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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – March 2, 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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Relevance of the JCPOA | Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action | Iran Nuclear Deal

Source: The Hindu

Synopsis: Resolution of JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is the foremost challenge for Biden administration. It is also very important for a peaceful world.

Introduction:

Former US president (Mr Trump) revoked the JCPOA or Iran nuclear deal in 2018. After that Iran also resumed its nuclear program. So the US under the current Biden presidency have to take a proactive step to revive the JCPOA.

What is JCPOA and developments around it so far?

  1. After the prolonged talks from 2013 to 2015, the JCPOA, (the Iran nuclear deal) was reached. The negotiations involved Iran and P5+1 countries (Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union + Germany).
  2. While signing the JCPOA, Iran was estimated to be months away from producing a nuclear device (it accumulated enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) to produce a nuclear device).
    Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU): This type of Uranium has at least a 20 percent concentration of Uranium-235. This is a higher concentration comparing to the natural uranium ore (0.7% of U235). This is essential to produce the simplest type of nuclear weapon.
  3. According to the Iran nuclear deal, Iran accepted to restrict its uranium enrichment program. It also agreed to intense compliance with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards. In return, the sanctions on Iran were partially lifted.
  4. The Iran nuclear deal was seen as the greatest diplomatic achievement by Former US President Barak Obama. But the Iran nuclear deal was not ratified in the US Senate. So, Mr Obama implemented the deal based on periodic executive orders.
  5. Under the Trump administration, the Iran nuclear deal was seen as a one-sided deal. So, by May 2018 the US adopted a policy of putting ‘maximum pressure’ to force Iran back to the negotiating table. Accordingly, the US imposed sanctions on Iran again.

How the other P5+1 members reacted to the US decision on JCPOA?

  1. Other parties to the JCPOA criticised the U.S. decision. They also supported Iran as it complied with its obligations and also certified by the IAEA.
  2. The E-3 (France, Germany, the U.K.) and the EU promised Iran to find ways to mitigate the U.S. decision on JCPOA.
  3. The E-3 countries also created a relief Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) with Iran in 2019. This is aimed to facilitate limited trade between Iran and the EU.

How Iran reacted to sanctions?

  1. After the failure of talks and the INSTEX, Iran shifted to a strategy of ‘maximum resistance’ in 2019. Iran restarted its nuclear program with the following steps:
    • Accumulating the low enriched Uranium and heavy water to develop HEU
    • Stepping up the research and development on advanced centrifuges.
  2. Already tense relationship between US and Iran worsened by many developments, like:
    1. Drone strike leading to the death of IRGC commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
    2. The U.S. had imposed nearly 80 rounds of sanctions on Iran.
    3. Iran experienced unexplained fires and blasts in many sensitive places like the one at the Natanz nuclear facility

Relevance of reviving JCPOA:

  1. The Iranian Parliament also passed a bill seeking to enrich the Uranium above 20%. A recent IAEA report has also confirmed that 20% enrichment had begun.
  2. Moreover, Iranian elections are due in June. A fundamentalist regime is less likely to agree to any US demand. So, the negotiations might not yield results after the Iranian elections.
  3. If there is a collapse of the JCPOA, then the situation in Iran will be just like North Korea’s situation. It will have major repercussions in the region and beyond.

What can be done to revive the JCPOA?

  1. Positive steps and multiple rounds of talks are necessary for creating a conducive atmosphere.
    • To achieve that, Iran can release the European and American nationals currently in custody in Iran.
    • Similarly, the US can help to clear Iran’s applications to the International Monetary Fund. This will help Iran to recover from COVID-19 and aid the supply of vaccines under the international COVAX facility.
  2. Similarly, the E-3/EU also needs to fast track deals worth a few million euros stuck in the INSTEX pipeline.
  3. The US on the other hand can remove sanctions on Iranian political leaders, it will bring Iran closer to talks.

Conclusion

The revival of JCPOA is essential considering the current political situations in Iran and the new change in the US presidency. But it has to be fast, else Iran will go nuclear like North Korea.


Pakistan Remains on FATF’s Grey list

Synopsis: Pakistan avoided the blacklist in the recent FATF meeting. However, it has to do more, to come out of the grey list of FATF.

Introduction: 

The recent Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting has once again decided to keep Pakistan in their grey list of countries under “increased monitoring”.

Further, the FATF ruled out the option of placing Pakistan on blacklist like Iran and North Korea. It is because Pakistan made some progress on its commitments to FATF. Further, the FATF also provided a 3-month time limit to Pakistan for fulfilling its remaining commitments.

Pakistan’s progress under FATF grey list:

  1. Pakistan was removed from the Financial Action Task Force lists in 2015. But in 2018, it was again put on the list. Pakistan was provided with a 27-point action list to fulfill, to come out of the FATF grey list.
  2. FATF President Marcus Pleyer acknowledged Pakistan’s “significant progress”. However, he further mentioned that Pakistan fulfilled 3 points on the list only partially. Notably, 3 of them in the area of curbing terror financing. The FATF mentions the few important areas of non-compliance such as,
    • Demonstrating terror-funding prosecution is accurate, effective, and dissuasive
    • Implementing financial sanctions against all terrorists designated by the UN Security Council. This includes LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, JeM chief Masood Azhar and those who belong to al-Qaeda.

India’s relations with Pakistan

Since 2016, political, trade, cultural ties between Pakistan and India are minimal. But recently the recent decision of Directors General of Military Operations (DGMO’s)  to strictly observe the ceasefire agreement, is a great first step.

The move indicates more dialogues are possible between both countries. But the success of dialogues also depends upon Pakistan’s compliance with other points in the 27 point action list. Such as

    • Successfully prosecuting terrorists and terror financiers.
    • Addressing cross-border terror that emanates from Pakistan.

Conclusion

India Pakistan relations may progress by fulfilling Pakistan’s commitment to the FATF action list. Because these actions also address India’s main grievance with Pakistan on State-sponsored terrorism.


Priya Ramani Case: Significance and Challenges

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 1: Salient features of Indian Society – Social Empowerment

Synopsis: Since 2018, women revealing their stories of sexual assault faced many hardships.  The verdict in the Priya Ramani Vs MJ Akbar case is new hope for those women.

Background

  • In 2018, Priya Ramani made allegations of harassment against MJ Akbar through Tweets and News article.
  • In turn, a criminal defamation case was filed in Delhi High Court against the journalist by Union Minister.
  • Recently Delhi court has acquitted Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed by a former Union minister.

What are the important observations made by the court in this case?

  • One, the court accepts the fact that many women do not file complaints due to the social stigma in society.
  • Two, the court said that the victim has a right to put her grievance even after years and decades.
  • Three, the judgment also upholds that reputation cannot be protected at the cost of human dignity. The Right of a woman’s reputation has been guaranteed under Article 21.

What is the significance of this verdict?

  • The verdict upholds women’s right to share their experiences of sexual harassment whenever they are comfortable. It also disregards claims to male respectability in a patriarchal society.
  • It also approves any future moves by women in support of campaigns similar to #metoo movement.

What are the challenges faced by women while expressing their vulnerable conditions?

  • Women who share their experiences of sexual harassment at the workplace are often met with harsh consequences. For example, employers, globally, are expressing an unwillingness to hire more women.
  • It also challenges the Patriarchal society’s values that a privileged man cannot be punished despite their disreputable actions.

Suggestions to solve the menace of sexual harassment?

  • According to an American feminist scholar, Janet Halley, the struggle for affirmative consent shall be fought in the real world and not in the courtrooms.
  • According to her, the struggle for sexual consent of women should have the following features,
    • One, promoting individual freedom to decide the course of one’s own sexual engagements.
    • Two, affirmative consent has to be realized through legal actions by the engagement with the state.
  • Questioning the male privilege and removing the gender inequality in society appears to be the best way forward for feminism in India.

NEP 2020 and children’s right to playgrounds

Synopsis: NEP 2020 (National Education Policy) has disregarded the children’s right to playgrounds in the name of efficiency.

Background

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE) mandates that all school-going children between the ages of 6 and 14 should be guaranteed essential infrastructure including playgrounds.
  • However, the New NEP 2020 is going against the RTE requirements of providing mandatory infrastructural facilities.
  • This requirement is introduced with the intention to increase efficiency and optimization. It may also lead to an increase in total schools and decrease school fees.
  • However, it will deprive children’s access to playgrounds. It is also a denial of their right to play in safe and adequate spaces.

What are the changes brought by NEP 2020 with respect to playground provisions?

  • First, the NEP directs a review of the “practicalities of playgrounds in urban areas”, school-area, and room-size requirements. It aims to “ease” school operation by removing RTE playground requirements.
  • Second, the NEP proposes that by 2025, state governments have to create school complexes. The school complex would be comprised of a mix of schools and anganwadis in a 5-10 kilometre radius.  Schools will be encouraged to use shared resources such as playgrounds.

What are the issues involved in it?

  1. First, according to NEP 2020, neither the government nor private schools need to provide playgrounds. After that, private schools may charge exorbitant fees without providing playgrounds.
  2. Second, one school complex comprises a 5–10 KM radius, sharing playgrounds among large no. of schools and children of different ages will be difficult. Because children of different ages have different playground needs. For instance, Anganwadi learners have different spatial needs than middle school students.
  3. Third, this is against the court’s directive. In 2019, the Allahabad High Court ruled that playgrounds must be provided within a school’s land area to ensure access for all children, including children with disabilities.
  4. Fourth, there is a growing scarcity of playgrounds due to intensive urbanization. Children’s playgrounds have increasingly been appropriated by governments and private parties for development.
    • For instance, in 2019, Gujarat amended its RTE rules to reduce the minimum playground area requirements for urban and rural schools.
  5. Fifth, NEP provisions are contradictory in nature. Despite removing playground requirements, the NEP advocates sports-integrated education. It fails to explain how sports may be integrated without playgrounds.
  6. Sixth, it is against the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention recognizes play as an indispensable right of the child as it allows for the free and true expression of one’s personality.
  7. Seventh, Sports is also a minuscule sub-category of the infinite varieties of children’s play. It can accommodate only a few children based on “abilities”.
      • Even if specific forms of sports infrastructure are provided in well-resourced schools, these cannot substitute for large, open playgrounds.

The NEP 2020 provision will bring down the minimum standards of quality education, instead of protecting and expanding it. This is also seen as a move to prioritize neoliberal interests that prioritize market demands over societal good.


Critical Analysis of IT Rules 2021

Source: The Hindu, The Hindu 2

Syllabus: GS 2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

Synopsis: Government released new ‘IT (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021’. There are many flaws in these rules that require urgent attention.

Background

  • Recently the Centre introduced the ‘Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021’ to regulate all types of digital platforms.
  • For framing the new rules, the government has referred to the 2018 Prajjawala case. Where the Supreme Court had observed that the Government of India may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications.
  • The new rules force digital news publishers and video streaming services to adhere to a three-tier structure of regulation. It will have a government committee at its apex.
  • It is feared that the new rules will have implications for freedom of expression and the right to information.

What are the issues in the new IT rules 2021?

  • First, the new rules have increased the censorship of Internet content. Moreover, it mandates compliance with government demands regarding user data collection and policing of online services in India.
      • Rules are framed in the absence of open and public discussion and without any parliamentary study and scrutiny.
  • Second, the new rules issued under the Information Technology Act appears to be unconstitutional. Instead of taking a legislative route, it was done by expanding the purview of the IT Act, 2000.
  • Third, the ability to frame subordinate legislation is by its nature a limited, constrained power. An executive cannot use its rule-making power to issue primary legislation by itself.
      • But, the government by enacting new Information Technology rules 2021 has increased the scope of subordinate legislation.
  • Fourth, the new rules will also regulate digital news media, it is a prime source of news. Any government involvement could have a chilling effect on their free speech and conversations.
  • Fifth, according to the new rules, any person having a grievance regarding the content in relation to the Code of Ethics can file his grievance.
      • Literally, it will force a digital platform to take up any issue by anyone. This opens the floodgates for all kinds of interventions considering the fact that many digital news platforms are small entities.
  • Sixth, the new rules have increased the compliance burden for social media platforms. For instance,
      • Big platforms such as WhatsApp will have to appoint chief compliance officers. He/she will ensure the rules and the laws are followed. A nodal officer will also need to be appointed, for coordinating with the law enforcement agencies.
  • Seventh, the new rules mandate the retention of user data by intermediaries for use by government agencies.
      • The rules require messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Signal to trace the origin of the problematic messages based on a judicial order.
      • It raises uncertainty about adherence to such orders, as their messages are encrypted end-to-end.
  • Eighth, the new rules provide for the registration of digital news sites with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Further, OTT platforms are required to agree to a government-supervised “self-regulatory system”.
      • However, under the IT Act, digital news service is not required to be registered. Similarly,  streaming video content has not been included under the ambit of the Cinematograph Act.

What is the way forward?

  • Given the new challenges in digital content, some strict policy measures are needed. However, the Centre’s decision to involve in the grievance redressal process as an apex body cannot solve these problems.
  • Also, over-regulation will prove counterproductive in a country where the citizens still do not have a data privacy law.
  • So, what is needed is the uniform application of laws to combat unlawful content that is already in place.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 2, 2021

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