9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 23, 2020

9 PM DAILY BRIEF

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GS-2
  • Changing global dynamics and Opportunities for India
  • How COVID-19 revealed the limits of Political Accountability?
  • Why call for a comprehensive Public Health Act was much needed? 
  • How to improve tribal Education in India? 
GS-3
  • India and EU cooperation on Climate Neutrality
  • How farm laws are Protecting Farmer’s interest?
  • Impacts of suspension of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 
  • Air pollution killed 1.7 million Indians in 2019: Lancet report

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FACTLY


GS Paper – 2

Changing global dynamics and Opportunities for India

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context – India will need to make difficult judgments about the changing world order and find its place in a more complex and shifting geopolitical landscape.

Established geopolitics has been transformed in the Post-pandemic global order. Some of the trends have been intensified by pandemic like rising of nationalism and some new trends have been established.

What are the trends intensified by Pandemic?

Although COVID pandemic was a global emergency, it intensified nationalism instead of multilateral cooperation:

  1. Vaccine nationalism – Developed country manages to secure doses of vaccine for its own citizens. It undermines equitable access to vaccines. It further disadvantages countries with fewer resources and bargaining power.
  2. Decline of multilateralism – International institutions like WTO and multilateral processes have been weakened. There was no International cooperation in developing an effective vaccine and responding to COVID-19 health impacts.

What are the new trends established by pandemic?

  1. Geopolitics has been transformed- There is a shift from economy and political power and influence from the trans-Atlantic to the trans-Pacific region.
  2. East Asian and South-East Asian countries have managed the crisis more effectively and are the first to register the green shoots of recovery.
  3. Revival of growth in China– China has been the first major economy to bounce back from virus slump.
    • China has registered growth in the trade and investment flows and the regional supply chain has been strengthened. As a result, the power gap among the world’s two most important powers the US and China is shrinking.

What are the needs to revive multilateral cooperation?

Globalization driven by rapid technological change has also brought new challenges with itself like; climate change, cybersecurity, space security along with the existing global issues like terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, and ocean and terrestrial pollution.

Above challenges require collaborative, not competitive solution. Present existing disconnect between the nations if continued, will not be able to deal with these challenges.

Solution-

  • Countries around the world should stop engaging in overly nationalistic behaviors.
  • Countries particularly those with technological and financial capabilities, needs to pool their resources together to work on an effective and affordable anti-virus vaccine.
  • There is dire need of statesman-like leadership to mobilize action on a global scale and orient the world in the right direction

What should be India’s approach?

Due to China’s aggressive posture across the globe and blatant “weaponization of economic interdependence” as seen in its punitive commercial action against Australia, India is being seen as a potential and credible countervailing power to resist Chinese ambitions.

This opportunity should be leveraged by India to encourage a significant flow of capital, technology and knowledge to accelerate its own modernization by taking following step:

  • By Positioning itself as most open and competitive destination for trade and investment
  • By adopting its past mobilization techniques like leading the Non-Aligned Movement in an earlier time, large majority of middle and emerging powers can align with India.

Way forward-

Global challenges led by rapid technological change or other challenges such as terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering can possibly overcome through multilateral approaches and adherence to the principle of equitable burden-sharing.

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Context: The COVID-19 pandemic has put governance under a stress test which exposed how poorly prepared the world’s governments were. 

What was the response of the world leaders to the pandemic? 

The world’s most powerful leaders failed to do their duty to protect the citizens. 

  • In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro irresponsibly refused to get vaccinated, even as his own government has launched a national vaccination campaign. He even remarked that the vaccine might turn people into crocodiles. 
  • In India, lockdowns of limited effectiveness, the sight of migrants desperately walking back to their villages and having the second largest number of cases, dented Prime Minister Modi’s popularity. 
  • In Russia, Vladimir Putin has hardly spoken even as the virus wraths unchecked across Russia. Further, the citizens are against a vaccine whose ability and safety are inadequately understood because of the opacity of Russia’s protocols. 

Then why people of their country have not held their leaders accountable for the failure in handling this situation? Answer lies in the following propositions that shape the view of general public towards their leaders. 

What are the limits of political accountability exposed during the pandemic? 

Three propositions frame this analysis: 

  • Prospective Accountability: It is often understood that the voters vote retrospectively, i.e., give their judgement in the elections by voting based on the incumbent’s record. Instead, they vote prospectively, i.e., against candidates who the voters fear would put the opponents to a disadvantage. 
  • Underestimation of collective action: Second, disease, unlike war, does not offer a clear enemy to target. Public health advice that stressed the need for personal responsibility to stay home, wear a mask, washing hands. It underestimated the challenge of collective action predicted on millions of individual responses. 
    • It emphasises person’s responsible for own health, then getting sick is also his own fault. It absolves the govt. off the responsibilities.  
  • Poverty of collective empathy: Third, the coronavirus pandemic reveals our inability to empathise with what we do not see. For example, thousands of deaths due to pollution and road accidents go unnoticed, unlike thousands of deaths by COVID-19;  

What is the way forward? 

  • Prolonged economic suffering demands government remedy more immediately as without some measure of accountability, democracy loses its power, and so do the people. 

Why call for a comprehensive Public Health Act was much needed? 

Source- The Hindu 

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

Context – India’s COVID-19 management explained by parliamentary panel and the key recommendation. 

What are the key findings of parliamentary standing committee? 

  1. Low beds ratio– Before COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of government beds were terribly low in India. This amounts to 0.55 beds per 1000 population. 
  2.  The burden of extending comprehensive healthcare has been borne by the Government hospitals as private hospitals were either “inaccessible or not affordable
  3.  Low government spending – Public expenditure on health accounts for only 1.13% of the total health expenditure which is extremely low when compared to WHO recommendation of 5%. 
    1. Results in lack of infrastructure in public hospitals. 
  4.  Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has capped the maximum age of entry for a standard policy at 65, which affects older citizen during such crises.  
  5. Surge in insurance premiums up to 25 percent in the wake of the pandemic  

What are the recommendations of parliamentary committee? 

  1. Need for a comprehensive Public Health Act – Taking note of complaints against private hospitals, it advocated the need for a “comprehensive Public Health Act” at national level with provisions to keep “checks and controls” over private hospitals.  
    1. The proposed Act should also keep a check on the black marketing of medicines and product standardization. 
  2. The panel has called for an omnibus law that will curb profiteering during such crises and it can serve a larger purpose if it covered overall system reforms,  addressing misguided policies 
  3. Cashless health insurance– The committee strongly recommends that the target should be to make COVID-19 treatment cashless for all people that are having insurance coverage. 

 However, the committee missed out on a few observations 

  • Surge in Insurance premiums- Insurance companies have raised the premium on health policies, especially for senior citizens, to even up to 25% of the insured value.  
  • Moreover, insurance regulator, IRDAI, set 65 as the maximum age of entry for a standard policy earlier this year, affecting older uninsured citizens. 

What needs to be done? 

  • Firstly, creating an equitable framework, with the government being the single and sole payer to care providers. With this, the government is able to resist commercial pressures in determining costs. 
  • Secondly, the legal reform must provide for a time-bound transition to universal state-provided health services. 
  • Lastly, there should be more investments in health infrastructure for the rapid scaling up of public health services.  The need to spend at least 2.5% of the GDP on health, the Indian government only spends about 1.3% of the GDP on the sector. 

How to improve tribal Education in India? 

Source: Click here 

Context: In order to revamp the tribal education system, the educationists intend to recognise tribal culture, language, cognitive strength, curriculum and inherent learning ability of the tribal children. 

Although several initiatives like establishment of Ashram Schools, Ekalavya Model Residential Schools, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya have been taken, there are many challenges in ensuring holistic education in the tribal hinterlands. 

What are the reforms required in tribal education system?  

  • Teacher-student relationships: Teacher-student relationships are a very important factor as healthy relationships will promote meaningful learning in classrooms. 
    • It should be the responsibility of the teachers to spread, respect and value the culture, traditions, mannerisms, languages of the tribal students. 
  • Teaching in mother tongue: The students should be taught in their mother tongue and every state must have adequate facilities for the same, as stated in Article 350A of the Indian Constitution. Resolute efforts by states are needed to overcome the language barrier. 
    • For instance: 
      • The Odisha Government and civil society organizations have made some efforts to educate the Gonds, Bhils, Santals, and other tribal groups in their mother-tongue. The literacy rate among some of these tribes has gradually gone up over the years. 
  • Decentralised syllabus: The deputy director of Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) has suggested that the syllabus of textbooks should be decentralised and the socio-cultural and economic situations of tribal people should be kept in mind while preparing learning material. 
  • Exploring folklore: The schools should explore folklore in primary education, which would help tap tribals’ rich tradition in arts, crafts, music, songs, fables, etc. Similarly, stories and riddles should be collected, documented, and used by teachers.  
  • Making it inclusive: Incorporation of tribal youth in their culture is vital. In order to ensure their active participation and cooperation in sensitisation programmes on the importance of education, the government should work with the tribal leaders. 

What is the role of United Nations? 

  • UNICEF, in collaboration with UNESCO, is supporting the Union government to achieve quality education for all children between 6 and 14 years. The key areas for cooperation include: 
  • Reaching out to vulnerable and deprived children. 
  • Adapting international practices. 
  • Supporting care providers and community advocates to demand inclusive and quality education. 
  • UNICEF is also lending its support for the development of child-friendly schools and systems (CFSS). Assistance has also been provided for monitoring tools and the integration of CFSS indicators into state plans in support of making child-friendly schools. 
  • Under Promoting the Rights of Disabled Children to Quality Education project, UNICEF provides support to states to make primary education curriculum more inclusive for children with disabilities and building the technical capacity of teachers. 

Steps by the Indian government to promote tribal education: The formation of Ashram Schools, Ekalavya Model Residential Schools, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, pre-matric scholarships and vocational training centres. 

What is the way forward? 

  • Firstly, there should be a collaboration and strategic dialogue between government, policy-makers, and international development institutions to mutually put efforts to address the chronic problems and allocate adequate funds from central and state budget for tribal education.  
  • Secondly, policy framers need to focus on a long-term strategy to enhance educational status of tribal children. 
  • Thirdly, equal access and opportunities should be given to tribal children to empower them. 
  • Lastly, tribal communities will have to be uplifted economically and educationally for promotion of a socio-economically integrated healthy society in the remote pockets. 

GS Paper – 3

India and EU cooperation on Climate Neutrality

Source: The Hindu

GS3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation.

Context: How India and EU are working towards the goal of mitigating climate change and what needs to be done further.

In the Post-Covid world, investment towards greening the global economy has become a necessity so that situation doesn’t get any worse than at present, due to climate change. India and EU are taking many positive steps towards greening the global economy.

What were the steps taken by EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2050?

  • Firstly, to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, the European Commission has launched the European Green Deal (a new growth model and roadmap).
  • Second, EU has designated more than half a trillion euros to address climate change by 2050 under “Next Generation EU” recovery package and long-term budget.
  • Third, EU leaders have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. Achieving this target will also help them to save up to €3 trillion by 2050.

How EU countries and India has been responded to climate change?

No country alone will be able to deal with the issue of climate change, thus There is a need to foster cooperation with partners from all around the world on the same format as has been done by EU and India;

  • Firstly, with participation of EU countries like UK and France, India has taken several initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, and the Leadership Group for Industry Transition to tackle climate change.
  • Second, India and Europe are engaged to make upcoming COP 26 in Glasgow on climate change and COP 15 in Kunming on biodiversity successful.
  • Third, Team Europe has assured close cooperation with India on green investments and the sharing of best practices and technologies.

What is the Way forward?

  • Clear targets: International community need to come forward with a clear strategy for net-zero emissions and to enhance the global level of ambition for 2030.
  • Climate Financing: There is an urgent need to mobilize $100 billion to countries most in need, together with the commitments from the receiving countries.
  • Individual actions: Along with good public policies, countries need to foster small individual actions to attain a big collective impact.
  • Collective action: Countries should mobilize best scientists, business people, policymakers, academics, civil society actors and citizens to achieve climate neutrality.

By ensuring cooperation and taking all necessary steps most dramatic impacts of climate change on our societies can be avoided otherwise out next generation will have to bear the burden of climate change and pay off the debt of the recovery.

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Context: The government has decided to keep the critical provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) of 2016 in a state of suspension till March 31, 2021. 

What is the ordinance? 

  • The government had raised the threshold of loan defaults that would spark off insolvency proceedings from ₹1 lakh to ₹1 crore on the day of the lockdown’s announcement. 
  • An order, in June, indefinitely barred the beginning of insolvency proceedings for defaults arising on or after March 25, 2020, for a period of six months that could be stretched to a year.  

What are the possible effects of such a move? 

  • On recovery: It could act as an hindrance to the government’s proclamations of a V-shaped recovery. 
  • On sectors: Businesses in the sectors, which are returning to the pre-COVID levels may not be required to be protected from exits if they are not competitive. 
  • On small and medium businesses: If the government is concerned about small and medium businesses, it could squeeze the default threshold limit a bit higher, while letting bankruptcy processes function again for larger loan accounts. 
  • On banks: A catch-all suspension may burden the banks further. 
  • On the industry: Cutting off the ability of businesses to enter insolvency voluntarily may also act against the interests of the industry. 
  • On borrower and the lender: In the absence of an exit-route, the assets of the firm would lose value. Thus, it would negatively affect the lender and the borrower. 

 What is the way forward? 

  • A more nuanced approach would have been better for banks, businesses and the economy. Delaying the unavoidable would mean greater financial stress ahead, as the restructuring and recovery of bad loans shall get slower and future growth momentum would be pricked at the cost of understating present systemic stress. 

How farm laws are Protecting Farmer’s interest?

Source: Indian Express

GS3: Issues related to Direct and Indirect Farm Subsidies and Minimum Support Prices

Context: Farm laws enacted by government will protect farmers’ interest only by providing them more option to sell their produce and enter into agreements with corporate buyers. Apprehensions are misplaced.

Why there is need for reforms?

  • The mandi trader role in APMC mandis reduces the net received by the farmer to below MSP due to the off-book trader’s commissions. Thank
  • Still farmers are compelled to sell their produce to traders as each trader in the mandi has built relationships with a set of farmers and provide them with credit, thus the farmer sells his produce only through that trader, to have the credit/advance against such sales adjusted that reduces his profit realisation.
  • It is the reason behind Strong opposition by the mandi traders on bringing reforms to the APMC laws for long time. For example, In Rajasthan 2004, a Cabinet-approved amendment to the APMC Act had to be withdrawn because traders went on strike.
  • But farmer’s opposition to these bills is not rationale as according to many experts allowing/introducing more buyers for farm produce, would further reduce exploitation of farmers because if there are an unlimited number of buyers a farmer can sell to whoever offers the best price.

How the changes brought in three farm laws will benefit farmers?

  • First, The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 benefits the farmers by providing farmers the freedom to sell either outside or to the mandi and enables buyers to buy at “farm gate”, without the necessity of a mandi licence.
    • However, farmers are in the misconception that this reform is a precursor to the abolition of mandis and MSP. But it is not true as it would be politically suicidal for any government.
    • Even, the government is ready to provide assurance to the farmers on their continuation, and to make mandi fee applying to private “mandis” as well.
  • Second, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, provides for contract farming that will help the farmer to transit to commercial crops, such as vegetables and fruits, which give higher returns than food grain sold at MSP.
    • Contract farming will provide assured return for farmers even if there is excess production and market fall.
    • In case of contracted prices lower than market prices there are provisions to share the excess windfall to the farmers.
  • Third, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 will help the farmers to build better supply/marketing chains and have the potential of getting higher prices/returns for the farmer.
    • Whereas the earlier EC Act served the interest of urban middle classes, by trying to get farm produce to them at low prices. It has also led to discourage investments in cold chains, warehouses, etc.

So, why the Farm laws that has tremendous opportunity and potential to change the lives of farmers are being opposed. The answer partly lies in the way the MSP scheme works in certain states, and the way “big” farmer-trader relationships have worked out in such states.

Air pollution killed 1.7 million Indians in 2018 – Lancet report

Syllabus: GS-3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

News: A report titled “The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative” was published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.

Facts:

  • India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative: It was launched in 2015. It is a collaboration between the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Public Health Foundation of India(PHFI), Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation(IHME) and senior experts and stakeholders currently from about 100 institutions across India.
  • Purpose: The initiative estimates health and economic impacts of air pollution, both from indoor and outdoor sources.
  • Aim: There are state-wise and country wide variations in health status and the drivers of health loss. This initiative aims to bridge this gap by providing systematic knowledge of the local health status and trends in each state.

Key Takeaways of the report:

  • Deaths due to Air Pollution: Some 1.7 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019 which is 18% of the total deaths in the country.
  • Disease Burden: 40% of the disease burden due to air pollution is from lung diseases, the remaining 60% is from ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and neonatal deaths related to preterm birth,
  • Indoor vs Outdoor Air Pollution: The mortality from indoor air pollution reduced by 64% between 1990 and 2019, that from outdoor ambient air pollution increased by 115% during this period. Due to Indoor pollution, Goa had the least loss at $7.6 million and UP the highest at $1829·6 million.
  • Economic Loss due to Air Pollution: India has lost 1.4% of GDP due to premature deaths and morbidity from air pollution. It is equivalent to Rs 2,60,000 crore in monetary terms — more than four times of the allocation for healthcare in the Union budget for 2020-21.
  • Economic loss to State GDP: The economic loss due to air pollution as a percentage of the state GDP was higher in the northern and central India states, with the highest in Uttar Pradesh (2.2% of GDP) and Bihar (2% of GDP).Further, the highest health and economic impact of air pollution is in the less developed states of India.
  • Highest Per Capita loss: Delhi had the highest per-capita economic loss due to air pollution followed by Haryana in 2019.

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