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List of Contents
Consequences of Neglecting Science Education
Source: The Hindu
Gs3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.
Synopsis: Neglect of Science education on disease control and health is one of the main reasons for the current Covid crisis in India.
How Science Education can help in controlling the spread of disease?
- Many waterborne diseases in India could be prevented if children are taught the science behind the origin and causes of the disease.
- For instance, in the case of Malaria, avoiding the proliferation of mosquitoes prevent the chances of being infected by the parasite. Malaria breeds in stagnant water. Spreading kerosene on stagnant water restricts the growth of Mosquito larvae.
- Similarly, it is possible to prevent other diseases, such as typhoid fever and jaundice, by avoiding contaminated water. Children should be taught, how boiling water can kill microbes and ensure disease prevention.
- The same is the case with Common diarrhea. It can be prevented by ensuring the supply of clean water in all geographical locations,
- Apart from teaching the Science behind the disease spread and control, it is important to instill a belief system regarding disease control and prevention. For instance,
- Giving an opportunity for children to view microbes through use of Microscopes.
- Conducting field study to educate them on how stagnant water helps in breeding mosquitos.
How the neglect of Science education in India, on disease control and health contributed to the current Covid crisis?
- Inefficiency of our education system has failed to instill belief system on controlling the diseases. For instance, to control the Pandemic, Health advisories such as Social distancing, wearing masks, ban on spitting are seen as a solution.
- Due to a lack of knowledge in the Science of Health and diseases, many violated these health advisories. It resulted in the rapid spread of Covid-19.
- Rather than cultivating belief in Science, our education system has cultivated belief in Fatalism.
- Along with due importance for Science teaching, a rational social environment is needed.
- Children should be encouraged to participate in dissent and debate to instill rationality.
Expansion of Social Security Net is Need of the Hour
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have hurt the poor on multiple fronts of healthcare, livelihood and hunger. Both urban and rural regions are facing difficulties, however, miseries in rural regions were less due to wide coverage of social security net. This calls for expanding social security nets across the country.
- The April 2020 lockdown brought immense misery for the people of India. It’s been almost a year and masses have now learned to adapt to the new normal.
- Nonetheless, the situation for the poor has been worse as they were hit on multiple fronts including healthcare, livelihood and hunger.
Dismal State of Affairs:
- The State of Working India report 2021 shows that nearly half of formal salaried workers moved into informal work between late 2019 and late 2020. Further, the poorest 20% of the households lost their entire income in April and May 2020.
- Greater Hardships for Urban Regions: Hunger Watch (HW) Survey 2021 was conducted in 11 States in October 2020. It found that:
- In October, 26% had no income in rural areas while 30% had no income in urban areas.
- While 54% in urban areas had to borrow money for food, it was 16% lower for rural respondents.
- Urban respondents were 15 percentage points worse off compared to their rural counterparts across 13 key parameters.
- Disproportionate impact on Vulnerable sections: As per HW survey, the situation is worse when data is observed in terms of caste, religion, and other special forms of vulnerability.
- For instance, 60% of Muslims, 51% of Dalits, and 56% of single women-headed households went to bed without a meal at least once.
However, some form of relief was provided by social security nets during these turbulent times.
- National Food Security Act: Under this, 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population are entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains each month at subsidised prices.
- The government announced additional grains for the poor under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
- Further, an additional entitlement of 5 kg of foodgrains per individual and 1 kg of pulses per household for free was available. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) cardholders under the NFSA, were eligible for this benefit.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA): It guarantees 100 days of work a year to every rural household with an aim to enhance the livelihood security of people.
- There was a 47% increase in person-days of work under MGNREGA in 2020-21 in comparison to 2019-20. Further, a record 72 lakh households completed 100 days of work in one year.
Reasons behind less distress for Rural areas:
- First, employment guarantee schemes like MGNREGA are not available for urban regions.
- Second, the coverage of rural regions is more under NFSA in comparison to urban areas i.e. 75% versus 50%.
- Third, the availability of ration cards was higher in rural regions than urban areas. Around 56% of respondents had NFSA cards in rural regions while only 27% had them in urban areas.
- The Central government must immediately expand the coverage and quantity under the NFSA for at least one year.
- It should increase MGNREGA entitlements to 200 days per household from the current 100 days commitment.
- States like Odisha and Himachal Pradesh have already added 50 days and increased it to 150 days in a year.
- A guaranteed urban employment programme on the lines of MGNREGA can provide protection to the urban poor.
- Further, the government must offer a wage compensation of Rs. 7,000 per poor household for the next few months.
In a nutshell, we need to expand the social security net in order to meet basic requirements of at least 33 crore poor households in India.
Centre Should Relook its Vaccine Policy
Source: Click Here
Syllabus: GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design
Synopsis: The vaccine policy of the government would enhance the difficulties of states and the vulnerable population. It would give greater benefit to the affluent class and the urban regions. Therefore, the center must relook it in order to make it more equitable.
- The Centre government has filed an affidavit in Supreme Court with reference to the COVID-19 management case. It has insisted on the continuation of its revamped vaccine policy that was introduced for vaccinating the 18+ population.
- The policy was revamped after the demand to universalize the vaccination program among all adults came from various states.
About the Vaccine Policy:
- The center has put forward a more liberalized policy under which it will procure 50% of the total vaccine production. While the states and private sector will be allowed procurement of 25% each in every state.
- Each state will get vaccines based on a quota decided by the Centre government and there would be a uniform price of vaccines across all the states.
- The policy would increase the vaccine maker’s revenue as Covaxin will fetch a weighted price of Rs. 477 per dose. Similarly, Covishield would be priced at Rs. 302 per dose.
- The weighted average is calculated based on a share of 50% for the Centre, 25% for States, and 25% for the private sector for both vaccines.
However, many experts are demanding a relook of this policy as it may not deliver the desired results.
Issues with vaccine policy that demands a relook:
- Bias against the Vulnerable population: The private players will sell vaccines at higher prices that may not be affordable for the vulnerable population. Further, the addition of 600 million (18-44 age category) people, has created extreme vaccine shortages thereby leading to more exclusion under the current program.
- Against International Practice: The national government is solely buying the vaccines in every other country. Although there are some exceptions like Indonesia and the Philippines. Here the corporates are allowed to buy internationally, to vaccinate their workers for free.
- Inconsistent Nature: The policy is based on the principle of liberalization. However, the center is controlling both price and quantity for every State. This is against liberalization.
- It is also ironic that on one hand, the center is deciding which manufacturer of Remdesivir will sell how much to which State and at what price.
- While on the other hand, it is deregulating the Covid vaccine market which currently has just two suppliers.
- Burden on States: Instead of the full production at zero cost, the States now got one-quarter of the production at twice or more the price paid by the Centre.
- Problems with Private Participation: It is not clear how to define the private sector in a specific state. Procurement contracts by private participants are done at a corporate level and not by State units. This may benefit large urban areas, where there is a greater presence of the private sector.
- The centre should procure 100% doses and equitably distribute them among the states. Its ability to give bulk orders allows it to buy vaccines cheaper than States or the private sector.
- It can increase its procurement price from 154 in order to raise the revenue of vaccine producers.
- Further, the companies must be given large long-term orders for 100% of India’s needs. This would enable them to invest more and sell globally.
- The government should also widely licence Covaxin in order to boost production and tackle vaccine shortages. Most of the core work in developing the vaccine was done at the ICMR-NIV in Pune, indicating the use of public funds for development.
- It should arrange more supplies by negotiating with global suppliers through the diplomatic route. This would also help in converting the idea of the door to door campaign into a reality.
- It should give special interest-free 50-year loans to States in order to bear the additional burden of the vaccine program.
Gauhati High Court Questions FCRA Amendment Act
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-2: the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
Synopsis: The Gauhati High Court questions the new FCRA Amendment Act.
An Assam-based NGO has filed a petition in the Gauhati High Court against an amended provision of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act(FCRA). As the amendment makes Aadhaar mandatory for opening and operating the account in Delhi.
FCRA Amendment Act, 2020:
- The FCRA amendment has made it compulsory for the NGOs to open an exclusive Bank account with the State Bank of India in New Delhi to receive foreign donations.
- The amendments also make it mandatory to provide the Aadhaar details of the chief functionaries, trustees and office-bearers. This is for opening and operating a bank account in Delhi.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs has given the deadline of March 31st, 2021 to open this bank account.
- However, if the NGOs failed to open the bank account before the deadline. Then they will not be able to receive fresh foreign funds from April 1,2021 in the existing accounts. But they could utilise the money that already exists in the old account.
What are the issues with these FCRA Amendments?
- Several NGOs have filed a petition in the Gauhati High Court against making Aadhaar mandatory for opening and operating the account in Delhi.
- They have said that they are not able to open bank accounts as they do not fulfil the eligibility criteria (since they don’t have an Aadhaar card).
- Further, several NGOs have also asked for an exemption from the Union Home Ministry deadline to open an FCRA account with the SBI branch in New Delhi.
- It said that only 16% of registered NGOs have active bank accounts with the State Bank of India’s main branch in Delhi.
What has the Gauhati High Court said on FCRA Amendments?
- The Gauhati High Court has sent a notice to the State Bank of India(SBI) asking it to explain why Aadhaar was necessary to open a bank account.
- The Court also referred to the 2018 Supreme Court judgement in the K.S. Puttaswamy (Aadhaar) case. During this case, the apex court had ruled that mandatorily linking Aadhaar to a bank account “does not satisfy the Doctrine of proportionality”.
Note: The Doctrine of proportionality: It is a principle where courts would examine priorities and processes of the administration for reaching or recalling a decision. Proportionality means that the administrative action should not be more drastic than it ought to be for obtaining the desired result. This implies that a missile should not be used to shoot a sparrow. Thus, this doctrine tries to balance means with ends.
ASEAN’s Initiative to End Political Crisis in Myanmar
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Synopsis: ASEAN’s initiative is trying to resolve the political crisis in Myanmar through peaceful mediation. It is a shining example of how regional grouping can be helpful in diffusing crises in its member countries.
- People in Myanmar organized a civil disobedience movement against the military. They demanded the release of their elected leaders and the return of freedoms and democracy.
- However, the people’s movement was controlled using brute military power. 750 were killed, thousands injured, and over 2,500 detained.
- The opposition is demanding the rejection of the 2008 constitution. Also, adoption of a new Federal Democracy Charter, and announcement of the ‘national unity government’ with representation from the majority Bamar and ethnic minority communities. But the army didn’t accept their demands too.
- Further, the army set aside the results of the 2020 elections and promised for new elections in a year or two and a disciplined democracy.
How the international community responded to the derailment of Democracy in Myanmar?
The international community was divided on their response. There was no united action taken by the international community to settle the crisis in Myanmar. For instance,
- The U.S., the U.K., and the European Union advocated strong sanctions against the military regime.
- Whereas, China and Russia were determined to protect Myanmar’s army from excessive censure and opposition as greater instability would affect their interests.
- Asian powers, mainly India and Japan, preferred to support reconciliation.
However, the ASEAN, regional grouping of Southeast Asian nations has taken a bold initiative to settle the crisis.
ASEAN’s Mediation Process
- Myanmar is a member of the ASEAN grouping. Though ASEAN is built on the values of non-interference in the internal affairs of its member states, ASEAN decided to mediate with Myanmar for the region’s larger good.
- After that, the ASEAN member countries organized the Jakarta Summit to discuss Myanmar’s governance crisis along with Myanmar’s army general.
- The Jakarta Summit ended with two major outcomes.
- One, the Five-Point Consensus with the acceptance of Myanmar’s military general on the following demands
- Immediate cessation of violence
- Supply of humanitarian assistance and Constructive dialogue.
- ASEAN’s mediation through the visit by a special envoy of ASEAN’s chair and the ASEAN secretary general.
- Two, however, the Myanmar military had reservations on the following two elements
- One, repatriation of Rohingya’s from Bangladesh.
- Two, the release of all political prisoners including foreigners. This makes clear that leaders will be released only when the situation normalizes.
- One, the Five-Point Consensus with the acceptance of Myanmar’s military general on the following demands
ASEAN’s initiative to resolve its issues peacefully has been largely appreciated by the international community. India too welcomed the ASEAN initiative. Myanmar’s leaders should work for a lasting reconciliation, deriving inspiration from Lord Buddha’s ‘Middle Path’.