9 PM Daily Brief – June 23rd,2020

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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9 PM for Main examination

GS-2

  1. India needs a new China policy
  2. Promoting People’s participation during Covid-19
  3. Importance of our Sea lanes
  4. Importance of Transparency during a crisis

GS-3

  1. Unrestrained Sale of agricultural land

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy


1.India needs a new China policy

Source – Indian Express

Syllabus – GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and affecting India’s interests.

Context – China has never hidden its goals and national interests; but India has refused to see what is in plain sight and that has led to a Chinese conundrum in India.

India’s current policy is a failure as:

  1. No focus on realpolitik– It is based on persistent political fantasies like India’s vision of Asian unity rather than practical ground situation where China only promotes its own national interests.
    • For Instance – While India never stopped arguing with the West in 1970’s, China developed a sustained engagement with the US, Europe and Japan. This was for better economic cooperation which can help China rise as global power.
  1. No learning from past mistakes– Consistent refusal to learn from past mistakes like done in Nehruvian Era which led to war of 1962.
    • India had consistently misread China’s interests and ambitions which initiated with its occupation of Tibet and then considerable force building in India-China border.
  1. Shifting the blameon West – There is a general belief that the US and the West are at the source of India’s problems with China. The belief is that they are using India as a pawn for their interest in region which is not liked by China.
    • America is not dividing India and China because our respective territorial nationalisms and irreconcilable conflicts of interest do that job rather well.

Table 1 – Timeline of failed Indian attempts to build Asian and anti-Western solidarity with China:

Suggested solutions to devise new Policy:

  1. Enhancing internal political coherence– All the political parties and other stakeholders need to have one voice for issues of national importance which would strong signals to outsiders regarding our national interest and domestic compulsions to achieve same.
  2. Accelerating economic modernisation– India needs to develop its manufacturing sector to reduce trade deficit with China as we have become heavily depended on them for import of raw material as well as final goods in sector like pharmaceuticals, chemicals and electronics.
  3. Expanding India’s national power– India needs to exercise strategic autonomy while framing its relation with other powers. This implies that for our national interest we need to align with West even if that is not liked by China.

Way Forward – China, like the great powers before it, wants to redeem its territorial claims, has the ambition to bend the neighbourhood to its will, reshape the global order to suit its interests and India needs to acknowledge this to carve a new Chinese Policy.

2.Promoting People’s participation during Covid-19

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2- Development processes and the development industry – the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, institutional and other stakeholders.

Context: The government has released the results of population surveys, employing antibody tests in different parts of the country.

Status of Covid-19 cases in India

  • Total Confirmed cases: 440K
  • Total Recoveries: 248K
  • Total Deaths: 14,011
  • In the recent government survey, data presented on 63 of the 83 districts reveal an antibody prevalence of 0.73% in the population. This is far away from the 70% threshold of herd immunity.

Herd Immunity:  It is the indirect protection from a contagious infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.

Steps to be taken to fight Covid-19 and strengthened community participation

  1. A larger part of India remains untouched by the virus and this offer an opportunity to immobilize the virus even as the country moves out of lockdown. It is high time to change track from a government-led but people-disconnected strategy of planning and implementation and promote people’s participation.
  2. Engage community resources to ensure that different components of response viz. testing and isolation, public awareness and personal protection, are successfully delivered at a greater scale.

     Examples: 

    • Panchayats have played a vital role in local community response in Kerala and Odisha.
    • Andhra Pradesh has deployed village and ward volunteers for symptom-based syndromic surveillance of rural and urban households and contact tracing
  1. Detect all likely cases, with influenza-like illness and other COVID-19 symptoms, early in their illness and arrange for testing at home by a school-educated community volunteer.
  2. National Cadet Corps, member of National Service Scheme should be mobilized for Covid-19 volunteering
  3. Volunteers can be trained by experienced NGO trainers for providing special attention and customized service to elderly, people with comorbidities and persons with disabilities.
  4. To address shortages in skilled healthcare providers, the government can create a year-long short service commission under the National Health Mission to recruit doctors who have recently graduated and attract private practitioners.
  5. Boost up health awareness campaigns through mass media and community leaders and local influencers.
  6. Increase efforts for micro-surveillance to curb spread of Covid-19 in hotspots
  7. To combat spread of Covid-19 in slum areas, each family in a slum can be daily provided a bucket of soap solution for hand cleansing.

Conclusion: To fight Covid-19, government should be more welcoming of NGO and volunteer participation and create a platform for a new model of PPP: People Partnered Public Health.

3.Importance of our Sea lanes

Source: The Indian Express

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

Context: Analysing the importance of securing seas at the time of violent standoff going on between India and China.

Background: 

  • Laws for seas:India has legislation that requires foreign marine scientific vessels to seek licence prior to undertaking activities in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS).
  • Our navy forbade Chinese maritime research and survey vessels that entered our EEZ and CS without our prior consent in 2018 and 2019.
  • Claims of Chinese: They are serving the interests of global scientific research but it is well-known that China uses civilian research vessels to gather crucial oceanographic data for military purposes.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (CSIS) survey shows that China deployed 25 maritime survey missions in the Indo-Pacific between April 2019 and March 2020. This is only marginally less than the 27 missions mounted by the next six countries taken cumulatively.

Global concerns about the Chinese vessels: 

  • China has mounted at least six survey missions covering the waters between Indonesia and Sri Lanka in 2019-2020. For example- the Australians voiced concern over the activities of the Chinese vessel in international waters between the Australian mainland and Christmas Island.
  • Military expansion overseas: 
    • Critics argue that China follows a “pattern of denial and obfuscation” in its military expansion overseas. For example- Beijing initially denied its intention to militarise the Spratly Islands but eventually acknowledged that they serve a military purpose.
    • Intelligence gathering: It is believed that PLA Navy (PLAN) intelligence-gathering ships have sailed our coastline to gather information on naval facilities and ships.

China may well take the position that their activities are legitimate under international law.

Laws regarding seas:

  • The Law of the Sea Convention says that military vessels have “right to innocent passage” to pass through the territorial sea of a coastal state without entering internal waters till they are not against the peace, good order and security of the coastal state.
  • Different interpretations of laws on the question of scientific surveys in the EEZ of coastal states:
    • For example- the US maintains that hydrographical surveys without prior notice or consent are lawful in line with centuries of state practice, customary and international laws.

The collection of vital hydrographical data is critical to China’s understanding of the sub-surface environment.

China could step up their efforts to significantly improved data in the seas between the Malacca Straits and Djibouti through:

  • By sending survey vessel without our permission into our EEZ: For example in May, the Chinese survey vessel accompanied by two Chinese coast guard ships and several fishing vessels entered the Malaysian EEZ in the South China Sea for over a month despite Malaysian protests.
  • By deploying unmanned underwater drones in our EEZ: While the mother vessel remains just outside the EEZ. A recent Forbes report claims that Sea-Wing underwater and unmanned drones were launched in mid-December 2019.
  • Sailing PLAN intelligence-gathering ships: Either along our coasts or in the waters off our island territories on grounds that this is “innocent passage” by naval vessels permissible under the laws.

Though we have the necessary capacity to monitor and interdict survey vessels well before they enter our EEZ, we need a comprehensive strategy to tackle future challenges.

Need of Comprehensive Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) strategy:

  • Coordination: Between our national security agencies, the navy and the government departments responsible for the marine environment and disaster management.
  • Collaboration: With like-minded countries who share our concerns. Such cooperation includes deepening of real-time information exchange, co-development and deployment of UDA monitoring devices and closer coordination in the patrolling of sea lanes to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Way Forward

High priority should be given to building a Maritime Domain Awareness Especially Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) capabilities.

4.Importance of Transparency during a crisis

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Context: The information about PM CARES Fund was denied under the Right to Information applications.

PM CARES Fund:

  • It is a public charitable trust for a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of providing relief to the affected with any kind of emergency or distress situation like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are reports which suggest that donations of over $1 billion have been made including contributions from foreign sources.

Lack of transparency in PM CARES:

  • No information exists on the official website of the Fund about the amount collected, names of donors, expenditure incurred or details of beneficiaries.
  • The trust deed of the fund chaired by the Prime Minister is not available for public scrutiny.

This violation of peoples’ RTI is particularly concerning given the unprecedented crisis gripping the nation.

Why is Access to information crucial?

  • For obtaining benefits of the government scheme: 
    • Millions have lost their income earning opportunities during the lockdown. The relevant information is crucial for the poor affected by the public health emergency to take benefits from the welfare programmes.
  • Affect the role of citizens: 
    • Citizen’s participation is important in democracy for ensuring their access to their rights. People’s ability to perform their role reduces due to lack of information.
  • For proper implementation of laws: 
    • It is important for the right information about the relief measures to be circulated among public for ensuring accountability.
    • For example- the central and state governments have put in schemes to provide subsidized rations for ensuring food security. Without information, it is impossible for intended beneficiaries to get their due like ration shopkeepers siphon food grains and keep their shops closed on the pretext that they have no stocks.
  • To prevent controversies: 
    • For example- numerous instances have been reported of COVID-19-positive patients requiring treatment in ICU being shunted from one hospital to another. This could be prevented if hospitals and health centres publicly provide real-time information about availability of beds and other facilities.

Functioning of watchdogs during COVID-19:

  • Though, it is reasonable to expect delays in processing information requests during COVID-19 but public authorities must not be allowed to interpret the crisis as a justification for not complying with the RTI Act.
  • An assessment of the functioning of the transparency watchdogs revealed that 21 out of 29 commissions in the country did not hold a single hearing during the first three stages of the lockdown.
  • Most commissions did not make provision for hearing even urgent matters.

Way Forward

It is critical to create a culture of openness to empower people to participate meaningfully in the decisions that have profound effects on their lives and livelihoods for which strong RTI is required.

5.Unrestrained Sale of agricultural land 

Source – Livemint

Syllabus – GS 3 – Agricultural produce and related constraints

Context – Karnataka government has opened the land market to convert it from thin market to open market.

  1. Changes introduced by the Karnataka government:
    • Allowing non-agriculturists to purchase agricultural land.
    • Remove income restrictions imposed on the buyers’ non-agricultural income (currently ₹25 lakh).
    • Increasing the maximum permissible size of holdings by an individual or family (from 10 to 20 units) and by larger families (from 20 to 40 units).
  1. Land reforms, foremost policy measures taken at eve of independence, have harmed farmers in long run instead of helping them. Following are the steps taken under land reforms and associated challenges:
Land Reforms Challenges
1. Restricting the land market based on income

· To prevent rich zamindar families from exploiting poor farmers rendered helpless by financial difficulty

a. Drove out richer agricultural families from the agricultural land market to other opportunities.

b. Does not favour sellers and only depresses land prices due to lack of demand base.

2. Restricting the land market based on  holding size

· To abolish Zamindari

3. Restricting the land market based on occupation

· States prevented non-farmers from buying farm land

· Only farmers and not-for-profit institutions could buy farm land.

a. Reduction in the number of potential buyers that depressed land prices.

b. Fragmentation of the land market – Separating agricultural land from other land, as determined by regulation and not the land’s productivity or market potential.

 

  1. Vicious cycle created by these reforms:

  1. Suggested solution: Creation of thick market to demolish thin markets– Features of thick market are :
    • Better regulated by competition within the market.
    • High trading volumes.
    • Buyers and sellers in the market have different preferences, productive capabilities and individual endowments.
    • Move resources from low-productivity to high-productivity uses.

Way Forward – These reforms of Karnataka will help farmers, otherwise trapped in low productivity and poverty, get the best possible price for their largest asset holding. This is one step towards doubling farmer’s income which other states can emulate.


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