9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 20, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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Measures to Create Safe Online Spaces For Children

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Synopsis: This article explains the concerns about child safety in online spaces and suggests measures to create safe online spaces for children.

Background

  • The children of the current generation are exposed to a world that is increasingly powered by virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI). For example, Alexa, YouTube wormholes,
  • The Industrial revolution 4.0 has brought two main concerns towards Child’s safety and growth opportunities.
      1. One, universal access to digital connectivity
      2. Second, secured digital space for Children

What are the possible threats to Children due to their premature exposure to AI?

  • First, concerns over Child safety. For instance, many digital platforms such as Fortnite, Battle Royale, provide online space for children to socialise with their friends. But such platforms also serve as “honeypots” for child predators. Surveillance or supervision by parents over Child’s Online activity has also become more difficult due to the Digitalisation of education.
  • Second, digital addiction is another major concern among children. The AI-driven video games and social networks are designed to keep Children attracted to their online sites. This makes them prey to digital addiction.
  • Third, it disturbs their cognitive growth at a very young age. For instance, their earlier exposure to the negative side of the digital space (such as fake news, conspiracy theories, hype, online bullying, hate speech) disturbs their understanding of this world.
  • Fourth, concern over hacking and spying on children. For instance, many AI toys are used to promote enhanced literacy, social skills, and language development. However, they also collect data on the children in the absence of any regulatory framework. Recently, Germany banned Cayla, an Internet-connected doll, because of concerns that it could be hacked and used to spy on children.
  • Fifth, though the usage of AI in education improves educational outcomes it also brings new challenges. For instance, pedagogical approaches to the child’s needs such as intelligent tutoring systems, tailored curriculum plans, engaging interactive learning experiences can improve educational outcomes. However, algorithms can also amplify existing problems with education systems. For example,
    1. One, failure in AI’s algorithm can deprive thousands of students of college admissions and scholarships.
    2. Two, open access to educational and performance data on children can harm their future opportunities

What needs to be done?

  • First, need to reduce the digital divide gap by providing Internet access to all children. According to UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), nearly two-thirds of the world’s children do not have access to the Internet at home.
  • Second, need for legal and technological safeguards to regulate AI products. For example,
    • Technological safeguards like– trustworthy certification and rating systems,
    • Legal safeguards like- banning anonymous accounts, restriction on algorithmic manipulation, profiling and data collection, etc.,
  • Third, the need to create greater awareness among parents, guardians, and children on how AI works to prevent them from future online risks.
  • Fourth, enforcing ethical principles of non-discrimination and fairness in the policy and design of the AI system.
  • Fifth, need to develop online culture tools that help prevent addiction and also promote attention-building skills, social-emotional learning capabilities.
  • Sixth, Laws and policies to prevent a range of abuses and violence, such as the National Policy for Children (2013), can be extended for children in a digital space.

A recent, landmark decision by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and fulfilling all children’s rights in the digital environment is a step in the right direction towards ensuring Ethical AI for Generation AI.


Importance of Secondary Level Health Services

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

SynopsisThe load on tertiary health services can be reduced by strengthening the secondary level care health services. For rural areas, the focus should be on community health centres and for urban regions, peripheral hospitals at the secondary level.

Background:

  • The Indian health system is generally divided into the primary, secondary and tertiary level.
  • The second wave of Covid-19 has exposed the deficiencies in the current reactive approach of the government. 
  • People are dying due to a lack of access to treatment facilities rather than inadequate solutions to treat the virus.

Reactive approach:

  • Under this, the government transforms well-performing facilities at the tertiary level into state-of-the-art COVID-19 hospitals.
  • Similarly, many temporary COVID-19 facilities are created by hiring buildings and open spaces providing only beds. 
  • The government has also created many first-line treatment centres under this approach.
  • This approach is being adopted in the majority of states.

Concerns associated with Reactive approach:

  • People are unable to access their routine hospital services from these facilities. Because routine hospitals are turned into COVID facilities.
  • The temporary structures without adequate infrastructure were unable to cater to the needs of patients in real-time situations.
  • First-line treatment centres are failing to generate trust among people and were shut down when the cases went down.

Therefore, many experts are now advising the government to leverage the potential of the secondary level.

New Approach of using Secondary Level Health Services:

  • Under this, the functional facilities at the secondary level can be converted into exclusive COVID-19 care centres. It will be useful to treat those patients who don’t need ICU support.
  • In rural areas, the Community Health Centre (CHCs) can cumulatively add up to 50000-75000 beds.
    • A CHC covers a population of 80,000-1,00,000 in rural areas.
    • It functions as the first referral unit for curative care services referred from primary health centres (PHCs).
  • The PHC (Primary Health Centres) must be strengthened to cater to the needs of people for other curative care services.
  • In urban areas, states must develop peripheral hospitals at the secondary level within the government sector. Ideally, 100-150 bedded hospitals for every 3 lakh population.

Benefits of the Secondary Level Health Services:

  • It will reduce the workload on tertiary care especially in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which possess poor health infrastructure.
  • Specialists for these secondary centres can be easily directed from district hospitals or medical colleges. Thereby providing better feasibility.
  • These new centres can be used for sample collection and vaccine delivery as well. As the centres are already functional and command a certain level of trust.
  • Post the Pandemic, these facilities can return to their normal work and won’t be closed like temporary structures.

Way Forward:

  • The states must leverage the potential of this new secondary level approach.
  • They should provide the secondary level units with sufficient funds and personnel so that they can duly function as COVID-19 care centres.

In a nutshell, we can say that adoption of this new approach will improve delivery potential, augment people’s trust and contribute to strengthening health services in the long run.


Why India-Russia Relations Demands Reconsideration?

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India

SynopsisThe recent visit of Russia’s Foreign Minister to India has once again highlighted the issues in India-Russia bilateral relations. As Russia has been a good friend to India, it demands a reconsideration.

Background:

  • The year 2020 witnessed a break in the annual India-Russia bilateral summit. Before this, the leaders of two countries met every year for the last 2 decades.
  • Russia’s Foreign Minister visit aimed at preparing the ground for the next India-Russia bilateral summit.  

Outcome of the visit:

  • A joint statement was released on areas of cooperation and collaboration.
  • The diverging issues were less focused like views over Afghanistan.
  • The Russian foreign minister was not able to meet the Indian PM. This was an unprecedented event and shows the existence of numerous concerning issues between the countries.

Concerning Issues in India-Russia relations:

  • Indo-Pacific region: Russia doesn’t welcome the use of the term Indo-Pacific. Because it symbolizes US leadership, thus it prefers to use the term ‘Asia Pacific’.
  • QUAD Group: Russia views the grouping as a political-military alliance against the Russia-China grouping. Furthermore, the US wants to use the grouping as a tool to counter China’s rise as a superpower.
  • Declining India-China relations: The recent border clashes in Galwan region have marked a new low in relations. On the other side, there has been an enhanced collaboration between Russia and China. For instance, Russia accounted for 77% of China’s arms imports in 2016-20.
  • Russian closeness with Pakistan: Russia is increasing its proximity with Pakistan as seen especially in the defense sector. Consequently, it is now Pakistan’s second-largest defense supplier, accounting for 6.6% of its arms imports in 2016-20.
  • CAATSA: Many Russian companies are listed as adversaries under the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). This may impair future Russia-India interaction.

Importance of Russia:

  • All-weather Friend: The bilateral relations between the countries had stood the test of time. Russia provided constant support to India since its independence.
  • Defence Cooperation: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) records that Russia supplied 49% of India’s arms imports in 2016-20.
  • India’s Strategic Interest: The geographical location of Russia and India automatically demands cordial relations amongst them. Because this would fulfill India’s strategic interest in Central Asia and West Asia. Further, it will help in materializing projects like the International North-South Transport Corridor.

Way Forward:

  • India needs to carefully glide through the new alliances in the world order. The gliding must enable the country to maximize its global influence.
  • Further, the country should leverage Russian potential in its future endeavors like India’s manned space program.
  • Both the countries should cooperate on current commitments like a $1 billion Indian line of credit for projects in the Russian Far East and activation of a Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor.

Misuse of Ordinance Making Power

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Separation of Powers between various organs Dispute Redressal Mechanisms and Institutions

Synopsis: Ordinance Making Power by the executives has been misused increasingly. A vigilant Legislature and Court can reduce this menace.

Background

  • Recently, the central government Re-promulgated the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020
  • This raises questions over the constitutional validity of issuing ordinances and that of repromulgating ordinances, that too without their ratification by Parliament.

About Ordinance making power of executives

  • The Article 123 and Article 213 empowers the central and State governments to make laws when Parliament or the State Legislature are not in session.
  • The Constitution states that the ordinance will lapse at the end of six weeks from the time Parliament or the State Legislature next meets.
  • Originally, it was conceived as an emergency provision and was expected to be used rarely.

Misuse of the Ordinance making power

  • One, the number of Ordinance issued by the centre has increased from an average of 7.1 per year in the 1950s to 15 in 2020.
  • Two, States have also been using the ordinance route to enact laws. For example, in 2020, Kerala issued 81 ordinances, while Karnataka issued 24 and Maharashtra 21.
  • Three, further repromulgation of Ordinance by both centre and state is also increasing. For instance, The Indian Medical Council Amendment Ordinance by the centre and Kerala University of Digital Sciences, Innovation and Technology by Kerala are two recent examples.

What is the court’s view regarding promulgation and promulgation of the Ordinance?

  • In the D.C. Wadhwa case, the court took up the issue of promulgation of 256 ordinances, of which 69 were repromulgated in Bihar between 1967 and 1981.
  • The supreme court ruled that repromulgation of ordinances is against Constitutional morality and is an act of Colourable legislation. Because through ordinance making power the Executive encroaches into the law-making function of the Legislature.
  • Further, the court said that there was no such practice of repromulgation by the centre.
  • Later, the Centre too started to follow the lead of Bihar. For example, in 2013 and 2014, the Securities Laws Ordinance promulgated 3 times, Land Acquisition Act  twice.
  • In 2017, the matter came up again in the Supreme Court. This time, the court gave a strong verdict. It declared that Re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a subversion of democratic legislative processes.
  • However, the Centre and states are not following this judgement. It is evident in the current case of the Commission for Air Quality Management.

The principle of Separation of Powers and Checks and balances empowers the legislatures and the courts to check the encroachment of the Executive. However, by allowing for repromulgation of ordinances, the Legislature and the court are abdicating their responsibility to the Constitution.


Concerns Associated to Ken-Betwa Link project

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 3 –  Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Synopsis –The Ken-Betwa link project raised serious concerns about the project’s benefits and the massive environmental impact it would have. 

Introduction-

  • On World Water Day (March 22nd), MP and UP signed a tripartite agreement with the Centre to introduce the Ken-Betwa link Project (KBLP).
  • But the project will have a significant environmental impact, and its benefits are uncertain.
  • The project would be wasting significant sums of public funds. Whereas the project will do little to address Bundelkhand’s water shortages.

What is KEN-Betwa Project?

The Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) aims to transfer surplus water from the Ken river in MP to Betwa in UP. It will provide water to irrigate the drought-prone Bundelkhand area, which is spread across two states’ districts.

  • Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for the interlinking of rivers.
  • The central government has proposed a 90:10 funding pattern for the Ken Betwa Interlinking Project. The centre bearing 90 percent of the total estimated cost.

Advantage of Interlining of Ken-Betwa Rivers-

  1. First, Irrigation – The project will provide sustainable means of irrigation water to the Bundelkhand region in U.P. and M.P. It will reduce excessive dependence on groundwater.
    • The to-be-built Daudhan dam will irrigate nearly 6,00,000 hectares in four districts in M.P. and 2,51,000 hectares in four districts in U.P.
  2. Second, Disaster mitigation- The river linking project will be a solution to recurring droughts in the Bundelkhand region.
  3. Third, Electricity Production- The project will generate 103 MW of hydropower and provide drinking water to 62 lakh people.

Concern related to the project

  • First, Environmental concern-
      • The 12,500 hectares of land will submerge by the project.
      • The project would harm Panna tiger reserve. It will cause irreversible damage to around 40% of the tiger reserve’s area.
      • Disrupting ecosystems – Approximately 7.2 lakh trees will cut down. This will have an impact on the rainfall of the region.
  • Second, The project is not economically viable-
      • In the past few years, the river did not always flow in a steady stream.
      • There is a significant financial expense associated with project implementation and maintenance. It is increasing as a result of project delays.
      • Another challenge would be that the Ken River flows 60-70 feet lower than the Betwa River. It requires at least 30% of the 103 MW produced power to pump the water up.
  • Third, Clearance issue- The Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee, which had raised questions about the Ken-Betwa project, did not issue a clearance.

Way forward-

The sustainable and cost-effective alternatives to the Ken-Betwa project have not been considered.

  • Government should consider multiple water-harvesting and water-conservation methods. It could adequately store and efficiently make use of rainfall the region receives annually, without the need for building a reservoir and dam.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 20 Apr, 2021

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