9 PM Daily Brief – October 27,2020

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  1. Changing nature of India – US relationship
  2. Board exams in education
  3. Climate Change and Gendered Vulnerabilities
  4. Social and Health Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic
  5. Evolving Strategic Autonomy


  1. Air Pollution in India

9 PM for Preliminary examination


  1. Changing nature of India – US relationship

Source- The Indian Express

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

Context- The 2+2 dialogue between India-US comes in the backdrop of a structural shift and turbulence in the global economic order.

What is 2+2 Dialogue?

It is a format of dialogue where the defense and foreign ministers or secretaries meet with their counterparts from another country. 2+2 Ministerial is the highest-level institutional mechanism between the two countries.

  • Main focus– Countering China’s aggression on LAC front, improving bilateral relations and Shift in great power politics as well as turbulence in the international economic order intensified by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • First US-India 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi in September 2018.

India’s recent global meetings

  1. QUAD grouping –The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue has its roots in the Core Group of four senior diplomats representing the USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.
  2. Five eye grouping– India’s first-ever participation, in a meeting of the exclusive Five Eyes grouping that facilitates intelligence-sharing among the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
  3. Malabar exercise– It is an annual trilateral naval exercise between the navies of India, Japan, and the US which is held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
  • Australia inclusion– The move will bolster the ability of India, Australia, Japan and the United States to work together to uphold peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region.

What are the differences with current India-US relation than that during UPA years?

  1. India-china relations– Huge military crisis on the northern borders with China. During initial years of India-US relations, Delhi avoided closer security ties with the US in deference to Beijing’s sensitivities.
  2. COVID-19 Pandemic– The coronavirus has sharpened the US debate on the dangers of excessive economic interdependence on China.
  • India has begun to reduce its commercial ties to Beijing in response to the PLA’s Ladakh aggression.
  • This has created a new conversation between India and the US on rearranging global supply chains away from China.
  1. Sharing technology– The focus on critical technologies like artificial intelligence that promise to transform most aspects of modern life including security, political economy and social order.
  • Two decades ago, both India and US focused on resolving the legacy issues surrounding the technologies relating to nuclear weapons and missiles.

What is the significance of 2+2 dialogue?

  1. Trade issues– Delhi and Washington continue to have many differences over bilateral trade. U.S. should be pushed on resolving trade issues with India and perhaps commit to restoring India’s Generalized System of Preferences status for exporters.
  2. Indo-Pacific– On the maritime sphere, discussions will include strengthening ties in the Indo-Pacific region and also include discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart the threats posed by the People’s Liberation Army.

Way forward-

The overarching framework that has emerged across different US administrations in the last two decades helps India to manage potential difficulties and take advantage of new opportunities.

As the regional and global order faces multiple transitions, the incentives for Delhi and Washington to sustain and advance India-US partnership are stronger than ever before and will continue into the next administration.

2.Board exams in education

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- Education

Context:  Delhi University announced the first list of admission into undergraduate programmes earlier this month and the cut-offs reached 100 per cent mark in some courses offered by a few colleges.

What is the state of higher education in India?

  • According to the most recent All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE 2018-19), Delhi’s gross enrolment ratio (GER) is 46.3 per cent, this means that almost every second youth in Delhi between the age of 18 and 23 is enrolled in a higher education programme.
  • According to India’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030 and the National Education Policy 2020 target, we are aiming to ensure 100 per cent enrollment across our school stages, from pre-primary to the secondary stage.
  • There will be a further rise in applications for higher education programmes for which the NEP 2020 has set a target of 50 per cent by 2035 which would mean an additional 35 million seats to be created in HEIs across the country.
  • Rise in unemployed graduates due to poor education quality and absence of skills in youth.
  • There is a mismatch in the ratio of colleges and regulating universities leading to regulator challenges. For ex- 40000 colleges being regulated under by 1000 universities.

How will multidiscipline HEI improve Higher education ecosystem?

  • NEP 2020 recommends moving into a multi-disciplinary HEIs. This would improve the education ecosystem in the following way:
  • This will offer undergraduate and graduate programmes in every district of the country.
  • Each such institute will aim to have 3,000 or more students.
  • Improve access to higher education and will also make HEIs viable.
  • Provide access to 70 million students when the GER of Higher education reaches 50 per cent.
  • This will also allow for closing down of thousands of poor quality HEIs, which trap unsuspecting students, leading to a large number of non-entrepreneurial, unskilled and unemployable graduates.

What is the alternative to cut-offs?

  • School leaving marks have been inefficient in assessing the overall performance of a student. An alternative system should include:
  • School-leaving certificates should contain a collection of assessments, including a student’s performance across the secondary level (Classes IX to XII).
  • Inclusion of class assignments and tests in the assessments will ensure development of students’ portfolios.
  • The process of admission to higher education should also assess whether the prospective student has developed the attributes for pursuing higher education.

Way forward

  • NEP 2020 envisages assessment reform at the school level, which would make the board exams redundant, and also a common entrance for the liberal arts-based higher education system, which only assesses an applicant’s preparedness to pursue a university education. We need to go with these reforms at the earliest.

3. Climate Change and Gendered Vulnerabilities

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- Due to the pandemic, India has an opportunity to build climate resilience and address gender equality issues.

How India can tackle widening inequalities?

The recovery is offering India two golden opportunities:

  • To build climate resilience for the most vulnerable by ensuring that stimulus measures are green.
  • To meaningfully address long-standing gender equality issues.

What are effects of pandemic on vulnerable groups?

  • Most affected groups- Overburdened healthcare systems and frontline health workers lives and livelihoods impacted. The poor, Adivasis, migrants, informal workers, sexual minorities, people with disabilities and women all face a greater brunt than most.
  • Vulnerable groups, especially women bear a heavier burden of climate change, due to social inequalities that limit them.
  • Climate change, in turn, widens socio-economic gaps, trapping communities in a vicious cycle.

What are the measures needed to tackle climate change?

Women and marginalized groups, by virtue of their position and roles, are a fountain of solutions to tackle climate change.

  1. Green investment– The Indian government has invested huge amount in COVID-19 recovery. These recovery packages in green jobs will improve lives and environment.
  • These green investments ought to be reflected across agriculture, urban planning, energy and the health sectors and in climate-resilient civil works, including under MGNREGA.
  1. Equipping women with skills– It is critical to leverage women knowledge, capacities and skills towards adapting to and mitigating climate change.
  • The initiative like Disha, a UNDP supported by the IKEA Foundation energize local economies, reduce carbon emissions, enhance climate resilience and disrupt social norms and behaviors that restrict women’s participation in the workforce.
  • For Example– By training young rural women for the maintenance of solar pumps will introduce clean energy and reduce production cost.
  • Accelerating the transition to renewable energy will lower carbon footprints and provide sustainable livelihoods to poor women.

Way forward-

  • Recognizing the important contributions of women as decision makers, stakeholders, educators, careers and experts across sectors and at all levels can lead to successful, long-term solutions to climate change.
  • Women have proven to be leading the way towards more equitable and sustainable solutions to climate change.  Across sectors, women’s innovations and expertise have transformed lives and livelihoods, and increased climate resilience and overall well-being.

4. Social and Health Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: Gs2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Context:  Lessons learnt from Covid19 and measures to counter its impact.

What is the Social and Health Impact of the Pandemic?

  • Wasting: A recent modelling study showed that, the prevalence of wasting in children can increase by 10% to 50% due to the reduction in coverage of essential services.
  • Maternal death: There can be 60% increase in maternal deaths due to the non-availability of interventions like the administration of uterotonics and antibiotics, and clean birth environments.
  • Nutrition: With a huge number of children depend on school meals the pandemic has adversely affected access to nutritious food.
  • Increase in Domestic Violence: In India, a third of women reported that they had experienced domestic violence but less than 1% sought help from the police.
  • Women: Work and livelihood of women is much affected than men as more women work in informal economy than men. It has resulted in decreased income by over 60%, thereby pushing a greater number of women into extreme poverty.
  • Disruption of services: Important services such diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases, cancer diagnosis and treatment, TB case detection etc have been disrupted.

Read also:-  Daily Current Affair

What needs to be done?

  • The package of essential services: Governments should provide essential services that include response to violence against women.
  • Gender analysis and gender-responsive public health policies: We need to work on the availability of data that is disaggregated by sex and age.
  • Ensure financial protection: Out-of-pocket expenditure forces 100 million people to fall into extreme poverty every year. A health coverage scheme, like Ayushman Bharat, or through private health insurance can ensure financial stability.
  • Emphasis on digital technology: using digital platforms to provide telemedicine for example, government’s e-Sanjeevani platform or to train healthcare workers for example
  • Move towards electronic and portable health records. We need to invest in new ways of collecting, using and sharing data, enabling local, contextualised decision-making.
  • Ensure access to Nutrition: we need to further integrate social protection systems, food systems and health systems to have an impact on nutrition.
  • Effective infodemic management: Since, it is linked to people’s beliefs and behaviour we need a dedicated behavioural insights group to provide advice on behaviour change.
  • Empowering our frontline health workers: We need to invest in them to ensure that they have the tools they need, receive regular training and mentoring, and are well paid.
  • Improving health literacy: The fear, stigma and discrimination circulated on social media can be countered by health literacy.
  • Investment: We need to invest in strong institutional mechanisms and capacities in our regulatory bodies, research centres and public health institutions.

A health system is not only about the supply side. It should actively involve citizens and the people in developing the services that we are bringing to them. For this, we need investment in human resources and to engage and empower communities.

5. Evolving Strategic Autonomy

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: Gs2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Context:  The engagement of India and China in the West Asia region is a good example of their evolving strategic autonomy.

What is strategic autonomy and How the concept is evolving?

  • Strategic autonomy is the ability of a state to pursue its national interests and adopt its preferred foreign policy without being constrained in any manner by other states.
  • The concept of ‘strategic autonomy’ is much different from the Nehruvian era thinking of ‘non-alignment’.
  • Now The alignment is issue based, and not ideological. For example, India’s equitable engagement with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel, without entering into the region’s multi-layered conflicts and political fissures.

How China’s relation with West Asia is evolving?

  • With the West Asian countries started thinking over the need to invest more in others countries as the American security safety net is not absolute, China is trying to capitalise this.
  • China is now ready to offer an alternative model for “investment and influence” and wants to play much active role in West Asia through concepts such as “negative peace” and “peace through development.
  • The fact that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) obtained Chinese Wing Loong drones in 2016 a copy of U.S.’s infamous armed MQ-9 ‘Reaper’ drone that U.S refused to sell is a good example of the Gulf’s resolve of attaining military capabilities from wherever possible.
  • Also, the Gulf economies such as Saudi Arabia need growing markets of China and India to sell oil in the coming decade.
  • According to a report, the China is also taking advantage of U.S. abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal by signing $400 billion, 25-year understanding agreement between Iran and China.
  • To address the region’s tensions, China is pursuing to establish an alternative forum to the West-led ecosystems.

How India’s relation with West Asia is evolving?

  • India’s outreach to West Asia has increased since 2014.
  • India, by giving open economic and political preference to the larger Gulf region it increased its cooperation with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
  • India has realised the economic realities of this region with, Saudi Arabia and the UAE announcing multi-billion-dollar investments on Indian shores.
  • Even, there has been a steady development with Israel but the relation with Iran has lagged behind due to U.S sanctions.
  • The Israel’s recent peace accords with the UAE and Bahrain signifies a more stable gulf region which opens up tremendous opportunities for India’s engagement with West Asia.

From the perspectives of both the India and China, the theory of interests superseding ideology in foreign policy is fast disappearing, It signifies the departure from ideological based cooperation to issue based alignment.

6. Air Pollution in India

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-3- Environment

Context: US President has criticised India’s air quality.

What is the state of air pollution in India?

The State of Global Air that is a collaborative study of Health Effect Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation of Global Burden of Disease Project has presented that:

  • PM 2.5 Concentration: India recorded the highest annual average PM 2.5 concentration exposure in 2019.India was followed by Nepal, Niger, Qatar and Nigeria.
  • Household Air Pollution: India has managed to reduce the number of people exposed to household air pollution to 61% from 73%.
  • Ozone(O3) Exposure: Among the 20 most populous countries, India recorded the highest increase (17%) in O3 concentrations in the past ten years.

What steps have India taken to combat air pollution?

  • National Clean Air Programme: It aims to meet prescribed annual average ambient standards at all locations in the country in a stipulated timeframe. It calls for:
    • Augmentation of existing air quality monitoring network by increasing number of existing manual and continuous monitoring stations,
    • introducing rural monitoring stations,
    • identifying alternative technology for real-time monitoring network
    • augmenting capabilities of existing monitoring stations to measure PM2.5 concentration
    • national-level emission inventory
  • Launch of National Air Quality index (AQI):
    • The AQI classifies air quality of a day considering criteria pollutants through colour codes and air quality descriptor. Further, it also links air quality with likely human health impacts.
    • The index measures eight major pollutants, namely, particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, ammonia and lead.
  • Measures to curb vehicular pollution: In March 2017, the Supreme Court banned the sale of BS III vehicles in the country. The court ordered that from April 1, 2017 onwards only BS IV would be registered in India The Indian government BS-VI norms from 2020.
  • Measures to curb indoor air pollution: The government launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna to replace unclean cooking fuels used in the most underprivileged households with clean and more efficient LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). A major objective of the scheme is to ensure smoke-free houses and thus curb indoor air pollution.

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