9 PM Daily Brief – July 18th,2020

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GS-2

  1. Fighting COVID in Rural India
  2. Concerns of India in growing China-Iran ties
  3. Migrant workers – Right to vote

GS-3

  1. Covid-19, Climate Change and Inequality

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy


1.Fighting COVID in Rural India

Source Down to Earth

Syllabus – GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

Context – The World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, has expressed her concern, stating that rural India is the next corona virus hotbed.

  1. Pre-lockdown phase– The pre-lockdown phase saw cases emerging in urban epicenters such as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai, etc. These are the cities where much of the migrant population is concentrated.
  2. Post-lockdown phase– post-lockdown, when urban migrants started moving and restrictions began to be eased, cases started emerging in many rural areas, including North Eastern states.

A total of 684 out of 736 districts have reported confirmed coronavirus positive cases in double digits, according to recent data.

Dismal rural healthcare infrastructure

  1. Shortage of medical staff – There is chronic shortage of medical professionals including doctors, nursing staff, paramedics as well as hospital beds.
  2. High burden of other diseases – There are high levels of non-communicable diseases (for instance diabetes, hypertension, etc.), infectious diseases (tuberculosis, diarrhea, etc) and malnutrition in rural areas.
  3. Non-accessibility of services– Data from the National Family Health Survey-4 in terms of accessibility of rural primary health centers (PHC) / rural hospitals and community health centers or CHC (key delivery points that can be utilized for testing and treatment for COVID-19) is only 25 per cent.
  4. Vulnerability of rural population– According to the Census of India, rural populations are comparatively older, placing them at a higher risk of contracting the COVID-19 infection.
  5. Absence of WASH– More than 60 per cent households in rural areas of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha do not have access to water and soap. These are also the states which are major destinations of returnee migrants.

Strengthening the National Rural Health Mission

  1. Developing referral system– Since more than 12 percent of India’s rural population accessed PHCs or outreach health service delivery points, there is a need to rapidly develop a robust referral system from PHCs to CHCs / rural hospitals and the nearest COVID-19 testing and treatment facilities.
  2. Strengthening the testing outreach– The strategy may include clustering and increased coordination among four-five CHCs / rural hospitals accessible by road to strengthen testing outreach, with one of them being the COVID-19 RT-PCR testing node.
  3. Equipping health personnel– Training of health personnel in CHCs needs to be provided at the nearest COVID testing centers.

Decentralized governance

  1. Participative approach– The Gram Panchayats should be equipped with measures for handling breakouts. Quarantine centers need to established and managed efficiently, private and local doctors should be trained for COVID-19 handling and management.
  2. Awareness campaigns by local bodies– Adequate measures should also be in place to ensure that there is no stigma and discrimination against COVID-19 patients or their families. Awareness campaigns should be organized to increase awareness regarding self-care and sanitation facilities.

Way Forward – The pandemic presents an opportunity to realize the true potential of the existing National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and its associated budget allocation. A holistic approach needs to be adopted by the administration if the spread of corona virus to rural areas has to be curtailed.

2.Concerns of India in growing China-Iran ties

Source: The Hindu, The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2-Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context: Analyzing the relationship between India and Iran in the backdrop of increasing proximities between Iran and China.

Background:

  • Exclusion of India from project: There are reports that Iran had launched the track laying programme for the 628 km long rail link between Chabahar and Zahidan.
  • Clarification: Iran has since clarified that India could join the project at a later stage.
  • China and Iran are also close to sealing an ambitious deal on an economic and security partnership.

The Chabahar project:

  • Chabahar port on Iran’s Makran coast just 1,000 km from Kandla is well situated. There is a need to build road and rail links from Chabahar to Zahidan and then 200 km further on to Zaranj in Afghanistan.
  • Role of India: IRCON had prepared engineering studies estimating that the 800 km long railway project would need an outlay of $1.6 billion. India concentrated on the 220 km road to connect Zaranj to Delaram on the Herat highway which was completed in 2008 at a cost of $150 million.
  • Progress on project:
    • During sanctions on Iran (2005-2013): There was little progress.
    • After sanctions were eased on Iran after 2015: A MoU was signed with Iran during Indian PM’s visit to Tehran in 2016 to equip and operate two terminals at the Shahid Beheshti port as part of Phase I of the project.
    • Another milestone was the signing of the Trilateral Agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor between Afghanistan, Iran and India.
    • In addition to $85 million of capital investment, India also committed to provide a line of credit of $150 million for port container tracks.
    • Phase I was declared operational in 2018 and India’s wheat shipments to Afghanistan have been using this route.
    • A special economic zone (SEZ) at Chabahar was planned but re-imposition of U.S. sanctions has slowed investments into the SEZ.
  • Delays to project:
    • Time is taken by the U.S. Treasury to actually clear the import of heavy equipment such as rail mounted gantry cranes, mobile harbour cranes, etc.
  • The rail-track project:
    • A financing MoU was signed under which India undertook to provide $500 million worth of rolling stock and signalling equipment including $150 million of steel rail tracks.
    • Iranian responsibility: It was for local works of land levelling and procurement.
  • Ambitious plans by Iran:
    • To extend the railway line from Zahidan to Mashad (about 1,000 km) and then another 150 km onwards to Sarakhs on the border with Turkmenistan.
    • Another plan is to link it with the International North-South Transport Corridor towards Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea.

Importance of China for Iran:

  • The nuclear programme:
    • 1980s-90s:China provided direct assistance to Iran’s nuclear and missile development programmes.
    • After 1997:China stopped further assistance to the programme and sales of complete missiles but Iran by then had progressed sufficiently to carry on the project.
  • Partnership: After sanctions were eased in January 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran and proposed a long-term comprehensive, strategic partnership programme. It would involve Chinese investment in Iranian infrastructure and assured supplies of Iranian oil and gas at concessional rates.
  • Tensions in the region:
    • It has been growing since last year with missile strikes in Saudi Arabia claimed by the Houthis and a U.S. drone strike in January killing Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief Gen. Qassim Soleimani.
    • The U.S. announced that it wanted the UNSC to continue the ban on Iranian acquisition of conventional weapons.
    • UNSC Resolution 2231 was adopted in July 2015 by consensus to endorse the JCPOA and contains a five-year restriction on Iran’s importing conventional weapons that ends on October 18.
    • Unilateral quitting by US from JCPOA: It is threatening to invoke the automatic snapback of sanctions provisions of JCPOA.

Stakes for India:

  • Alarming for India:
    • China is also concluding a security and military partnership with Tehran. It calls for “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing”.
    • Initial reports in Iran have suggested China will deploy 5,000 security personnel to protect its projects in Iran.
  • Growing Chinese presence in Iran:
    • India is concerned about its strategic stakes around the Chabahar port project that it has been developing, and for which it committed Rs 100 crore in the last Budget.
    • Importance: The port is close to Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is being developed by China as part of its CPEC that links it to the Indian Ocean through BRI.

Tehran’s balancing act:

  • Difficult balancing act: To manage the hardliners at home while coping with Trump administration’s policy of ‘maximum pressure’ which was vetoed by Russia and China.
  • Domestic politics: Hard liners have accused Foreign Minister of undue secrecy surrounding the agreement amid rumours that China may be taking over Kish island in the Persian Gulf and that Chinese troops would be stationed in Iran to secure Chinese companies and investments.

Way Forward

  • India needs to improve its implementation record of infrastructure projects that it has taken up in its neighbourhood.
  • Expansion of Chinese foorprints: Indian cooperation projects in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar suffers from delays and cost overruns.
  • The key is to continue to remain politically engaged with Iran so that there is a better appreciation of each other’s sensitivities and compulsions.

3.Migrant workers – Right to vote

Source Indian Express

Syllabus – GS 2 – Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

Context – B R Ambedkar emphasized that, a democratic government was inseparable from the right to vote, and it was voting that would prove to be (one of) the harbinger(s) of political education.

Migrant workers – According to the latest 2011 Census, the number of internal migrants stand at 450 million (45 crore), a 45 per cent surge from the 2001 census.

Challenges associated with exercising voting rights

  1. Social caste and economic class– Migrant laborers mostly hail from most poverty-driven rural areas and from among the most marginalized sections (SC/STs and OBCs, and other minorities, including Muslims). They are mostly uneducated, and lack assets including land.
  • Economic constraints disable a majority of them from voting as they cannot, in the midst of harsh work cycles, commute to their home states on the polling day
  1. Section 20 , Representation of People Act–  Migrants are not permanent/long-term residents in host cities and do not satisfy the requirements of being an “ordinary resident” under Section 20 of the Representation of People Act, (RP Act), in the host state, to obtain voter cards.

Suggested solution

  1. Section 60(c), Representation of People Act– The Election Commission of India has under Section 60(c) of the RP Act the power to notify a certain class of persons to vote via postal ballot system. The Indian migrant worker deserves the secured right to have access to vote through a similar system.

Way Forward – The Supreme Court has interpreted the right to vote as an extension of the fundamental right of the freedom of expression. This brings with it a positive obligation on the ECI to ensure optimal conditions for the exercise of this freedom.

4.Covid-19, Climate Change and Inequality

Source: Down To Earth

Syllabus: GS-3- Environment

Context: The COVID-19 pandemic and associated health and economic crises have revealed the loopholes in our economic and political systems, which are producing intertwining crises of inequality, climate change and environmental destruction.

Climate Induced Disasters during Covid-19 pandemic:

Climate-induced disasters and extreme weather have continued to adversely affect Global south during Covid-19 pandemic. Examples include:

  • Cyclone Nisarga  that struck western India in early June
  • Cyclone Amphan that struck eastern India and Bangladesh in May
  • Locust swarms, exacerbated by rising temperatures that raged Global South, devastating crops and threatening food security and livelihoods. In May, the Red Cross warned that East Africa faced a complex ‘triple threat’ from the impact of the pandemic, locusts and flooding.

Commonality between COVID-19 and climate crises

The commonality between Covid-19 Pandemic and Climate crises is that both have unequal impacts, which exacerbate racial, gender, socio-economic and other inequalities. The impacts of both COVID-19 and climate change have revealed both vertical inequality (between individuals) and horizontal inequality (between status groups).

  • The plight of persons living in poverty during the pandemic, such as those living in informal settlements, in over-crowded homes is a stark reminder of vertical inequality. Poor and marginalised communities are also more likely to live near polluting and extractive projects which cause respiratory health issues and make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • Similarly, climate-induced disasters and extreme weather disproportionately harm poor communities, especially in the Global South, who have contributed the least to the climate crisis.

What needs to be done?

  • Recognise health, water, food, housing, social protection and education as rights, not commodities
  • Invest in in inequality-busting public services; tackling systemic discrimination and taking ambitious rights-respecting climate action
  • build transformative solutions based on rights and dignity to realise a just and equitable world for present and future generations.

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