9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 14, 2021

9 PM DAILY BRIEF

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GS-1

  • WEF’s  report highlights critical role of cities in post-covid India

GS-2

  • Allahabad HC judgment on the Special Marriage Act
  • Challenges involved in the effective rollout of COVID vaccine program
  • Issues in SC Mediation step on farm laws

GS-3

  • Reviving consumption demand for economic growth

9 PM for Preliminary examination

Allahabad HC judgment on Special Marriage Act 

Source: Indian Express 

Gs2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation. 

Synopsis: Allahabad high court recently ruled that interfaith couples want to register under Special Marriage Act can refrain from publishing the mandatory 30-day notice for their intention to marry. It will have a   significant bearing on our society. 

About the Special Marriage Act  

  • The Special Marriage Act was originally enacted in 1872 to provide a framework for inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. 
  • As per Section 5 of the Special Marriage Act, marriages irrespective of the religion of the couple require parties to give a 30-day public notice of their intention to marry before solemnizing their marriage (performing the public ceremony/rites of marriage.) 
  • The public notice produced by the parties is displayed at the office of the marriage officer. It invites potential objections to the marriage. 

About the case  

  • Recently, a writ petition was filed in Allahabad High Court.   
  • While hearing the case the court found that, though the couple wanted to marry under the Special Marriage Act, the mandatory provision for 30-day notice compelled them to take the easier route of religious conversion. 
  • Thus, Section 5 of the Act has been a barrier to inter-faith couples’ marriages who wanted to marry under the secular law rather than taking religious conversion routes. 
  • Consequently, Court allowed not to publish the mandatory 30-day notice of their intention to marry. 
  • Also, the court allowed the individuals, who desire to have more information about their counterparts, to opt for publication of notice under Section 6 of the Act. Such publication of notice under free will not be violative of their fundamental rights. 
  • The court also noted that when marriages under personal law do not require a notice or invitation for objections, such a requirement for inter-faith couples’ is obsolete in secular law and cannot be forced on a couple. 

What were the reasons given by the court to nullify mandatory 30-day notice? 

The court has made the following observations against the mandatory provision for 30-day notice, 

  • It is an invasion into the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy of individuals.  
  • Also, it violates the right to choose a partner for marriage without interference from state and non-state actors. 
  • It is against the changed social circumstances and progress in laws proposed by the Law Commission”. 
      • As the Special Marriage Act was originally enacted in 1872, It is unethical to force the present generation living with its current needs and expectations to follow the customs and traditions adopted nearly 150 years back.  
  • It is against the previous judgments of the Supreme Court on the right to privacy. The court cited the following landmark judgments;
      • Right to Privacy recognized by SC in 2017 Aadhaar case.
      • The 2018 Hadiya case (a medical student who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim), which held that the right to choose a partner is a fundamental right. 
      • The 2018 ruling in which the court decriminalized homosexuality. 
  • The court also cited the example of Himachal Pradesh High Court, which in 2012, had struck down provisions that required notice of intention in case of religious conversion in the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, citing that it violates the fundamental right to privacy. 

What would be the impact of this judgment? 

The judgment will have the following impacts on our society, 

  • First, it will remove hindrances to inter-faith marriages and bring relief to inter-faith couples who are being increasingly targeted by vigilante groups. 
  • Second, as the Special Marriage Act is a central legislation, couples across the country seeking to marry under the law will benefit from the liberal ruling of the provisions. 
  • Third, it paves way for abolishing and cleansing obsolete Victorian-era protectionist provisions in other laws as well. 
  • Fourth, it will be a body blow to Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 which have provisions such as 
      • Declaring conversion of religion by marriage to be unlawful  
      • Mandating a 60-day notice to the District Magistrate  
      • Requiring the Magistrate to conduct a police inquiry to know the real intention behind the conversion.

Strategic guidelines for COVID vaccine program: Challenges and suggestions  

Source: Indian ExpressThe Hindu  

GS-2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. 

Synopsis: Government has issued strategic guidelines for the effective rollout of COVID vaccine program. There are challenges in the way of the Vaccine program that should be tackled as soon possible. 

Strategic guidelines for COVID vaccine programme 

With limitations of Vaccine related to efficiency and efficacy in mind, government has framed strategic guidelines for COVID vaccine programme 

  • Guidelines were framed using the knowledge acquired over three decades of implementing the Universal Immunisation Programme. It aims to aims to cover 30 crore people by July 2021. 
  • It has specified involvement of 19 departments, donor organisations and NGOs at the national, state, district and block level in the roll out of COVID vaccine programme. 
  • The guidelines have also clearly mentioned the priority criteria. Citizens eligible for the first round of COVID vaccine programme includes the following, 
      • The caregivers and front-line workers working under the department of health, defense, municipalities, and transportation. 
      • Persons above the age of 50.  
      • And persons below the age of 50 who suffers from comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, cancers, and lung diseases are all included. 
  • The strategic guidelines have also clearly stated in detail, 
      • The skills, roles, and responsibilities of the required human resources. 
      • The quantum of logistics required for delivering vaccines at point of use.  
      • The requirement of physical infrastructure, monitoring systems based on digital platforms, and feedback systems for reporting adverse events. 

However, it has been criticised that the guidelines are ideal and have failed to provide solutions for real-time issues of our health system.  

What are the challenges involved in effective rollout of COVID vaccine programme? 

There are many challenges to roll out COVID vaccine programme. They are, 

  • First, unequal distribution of cold storage facilities among states. For example, out of the 28,932 cold chain points, half are in the five southern states, Maharashtra and Gujarat. 
    • Whereas the eight states in the North and Odisha that account for over 40 per cent of the country’s population have only 28 per cent of the cold chain points.  
  • Second, pertaining issues in our health care sector such as poor human resourcesa weak private sector, poor safety and hygiene standards, frequent power outages, poor infrastructure will reduce the capacity to implement the vaccine programme with speed, quality, and accuracy. 
  • Thirdmassive immunization programme for 30 crore people can distort the routine health service delivery and affect other immunisation drives, and can lead to exhaustion of health care workers. 
  • Fourth, acquiring the data for under the 50s with comorbidities will be challenging though we have data for the above-50-year-olds in the electoral rolls. 
  • Fifth, there are also challenge of tackling Fudging, false certification, and siphoning off vaccines to private facilities in the event of vast price differences between private hospitals and public hospitals. 
  • Sixth, the non-availability of efficacy data could result in huge wastage and gives scope for errors and duplication during the procurement and supply of vaccines. 
  • Seventh, the trust among the people on COVID vaccines are decreasing leading to suspicions and fears due to various reasons such as  
      • Non-transparency of data on either of the two vaccines proposed for use in the program. 
      • Opacity with which the licenses were given etc. For example, have not completed the Phase 3 trials that confirm the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.  
      • Above all, India hasn’t signed the advance purchase agreements for vaccines that have completed Phase 3 trials from other countries. 

What is the way forward? 

  • First, avoid the complexity of listing the priority groups throughout our country. It should be replaced by covering the complete area in one go, instead of sequencing them into different groups.  
      • The areas could be ranked on the basis of a vulnerability index based on disease burden, caseload of COVID infections, demographic profile, health-seeking behavior and availability of infrastructure, etc. 
  • Second, to create confidence in the community we need to establish an independent team of experts under the aegis of the WHO to ensure adherence to recruitment standards, consent conditions, adverse event record management, compensation standards. 
  • Third, to build trust about vaccination programme we need to plan for largescale public education and information programme through State- and local-level networks where people are informed, sensitised and their feedback was taken 
  • FourthPeople should be involved in decision-making. For this Local leader from public figures, religious leaders, self-help groups, the media, and even educational institutions need to participate to help citizens understand its importance and build trust 
  • FifthScience, evidence, and data analytics need to be extensively used for effective policymaking. 
  • Finally, vaccination is not a complete solution to end the epidemic. We need to adopt safe behavior through a communication strategy. For this, the government can use its experience of controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  

The need of the hour is a winning strategy against epidemic that has drained us economically, socially and psychologically.  Government needs to understand that the effective way of improving uptake of the vaccine while reducing costs is by creating participatory frameworks of engaging experts and communities and building effective and reliable public information, and transparency.


Issues in SC Mediation step on farm laws

Source: click here 

Syllabus: GS 2 

Synopsis: The Supreme Court’s decision to take a route of mediation, instead of judgment on the legality of the law, is being criticized by some experts. Let’s have look at the criticisms? 

What are the issues in SC mediation process? 

Supreme Court-appointed a committee and put a stay on implementation of the laws. Although it is officially not called a mediation committee, but the Court does mention its role in helping the negotiations between the farmers and the government. 

The committee route that SC has adopted should have been a legislative and executive exercise. Moreover, if it is an attempt to mediate, there are issues in it; 

  • Firstly, Mediation should be Voluntary. i.e. all parties must provide their consent to it. Major farmer’s union have denied participating in it; thus, it is not a successful attempt 
  • Secondly, the mediators must be fair and neutral. Majority of its members have a positive attitude towards bill. Thus, it is not fair and neutral.  

What are the steps to be taken? 

The Chief Justice of India said that the dialogues seem to be going nowhere, and something urgent needs to be done. If the Court wants to mediate due to the government’s reluctance in doing so, then it must observe some prerequisites. 

  • First, the committee should be made of such people who give out an image of impartialityability and seriousness. The committee should have knowledge and respect so that it can influence sceptics to give the process a try.  
  • Second, assurance should be taken from the government that its ministers at high posts will meet the committee and participate in the proceedings as this will assure the consent of all parties. 

Way forward 

  • Once discussions start and are properly guided, solutions are possible. It may well be that once the important elements get focused upon and the key concerns expressed, approaches will open up which will secure legitimate interests to the maximum extent possible. All this is possible only when mediation is on the lines of principles.

Reviving consumption demand for economic growth 

Source- The Indian Express 

Syllabus- GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. 

Synopsis- Expenditure side of National Income is showing signs of stress. The government should try to revive the consumption side to return to the growth path. 

Introduction 

  • The first advance estimates of GDP growth for FY21 is more optimistic than the projections provided by many institutions, global and domestic.  
  • However, the figures still have a substantial chance of uncertainty as the source of data is not reliable [Very little up-to-date primary information is available for the estimation]. 

What are the areas of concern?  

On the expenditure side, except for government final consumption expenditure, alternative drivers of demand are down sharply. Non-Public Consumption Expenditure is predicted to contract 9.5 per cent while capital formation has contracted by 14.5 per cent, with imports and exports also contracting. 

The economic performance was dented by sharp de-growth in the following three sectors- 

  • A sector-wise breakup of data for FY21 shows the sharpest fall in trade, hotels, transport, communication, and broadcasting services at 21.4 per cent from 3.6 per cent growth last year.  
      • This is followed by 12.6 per cent contraction within the construction sector as against a growth of 1.3 per cent last year. 
  • Manufacturing is declining by 9.4 per cent in 2020-21 from 0.03 per cent growth last year. 

The estimated losses in these three sectors account for 93.5 percent of the total loss for the whole year. Hence, fiscal policy needs to focus on priming demand to return to the trend growth path. 

What policy interventions are needed to increase consumption? 

  • First, Government should focus on enhancing credit flows to the small and marginal farmers
      • KCC (Kisan Credit Cards) constitute 60% of Major outstanding bank credit due to COVID and Agri stress.
      • To encourage consumption among farmers, interest payment by farmers should be sufficient for their KCC loan renewal.
      • It may result in a reduction of the NPA of the banks from KCC.
  • Second, the government should try to mainstream the tenant farmers
      • There are almost 3-4 crore tenant farmers, not receiving PM-KISAN benefits.
      • The government should try to formalize the credit delivery to tenant farmers by issuing tenancy certificates on the line of Andhra Pradesh.
      • Another way is the formation of SHGs to enable formal lending.
  • Third, waive tax on Senior citizen saving scheme The government should make SCSS interest income to be tax-free. 
  • Fourth, Launch Adopt-a-family scheme– The scheme is voluntary and taxpayers with income up to over Rs 10 lakh could be incentivized for supporting a BPL family for a year. The government can incentivize taxpayers with around Rs 50,000 tax deduction apart from exemption offered under-80C 
  • Fifth, take the following steps to bring more FDI and increase Ease of Doing Business rankings; 
      • Withdraw all tax appeals. 
      • Accept all domestic arbitration decisions against government departments/agencies 
      • Clear above outstanding dues within a stipulated time. 
  • Sixththe Government should increase investment in the health and education sectors;
      • The government can introduce a medical savings account.
      • Interest earned by the depositor can be deducted by government to provide the person with Mediclaim policy.
  • Lastly, the government should bring down its stake in state-owned banks to less than 50 percent.

Way forward- 

By fulfilling these criteria, India can improve its position on the Ease of Doing Business ranking.


WEF’s “Indian Cities in the Post-pandemic world” report mentions cities critical role in post-covid India

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS-1 urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

News: World Economic Forum(WEF) has released a report titled “Indian Cities in the Post-Pandemic World”.

Facts:

  • About the report: The report has been produced in collaboration with IDFC Institute, Mumbai.
  • It compiles insights from leading global and Indian urban experts across seven thematic pillars— planning, housing, transport, environment, public health, gender and vulnerable populations.
  • Purpose: The report highlights the country’s most pressing urban challenges that were exacerbated by the pandemic. It also provides insights for translating the lessons learned from the pandemic into an urban reform agenda.

Key Takeaways from the report:

  • Impact on Cities: Cities have borne the maximum brunt of the covid-19 outbreak, but they will also be key to India’s post-pandemic growth. They account for nearly 70% of the country’s GDP and an average of 25-30 people migrate to cities from rural areas every single minute.
  • Households: About 25 million households in India—35% of all urban households cannot afford housing at market prices.
  • Impact on Different Population Groups: The impact of the pandemic has been profoundly uneven on different population groups. Vulnerable populations, including low-income migrant workers have suffered the dual blows of lost income and weak social-protection.

Recommendations:

  • Greater decentralization and empowerment of local governments, which will allow for more proximate and responsive governance.
  • Collection of data to help cities in managing and directing emergency operations during a crisis.
  • Government have to create a new urban paradigm that enables cities to be healthier, more inclusive, and more resilient.
  • Ensure the infrastructure that has adequate functional capacity, aligned with current and future demands.
  • Prioritise action on environmental sustainability, air pollution and disaster management in urban rebuilding efforts.
  • Prioritising inclusivity by addressing the biases and impediments faced by women and vulnerable populations in accessing urban opportunities.

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Click on “Factly articles for January 14, 2021

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Jan 14,2021

 

 

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