9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 26, 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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Impact of Groundwater Depletion on Cropping Intensity

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: : GS-3, Agriculture

Sypnosis: An International team conducted a study to understand the impact of Groundwater depletion on Cropping Intensity in India.

About the study:

  • The International team studied the impact of groundwater depletion on cropping intensity in India.
  • It analysed India’s three main irrigation types of winter cropped areas: dug wells, tube wells, canals. It also analyzed the groundwater data from the Central Ground Water Board.

Key Findings:

Impact on Cropping Intensity:

  • India is the world’s largest consumer of groundwater. India is also the second-largest producer of wheat in the world with over 30 million hectares in the country dedicated to producing this crop.
  • But with severe groundwater depletion, the cropping intensity or the amount of land planted in winter may decrease by up to 20% by 2025.

Most Impacted Region:

  • The study found that 13% of the villages in which farmers plant a winter crop are located in critically water-depleted regions.
  • These villages may lose 68% of their cropped area in the future if access to all groundwater irrigation is lost. The losses will largely occur in northwest and central India.

Alternative Sources of Irrigation:

  • The study analysed whether irrigation canals that divert surface water from lakes and rivers can make up for groundwater depletion.
  • It found that switching to irrigation canal would favour farms close to canals, leading to unequal access.
  • Further, even if all regions that are currently using depleted groundwater for irrigation will switch to using canal irrigation, cropping intensity may decline by 7% nationally.
  • Hence, the study suggests the adoption of water-saving technologies. For instance, sprinkler, drip irrigation. Also, switching to less water-intensive crops may help use the limited groundwater resources more effectively.

Reasons for Groundwater Depletion in India:

  • The Green Revolution enabled the cropping of water-intensive crops like rice in water deficit regions such as Haryana and Punjab. It was ecologically less suitable for rice cultivation due to predominantly light soils.
    • This led to unsustainable groundwater use for irrigation and in turn groundwater scarcity.
  • Increased demand for water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural needs together with limited surface water led to the over-exploitation of groundwater resources.
  • Frequent pumping of water from the ground without waiting for its replenishment leads to quick depletion.
  • Subsidies on electricity and high Minimum Support Price(MSP) for water intensive crops.
  • Inadequate regulation of groundwater laws encourages the exhaustion of groundwater resources without any penalty.
  • Post harvest burning of crops, deforestation, unscientific methods of agriculture, chemical effluents from industries. It also led to pollution of groundwater making it unusable.

Way Forward:

  • There are enough groundwater resources with higher monsoon rainfall in eastern Indian states like Bihar.
  • But due to lack of enough irrigation infrastructure, farmers are not able to make use of natural resources there.
  • Hence, we need better policies in eastern India to expand irrigation and thus increase agriculture productivity. This will also release some pressure from northwestern Indian states.

A Case of Declining Judicial Federalism in India 

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

Synopsis: SC transferred all oxygen supply-related cases in various High Courts. It did so, in the name of prioritising uniformity across nations in the distribution of essential services. This step of SC is against Judicial Federalism.

Background

  • In Parmanand Katara v. Union of India (1989), the Supreme Court said that ‘the right to emergency medical treatment is part of the citizen’s fundamental rights.
  • The lack of oxygen supply during Covid crisis prompted many hospitals to file pleas in their respective High court lately. They wanted to defend their right to emergency medical treatment.
  • Accordingly, the High Courts of Delhi, Gujarat, Madras, and Bombay issued a series of directions to the executive. For instance,
      • Bombay High Court, directed immediate restoration of oxygen supply that had been reduced from the Bhilai steel plant in Chhattisgarh.
      • The Delhi High Court directed the Central government to ensure adequate measures for the supply of oxygen.
  • Later, the Supreme court (SC) took suo motu cognisance of the issue and hinted the possibility of shifting the cases related to oxygen supply to supreme court from high courts.
  • The SC said that the distribution of essential services needs uniformity across the nation. Further it asked the Central government to prepare a national plan for the same.
  • However, several senior lawyers have criticized the intervention by the Supreme Court while High Courts were already hearing the issues.
  • This move by the SC is against judicial federalism in India.

Why the decision of SC is seen as an attack against Judicial federalism in India?

  1. First, Article 139A of the Constitution, empowers the SC to transfer cases from the High Courts to itself if cases involve the same questions of law.
    • However, the SC’s contemporary conduct of being indifferent towards executive actions in significant cases has cast doubt over Judiciary. For instance,
    • The SC did not use article 139A to hear cases related to the Internet ban in Kashmir or activists and journalists who were arrested and detained.
  2. Second, many lawyers viewed this as an act of “arrogance of power” and contempt for and disregard of the High Courts in the country.
  3. Third, declining of trust over SC to provide deliberative justice. SC sits in two or more benches to deliberate and dissent upon significant issues. However, In the recent years, there is a lack of dissent in issues that have serious political implications.
  4. Fourth, public health and hospitals come under the State List. And the respective High Courts have been dealing with specific challenges at the regional level. It did not warrant any interference from the SC.
  5. Fifth, In L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997), the SC itself has said that the High Courts have significant advantage in winning the confidence of the people. Further, the power of the High Court under Article 226 to issue writs is wider than the Supreme Court’s under Article 32.

Way forward

  • Need to learn from the good practices of the American Judicial System. The U.S. Supreme Court reviews only a few cases from state courts. It ensures autonomy in the application of federal law for the State courts.
  • Further, the need for a uniform judicial order across India is needed only in cases of conflict of laws or judgments on legal interpretation. Otherwise, autonomy, not uniformity, and decentralisation not centrism should be the rule.

Need to Accelerate Vaccination drive

Source: The Hindu

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

Synopsis: Need to address the issues that issues that are hampering India’s accelerated vaccination drive on a priority basis.

Background

  • Currently, India is vaccinating more than three million people per day and has administered more than 140 million doses of the vaccine as of April 25, 2021.
  • However, only about 22.3 million (1.63% of India’s population), have been fully vaccinated, against a requirement of 70%-75% for achieving herd immunity. Whereas the Israel has vaccinated 55% of its population.
  • India needs to address the issues that is hampering its efforts to push for accelerated vaccination drive.

Steps Taken to Accelerate India’s Vaccination drive?

  • First, the eligible population for getting vaccinated has been expanded. Earlier Population above 45 years were prioritised, but now People above the age of 18 years were also allowed.
  • Second, decision has been taken to make available vaccines in the open market and vaccines approved in other countries.

What are the issues that are hampering India’s accelerated vaccination drive?

Though many policy decisions were taken to augment vaccination drive, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed on priority basis,

  • First, issue of delay over availability of imported vaccines due to policy restrictions.
      • India’s drug regulatory authority relaxed Imports restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines. Also, it approved the restricted use of vaccines, which are already approved for restricted use by US  in emergency situations.
      • Consequently, newer generation mRNA vaccines and other vaccines effective against the variants and mutant strains are made available in India.
      • However, full-fledged roll-out of these vaccines will be delayed. There is a mandatory requirement for trials and safety assessments of the first 100 recipients of these vaccines.
  • Second, issue of ethics in making vaccines available for priority populations is a hurdle in universal vaccination. For instance,
      • One, Priority was assigned to health care and other front-line health workers. Because it satisfied the doctrine of utilitarianism (Maximum benefit for maximum number of people).
      • Two, Prioritising population above 60 plus and with co-morbidities was done to protect the most vulnerable.
      • Three, prioritising population above 18 years was done based on health economics point of view. Because the Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) saved through vaccination of the 18-plus age-group would be the highest.
      • However, students in the 16-plus age-group were deprived of vaccination.
  • Third, the issue of vaccine pricing. Lack of access to vaccines for the population under 18 to 44-year age-bracket under the ‘Government of India channel’ may discourage the socially and economically disadvantaged people. For example, labourers and daily wage workers.

What needs to be done?

  • One, utilising the data of vaccine efficacy of foreign vaccines that has been tested on Indian origin population can cut short the mandatory trial necessities in India.
  • Two, allowing the population above 16 plus age group for getting vaccinated as approved by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Third, State governments can provide the vaccine to Socially disadvantaged age-group free of cost. For example, Kerala have already committed to providing vaccines free of charge to all eligible people
  • Fourth, the differential pricing regime announced by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech for supply of their vaccines to the central government and State governments needs to be reconsidered.

A Crisis of Reverse Migration

Source- The Indian Express

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

Synopsis- As the Covid-19 curb expands, a crisis of reverse migration of labors from manufacturing centers to native places has appeared once again.

Introduction-

  • The second wave of COVID-19 brings a threat of national-wide lockdown. It triggered a mass migration of low-wage migrant workers from industrial centers and cities to their native places just like a year ago.
  • As per study, only 5 – 7.7 percent of migrants reported being engaged in MGNREGA.
  • The Centre and the state governments have failed to learn from the previous lockdown.

The misery of migrant workers is that existing government programmes cannot provide gainful employment opportunities to the migrants at their native places.

Impact of Pandemic on migrant worker-

ICRIER, in collaboration with the Inferential Survey Statistics and Research Foundation (ISS&RF) conducted a three phase survey on migrant workers. It aimed to assess the varying degrees of vulnerabilities among the migrants prior to, during, and after the first lockdown.

  • As per survey, after reverse migration there were no employment opportunity for these migrants in their native places. Thus, their household incomes fell by 86%.
  • The following data shows the employment status of migrant workers at native places after reverse migration-
      • 35.4 percent had no employment
      • 35.8 percent were involved in agriculture as self-employed (SE) labour.
      • 9.7 percent worked as agriculture labour.
      • 4.6 percent in MNREGA and other public works.
      • 12.2 percent as casuals in other non-agriculture work.

How can the government help migrant workers?

  1. First, Priority should be given to the portability of entitlements and social safety nets.
    • Expansion of one-nation, one-ration-card scheme to make subsidized grains available at places of work in cities and industrial centres.
    • Provide free ration to migrant workers from the government overflowing godowns.
    • Financial help under the Garib Kalyan Yojana should be extended to migrants to help them remain in their cities of their work.
    • Migrant workers should put under group medical insurance.
  2. Second, existing government programmes should be strengthened-
    • The scope of employment under MGNREGA should be expanded to include a wide range of skilled and unskilled migrants.
    • The government should engage returning migrants in the creation of new agri-value chains. It can generate sustainable jobs.
  3. Third, Comprehensive database on migrants – The government should digitize all data on migrant workers in order to develop an action plan in the event that another mass migration occurs.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 26 Apr, 2021

 

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