9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 29, 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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Issues in COVID-19 Management Guidelines

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Synopsis: The Health Ministry’s COVID-19 management guidelines show disregard for evidence, pricing, cost-effectiveness, and social relevance.

Introduction 

The Health Ministry released its first COVID-19 management guidelines about a year ago. This guideline included hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19. It led to its panic buying.

Later, in a year, multiple studies rejected this claim. However, Health Ministry’s guidelines released on April 22 still prescribes hydroxychloroquine.

What are the other issues in the COVID-19 management guidelines?

  • First, disregard for evidence. For example,
    • The ICMR after several trials has revealed that the use of convalescent plasma does not save the lives of those with COVID-19. At best plasma can prevent progression to severe disease in mild cases. Yet, convalescent plasma is mentioned in the Ministry’s guidelines.
    • Ivermectin, a drug used against parasites, has been recommended in the guidelines. However, World Health Organization (WHO) recommended against its routine use.
  • Second, it also overlooks the importance of pricing and cost-effectiveness. For example,
      • One, Supply-demand mismatch in Remdesivir due to black-marketing. It led to an increase in the cost of hospitalization due to the steep price of the drug in the black market.
      • Two, budesonide inhalers have been included as an option for mild patients, based on the results of two clinical trials. Though it does not result in saving lives or reducing hospital admissions.
      • This will result in a lack of access to inhalers for patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) due to panic buying by Covid patients.

What changes are needed?

  • First, guidance on drugs being used for COVID-19 should be included. Because, many unsafe drugs such as Azithromycin, Doxycycline, are being prescribed.
  • Second, the most efficacious antivirals in COVID-19, the monoclonal antibodies should be mentioned.
  • Third, the COVID-19 treatment guidelines should focus more on oxygen delivery, steroids, and anti-coagulants.

Rewriting the guidelines based on the available evidence, and keeping cost-effectiveness and the social relevance of the Indian health system should be the way forward.


India needs to Focus on Universal Social welfare

Source: The Hindu 

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

Synopsis:

The pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of India’s social welfare potential. The country failed to provide adequate social welfare services to the marginalized during the pandemic times. This calls for focusing on universal social welfare.

Background:

  • The Covid-19 pandemic struck the country in 2020 and brutally impacted the lives of the Indian masses especially the marginalized community.
  • The pandemic followed a series of crises including mass inter and intra-migration, food insecurity, and crumbling health infrastructure.
  • This has induced some experts to demand universal social welfare from the government.

What is Universal Social Welfare / Social Security?

  • According to the International Labour Organisation, Social security is the protection that society provides to individuals and households: 
    • To ensure access to health care and to guarantee income security; particularly in cases of old age, unemployment, sickness, invalidity, etc.
  • Giving such protection to every individual in the country is called Universal Social Welfare.

Need of Universal Social Welfare:

  • Vulnerability of masses: The pandemic has enhanced the vulnerability of masses as:
      • It has pushed an estimated 75 million people into poverty.
      • The second wave has shown even money is not enough to access health care services. It has brought even the middle and upper-class citizens to their knees.
  • Poor performance of Social Welfare schemes: The country has over 500 direct benefit transfer schemes but still many weren’t able to get desired benefits during the pandemic.
      • The schemes are fractionalized across various departments and sub-schemes. This causes problems on every stage of the scheme from data collection to last-mile delivery.
  • Better results: India’s Pulse Polio Universal Immunisation Programme helped it to become polio-free in 2014. This shows the country has the potential to run universal programs and achieve better results.
  • Avoiding Inclusion/Exclusion errors: Universal system will encompass every individual and household in the country thereby tackling the problem of inclusion/exclusion.
    • For instance, PDS can be linked to a universal identification card such as the Aadhaar or voter card, in the absence of a ration card. 
    • This would allow anyone who is in need of foodgrains to access these schemes especially the migrant populations.
  • Improved Living Standard: Access to education, maternity benefits, disability benefits, etc. social benefits would ensure a better standard of living for the people.

Way Forward:

  • The government should map the State and Central schemes in a consolidated manner. This would avoid duplication, inclusion, and exclusion errors in delivering welfare services.
    • For instance, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) can be strengthened into universal social security. 
    • It already consolidates the public distribution system (PDS), the provision of gas cylinders, and wages for the MGNREGA.
  • It must compute the costs of delivering universal social services. Post computation, robust steps must be taken to arrange the requisite amount.
  • The country can learn from successful global models like Ireland’s Poor Law System.
    • The system was introduced in the 19th century to provide relief to the masses. It was financed by local property taxes. 
    • The system was built keeping in mind the future economic crisis and dignity of the masses.
    • It has now evolved into a four-fold apparatus. It promises social insurance, social assistance, universal schemes, and extra benefits/supplements.
  • There must be a focus on data digitization, data-driven decision-making, and collaboration across government departments. This would improve the implementation potential.

Antimicrobial Resistance may Become a Silent Pandemic

Source: The Hindu 

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

Synopsis:

The challenges posed by Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) demands a comprehensive and collaborative approach by all the countries. They must come together to tackle the silent pandemic.

Background:

  • Covid 19 exposed the vulnerabilities of health systems across the globe. It took away the lives of more than 3 million people since January 2020.
  • Experts believe that greater destruction would be caused by AMR in the coming years. This calls for taking strong steps at the national and global levels.

What is AMR?

  • It is a phenomenon by which bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses evolve and become resistant to presently available antimicrobial treatment.
  • The infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.

Reasons behind the development of AMR:

Primary reasons:

  • Misuse of antimicrobials in medicine – This happens when the proper course of medication is not done or the person indulges in self-medication.
  • Inappropriate use in agriculture – Antibiotics are used to boost the productivity of livestock.
  • Contamination around pharmaceutical manufacturing sites –  The untreated waste releases large amounts of active antimicrobials into the environment.

Secondary Reasons:

  • No new antimicrobial developments: No new classes of antibiotics have made it to the market in the last three decades. This is a result of inadequate incentives for their development and production.
    • A recent report from the non-profit PEW Trusts found that over 95% of antibiotics in development today are from small companies.
  • Easily Availability: Antimicrobials are easily available as ‘over the counter drugs’ in many countries. This ease facilitates more consumption and development of AMR.

Challenges posed by AMR development:

  • Threat to the health care system: Antimicrobials prevent infections post a routine surgery or cancer treatment. Their ineffectiveness would impair the modern health system. 
    • The problem is more grave for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) of Asia and Africa where cheap antimicrobials have significantly reduced the mortality rates.
  • Loss of Human Lives: It is responsible for up to 7 lakh deaths a year. It is estimated that 10 million annual deaths would be caused by it post 2050.
  • Economic Brunt: The countries would require abundant capital to manage the AMR crisis in the future. As per an estimate, it may cost up to $100 trillion by 2050.

Way Forward:

  • Accessibility: There is a need to ensure better accessibility of antimicrobials. Globally, 5.7 million people die every year because they cannot access drugs for infections that are treatable.
  • Incentivisation: The companies must be encouraged to develop new antimicrobial drugs. In this regard, a multi-sectoral $1 billion AMR Action Fund was launched in 2020 to support the development of new antibiotics.
  • Judicious Use: There must be appropriate and judicious use of antimicrobial drugs. Countries can learn from:
    • Peru’s efforts on patient education to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions
    • EU-supported VALUE-Dx programme that has increased the use of point-of-care diagnostics. This has resulted in prudent drug intake.
  • Tracking the spread of AMR: Surveillance measures to identify these organisms need to expand beyond hospitals. They should encompass livestock, wastewater, and farm run-offs.
    • For instance, Denmark’s efforts to prevent the use of antibiotics in livestock had reduced AMR prevalence and boosted agricultural productivity.
    • Similarly, countries must formulate a dedicated and holistic plan to deal with AMR like India’s National Action Plan for antimicrobial resistance.
  • Global Coordination: International alignment and coordination are paramount in both policymaking and its implementation. The countries can use the Paris Agreement as a blueprint for developing a similar global approach to tackling AMR.

States control over temples is against Secularism

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Indian Constitution Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.

Synopsis: There is an urgent need to provide adequate community representation in the management of their places of worship

Background

  • There has been a persistent demand from the communities to deregulate state control over temples.
  • Communities are asking for their right to representation in the affairs of the management of temples.
  • Now the question is if the government releases its control over the management of temples, to whom the temples would be entrusted.
  • This article will explain,
    • How the government’s control over temples is against the principles of secularism?
    • How community control over temples can be regulated.?

Why the government control over temples needs to be replaced?

States control over temple have become a more controversial issue due to,

  • Gross mismanagement of financial resources
  • Increasing Corruption
  • Disregard to temple maintenance leading to loss and destruction of temple antiquities.
  • Against the principle of Secularism.

How the government control over temples is against the principles of secularism?

The Supreme court in Raja Birakishore vs The State of Orissa ruled that appointment of temple priests by the state a secular function.

Yet, the State’s involvement in the appointments of heads of Mutts and the authority to conduct poojas is against the principle of Secularism. Because

  • One, Article 25 empowers the state to enact laws for the regulation of religious institutions. But it is to prohibit discretionary religious practices and to make law for social welfare and reform.
      • Article 25(2)(a) empowers the state to regulate “economic, financial, political or other secular activities which may be associated with religious practice”.
      • Article 25(2)(b) empowers the state to enact a law to prohibit the exclusion of ‘classes and sections’ of Hindu society to enter into Hindu temples of a public character and also make law for social welfare and reform.
      • However, these safeguards are being misused by the state to assume ownership of properties belonging to religious institutions.
  • Two, the establishment of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department is not a cause for social justice.
      • In the Shirur Mutt case, the supreme court struck down a major portion of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments 1951 Act. The court ruled that the provisions are a “disastrous invasion” of religious liberty.
  • Three, the comparison with the Waqf Act to legitimize the control over Hindu religious endowments is misleading. Because,
      • One, Waqf Act clearly reveals that it applies only to charities and specifically excludes places of worship such as mosques.
      • Two, it also supports the argument that government should not regulate places of worship.

What needs to be done?

  • It has been said that handing over the temples to the community will strengthen class hierarchies.
  • However, communities are looking for control. They are asking for representation in the management of the place of worship. It is possible by the creation of boards with representatives of religious heads, priests, and responsible members from the dharmik sampradaya.
  • The colonial law, the Religious Endowments Act (Act XX of 1863) has similar provisions for handing over religious institutions to society.
  • It created committees in every district to exercise control over temples.
  • This act should be made applicable to all religious institutions to guarantee adequate community representation in the management of their places of worship.

New Rules by ECI and Effectiveness of Multi-Phase Polling

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: New rules by the high court will help prevent a new surge after counting days. Elections Commission also needs to reconsider the effectiveness of Multi-Phase Polling.

Introduction 

The Election Commission of India has banned victory celebrations after the election results are declared on May 2. ECI took the step after receiving criticism for not enforcing steps to control the spread of COVID-19 during the campaigns.  

What steps did the ECI take to curb the spread of the virus?

  • ECI has restricted the number of people who can go with the winning candidate to meet the Returning Officer and collect the election certificate. 
  • The agents cannot enter the counting hall without a negative test report for COVID-19 or final vaccination reports. These strict rules are a welcome step.

However, it is unfortunate that these rules were missing or were not in force during the long campaign for elections.

What was the view of the court on ECI?

The Madras High Court stated that the ECI officials should bear great blame for the terrible spike in infections. 

  • The court’s expression of displeasure with ECI for failing to make all parties obey its rules was right. However, the suggestion by the Bench that ECI officials should bear sole responsibility for the situation was avoidable.
  • But, the court’s advice that the counting process should not become a promoter for a new surge has definitely led to new rules for counting day.

Should multi-phase polling be a permanent practice?

The ECI should reconsider its route to multi-phase polling as a permanent practice. 

  • Multi-phase voting has been protected for the last three decades as something compulsory. This is because of the time needed to move central forces to different parts of the country. Moreover, Security and sensitivity in select constituencies are also concerns.
  • However, a long campaign contributes to the build-up of tension. Covering an entire State in as few phases as possible will help localise the potential for violence. It will prevent the spread of tension due to the virulence of the campaign.
  • Further, it will also reduce the fatigue of forces deployed throughout the campaign till the day of counting. A shorter election may be a safer one too.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 29 Apr, 2021

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