9 PM Daily Brief – November 28, 2020

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GS 2

India’s malnutrition challenge 

Post Truth politics

Impact of COVID-19 on tribal communities

Social registry, for better targeting of welfare schemes

Supreme Court on Protecting Rights of People

GS 3

Women in science

India’s digital strike


9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLY

India’s malnutrition challenge

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Context: There is need for an immediate universalisation of the PDS, distribution of quality food items and community kitchens.

What does the recent survey of the Hindu say?

  • In this report, a schoolteacher had highlighted how girl students, who took admission in Standard five were relatively shorter in heightthan the previous year’s batch of students.
  • It was largely integrated with malnutritionthat is burgeoning.
  • Children from impoverished households not being able to have the mid-day meal many a time because of stomach-related problems.

What does the global reports say about malnutrition?

  • The annual report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020” by the Food and Agricultural Organization and the 2020 Hunger report, “Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow” by the Bread for the World Institute have stated staggering facts about Indian food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • As per PoU and PMSFI India is one of the most food-insecure countries, with the highest rates of stunting and wasting among other South Asian countries.
  • The Prevalence of Undernourishment(PoU)measures the percentage of people who are consuming insufficient calories than their required minimum dietary energy requirement.
  • The Prevalence of Moderate or Severe Food Insecurity(PMSFI) identifies the percentage of people who live in households that are severely or moderately food insecure.
  • Food Insecurity Experience Scale survey, which covers almost 90% of the world’s population but not allowed to be conducted in India.
  • It indicates that between 2014-16, about 29.1% of the total population was food insecure, which rose up to 32.9% in 2017-19.
  • About 375 million of the total population was moderately or severely food insecure in 2014, which went to about 450 million in 2019.

What are the issues currently existing?

  • High incidence of malnutrition: The reduction in poverty has been substantial going but malnutrition has not declined.
  • Poor performance: In terms of percentages, the PoU has declined 24.7% between 2001 and 2018 for India; other data are China (76.4%), Nepal (74%), Pakistan (42%), Afghanistan (37.4%) and Bangladesh (18.9%).
  • Low consumption: “Hunger Watch” survey by the Right to Food Campaign says with close to one out of every three respondents reporting low food consumption and massive compromise on food quality.
  • Double-whammy:  States have temporarily expanded their coverage in the wake of the crisis, the problem of malnutrition is likely to deepen in the coming years with rising unemployment and the deep economic slump.
  • Non inclusive National Food Security Act, 2013: there is non-inclusion of nutritious food items such as pulses and exclusion of potential beneficiaries.

What need to be done?

  • Universalisation of the Public Distribution System: It should focus on the distribution of quality food items and innovative interventions.
  • Focus on nutrition:United Nations World Food Programme should bring focus back on pressing issues of undernourishment and hunger in India.

The need of the hour is the right utilisation and expansion of existing programmes to arrest at least some part of this burgeoning malnutrition in the country.

Post Truth politics

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2- Democracy

Context:  Untroubled by factuality and diversity, privilege and power are shaping public opinion in troubled democracies.

What is the relation between truth and politics?

  • “Factual truth”: It is a reference to observations by living subjects of constantly changing reality. But factual truth was always prone to challenge as being no more than opinion.
  • “Formal truths”: On the contrary, it is a part of the received wisdom, such as the proposition that two and two made four.
  • Truth and politics: Both of them had always been “on rather bad terms with each other” and “truthfulness” was never counted “among the political virtues”.
  • This was a reality with a deep bearing on the practice of politics, since “facts and events”, the outcome of the collective life of humanity, were the “very texture of the political land”.

How is truth altered by deception?

  • Factuality:The lie in normal circumstances is “defeated by reality”. However large the tissue of falsehood, even when twisted with the help of computers, it would be inadequate to “cover the immensity of factuality”.
  • Radical destruction:A fact could be removed from the world if a sufficient number of people believe in its non-existence.
  • But this would require a process of “radical destruction”, an experiment that totalitarian regimes had undertaken with frightening consequences, though without the intended result of “lasting deception”.

What is the role of social media?

  • The role of social media: Earlier modes of harvesting attention and securing assent for a particular perception of reality have been transformed in this intensely networked situation.
  • Since the events of 2016, notably the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election as the U.S. President, social media has come in for intense scrutiny for its ability to create bubbles of political misinformation.
  • The economist, Raghuram Rajan, and the philosopher, Michael Sandel, have in recent times pointed out how daily lives in the U.S. today are increasingly about sameness, less about exposure to diversities of culture and social perception.
  • It is a context that enables particular population units to pretend that other worlds do not exist, that their perceptions, fortified in regular “check ins” with social media, are all that matter.
  • Customary deliberative processes have been dispensed with: Parliament sessions conclude without the Question Hour and consultative meetings across party lines over significant legislative initiatives have been scrapped.

Way forward

  • Public opinion in democracies is now fashioned within cocoons of privilege and power, untroubled by factuality or diversities in perception. The U.S. seems to have tapped the sources of countervailing power to neutralise this drift towards a world of alternative truths.

Impact of COVID-19 on tribal communities

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 impact of COVID-19 pandemic on forest community and their spirited efforts to tackle it. 

What are the problems faced by forest community during COVID-19?

  1. Losses of livelihood and shelter-Due to sudden lockdown, the forest-dwelling communities who got stuck in the cities without any support system, shelter, food or water.
  • The lockdown measures have badly affected wage employment for tribal communities.
  1. Lack of health infrastructure– The absence of healthcare facilities in tribal areas posing a serious threat to the tribal population.
  2. Problems accessing the PDS-poor access to public distribution system among tribal people and other traditional forest dwellers during the lockdown.
  3. Loss of forest products collection season– The other major challenge faced by tribal communities during the lockdown was the collection, use and sale of minor forest produce (MFP) with April-June being a peak season for generating their income.
  • According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, around 100 million forest dwellers depend on MFP for food, shelter, medicines and having cash with them.
  1. Tribals were not able to get direct cash benefits as they did not have bank accounts or banks were located in remote locations.

What are the government interventions to resolve the situation?

  • Revision in MSP – The Centre recently revised the minimum support price for 49 MFPs to provide relief to tribal groups amid the lockdown. It urged states to speed up procurement operations for MFP
  • FRA title holders are entitled to an additional 50 days of work under employment guarantee schemes.

How forest dwelling communities are braving the pandemic?

Examples indicate that these communities have coped with the crisis with remarkable resilience.

Case studies documented– Local communities and gram sabhas better understand the local complexities than local administrations while dealing with a crisis as presented by COVID-19.

  • In each village, the Community Forest Rights Management Committees (CFRMCs) members identified families that were starving due to no income and provided ration to them.
  • Holistic COVID-19 governance plan– Gram sabhas encouraged local and forest-based food security, thereby preventing crowding in market places.
  • Use of local knowledge– Many communities were able to survive on a diverse range of forest foods during the lockdown as they had been regenerating their natural forests for over four decades.
  • Women played the leading role in the gram sabhas, organising systems to work with social distancing.
  • In many tribal communities, they made face masks of leaves to cover their faces due to non-availability of protective masks in the areas.

Way forward

  • The above examples lead to an understanding that community empowerment, particularly by ensuring tenure security and devolving natural resource governance and management power, can restore ecosystems, create sustainable economies and community resilience to cope with the natural and human-induced calamities such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Government need to learn from these stories of resilience and works towards effective implementation of the FRA.
  • The Centre should provide state governments with adequate financial resources to ensure tribal communities and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers receive cash entitlements.

Social registry, for better targeting of welfare schemes

Source: Indian Express

Gs2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes

Context: A social registry linking Aadhaar to residence info can target aid to the vulnerable during a pandemic.

What is the need for Social registry?

  • Recent estimates from the World Bank suggest that 88 to 115 million people could slide into poverty in 2020, which presents a tough challenge for targeting welfare beneficiaries.
  • It also emphasises the need for post-disaster revalidation of any existing social registration database.

Case study: challenge of targeting welfare beneficiaries.Examples from India and US welfare programs

The case of US:

  • Few months back, the US government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that sends $1,200 to each individual below the income threshold of $75,000 to provide relief on account of the COVID-19 to poor and middle-class individuals and to stimulate the economy.
  • However, according to The Washington Post millions of households were yet to receive their stimulus payments.
  • The reason is, account information was available only for taxpayers who received their refunds in their bank accounts whereas, for the poor, whose incomes were below the income threshold, the authorities find difficulty in reaching them leading to exclusion from safety nets.

India’s Case:

  • Under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), an ex-gratia payment of Rs 500 was credited to women Jan Dhan account holders.
  • Similarly, Farmers registered for PM-KISAN also received Rs 2,000 in their accounts immediately.
  • However, the money did not reach the most vulnerable households. For example, recipients of PM-KISAN were not amongst the poorest households. Data from round-3 of the NCAER Delhi Coronavirus Telephonic Survey (DCVTS-3), suggests that 21 per cent of farm households received transfers through PM-KISAN. However, 42 per cent of such households belonged to the wealthiest.
  • Similarly, for the PMJDY payment, BPL and non-BPL households record similar receipt transfers. For example, nearly half of poor women are unlikely to receive PMJDY transfers.

What can we learn from these observations?

  • Authorities need a registry containing data about individuals and the individual must have a functioning bank accounts for money to be transferred expeditiously.
  • However, registries based on specific criteria (for example, identified BPL households) may not identify individuals most vulnerable to crises.
  • The reason for this is, factors that contribute towards alleviating poverty may differ from the ones that push people into it that pose a challenge of targeting welfare beneficiaries.
  • For example, about 40 per cent of the poor in 2012 were pushed into poverty by special circumstances and would not have been classified as being poor based on their 2005 conditions.

Can, the Universal social protection schemes can solve the problem of exclusion errors in welfare targeting?

  • It will lead to serious fiscal impacts if expanded nationwide because most disasters are geographically clustered.
  • For example, Floods or earthquakes often devastate a few districts not all, similarly pandemics may affect densely-populated cities more than villages.
  • Hence Universal social protection schemes can benefit the well off more than the needy.

What is the way forward?

  • Need to set up social registries that identify individuals, their place of residence, and their bank accounts, these linkages can be used to transfer funds to everyone living in the affected area quickly.
  • Aadhaar linkages of individuals and bank accounts already exist. If residential information in the Aadhaar database can be efficiently structured, this would allow for geographic targeting.

Any social registry that can serve as a potential beneficiary platform for safety nets inherently runs the risk of violating individual privacy. To avoid privacy issues, such social registries can be allowed to store only basic information such as location, instead of more sensitive identifiers.

Supreme Court on Protecting Rights of People

Source: The Hindu

News: The Supreme Court has pronounced its reasons for granting interim bail to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in connection with the abetment of suicide case against him.

Facts:

Key Takeaways from the Judgement:

  • Protect Personal Liberty: The Supreme Court called on judges to protect personal liberty and the right of ordinary people to bail saying liberty is not a gift for the few and deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one day too many.
  • Importance of Bail: The apex court invoked the case of State of Rajasthan, Jaipur v Balchand and referred to Justice Krishna Iyer’s statement that “basic rule of our criminal justice system is bail,not jail”.
  • Courts as first line of Defence: The Courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defence when citizens liberty is deprived.But in reality, undertrials remained behind bars while their bail applications were lobbed from one rung of courts to another.
  • Pending Bail Pleas: The court highlighted that 91,568 bail pleas were pending in High Courts, while 1.96 lakh bail applications continued to wait for a hearing in the district courts.Hence, it urged the judges in charge of these courts to utilise tools at their disposal to address this pendency.
  • Importance of District Courts: The district courts are only subordinate in hierarchy.It is less to none when it comes to saving the lives of citizens or doing justice for them.Hence, the district judiciary must be alive to the situation as it prevails on the ground – in the jails and police stations where human dignity has no protector.

Women in science

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-3- Science & technology

Context: The new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy is currently being drafted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST)

More on news: 

  • Its aim will be to increase the participation of women in science.
  • The DST will incorporate a system of grading institutes depending on the enrolment of women and the advancement of the careers of women faculty and scientists.

What is Athena SWAN?

  • The Athena SWAN Charter: It is an evaluation and accreditation programme in the UK enhancing gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).
  • Function:Participating research organisations and academic institutions are required to analyse data on gender equity and develop action plans for improvement. The programme recognises such efforts with bronze, silver or gold accreditation.
  • Institutions that sign up commit to:
  • Addressing unequal gender representation.
  • Tackling the gender pay gap.
  • Removing the obstacles faced by women in career development and progression.
  • Discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people.
  • Gender balance of committees and zero tolerance for bullying and sexual harassment.

How well has it worked? 

  • In 2019, a report by Ortus Economic Research:In partnership with Loughborough University found that 93% of participants believed the programme had a positive impact on gender issues.
  • 78% said it had impacted equality and diversity issues positively, and 78% noted a positive impact on the career progression of women.
  • A study in BMJ: It found that in the five-year period since the scheme was started, participating institutions had a higher number of female leaders than non-Athena institutions, and gender diversity in leadership positions also improved.

Why does India need such a programme?

  • GATI:In India, it will be called GATI (Gender Advancement through Transforming Institutions). India is ranked 108 out of 149 countries in the 2018 Global Gender Gap report.
  • According to DST figures: In 2015-16, the share of women involved in scientific research and development was 14.71%.
  • The DST has also found that women are either not promoted, or very often drop out mid-career to attend to their families.

What are the challenges ahead? 

  • Institutions lack control:To get as many institutions as possible to sign up, the DST will need to manoeuvre around government red tape as most universities, barring the IITs and NITs, are run and funded by the government as well.
  • This means that these institutions don’t have direct control over institutional policies, recruitment and promotions.

What are the steps of DST towards ensuring gender equity?

  • Gender equity:The DST has tied up with National Assessment and Accreditation Council, under the UGC, aiming to push gender equity through them.
  • Gender sensitisation: The DST plans to run intensive gender sensitisation programmes, especially for the top leadership of institutions, and work within existing rules such as pushing for women members on selection committees during recruitment processes.
  • Policy changes: In the future, the DST is likely to consider policy changes such as those brought about in the UK providing financial incentives through grants to institutes.

Way forward

  • For the pilot, 25 institutes will be shortlisted to carry out self-assessment on gender equity in their departments. The British Council is assisting the DST and will facilitate collaboration between selected institutions under GATI with Athena SWAN-accredited institutions in the UK, with each institute here having a partner institute in the UK for guidance.

India’s digital strike

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 3 – Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.

Context- The government of India has blocked 43 new Chinese app which are prejudicial to sovereignty and Integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.

Why Indian Government ban these apps?

  1. Defence and security concern– These apps are involved in activities against India’s sovereignty, integrity, defense, security and law and order.
  2. Data Privacy Issue – The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) banned apps on reports of stealing and transmitting user’s data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.
  • Strong move by the government that sends out a strong message that Indian data cannot be compromised.

Benefits- 

  1. Opportunity for Indian– The recent ban on Chinese app is a good opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs to quickly rise to fill market gaps.-
  • This opportunity has also opened up the job market under the segment which will eventually have an added boost to the Indian economy.
  1. The ban may be useful for India to use its vast market for Internet services as leverage in its attempts to keep China in check at the border.

What are the concerns related to Chinese apps ban?

There are issues with the government gag against Chinese apps-

  1. This can trigger an unconventional battle between the two countries in the larger technology realm.
  2. Create negative image– This creates a big uncertainty for the foreign investors, and often results in reduces outflow of foreign investment.

What is the way forward?

  • Need for A Data Protection Law: Data privacy and security remains to be major challenges emanating from the ongoing digital revolution. Thus, a data protection law is long overdue.
  •  India must stick to a rules-based approach in regulating the Internet.

Read also :- current affairs

Other Important news  :-

Explained: What is Period Poverty?

News:Scottish parliament has passed the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill with the aim to eliminate Period Poverty by making period products such as sanitary pads and tampons free of cost to those people who need them.

Facts:

  • Period Poverty: It can be defined as no or inadequate access to menstrual products acting as an equity barrier which in turn forces women to drop out of work or education.
  • What’s happening in India related to period poverty?
    • According to the report of the Ministry of Health, only 12% of menstruators in India have exposure to proper period products. The rest 88% are largely dependent on unsafe materials like rags, cloth, hay, sand and ash as their only alternatives.
    • This exposes them to infectious urogenital diseases such as urinary tract infection(UTI), bacterial vaginosis with skin irritation, vaginal itching, white and green discharge and others.
  • Initiatives: Janaushadhi Suvidha scheme was launched by the Indian Government with an aim to provide women with oxo-biodegradable sanitary napkins at a meagre cost of Rs 2.50/pad across 3,600 Janaushadhi Kendras in the country.

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