9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – June 16, 2021

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Achievements of India’s Vaccination Drive

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: 

Synopsis: The COVID-19 vaccination drive demonstrates that India has become Atmanirbhar in vaccination campaigns of the future.

Introduction:

Recently, the Indian Prime Minister talked about the past vaccination campaigns in India. He mentioned that earlier India has to wait for decades to procure vaccines from foreign countries. As they need to complete their vaccination programs first before selling vaccines to countries like India.

Furthermore, indigenous manufacturing of vaccines not only started late but also fell short of the demand in India for a long time. This forced the government to continue relying on imports.

Delayed vaccination drives for Polio:

Infectious diseases posed an enormous challenge to Independent India. This along with the delayed vaccination drives took countless lives. For example,

  • The Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) were licensed abroad in 1955 and 1961, respectively. But it took two decades for India to start polio vaccination drives.
  • The OPV was introduced in India through the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in urban and rural populations in 1978 and 1981, respectively.
  • Prior to this EPI programme, India witnessed more than 10,000 officially recorded cases of polio annually.
  • Moreover, India had to rely on imports for both OPV and IPV.
    • The OPV was produced by the Pasteur Institute of India, Tamil Nadu, but the Health Ministry closed down this unit in 1974.
    • The IPV could not be manufactured as it was licensed only in 2006.

Other examples of delayed vaccination drives:

This is just one example. But the majority of Indian vaccination drives followed this pattern only.

  • Delayed vaccination drives for Hepatitis B
    • India started mass vaccination for Hepatitis B two decades after commercial availability of the vaccine in the U.S. in 1982.
    • The Hepatitis B vaccination was introduced in India’s Universal Immunisation Programme in 2002 only. Even then also, it was introduced only in 14 cities.
  • Delayed vaccination drives for smallpox
    • In 1962, almost a decade after North America and Europe eradicated smallpox, India launched the National Smallpox Eradication Program.
    • India had an adequate stock of domestically produced low-potency liquid vaccine. But for the highly potent freeze-dried vaccine, India completely depended on the Soviet Union and the World Health Organization (WHO)
    • Further, India also had to rely on the WHO for bifurcated needles required for the smallpox vaccine.
    • This led to higher disease outbreak in certain regions. For example, States like Bihar and West Bengal witnessed a smallpox outbreak in 1974 which led to the death of close to 31,000 people.

India’s vaccination drive at present:

India drastically reduced the shortage of indigenously manufactured vaccines. This led to reduced dependence on other countries for India’s Covid-19 vaccination drives.

  • Increased manufacturing capability: In a single day, up to 4.3 million beneficiaries received the COVID-19 vaccines and India already administered more than 25 crores of Covid-19 doses.
    • India is one of the few countries across the globe with an indigenously developed vaccine.
    • Indian companies not only fulfill the domestic demand for bifurcated needles but also supplying syringes for COVID-19 vaccination to countries.
  • Reduced geographical limitation: At present, India’s Covid-19 vaccination drives not focused on a particular region. Instead, citizens across the country are simultaneously getting vaccinated.
  • Eliminated global-domestic time gap: India started its vaccination drives at par with the developed countries. Covishield and Covaxin, manufactured in India, have been available to the people since January 16, 2021.

COVID-19 vaccination drive demonstrates that India has become Atmanirbhar in vaccination against infectious diseases. Further, the government also decided to conduct free of cost vaccination drives. This marks a complete shift in India’s future vaccination drives.


Electoral Funding Lacks Transparency

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2: Election and related issues

Synopsis: Electoral funding of political parties lacks transparency. Over the years, many steps are taken by the government to make it a more secret affair.

Introduction:

In 2014, the Delhi High Court held that both main national parties (Congress and BJP) were guilty of accepting donations illegally. They both accepted donations from companies registered in India but whose controlling shareholders was a foreign company. The court held that this is a violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 1976.

  • In 2016 and 2018, the government amended the FCRA through the annual Finance Bills. These bills exempt political parties from the scrutiny of funds they have received from abroad since 1976. This enabled new and regressive pathways that afford full anonymity to corporate and foreign political donors.
  • In 2017, the amount of anonymous cash donations to political parties was reduced from ₹20,000 to ₹2,000 to ensure greater transparency in political funding. However, the introduction of electoral bonds introduced a new form of anonymity. It led to the funding of thousands of crores of anonymous donations.
Read more: Electoral Bond and its challenges – Explained, Pointwise

Challenges in electoral funding:

  • The electoral funding drastically reduced public and legislative oversight. Only the ruling party (via the State Bank of India (SBI)) has a full account of all donations received by electoral bonds. The ruling party can monitor donations to itself and to Opposition parties.
    • Even the Parliament, the Election Commission, and the Opposition parties do not have this information, nor do the public.
  • Earlier, only profit-making domestic companies were allowed to contribute to political parties; now loss-making companies can also contribute.
  • Earlier, foreign companies or companies where the controlling stake was held by a foreign company, couldn’t contribute. Now they can contribute by a foreign company operating in India or by a foreign entity through a shell company.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on Electoral funding:

  • For the above-mentioned reasons, the Association of Democratic Reforms filed a case in SC to declare electoral bonds unconstitutional.
  • However, SC refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds prior to the Assembly elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
  • Instead, the court listed several documents to establish a paper trail on donations. But this is not practically feasible.

Challenges with cross-checking Electoral funding:

  1. The full scale of registered companies is unknown. Even if registered companies filed annual financial statements, many do not disclose political donations.
  2. Amount of political donors in the country: According to back-of-the-envelope calculations, there are close to 25 lakh potential donors, comprising just companies and firms. Annual reports of all these companies are not readily accessible on the website of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
    • Even if these documents are indeed available in the public domain, they will not specify donations to parties. It is notable that the Finance Bill of 2017 amended Section 182 of the companies act. It removed the requirement for declaring political donations. 
    • Furthermore, even if a firm mentions the total political contributions through electoral bonds, it is not required to specifically name a political party.
  3. Political parties also not need to disclose their electoral bond donors. So the cross-checking of donations is not feasible. The only requirement is the submission of annual audit reports with only aggregate amounts by political parties. However, this report too does not provide details of the total amount.

Thus, the SC’s “match the following” suggestion is not practical.

Suggestions for transparent electoral funding:

  1. Companies and political parties should exercise moral leadership and voluntarily disclose the identity of recipients and donors. For example, recently, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha disclosed their donors voluntarily.

Conclusion:

The electoral funding gives political power to companies, wealthy individual donors, and foreign entities. They can influence government policies through hidden donations. This dilutes the universal franchise of one voter-one vote. So, electoral funding needs abrupt corrections to ensure universal franchise.


Preserving National Archives annexes of India

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 1 – Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Synopsis- The government proposes to remove the National Archives of India’s Annexes as a part of the Central Vista redevelopment project. But the government proposal to remove the National Archives annexes required proper planning and execution to manage the process of shifting invaluable archives.

Introduction

  • A group of archivists, scholars, historians, students, among others from across the world filed a petition. The petition has urged for greater transparency in the proposed removal of National Archives annexes.
  • The petition also mentions that there has been no public consultation regarding the National Archives annexes. Further, the government proposal also not mentioned how to manage the process of shifting invaluable archives.

Importance of National Achieves of India

The National Archives of India contains records that contained several centuries of Indian history.

  • The archival records include 4.5 million files, 25,000 rare manuscripts, 100,000 plus maps, treaties, 280,000 pre-modern documents and several thousand private papers.
  • It also preserved the cartography section and 1,50,000 oriental records in Persian, Arabic and Urdu.
  • According to UNESCO, the National Archives birchbark and clay-coated Gilgit Manuscripts are India’s oldest surviving manuscripts.
  • So, The National Archives of India documents are naturally brittle and require delicate, expert handling. The loss or damage to a single object or archival record would be an irrevocable loss.

The present condition of NAI

  • Poor maintenance of Archives:  A series of articles published in The New York Times in 2012, highlighted the vulnerable state of the National Archives. The articles mention that Indian archives are exposed to humid weather, staff negligence and mishandling, and improper preservation methods. This led to ruining of national archives. The articles especially mentioned the vulnerability of letters penned by Mohandas K. Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, Gopalkrishna Gokhale, and other eminent Indian nationalists in particular.
  • At present, there is a lack of expertise to manage certain national archives. This leads to the locking up of some rare documents in Persian, Urdu, Arabic, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tamil, Malayalam, and Modi (records from Maharashtra).

Suggestion to shift the National Archives annexes

  • Wider public consultation is the need of the hour: The Indian government should arrange for public consultation. For example, the Federal Government of the United States decided to move the National Archive, there were extensive public consultations. No such measures were taken in India.
  • Required careful planning and execution in moving the Archives
    • Experts need to produce a detailed report on how to move the contents and share it with the government.
    • They should also recommend an integrated national strategy to archival management that includes state archives, as state archives are also in bad condition.
  • Getting adequate information from global practices: Many best global practices are available on shifting national archives. For example, The British Library’s guide on “Moving Library and Archive Collections” is concise and comprehensive. India can follow such a guide to shift the national archives without any disruption.

Orphaned children must be a policy priority

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS2 – Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections

Synopsis – COVID pandemic has been a nightmare, especially for orphaned children due to the deadly second wave. Government intervention is needed to help alleviate problems related to orphan care in India.

Introduction
  • Even before the COVID pandemic, society generally ignored orphan children and their problems.
  • People were discriminatory towards them. Their socio-economic condition, and multiple levels of oppression that they have to face routinely, put them in a disadvantaged position.
  • But their plight has been made worse by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
  • It’s said that never waste a good crisis. Hence, the government can take this pandemic as an opportunity to design and implement policy-level solutions for orphan children in India.

Challenges faced by orphan children
  • Fight for Survival: They have to fight really hard for their survival in the following two cases:
    • if relatives take no responsibility
    • if there is no relative to take responsibility
  • No support system
    • No one to guide or provide emotional support
    • Most state govts do not allow staying beyond 18 years of age in state-supported institutions.
    • In the absence of a place to stay or a support system, many end up making wrong choices, or are drawn into a path that leads to poverty and worse.
  • Problem in arranging govt documents like Aadhaar, PAN, death certificates of parents etc.
Also Read: Orphaned children in India
How can govt tackle the issue?

The government is legally bound by the Constitution to ensure the welfare of children. Following are some policy-level solutions that govt can implement:

  • Yearly survey: A yearly survey at district and block levels to be done immediately
  • Registration of information about the child’s family and the property of the child
  • Supply of government documents on time
  • Healthy institutional support system: Provision of a healthy institutional environment to orphaned children based on the principles of freedom, equality, fraternity, and social justice
    • Staying beyond 18 years of age should be allowed. Maharashtra government has changed the rule and allowed their stay in hostels till the age of 23
  • Priority in government schemes and programs
  • Inter-departmental coordination: Coordination of women and child development department that is responsible for the welfare of children with other departments like finance, higher education help and skill development, etc.
  • Separate representation: As a special case, separate representation of orphan children at district and state levels and; special care for a girl child.
  • Fund for orphan children: A permanent fund on the lines of a CM welfare fund
  • The establishment of an IAS-level administration set-up to cater to the issues of orphan children permanently is also urgent.
Also Read: How can govt support COVID orphans?

These policy changes are important for inclusive long-term planning and if the state wishes to effectively implement programmes for children.

Conclusion
There is a grave need, now more than ever, to stand with orphaned children throughout their life. The support of the government is essential in their lives so that they can get rightful opportunities to lead a quality life and participate in society.

Also Read: Why foster care needs to be expanded?

Legal and moral issues in Tarun Tejpal Case

Source: The Hindu

GS2- Issues related to the functioning of Judiciary

Synopsis: The Tarun Tejpal acquittal in sexual harassment cases is based on preconceived notions of court and victim shaming. This decision involves legal and moral issues. It will deter women from fighting crimes against them.

Background:

  • Tarun Tejpal is a former editor of a news magazine, who was charged with sexually assaulting an employee in 2013.
  • The recent judgment of a trial court of Goa acquitted Tarun Tejpal.
  • The court also held the investigating officer responsible for the lapses in investigation.
  • Also, the Solicitor General of India said that the lower court’s judgment lacked sensitivity regarding crimes against women.

The acquittal has raised some serious question of law, judicial fairness and justice delivery.

What are the major concerns associated with the judgment?

  1. Firstly, lack of awareness of criminal laws by the court. There are some changes made in the Evidence Act as per the recommendations of the 172nd report of the Law Commission of India to protect survivor’s right to a fair trial. There are:
    • The defense is not permitted to ask questions to a witness about the general immoral character of the victim and cite it as evidence.
    • The Supreme Court has said that the purpose of cross-examining a survivor of rape is not to humiliate her.
    • Therefore, questions about the past sexual life of the survivor should not have been permitted by the trial court.
  2. Secondly, the court’s interpretation is stereotypical and shows the patriarchal mindset of the judiciary.
    • The court has no right to judge anyone’s conduct, as every individual behaves differently under the different circumstances.
    • In Aparna Bhat and Ors. Vs the State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. (2021), SC has specifically said that courts should not express any stereotyped opinion during proceedings or in judicial order about women.
    • Therefore, the judiciary must be careful while creating standards based on preconceived notions about how a victim should behave.
  3. Thirdly, only omissions that lead to conflicting versions of the incident made before the police and the court should amount to contradiction.
    • It is not possible to share the same graphic details of the sexual assault.
    • Therefore, if the statement given during the trial is substantially consistent, it should not be rejected by terming them as untrustworthy.
  4. Fourthly, the judgment is against the spirit of the law. Because anything such as the survivor’s husband’s name, her email address, etc. should not have been mentioned in the judgment.
    • As per the Indian Penal Code, disclosure of identity of the survivor of rape by anyone is punishable under Section 228-A.
    • Also, the Supreme Court in State of Punjab vs Ramdev Singh (2003) held that the name of the victim should not be mentioned in the judgments.

The judgment sets a bad precedent. Though the law should be applied equally to everyone, it should not show lack of sensitivity towards the victim.


Mistakes in the U.S’s Afghan Policy

Source: The Hindu

Gs2:  Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

Synopsis:  This article outlines the strategic mistakes in the U.S’s Afghan policy. It has now left America to compromise on its goals of ending ‘terror in Afghanistan’.

Background

  • The U.S invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to target its enemy, al-Qaeda, after September 11 attacks. After the invasion, the U.S declared to destroy the Taliban too, which was supporting al-Qaeda.
  • The Taliban is an indigenous militancy with deep roots in Afghanistan’s Pashtun majority.
  • After 20 years, the Biden administration has finally decided to withdraw the U.S troops from Afghanistan before the deadline of 11/09/2021.
  • However, it has to be said that the American goals, to evict the Taliban from Afghanistan and to rebuild a centralised “democratic” state in Afghanistan, are not achieved.
  • And now, the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan to the mercy of the Taliban, in return for assurances that they would not assist the terrorists such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
  • On the other hand, the Power and influence of the Taliban is strengthening day by day. They are now scattered across Asia and Africa, from eastern Afghanistan to the Sahel region.

What went wrong with the U.S’s Afghan policy?

The U.S. made three fundamental mistakes, which led to the superpower’s humiliating exit from this Afghanistan.

  • One, the US, overlooked the History of Afghanistan.
    • For instance, Britain and the Soviet Union that invaded Afghanistan in the 19th and 20th centuries faced disastrous consequences.
    • Both the countries, Britain due to the Afghan resistance, and Russia due to Mujahideen resistance were forced to pull back their troops.
    • The U.S given the mistakes the British and the Soviets committed, could have had a strategically focused campaign, targeting its enemy, al-Qaeda.
    • But the U.S., driven by neoconservative globalism wanted to topple the Taliban and rebuild a centralised “democratic” state in Afghanistan. This was their first mistake.
    • Instead, the U.S should have attacked the terrorists, destroyed their networks, and then withdrawn.
  • Two, the Iraq invasion by the U.S before getting their job done in Afghanistan was their second mistake.
    • After the U.S gained control over the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the U.S. had a chance to stabilize the country with help from its different factions and leave.
    • But the U.S decided to stay back to defeat the Taliban. After vowing to defeat them, the U.S. launched the Iraq invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
    • The U.S relied on Pakistan’s tactical support for its war on terror, overlooking the fact that Pakistan had deep strategic ties with the Taliban.
    • But Pakistan played a double game by supporting the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan while at the same time offering refuge and support to the Taliban.
    • When the U.S. declared victory in Afghanistan prematurely and went on to invade Iraq in 2003, it became easier for Pakistan to assist the Taliban’s regrouping. The Taliban made a steady comeback in Afghanistan’s hinterlands.
    • By the time the U.S. shifted its focus back to Afghanistan, after defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria the Afghan war had already been lost.
  • Three, the U.S conceding to the Taliban’s terms to pull back its troops was their third mistake.
    • The presence of U.S troops ensured that the conflict between the Afghan Government and the Taliban was in a stalemate.
    • The U.S. should have used this stalemate, coupled with mounting pressure on Pakistan, to extract concessions from the Taliban.
    • Instead, the Trump administration went for talks with the Taliban on their terms while the Afghan government was kept out of the whole process.
    • And the U.S. struck a direct deal with the Taliban, without addressing any of the Afghan concerns. The American exit would decisively shift the balance of power in favour of the Taliban.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 16 June, 2021

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