9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 21, 2020

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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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GS 1

Shakti Act 2020 concerns

GS 2

Health care in India

WTO rulebook

GS 3

Economic Growth

GS 4

Values of advertising

9 PM for Preliminary examination


Shakti Act 2020 concerns

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 1 – Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, their problems and their remedies.

Context – The Maharashtra Shakti Bill, 2020, and the Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law, 2020 have been criticized by prominent women’s rights advocates for being “draconian.

More in news-

The two interconnected bills are the Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Act 2020 and the Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law 2020.

  • The Bill is proposed to be enacted as Shakti Act, 2020.

What does the draft bill proposes?

  1. The draft Bill proposes to make changes to the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
  2. The changes are proposed in existing sections of rape, sexual harassment, acid attack and child sexual abuse.
  • The death penalty is proposed in cases which are heinous in nature and where adequate conclusive evidence is available and circumstances warrant exemplary punishment.
  • The media is not allowed to report the name of a rape victim.
  • The draft Bill proposes an additional law to deal with abuse of women on social media.
  1. Provisions for “false” information – The Bill proposes punishment in cases of false complaints and acts of providing false information regarding sexual and other offences against women with the intention to humiliate, extort and defame.

What are the concerns related to new laws?

  1. Patriarchal conception [Control by men] – The new will punish the filing of false complaints. This, according to the signatories, “perpetuates the patriarchal notions of viewing women with suspicion, as unworthy of being believed”
  • This will only deter victims from reporting sexual offences.
  1. Improper investigation and trial– The 15 days’ time-frame will not be sufficient for gathering all evidence and will become an excuse for police to not conduct a proper investigation.
  • A hurried investigation and trial, they said, is likely to lead to miscarriage of justice.
  • Lacking in infrastructure required for effective implementation – Neither the police nor the courts have the infrastructure to comply with these timeframes. There are not enough prosecutors at trial courts and in high courts.
  1. The general perception is that since the laws have been made more stringent, so the rapists resort to extreme measures in a bid to destroy the evidence.
  • The death penalty in the new law reduces both the reporting of sexual offences and of conviction rates.
  1. No clarity of ‘heinous in nature’ cases– The proposed bills does not define what cases would qualify as being “heinous in nature”, thus leaving it open to the interpretation of courts.

Way forward-

  • The Bills’ content reflects the absence of a larger consultative process and lack of understanding of existing criminal laws.
  • The Maharashtra government should focus on improving infrastructure.
  • The two Bills should have been discussed with lawyers, activists, and academics working on women’s issues before they were passed by the state Cabinet.

Health care in India

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 2 –  Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Context – The problems in India’s health sector.

What are the issues with healthcare sector in India?

  1. Low government spending – Public expenditure on health accounts for only 1.13% of the total health expenditure which is abysmally low when compared to WHO recommendation of 5%.
  2. High out of pocket expenditure– Out of pocket expenses account for 62% of the expenditure. This led to an increasing number of households facing catastrophic expenditures due to health costs.
  • 85% of the population cannot afford high cost, corporate private health care.
  1. Insurance-76% of Indians does not have health insurance. Government contribution to insurance is just 32%. Low insurance penetration forces people to spend out of pocket.
  • The behaviour of a private corporate hospital is skewed in favour of profitability.
  1. Malpractices in the healthcare sector – Selling substandard and counterfeit medicines, unnecessary hospital admissions and exploitation.
  2. Weak government policy– only 1.27 crore people have taken advantage of the Ayushman Bharat scheme out of 12 crore card holders.
  3. Dark reality of private hospitals– The insurance backup incentivizes hospitals to expand the bill but the patients do not get attended to in their best interests.
  4. Low health workforce density – India’s public system has a shortage of nurses. The ratio of 0.6 nurses per doctor while the World Health Organization specification is three nurses per doctor.
  5. 80:20 Rule – Only 20% of people can afford modern health care, 40% cannot afford it at all and the other 40%, the non-poor, pay with difficulty.
  • Nearly 7 crore of the non-poor slide into poverty on a year-to-year basis.
  • Under-qualified doctors– Due to this, 80% of people routinely reach Registered Medical Practitioners who are not trained to treat patients.

What needs to be done to improve healthcare sector?

  • Increase the number of doctors– Ramp up the number of doctors with counterpart obligation to serve in rural areas.
  • The Licentiate Medical Practitioner [LMP] – The scheme involves a three-and-a-half year course that leads to a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery. Doctors trained under this scheme will work in rural areas.
  • Empower graduates of BSc (Nursing) to be nursing practitioners.
  • Focusing of primary care– India needs to shifts focus from secondary and tertiary sectors to primary care. PHCs should be made attractive to doctors by providing incentives and making rural service mandatory for medical students.
  • States should be incentivized to carry out the appointments of health workers and doctors.

Way forward-

  • PHCs should be well-staffed and well-provisioned through a reasonable fee which will cover at least part of the cost.
  • Focus should be shifted to preventive healthcare from curative healthcare.
  • Policymakers need to focus on the larger picture with steps being taken to reclaim the space under public care.

WTO rulebook

Source: Indian Express

Gs2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora – their structure, mandate.

Context: WTO rulebook must evolve to support food security and rural livelihoods in developing countries.

What are the existing issues related to India?

  • Whether the current farm subsidy rules provide enough room for developing countries to buy food at government-set minimum support prices as part of their public stockholding programmes.
  • To negotiate a permanent solution.
  • India’s farm subsidy notification this year to the WTO’s committee on agriculture brought the topic of procurement under public stockholding programmes.
  • It indicated that India had breached its agreed ceiling on product-specific support to rice during marketing year 2018-19.
  • For example, India’s wheat support was close to breaching product-specific support ceilings, with administered prices at $263.15/tonne.

What are the underlying issues with WTO?

  • Delays: many countries pursuing improved market access and closer economic integration through bilateral and regional talks.
  • Paralysed dispute settlement function: Donald Trump administration’s decision to veto new appointments to the WTO’s appellate body leaving many to question the future of the rules-based multilateral trading system.
  • Method of calculation: Market price support levels are calculated by taking the gap between applied administered prices and an external reference price or ERP, set at 1986-88 levels, and multiplying this by the volume of eligible production.
  • Divergent views on benchmark: WTO members could usefully consider whether the fixed ERP of 1986-88 is still a relevant benchmark, especially in the wake of the global price hikes of 2007-08 and 2010-11.
  • Current scenario: food security disruption caused by US-China trade tensions and the inconclusive outcome of the WTO’s 2018 ministerial conference in Buenos Aires.

How does Indian subsidies doesn’t distort market?

  • India’s support turns out to be negative for the years since 2000-01, if domestic market prices are compared with international market prices using the Producer Support Estimate methodology applied by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • Even after accounting for input subsidies, which represent a significant share of India’s non-product-specific support using the WTO system for calculating farm support.

Way forward:

  • Updating the reference prices to average 2014-16 or 2016-18 levels or using a rolling average instead flattening out volatility by excluding the highest and lowest years from a five-year period.
  • Exempt support from counting towards maximum limits when administered prices are set below international market price levels.
  • Members could also discount support consumed by subsistence farmers themselves from the calculation of the volume of eligible production or exempting procurement that only equates to a small share of domestic output.
  • WTO members need to agree on a shared framework for action on farm subsidy reform and set a clear direction and a timeframe for reaching a rational conclusion.
  • Minimise disruption in food supply chain.
  • The December meeting of the General Council that is mulling over WFP food aid issues offers India (with G-20) an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to WFP food aid and help rebuild confidence in WTO’s ability.

An agreement under WTO could also lay the groundwork for long-overdue progress on the wider trade and food security agenda at the WTO.

Economic Growth

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Context: It is important that, only if the Indian economy grows at 8% in 2021-22 we will be able to compensate for the decline in 2020-21.

What needs to be done to make Indian economy to grow @ 8%?

  • Accommodative Monetary policy: A reduction in interest rate through changes in policy rate, providing liquidity through various measures, and regulatory changes such as moratorium.
  • Fiscal initiatives: A sharp increase in government capital expenditures which can act as a stimulus for growth. To increase government spending, government revenues should pick up with the rise in GDP and the fiscal deficit must be brought down.
  • Growth and investment: The investment rate has been falling. In 2018-19, the rate fell to 32.2% of GDP from 38.9% in 2011-12. A detailed investment plan of the government and public sector enterprises must be drawn up and presented as part of the coming Budget.
  • Exports: Closing borders may appear to be a good short-term policy to promote growth but it kills growth all around. A strong surge in our exports will greatly facilitate growth, in 2021-22.

What is the way forward?

  • Strong effort must be made to improve the investment climate. The National Infrastructure Pipeline is a good initiative, but the government must come forward to invest more on its own.
  • Reforms are important but the timing, sequencing and consensus building are equally important. For example, Labour reforms, are best introduced when the economy is on the upswing.

The Indian economy in 2019 was at around $2.7 trillion. To achieve the level of $5 trillion, we need to grow continuously at 9% for six years from now.

Values of advertising

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-4- Ethics

Context:  Ethical values in advertising.

What are the guiding principles for publishing advertisements in the newspaper?

  • Principles: The code of business values has eight governing principles: honesty and integrity, respect, humility, excellence, consumer focus, transparency and fairness, neither favour nor discrimination, and finally, commitment to social good.
  • A fair balance: If journalism is about maintaining a fair balance between what is in public interest and what the public is interested in, the ethical business practice for a news organisation in its pursuit of a sustainable revenue model is to refrain from interfering with editorial practices.
  • The code of editorial values: There is no wall but there is a firm line between the business operations of the company and editorial operations and content.
    • It is necessary to create a professionalism in the editorial functioning independent of shareholder interference so as to maintain an impartiality, fairness, and objectivity in editorial and journalistic functioning.
  • The advertising team is guided by a triad: the laws governing the sector, the code adopted by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), and the in-house code of the newspapers.

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