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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 26, 2021

Good evening dear reader

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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Issues associated with the launch of Coronil

Synopsis: Coronil Launch event is in controversy again. Ministers and public figures must not be seen as endorsing drugs whose efficacy is in doubt.

Background

At a recent event, Haridwar-based Patanjali announced that its Coronil Ayurveda medicine has been recognized as a “supporting measure in COVID-19” by AYUSH Ministry. Ministry awarded the Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product (CoPP) as per the WHO certification scheme.

After receiving certification, the export of medicine has become possible. This event was presided by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.

The company claimed that it is the first evidence-based medicine to fight COVID-19.

This event attracted several criticisms. Indian Medical Association (IMA) criticized this promotion as unethical and a “blatant deceiving of the people of the country”.

What are the issues associated with the launch of Coronil?

  1. First, Patanjali is a private company and coronil is the product of it. As per code of act, Doctors are barred from promoting any drugs and Dr. Harsh Vardhan (Health Minister) is an ENT surgeon.
  2. Second, Baba Ramdev claimed at the event that WHO endorsed Coronil. Whereas, WHO South-East Asia in a tweet refused any such endorsement.
  3. Third, the publication of randomized clinical trial of Coronil in a research journal was also put forward as an endorsement by that magazine. These publications are nothing but an initial requirement that put forward the report in front of subject experts.
  4. Fourth, the published report reveals that medicine was tested only on 95 patients. All of them were asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic but confirmed as RT-PCR positive. This number is very small. Moreover, a large population with mild or no symptoms are getting recovered without any external intervention.

However, it is not the only case, where a drug got approved without any solid research. DGCA previously approved itolizumab by Biocon, which was tested only on the sample of 30. The Covaxin drug also hurriedly got approval and lacked solid scientific evidences.


Right to discussion of State Assemblies and interference of the Supreme Court

SynopsisRecently Facebook India head appealed in the Supreme Court against the summon by Delhi Assembly.  SC should avoid any interference in the assembly’s right to discussion on important public matters. 

Background

A few months ago, Delhi Legislative Assembly issued a notice to the head of Facebook India, Ajit Mohan. The notice was for him to appear in front of the Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee. This committee is investigating the Delhi Riots. 

Ajit Mohan filed a petition against this notice in Supreme Court. Hearing on this case is ongoing. 

This petition will have implications on the separation of powersfederalism and fundamental rights in India

Why Court should not interfere in Assembly’s right to discussion

Set of rights and immunities granted to Parliament are called Parliamentary privileges. The House of Commons has been granted the right to free speech and right to call for evidence and witnesses in the House since 1689. Both Parliament and State Assemblies are granted with same privileges. 

There are some misleading doubts that State Assemblies are on par with Parliament on these matters. 

  1. First, discussion in legislatures are not only a part of law-making, it is also used in its non-judicial power of inquiryThis inquiry power is inherent to the legislature as it is the voice of people of State. For example: States inquire into the possible ecological implications of a nuclear waste site within the State. States often hear testimony from soldiers and pass resolutions to honour the armed forces. 
  2. Second, it is not necessary that all discussions lead to law making. Some discussions end with the arguments only. Thus, interference of courts before conclusion of debate will be pointless. 
  3. Third, Co-operative federalism cannot be promoted if assemblies are barred from even discussing the matters, which are beyond their legislative competence. 
  4. Fourth, Judiciary ought not to enter the domain where it will examine the proceedings of the house. It is against the Separation of Power
  5. Fifth, experiences of Canada and Australia in this matter also, go against any Court mandated restrictions on legislative competence. 

Free speech in the House is a landmark of liberty. It allows elected representatives on behalf of people to challenge the most powerful people of the land. It would be incorrect, if Court appoints itself an arbiter of legislative discussions


Western ideas have to be adapted like China and not to be followed like India

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2 Constitution, Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries

Synopsis: The key to China’s immense growth is that it focuses on itself instead of trying to live up to the expectations of the Western countries. India could learn a few lessons from China as it struggles to match up. 

Introduction

China and India are the two oldest civilizations and also the youngest nation-states. Both countries got modernized in the late 1940s. China went ahead and imitated the USSR and its authoritarianism. 

  • China although rejected the Soviet Union as an ideal, continued with authoritarianism. India followed the path of democracy and proved western experts wrong. Because western experts predicted that Indian democracy would collapse soon after Independence.
  • Indian democracy was successful among the common people of the country. Despite that, studies generally focus on the failures of democracy in India. 
  • The greatest failure of Indian democracy as pointed out by many critics is, not able to match the expectations of western democracies.
  • However, China has not faced such criticism.

How China managed to develop on its own?

  • First, China kept local needs and aspirations in mind while using western concepts. They moulded western ideas according to their needs. On the other hand, India simply tried to live up to standards set by the west.
    • For example, China abandoned the Soviet economic model as it realized its limitations. It abandoned the Material Product System (MPS) of the Soviets. This method calculated the value of goods based on state-determined prices. It not even included the service sector.
    • China moved towards the Gross Domestic Product and start calculating the value of goods and services on market prices. This gave a psychological boost to the Chinese, and it helped revive nationalism among the young in China.
    • India used GDP calculation from the beginning. When the economy has not grown enough India did not switch to local calculation. Instead, Indian economists start convincing global and local people.
  • Second, timeline of Chinese economy growing larger than Indian economy: 
    • China adopted the GDP as a criterion to evaluate the wealth of the nation in 1993. At that time, its GDP was $0.444 trillion. It was one and a half times higher than the GDP of India.
    • India’s GDP crossed $1 trillion and China was touching the $5-trillion figure in 2008. China’s GDP remains almost five times more than India’s.
  • Last, China used and moulded western idea sets to create a knowledge economy. They spent a substantial amount of money on research and set up their own peer review systems. But India did not spend on research like China did.

Conclusion

Despite India got Independence from the British, western norms and ideas are still assimilated into the minds of Indians. This is the reason for India to remain a follower of western ideas. 


New social media rules – an analysis

Source: Indian Express 

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

Synopsis: The government announced the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The experts have welcomed the step but there are some cautious provisions in the new social media rules.

Background of the new social media rules:

  • The rise of social media resulted in enormous controlling power in the hands of big technology companies. The government took this step to regulate the misuse of power by them.
  • A core framework to determine intermediary liability was ensured by Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act. This was supplemented by operational rules and SC’s judgment in the Shreya Singhal V. Union of India case.
  • However, the intermediaries were kept immune for the content that is transmitted and stored by them. In return, they had to comply with a set of conditions that were set by the government. 
  • It is this set of conditions that got translated into Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The rules were jointly announced by the Minister for Information Technology and the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

About the new social media rules:

  • They contain fresh obligations for social media companies and platforms.
  • The user should be given a notice before its content is taken down. This improves the accountability of social media platforms.
  • The government can direct messaging platforms to tie the identity of the user with the message transmitted by him/her for strengthening traceability.
  • An oversight mechanism is being created for digital news media portals as well as for online video streaming platforms. It will perform a similar role like what the Ministry of Information and broadcasting does for T.V regulation.
  • The body conducting oversight will also be empowered with censorship and blocking powers as per Rule 13(4).

Read moreSocial Media and OTT rules

Criticisms of new social media rules:

  • Various aspects of rules were not put for public consultation especially those related to regulations of online news portals and video streaming platforms.
  • The rules allow the government to enforce a traceability mechanism. This simply means a threat to the user’s privacy It will hamper the end-to-end encryption of platforms like WhatsApp. 
  • As the new rules curtail free speech on these platforms, there will be a sense of fear among the users.
  • The IT Act doesn’t cover content authors and creators like news media, but rules have included them. This provides discretionary powers to the government. 
  • The proposed oversight mechanism doesn’t have any legislative backing which is generally given to other regulators. For example, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act provided powers to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). Under the rules, the regulation will be done by a body composed of bureaucrats. They might perform discretionary censorship.

Conclusion:

The proposed rules seem to enhance political control and enhance fear in the minds of users. They should have been formulated in a more deliberative way involving parliamentary processes. To protect citizen rights, India can frame a regulator like OFCOM in the UK. Anyway, the enactment of new social media rules is still a watershed moment that will transform the digital information ecology in India.


Problems associated with Anti Defection Law

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments

Synopsis: The problems associated with Anti defection law got highlighted again in the Puducherry assembly issue. The law was unable to provide stability to the ruling government which led to the imposition of President rule in the State.

Background:

  • Some MLAs from the ruling government resigned from the Puducherry assembly. This eventually resulted in imposition of the President’s rule.
  • This is not only the case with Puducherry, similar instances have been seen in the past in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka as well. Due to that, experts are now pointing towards the flaws of Anti defection law.

About Anti Defection Law:

  • The 10th schedule was added to the constitution by the 52nd amendment in 1985. This deals with the Anti defection process.
  • The objective behind such a law was to prevent political defections and provide stability to the ruling government.
  • As per the 10th schedule, a member can be disqualified if he/she votes contrary to his party directions. The Speaker/Chairman is the final deciding authority in this regard.
  • The law is applicable to Parliament as well as State legislatures. Further, any person disqualified for defection cannot get a ministerial position unless he/she gets re-elected.

Problems with Anti Defection Law:

  • First, the MPs or MLAs are supposed to act as per the party’s command and not by their own judgment. This undermines representative democracy as they are unable to put forward the demands of the people.
  • Second, the scope of defection is very wide as it is applicable on every bill. It is not restricted to important bills only like no-confidence motion, money bill, etc. Moreover, it is also applicable to members of Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils which don’t have a say in the stability of the government.
  • Third, it ensures that legislators are accountable to the party and not to voters. Thereby it reduces their status to mere party agents. 
  • Fourth, the elected legislators are unable to ensure independent accountability of the executive. They scrutinise the working as per collective opinion of the party. This is against the spirit of the Parliamentary system which was adopted to ensure robust accountability.
  • Fifth, the law also erodes the constructive role of legislatures. Fruitful discussion and debates can’t happen when the legislators are not allowed to freely express their opinions.
  • Sixth, the stability of the government is hampered when multiple resignations are used to topple it as seen in the case of Puducherry. The anti-defection law fails to prevent such a thing.
  • Lastly, there is no time limit in which the Speaker/Chairman takes a call on disqualification. This has led to the creation of unusual situations like opposition members taking ministerial positions as seen in the last Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly term.

Way Forward:

  • The scope of anti-defection law needs to be re-examined. It will enable the MPs to perform the dual role as a delegate of the constituency and a national legislator effectively.
    • For example, in the recent vote on the impeachment of former U.S. President Donald Trump, seven members from his party voted to remove him.
  • The voters should be more cautious while casting their votes. Many defectors in States such as Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh got re-elected in the by-polls, thereby encouraging them to do future defections.
  • The Speaker/Chairman should give decisions within 3 months as advised by the Supreme Court.
  • The ultimate solution to defection lies in the creation of robust exit barriers by political parties. It includes an opportunity to rise on merits within a party rather than on inheritance.

To sum up, we can say that the anti-defection law has been unable to control the defections. It has reduced the accountability of executives by the legislatures and been unable to provide the desired stability to the elected government.  

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 26, 2021

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