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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today
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9 PM for Main examination
- Police violence and how some lives do not matter
- Accounting rural women’s work and health in Pandemic
- Privatizing Indian Railways
- India-China Standoff threatens India’s Pharmaceutical Industry
- The problem of Plastic pollution during the time of COVID-19.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Police violence and how some lives do not matter
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Context: Analysing the abuse of power by Police in the backdrop of custodial killing of Jayaraj and his son in Tamil Nadu.
|Disha case (2019)||· The Hyderabad police were celebrated by the public for killing four men accused of raping, murdering and burning the body of the victim.|
|Custodial killing of father and son (2020)||· All are horrified by the brutal violence inflicted upon these two men.|
· There is a collective call to keep our police in check and that we must not tolerate such abuse of police powers.
Reasons for different reaction:
- For instant justice: Sometimes we are willing to accept an instant (but illegal) version of justice.
- Moral evaluation: We embrace mob justice in some situations where we feel it is ‘deserved’. It conveniently blurs the lines between our moral judgment and the limits we must place on police power. For example-we are shocked that father and son were tortured for keeping their shop open for a few minutes after lockdown timings whereas when someone is present to us as sexual offenders, terrorists and anti-nationals, we accept such tortures.
The track record of our public and legal conversation on torture and fixing accountability present a sad picture.
Records for abuse of power:
- On Custodial deaths (police and prison): In the last three years, the NHRC has received nearly 5,300 complaints which are only a fraction of the actual number of such deaths.
- Fixing accountability: Government data recorded 1,727 deaths in police custody between 2000 and 2018 but only 26 police officials were convicted as the legal process to investigate, prosecute and fix accountability has many hurdles.
There is an institutional and public culture that breeds, protects and even celebrates this kind of violence.
Reasons for abuse of power:
- Responsibility: The Law Commission of India has suggested that if a person dies in police custody, the burden should be on the police to show that they are not responsible but the law still requires the prosecution to prove that the police caused the death.
- India’s political commitment to address torture: Itis symbolized by its failure to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture.
- Not following judgments: The Supreme Court of India has laid down many measures to prevent torture and fix accountability but these judgments are rarely followed.
- Institutional apathy: The law mandates an independent magisterial inquiry into a custodial death. Such inquiries have happened in only about 20% of custodial deaths and prosecution of police officials for custodial torture requires the sanction of the government.
- System working: The system incentivizes torture by seeking convictions without modernizing the police force.
- Instant justice: The use of torture is often justified by police personnel as being required to teach ‘hardened criminals’ on behalf of society.
There should be a domestic law that enables torture prosecution by accounting for the particularities of custodial torture.
2.Accounting rural women’s work and health in Pandemic
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
Context – As India emerges from the lockdown, labour market policy has to reverse the pandemic’s gender-differentiated impact.
Feature of rural women’s work
- Crisis of regular employment– When women are not reported as workers, it is because of the lack of employment opportunities rather than it being on account of any “withdrawal” from the labour force.
- Defining potential workforce– Women from all sections of the peasantry, with some regional exceptions, participate in paid work outside the home. In thinking of the potential workforce, thus, need is to include women from almost all sections of rural households and not just women from rural labour or manual worker households.
- 3. Young vs old women– Younger and more educated women are often not seeking work because they aspire to skilled non-agricultural work, whereas older women are more willing to engage in manual labour.
- Wage inequality– Women’s wages are rarely equal to men’s wages in rural areas, with a few exceptions. The gap between female and male wages is highest for non-agricultural tasks — the new and growing source of employment.
- Woman’s work day– Counting all forms of work — economic activity and care work or work in cooking, cleaning, child care, elderly care — a woman’s work day is exceedingly long and full of drudgery.
Lockdown’s affect on employment for rural women
- Agriculture and allied sector – While agricultural activity continued for harvest operations; employment available to women during the lockdown was limited.
- Dairy products– When households own animals, women are inevitably part of the labour process. During the lockdown, the demand for milk fell by at least 25% (as hotels and restaurants closed), and this was reflected in either lower quantities sold or in lower prices or both.
- Mariculture– For women across the country, incomes from the sale of milk to dairy cooperatives shrank. Among fishers, men could not go to sea, and women could not process or sell fish and fish products.
- Non-agricultural jobs– Non-agricultural jobs came to a sudden halt as construction sites, brick kilns, petty stores and eateries, local factories and other enterprises shut down completely and thus women depended on these were forced out of work.
- Government schemes– During the pandemic, Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs, 90% of whom are women, have become frontline health workers, although they are not recognized as “workers” or paid a regular wage.
Lockdown’s affect on health and nutrition for rural women
Way Forward – In the short-run provision, employment of women can be increased through an imaginative expansion of the MGNREGA while a medium- and longer-term plan needs to generate women-specific employment in skilled occupations and in businesses and new enterprises.
3.Privatizing Indian Railways
Source – Indian Express
Syllabus – GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways
Context – Indian Railways recently initiated the process to allow private firms to operate passenger trains on its network.
Advantages to Government on privatization of Railways
Critical Issues which need to be addressed for this initiative
- Financial Viability– There will be questions over the financial viability of some routes which has not been good for Indian Railways in terms of revenue earned in last few years.
- Subsidy by Indian Railway– Railways tend to cross-subsidize passenger fares through freight revenue. This translates to below cost pricing, which will make it difficult for private players to compete.
- Issues associated with higher pricing– The higher fares needed to cover costs by private players might bring them in direct competition with airlines, pricing them out of the market.
- Absence of independent regulator– Further, as the experience of private operators in running container trains suggests, setting up an independent regulator will be critical for creating a level playing field for private players. Currently, the same entity is effectively the policy maker, regulator and service provider, rolled into one.
Way Forward – The Rakesh Mohan committee report had pointed out that the international experience on privatizing railways showed that it was “exceedingly difficult and controversial”. Thus, liberalizing the entry of new operators may be the path for improving services, and facilitating growth of the sector,but there is need to exercise caution.
4.India-China Standoff threatens India’s Pharmaceutical Industry
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-3- Effects of liberalisation on the economy (post 1991 changes), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Context: There is a growing clamour in India for boycotting trade with China amidst recent political tensions. However, it is a cause of concern for India’s pharmaceutical industry.
India’s Pharmaceutical Industries’ dependence on Chinese Imports
- India is the third largest producer of finished drugs in the world however it relies significantly on China for supplies of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).
- According to Ministry of Commerce, India sourced $3.5 billion worth of bulk drugs in 2019 from China, which accounts 67% of the total pharmaceutical raw material imports.
- For certain drugs like antibiotics or penicillin,90% of raw materials come from China. For paracetamol and ibuprofen, this dependence is almost 100%
- Even for APIs made in India, 85% of key starting materials and chemicals are imported from China
Reasons for Dependence: Import reliance of pharmaceutical industries is because of environmental controls in India and competition with China, which has higher volumes of production and lower costs.
Concerns before Pharmaceutical Industry:
- Restricting or banning the import of APIs would cause significant disruption to the Indian pharmaceutical industry which had $40 billion in revenues in 2018-19.
- A severe contraction of Indian pharmaceutical production would affect access to medicines both in India and globally. The impacts would be especially high in low and middle-income countries which have become increasingly dependent on affordable medicines supplied by India.
Incentives to Boost Local Output
- As part of a Production-Linked Incentive Scheme, financial incentives for the eligible manufacturers of 53 critical bulk drugs have been provided on their incremental sales over base year 2019-20 for a period of six years at a cost of ₹6,940 crore.
- Schemes have also been sanctioned to develop three mega bulk drug parks in partnership with States. The government is giving grants to States with ₹1,000 crore for each bulk drug park.
Reducing dependence on China must be strategic, with significant policy support. An ad hoc or reactive decoupling could disrupt the production of a wide range of medicines which currently require ingredients from China.
5.The problem of Plastic pollution during the time of COVID-19.
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-3 Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Context: During the pandemic, strides made over the last year in dealing with single-use plastic have suffered a setback.
- Dependence: The hyper-hygienic way of life has become the increased dependence on non-recyclable items such as plastic-lined masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles and other PPE kits which has increased SUP waste.
- There has also been a steep increase in day-to-day items such as plastic bags and delivery packaging.
- Plastic waste:
- According to a report of Mckinsey, we generate 350 million tonnes of plastic waste globally in a year of which only 16 % is recycled.
- Post COVID-19: Today, the WHO estimates that the planet is using about 89 million masks and 16 million gloves each month whose waste is much higher than that estimated in the McKinsey report.
- Stark picture: The Guardian recently reported that there are possibly more masks than jellyfish in the oceans today.
Single-use plastic (SUP):
- They are disposable plastics meant for use-and-throw.
- These comprise polythene bags, plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic sachets, plastic wrappers, straws, stirrers and Styrofoam cups or plates.
Handling of Plastic pollution:
- Pre-coronavirus time:
- Different nations had their own programmes to handle plastic waste:
- In countries such as Canada and the US, recycling of plastic is classified as essential.
- In India, we have the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016, which were updated and amended in 2018. In Swachhata Hi Seva campaign in 2019, people from all walks of life collected plastic waste from their surroundings and disposed of it suitably with the help of the local authorities.
- Corona time:
- The national as well as the global momentum for plastic waste management has been seriously disrupted.
- Thailand had planned to slash plastic waste completely in 2020. Now it expects to see such waste rise by as much as 30%.
- In Singapore, the Bring Your Own (BYO) movement was started in 2017 where consumers were urged to bring their own utensils to restaurants in the effort to reuse and recycle. This has received a blow with global giants such as Starbucks doing away with their “Bring Your Own Cups” policy due to the pandemic.
- Different nations had their own programmes to handle plastic waste:
How to deal with the SUP in current circumstances?
- Effective Handling:
- It is important to understand the distinction between plastics and SUP so that we may change our lifestyles to balance our need for plastic with effectively managing its waste.
- Economic opportunity:
- We require new business models which are designed for sustainability.
- In Uganda, they are melting plastic waste to make face shields for selling.
- In Singapore, start-ups are using stainless steel cups and bamboo boxes which can be returned and reused after being washed and sanitized.
- By Shifting consumers behaviour:
- We need consumers to care about their role in the plastic waste value chain by using their power to change the existing unsustainable approach.
- For example- In rural India which have declared themselves open defecation free (ODF), village communities across the country are now starting to plan for setting up waste collection and segregation systems with material recovery facilities at the block- level under phase 2 of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen).
Though the plastic-made items used to protect ourselves against the coronavirus are necessary but these are essential short-term needs for health, sanitation and other frontline workers as preventive measures against the coronavirus.
The options are all around us but true change is possible only when each one of us takes responsibility for the environment around us and takes necessary steps to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Remove, or dispose of plastic waste safely and effectively.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
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