard to incidents of child sexual offences.
- Every State Government should create a fund with sufficient credit for payment of compensation, including interim compensation, awarded by the Special Court to the child victim.
- Standardised methods and tools and also terminology can go a long way in eliminating data discrepancies and improving data management systems.
- There is an urgent need to reform and revise our laws to account for various developments such as historical reporting of child sexual abuse.
- At the very least, the Union government must frame guidelines to direct effective and purposeful prosecution in cases which are not covered by the POCSO.
QUESTION : American troops begin to leave Afghanistan and it could have implications for the whole region and beyond especially India . Discuss.
A SEPTEMBER EXIT, AFGHANISTAN AT THE CROSSROADS
- US Forces withdrawal from Afghanistan and its Impact on various Stakeholders
WHY IN INDIA ?
- The U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan will impact the peace and security in south Asia.
- The Afghanistan peace process was set to be discussed in the Istanbul conference hosted by the United Nations. However, it remains suspended due to the reluctance of the Taliban.
- Further, the US under President Joe Biden, is insistent on withdrawing the troops on September 11, even without any power-sharing deal between the rival parties.
- The US withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan will have many consequences on Afghanistan’s neighbourhood and in Afghanistan. (India, China, Pakistan)
REASONS FOR US EXIT FROM AFGHANISTAN :
- Ending Endless Wars: After the costly and prolonged military interventions in the Middle East, the US has begun to see that it can’t fix centuries-old conflicts in the region.
- The promise to end America’s “endless wars” in the greater Middle East region was one of the central themes of former US President Donald Trump’s Foreign policy.
- The new US President is just maintaining the policy stance on this front.
- Changing Priorities From Middle East to Indo-Pacific: US now sees China as revisionist power, challenging the US’ hegemony around the globe.
- Thus, the US now has other urgent priorities such as the challenge from an assertive China and subsequently wants to shift its military, political and diplomatic resources from the Middle east to Indo-pacific.
IMPACT OF THIS DECISION ON VARIOUS STAKEHOLDERS :
- Afghanistan: Advantage Taliban & Instability
- Biden’s announcement has removed all incentives for the Taliban to agree for a dialogue with the Afghan government.
- Blinken Proposal dead: The proposal by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in March 2021 is now almost certainly dead in the water. It included .
- A 90-day ceasefire
- Talks under the auspices of the UN for a consensus plan for Afghanistan among the US, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and India.
- A meeting in Turkey between the Taliban and Afghan government towards an “inclusive” interim government
- An agreement on the foundational principles of the future political order and for a permanent ceasefire.
- The possibility of the Taliban being able to strike a peace deal with the Afghan government is low, as the Taliban believe that they can triumph militarily.
- IS and other terrorist groups have gained a foothold in Afghanistan. Therefore, the consequences of a hasty and irresponsible withdrawal from Afghanistan could be dangerous not only for Afghanistan but also for the region and the world.
- There is deep apprehension of a return to the 1990s, although there is also a view that the Taliban too have changed over 25 years, and would not want to alienate the international community as they did when they ruled Afghanistan during 1996-01.
- By announcing an unconditional pullout, the US has accepted Taliban’s main demand. Now the international community expects the Taliban to join the political process. There is no excuse to continue the war.
- Pakistan: Friendly Power & Burden of Chaos
- The Taliban are a creation of the Pakistani security establishment. After the US invasion of Afghanistan, they removed themselves to safe havens in Pakistan territory, and the Taliban High Council operated from Quetta in Balochistan.
- For Pakistan, the Taliban capture of Afghanistan would finally bring a friendly force in power in Kabul after 20 years and India (which had friendly relations with Afghani govt.) would be cut to size.
- But a US withdrawal also means Pakistan will need to shoulder the entire burden of the chaos that experts predict.
- Civil war is not ruled out and with it, the flow of refugees into Pakistan once again, even as the country struggles with refugees from the first Afghan war.
- The Taliban are not a monolith, and have recently shown streaks of independence from Pakistan. It has to guard against instability in Afghanistan from spilling over the border.
- India: Time to be Wary
- India was on the outer edges of the Trump drive to exit Afghanistan that culminated in the Doha Accord, and was a reluctant supporter of the “intra-Afghan talks” between the Taliban and Afghan government.
- When the Biden Administration came in, India was hopeful of a US reset.
- The Blinken proposal gave India a role, by recognising it as a regional stakeholder, but this proposal seems to have no future.
- Another concern would be India-focused militants such as Laskhar- e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohamed, which the Indian security establishment already believes to have relocated in large numbers to Afghanistan.
- China: Uighurs and an ally in Pakistan
- China would have much to lose from instability in Afghanistan as this could have an impact on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
- A Taliban regime in Afghanistan might end up stirring unrest in the Xinjiang Autonomous region, home to the Uighur minority.
- Conversely, as an ally of Pakistan, it could see a bigger role for itself in Afghanistan.
- Russia: Full circle
- The US exit is for Russia a full circle after its own defeat at the hands of US-backed Mujahideen and exit from Afghanistan three decades ago.
- In recent years, Russia has taken on the role of peacemaker in Afghanistan.
- Russia’s growing links with Pakistan could translate into a post-US role for Moscow in Afghanistan.
- Iran: Threat, Theological divide & Pragmatism
- As a country that shares borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iran perceives active security threats from both. And a Taliban regime in Kabul would only increase this threat perception.
- But Iran, with links to the Hazaras in Afghanistan, has of late played all sides.
- Despite the mutual hostility and the theological divide between the two, Iran opened channels to the Taliban a few years ago, and recently, even hosted a Taliban delegation at Tehran.
- America’s exit from Afghanistan will trigger a geopolitical flux in the region. As these factors will increasingly push India into a geopolitical tough spot in the region, smart statecraft, therefore, is required to deal with changing dynamics in Afghanistan.
QUESTION : Give two-state solution to resolve long running Israel-Palestine conflict.
ONE – STATE SOLUTION, THE WAY FORWARD IN PALESTINE
- Israel-Palestine Conflict and Two-state Solution
WHY IN NEWS ?
- For more than 50 years, well-intentioned and more cynical, local and external actors involved in the attempts to bring peace and reconciliation to historical Palestine have religiously adhered to the two-state solution as the only way forward.
BACKGROUND OF TWO-STATE SOLUTION :
- It involves dividing Palestine between the state of Israel and the indigenous population of Palestine.
- It was first offered by the British in 1937 and rejected by the Palestinians already then.
- In 1947 the United Nations insisted that the Palestinians should give half of their homeland to the settler movement of Zionism.
- The two-state solution, offered for the first time by liberal Zionists and the United States in the 1980s, is seen by some Palestinians as the best way of ending of the occupation of the West Bank .
- It will also lead to the partial fulfilment of the Palestinian right for self-determination and independence.
INTERPRETATION OF THIS SOLUTION :
- The Israeli interpretation, until 2009, was that the two-state solution is another means of having the territories, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, without incorporating most of the people living there.
- In order to ensure it, Israel partitioned the West Bank which is 20% of historical Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab part.
- This was in the second phase of the Oslo Accords, known as the Oslo II agreement of 1995.
- One area, called area C, which consists of 60% of the West Bank was directly ruled from 1995 until today by Israel.
- Now, Israel is in the process of officially annexing this area.
- 40% of the West Bank, areas A and B under Oslo II, were put under the Palestinian Authority.
- Palestinian Authority calls itself the state of Palestine, but in essence has no power whatsoever, unless the one given to it, and withdrawn from it, by Israel.
- In 2018 a citizenship law was passed known as the nationality law.
- As per the citizenship law, the Palestinian citizens who live in Israel proper which is Israel prior to the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and who are supposedly equal citizens of the Jewish state, will in essence become the Africans of a new Israeli Jewish apartheid state.
ISSUES WITH TWO-STATE SOLUTION :
- The endless negotiation on the two-state solution was based on the formula that once the two states become a reality, Israel will stop these severe violations of the Palestinian civil and human rights.
- But while the wait continued, more Palestinians were expelled and the Jewish settler community in the West Bank grew in size.
- The two-state solution is not going to stop the ethnic cleansing; instead, talking about it provides Israel international immunity to continue it.
INDIA’S STAND ON ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLIC :
- India has been consistently supportive of the Palestinian cause.
- India was the first Non-Arab State to recognize Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974.
- Also, India was one of the first countries to recognize the State of Palestine in 1988.
- In 1996, India opened its Representative Office to the Palestine Authority in Gaza, which was later shifted to Ramallah (West Bank) in 2003.
- Currently, India supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
- As a part of the Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018. This will allow it to treat both the countries as mutually independent and exclusive.
- As per India, the issues between the two should be resolved through direct negotiations and solutions must be acceptable to both.
WAY FORWARD :
- The only alternative is to decolonise historical Palestine.
- New state should a state for all its citizens all over the country, based on the dismantlement of colonialist institutions, fair redistribution of the country’s natural resources, compensation of the victims of the ethnic cleansing and allowing their repatriation.
- Settlers and natives should together build a new state that is democratic, part of the Arab world and not against it, and an inspiration for the rest of the region.
- Both Israel and Palestine should immediately resume the peace talks under the guidance of the UNSC.
- The proposal to evict 70 Palestinians from East Jerusalem should be delayed for some time. This would help in brokering peace between the parties.
- The democratization of the Palestinian society through which new credible leadership can emerge is necessary.
- The one-state solution is the way forward in Palestine and that should be the state for all citizens.
QUESTION : “The IT Rules 2021 have been criticised for exceeding the rulemaking power under Section 69A of the IT Act. Examine the scope of the criticism.”
NINE-PIN BOWLING AIMED AT FREE SPEECH, PRIVACY
- Free Speech And Privacy
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Government of India has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which threaten to deprive social media platforms of their safe harbour immunity in the event of non-compliance with the said rules.
- The Supreme Court in 2018 and later in 2019 highlighted the need for coming up with rules to empower the ordinary users of digital platforms.
- The recent debates in the Parliament also raised concerns about social media abuse and seek redressal for the grievances and accountability in case of infringement of the rights of the ordinary users.
- Current law in India: Although there are no specific provisions under the Information Technology Act of 2000 that define privacy, some sections of the Act deal with very specific cases of data breaches and privacy. For example,
- Section 43A provides for compensation if an intermediary is negligent in using reasonable and good quality security and safety parameters.
- Section 72 of the IT Act has penal and imprisonment provisions if a government official in the course of his or her duty, gets access to certain information and leaks it subsequently.
- Section 72A provides for criminal punishment if a service provider, during the course of providing the service or during the contract period, discloses personal information of the user without them being aware of it.
INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES AND DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS CODE RULES, 2021 :
- ‘Significant social media intermediary ‘ under the new rule: Social media companies with more than 50 lakh registered users will be considered ‘significant social media intermediaries’.
- ‘Traceability’ and breaking encryption: The draft IT Rules, 2021 have made it mandatory for a significant social media intermediary providing services primarily in the nature of messaging, such as Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram etc., to enable the identification of the first originator of the information.
- This introduces the requirement of traceability which would break end-to-end encryption.
- A grievance redressal mechanism: The social media platforms will need to appoint a grievance officer to deal with complaints, who must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.
- 10 categories of content that the platform should not host: These include content that threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order; defamatory, obscene, pornographic, invasive of another’s privacy content.
- Upon the receipt of information about the platform hosting prohibited content from a court or the appropriate government agency, it should remove the said content within 36 hours.
- Platforms required to appoint a chief compliance officer resident in India: Who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules.
- They will also be required to appoint a nodal contact person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
- For OTT service providers: Such as YouTube, Netflix, the government has prescribed self-classification of content into five categories based on age suitability.
- Penalties for companies violating these guidelines:
- The offences under the IT Act range from tampering with documents, hacking into computer systems, etc.
- The penal provisions vary from imprisonment for three years to a maximum of seven years, with fines starting from Rs 2 lakh.
- Safe harbour mechanism: The new guidelines prescribe an element of due diligence to be followed by the intermediary, failing which the safe harbour provisions would cease to apply.
- Section 79 of the IT Act provides what is called a ‘safe harbour’ to intermediaries who host user generated content and exempts them from liability for the actions of users on their platform if they adhere to guidelines prescribed by the government.
POSITIVE SIDE OF THE RULE :
- The Rules must be credited for they mandate duties such as
- removal of non-consensual intimate pictures within 24 hours,
- publication of compliance reports to increase transparency,
- setting up of a dispute resolution mechanism for content removal and
- adding a label to information for users to know whether content is advertised, owned, sponsored or exclusively controlled.
SOME MAJOR CONCERNS :
- No statutory backing: The rules are framed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY).
- The Second Schedule of the Business Rules, 1961 does not empower MeiTY to frame regulations for ‘digital media.’ This power belongs to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
- The Information Technology Act, 2000, does not regulate digital media.
- Therefore, the new IT Rules which claim to be a piece of subordinate legislation of the IT Act, travel beyond the rule-making power conferred upon them by the IT Act.
- Right to free speech and expression: The Supreme Court, in the case of Life Insurance Corpn. Of India vs Prof. Manubhai D. Shah (1992) had elevated ‘the freedom to circulate one’s views as the lifeline of any democratic institution’.
- Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and expression.
- An intermediary is now supposed to take down content within 36 hours upon receiving orders from the Government.
- It places restrictions upon free speech by fixing the Government as the ultimate adjudicator of objectionable speech online.
- Doctrine of colourable legislation: MeiTY has said that these rules shall be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
- However this action violates the legal principle of ‘colourable legislation’ where the legislature cannot do something indirectly if it is not possible to do so directly.
- Privacy issues: Rules undermine the right to privacy by imposing a traceability requirement.
- The immunity that users received from end-to-end encryption was that intermediaries did not have access to the contents of their messages.
- Imposing this mandatory requirement of traceability will break this immunity, thereby weakening the security of the privacy of these conversations.
- Cyber attacks: This will also render all the data from these conversations vulnerable to attack from ill-intentioned third parties.
- SC’s Puttaswamy judgement holds that right to privacy is a Fundamental Right and it is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- Lack of data privacy law: These regulations in the absence of a data protection law, coloured in the backdrop of recent data breach affecting a popular pizza delivery chain and also several airlines highlight a lesson left unlearnt.
- On fake news: The rules do not define fake news. The Rules proceed to hurriedly take down whatever an arbitrary, ill-decisioned, biased authority may deem as “fake news”.
- The Rules create futile additional operational costs for intermediaries by requiring them to have Indian resident nodal officers, compliance officers and grievance officers.
- Therefore, not only do these Rules place a barrier on the “marketplace of ideas”.
- Democracy stands undermined in direct proportion to every attack made on the citizen’s right to have a private conversation, to engage in a transaction, to dissent, to have an opinion and to articulate the same without any fear of being imprisoned. So the government should follow utmost caution while dealing with the issue.
QUESTION : Give the significance of the Covid-19 pandemic data as an essential weapon against this pandemic. Critically analyse.
A PROPER WEAPON AGAINST COVID-19 PANDEMIC
- Significance Of Covid-19 Data
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted globally how important data is to governments in decision-making.
- Modern response to pandemics has focused on finding all available data to inform policy action in real time.
SIGNIFICANCE OF EPIDEMIOLOGICAL DATA :
- Epidemiological data is of paramount significance for targeting and implementing control measures for public health.
- The power of such data was seen early on in the evidence-based response and decision-making in countries like South Korea.
- Epidemic outbreak data like case data, medical and treatment data can be used to understand disease pathogenesis and severity.
- Data is required for Genome sequencing surveillance.
- Such surveillance helps identify and track viral genome sequence variants in real time and the evolution of the virus.
- Genome surveillance data can help in understanding the transmissibility or infectivity of the virus.
- Data with underlying characteristics of the resident population (demographics, health and hygiene infrastructure, water supply system) are critical to understand nature of the epidemic.
- Outbreak data analysis with disease surveillance systems, followed by risk assessment, management and response, results in evidence-based actionable information.
- Data based Geographical mapping of prevalence of mutants aid in understanding viral spread and explain recoveries or deaths in a specific area.
SIGNIFICANCE OF COVID-19 DATA :
- Revealing the need for continuous and repeated tracking of case numbers, fatalities and recoveries.
- Creating epidemiological concept of flattening the curve and its predictions.
- Finding how certain underlying illnesses, comorbidities, could impact the outcome of the disease.
- Understanding the testing adequacy, from which one can measure preparedness, prognostic versus diagnostic ability, and shape responses to identify, manage, and care for new cases.
KEY CHALLENGES AND SUGGESTIONS :
- Challenge: There is no standardisation of data collection and integration of data analytics pipelines for outbreak analytics.
- Suggestion: There is need for urgent need for standardised digital health data in India as use of data standards instils consistency, reduces errors and enables transparency.
- Challenge: Public outlook in recent history of large-scale attempts at data sharing through social media has resulted in concerns of privacy and security.
- Suggestion: There is need for systemic infrastructure with built-in safeguards to ensure data encryption while preserving anonymity and ensuring privacy.
- Enabling access to data in a timely manner is critical for experts to analyse and provide evidence-based knowledge to guide decision making.
- Thus, Data sharing along with transparency and timely dissemination of data are critical to overcome the pandemic.
QUESTION : Examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and on Indian economy at the same time . Suggest the measures to mitigate the impact.
IT IS GETTING FROM BAD TO WORSE FOR WOMEN WORKERS
- Women Status due to Covid – 19 Pandemic
WHY IN NEWS ?
- In the pandemic, women have borne a disproportionate burden of the severe disruptions to life and the economy.
- India continues to struggle to provide its women with equal opportunity. In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, female labour force participation in India was 23.5%, according to ILO estimates.
- The pandemic has made this situation worse. It has hit women disproportionately — because they work in sectors that have been the hardest hit; work more than men do in the informal economy; or because they are the primary caregivers at home.
WIDENING GENDER EMPLOYMENT GAP :
- Even prior to 2020, the gender employment gap was large.
- Only 18% of working-age women were employed as compared to 75% of men.
- Reasons include a lack of good jobs, restrictive social norms, and the burden of household work.
- The nationwide lockdown hit women much harder than men.
- Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd. show that 61% of male workers were unaffected during the lockdown while only 19% of women experienced this kind of security.
- Men who did lose work were able to regain it, even if it was at the cost of increased precarity or lower earnings, because they had the option of moving into fall-back employment arrangements.
- Even as new entrants to the workforce, women workers had poorer options compared to men.
- Women were more likely to enter as daily wage workers while men found avenues for self-employment.
- So, not only did women enter into more precarious work, it was also likely to be at very low earnings compared to men.
CONSTRAINTS IN FEMALE LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION :
- Stereotyping In Society: India’s societal norms are such that women are expected to take the responsibility of family care and childcare. This stereotype is a critical barrier to women’s labour force participation.
- Digital Divide: In India in 2019, internet users were 67% male and 33% female, and this gap is even bigger in rural areas.
- This divide can become a barrier for women to access critical education, health, and financial services, or to achieve success in activities or sectors that are becoming more digitized.
- Technological Disruption: Women hold most of the administrative and data-processing roles that artificial intelligence and other technologies threaten to usurp.
- As routine jobs become automated, the pressure on women will intensify and they will experience higher unemployment rates.
- Lack of Gender-Related Data: Globally, major gaps in gendered data and the lack of trend data make it hard to monitor progress.
- In India, too, significant gaps in data on the girl child prevent a systematic longitudinal assessment of the lives of girls.
- Impact of Covid-19: Owing to Covid-19, global female employment is 19% more at risk than male employment (ILO estimates).
- For India, several estimates show that, compared to men, women were 9.5% less likely to be employed in August 2020 compared to August 2019.
- In the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index (which measures gaps that exist in the economic participation of women), India slipped to 112th place this year, simply because over 70 lakh Indian women have dropped out of work.
GROWING DOMESTIC WORK :
- With schools closed and almost everyone limited to the confines of their homes, household responsibilities increased for women.
- The India Working Survey 2020 found that among employed men, the number of hours spent on paid work remained more or less unchanged after the pandemic.
- But for women, the number of hours spent in domestic work increased manifold.
- This increase in hours came without any accompanying relief in the hours spent on paid work.
WAY FORWARD :
- The National Employment Policy, currently in the works, should systematically address the constraints around the participation of the women’s workforce.
- Expansion of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the introduction of an urban employment guarantee targeted to women as soon as the most severe forms of mobility restrictions are lifted.
- There is a need for coordinated efforts by States to facilitate the employment of women while also addressing immediate needs through the setting up of community kitchens, the opening of schools and anganwadi centres, and engagement with self-help groups for the production of personal protective equipment kits.
- Further, a COVID-19 hardship allowance of at least ₹5,000 per month for six months should be announced for 2.5 million accredited social health activists and Anganwadi workers, most of whom are women.
- The pandemic has shown the necessity of adequate public investment in social infrastructure.
- The time is right to imagine a bold universal basic services programme that not only fills existing vacancies in the social sector but also expands public investments in health, education, child and elderly care, and so on, to be prepared for future shocks.
- As the country meets the challenge of the second wave of the pandemic, it is crucial to learn lessons from the first wave to chart the policy path ahead.
QUESTION : Critically examine the importance of public health systems in India during covid-19 like pandemics and what are the loopholes in the health infrastructure and appropriate steps to be taken to improve this ?
THE FAULT LINE OF POOR HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE
- Health Infrastructure of India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the abysmally poor state of the country’s health infrastructure.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- Health is a State subject in India and State spending constitutes 68.6% of all the government health expenditure.
- The central government has shifted most of the responsibilities on to the States, including that of procuring vaccines from the international market.
- However, the Centre is the key player in public health management because the main bodies with technical expertise are under central control.
CURRENT STATE OF INDIA’S HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE- WORLD BANK DATA :
- India had 85.7 physicians per 1,00,000 people in 2017 (in contrast to 98 in Pakistan, 100 in Sri Lanka and 241 in Japan).
- 53 beds per 1,00,000 people (in contrast to 63 in Pakistan, 79.5 in Bangladesh, 415 in Sri Lanka and 1,298 in Japan).
- 7 nurses and midwives per 1,00,000 people (in contrast to 220 in Sri Lanka, 40 in Bangladesh, 70 in Pakistan, and 1,220 in Japan).
- India has among the highest out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures of all countries in the world- 62% of the total health expenditure in India is OOP.
CONCERNS WITH PANDEMIC MANAGEMENT POLICY :
- Lack of expertise: The States lack corresponding expert bodies such as the National Centre for Disease Control or the Indian Council of Medical Research.
- Lack of funds: States also differ a great deal in terms of the fiscal space to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic because of the wide variation in per capita health expenditure.
- Inter-State variation in per capita health-care expenditure: Kerala and Delhi have been close to the top in all the years.
- Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, States have been consistently towards the bottom of the ranking in all years. They are faring poor in COVID-19 management.
- The first round of vaccinations, where the vaccines were procured by the Centre and distributed to the States, was marked by considerable inter-State variation.
- High out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures: It is money that people spend on their own at the time they receive health care.
- The World Health Organization estimates that 62% of the total health expenditure in India is OOP, among the highest in the world.
- Some of the poorest States (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha) have a high ratio of OOP expenditures in total health expenditure.
- This means that the poor in the poorest States, the most vulnerable sections, are the worst victims of a health emergency.
WAY FORWARD :
- Coordinated action: The central coordination in distribution of constrained resources (medical supplies, financial resources) can internalise the existing disparities in health infrastructure across States.
- A decentralised management, on the other hand, exacerbates the existing inequities, as better-off States can outcompete others in procuring resources.
- Procuring vaccines: The Centre can bargain for a good price from vaccine manufacturers in its capacity as a single large buyer (like the European Union did for its member states) and benefit from the economies of scale in transportation of vaccines into the country.
- Once the vaccines arrive in India, these could be distributed across States equitably in a needs-based and transparent manner.
- The creation of a “Pandemic Preparedness Unit” (PPU) by the central government, which would
- streamline disease surveillance and reporting systems;
- coordinate public health management and policy responses across all levels of government;
- formulate policies to mitigate economic and social costs, and
- communicate effectively about the health crisis.
- More Funding: Public funding on health should be increased to at least 2.5% of GDP as envisaged in the National Health Policy, 2017.
- Decentralisation: There is a need to make nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) part of the core functions of Panchayati raj institutions and municipalities.
- Creating a Nodal Health Agency: There is need to create a designated and autonomous focal agency with the required capacities and linkages to perform the functions of disease surveillance, information gathering on the health impact of policies of key non-health departments, maintenance of national health statistics, enforcement of public health regulations, and dissemination of information to the public.
The central government needs to deploy all available resources to support the health and livelihood expenses of COVID-19-ravaged families immediately. As and when we emerge on the other side of the pandemic, bolstering public health-care systems has to be the topmost priority for all governments: the Centre as well as States
QUESTION : Discuss various threats and challenges to cyber-security in India and name the initiatives that are being taken by the government of India to tackle such threat ?
CYBER ATTACKS ON CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE : IS INDIA READY ?
- Danger of Cyber threat
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Recently, a major cyber-attack crippled one of the largest pipelines in the United States (US), Colonial Pipeline, which carries about 45% of all fuel consumed on the country’s East Coast. The attack disrupted fuel supplies and caused a surge in gas prices in some parts of the country.
- This was a case of ransomware attack, where hackers usually threaten to block the system or publish the targeted company or victim’s confidential data, unless a ransom is paid.
- Critical infrastructure requires to be operational at all times such as traffic systems, banks, power grids, oil pipelines and nuclear reactors.
- In recent years, attacks targeting critical infrastructure and businesses have surged. These include the 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks, the 2015 attack on Ukrainian power grids and 2010 Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear reactor. The NotPetya ransomware attack impacted operations of multiple companies and reportedly cost $10 billion worldwide in damages.
- Moreover, to escape responsibility for such debilitating attacks, many States use hacking syndicates as proxies.
IMPACT ON INDIA :
- The NotPetya attack had infected computer network of Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company. That infection led to further disruption of terminal operations, most prominently of APM Terminals Mumbai, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, India’s biggest container port.
- This disruption further delayed cargo deliveries and interrupted global supply chains.
- A China-linked hacker group RedEcho targeted India’s power sector, ports and parts of the railway infrastructure, affecting Mumbai.
FEW RECENT EXAMPLES OF CYBER ATTACKS IN INDIA :
- A Goldman Sachs backed firm Cyfirma has reported that Chinese hacker group APT 10 (also known as Stone Panda) had allegedly attacked the Covid-19 Vaccine manufacturers in India. Cyfirma has also mentioned that there were links between the Chinese government and Stone Panda.
- In November 2020 Microsoft detected cyber attacks from Russia and North Korea. Microsoft mentioned that these attacks were targeting the Covid-19 vaccine companies in India, France, Canada, South Korea and the United States.
- Similarly, in February 2021, a US-based cyber company had mentioned about the Chinese group called Red Echo. They cautioned that Red Echo was using malware called ShadowPad to target India’s power sector.
STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT :
- India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and National Critical Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) have noted several such attacks on India’s critical infrastructure.
- The government established the National Critical Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) in 2014 as the nodal agency to work with the public and private sectors for plugging gaps in their critical infrastructure systems.
- NCIIPC’s main contribution is detailed operational and technical guidelines for critical infrastructure operators to secure their systems.
- It also brings out the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures reports, which alert operators on incoming threats.
- Dedicated CERTs (CERT-Thermal, CERT-Hydro, CERT-Transmission) disseminate information about cyber incidents in the power sector.
ISSUES AFFECTING INDIA :
- Inhibition in the private (and public) sector to sharing information about the vulnerability of their systems. By revealing their vulnerabilities and, therefore, their proprietary information, businesses fear exposing themselves and losing a competitive edge over rivals.
- Critical infrastructure operators have resorted to plugging the security gaps in their systems whenever faced with a cyberattack or data breach.
- Risk of concerted cyber warfare by adversarial States against India.
WAY FORWARD :
- Appointment of Chief Information Security Officer in all the Organisations.
- Earmark certain percent of funds towards enhancing cyber security.
- Provide tax incentives to companies to upgrade information infrastructure.
- Investment in R&D to improve Cyber Security- Big data, AI .
- Given the mutual distrust and vulnerability of public and private sector, any solution involves sharing responsibility through a public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection.
- These should focus on building an institutional framework, expanding and deepening capacity, creating security standards and strict audits and evolving a cybersecurity incident reporting framework.
India`s cyber threat canvas and vulnerabilities are expanding. Hence, only an integrated, whole-of-the-ecosystem approach for securing critical infrastructure will be successful.
QUESTION : The need and benefits of imposing eco tax as part of environmental fiscal reforms and what is the status of environmental tax in India ? Discuss
THE MANY BENEFITS OF AN ECO TAX
- Rethinking the Climate Change
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Indian government announced a pandemic-related stimulus package in FY 2020-21 though there was large decline in tax revenue. The fiscal deficit for FY 2020-21 (revised estimates) is projected to be 9.5% of the GDP; for 2021-22, it is pegged at 6.8%. The focus is on maintaining fiscal discipline. In this peculiar scenario, sustained health financing in India remains a challenge.
- This is where the importance of alternate sources of health financing in India needs to be stressed. The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced countries all over the world to rethink climate change and the need for preservation of the environment.
IMPORTANT DATA :
- The World Health Organization (WHO) provides data on the percentage of the total population where the household expenditure on health was greater than 10% and 25% of the total household expenditure or income in India in 2011.
- 9% of the population in India made more than 25% of out-of-pocket payments on health, with 4.34% in the rural areas.
- The Economic Survey of India 2019-20 has outlined the fact that an increase in public spending from 1% to 2.5-3% of GDP, as envisaged in the National Health Policy of 2017, can decrease out-of-pocket expenditure from 65% to 30% of overall healthcare expenses.
- Implementing environmental tax is the need of the hour.
A CASE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL TAX :
- Environmental tax reforms generally involve three complementary activities:
- Eliminating existing subsidies and taxes that have a harmful impact on the environment.
- Restructuring existing taxes in an environmentally supportive manner.
- Initiating new environmental taxes.
- Taxes can be designed either as revenue neutral or revenue augmenting.
- In case of revenue augmenting, the additional revenue can either be targeted towards the provision of environmental public goods or directed towards the overall revenue pool.
STATUS OF ENVIRONMENTAL TAX IN INDIA :
- Under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, any entity that diverts forest land for non-forest purposes is required to provide financial compensation for the purpose of afforestation in non-forest or degraded land.
- In 2002, the Supreme Court had directed that a Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) should be created to manage the funds generated.
- Similarly, India’s Clean Environment Cess or coal cess acts as a carbon tax.
- The coal cess is levied on coal, lignite and peat at the rate of ₹ 400 per tonne, and the funds raised are managed by the National Clean Environment Fund.
SCOPE OF ECO TAXES IN INDIA :
- In developing countries like India, the revenue can be used to a greater extent for the provision of environmental public goods and addressing environmental health issues.
- In India, eco taxes can target three main areas:
- Differential taxation on vehicles in the transport sector purely oriented towards fuel efficiency and GPS-based congestion charges.
- In the energy sector by taxing fuels which feed into energy generation.
- Waste generation and use of natural resources.
- Integrate environmental taxes in the Goods and Service Tax framework.
POSSIBLE IMPLICATIONS :
- Fiscal, environmental damage and poverty reduction.
- Revenue from environmental tax reforms can also be used to reduce other distorting taxes such as fiscal dividend.
- Finance research and the development of new technologies.
- Temporary and minuscule impact on GDP as evidenced by the European experience where there is no evidence on green taxes with sustainable development goals leading to a no growth economy.
- It may have significant costs on the private sector in the form of slow productivity growth and high cost of compliance.
- Increase prices of goods and services.
WAY FORWARD :
- India currently focuses majorly on the command-and-control approach in tackling pollution.
- The success of an eco-tax in India would depend on its architecture, that is, how well it is planned and designed. It should be credible, transparent and predictable.
- Ideally, the eco tax rate ought to be equal to the marginal social cost arising from the negative externalities associated with the production, consumption or disposal of goods and services.
- This requires an evaluation of the damage to the environment based on scientific assessments. This would include the adverse impacts on the health of people, climate change, etc.
- It is the right time for India to adopt environmental fiscal reforms as they will reduce environmental pollution and also generate resources for financing the health sector.
QUESTION : Discuss the key challenges faced by the States in the GST regime and What would be the impact on States as a guarantee of 14% growth in tax revenue in July 2022?”
THE END OF THE ROAD FOR INDIA’S GST ?
- Fundamental problem faced by GST
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The 43rd meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council is to be held on May 28. Of the 31 representatives that are expected to attend, 17 members are from the ruling BJP or its alliance partners and remaining 14 are from non-ruling alliance.
MORE ABOUT TO KNOW :
- The 17 members of the ruling dispensation and the 14 members of the non-BJP dispensation in the GST Council represent exactly one half of India’s population each.
- However, the non-BJP group contributes a higher share of 60% of overall GST revenues and accounts for 63% of the country’s GDP.
SOME IMPORTANT ISSUES :
- GST Meeting not held: The GST Council was mandated to meet at least once every quarter, but it had not met for two quarters, ostensibly due to the pandemic.
- Increased dependency: States are dependent on GST collections for nearly half of their tax revenues. However, in the wake of economic slowdown the compensation to states have not been steady.
- Conditions for extra borrowings: Centre imposed sudden and stringent policy conditions to grant approval to States for extra borrowing in the middle of the pandemic last year.
- Differential Vaccine Pricing: There is a feeling of betrayal over how the States have been forced to pay a much higher price for COVID-19 vaccines than the Centre.
- Misuse of Cess: States are wary of the Centre’s duplicity in levying cesses that garner significant revenues for the Centre without sharing them with the States.
- Failure to deliver on early promises: GST was to deliver enormous economic efficiency gains, improve tax buoyancy and collections, boost GDP growth and usher in greater formalisation of the economy. However, 15th Finance Commission report formally acknowledges that GST has been an economic failure that did not deliver on its early promises.
- Problems underpinning GST continues: Economists point to the multiple rates structure, high tax slabs and the complexity of tax filings as the problems underpinning India’s GST.
- Uncertainty over guaranteed revenue after 2022: GST has endured so far primarily because the States were guaranteed a 14% growth in their tax revenues every year, which minimised their risks of this new experiment and compensated for their loss of fiscal sovereignty. This revenue guarantee ends in July 2022 and there is increasing demand from States to continue this compensation regime even after 2022.
- Cooperative federalism has a larger meaning beyond just fiscal federalism. It also entails cooperative political, administrative and governance federalism between the States and the Centre.
QUESTION : How can you say that Covid pandemic and rural distresses are the two prominent reasons behind the current slowdown in the Indian economy? Justify
TACKLING RURAL ECONOMICS DISTRESS
- Rural Distress and Economy
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The lockdowns in several states have had a severe impact on the livelihood of the migrant workers most of whom work in the informal sector.
- The migrant workers and the rural poor have been facing great distress due to lack of work which has pushed many of them into acute poverty. A large population is facing hunger and a cash crunch.
HUNGER REPORT :
- The ‘Hunger Watch’ report published by the Right to Food Campaign and the Centre for Equity Studies assessed the impact of the lockdowns on people belonging to low-income categories in the informal sector. The report notes the nutritional insecurity induced by lack of job and income sources.
REVERSE MIGRATION :
- The migrants rendered vulnerable due to the lockdown in different cities have resorted to reverse migration.
- A large population has got stranded in different parts of the country without work. They are having to deal with a severe shortage of food and cash.
- There is an urgent need to strengthen the public distribution system (PDS) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
DISTRESS DUE TO COVID-19 WAVE :
- Several States have imposed lockdown amid second Covid wave which will have severe implications for the livelihoods of those in the informal sector.
- Migrant workers and the rural poor have been facing great distress over the past one year and the crisis for food and work is only going to intensify further.
- The migrants have again become vulnerable due to the lockdown in different cities.
- In this context, there is an urgent need to strengthen the public distribution system (PDS) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
EXPANDING PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM (PDS) :
- Though the government announced 5 kg free foodgrains for individuals enlisted under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), for May and June 2021, this might not suffice.
- The government should expand PDS coverage and include all eligible households under the scheme.
- The PDS system suffers from large exclusion issues.
- According to a study, about 100 million people are excluded from the ration distribution system owing to a dated database based on the 2011 Census.
- The Centre should also extend the free foodgrains programme to a year instead of the currently announced two months.
ENHANCING SUPPORT FOR MGNREGA:
- The current allocation of Rs. 73,000 crore for 2021-22 for MGNREGS is grossly insufficient to meet the increased work demand in rural areas due to the current scale of economic distress. The government must ensure sufficient funds to ensure the uninterrupted implementation of MGNREGS during the current year.
- The notified annual increment of about 4% in MGNREGS wages is very low and the government must aim for at least a 10% hike considering the existing economic distress and the currently high levels of inflation.
WAY FORWARD :
- The issue of migrant workers during the crisis should open the eyes of policy makers about the need to make agriculture sector a priority.
- Agricultural sector should witness more investment to reduce the rural-urban gap
- Need for agro-ecological transition as it is more bio-diverse in nature, makes the system more resilient, strengthen food security and provide a safety net for farmers.
- Ashok Dalwai COMMITTEE on doubling of farmers’ income
- Zero Budget Natural Farming
- Second Green Revolution
- Given the existing conditions, the Union government should prioritise food and work for all and implement policy reforms to strengthen the public distribution system and the MGNREGS.