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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 23, 2021

Good evening dear reader

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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We know for a fact that learning without evaluation is a wasted effort. Therefore, we request you to please go through both our initiatives i.e 9PM Briefs and Factly, then evaluate yourself through the 10PM Current Affairs Quiz.

We plan to integrate all our free daily initiatives to comprehensively support your success journey.
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Why India-China Border disputes are unresolved?

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – India and its neighbourhood- relations

Synopsis: India and China signed several bilateral agreements for border disputes resolution. However, it has not been to ensure permanent peace at the border.

Background

  • The year 2020 witnessed increased India – China border tensions in the Ladakh region, especially the Galwan valley. The incident involved an armed conflict in which soldiers from both sides died. 
  • It happened despite signing numerous agreements in the past for settling border disputes.

Efforts of bilateral issues resolution between India and China

The agreements were aimed at restoring peace and promoting confidence-building measures (CBMs).

YearAgreement/ Protocol
1993Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China Border Areas
1996Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field Along the LAC
2005Protocol for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the LAC
2012Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs
2013Agreement on Border Defence Cooperation
  • Key Features of the agreements:
    • Refrain from use of force against each other
    • Peaceful settlement of disputes should be undertaken
    • Mutual ascertainment of LAC and deployment of minimum armed personnel around it.
    • Prior notification should be given for conducting military exercises and flying combat aircraft within 10 km of LAC
    • Practicing self-restraint in case of face to face military contacts 
    • Stipulating the channels that should be used for communication and border personnel meetings in case of emergencies.
  • The agreements between India and China were inspired by the success of Russia – China engagements.

How China- Russia resolved bilateral disputes?

  1. The relations between China and Russia marked by military confrontation along the border in the 1960s. However, the disputes were duly tackled by new leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev. He promoted CBMs (confidence-building measures) for dispute resolution.
  2. Both countries developed a strategic partnership based on equality and mutual trust.
  3. In 1990, an Agreement on the Guidelines of Mutual Reduction of Forces and Confidence-building in the Military Field along the border was signed.
  4. In May 1991, an Agreement on the Eastern Sector of National Boundaries was concluded by the two countries. This resolved  98% of outstanding boundary issues.

What were the reasons for the success of the China-Russia agreements?

  1. Unilateral concessions were made by the bigger power (Russia). 
  2. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought the two countries closer against the common enemy (US).
  3. They identified common interests that helped them build broad and institutionalized relationships.  

Why are border disputes still persistent between India and China, despite agreements?

  • First, As per China, Tibet never had the sovereign rights to conclude agreements. Therefore, recognition of the McMahon line (Line of actual control) by India based on Tibet’s past agreement undermined China’s sovereignty.
  • Second, China’s approach of following a forward policy in the western region often leads to clashes along the border. The recent one is the Galwan valley clash of 2020.
  • Third, being the bigger power, China has never shown its will for unilateral and asymmetric concessions.
  • Fourth, the agreements signed between the countries were not nurtured in an environment of equality and mutual trust.
  • Fifth, the countries have failed to publish a joint declaration on LAC. This is necessary for promoting CBMs between the countries.

Way Forward:

  • China needs to change its traditional stance of assertiveness along the border which would help in better implementation of bilateral agreements. 
  • Further interaction in other spheres like trade and commerce should be carried out despite border tensions as done by both countries till now. 

Challenges in controlling Zoonotic diseases in India

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 3: Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Synopsis: India can turn into a hotspot for zoonotic diseases (diseases that spread from animal to human), if not controlled now. Research must be proactive as this could be a larger crisis than the COVID pandemic.

Introduction 

During the covid-19 pandemic, Scientists developed tools to study the virus more effectively. Further, they also set up channels to test the efficacy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs. But the challenges of Zoonotic diseases still exist.

Vulnerability of India to Zoonotic diseases:

Global meta-analyses mention that Zoonotic diseases are likely to emerge in areas with many mammal species. As per the analysis, high land use and land cover change, and high human population density are the reasons for zoonotic diseases.

  1. According to Global meta-analyses, India can be a hotspot for the possible emergence of zoonotic diseases in the world.
  2. India’s approach to addressing zoonotic diseases has mainly been reactive. This is evident as the research and public health intervention usually begin when there is an outbreak. 

Challenges in controlling Zoonotic diseases?

There are several scientific challenges that exist in zoonotic diseasesThey are,

  1. One cannot predict the zoonotic disease pandemic. This is evident from the recent Covid pandemic.
  2. It is hard to collect viral and bacterial samples from biodiversity. Collecting samples is nearly impossible from wild reservoirs like bats and rodents.
  3. It is impossible to monitor and control biodiversity hotspots. Further, the government cannot detect the transmission of the pathogen from one hot spot to another.
  4. Moreover, it is difficult to predict the evolutions of pathogens and their relation with the hosts (animals). It is also evident in the COVID pandemic.

Suggestions:

Scientists have to conduct interdisciplinary research and sustained efforts to reduce challenges. So, Scientists from various domains have to come forward and work for a common cause just like they did for covid testing and vaccinations. 


Science and Technology in India’s foreign policies

Source: The Hindu 

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

Synopsis: Covid-19 Pandemic provided India an opportunity to mainstream science and technology (S&T) in its foreign Policies. It became possible due to the past achievements by the country in the domain of S&T.

Background:

  • The roots of India’s scientific programs can be traced to the 1959 speech delivered at the Indian Science Congress by Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • He called for a focus on robust scientific research and seeking international scientific advancements.
  • Strong countries like the US tried to curb the country’s advancements in important spheres like nuclear and space programs. However, despite this, the country managed to augment its S&T potential. 

‘Science and Technology’ in International Relations:

  • The country gave significant support to Asian and African nations especially in the field of health. This strengthened its relation with Global South.
  • In the 1990s, after liberalization, India asserted its scientific interest in a better way. It established the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India in 1999. 
  • An improvement in Nuclear and Space programs was also seen in the 21st century. It was facilitated by growing ties with the US and their joint vision to curb China’s assertiveness.
  • It also signed strategic partnerships with countries like the UK, Canada, etc. that had substantial S&T components.
  • The country’s Science and Technology Policy 2003 and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 clearly relate international S&T cooperation with the national interest.
  • To boost international S&T collaboration, A Cyber Diplomacy Division, an E-Governance & Information Technology Division, and a New Emerging & Strategic Technologies Division under the Ministry of External Affairs were also set up.
  • Very recently, India’s pharma firms such as the Serum Institute of India partnered with the U.K.’s Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine project. Similarly, Bharat Biotech produced an indigenous vaccine called Covaxin. 

India’s efforts for international cooperation during COVID Pandemic:

  • Initially, India gave medicines such as hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to over 150 countries.
  • The Vaccine Maitri program was also launched to give vaccines to other countries. 
  • India delivered vaccines to many needy countries in South Asia and South America very recently.
  • India’s response was a mark of its advancement in S&T. Moreover, responses were aligned with its Neighbourhood First, Act East, Indo-Pacific and LookWest policies.

What more should be done?

  • India should now convert the crisis into an opportunity by launching more programs like ‘Vaccine Maitri’. This program attracted appreciation from multiple countries including Brazil, Canada, and Barbados.
  • There is a need of giving greater financial devolution towards S&T for achieving self-reliance under Aatmanirbhar Abhiyan. This can be duly leveraged in international relations.
  • Further, the participation of states, universities, and the private sector in research and development efforts should also be enhanced.
  • Scientists must be made more aware of foreign policy objectives and diplomats about the latest scientific advancement in order to strengthen the integration.

Landmark verdict on Sexual harassment and its value for Women

Source –  The Indian Express, The Hindu

Syllabus –  GS 2 – mechanisms, laws, institutions, and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections

Synopsis – The key takeaways from the landmark verdict on Sexual harassment by Delhi High Court and its value for women.

Background –

Recently Delhi court has acquitted a former journalist in a defamation case filed by a former Union minister.

In this case, a journalist initially made allegations of sexual harassment against the former Union Minister. In turn, a criminal defamation case was filed in Delhi High Court against the journalist by Union Minister. However, Delhi High Court acquitted the journalist of the Criminal Defamation charges in its very recent verdict.

What is the law for Defamation?

  • Defamation – The act of communicating false statements, spoken or published intentionally with the aim to damage someone’s reputation.
  • Punishment Under section 500 of the IPC – Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or with both.

Why the Journalist was acquitted in a defamation case?

The law acknowledges that a person’s reputation cannot be used as a defense against their own bad behavior. Thus, Section 499 of the IPC prescribes several exceptions to claims of defamation. Further, the court held two important observations.

  1. The actions of a journalist are not defamation. Instead, it is the attribution of truth. Such attribution will not fall under defamation.
  2. The journalist made such actions in order to make good for the public (Public good). The Act of public good also not fall under defamation.

Court’s observation-

  • Women cannot be punished for raising their voices against sexual harassment.
  • A woman has a right to put her grievance on any platform of her choice, even after years and decades.  Because, Vishaka Guidelines and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 were not available at the time of sexual harassment
  • Only because women are not able to provide evidence, Women’s testimonies on sexual harassment cannot be dismissed as false or defamatory.
  • The right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of a woman’s dignity guaranteed under Article 21.

Way forward

  • This historic decision has set an example for women to speak up against sexual harassment regardless of time.
  • The verdict was also seen as a huge moral victory for the #MeToo movement.
  • Further, The verdict will help to prevent the unethical use of defamation law.

Australia’s news media bargaining code

Source- The Hindu

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

Synopsis – Australian government proposed a bargaining code. This code has provisions to compensate media companies for using their content.

Background

  • Australia’s recently proposed News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020.
  • The law would make technology platforms like Google and Facebook pay media publishers. The payment will be made for using their news content by social media platforms and search engines.
  • As per News agencies,  internet companies became wealthier at their expense by selling advertising linked to their reports, without sharing revenue.
  • Google accounts for 53% percent of Australian online advertising revenue and Facebook 23%.

Why this proposed law is justified?

  • First, power imbalance – Australian government intended to curb the financial imbalance between multibillion-dollar internet companies and news organizations
  • Second, negotiating power- The law will give individual publishers more negotiating leverage with internet giants.
  • Third, these provisions are not new. In France, Google was forced to negotiate with news agencies for reusing their material online under a neighboring rights’ law.

However, many experts believe otherwise:

  • The proposed code is against the principles of an open Internet.
  • The new law is a result of pressure from powerful media agencies such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Way forward-

The proposed law is an Australia Government’s effort to ensure that its economy is able to take full benefits of the growth of digital giants. By that, it is also protecting its news media houses. Other governments can also learn from Australia’s approach.


Why Sedition law needs a relook?

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS-2

Synopsis: Recent charges of sedition against individuals have brought back focus to seditions law. The oppression of dissenters is more dangerous for society. It creates more division in society compared to seditious acts. 

Introduction 

In Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar (1962), the Supreme Court defended the constitutional validity of sedition. It noted that it is a reasonable restriction on free speech as provided in Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

The court also made clear that an individual has the right to speak or write anything about the government. However, it should not result in inciting people to violence against the government. 

Why does the sedition law need a relook?

In the Aseem Trivedi case, the Bombay High Court issued guidelines which the police must follow in a sedition case. These guidelines include an objective evaluation of the seditious material. By that police must form an opinion on whether the words and actions caused disaffection and disloyalty to the government. However, the law needs a relook due to the following reasons: 

  • Firstly, despite repetitive warnings to law enforcement agencies by courts, there is poor implementation of guidelines given by the court. 
  • Secondly, the recent reports show that the number of cases of sedition under Section 124A increased by 160%. Whereas the rate of conviction dropped to 3.3% in 2019 from 33.3% in 2016. 
  • Thirdly, in this social media age, information travels at a lightning speed, and Cyberbullies can easily trend wrong information. Any kind of misinformation can lead to public disorder. 
  • Fourthly, the U.K. abolished the offence of sedition in 2010. Whereas, India is still retaining the law given by the British Empire.
  • Fifthly, various commissions have questioned the efficacy of such a law in the statute book. For instance, the Law Commission of India questioned how far it is justified to retain Section 124A. 

What steps can be taken to deal with sedition?

Sedition laws will not be repealed anytime sooner. In the meantime, courts can adopt an approach that can balance the issue of National security and the right to speech.  

  • At present sedition is decided based on a content-based test that reviews only the text i.e. even if a written material not caused any social unrest, it can be held a seditious text based on the words used.  
  • Courts must adopt an effect-based test that examines the effects of the seditious text. It means whether the text resulted in violence or not.
  • The principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity exists in the Preamble to our Constitution. Courts must uphold these principles. 

It is not the alleged seditious acts that are creating fragments in our society; it is in fact the persecution of individuals and labelling them that are really creating cracks in our socio-political ecosystem. 

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 23, 2021

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