9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 28, 2020

9 PM DAILY BRIEF

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GS-2

  1. Examining the Strategies involved in Distributing Vaccines
  2. 2. Essentiality of Dry run for COVID vaccines
  3. State of our prisons today

GS-3

  1. Vital notes from the year 2020
  2. Lack of fiscal support could stoke inequality

9 PM for Preliminary examination

Factly News articles for December 28, 2020


1. Examining the Strategies involved in Distributing Vaccines

Source: The Hindu

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

Synopsis: The government must examine the principle underlying the triage scheme for optimised use of resources.

Background:

  • Over the next 6-7 months, India plans to vaccinate 300 million people against COVID-19 by prioritizing healthcare workers, other front-line workers and everyone who is above 50 years of age.
  • To vaccinate 300 million people, India requires 600 million doses as two doses are required per individual.
  • However, government will not have problems in acquiring the required number of doses as it has already struck a deal with the Serum Institute to acquire 500 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and also the availability of other vaccines such as Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and the Russian Sputnik V are also high.
  • But the strategies that they have planned for distribution of vaccines needs to be examined.

What are the Issues and dilemmas in the triage scheme?

  • First, government’s strategy of prioritizing the elderly people need to be re-examined because,
    • Vaccination drive should have two distinct objectives, one, providing protection to those vaccinated, and two to slow down the speed and spread of the viral transmission.
    • Providing vaccination to healthcare professionals is not in conflict with the above objective because these are individuals who have high levels of exposure and they also act as active disease vectors since they interact with large numbers of people.
    • But, prioritising the elderly people needs to be re-examined because the elderly is less mobile and have a lower level of social interaction, they are less likely to spread the virus. So, in the long run, prioritising the elderly people may not actually minimise the total social and economic cost inflicted by the virus.
    • This suggests that densely populated areas for instance, the Dharavi slum should receive far more attention than they are likely to get under the current strategy.
  • Second, the government should permit private suppliers to import and distribute the vaccine in India because,
    • Currently, government’s procurement strategy relies entirely on public resources for distribution and the government plans to bear the entire cost of vaccination without involving private hospitals.
    • But, allowing the private sector to provide additional supplies of the vaccine would not really be a bad policy decision if it would not decrease the availability of the vaccine to the poor.
    • With more and more vaccines getting approval such as the Moderna vaccine in US, there will be a significant boost in the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines which mandates the need for involving private suppliers.
    • Benefits that accrue owing to such decisions are, less waiting time for the less affluent as some of the richer individuals in the target group will opt out of the government distribution system and prefer to get vaccinated at some private outlet owing to increase in supply.
    • Another potential benefit accruing to the entire population is that the larger the numbers who get vaccinated, the lower will be the speed of virus transmission amongst the non-vaccinated.
    • Also, there are some cost benefits, for example, Belgian Minister has revealed that the European Union has agreed to pay for leading COVID-19 vaccines is substantially lower than the prices of Moderna and Pfizer. Given the large size of India’s market India has the bargaining power advantage

2. Essentiality of Dry run for COVID vaccines

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors

Synopsis:  Dry runs aimed at testing the planned operations are essential for Covid 19 vaccination process.

Background

  • In the coming weeks, the Phase-3 data of two COVID-19 vaccines tested by Indian manufacturers are expected to be submitted for emergency use approval.
  • A countrywide rollout to immunize the four high-risk groups will begin soon in India if any of the vaccines gets the approval.
  • So, to be prepared in hand the government has rightly decided to undertake a dry run for vaccine administration. The dry run is expected to be initiated this week in four States of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, and Punjab.

Why the Dry run is essential?

  • Though, India has been vaccinating millions of young children with a variety of vaccines each year the aspects of the COVID-19 vaccination Programme are new.
  • Firstly, this is the first time a vaccine to be administered outside the universal immunisation Programme and specifically for adults belonging to specific groups.
  • Second, there is a need for administering two doses of the vaccine a few weeks apart and enrolling the recipients which is different compared to our running vaccination drives.
  • Third, it will allow the administrators to check the usage of the Co-WIN IT platform for management of the entire vaccination process including data entry, allocation of date and time and a drill of session sites with test beneficiaries.
  • Fourth, it will also help to test the linkages between planning, implementation and reporting mechanisms.

What are the measures that needs to be ensured during Dry run exercise?

  • The first task is to register the recipients of vaccine identified from the from the high-risk groups on the Co-WIN platform to avoid inclusion and exclusion errors.
  • When more than one vaccine becomes available, it is essential to ensure that people receive the same vaccine twice and the exercise should confirm that the Co-WIN platform is able to generate the date and time when people can receive the second dose.
  • As no COVID-19 vaccine has undergone long-term follow-up for safety during the trial it is very essential to Check and report on all adverse events after the vaccination.
  • Regarding storage of vaccines, the existing facilities of the universal immunisation Programme in most districts can be used for storing the vaccines since the vaccines that are at an advanced stage of testing in India do not require ultra-low temperature for delivery and storage.
  • Also, the eexercise should look at creating additional storage capacity at these facilities to store millions of COVID-19 vaccines as the plan is to vaccinate 300 million people in the four high-risk groups for which it requires 600 million doses. 

3. State of our prisons today

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS-2

Synopsis: The under trial prisoners in the Bhima-Koregaon case had to move the courts for the basic requirements such as to get a sipper cup and a straw because the prisoner is an 80-year-old man with Parkinson’s and the other to take a pair of glasses to replace a broken pair.

Introduction

The prisons should be places of reform and rehabilitation but they have become a crowded warehouse for the vulnerable marginalised sections.

What is the state of prisons in our country?

  • Firstly, around 70 per cent of the prisoners are under trial and more than 75 per cent come from marginalised sections that hardly have knowledge about the laws. Even if they are aware, they have little option and access to any complaints mechanism.
  • Secondly, financial, infrastructural, and human resource shortages that range from 20 to 40 per cent also add to staff stress and prisoner despair.
  • Thirdly, overcrowding in prisons between 2017 and 2019 shows that overcrowding increased from 116 to 119 per cent. Some of the prisons are more than three times crowded than their official capacity.
  • Lastly, there is a serious shortage of judges which results in gathering of cases in courts, the number of cases rose from 3.5 crore to 4 crore between 2019 and 2020.
    • According to the India Justice report 2019, it takes an average of three years for the case to go across the high court and six years in the subordinate courts.

Did the attempts of prison reforms turn out to be fruitful?

The recent case of “Re Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, saw the need for systemic change in prisons as violations have become an everyday routine. There are pathways to accountability and to reform:

  • Reform attempts like the constitution of under trial Review Committees directed by the Supreme Court work occasionally. In most prisons, the Board of Visitors meant to function as an oversight mechanism are not even created.
  • The neglect of reforms by the executive and oversight bodies make sure they act as warehouses for the poor and the marginalised.

Discuss the various efforts previously taken by the court for the prisoners?

  • The Bombay High Court observed that workshops should be conducted for the prison staff to sensitise them towards the prisoners.
  • The responsibility of providing basic facilities to the prisoners is with custodial authorities as stated by the law on the provision of basic facilities.
  • The Nelson Mandela Rules 2015 issued by the UN and the Model Prison Manual 2016 by the Bureau of Police Research and Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, have detailed provisions regarding the care, treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners.
  • The Supreme Court has asked state governments to take steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prisons through a PIL filed in March 2020, which lead to more than 68,000 prisoners being released.

So many Supreme Court and high court judgments have repeated that prisoners are human beings with basic rights. The law stresses that under trial prisoners, except for being prisoned cannot be deprived of any of their other rights.


4. Vital notes from the year 2020

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS 3

Synopsis: As 2020 is coming to an end, we should ponder upon the issues the country faced this year and ensure that 2021 does not become another wasted year.

What are the issues India faced in the year 2020?

  • Pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on every segment of Indian society and infected approximately more than a crore of its citizens (1.5 lakh fatalities).
  • Border stand-off: India is facing an unexpected border stand-off situation with China in eastern Ladakh. The tensions even led to martyrdom of Indian soldiers. This has had a serious impact on India-China relations.
  • Internal Security issues: The bitterness caused by the altered status of J&K and the custody of political leaders and the Naxalite violence have resulted in serious internal problems.
  • States: There lies a grave concern for violence in the upcoming elections of West Bengal.
  • Economy: The economy is in recession. India has fallen down the scale in the Human Development Index and in the Global Economic Freedom Index.
  • New bills on social issues, for instance:
    • A law against forced conversion by marriage will intensify an already divisive society.
    • The farmers’ agitation is another instance where official inflexibility has led to a situation in which the Supreme Court had to intervene.

What should India do in the upcoming year?

Series of electoral successes for the ruling party; the personal popularity of the Prime Minister; and the absence of any strong competitor on the national stage gives the current government an opportunity to bring solid changes.

  • Firstly, India should come up with a new model of ideas for foreign policy which can be implemented. This would enable India to be viewed as the only nation in Asia that can stand-up to the China challenge.
  • Secondly, the idea that says India should look inward rather than outwards to enlarge its economy needs to be rejected, and India should enhance its export capacity.
  • Thirdly, the government should take crucial steps to resolve the troubles in the labour market caused by the pandemic and other contributory factors.
    • Creating new jobs in new industries should be a critical requirement.
    • Stimulating demand would ensure growth in job opportunities.

Way forward

  • Effective cooperation between the Centre and the States must be restored to impart confidence about India’s democratic future.

5. Lack of fiscal support could stoke inequality

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Context- India’s low level of fiscal spending could leave behind other problem and leads to inequality.

India has stood out in three distinct ways.

  • Firstly, India seems to have broken the link between rising levels of mobility and COVID-19 cases. As of now the fear of increased mobility around the festive season stoking cases has not come to bear and the fatality rate continues to fall as the recovery rate rises.
  • Secondly, India has seen amongst the smallest fiscal support packages globally, government expenditure has not grown in the year so far.
  • Third, inflation is now a big problem, CPI inflation has been outside the 2-6% tolerance band for seven months in a row.

How small fiscal support link with inequality?

  1. The government’s fiscal packages were far too modest and indirect to achieve much, some part was not covered (like the urban poor), and overall outlays were small.
  2. Rise in inequality between large and small firms –Large listed firms saw a larger rise in profits and the smaller listed firms did not do as well.
  • A combination of cost-cutting, lower interest rate environment, access to buoyant capital markets, and formalization of demand could also be a driver of the rise in individual-level inequality.
  • Impacted larger number of people– small firms are more labour-intensive than large firms. Data shows that small firms have cut staff costs by much more than large firms.
  1. Widening wealth gap– The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a huge blow to India’s middle and low-income groups. This is likely to further widen the wealth gap between India’s rich and poor.
  • For instance– Expensive passenger vehicle sales doing better than two-wheeler sales.

What are the negatives of rising inequality?

  1. Inequality could elevate inflation- People with higher incomes can offset rising inflation with rising incomes. Sadly, though, income inequality and rising inflation can entrap lower-income households in poverty.
  • For example– India has had a troubled past with services inflation. once it takes a stronghold (for instance, in 2011), it remains elevated for a prolonged period (it averaged 7.7% in the 2011-13 period).

There are three possible reasons that services inflation rises quickly in 2021-

  1. Inequality could stroke prices– The large firms and their employees do relatively well through this period, they are likely to demand more services, stoking services inflation.
  2. Pent up service demand– As a vaccine comes into play, there could be a wave of pent-up (high-touch) services demand.
  3. The service providers did not do the regular annual price reset in 2020, and may do it jointly for two years, once demand picks up.

What need to be done?

  1. Inflation control could be the main task cut out for policymakers in 2021.
  2. RBI have to take steps to gradually drain the excess liquidity in the banking sector, provide a floor for short end rates and finally narrow the policy rate corridor by raising the reverse repo rate.

Factly News articles for December 28, 2020

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