9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 16, 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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Article wise list of 9 PM Brief


List of  9 PM Current Affairs Articles

  1. Climate activist arrested in ‘Toolkit Conspiracy’
  2. Vaccination of manual scavengers must be prioritised
  3. Government’s Notice to Twitter: Why Twitter’s actions are justified?
  4. Why prices of Petrol and Diesel are rising?
  5. Deregulation of Geospatial Data: Prospects
  6. Causes of accidents in firework industry

Climate activist arrested in ‘Toolkit Conspiracy’ 

Source: The hinduIndian Express  

Syllabus: GS 2 – Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure 

Synopsis: A 22-year-old climate activist got arrested for misusing a toolkit. Such instances raise a question of alleged misuse of power by the government officials.   

Read More – Toolkit conspiracy case and its imapct on India- Explained Pointwise – ForumIAS Blog 

Background: 

  • The Delhi Police has already registered multiple First Information Reports (FIRs) post the 26th January farmer protest in Delhi. 
  • They have now arrested Disha Ravi, a climate activist from Bengaluru for editing a toolkit published on 3rd February by climate activist Greta Thunberg. It was used by social media users to protest against the farm laws.   

What is a tool kit? 

  • It is simply a document containing a set of directives for social media campaigners. 
  • It includes the hashtags to be used, persons to be targeted, duration of campaign and other things for a systematic and synchronized online campaign. 

Read more about tool kit conspiracy case 

Reason for Arrest: 

  • The allegation is that the toolkit was made by Pro – Khalistani separatists. Thus,  editing it amounted to sedition and incitement to riots. 
  • The government believes that activist is part of a global conspiracy to incite violence in the country by secessionists based in Punjab. 

Issues with Arrest: 

  • First, the Delhi Police didn’t’ seek permission from the state Police. By that, it disobeyed interstate arrest guidelines formulated by the Delhi High Court. Further the accused was not allowed to be properly represented by a counsel. 
  • Second, the toolkit doesn’t contain any directions which led to direct incitement of violence. It was a necessary condition for sedition. 
  • Third, it undermines democratic power when people are arrested due to excessive suspicion and not on merits. Thereby undermining due process. 
  • Fourth, such arrest shows non judicious use of police power which will diminish India’s Global image. 

Way Forward: 

  • The focus should be on addressing the tolerance gap in governance and not on using more repressive strategies. 
  • The masses shouldn’t feel that their rights are not respected by the government and free speech should not be curbed by illegitimate means. 
  • In the case of Ravi, an impartial investigation to establish her crime should be done. 

Vaccination of manual scavengers must be prioritised

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS-1

Synopsis:  The government is focussing on the vaccination of frontline sanitation workers. However, the most vulnerable among them, Manual Scavengers, did not get the attention they deserve. 

Introduction 

India is far behind in terms of understanding sanitation workers and their different categories. Manual scavengers belong to the lowest strata of unprotected sanitation workers.

Many people in India believe that manual scavenging is already eliminated since it is legally banned. However, the ground reality is very different.

  • Sanitation workers can be categorized into faecal sludge handlers, sewage treatment plant sanitation workers, toilet sanitation workers, public transportation site sanitation workers (railway, roads), sewer and drain sanitation workers, sanitation-waste intersection workers, etc.
  • Manual Scavengers are workers discarding human excreta manually, in any form.

The risk involved in septic cleaning is the highest. One sanitation worker dies every five days. Waste recovery sanitation workers perform the work of manual scavenging as they come in regular contact with unprotected bio-medical waste, animal faeces.

Why sanitation workers should be included in priority population for vaccines?

Vaccination of sanitation workers should be prioritized due to following reasons:

  • First, several laws banning this practice are not working properly on the ground. Sewer deaths continue to happen. Caste and economics have a role to play in the deprivation.
  • Second, the absence of a policy for the protection of the sanitation workers resulted in the loss of many lives during the initial days of the pandemic. These cases are not even mentioned in the records of the National Commission of the Safai Karmachari (NCSK).  The Safai KarmacharI Andolan (SKA) has had far better data.
  • Third, there is no social security, no accountability in the actual expenses of the rehabilitation schemes. Even no definite provision for healthcare or pension is being provided.
  • Fourth, the representation of sanitation workers is not involved during creation of policies for them. 
  • Fifth, sanitation workers are prone to long-term diseases. In many cases, they don’t even live till the age of retirement. Their children suffer from malnutrition, TB, and cholera because of their habitation around the waste generated by the cities. 
  • Lastly, the sanitation workers worked full time to ensure safety for the people during the pandemic. 

Way forward

The government must urgently prioritize vaccination for manual scavengers without giving the argument that they have already developed “herd immunity”.


Government’s Notice to Twitter: Why Twitter’s actions are justified?

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 2 : Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors.

Synopsis: Twitter has acted with reason after defying the Indian government’s legal orders. It didn’t implement the order fully and this action is desirable despite the criticism.

Introduction 

Twitter did not act in accordance with the Indian government’s orders under Section 69A of the IT Act. It was required to block hundreds of accounts under the order. 

However, Twitter has said that the list had accounts of journalists, activists, and politicians. Twitter believes that blocking these accounts would not be fair to Indian law and the platform’s contract objectives.

  • This defiance has not gone down well with the government. Independent verifications revealed that many accounts did not post messages suggesting a genocide plan but supported farmers’ protest. 

What were the criticisms against Twitter?

Twitter witnessed criticism on multiple grounds such as: 

  1. First, Twitter’s refusal shows a lack of respect for Indian law because it is bound by legal orders of the government under the Act.
  2. Second, Twitter is a private company, and it cannot decide what is proportionate or lawful. Twitter can challenge the order in a court, but cannot choose to comply partially.
  3. Third, Twitter’s decision indicates that it is denying parity to India with the U.S. The platform blocked Donald Trump’s account but refusing to block users in India.
  4. Fourth, its defiance indicates the increasing power and liberty of Big Tech. It requires a clear and plain zero-tolerance response.

Why Twitter’s actions are justified?

  1. The tension between the government and social media platforms is healthy and constructive. It keeps a balance, which was not possible if both were on the same side.
  2. Following government’s orders blindly will seriously impact twitter’s audience’s fundamental rights. Twitter also has a responsibility to ensure people’s right to free and informed speech.
  3. Big Techs has often sided with the government hurting its users’ rights. For instance, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook India failed to act on provocative posts of a member of the ruling party. It is good that Big techs are thinking about users. 
  4. Twitter didn’t ban Trump’s account all of a sudden despite the repeated promotion of lies. His account was spreading misinformation during the Capitol Hill riot.  Before suspending his account, Twitter tried to flag his content and limit its reach. A permanent ban was the last step. Demanding a direct ban is against this process of twitter. 
  5. The current incident is among the rare instances that Twitter has given equivalence to its Indian audience with that of its U.S.’s. Twitter chose to take an independent view of the matter and not blindly complied with the wishes of the government.

Way forward

  • The attempt to extend similar safeguards to Indian users as the US users enjoy is a welcome step. That would also be consistent with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UNHRC.

Why prices of Petrol and Diesel are rising?

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 3: Issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment

Synopsis: Retail prices of petrol and diesel have reached record highs in India. One major reason is a heavy tax on Petrol and diesel in India.

Introduction 

The price of petrol is touching Rs 89 per litre in Delhi and diesel reaching Rs 86.30 per litre in Mumbai. The government states that the reason behind this rise in price is an increase in global crude prices by more than 50 per cent. 

While retail prices of both fuels in other countries are just reaching pre-pandemic levels, Indian consumers are paying a lot more.

Why are consumers in India paying more for petrol and diesel?

Retail petrol and diesel prices are linked to global crude oil prices in theory. That means if crude prices fall, retails prices should come down too, and vice versa. However, this does not happen in reality especially in India.

  1. First, when global prices go up, the consumer has to pay the increase in price. But when the prices decrease, the government introduces fresh taxes to ensure that it collects extra revenues. 
    • For instance, the government hiked the central excise duty on petrol and diesel at the beginning of 2020 to boost revenues. The government did this to boost economic activity governmentThis resulted in the revenue gain to the government. 
    • Currently, state and central taxes amount to around 180 per cent of the base price of petrol and 141 per cent of the base price of diesel in Delhi. 
  2. Second, crude oil prices collapsed during the pandemic. But as economies have reduced travel restrictions, global demand has improved, and prices have been recovering.
  3. Third, the controlled production of crude amid rising demand has been another key factor in boosting oil prices.
  4. Fourth, Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are free to set prices for petrol and diesel based on international prices on paper. Increase in central levies has meant that the consumer hasn’t benefited from low international prices and has ended up bearing the cost of rising crude oil prices.

Read How India should end oil age?

Conclusion 

  • Experts suggest that the impact of rising fuel inflation has been balanced by declining food inflation. However, the consumers with greater expenditure on travel are bearing the higher prices even though the overall inflation reduced down to 4.06 per cent in January.

Deregulation of Geospatial Data: Prospects

Source: Indian Express

Gs3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life. Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology

Synopsis: Recently, the Ministry of Science and Technology deregulated the geo-spatial data and map-making in India.

What is geospatial data?

  • Geospatial data is the data about objects, events, or phenomena that are located on the surface of the earth.

Read More about Geospatial data and Geospatial policy

What is the present policy on geospatial data?

  • Till recently, the government had a near-monopoly regarding the collection, storage, use, sale, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping. This was because of concerns over internal as well as external security threats.
  • Only government-run agencies such as the Survey of India, Defence and Home Ministries were allowed to use geospatial data.
  • Whereas, the private companies needed approval from different departments of the government as well as the defence and Home Ministries. Then only, they were able to collect, create or disseminate geospatial data.
  • The lack of private participation led to the underdevelopment of the Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping.
  • The Kargil war highlighted the dependence on foreign data and the need for indigenous sources of data. Only, after the Kargil war, the government heavily invested in Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping.

Why has the government deregulated geospatial data?

The government has deregulated the geo-spatial data to achieve the following objectives:

  1. First, it will help in the timely completion of the project without delay. Over-regulation in the use of geo-spatial data has led to red-tapism. It delayed the start of projects for both private and government agencies.
      • The Deregulation now allows the Indian companies to self-attest by confirming the government guidelines. This eliminates the need for monitoring by a government agency, thereby improving ease of doing business.
  2. Second, it will help to improve the status of data deficiency in the country. Lack of appropriate data impedes planning for infrastructure, development and businesses.
      • Also, Mapping of a country as large and diverse as India with high accuracy will take decades if it is done only by government agencies.
      • Hence, incentivizing the Indian companies in the geospatial sector and increasing investment from private players in the sector will establish India as a data sufficient country.
  3. Third, the application of geospatial data has become widespread. It is no more confined to security purpose alone.
      • An increasing number of sectors such as agriculture, environment protection, power, water, transportation, communication, health (tracking of diseases, patients, hospitals etc.) currently rely on this data.
      • Geospatial data is now crucial for the government in planning for infrastructure development, social development, natural calamities etc.
  4. Fourth, it is also in line with the global consensus for open access to geospatial data. Many countries have made their geo-spatial data freely available. The new guidelines will ensure open access, except for sensitive defence or security-related data.

What impact is this expected to have?

  1. First, deregulation will ensure more This will result in more accurate data available to both the government and private agencies for planning.
  2. Second, it will promote the setting up of new Startups and businesses especially in the sector of e-commerce or geospatial based apps. This will increase employment in these sectors.
  3. Third, it also promotes the building of indigenous apps. For example, an Indian version of Google Maps.
  4. Fourth, with data collection companies working with the Indian government on various sectoral projects it is also likely to increase in public-private partnerships.
  5. Fifth, it will also boost the economy by attracting investments in the geospatial sector by companies and by an increase in export of data to foreign companies and countries.

Causes of accidents in firework industry

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 3 : Growth, development and employment

Synopsis: Labour reforms and technological advances within the fireworks industry is the need of the hour to minimise the causes of accidents in the firework industry.

Introduction 

Thousands of workers in Tamil Nadu’s famed fireworks’ industry are working in unsafe conditions. It resulted in a series of accidents. Such as

  • 20 workers died and 28 injured in the latest accident at a fireworks unit in Virudhunagar.  These incidents take place due to gross violation of norms governing the industry and human error in handling explosive substances.
  • 25 lives were lost in an accident in three fireworks factories in Virudhunagar (9), Cuddalore (9), and Madurai (7) in the past 11 months. 
  • After such accidents, only short-term action is taken. It includes
    • Registration and identification of cases,
    • Arrest the person responsible for an accident
    • Symbolic inspections,
    • Issuance of warnings and safety advisories

What are the causes of such accidents?

  • First, there is a large-scale illegal sub-leasing of workers for licenced firework units.
  • Second, there is a violation of the limit on workers to be deployed. This leads to crowding in each shed. 
  • Third, there is a piece-rate system in payment (payment to workers is provided based on the number of firecrackers produced by workers). People are tempted to produce more units per day. For example, a tired worker hurriedly emptied semi-finished crackers, which caused the recent accident.
  • Fourth, there is also a lack of trained workers. This encouraged the industry to hire new workers with limited skills leading to accidents.
  • Fifth, Unlicensed units have expanded. They mostly escape the inspection until an accident occurs. 

The way forward

  • Supervision of the chemicals to be mixed or stored is a key task to avoid casualty.
  • There should be periodic inspections at factories and strict penal action against violators.
  • Central and State governments must provide the needed manpower for enforcement agencies as the industry has grown manifold.
  • A continuous political push for labor reforms and technological innovations within the industry is also essential. 

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 16, 2021

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