9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – June 9, 2021

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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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Genomic sequencing in India needs to be scaled up

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Synopsis: There is a need for rapidly expanding genomic sequencing and sharing related data in a timely & transparent manner. This will help in understanding the impact of new variants on transmissibility, severity and vaccine effectiveness.

Background

  • An effective COVID-19 pandemic response requires tracking of emerging variants, conducting studies about their transmissibility, immune escape and its potential to cause severe disease.
  • In this context, genomic sequencing becomes important. Genomic sequencing helps to track the emerging variants and use the evidence for timely actions.
  • Unfortunately, Genomic sequencing in India is not being paid much attention.
  • Despite, the establishment of SARS-CoV2 Genomic Consortia, or INSACOG the sequencing has remained very low.
    • INSACOG: It is a grouping of 10 National Laboratories involved in carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating COVID-19 viruses. It was established by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

What is Genome Sequencing?

Genome sequencing is a process of determining the complete DNA/RNA sequence of an organism’s genome. It has the potential to benefit mankind especially in healthcare, disease prevention etc.

Significance of Genome Sequencing

The data from genomic sequencing has both policy and operational implications.

  • First, the genome sequencing of SARS CoV-2 conducted by premier research institutes provides very useful insight into the behaviour and impact of Delta variant. For instance, consider the recent findings in India based on genome sequencing.
    • Recently, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Institute of Genomics along with two other institutes, analysed nearly 3,600 genomic sequence samples from Delhi.
    • The genome sequencing of SARS CoV-2 led to the following findings,
      • The Delta variant had become the most circulating variant in Delhi and was found in nearly 60% of the samples analysed.
      • The Delta variant was found to be 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant.
      • Also, the Delta variant was found to be associated with a high viral load and resulted in a higher proportion of breakthrough infection.
    • Based on their analysis, they were able to conclude that the Delta variant was responsible for the pandemic wave in Delhi.
  • Second, Genome sequencing was also helpful to find out the efficacy of the vaccine against different strains. For instance,
    • Based on the findings from genome sequencing in U.K, The Public Health England reported that the effectiveness of a single dose of vaccine was lower against the Delta strain.

What needs to be done for an effective COVID-19 pandemic response?

  • First, to scale up genomic sequencing in India, across all States, adequate samples should be collected for national-level analysis of collated genomic sequencing data on a regular basis and findings should be shared publicly.
  • Second, the Indian government needs to invest and support more scientific and operational research on vaccine effectiveness. The data should be analysed on various stratifies such as age, gender and comorbid conditions, etc.
  • Third, experts need to deliberate and find solutions to the issues posed by Covid-19 variants, such as immune escape and reduced vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant.

The only assured way to fight the pandemic is to use scientific evidence to decide policies, modify strategies and take corrective actions. In this regard, increasing genomic sequencing is not a choice but an absolute essential.


Protecting human rights in the age of disinformation

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: Despite the threat of information disorder (spread of disinformation), human rights-friendly governance is both possible and achievable.

Introduction 

The Supreme Court of India (SC) recently warned against any attempt to curb free speech. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Special Rapporteur gave a report on “Disinformation and Freedom of Opinion and Expression”, which is to be discussed between June 21 and July 9.

  • Justices Dhananjay Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat stated that any attempt to curb information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking/delivering help on any platform will attract a strong use of jurisdiction by the Court
  • The SC instructed the registrar to place this order before all district magistrates in the country. It also asked the central and state governments to inform all chief secretaries/director generals of police etc. 
  • The SC supports the principle that abuse of public power cannot irrationally or randomly curb the freedom of speech, press, and media platforms.
  • Human rights provide a powerful framework to contest lies and present alternative viewpoints. It justifies utilitarianism of human rights as freedom of opinion allows development. Journalists are able to contest lies and present alternative viewpoints. 

Findings of the UNHRC report

The UNHRC report talks about “information disorder.” It rises from disinformation which is politically dividing, deters people from importantly exercising their human rights, and destroys their trust in governments and institutions.

  • Firstly, the UNHRC criticized inherently blanket internet shutdowns. The report declares that content moderation efforts will not make any difference.
  • Secondly, the problem is in the varying application of companies’ terms of service. The global platforms do not apply the same policies across all geographical areas or uphold human rights to the same extent.
  • Thirdly, Internet shutdowns don’t curb disinformation but obstruct fact-finding. It is contrary to rights against discrimination when meant to silence minority voices and stopping them to get access to vital information.
  • Fourthly, the report clearly upholds that disinformation risks the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It poses a threat to the safety of journalists and the media ecosystem. 
  • Fifthly, the report stresses that the intention to harm is decisive in disinformation as false information is spread intentionally to cause serious social harm. 
  • Lastly, the report mentions factors contributing to the growth of disinformation. These include,  
    • Factors such as digital transformation and competition from online platforms.
    • State pressure and the absence of robust public information regimes. 
    • Digital and media literacy among the public.
    • Frustrations and grievances of a growing number of people.
    • Decades of economic deprivation, market failures, political disenfranchisement, and social inequalities.

What did the Oxford study find out?

  • A 2020 Oxford study of “Industrialized Disinformation” states that 81 governments use social media to spread propaganda and disinformation about politics. Facebook and Twitter even removed more than 3,17,000 accounts and pages. 
    • However, the cyber troops act as agents of political parties and a tool of geopolitical influence.
    • Some authoritarian countries like Russia, China and Iran benefitted from coronavirus disinformation to increase anti-democratic narratives designed to dent trust in health officials.
  • Cyber troops are available for pro-party propaganda, or post insult campaigns, trolling and producing plots that drive division and polarize citizens. 
  • Online disinformation also results in offline practices of violent social trips on actually existing individuals and communities such as ethnic, gender, migrant, sexual minorities. 

The conclusion
Reactive content moderation efforts are simply inadequate without a serious review of the business model. The report offers useful material for reflective thought and diligent action.


India’s efforts to achieve SDGs

Source- The Indian Express

 Syllabus- GS 3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Synopsis-  The idea for Sustainable development aims to maintain progressive development and at the same time retaining sustainability, catastrophe risk resilience, and community building at its heart. But, India’s efforts to achieve SDGs is commendable.

Introduction

  • World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on June 5, every year, to encourage awareness and environmental protection.
  • Also, one of the goals of the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development is to create a balance between sustainable development and environmental conservation.
  • The theme for WED 2021- Ecosystem Restoration
    • Focus on resetting nature –A global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea.
    • The theme for this year in India – Promotion of biofuels for a better environment’.
  • The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 – 2030 was also launched

Also read: SDG India Index by NITI Aayog

India’s efforts to achieve SDGs throughout the last seven years

  • Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)
    • The movement focuses on achieving an open-defecation-free India, building solid waste management capacity and bringing about behavioural change.
    • By 2022, the mission is expected to have reduced GHG emissions 17.42 million tonnes of carbon
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana
    • The mission is to ensure the objective basic infrastructure services relating to water supply and management, energy efficiency and increased green spaces have been part of the goal in 500 target cities.
    • By 2022, the mission is expected to have reduced GHG emissions by 48.52 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 
    • The mission focused on new construction technologies that are innovative, environmentally friendly and disaster-resilient.
    • By 2022, the mission is expected to have reduced GHG emissions by 12 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
  • Smart Cities Mission
    • The mission is about the technological advancements of cities to improve governance, sustainability and disaster risk resilience.
    • The objective is to improve city administration, sustainability, and catastrophe risk resistance through technological improvements.
    • In urban areas, smart solutions are being adopted to increase energy efficiency and non-motorized transportation capacity.
    • By 2022, the mission is expected to have reduced GHG emissions by 4.93 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
  • Metro Neo, the mass rapid transit system for providing low-cost, energy-efficient and eco-friendly urban transport solutions for tier 2 and tier 3 cities.
    • The system is expected to mitigate around 21.58 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. GHG from 2015-2022.

Technological democratization, sustainable infrastructure development, and behavioural change will help us preserve our environment, restore ecosystems and mitigate the risks posed by climate change in the coming decade. India’s efforts to achieve SDGs will aid India in mitigating Climate change.


Issues with recent draft rules notified by the Lakshadweep administration

Source: The Hindu

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

Synopsis: The recent changes brought in Lakshadweep Administration in the name of public purpose is against the public interest and ethos of the island.

Background:

  • Recently, the administrator of Lakshadweep brought changes to the following acts to promote infrastructural development to boost tourism.
    • Development Authority Regulation,
    • Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation,
    • Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation and
    • Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation
  • However, the proposed changes ignore the significance of cultural ecology, cultural geography and strategic location of Lakshadweep.
  • These changes are also against the 2019 Kerala HC judgement which had recognised the special status given to the inhabitants for protecting their ethnic culture and traditions.
  • Now, the draft rules are challenged before the High Court of Kerala.

What is unique about Lakshadweep?

  • It is an egalitarian coconut tree owning society.
  • It has little economic inequality along with high literacy and high unemployment.
  • The Muslim community is designated as Scheduled Tribes.
  • Coconut trees are the main agricultural crop and fisheries is the main economic activity.
  • Fisheries employ the majority of the working population.
  • Since solar electricity requires a large land area, electricity is generated through diesel generators.

What are the two competing visions for the island’s future?

  • NITI Aayog’s vision 2019: It identified water villas and land-based tourism projects as the development issue faced by the islands.
    • It also suggested zoning-based land acquisition and focused on sustainable development.
    • However, it ignores the fragile environment and culture.
  • Integrated Island Management Plan 2016: It was prepared under the guidance of the Supreme Court and the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management.
    • It had rejected ‘home stays’ in view of the strict social customs and strong resistance of the vast majority.
    • It also suggested that development programmes should be implemented in consultation with the elected local self-government bodies
    • It also recommended adherence to scientifically determined plans.

Major concerns associated with the new changes in Lakshadweep administration

  • Firstly, these changes are arbitrary, authoritarian and will destroy the way of life.
  • Secondly, vague criteria of ‘public purpose’ for acquiring private land will increase conflict.
    • Dev Sharan vs State of Uttar Pradesh, 2011: SC observed that “Any attempt by the State to acquire land by promoting a public purpose to benefit a particular group of people or to serve any particular interest at the cost of the interest of a large section of people especially of the common people defeats the very concept of public purpose.
  • Thirdly, Since, the existing water balance is under stress, it is difficult to adopt tourism.
    • All the inhabited islands already have a scarcity of drinking water supply. Hence, the conventional method of sewage treatment is not feasible because of the coral sandy strata and high-water table.
  • Fourthly, arbitrary changes will affect the relationship between the state and society, resulting in trust deficit and misgovernance.
    • For instance, the powers of the panchayats have been withdrawn on grounds of corruption, two-child policy for election candidates, banning beef and allowing liquor only for tourists.
    • Also, the new draft legislation has brought preventive detention for ‘anti-social activities’ whereas the island has no case of murder or smuggling by local people.
  • The Lakshadweep Administration has said the changes are in line with Maldives development road. However, it has adopted a very different strategy without the active participation of the public.

How the Maldives development strategy is different from the Lakshadweep administration?

  • Firstly, tourism in the Maldives is centred on water villas in uninhabited islands, ensuring that very few coconut trees are cut.
  • Secondly, only limited homestays are allowed.
  • Thirdly, Maldives has a ‘one island, one resort’ policy which has kept very little pressure on reefs low.
  • Fourthly, since the rich and healthy reefs are essential for economic returns, its business model is about giving coral reefs economic significance.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 9 June, 2021

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