9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 4, 2021

9 PM DAILY BRIEF

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GS-paper 1

Reasons behind Sexual violence in rural India

GS-Paper 2 

Concerns of hasty approval to COVID-19 vaccine

Government initiatives for welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC)

Impact of Diluting disclosure requirement in Patent Rules, 2003

GS-Paper 3 

Gender based inequality in agriculture sector in India 


Reasons behind Sexual violence in rural India  

Source-Indian Express

Syllabus- GS Paper I – Society and social structure 

Synopsis– Women of rural India are becoming victims of hierarchies of caste, class, and patriarchy. We need to form a suitable policy that will tackle gender-based sexual violence in rural India.

Background- The Bhanwari Devi rape case in 1992 and the Khairlanji rape and massacre in 2006 to the Hathras case in 2020 shows that sexual violence against women is multi-dimentional issue, root of which lies in the hierarchies of caste, class, and gender.

How the issues related to caste, class, and gender promotes sexual violence in rural India? 

Sexual Violence against women in rural -India is linked with caste, caste and patriarchy in the following ways:

  • Firstly, Ancient social structure– Since ancient times, many things have changed but what has remained constant is rural India’s obsession with the caste order. The lower castes have served the upper castes while the upper castes work to keep the status quo. Violence becomes a tool of maintaining the status quo. 
  • Secondly, Tilted land reforms-In the political economy of post-Independence India, land is supreme. Land is class, power and honour. Its exclusive ownership is the basis of maintaining the caste order. Hence large landowners who were of dominant castes were the beneficiary and the landless labourers were of lower castes. 
  • Third, Political rise of lower castes– The Bahujan -Dalit political mobilization challenged this ancient hierarchy and with this, oppressed castes found themselves represented in positions of power.  
  • Fourth, Political pressure on police – Police officials mostly favour the dominant caste groups due to the pressure from the administration to not register sexual crimes under their jurisdiction, since these cases make them targets for transfers and dismissals.  

In the societies riddled with caste structure and patriarchy, women are considered as a symbol of family’s, a community’s, a caste’s honour. In these societies, sexual violence against the women of opposition becomes a tool of robbing them of their honour, to maintain the status quo of land and caste. 

During land disputes between two caste groups with a large differential of power and influence, women’s bodies become collateral damage.  

In conflicts among caste groups who are relatively close together in the caste (and class) order, women are used as a tool to tactically use the Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (outraging the modesty of a woman) to punish the other side. 

What are the steps required to be taken?  

To address the multi- dimensional issues related to sexual violence against women, we need to take the following actions. 

  • First- Along with police reform, caste discrimination, patriarchy and reforms in land ownership, we need to implement the policies related to women empowerment in both letter and spirit.
  • Second- We must take anintersectional approach that targets all of the issues.  
  • Third-Land ownership reform must tackle the irregularities of demarcation and the lack of proper records.  
  • Fourth-Sound policy involving all stakeholders should also tackle the illegal constructions on abadi land and banjar zameen.  
  • Fifth- The goal of annihilating caste cannot be achieved without mammoth efforts in educational, professional, and social integration of lower castes into every field, be it healthcare, judiciary, education, entertainment, or sports.

Way Forward 

Along with the land and caste reforms, we must tackle the persistence of patriarchy in our society. “Women’s empowerment”  has now become just a phrase for political and corporate organisations. We must demand more representation of women in positions of power through reserved seats in MP, MLA, and MLC elections, or the judiciary and corporate boards.  

We need to work for quality sexual education and consent training for our youth, with the aim of preventing sexual assault and equalising and normalising healthy relations among members of different genders and sexes.

Lastly, we must bridge the gender divide in access to the transformative and emancipatory power of consumer technology.


Concerns of hasty approval to COVID-19 vaccine 

Source- The Hindu,  The Indian Express 

Syllabus- GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. 

Synopsis- Concerns regarding hasty approval granted to the COVID-19 vaccines despites the lack of adequate efficacy data.  

Background- 

  • The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) approved the Subject Expert Committee’s recommendation for emergency use of Serum Institute of India’s Covishieldand Bharat Biotech’sCovaxin.  
  • Covishieldis the same vaccine as developed by Oxford- AstraZeneca, which has got emergency use approval in the UK. 
  • In the case of Covaxin, concerns have been raised about the absence of efficacy data, which is generated during Phase 3 of human clinical trials.

However, experts have voiced their concerns on the approval process and the lack of publicly released efficacy data for Covaxin. 

How India’s credibility as manufacturer of vaccine is at stake? 

The hasty nod for Covaxin has put India’s credibility as a manufacturer of vaccines is at a stake and has raised eyebrows in the scientific and healthcare communities about a “public rollout of an untested product. 

  • First, Covaxinhas no clinical efficacy data- Bharat Biotch’s Covaxin vaccine is still in stage 3 clinical trials in India and the final results are yet to be released. The recommendation comes despite the lack of efficacy data for Covaxin.  
    • Efficacy data is an indication of how effective the vaccine is in preventing the virus attack.
    • Moreover, the decision is a violation of the criteria in the draft regulatory guidelines for the development of COVID-19 vaccines published by CDSCO, in which it is clear that safety and efficacy data is required for approval of vaccine, but the indigenous vaccine from Bharat Biotech does not have efficacy details because the trials are underway.
  • Second, credibility of regulator at stake-This lack of transparency could lead to a lack of trust in the vaccine. There are several issues with the way the approval has been granted, which can lead to people losing confidence in the regulatory system. 
  • Third, approval an untested vaccine makes it nearly impossible to conduct a proper phase-3 trial.
    • It will be unethical to expect volunteers to participate in a trial where there is only a 50% chance of being administered the actual vaccine, when they have the option of the real dose elsewhere.
  • Fourth, Pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have given a go-ahead only after partial results of vaccine’s abilities in their own populations.
  • Whereas in India similar data for vaccine ability among Indian population has not been published. As it is a possibility that vaccine response among India population may not be the same as among the European Population.  

The rush to approve COVID-19 vaccine without proper clinical trial may do more harm than good. So, it would be better to wait for the preliminary data from the phase-III trials to come in, and then grant the approval. 

What is the way forward? 

  • In light of the intense concerns arising from the absence of efficacy data, the Use of Covaxinshould be treated as extended clinical trials.  
  • For the larger scale implementation of vaccines, Government needs to carefully monitor immune response to different vaccines and assess the efficacy across populations.

Government initiatives for welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC) 

Source: click here 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Social Justice – Schemes for vulnerable section 

Synopsis: Government has recently launched post-matric scholarship scheme for SCs, apart from many other steps taken for the welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC) in India. 

Post-matric scholarship scheme 

  • Government has recently passed an outlay of Rs 59,000 crore for the post-matric scholarship scheme for students from Scheduled Caste groups.
  • Almost 60 percent of the cost of scheme will be borne by Central government and rest by the states.

How this scheme promotes welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC)? 

  • More than four crore SC students would benefit from this allocation in the next five years.  
    • These students were facing challenges in pursuing higher education because of the financial constraints but this decision will provide them a sense of hope. 
  • The gross enrolment ratio of SC students in higher education will increase with the help of this scheme.  
    • Proper education will provide the next generation of Dalits paths for upward mobility, dignity and recognition in society. 

Other Government initiatives for welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC) 

Development of SC concentrated villages  

  • The Union government identified almost 27,000 such villages where a government programme will make sure the dedicated implementation of welfare schemes to improve infrastructure and reduce socio-economic gaps in 2019. 

Political empowerment 

  • The current government has ensured meaningful representation for Dalits within the organisation and government. 
    • For example, the youngest woman MLA from Gujarat, Malti Maheshwari, and numerous other leaders, are now making themselves heard and are suitably voicing the concerns and aspirations of Dalits across the country.

Promotion of entrepreneurship 

  • Schemes such as Stand-up India and MUDRAhave significantly benefited young people from the community in the last 6 years.  
  • Milind Kamble, the chairperson of Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI),has been working with the government to create opportunities for entrepreneurship and self-employment for Dalit youth.  
    • “Be Job Givers and not Job Seekers” is a theme for the government.
    • Milind kamble has a team of more than 5,000 entrepreneurs from SC and ST groups. 
  • Several youngsters have benefitted from schemes like a venture capital fund for SCs and a credit enhancement guarantee plan. 
  • The youth who want to become entrepreneurs are being supported through a network of growth centres and aiding financial assistance architecture.

Way forward 

  • India should become extremely inclusive in its foundation, review its approach and focus on making the country a leading light in the new world order. 
  • Sustained economic empowerment, political representation and educational opportunities like the boost in the post-matric scholarship for SC students should be provided so that Dalits become an inseparable part of the New India story.

Impact of Diluting disclosure requirement in Patent Rules, 2003 

Source: click here 

Syllabus: GS 3 

Synopsis: The dilution of patent working disclosure rules obstructs the success of India’s compulsory licensing regime. 

Background  

According to the new Patent Rules, 2020, licensees are no longer required to annually submit to the Patent Office disclosing the degree to which they have commercially worked or made the patented inventions available to the public in the country. 

What were the requirement of disclosure in Patent Rules, 2003? 

The purpose of granting patents itself is to ensure that the inventions are operated in India and are made available to the public in adequate amounts at rational prices. 

  • The information about the degree at which these patentees are operating in India is very important to check abuse of patent monopoly. For example, excessive pricing or scare supply of the invention 
    • Courts have refused a temporary ban in cases charging violation of a patent which has not been operated in India.  
  • Section 146 (2) asks every licensee to submit to the Patent Office an annual statement explaining the extent to which they have worked the invention in India was not found in patent laws. 
    •  The disclosure is to be made in the Form 27 format as suggested under the Patent Rules, 2003. 

Irregularities and PIL filed 

  • The amendment to the form was made after a PIL was filed by Shamnad Basheer before the Delhi High Court in 2015. The PIL was about the non-filing and defective filing of Form 27 by licensees and wanted an action against the violators.  
  • The PIL also called for a reform of Form 27 because the information it sought was totally insufficient to determine the level of the working of the patent. 
  • Court directed the government to bring an amendment to strengthened the patent working disclosure rules. 
  • However, after 2 years, instead of strengthening, government introduced an amendment that dilutes the disclosure requirements.  

How government changed the disclosure requirement? 

The amendment in patent laws has considerably weakened it and is defeating the whole purpose of the amendment exercise. The requirement of submitting a lot of important information was removed. The form now requires the patentees to provide only for the following information:  

  • Firstly, whether the invention has worked or not and the revenue generated from it (manufacturing and importing). Reasons for the invention not working and the steps being taken towards it to make it work. 
  • Secondly, they don’t have to provide data about the amount of the invention manufactured in India and imported which is vital for proper assessment. 
    • Licensees can just self-certify that they’ve worked the patent without having to prove the claim with the data on how they’ve done it, including through licensing/sub-licensing the patent. 
    • For instance, the disclosure of this data by Bayer in Form 27 played a crucial role in grant of India’s first compulsory license to Natco for the anti-cancer drug Sorafenib/Nexavar. 

What are its impacts? 

  • Doing away with the condition of providing inventions for public requirement at a reasonable price, will have negative impacts on the affordability of new medicines in India. 
  • Doing away with the condition to disclose price and demand will make it difficult to assess the quantum of invention made available to the public in sufficient quantity and at an affordable price. 

Conclusion  

  • The government must reconsider its amendments as it is going to impact public interest. Some inventions may remain inaccessible to public because of the lack of information. Such lack of accessibility in case of patented medicines could have adverse consequences for public health of the country.

Gender based inequality in agriculture sector in India 

Source- The Hindu 

Syllabus- GS 1- Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies. Effects of globalization on Indian society. Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism. 

Synopsis- Women farmers fear that the farm laws will further deepen the existing gender-based inequality in the agriculture sector. 

How Farming in India has strengthened gender-based inequality? 

This gender discrimination is deeply rooted in society and deprives women farmers of some of the most basic facilities like access to loans and irrigation systems. 

  • First, non-recognition as farmers– Female farmers are labeled as ‘cultivators’ or ‘agricultural laborer’s but not farmers. Without any recognition, they tend to get excluded from all the benefits of government schemes. 
    • According to the agricultural census, 73.2 percent of rural women workers are engaged in agriculture, yet they own only 12.8 percent of the land.
  • Second, the lack of land ownership makes female farmers “invisible”. Without land, they are not recognized as farmers despite their large contributions to the sector and this marginalization means they are especially vulnerable to exploitation by large corporationsunder the new laws. 
    • 83% of agricultural land in India is inherited by male members of the family and less than 2% by their female counterparts, according to India Human Development Survey (2018).

What are the implications of recently enacted farm law’s on women a farmer? 

Recently enacted farm laws will further deteriorate there already poor condition; 

  • First, no mention on MSP- Their main worry is about a possible withdrawal of the MSP and a dismantling of the public procurement. Without a guarantee of an MSP, they are vulnerable to corporate exploitation.  
  • Second, bargaining power-When selling their produce outside mandis, Women farmer’s ability to understand and enter into a fair agreement with the corporate buyers is a cause of concern.
    • Without this safety net, Vulnerable farmers fear they will have to participate in contract farming with private corporations, where these companies determine the price with no adequate redressal mechanism.  
    • They also fear that the small marginal and medium farmers (mostly women led) will be forced to do sell their land to big agro-businesses and become wage laborer.

Thus, the lack of safeguards from the government for pricing will widen the gender gap in farming as the premise of “increasing competition” assumes women are able to trade as easily as men when they are subject to greater limitations. 

Way forward- 

  • Widen the definition of farmers which doesn’t recognize women as farmer but as cultivators and agriculture laborer.
  • Policy paralysis in granting entitlement to women agriculture needs to be focused. 
  • Grant property rights and tenure of security of agriculture land to women. 

The empowerment of women farmers is important not only to achieve gender equality but improve nutritional security of the country.


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