9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 1, 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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GOA Infra Project Red Flagged- Key Findings and Recommendation by the CEC Panel

Source – The Indian Express

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

Synopsis – The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) recommended changes to the rail track doubling project in GOA.  The project would have destroyed the fragile ecosystem of Western Ghats.

Introduction –

  • The Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (SC-NBWL) gave clearance to linear infrastructure projects within the boundaries of Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in Goa.
  • The Goa Foundation filed an application against this decision before SC -CEC.
  • The CEC examined the proposal cleared by the SC-NBWL for the three linear projects in Goa —
    • Doubling of railway tracks.
    • Four laning of a nationwide freeway.
    • Goa Tanmar Transmission Project.
  • These Projects included the diversion of about 170 hectares of forest land and sanctuary land, and the felling of an estimated 37,000 trees. It was impacting the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary (BMWS) and Mollem National Park (MNP) in Goa [Western Ghats].

What are the key findings by the CEC panel?

  • Environment impact- The project will destroy the Western Ghats ecosystem, which is one of the country’s most valuable wildlife corridors. It is also a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot.
  • Not justifiable- The doubling of railway tracks will only marginally enhance the capacity of the most inefficient section of the railway network.
    • The estimate by the railways is not based on facts, despite the change in policy on the import of coal.
  • Difficulty in animal movement- The wider openings through the Western Ghats will further fragment the habitat and will make the movement of wildlife across the railway line much more difficult and dangerous.
    • The width of underpasses/overpasses in the proposal, providing for the free movement of wildlife animals, was also inadequate.

What are the recommendations by the CEC panel?

Following are the recommendations by the apex court-appointed panel –

  • Revocation of approval granted by SC-NBWL for doubling of the railway tracks that run through the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats.
  • Re-alignment of the Goa Tamnar Transmission Project: The CEC also recommended redrawing and modify the alignment for Goa Tamnar power transmission project, this will help in-
    • Protecting forest cover in order to make way for the 400 KV line.
    • Protecting wildlife- The CEC suggested an elevated structure at strategic locations leaving the surface terrain free for movement of all types of wildlife.
  • Furthermore, the project of four laning of existing NH-4A needs to obtain environment clearance [EC] under Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006.

Conclusion

The implementation of recommendations in the proposal would be beneficial. It would aid in the conservation of the valuable forest cover and wildlife in the ecologically fragile and biodiversity-rich Western Ghats.


How Government Regulate the Prices of Vaccines and drugs?

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis: The Supreme Court recently reminded the government of its powers to regulate the pricing of vaccines and drugs.

Introduction:

The Supreme Court has raised the issue of differential pricing for Covid-19 vaccines for the center and states. It directed the central government to clarify in its affidavit the basis and rationale for pricing.

How does the government regulate the pricing of drugs?

  • The Government of India regulates the pricing of essential drugs through its Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
  • Under Section 3 of the Act, the government has enacted the Drugs (Prices Control) Order. The DPCO lists over 800 drugs as “essential” in its schedule. Government caps the prices of medicines in this list.
  • The capping of prices is done based on a formula. This formula is worked out in each case by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA). (The NPPA was set up in 1997).

What prices the government cannot regulate?

  • Regulation through DPCO is not applicable for patented drugs or fixed-dose combination (FDC) drugs.
  • For example, the price of the antiviral drug remdesivir. The government is not regulating the prices of this drug even though it is in great demand to treat serious cases of Covid-19.

Various ways to regulate the pricing of vaccines:

Experts suggest the government can use few methods to control the pricing of vaccines. These are,

  1. The Patents Act,1970: The act has two key specific provisions that could be potentially invoked to regulate the pricing of the vaccine. The two provisions are:
    1. Section 100: It gives the central government the power to authorise anyone (a pharma company) to use the invention for the purposes of the government. Basically, this provision enables the government to license patents of the vaccine to specific companies. This is done to speed up manufacturing and ensuring equitable pricing.
    2. Section 92: It deals with compulsory licensing. It says that the government without the permission of the patent holder can provide license under the following situations:
        • The circumstance of national emergency; or
        • The circumstance of extreme urgency; or
        • Case of public non-commercial use.
      • After the government issues a notification under Section 92 the pharma companies can approach the government for a license. They can start manufacturing the patented drug by reverse-engineering the product.
  2. Epidemic Diseases Act,1897: It is another legal route suggested by experts to regulate the pricing of vaccines.
    1. Firstly, Section 2 of the Act: It empowers State Governments to take special measures and prescribe regulations during the outbreak of an epidemic disease.
    2. Secondly, if the State Government thinks that other Acts are insufficient, then the state may issue a public notice to prescribe temporary regulations for the public/class of persons to follow.
    3. Thirdly, the undefined powers under section 2 can be used to take measures to regulate pricing. However, the law is not sufficient for its implementation. Punishment for violation of orders under section 2  is nominal, which restricts its implementation.
    4. Fourthly, violation of the Act is penalised under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. It says that any person who disobeys an order given by a public servant will be punished with imprisonment up to 1 month. If such disobedience causes danger to human life, the term may extend to six months or a fine that could extend up to Rs 1,000.

Way forward:

The government has various ways to control the pricing of the vaccine. So the government has to resolve the challenges with the new vaccination policy. Further, to achieve universal vaccination for Covid-19 the government has to take these necessary steps.


SC Warn States Against Restricting Information

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: The Supreme Court has warned the police and the government against harassing the people who need help.

Background  

The Supreme Court has issued a timely warning to the States against any attempt to restrict the spreading of information about the health crisis or call for help. 

  • The court issued this warning in response to the direction issued by the UP Government. Directions stated anyone spreading misinformation or rumour would be held under the National Security Act (NSA). Also, their property will be seized. 
  • Amethi police registered an FIR against a man who asked for an oxygen cylinder on Twitter for a family member. Accusations were of circulating a rumour and seeking to cause fear and alarm.
  • It is appropriate for the government to direct the police to crack down on the racketeering of medicines in the black market. 
    • However, it is a different matter if the administration starts seeing all pleas for help as actions aimed at ruining the government’s image.

What is the significance of the Supreme Court’s warning?

The court said that the calls for help through social media from citizens affected by COVID-19 are not supposed to be banned.

  • Firstly, the Court’s warning that any attempt to suppress the people’s voices would attract action for contempt of court is timely and necessary. Because leaders are treating the grievances by citizens as a personal insult to their administrative capabilities.
  • Secondly, the head of the bench, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that any restriction on information is conflicting with basic principles. He highlighted the importance and need for the free flow of information during a serious crisis by remembering the role it played in controlling a famine in 1970.
  • Thirdly, the Court was taking inspiration from the theory, enunciated by economist Amartya Sen. The theory spoke of the fundamental features of democracy that could help prevent famines. Such as:
    • A free press and the need to face the people at elections and response to political criticism.
  • Fourthly, this will help prevent misguided action by the police and the administration to treat appeals concerning the shortage of hospital beds, medical oxygen, and vital drugs

Conclusion 

  • The High Courts of India questioned the government as well. Any move to suppress such criticism or managing opinions will be of no use if the infections and body count keep rising.
  • Government must acknowledge its accountability. And focus on strengthening the health infrastructure, instead of wasting energy and precious time on managing people’s opinions.

Failure of Governance in India- Reason Behind the Pandemic Crisis

Source: Indian Express

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

Synopsis: The article highlights at least 5 instances of Failure of Governance in India, in the past 15 months. This is the reason behind the failure of the center and states in handling the Pandemic crisis.

5 instances of Failure of Governance in India

  1. First, the sudden imposition of lockdown during the first Covid-19 wave was inhuman. The decision gratified the wellbeing of aspirational middle-class society. Whereas, the decision-makers were indifferent towards the problems of daily wageworkers especially the migrant community.
  2. Second, further, the lockdown was supported by weak legal instruments such as the epidemic diseases act and disaster management act. It led to the harassment of citizens. For instance, Custodial death of P Jayaraj and Bennicks in Tamil Nadu.
  3. Third, inadequate budgetary support for the economic safety, relief, and protection of vulnerable citizens.
  4. Fourth, delayed rollout of the vaccine policy compounded by a complex and multi-layered pricing policy.
  5. Fifth, lack of preparedness in terms of health infrastructure. Even after the first Covid wave, neither long-term plans nor new budget provisions were available to strengthen the health infrastructure.
    • Only makeshift shelters were planned during the first covid wave, however, they were either closed or not usable during the second covid wave.
  6. Apart from these issues, the problems of Misgovernance were complicated by the following issues,
    • One, lack of transparency in the PM cares fund.
    • Two, lack of public communication over the pandemic during post lockdown periods.
    • Three, shifting the responsibility towards the States at a time when a large-scale human tragedy required statesmanship, partnership, and collaboration. This has resulted in a dirty blame game politics between the Centre and States.

The authoritarian rule will be the outcome of misgovernance where citizens and political opponents will eventually be penalized. We have now entered that stage with threats of seizure of property for criticism of the mistakes, stating the facts, and for demanding accountability of government.


Prospects of India- Japan Relations

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Synopsis: India- Japan relations will mainly center around the goal of containing aggressive China. A glimpse of it can be seen in the recent Japan-U. S meeting.

Background

  • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to visit India as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic normalizes.
  • Outcomes of the recent Japan – US meeting gave a glimpse of what India can expect from Japan.

What were the outcomes from the recent Japan-US meeting?

Japan-US discussions mainly centered around China.

  • First, both the countries assured their commitments to the joint security partnership. The treaty is significant given China’s recent aggressiveness in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas as well as in the Taiwan Strait.
  • Second, Since the nature of conflict is changing, both sides acknowledged the importance of extended deterrence through cooperation on cybersecurity and space technology.
  • Third, a Competitiveness and Resilience Partnership, or CoRe was announced to support funding of new-age technologies.
    • The funding will be used for the deployment of secure 5G networks to build digital infrastructure in developing countries.
    • Given the Chinese ambitions to dominate the development of new-age technologies such as 5G and quantum computing the announcement of CoRe is significant. For instance, China recently pledged to invest $1.4 trillion in emerging technologies.
  • Fourth, both the countries expressed their willingness to continue pressure on China to reform China’s offensive economic practices. Such as violations of intellectual property rights, forced technology transfer, excess capacity issues, and the use of trade-distorting industrial subsidies.
  • Fifth, both the countries emphasized their vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law, freedom of navigation, etc.
  • Sixth, they also expressed their continued support for the QUAD.  Further, they criticized China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, suppression of protests in Hong Kong, and military aggression towards Taiwan.

What one can expect from the upcoming India-Japan meeting?

  • First, there will be a continuation of the balancing security policy against China as both have been the victims of China’s aggressive posture.
  • For instance, Japan is concerned over China’s unilateral actions in the East and South China Seas, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong. Whereas, India is concerned over China’s military conflict in Galwan valley.
  • Second, both the countries will be reaffirming their support for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and the Quad grouping.
  • Third, given China’s commitment towards massive funding for new-age technologies, India and Japan will be willing to expand their cooperation in sectors such as cybersecurity and emerging technologies. However, there are few irritants in cybersecurity cooperation.
    • One, India’s insistence on data localization.
    • Two, India’s reluctance to accede to global cybersecurity agreements such as the Budapest Convention.
  • Fourth, given that Japan is only India’s 12th largest trading partner and trade volumes between the two stand at just a fifth of the value of India-China bilateral trade. There will be commitments towards increasing Trade between the two countries.
    • Japan may reaffirm its support for key manufacturing initiatives, such as ‘Make in India’ and the Japan Industrial Townships.
    • Whereas, India will be willing to secure continued infrastructure investments in the strategically vital connectivity projects. For example, the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands connectivity projects
  • Fifth, given the failure of joint infrastructure projects in Africa and Iran, both countries will be interested to evolve a joint strategy towards key third countries.
    • Further, Japan will be willing to push India to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 1 May, 2021

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