DAILY MAINS NEWSLETTER FOR UPSC|09 JUN 2021|RaghukulCS

Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

09 June 2021 - Wednesday

Index

Mains Value Addition

Mains Analysis

Topic No

Topic Name

Source

1

Bring genomic sequencing into the pandemic fight

The Hindu

2

The disinformation detox

Indian Express

Mains Value Addition

This time for Male: On Maldives’ UNGA presidency

Syllabus–GS 2: IR – Indian and neighbourhood.

Analysis: –

  • The election of Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid as the President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, that begins in September for 2021-22, is a major boost for the island-nation’s international profile.
  • The election marks the first time a Maldivian will hold the post in the UN’s history, and his margin of victory, 143 to his challenger’s 48, indicating support from nearly three fourths of all countries at the UN, is significant.
  • Maldives also sees it as a win for the 52-member Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are battling climate change vulnerability and other developmental challenges.
  • In addition, in a year when events in Afghanistan will draw attention as U.S. forces begin to pullout, Mr. Shahid’s victory over his surprise opponent, former Afghanistan Foreign Minister ZalmaiRassoul, is remarkable.
  • For India too, that helped Maldives canvass support, the outcome is welcome, not only because of its close ties with Male but also the high regard for Mr. Shahid, a key member of the Solih government.
  • In a break from the norm of not announcing one’s choice for an election by secret ballot, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla had announced India’s support for the Maldives in November 2020, South Block’s explanation being that Afghanistan had not yet announced Mr. Rassoul’s candidature — which it did in January 2021.
  • New Delhi should now ensure that the Afghan government carries no hard feelings, as some in Kabul had even hinted that India might wish to support Afghanistan as it had sacrificed its turn at the UNSC for India’s current term there.
  • It would also be important to analyse why Kabul decided to field a candidate late in the race, and not withdraw despite it being clear that its South Asian neighbour was ahead, and did not consult India closely on the process.

Education Ministry lays down norms for content for disabled children

Syllabus–GS 2: Education

Analysis: –

  • The Education Ministry has laid down new guidelines for producing digital education resources for children with disabilities, after a year in which the COVID-driven shift to online education has spotlighted the lacunae in such resources.
  • However, the PDF document containing the guidelines does not even follow its own rules, making it partially inaccessible to the visually challenged, says an activist, raising concerns about effective implementation.
  • The guidelines, released by Education Minister Ramesh PokhriyalNishank on Tuesday, are based on four guiding principles, stipulating that all resources must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust for disabled students.
  • They recommend that all textbooks be made digitally accessible in a phased manner, so that they are available in multiple formats such as text, audio, video and sign language with turn-on and turn-off features.
  • The closure of regular schools and learning centres due to COVID-19 has led to special difficulties for many disabled children.
  • For instance, a recent study by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy showed that more than half of the NCERT textbooks available on the government’s virtual education platform DIKSHA were not accessible for visually impaired students.

Mains Analysis

Bring genomic sequencing into the pandemic fight

Why in News?

Emerging variants, with evidence of higher transmissibility and immune escape, demand re-strategised responses

Syllabus—GS 3- Science & Tech

Background: –

  • Effective COVID-19 pandemic response requires, inter alia, keeping track of emerging variants and then conducting further studies about their transmissibility, immune escape and potential to cause severe disease.
  • Therefore, genomic sequencing becomes one of the first steps in this important process.
  • Successful case reduction in United States and the United Kingdom credit is being given to the increasing vaccination coverage; also due to use of genomic sequencing, by tracking the emerging variants.
  • In India there is not enough attention to scale up genomic sequencing.
  • Though the procedural steps such as setting up the Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomic Consortia, or INSACOG have been taken, the sequencing has remained at a very low level of a few thousand cases only.
  • We understand the Delta variant far less than the Alpha variant reported just a month before Delta.
  • The challenge of insufficient genomic sequencing is further compounded by the pace at which data is being shared.

What is the Delta strain?

  • Release of findings of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Genomics; Integrative Biology and National Centre for Disease Control and Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research study; tracking variants of SARS CoV-2 in Delhi,is a welcome change and provides new insights
  • The Delta variant became the most circulating variant in Delhi and was found in nearly 60% of the samples analysed; is 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant.
  • Based upon these findings, the authors attribute the in April-May 2021.
  • Public Health England (PHE) reported that the Delta variant has become the most common circulating strain in the U.K., replacing Alpha.
  • Lancet published research findings from laboratory studies which examined the neutralising capacity of antibodies from individuals vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, which was nearly 5.8 fold lower against Delta variants and 2.6 fold less against the Alpha variant, when compared with the ancestor virus.
  • Emerging variants — with early evidence of higher transmissibility, immune escape and breakthrough infections — demand continuous re-thinking and re-strategising of the pandemic response by every country.
  • Scientific research would make a difference only if it results in informed policy decisions.

The steps ahead

  1. India needs to scale up genomic sequencing, across all States. There should be sufficient and representative samples collected for genomic sequencing to track district-level trends in circulating variants.
  2. National-level analysis of collated genomic sequencing data should be done on a regular basis and findings shared publicly.
  3. Indian government needs to invest and support more scientific and operational research on vaccine effectiveness.
  4. The data should be analysed on a regular basis and should include various stratifiers such as age, gender and comorbid conditions, etc.
  5. The data from genomic sequencing has both policy and operational implications.
  6. The State and district officials should engage the epidemiologists in coming up with practical and operational implications and strategies.
  7. We should aim for far stricter adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour, in public places.

Way Forward

  • Continuation of many unproven and ineffective therapies in COVID-19 treatment guidelines is proof that India is not quick in adopting evidence to the practice.
  • The only assured way to fight the pandemic is to use scientific evidence to decide policies, modify strategies and take corrective actions. As India prepares for the third wave, increasing genomic sequencing and use of scientific evidence for decision making are not a choice but an absolute essential.

Question: –

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

The disinformation detox

Why in News?

Upendra Baxi writes: Despite the threat of information disorder, human rights-friendly governance is both possible and doable.

Syllabus—GS2: Fundamental Rights

Background: –

  • Recently two very critical human rights events occurred in the Indian context.
  • The SC warned against any clampdown on free speech.
  • UNHRC Special Rapporteur submitted the report on “Disinformation & Freedom of Opinion & Expression”.

What is SC Judgment is about?

  • The 3 judge SC bench declared that any clampdown on information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking/delivering help on any platform will attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction by SC.
  • It not just mandated the registrar to place the order before all district magistrates in the country but also directed the central & state govts to notify all chief secy/ DGPs.
  • Although the judgment is COVID context but SC reinforces past precedents enshrining the principle that abuse of public power may not unreasonably or arbitrarily curb the freedom of speech, press & media platforms.
  • This suo motu coercive action may have spillover other proceedings.

UNHRC Report:

  • It specifically speaks of information disorder that arises from disinformation which is politically polarizing, hinders people’s human rights exercising & destroys trust in govts.
  • Human rights provide a powerful & appropriate framework to challenge falsehoods & present viewpoints & the freedom of opinion & expression enables governance & development,
  • It is possible, doable & desirable to have a human rights friendly governance as it protects political power against it.
  • On the backdrop of the internet shutdown, it also makes moderation of reactive content do not make any worthwhile difference due to the absence of lack of proper review of the business model that acts as drivers of mis/disinformation.
  • In the context of global companies, Lack of transparency & access to data, discriminative policies fails to uphold human rights across all jurisdictions.
  • The internet shutdowns do not curb disinformation rather hamper the fact-finding efforts & are likely to aim at silencing vulnerable section voices & depriving them of access to vital information.
  • It unequivocally maintains that disinformation endangers the right to freedom of opinion & expression as it not also threatens the safety of journalists but also the media ecosystem.
  • It also points that lack of clarity of mis/disinformation across the world.
  • It defines misinformation as the dissemination of false information unknowingly.
  • Where Disinformation is false information disseminated intentionally to cause serious social harm.
  • It also acknowledges the fact that extremist or terrorist groups engage in the dissemination of false news & narratives to radicalize & recruits.
  • At the same time, the report disfavors sledgehammer state response that creates human rights concerns.

Factors for growth of Disinformation:

  • Technology or malicious actors
  • Digital transformation & competition from online platforms
  • State pressure & absence of robust public info regimes
  • Digital media illiteracy among the general public

Underlying causes:

The disinformation uses the following social issues to spread rumors to de-stable society:

  • Frustration & grievances of a growing number of people
  • Decades of economic deprivation
  • Market failures

 

Political disenfranchisement & social inequalities.

  • The disinformation is not the cause but the consequence of societal crisis & breakdown of public trust.
  • The online disinformation also results in offline practices of violent social excursion on actually existing individuals and communities.
  • Even fascinating is that oxford’s study showcases how certain govts use social media to spread computational propaganda & disinformation about politics.
  • Cyber troops act as agents of political parties & tools for geopolitical influence.
  • Some authoritarian countries like Russia, Iran & China capitalized on COVID disinformation to amplify anti-democratic narratives.

Way forward: –

  • The need is for a sustainable mix of regulatory with penal regimes that yield to the new criminological approach stressing decriminalization, de-penalization & deinstitutionalization.
  • The need is for a serious review of the business model that underpins much of the drivers of disinformation & misinformation, to make moderation of reactive content effective & adequate.
  • The anti-disinformation strategies will succeed only when the underlying factors are tackled.

 

Question: –

Disinformation is thus not the “cause but the consequence of societal crises and the breakdown of public trust in institutions”. In the light of this statement discuss the strategies to “address disinformation”. How does one decide on a sustainable mix of regulatory with penal regimes? How may these yield to the new criminological approach stressing the three Ds — decriminalisation, de-penalisation and deinstitutionalisation?

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