9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 11, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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Table of List  9 PM Current Affairs Articles

  1. Why China should be seen as a partner by India?
  2. Privacy Issues in government-backed Apps
  3. Hard Sovereignty and its consequences
  4. Budget 2020-21 didn’t address the core issues of the ailing health sector
  5. Misuse of Specialised agencies

Why China should be seen as a partner by India?

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis: India should acknowledge the rise of superpower China and prepare to complement its role in reviving the rule-based global order. It should start looking at China as a partner, instead of a rival.

Background

  1. Recently, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that both India and China remained committed to a multipolar world. They should also recognize that a “multipolar Asia” was one of its essential constituents.
  2. India should also come out of the developing country’s mindset and make more clear choices. 
  3. India’s major concerns are related to China and the new US administration looks at China as a ‘strategic competitor’ rather than a ‘strategic rival’.
  4. On the security issues, India should not compromise on its strategic autonomy for the US or any other country. It should look for the options of cooperation with China also.
  5. In this context, we will discuss how coping with china in the areas where India too has interest can become a win-win situation for both the Asian giants.

How effectively India utilizes its principle of Strategic autonomy?

India pursues its strategic autonomy more effectively than ever in the historical past. For example,

  1. India has a “special and privileged strategic partnership” with Russia and a “comprehensive global strategic partnership” with the US.
  2. However, India has been cautious in the relationship with the U.S.-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. 
  3. India’s strategic autonomy is also reflected in India’s participation. It is involved in both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by china against western interests and in the US-led Quad, against China.

Why China should be seen as a partner, competitor rather than as rival?

  1. First, in the financial sphere, China will soon become the world’s largest economy. For the first time, the Fortune Global 500 list contains more companies based in China, including Hong Kong, in comparison to the U.S.
  2. Second, also, there is a possibility that the Chinese renminbi becomes a global reserve currency or e-yuan becomes the currency of digital payment. For example, the BRI countries are using the renminbi in financial transactions with China.
  3. Third, despite the sanctions imposed by the US, the EU created its own cross-border clearing mechanism for trade with China. All these developments signify the rise of China over the U.S.
  4. Fourth, apart from this, China is now the second-biggest financial contributor to the UN. Also, it has published more high-impact research papers than the U.S.
  5. Fifth, it has also enhanced its ‘soft power’ similar to the levels achieved by the U.S.
  6. Sixth, also, China’s engagement with Eurasian landmass has made one thing sure that the ASEAN countries will not easily move out of the BRI infrastructure, digital, finance and trade linkages.

What needs to be done?

  1. Similar to the EU, India needs to see china as a partner, competitor, and economic rival depending on the areas of interest.
  2. In this context, India needs to push the Quad members for assisting the infrastructure development of the BRI. However, it should be in line with the strategic concerns of the region.
  3. India and other Quad members can contribute to the development of scientific, technological capacity, and digital economy of BRI countries. It is more fruitful compared to developing an alternative development model.
  4. Similarly, India needs to take steps to reform the global governance to accommodate multiple views of different stakeholders. For example, with respect to digital data, India has recently expressed that there must be reciprocity in data sharing.
  5. Moreover, ASEAN countries are willing that India rejoin RCEP to balance China. Other countries are also admitting the bigger role that India can play in the near future.

Thus, as mentioned above, India should act as an emerging superpower. The Asian giants, India and China can have complementary roles, share prosperity and at the same time be independent of each other and of the West.


Privacy Issues in government-backed Apps

Source- The Hindu

SyllabusGS 3 – Awareness in the fields of IT, space, computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights IPR.

Synopsis- Data privacy issues related to government technology platforms and their possible solutions.

Background-

  • Recently, WhatsApp has rollbacked their privacy policy after facing a huge backlash from users. Many users started switching to competitor apps such as Signal and Telegram.
  • This shows that Indian consumers are becoming more aware and concerned about data privacy.
  • However, since the first COVID lockdown, at least 35 mobile apps have been launched across India. All these apps specifically address COVID-19 related information. But the privacy issues in these apps have not been addressed. 

What are the challenges with government technology platforms?

  1. First, Government monopoly – Governments typically have a monopoly in providing public services. Thus, porting out or digital migration is not possible in that case. For example, there is no alternative to Aadhar, Aarogya setu app.
  2. Second, lack of consistency– Most of the COVID-19 apps launched by State governments have lacked consistency in terms of the features, functionalities, and information updates. This is due to the reason that updation of data in government tech platforms carried out manually.
  3. Third, Data privacy is also a cause of concern in many of these government applications. For example- Most of the apps are only informative and intended to issue advisories. But they have sought permissions for location, photos, storage, and camera.
  4. Fourth, most of these apps failed to meet the necessity and proportionality principle of data privacy.
      • Necessity- According to this principle, data must be adequate, relevant, and limited to the purpose for which they are processed. In simple words, is the data necessary for the mobile application to achieve its goal?
      • Proportionality- If the action must be sanctioned by law, then it must have a legitimate aim. Apart from that, there must be procedural guarantees against any abuses also.

What needs to be done to improve government technology platforms?

  1. First, The government should work on a collective database structure by combining two or more state/organisation’s apps. This can prevent multiple unwanted permission requests in apps and can also address data privacy issues. For example, integrating Aarogya Setu app with the State mobile apps to provide integrated service.
  2. Second, the government can follow a decentralized approach. Many European countries are moving towards a decentralized system for contact tracing apps. These apps offer greater protection against abuse and misuse of people’s data compared to centralized apps. This is because,
      • The chances of data abuse and misuse are less because information resides in many individual systems and not in a centralized system.
  3. Third, clear regulation on government technology platforms. This can contribute to improve public services and also improve public trust in the government’s technology initiatives.
  4. Fourth, structured audit on government-backed technological initiatives. The negatives can be rectified and improve public services. The positives, on the other hand, will boost the government as a potential service provider.

Way forward

State governments’ launched mobile apps have proved that the government has the capacity to deliver technology services to people. But it needs a little course correction to improve public confidence.


Hard Sovereignty and its consequences

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2: Development Processes and the Development Industry — the Role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

Synopsis: India’s posture as hard sovereignty will be harmful to India’s national interest in the long run.

Background

  • Some recent developments in India suggest that India has developed a new posture of engagement with the world i.e. ‘The hard sovereignty’. This posture suggests that any outsider cannot involve in India’s internal affairs.
  • This posture will be harmful to the country as well as the external relations of India.

What was the issue? 

  1. Some recent developments in India have attracted international criticisms. Such as abrogation of article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the enforcement of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens and the Delhi riots.
  2. The Centre has repeatedly asserted that these issues are India’s internal matters and outside criticisms will not be accepted on these issues.
  3. Against this backdrop, recently the External Affairs Ministry issued an official statement. In it, the ministry expressed displeasure over the social media remarks by global celebrities on farmers’ protests.
  4. Moreover, it was followed by the tweets of India’s well-known personalities Such as Sachin Tendulkar. These tweets had a message that outsiders have no right to participate in India’s internal issues, only Indians can ‘decide’ for India.
  5. These statements illustrate the use of hard sovereignty to protect India’s domestic polity.

How the use of Hard sovereignty will impact India’s national interest?

  1. Since independence, India has guarded its sovereignty against outside interference. However, it was used to achieve progressive goals and acted as a bulwark against the misuse of power by powerful nations.
  2. In contrast, the recent posture of hard sovereignty seeks to attack international criticism over unpleasant domestic developments. This is a case of hyper-nationalism, and it will harm the national interest.
  3. First, India aims to increase its status and strategic influence in the global sphere. However, it depends on the relation with liberal democracies.
    • On the strategic front, five of India’s key partners in the Indo-Pacific are democracies (Japan, Australia, the U.S., the U.K., and France). All of them share common norms and beliefs that human rights are universal. These countries are the source of the majority of the criticisms received by India in the past 2 years.
    • If India resorts to hard sovereignty over domestic issues, it will face frictions in its diplomatic relations. This will restrict India’s chance for increasing its status and strategic influence in the global sphere.
  4. Second, hard sovereignty will strengthen the narrow-mindedness in India and affect the morale of non-violent social movements. These movements are necessary for keeping democracies in a good health.
    • Social movements do not follow the orders and trends of sovereign states. Hence, they source their support through transnational solidarities to bring important policy corrections within and across states. For example, Black Lives Matter movement.
  5. Finally, it will provide a ground to our neighbouring countries for criticizing India’s policy, on the grounds of inconsistency with its stand in international forums. For example, the CAA, 2019 was criticized by India’s Muslim-majority neighbours for its non-secular treatment towards its minorities.
    • It will reduce India’s choices of seeking international support for human rights violation in the neighbourhood. For example, Human rights violation in Balochistan, Rohingya issue etc.
  6. We need to guard ourselves against interventions coming from vested interests. However, we also need to distinguish the good criticism from the bad. To retain India’s position as the soft power capital we need to allow and listen to critics that are important to sustain India’s democracy.

Budget 2020-21 didn’t address the core issues of the ailing health sector

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2: issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Synopsis: Four important issues ailing the health sector did not find a place in the budget.

Background

  1. The budget allocation for the health sector in 2021-22 was (24 lakh crore) 137 % more than the previous year (69,000 crores).
  2. However, the actual share of Health and Family Welfare was only a third of the total allocation of Rs. 24 lakh crore.
  3. This is because, the increase in budget for ‘Health wellbeing’ also included funds for drinking water, sanitation, nutrition, AYUSH, health research, vaccination as well as grants assigned by the 15th Finance Commission.
  4. Also, a new centrally-sponsored scheme PM Aatmanirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana was announced as a part of Budget 2021-22.
  5. Even in this case, the funds allocated to this new scheme will be materialized only when the programmes are implemented.

What are the critical issues that have not been addressed by the Budget 2021-22 in the health sector?

Despite the above measures introduced in the Budget 2021-22, it has failed to address the four critical issues ailing the health sector. They are

  1. First, the Budget has failed to find a solution to bring down the costs of outpatient treatment.
    • Under Aayushman Bharat, 50 crores of eligible poor people are entitled to cashless hospitalisation. However, the cost of drugs, the high cost of high-end diagnostics leads to high out-of-pocket expenditure before a patient needs hospitalisation.
    • This ultimately reduces the number of people using affordable health care services. It defeats the very purpose of Aayushman Bharat.
  2. Second, Insurance coverage for the middle class is not adequate. Under the Ayushman Bharat health Programme, only 50-crore poor people are covered.
    • Whereas another  10 per cent organised sector employees are covered by different government or employer generated medical coverage schemes.
    • Still, around 30 crore Middle-Class Indians are without any state-supported medical insurance.
  3. Third, the Budget has failed to give effect to the 2017 National Health Policy recommendation. The Policy recommended for grading of clinical establishments to protect consumers rights. The states have not implemented the model Clinical Establishments Act 2010.
  4. Fourth, the need for a separate Empowered Medical Tribunal as recommended by 2017 National Health Policy, has not been addressed. The complexities of medical negligence or malpractice cannot be addressed by the Consumer Protection Act 1986. Thus, a separate health regulator on the lines of the State and Central Regulatory Commissions is critical for the health sector.

What needs to be done?

  1. A viable solution is required to reduce out of pocket expenditure in outpatient care services. This will make public health services more affordable.
  2. Some international models can be analysed for health care funding:
    • In Germany and France, health care is funded through mandatory contributions of both employer and employees.
    • The Canadian model: The Canada Health Act of 1984 makes federal cost-sharing a government responsibility. Healthcare entitlements in Canada are also portable across the country.
  3. The Employees State Insurance Corporation scheme created in 1948 could also be modified and used to cover white-collar employees in the unorganized sector.
  4. Public health and hospitals can be brought on the concurrent list of the Constitution as recommended by the 15th Finance Commission. This will bring uniform principles and regulations throughout the state and ensures standards in consumer protection.

Misuse of Specialised agencies

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.

Synopsis: Governments’ actions against journalists have raised suspicion. Specialised agencies are being used to curb dissent.

Background

  1. Recently, the Enforcement Directorate raided the office of independent digital news platform News Click.
  2. The ED is investigating the involvement of the digital news platform in the alleged money-laundering of ₹30 crores.
  3. It is unclear that News Click in any way is related to the alleged money laundering.
  4. However, critics alleged that this operation is in response to the in-depth coverage of ongoing farmer protests and country-wide protests against the CAA, earlier.
  5. Organizations representing the media have raised their concerns over this action.

Why the ED’s raid has raised suspicion?

The following arguments will explain the reason for rising suspicion on government actions.

  1. In many instances, the government has used central agencies such as the CBI, ED, IT, and even the NIA to attack its critics. For example, Journalists who are reporting on farmer protests are facing repressive action.
  2. It is also a fault on specialized agencies to be politically involved. It is against the principles of non-partisanship.
  3. Laws that are used against critics on a regular basis, should be used in extreme offenses that too as a last resort. For example,
    • Law of Sedition, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act based on the allegation of anti-national activity, Promotion of social enmity or outraging religious sentiments laws.
  4. Some relief has been provided by the Supreme Court in the past. However, it is not possible in every case.

A responsible and responsive government should be open to the voices of critics. Indeed, dissent is an essential part of the Democracy.

 

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