9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 27, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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Rising Food Insecurity Due to Pandemic

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger

Synopsis: Food insecurity is rising among the most vulnerable populations, due to 2nd wave of the Pandemic. Hence, the government should take precautionary steps to save millions from hunger and food insecurity.

Background

  • Even before the Pandemic, India’s efforts to tackle the food security crisis have been poor. For example, India ranks 102 among 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2019.
  • The economic shock produced by the COVID-19 pandemic have added to the already rising food insecurity.
  • The data collected by the Rapid Rural Community Response (a collective of over 60 NGO’s) provides crucial evidence on the nature of food and financial insecurity among the poor in rural areas.

What does the data suggest?

The Rapid Rural Community Response data suggests that food insecurity is rising among poor households. Reasons for that are job losses, lack of income, lack of access to government welfare schemes, etc.,

  • First, the data suggest a reduction in nutrition intake. For instance,
      • The poor and the socially marginalized people are forced to cut down on food intake (especially nutritious food) during the lockdown period. For example,
      • Households reported nearly 80% cut down on nutritious food such as milk, vegetables, pulses, and oil.
      • These reductions in nutritious intake will hamper India’s effort to provide adequate nutrition to children as per the National Family Health Survey (2019-20) and the Global Food Policy Report, 2021.
  • Second, increasing the food insecurity of poor people due to loss of income during the lockdown.
      • Earlier, according to Pew Research Center, the middle-class population in India has shrunk by over 32 million households.
      • According to the Rapid Rural Community Response survey, the income of poorer households is reducing at a higher rate. Many of them are relying on loan support even to meet their food requirement.
  • Third, the food and financial insecurity among the migrant’s community increased due to lack of universal access to government welfare schemes.
    • For instance, among the poorest, households with migrants were more likely to seek work than those without (43% versus 32%).
    • But only half were provided employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

What needs to be done?

  • One, the government’s willingness to restart the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for the next two months is a step in a good direction. However, the government needs to include nutritious foods like pulses in the PMGKAY scheme.
  • Two, need to address issues in MGNREGA scheme, such as delays in wages and rationing. Further, the government should explore the feasibility of the urban MGNREGA scheme for urban poor and migrants.
  • Three, food security schemes for children, through anganwadis, Public Distribution System and mid-day meal scheme in primary schools, need to expand the coverage on an urgent basis.
  • Finally, community kitchens similar to Amma canteens need to be set up across all urban cities to support migrants stuck in cities without work.

The New Vaccine Strategy May Widen Inequality

Source: The Hindu

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

Synopsis: The new vaccine strategy fails to address the issues of affordability and accessibility. It may contribute to widening inequality in access to  health care.

Background

  • Recently, the Centre revised its vaccine strategy to accelerate its vaccination drive to bring the Second wave Covid 19 under control.
  • The revised strategies are,
      1. One, Vaccine coverage is now been extended to the entire adult population i.e., Population above 18 years of age.
      2. Two, vaccine market has been deregulated. Vaccine manufacturers can now sell 50% of their vaccine production to State governments and private hospitals, and the prices can be higher than the price fixed by the government.
      3. Three, a grant of ₹45 billion to the two vaccine manufacturers, the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech, to boost their capacities. Note, the grant has not been announced formally till now.
  • However, the newly revised vaccine strategy fails to address many critical issues, such as Universal vaccination, responsibility of a welfare state, affordable life-saving drugs etc.,

What are the issues with the new vaccine strategy?

  • First, issue of demand-supply mismatch due to the expansion in the coverage of the vaccine-eligible population.
  • India faces vaccine shortages mainly due to the following issues,
      • One, lack of vision led to the policy of ‘Vaccine diplomacy’. India promised exports of vaccines to 95 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia instead of securing Vaccines for its own population.
      • Two, the inability of Indian vaccine manufacturers to increase production capacity because of the following two reasons,
          1. Lack of access to essential raw materials to produce vaccines from the U.S. a few days back, the US restricted the Export of essential materials under its Defense Production Act.
          2. Lack of financial capacity to expand vaccine production. Vaccine manufacturers are requesting a grant of ₹30 billion from the government.
  • Second, the issue of affordability and accessibility to vaccines.
      • The center had shifted its responsibility to states to procure vaccines for the population aged above 18 years to 45 years.
      • Whereas the centre will support vaccination only for people above 45 years, and healthcare workers, and frontline workers.
      • Further, the government has not fixed the prices of vaccines that are to be sold to the state government and private agencies. This has given rise to the following issues,
        1. One, increase in vaccine pricing due to fragmentation of the market into three layers namely, central, State, and private hospitals. Earlier, the role of center as a single central procurement agency helped in limiting the price of vaccines.
        2. Two, it may result in inequitable access to vaccines across States owing to disparities among states’ financial capacity. Further, many State governments may find it difficult to procure the required number of vaccine doses to meet the demands of the targeted population.
  • Third, the issue of public money involved in Vaccine production without considerable benefits to the society at large.
      • The government provides ₹45 billion to the two vaccine producers in India for expanding their production capacities. It is questionable.

Way forward

The issue of affordability of vaccines can be tackled by ensuring a competitive market for vaccines. More open licensing for vaccine manufacturers to scale up production would enhance competition in the market. It would enable the vaccines to reach every citizen in the country.


Understanding Herd Immunity and Rising Covid Cases in India

Source: Indian Express 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

Synopsis:

Herd Immunity can’t be attained solely by a rise in Covid-19 positive people. It is also dependent on the absolute number of susceptible individuals and the rate of transmission of the virus.

Background:

  • The data from various serological surveys in metro cities shows high immunity levels in the metro cities. As per them, Covid-19 had touched: 
    • 56% of population in Delhi by January 2021.
    • 75% in some slums in Mumbai in November 2020.
    • About 30% in Bengaluru in November 2020.
  • This indicates attainment of herd immunity but still, the Covid-19 cases are rising.

What is Herd immunity?

  • It is a stage of an epidemic in which some members of a population group remain protected from infection. 
  • This happens as the majority of those around them have already developed immunity either through vaccination or prior infection.

What is a Serological Survey?

  • It is a blood test that seeks to assess the prevalence of disease in a population by detecting the presence of specific antibodies against the virus.
  • The test only indicates past infections (which triggered an immune response) and is not used to detect active infections.

Understanding the current spread: –

  • The number of daily cases depends on 3 factors: 
    • Number of infectious people in the population (those who have developed immunity)
    • Number of susceptible individuals (those who are not infected)
    • Rate of transmission of the virus – It depends on the nature of the virus and the extent of contact between individuals.
  • As per experts, the cases are rising due to:
    • Increased interaction and contact among the population since February 2021. This increased the virus in circulation and led to increased cases in the susceptible population.
    • The high absolute number of Susceptible population among which the virus is circulating. For instance, in this second wave, the affluent class and youth are getting more infected who were less targeted in the first wave.
  • Therefore, solely relying on the first factor to check the virus spread will not yield rational results. 

Future Trajectory:

  • A decline would be observed if it is proved that the virus (even the new strain) is infecting the susceptible population more.
  • However, a greater surge would occur if the new strain is again infecting the previously infected individuals. This scenario would also question the efficacy of our vaccines in fighting the virus.

Need of Special Insurance Cover for Police Personnel

Source: The Hindu 

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

Synopsis:

The second wave Covid-19 virus is producing greater challenges in front of frontline workers (including police personnel) than the first wave. Hence, the special insurance cover for police personnel of 50 lakh rupees must be revived and extended to all front-line workers.

Background:

  • The second wave of Covid-19 induced the government to impose lockdown and curfews in some regions of the country.
  • After this, the hardships and challenges of frontline workers (including police personnel) got enhanced by a greater magnitude than the previous lockdown.

Challenges Faced by Police in First Lockdown:

  • Enforcement of Lockdown protocols as it was a first of its kind event for the whole country.
  • Providing Migrant Labour with ration, transport, and inter-State passes.
  • Dealing with the rising number of cyber-fraud cases, particularly those relating to online purchases and phishing.
  • Implementing SC judgment in Re: Contagion of Covid-19 Virus in Prisons’ (2020) case. 
    • Under this, the court directed High Courts to decongest prisons in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. They were ordered to release convicts on parole and under-trial prisoners on temporary bail.

How is the second wave more threatening?

  • In only 15 days, we are seeing a shortage of hospital beds, ICU beds, medical oxygen, and drugs.
  • The cremation grounds are reaching their full capacity due to the rising number of deaths. This is enhancing the degree of panic in society.

In the second wave, people are demanding enhanced protection for police personnel.

Why Insurance Cover for Police Personnel is required?

  • Enhanced Challenges: Apart from their regular duties, they need to:
    • Tackle the menace of people hoarding scarcely available medical products
    • Maintain public order in front of hospitals
    • Deal with Covid-19 status of criminals. If positive then police personnel need to quarantine him/her and later on produce before a magistrate post the negative report. 
  • Greater Risk: The second lockdown was imposed before all police personnel could be vaccinated, hence they are at higher risk. 
    • As per the Indian Police Foundation’s March 2021 tweet – 1,207 security men have died of COVID-19 and more than 2 lakh have been infected. The figure includes policemen of the State police and Central Armed Police Forces personnel.
  • Family Concern: They are working day and night in enforcing the Covid-19 lockdown which increases the probability of getting a Covid-19 infection. This enhances hardships for their families who might get infected by them.

Way Forward:

  • The scheme of special insurance cover of 50 lakh rupees needs revival, and it should be extended to all front-line workers (including the police).
    • It was notified for the medical fraternity last year for a limited period of three months. 
  • The Civil Society (including media persons and social activists) must come forward to lend a helping hand for the vulnerable sections.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 27 Apr, 2021

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