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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 17, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Current affairs 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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‘ICC ruling’ over Palestinian Territories

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate

Synopsis: The recent ICC (International Criminal Court) ruling allows it to prosecute war crimes in Palestinian Territories. The ruling has been welcomed by Palestine but criticized by the U.S. and Israel.

Background: 

  • Israel had been accused of committing atrocities in Palestinian Territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967.
  • Palestine joined the ICC in 2015 but remained silent towards the atrocities during the Trump administration. It was because it didn’t want to end U.S. aid towards Palestinian Territories.  
  • It is notable that the US Congress was allowed to freeze US Aid in Palestinian territory if Palestine pursues its own legal matters.
  • The change of administration in the U.S. allowed it to be more focal in the ICC. The recent February 2021 ruling of ICC is a result of this changed stance. 

About the Ruling:

  • It allows the ICC to investigate persons committing war crimes in the Palestinian Territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • However, there is no possibility of immediate investigations, even on the cases already filed in front of ICC.
International Criminal Court:

  • It is the only court in the world to try individuals for international crimes.
  • It is headquartered in Hague, Netherlands.
  • Not only that, but it is empowered to try crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.
  • A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war which includes intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property among others.

Significance of Judgement:

  • It will ensure accountability and justice delivery in the region.
  • It will ensure that individuals and militant groups like Hamas are subjected to international law. Furthermore, it will impose adequate criminal responsibility on them.  

The response of various countries:

  • Palestine: It welcomed the judgement as a step towards correcting past injustices suffered by the country since the 1967 occupation of Israel.
  • Israel: It criticised the judgement of being Anti-Semitic and accused the court of ignoring atrocities done by Iran and Syria in the region.
  • US: It objected against the judgement and reminded that Israel was not a member of the ICC.
  • India: It has refrained from commenting on the judgement based on its geopolitical interest as both Palestine and Israel share a good bond with it.   

ICC has said that any future conduct would be based on a thorough examination of judgement based on principles of impartiality and objectivity.


Significance of Telehealth services like Remote SMAs

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted Normal health Services in India. The telehealth services like Remote Shared Medical Appointments (SMAs) should be used.

Background:

  • The March 2020 lockdown reassigned healthcare professionals towards COVID-19 specific duties.
  • This deviated the focus from other healthcare domains in India and across the world. 

How Covid-19 disrupted normal Health care services:

  • As per a survey of WHO, Essential services like immunization and childcare got disrupted in the majority of the 105 countries surveyed.
  • Around 45% of low-income countries witnessed a disruption in 75% of services. While this figure for high-income countries was only 4%. 
  • Impacts on India
    • Fear of transmission and lockdown resulted in the fall of diagnostic services. In tuberculosis detection cases 50% fall was reported from April-December 2020. Whereas, in antenatal care visits  56% decline was observed during the first half of 2020.  
    • The inequalities got widened when people in rural and remote areas were not able to travel to cities for getting specialized care.
    • However, the use of technology helped to mitigate the impact.

Virtual Consultation India 

  1. The E-Sanjeevani platform of the Indian Government provides virtual consultations to patients. It includes patient-to-provider and provider-to-provider consultation.
  2. A hub and spoke model used for this platform. It connected smartphone-equipped rural wellness centers to specialist doctors located in cities.
  3. Private players and non-governmental organizations also used the technology for reaching out to patients.

However, given the scale of India’s population which is devoid of healthcare, a switch towards remote shared medical appointments is needed.

About Remote Shared Medical Appointments:

  • Remote Shared Medical Appointments virtualizes the process of in-person shared medical appointments (SMAs). It is an effective practice in the US for more than 2 decades.
  • Thus, It involves the virtual interaction of a doctor with multiple patients having similar issues.
  • Advantages:
    • Patients get more time with doctors.
    • This process develops a sense of bonding among patients.
    • This process provides better productivity as patients learn from each other’s questions.  

Utility for India:

  1. SMAs have been very effective in the case of diabetes. It is notable that India is home to the largest number of diabetes patients.
  2. Aravind hospital in Puducherry has shown the potential of SMAs to combat glaucoma, a disease that causes gradual blindness.
  3. Offering this facility through the E-Sanjeevani platform can help the country meet the healthcare gap in rural India.
  4. SMAs will encourage people interaction and attract supplementary providers like physiotherapists and optometrists.
  5. The current COVID-19 vaccine drive will also be strengthened as providers can offer sessions to burst the myths related to vaccine efficacy.   

Way Forward:

  1. The switch to a new technique of healthcare delivery will require adequate training and mentoring of both providers and patients.
  2. Collaboration with training platforms like ECHO is desired to encourage the adoption of virtual SMAs. It trains primary healthcare providers in multiple states.
  3. India is blessed to have very low data rates where 1.5 GB data/day is easily affordable for many Indians. This automatically gives the country a significant edge towards augmenting telehealthcare.
  4. Further, the strengthening of digital health services will also be in line with WHO’s Global strategy on Digital health. It would help in realizing the dream of ‘Health for All”.

The case of Four Capitals or the Supreme Court bench in South India

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS-2

Synopsis: The proposal of four capitals may not be feasible in India. However, a Supreme Court Bench in south India can be created.

Introduction 

West Bengal’s CM Mamata Banerjee suggested that there should be four capitals of India. She is of the opinion that Parliament sessions should be held in each of the four capitals in rotation. However, the proposal is not feasible.

Why is the plan not feasible?

Each one of the Four Capitals will require parliament buildings, accommodation for all the MPs, and adjunct staff. Moreover, there will be other cost involved with it:

  1. First, if constructed, these residential accommodations would be vacant for a year or 2. There would be an added cost of traveling for all the MPs and their staff.
  2. Second, it will overburden the state police. All the MPs and their vacant accommodations will require security round the clock.
  3. Third, depending on the risk factor, enhanced security will have to be necessarily provided to a fair number of MPs.
  4. Fourth, the cost to the government exchequer to have capitals in three other States will be huge. 
    • For instance, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister proposed to shift the State capital to Tiruchirappalli in central Tamil Nadu in the 1980s. It was shelved due to the huge burden it would impose on the State exchequer. 

The case for SC bench in Southern state

The Bar Councils of the five southern States called for a Supreme Court bench in south India in 2021. This demand needs consideration.

  1. First, there is a long-distance between the southern states and Delhi. Many people cannot afford to travel all the way to New Delhi to engage lawyers and plead their cases.
  2. Second, the excessive fee of the Supreme Court lawyers in New Delhi is another constraint.
  3. Third, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal suggested that four benches of the Court of Appeal with 15 judges each should be created across the country. It will reduce the burden of the Supreme Court.
  4. Fourth, moreover, Judges would be able to go through each case thoroughly. Thus, it will ensure the delivery of a well-thought-out verdict. However, implementing this would require an amendment to the Constitution.

The way forward 

This arrangement will allow the Supreme Court to deal with constitutional issues. With cases rising in various courts, a practical solution needs to be worked out. Easy accessibility to justice for every citizen is a right that cannot be countered.


Need for a balanced approach on ‘Bilateral Investment Treaty’ for India

Source: The Hindu   

Syllabus: GS 2 – Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 

Synopsis: Sri Lanka’s revoked the East Container Terminal (ECT) agreement without any valid reasonHowever, Indian investors can’t oppose this decision under International Law, due to India’s withdrawal from Bilateral Investment treaties (BIT). This calls for adopting a balanced approach towards BITs. 

Background: 

  • An agreement to jointly develop ECT at Colombo port was signed between Sri Lanka, Japan and India in 2019. 
  • In February 2021, the Sri Lanka government pulled out from the agreement.  
  • This hampered the interest of Indian investors as they can’t approach international tribunal for protecting their interest under India-Sri Lanka BIT. 

Read more – Sri Lanka Writes Off Strategic Colombo Port Deal With India & Japan|ForumIAS Blog 

India-Sri Lanka Bilateral Investment Treaty: 

  • It governs the treatment of foreign investment between two countries on the basis of International Law. India-Sri Lanka Bilateral Investment Treaty was signed in 1997. 
  • It has a provision of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)It allows individual foreign investors to sue host states in international tribunals if treaty obligations are violated. 
  • It calls for giving Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET) to foreign investments in the host state under Article 3(2). 
    • A core component of FET is the protection of legitimate expectations of investors. 
    • In International Thunderbird Gaming Corporation v Mexico Case, the concept of legitimate expectations got clarified. 
  • It is a situation in which the act of the host state creates a reasonable expectation in the mind of the investor to act in line with such expectation. Failure to fulfil such expectations would cause damage to investors. 
  • India- Sri Lanka BIT also has a survival clause under Article 15(2)It protects investors interest for 15 years ithe treaty is unilaterally withdrawn by either party. 
  • India withdrew from the treaty in 2017 due to a high number of ISDS cases filed against it. But survival clause assures protection to Indian and Sri Lanka investors till 2032. 

Why can’t Indian investors sue the Sri Lankan Government for revoking 2019 agreement? 

  • Although the act of Sri Lanka to withdraw from 2019 agreement is a clear breach of the principle of legitimate expectation. But the Indian investors can’t appeal for protection. 
  • Survival clause gave protection to investments made before India’s withdrawal from the treaty in 2017 and not to investments after that. It is due to this cut-off date that investors of 2019 ECT agreement can’t do much regarding Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the agreement. 

 Way Forward: 

  • India must understand the reciprocal nature of BITs. The withdrawal will save it from ISDS claims but would also hamper the interest of Indian investors abroad. 
  • Decisions of withdrawal need to be taken with greater caution in a post-Covid world where the probability of taking arbitrary actions by foreign governments is quite high. 
  • The need is to adopt a balanced approach towards BITs that doesn’t subject India to multiple ISDS claims nor harm the interests of Indian investors in foreign countries. 

Issue of MSP Calculation and farmer’s demand

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 3 Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

Synopsis:  As per the government, M S Swaminathan report’s recommendations on MSP are already implemented. However, protesting farmers and farm experts contest the claim.

Introduction 

Protesting farmers and farm experts have contested the government’s claim. They say that the government is going by its own formula and farmers’ income have not been improved yet.

  • The farmers are claiming so because the actual amount depends on the method used to calculate the cost of production.

What are the various formulas used to calculate the cost of production in agriculture?

  • There are at least six formulas to make that calculation which include A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2.
Formulas used to determine the cost of productionCriteria included
A1 method all actual expenses in cash. Included the value of hiring human resource, the value of owned machine labour, hired machinery charges, the value of seeds both farm produced and purchased, the value of pesticides etc.  
A2 method A1 plus rent paid for leased-in-land
B1 method A1 and interest on the value of an owned capital asset
B2 method B1 plus the rental value of owned land and rent paid for leased-in-land. 
C1 method B1 and the credited value of family labour
C2 method B2 and the credited with the value of Family Labour
  • M S Swaminathan report had recommended that the MSP should be calculated by including all actual farm costs as C2 along with an additional 50% margin.

What formula does the government use, to calculate MSP?

Different formulas were recommended by different committees formed for calculating MSP. For example, Dr M S Swaminathan Committee recommended C2+50%, Ramesh Chand Committee (RCC) recommended MSP on C2+10% formula.

  • First, the government used its own formula A2+ Family Labour as a cost of production. The government then pay farmers 1.5 times the amount of A2+FL. But, the increase in the revenue of farmers did not make any difference in reality.
  • Second, a comparison with the government method and Swaminathan report shows that there is a huge difference between A2+FL (Government) and C2 (Swaminathan committee) for the main crops. The value of A2+FL is much lower than the C2. 
  • Even if the costs suggested by RCC are taken into consideration,it can also improve the welfare of farmers. But the government is calculating MSP based on their own formula.

The way forward

  • Swaminathan report’s MSP formula, C2 plus 50% is better for providing farmers with a higher value for their produce.
  • Thus, the government should fix MSP by calculating C2, along with an addition of 50% margin. The MSP for wheat would be Rs 2,787 and paddy Rs 3,116 per quintal. 
  • If the RCC formula (C2 +10%) is adopted, then the MSP should be fixed at Rs 2,044 (wheat) and Rs 2,285 (paddy), respectively.

Evaluating India- China Disengagement agreement on Pongong Tso

Source: The Hindu

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

Synopsis: India-China disengagement process on the border is ongoing. There is a need for the cost-benefit analysis of this disengagement process.

Background:

  • Recently, both India and China have announced the start of disengagement between the two armies in Ladakh.
  • The current disengagement is limited to two places on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh:
    • One, the north bank of Pangong lake
    • Two, Kailash range to the south of Pangong.
  • However, the disengagement in other regions is yet to take place. The other three sites of contention on the Ladakh border are Depsang, Gogra-Hot Springs, and Demchok.

Why the disengagement from the north bank of Pangong lake got prioritized?

  1. First, nearly a quarter of all the Chinese transgressions on the LAC between 2014 and 2019 have taken place on the north bank of Pangong lake.
  2. Second, the north bank of Pan gong lake is a famous tourist spot. For example, the Hindi film 3 idiots was shot here.
  3. Third, the decision seems to be a political priority. There are habitations close to the north bank and any Chinese ingression can be easily sighted from here. Any report of Chinese encroachment will bring embarrassment to the center.

Is the disengagement from the Kailash range a good move?

  1. Kailash range was the only place where the Indian military had leverage against the Chinese army. The Chinese army was insisting on disengagement from this area first.
  2. Initially, India was pushing for a simultaneous resolution of all the flashpoints on the Ladakh border. However, it did not happen.
  3. Disengagement seems to be the right step. However, giving away the only leverage (Kailash range) that India had, along the LAC, needs to be debated.

What is the significance of Depsang plains?

Depsang plains are situated in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector. It is a strategically important place for India because of the following reasons;

  1. One, its proximity to the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road, the DBO airstrip, and the Karakoram Pass.
  2. Two, it poses threats to Indian control over the Siachen glacier.
  3. Three, it is the only area on the Indian landmass where China and Pakistan can plan a collusive military attack on India.
  4. Fourth, also, a former northern army commander identified this area as tough to defend in case of a Chinese military attack.

Thus, Depsang plains are strategically significant. India needs to find a holistic solution to Depsang issue.

How effective is the solution of creating a buffer zone?

The creation of Buffer zones has been effective to date in controlling the India-Chinese clashes around the LAC. But there are some issues,

  1. First, it denies India, access to the areas up to PP14, which it patrolled earlier.
  2. Second, there are worries that such buffer zones would lie majorly on the Indian side of the LAC. Thus converting Indian-controlled territory into a neutral zone is required.
  3. Third, ‘no petrol zones’ has not been announced publicly yet, in all the contentious border areas along LAC. For example, Kailash range. Any violation may result in a Galwan like clash.

Thus, buffer zones can only provide a temporary solution. They are no alternatives to the mutual delineation and a final settlement of the Sino-Indian boundary.

Suggestions for India

  • The  Centre for Policy Research produced a Non-alignment 2.0 strategy in 2012. It advocates for taking a prompt quid pro quo military operation in Chinese territory in case of escalation.
  • However, this strategy may result in a military confrontation. Considering India’s economic crisis, India won’t pursue a quid pro quo strategy.
  • Rather, India should enhance the deployment of troops along the LAC. It will prevent PLA ingression from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

The government has made a choice to seek restoration of peace and tranquillity on the LAC instead of a reversion to the status quo as of April 2020. Any strategic consequences of that choice should be managed by the government in the future.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 17, 2021

 

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