9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 24, 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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Need to Strengthen Panchayati Raj System

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure, Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein

Synopsis: There is a need to strengthen the Panchayati raj system to make the participation of the people in governance a reality.

Evolution of Panchayati Raj System

  • First, during the Ancient period, the Cholas pioneered the formation of local bodies to oversee the implementation of State plans.
  • Second, during the British period, in 1884, the Madras Local Boards Act was passed. After that, unions in both small towns and big cities were formed to ensure better administration.
  • Third, gram panchayat laws were enacted in 1920. It allowed people over 25 years of age the right to vote and choose their panchayat members.
  • Fourth, Gandhiji was one of the pioneers to emphasise the importance of local bodies. He stressed the importance of autonomously ruled villages.
    • He quoted that, “The voice of the people is the voice of god; The voice of the Panchayat is the voice of the people,”
  • Finally, only in 1992, after the 73rd and 74th Amendments, local bodies were given constitutional recognition. This provided many positive changes such as,
      • Powers to grama Sabha,
      • Reservation for the downtrodden and women,
      • Consistency in economic development,
      • Mandatory local body elections once in five years,
      • Formation of the State Election Commission, Finance Commission,
  • However, the Panchayati raj is not being given due importance by the state administration which is affecting the participation of the people in governance.

Case Study: Apathy towards Panchayati raj in Tamilnadu

  • It is mandatory that Gram Sabhas should meet at least four times in a year, according to the rules framed by the Tamil Nadu government.
  • Also, as per the constitution 73rd amendment, local body elections must be conducted once in a five years.
  • Further, Gram sabhas are empowered to take opinions and the consensus of the people on significant issues.
  • However, in Tamilnadu these mandatory norms are being violated. For instance,
      1. One, holding of elections to local bodies is being postponed by the government by giving irrelevant excuses. For the first time, in the last 25 years, local body elections were not held.
      2. Two, consensus of the people on significant issues such as an eight-lane highway project and hydrocarbon project are not being taken.
      3. Third, lack of women’s representation in major administrative roles in the local bodies.

Way forward: Need to strengthen our Gram Sabhas

  • Proper allocation of funds,
  • Ensuring the efficiency of administration by making eligible appointments,
  • Ensuring decent remuneration to Panchayat chiefs and councilors
  • Giving powers to Gram Sabha to revoke appointed members and representatives.

The demand for federal rule in the Centre and autonomous rule in the States should resonate along with the need to have autonomous local bodies too. A peoples’ movement can ensure the strengthening of Panchayati Raj.


Measures to Control the Covid-19 Second Wave

Source: The Hindu

GS2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis: The current rapid spread of the Covid-19 is a result of poor political choices, poor communications, and neglect of public health principles

Background

  • India is witnessing a more intensive spread of Covid 19 in the second wave. For example, more than 3 lakh daily cases are reported, fatality rate has increased (2,000 deaths daily).
  • This poses a threat to the economic and social well-being of the Indian people.

What are the reasons for the spurt in Covid 19 infection?

It is due to combination of many factors, such as

  • Demography: India hosts the second largest population in the world. As the disease is contagious it spreads faster in high density population areas. Example, Cities like Delhi, Maharashtra.
  • Diversity: India is geographically a large state and it is a socially diverse country. This makes controlling the coronavirus more challenging.
  • Lack of effective Political leadership: During the first wave of infection, successful efforts to enforce social distancing and other public health measures helped in containing the spread of Covid19. However, the large political rallies and religious gatherings (Kumbh Mela festival) have contributed to the sudden surge in infection.
  • Natural factors: Consistent mutation of the virus resulted in the production of more deadly variants. For example, India is now faced with “double mutant” strain of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Ineffective public health management: Limited efforts towards genomic surveillance has resulted in lack of data to guide policy decisions.

What needs to be done?

First, need to break the chains of transmission by imposing Short-term targeted lockdowns. However, it has to be reminded that lockdowns cause a terrible economic and social cost and should be used as a last resort.

Second, need to expand access to vaccines. However, efforts must be made to overcome the logistical challenges to administer vaccines to a large number of populations.

What can be done to minimise the number of lockdown days?

  • First, the Health functionaries should increase the testing rate with the goal of getting the positivity rate under 5%.
  • Second, society has to be made responsible. Universal mask-wearing should be followed mandatorily as it is largely helpful in curbing the spread of the disease.
  • Third, sensitive decision-making by the political agents. Restriction on all major indoor and outdoor events, including rallies, religious festivals, weddings, is essential.
  • Fourth, Vaccine manufacturers should be incentivised to produce Vaccines at a large capacity and at faster rate. In all likelihood, India’s pandemic will end if enough Indians are vaccinated.

Focus on public health measures, improve vaccinations, universal masking, and effective coordination across public health efforts can get back life to normal.


The New CJI Needs to Address Present Issues in Judiciary

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2: Structure, organization, and functioning of the judiciary

Synopsis: The new Chief Justice must seriously consider the Challenges in Judiciary. He must free himself from the bias in constituting benches. Also, he should take concrete steps to revitalise the administration of justice.

Introduction:

Justice N V Ramana will be the next Chief Justice of India. But there are certain serious challenges in Judiciary. One of the most important ones is to reform the Judiciary to provide “Justice to all”.

Constitution on Supreme Court:

  1. The framers of the Constitution understood the importance of the oath of office of judges of the Supreme Court of India (SC). They carefully designed its language.
    • The oath contains “without fear or favour” to “uphold the constitution and the laws”. These words show the significance and stress the court to a ferociously independent.
  2. Similarly, Article 50 of the Constitution provides “The State shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State”

Constituent Assembly debate on Separation of Judiciary:

  • K T Shah moved an amendment to Article 50 proposed an important amendment. He proposed “separation of powers as between the principal organs of the State. I.e., the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial. He mentions the separation of Judiciary alone will result in the following. Such as,
    1. This will make Judiciary open to suspicion from the Executive and the Legislative
    2. The separation of Judiciary and Executive will also rule out the possibility of translation from a high judicial office to an equally high executive office and vice versa.
    3. Over a period of time, the Judiciary will suffer from their personal privileges or personal ambitions.
    4. Overall, this will affect the civil liberties in the country.
  • On the other hand, Shibban Lal Saxena was of the opinion that the complete independence of the Judiciary from the state was an important one.
    1. He mentions that the High Courts at that time were are not independent. They are influenced by the political consequences of their actions.
    2. So he wanted the future Judiciary to be free from these influences.
    3. Further, he also mentioned that the Supreme court has to observe the principles inherent in the constitution. I.e. a clear-cut mention of functions and procedures to avoid any influence of government in the Judiciary.
  • But B R Ambedkar rejected these views. Furthermore, he was of the opinion that the chances of influencing the conduct of a member of the judiciary by the Government are very less.
    1. He predicted that the judiciary will very rarely decide the cases between citizens and the Government.
    2. He also predicted that the judiciary will decide the cases in which the Government has very little or no interest at all.
    3. But history shows even a great man can go wrong. Today the Judiciary is deciding numerous cases in which the government has a direct interest. CJI being a Master of the Roster is constituting these benches and allocate matters.

Challenges in Judiciary:

There are various challenges in Judiciary. These are,

  • The SC is expected to look for strict accountability from the legislature and executive. Moreover, the SC also corrects any violation of the Constitution and laws. But this is not happening in reality. There are many instances where the court sided executive of the day and not stand for the people of India.
  • The Judiciary is also facing few fundamental challenges. Such as,
    1. Millions of cases pending in Judiciary
    2. Quality of Judges and Judiciary
    3. Organisational issues in the Judiciary such as gender gap in Judiciary, etc.
    4. Challenges to integrity and impartiality of Judiciary.
  • All these challenges in the Judiciary deprive and elude Justice to the common man, especially the vulnerable sections of society. The present CJI also highlighted this deprivation of Justice.

Suggestions to improve the Judiciary:

  1. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution begins with ““We, the people of India”. So the powers of the Judiciary is also come from the people, like the executive and the legislature. The Judiciary has to accept this.
  2. Revitalising the administration of justice: This is feasible if the CJI take concrete steps such as
    • Freeing himself from the bias in constituting benches and allocating cases
    • He can seriously introspect and review the actions of his immediate predecessors,
  3. All this will restore the “rule of law” and the proper fulfilment of the provisions of the Constitution.

During the  NJAC judgment (2015) one of the Judges observed that the decisions of CJI have immeasurable political and financial consequences. Further, he also mentions the far-reaching public interest of CJI’s decisions. So, the current CJI has to make serious efforts to address these challenges.


Green Hydrogen – The Fuel of the Future

Source – Down To Earth

Syllabus – GS 3 – Energy and Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation.

Synopsis – Green hydrogen is becoming a new alternative to fossil fuel. Currently, many countries are taking steps to move towards a hydrogen economy.

Introduction-

  • Hydrogen is an energy carrier. It is converted into electricity by fuel cells, which generate electricity by mixing hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
  • It will play an important role in delivering zero-emission transport. The pathway to use hydrogen economy includes hydrogen production, storage, transport, and utilization.

Importance of Hydrogen as a fuel

  1. Environment friendly- Hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when consumed in a fuel cell, releases only water as a by-product. Due to their high efficiency and zero-or near zero-emissions operation, hydrogen has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emission.
  2. Readily available –It is a basic earth element and is very abundant, but challenging to separate hydrogen gas from its companion substances.
  3. Alternative to fuel – It produces three times more energy than other fossil fuels.
  4. Hydrogen as an Energy Storage System-
  5. Future’ fuel – Fossil fuels can no longer be used to meet the world’s energy needs.

Concerns-

  1. Cost – The greatest challenge for hydrogen production, particularly from renewable resources, is providing hydrogen at lower cost.
  2. Storage- Moving even small amounts of Hydrogen is a very expensive matter. For that reason alone, the transport and storage of such a substance looks impractical.
  3. External energy source is required to isolate hydrogen – It does not occur naturally as a gas on the Earth. It is always in combination with other elements such as water (H2O).
  4. Lesser production of green hydrogen – Around 120 tons of hydrogen are produced annually and less than one per cent is green hydrogen.
  5. Low production of Electrolysers – There is currently no major Indian manufacturer of Electrolysers [splits water into hydrogen and oxygen]. As a result, India is reportedly importing electrolysers, which makes the cost uneconomical.
  6. Limited technology for compressing and storing hydrogen for automobiles.

Initiative taken by different nations and global companies in field of green hydrogen-

  • European Union-
      • In June 2020, EU announced to install 40GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers. It will produce up to 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen by 2030.
  • Saudi Arabia-
      • Saudi Arabia is setting up a $5 billion solar and wind energy plant to produce green hydrogen. On completion the plant will be the world’s largest green hydrogen facility, producing 650 tons of green hydrogen.
  • India-
      • During Budget 2021-22, FM launches the National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHEM). The goal is to produce 175GW of green hydrogen by 2022. It has set aside Rs 1,500 crore for the mission.
  • 7 global companies launch Green Hydrogen catapult initiative-
      • World’s leading green hydrogen companies unite to drive 50-fold scale-up in six years. The New initiative aims to reduce costs to below $2 per Kg, to transform energy across most carbon intensive industries, speeding the race to zero emissions.

Way forward-

  • Green Hydrogen must be cost-competitive with conventional fuels. To reduce overall hydrogen cost, research must focus on improving technologies related to compressing and storing hydrogen for automobiles.
  • Electrolyser manufacturing and deployment must be scaled up from the current capacity of 0.3 GW to nearly 5,000 GW by 2050.
  • India should focus on pilot projects to get better understanding of the usage.

Importance of Decentralised Approach in Tackling the Pandemic

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 3 – changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

Synopsis:

The first wave of Covid 19 highlighted the importance of a local and decentralised approach in tackling the adverse impact of the Pandemic. The government should focus on this approach to minimize the vulnerabilities for the poor and marginalized in the second wave.

Background:

  • Under the second wave of Covid 19 pandemic, the marginalised and vulnerable people are craving for the government’s support. 
  • The pandemic struck the country in 2020 and highlighted the poor condition of India’s economic system. This was followed by a series of lockdowns that brutally impacted the informal sector.

Dismal State of Indian Economy:

  • 90% of the Indian economy is composed of the informal sector that provides no social security benefits or job security. 
  • Since 1991, there has been jobless growth” in the formal sector and the new liberalisation policies showed little respect to ecological needs. 
  • A surge in the size of the informal workforce has been occurred as:
    • State policies have been formulated to serve the interests of the capitalist/industrial class. This is proven as the richest 5 percent of Indians now earn as much as the remaining 95 per cent.
    • The caste, class, and gender discrimination in society doesn’t allow social mobility.
    • Lack of governmental efforts to make agriculture a lucrative profession
    • Displacement of people due to dams, mining, express ways, etc. projects with poor or no rehabilitation
  • Very few informal workers enjoy some degree of security. These include the ones whose resource base (land, nature, tools, etc.) is intact or those who are able to access the benefits of the MGNREGA scheme. 

Despite such poor conditions, some alternate local models provided a ray of hope for poor people.

Successful Alternate Local Models during the Pandemic:

  • Dalit women of the Deccan Development Society (DDS) ensured sustained food access for numerous villages of Telangana in 2020.
  • Community health systems in Sittilingi panchayat, Tamil Nadu played a pivotal role in reducing the Covid spread.
  • In Assam, Farm2Food worked with several thousand students to continue local food growing in schools and communities.
  • Beejotsav Nagpur, the Gurgaon Organic Farmers’ Market, and others ensured that farm produce reached a local consumer base. This averted economic collapse for thousands of farmers.

Lessons from these models:

  • Local Self-reliance and Localised exchange of goods are more effective in giving livelihood security than encouraging inter-state migrations.
  • The focus should be on incentivizing local communities. While the present focus is on big industry players producing household goods like soaps, footwear, furniture, etc. 
    • This will generate additional sources of livelihood apart from agriculture and would create cheaper goods.
  • Creation of buffer opportunities is desirable to relieve the communities from undue stress in difficult times.
    • For instance, Maati (a women’s collective) has created a buffer of ecotourism for farmers and craftspersons in Uttarakhand.

Way Forward:

  • The government should reconsider its current industry-centric approach
    • For instance, reconsidering the three farm laws which may give agricultural control to corporates. It will create an even bigger pool of exploitable labour.
    • The model of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat needs reconsideration. It is actually increasing the control of distant markets and companies over people’s lives.
  • The focus must be on decentralized and localized models.
    • For instance, Kerala’s Kudumbashree programme enabled dignified livelihoods for several million women. This resulted in the rural revitalization and reduced outmigration.
  • Further, the Local self-reliance has to go along with worker control over the means of production, more direct forms of democracy (swaraj), and struggles to eliminate casteism and gender discrimination. This would imply – 
    • Better implementation of 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendment to strengthen local democracy
    • Better implementation of laws like the Forest Rights Act that provide greater ownership of forest resources to the tribals
      • In central India, some communities had legal control over surrounding forests, and mobilised towards adivasi swasashan (self-rule). They survived the COVID lockdown much better than those who did not have such control.

Adherence to the above steps will ensure economic security in one’s own village and town. This would prevent millions from going back to insecure, undignified jobs in cities and industrial zones.


Issues in Pricing Mechanism of Covid-19 vaccines

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 3

Synopsis: A single price for Covid-19 vaccines will fuel production and ensure efficient vaccination.

Introduction 

Economists suggest market-based solutions for covid-19 vaccines due to their claimed efficiency. The market depends on the price mechanism and the forces of supply and demand. 

  • Increased competition pushes up supply and pushes down prices. This combination leads to an efficient allocation of scarce resources. 
  • However, the Market mechanism works well, when there is no externality is associated with the good.
    • An externality occurs when the production or consumption of a good results in the cost or benefit to an unrelated third party.
  • Vaccines have a positive externality because their use benefits the vaccinated person and also reduces transmission t0 others.
  • Almost everyone ignores the full set of benefits from goods with positive/negative externalities. Thus, the market isn’t the most suitable tool for the distribution of such goods. 

How the new Vaccine policy could result in vaccine failure?

The government is not considering the large positive externality attached to vaccination. This may result in inefficiency in vaccine delivery.

  • Firstly, manufacturers have to declare their prices in advance for their 50 percent supply to the open market. However, there is no limit on the retail price they would charge. This might result in vaccine inequality. 
  • Secondly, low-income people are naturally prone to infect others because of their nature of work. Low income has a higher negative externality and thus vaccinating them first is more beneficial to society. However, these people cannot ordinarily afford the vaccine. 
  • Lastly, when the market is allowed to deliver vaccines, richer people will be prepared to pay more and will have better access. 
    • The market will ignore those with lower purchasing power, in spite of them having a higher chance of spreading the disease. The bigger the income difference between the two sections, the larger will be the degree of market failure.

What is the solution?

The new policy could lead to possible efficiency loss. The effective solution for addressing market failure is that a single price can be paid to vaccine makers for all the doses that they supply. The price should be high enough to fuel them to rapidly increase production. 

  • The government will have to pay the vaccine maker or the hospital managing the dose. The suggested solution is similar to the fertiliser subsidy, which is now paid to companies only after actual sales to farmers. 
    • A subsidy is not paid on any bag unless the purchase, along with the farmer’s biometric authentication and other details, is captured on a point-of-sale machine at the retail outlet linked to a central server.
  • The vaccine producer gets the full market price after a person gets vaccinated. It will also ensure no deviation or grey market. It is in our own interest to get not just ourselves, but also others vaccinated.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 24 Apr, 2021

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