DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (UPSC) |15 Feb 2021| RaghukulCS

Daily Prelims News Analysis For UPSC | RaghukulCS

15 FEB 2021

Mains Value Addition

Jual Oram launched book “Turn Around India: 2020- Surmounting Past Legacy”.

Syllabus–GS3: – Economy

Analysis: –

  • Jual Oram is the chairperson of Standing Committee on Defence.
  • He has launched the book “Turn Around India: 2020- Surmounting Past Legacy”.
  • The author of this book is R P Gupta.
  • The book suggests options for reviving the Indian economy for creating new jobs and also structural reforms for dealing with economic crisis arising due to COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Arjun Main Battle Tank (MK-1A)

Syllabus – GS3: – Defence

Analysis: –

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday handed over the indigenously developed Arjun Main Battle Tank (MK-1A) to the Indian Army at a ceremony in Chennai.
  • The Arjun Main Battle Tank project was initiated by DRDO in 1972 with the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) as its lead laboratory.
  • The objective was to create a “state-of-the-art tank with superior fire power, high mobility, and excellent protection”.

Mains Analysis

Fuzzy law, unclear jurisprudence, trampled rights

Why in News: –Following the Republic day violent clashes between protesting farmers and Delhi police, Twitter has come under increasing criticism over its judgment in allowing or blocking content on its platform.

Syllabus: -GS-2:  Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, models, successes, limitations, and potential; transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

GS-3: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security;

Introduction: –

  • The ongoing spat between the Government of India and social media platform Twitter is also growing by the day.
  • Popular microblogging platform Twitter has come under increasing criticism from several governments across the world over its judgment in allowing or blocking content on its platform.
  • Social media has a big role in the Digital India programme. However, if social media is misused to spread fake news and violence, then action will be taken.

Recent Developments

  • India was among the five countries last year which accounted for 96% of the global legal requests for removing content – Japan, Russia, South Korea and Turkey were the others.
  • The site also received 5,900 requests from the Indian government for information relating to accounts, according to its Transparency Report.
  • The government has also taken to an India microblogging app called Koo to respond to Twitter. 
  • A number of BJP supporters, ministers and officials have opened accounts on this year-old Twitter clone, which offers messaging in eight Indian languages.
  • When pop superstar Rihanna posted an article on Twitter about India’s government blocking Internet access in areas where the protesters were located.

Twitter’s stand

  • According to Twitter, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology sent Twitter “several separate blocking orders” over the past 10 days to restrict content under India’s Information Technology Act, passedin 2000, which gives the government power to cut off public access to information on the Internet for reasons of national security.
  • Twitter fell in line with the orders and blocked access to hundreds of accounts within India.

The IT Act Provisions:

  1. Sections 67A, 67B, 67C and 69 A of “the Information Technology Act, 2000 “provides penalty or imprisonment to published any kind of obscene material posting on internet.
  2. The Section 69A of the IT Act grants to the government the power to issue directions to intermediaries for blocking access to any information that it considers prejudicial, and inflammable content on internet.
  3. The Section 69A (3) of the IT Act envisages a jail sentence for up to seven years for intermediaries who fail to comply.
  4.  In 2009, the government issued “Blocking Rules”, which set up the procedure for blocking and also stated that all requests and complaints would remain strictly confidential.

Criticism of the Government Violation: –

  1. The censorship has become an easy and completely costless option for government.
  2. Instead of go to court and prove a violation even prima facie of law, the government simply directs intermediaries to block the content.
  3. This place the burden of going to court upon the users.
  4. The user will never know why their account has been blocked and, therefore, will be in no position to challenge it.
  5. There are no procedural safeguards and no opportunity for a hearing to affected parties, and no need for reasoned orders.  
  6. Violates both free speech rights, as well as the right to due process.
  7. After the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Kashmir Internet Ban case, it is, an arguable position of law that any order restricting access to the Internet, or information on the Internet, must be made public.
  8. The responsibility of intermediaries (Big IT Farm) is also required to deploy such technologies based on automated tools and appropriate mechanism for the purpose of identifying or removing or disabling access to unlawful information.

The Shreya Singhal case and   Violation of citizen rights:

  1. In the Shreya Singhal case that SC is struck down of Section 66A of the IT Act, the scope of Section 69A and the Blocking Rules were also litigated before the Supreme Court.
  2. The SC verdict Says as Section 66A unconstitutional on grounds of violating the freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India.
  3. The Court largely endorsed the legal regime, as it stood. 
  4. The Court only noted that every affected individual would retain the constitutional right to challenge a blocking order, through a writ petition before the High Court.

Way Forward

  1. There is an urgent need for both legal and jurisprudential reforms.
  2. Legally, the best-case scenario would be to prohibit the government from being able to directly order intermediaries to block access to online information, except in narrowly-defined emergency cases.
  3.  To require it to go through court to do so, with an adequate opportunity for affected parties to defend themselves.
  4. It is essential to block the orders that even under the current legal regime, affected parties be given the opportunity of a fair hearing before a blocking order is issued.
  5. This process will also ensure that the blocking order is a reasoned one, and can be effectively challenged before a court, if need be.
  6. In Long term, the hard work of contesting governmental impunity in cases of censorship, both in courts and outside, remains to be done.

 Question: –

Discuss the challenges expected in implementation of It Act in terms of social media regulation. Also discuss other provisions in the bill and their implications.

 A disengagement deal better than expected

Why in News: –An optimistic note for reduction of military tensions between India and China.

Syllabus: – GS-2:  GS-2: International relations: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Background: –

  • India and China announced on February 11, the simultaneous disengagement of their massive forward deployments in the Pangong Lake area.
  • India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh delivered a carefully worded statement in Parliament about the breakthrough which envisages a pullback by both sides in “a phased, coordinated and verified manner”.
  • The headway in the impasse, surprised those who questioned India’s will and capacity for a military counterpoise.
  • It also caught off guard those who scoff at the notion of a peaceful resolution of territorial differences in keeping with the longer-term interests of both Asian giants.

India-China Relations So far: –

Since April-May 2020, the Chinese side had suddenly positioned a large body of

  • troops and armaments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • The Indian Defence Minister paid rich tribute to the armed forces and lauded their valiant sacrifices.
  • Indeed, the intentions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were thwarted by India’s robust military response guided by a resolute Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • Relations between India and China suffered a dramatic setback following the violation by China of the bilateral agreements and protocols.
  • The bloody incident at Galwan on June 15, 2020, brought about the collapse of the prevailing consensus that bilateral ties could develop in parallel.
  • The construction of a road by China from Finger 8 towards Fingers 5 and 4 many years ago had led to a spike in face-offs and gradually reduced access for Indian troops to their traditional patrolling point at Finger 8.

India’s appeal for Peace: –

  • Since June last year, India has consistently highlighted the view that peace is a fundamental prerequisite for the normal conduct of relations.
  • The stand-off at the Pangong Lake was one of the most significantin Eastern Ladakh.
  • After China took steps to alter the ground situation between Fingers 4 and 8, the Indian Army had carried out daring manoeuvres to take up advantageous positions along the Kailash range on the southern bank.
  • Even on the northern bank, the Indian Army succeeded in offsetting any initial advantage that the PLA may have had along the spurs.
  • The Chinese have agreed to pull back forward deployments to their permanent base at Sirijap, east of Finger 8, and to dismantle all infrastructure created after April 2020.

Disengagement Deal: –

  • India’s tough negotiators, both diplomatic and military, have ensured that our troops retain their presence at the permanent Indian post at Finger 3 even though China had earlier demanded that India fall back further.
  • Moreover, all the Chinese posts atop the high spurs on the northern bank will also be dismantled, including those that overlooked the Dhan Singh Thapa Post.
  • Of course, India will also fall back from its recently held positions along the Kailash range to earlier positions.
  • With trust badly shattered after April 2020, one expects the Indian side to tread warily in implementing the deal at Pangong.
  • Naturally, the pullback will prove to be a complex exercise involving meticulous planning of intricate details and scheduled withdrawals.

Message of Endurance

  • The government left no stone unturned to ensure that they were provided with the necessary wherewithal to deal with any real or perceived asymmetry.
  • India was not going to cave in and stood ready to impose a harsh penalty if China engaged in any act of adventurism.
  • The endurance of the Indian Army through the harsh winter months has been extraordinary.
  • China appears to have realised that a prolonged stand-offwas permanently impairing bilateral relations.

    Indian Efforts: –

  • The government of Prime Minister Modi has amply demonstrated its willingness to take tough calls on matters pertaining to sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • It has demonstrated boldness in the face of a major military challenge.
  • It has shown equal courage in grasping the nettle of peace.
  • More importantly, the government has reposed full faith in its armed forces and negotiators.
  • Singh’s statement, containing just the right blend of steel and velvet, generously acknowledged the unity of purpose among all departments of the government and highlighted the consistency with which India’s unwavering position was put across.
  • Both he and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had engaged their Chinese counterparts last September and drawn the red lines.
  • This no doubt strengthened the hand of the senior commanders and foreign ministry officials who hammered out the deal.

Indian Concerns: –

  • the high reputational costs to itself,
  • the forward momentum in India-U.S. relations
  • the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (India, the U.S., Japan and Australia)

 Way Forward: –

  • The disengagement at Pangong Lake is certainly a welcome development.
  • This is an area in which the patrols of the two sides have been encountering one another for decades, whether on land or on the lake.
  • Meanwhile, India too built better infrastructure all the way to its permanent presence at the Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3.
  • The disengagement deal is perhaps better than one might have expected under the circumstances.
  • Carrying out simultaneous disengagement in a phased and coordinated manner, with proper verification, is key to its success.

Question: –

China and India have entered into an agreement for disengagementat Pangong Lake.How China’s engagement at Ladakh region pose a thread for India’s security? Critically examine.

 

Opening up the vaccine market

Why in News: –With a low turnout for vaccination so far, the government is planning to open up vaccination to the private market by March or April, according to sources.

Syllabus: – GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

  • The government is actively considering allowing vaccines to be available in the private market sooner than planned.
  • Vaccines have a shelf life of six months, according to the approval granted by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) based on the stability data available so far. 
  • With the initial learnings, a huge challenge facing the government of the second most populous nation in the world is vaccinating its people against the virus.
  • In addition to the most frequently asked questions about the vaccine rollout in the country, what is of concern is where the finances will come from.
  • The question is pertinent as India has one of world’s largest Universal immunization programmes (UIP).
  • Vaccination against Covid is not part of the existing UIP.

The Seroprevalence surveys suggestion:

  1. Seroprevalence surveys suggest that some 400 million people already have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in India.
  2.  The immunity is reached when 60% of the population develops antibodies against the virus, for a population of 1.3 billion that would require over 780 million people to develop antibodies either naturally or through vaccines.
  3.  If we assume that 400 million have already developed antibodies, how will the additional 380 million develop antibodies quickly, especially given the high level of vaccine hesitancy and lack of trust in both vaccines and the government
  4.  The current rate of vaccination, which is about eight million over four weeks, the country would require about four years reaching herd immunity.

The Statistics

  1. If India provides vaccine free-of-cost to its entire population, an estimated 54% of the health budget will have to be spent only on vaccination.
  2. India also required an additional $30 million to $80 million for the infrastructure required to transport and store vaccines which must be kept at very low temperatures.
  3. The government has placed an order of 55 lakh doses amounting to Rs 162 crore for Covaxin and a purchase order for 1.1 crore doses worth Rs 231 crore with a commitment to procure additional 4.5 crore doses by April, 2021 amounting to a total of Rs 1,100 crore.

The Constricted market:

  1. It is surprising that the Indian government has stayed away from a free market system for COVID-19 vaccines, especially given that several vaccine options are now knocking at its door.
  2.  Instead, there are only governmental channels, which can work only to a certain extent. The rules and elements of a free market, such as competition, choice, and prices, will go a long way in advancing social welfare.
  3. The drug regulator of India has not inspired confidence. Pfizer recently withdrew its application for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in India. There is no transparency on the Moderna-Tata discussions.
  4. Gamaleya Sputnik V has positive results and has advanced in its work with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. This vaccine should soon be ready to hit the market, but here too it seems like the regulator is slowing it down by distorting incentives.

 The considerations for “A constricted vaccine market”:

  1. Not opening up the market for these options suggests that there may be other considerations at play here, which are beyond the health and welfare of citizens.
  2. Many households in India are waiting to pay privately for the vaccines, in addition to socially bearing the cost of the vaccine for extended families.
  3. A constricted vaccine market does nothing to help the government’s aspiration of a $5 trillion economy. In fact, the sooner the country reaches herd immunity, the more likely the chance that the economy will recover faster.
  4.  Stimulating the economy would also be an incentive for the government given that its international image has taken a beating recently following the farmers’ protests.

The Private Player motivations:

  1. Economists point out that since vaccines boost health and immunity, creating additional private motivations with a free market makes rational sense in India’s context.
  2. India is not really a place where one can expect private subsidies to take vaccines to socially optimal levels, such as in the U.S., because that may be socially unaffordable for the government.
  3. If this is not done, the country’s rich will find a way to engage in vaccine tourism. This would mean that events that can show celebrities taking the vaccines and reducing the stigma surrounding vaccines would be few and far between in India unlike in the U.S.
  4.  The U.K. or other Western economies. Also, several Indian pharmaceutical firms must be waiting to respond with their manufacturing capacities should the tap of private channels be opened.

Conclusions:

  • The seroprevalence, survey was evidence for waning of antibody positivity with the progression of the COVID-19 epidemic, implying a potential reduction in population immunity, especially if also associated with the lack of trained T cell immunity.
  • The People will have to wait and hope that good sense prevails before mutating virus strains minimize our chances of efficient social and policy responses.
  • Instead of providing the vaccine free of cost to the entire population, the government could consider giving the vaccine free of cost to certain sections of the society.
  • The remaining should be given the option to purchase the vaccines from the open market at subsidised rates.
  • Though there are talks of revenue-sharing measures or of an introduction of a cess for additional finances, the answer to the same is still awaited.

Value-Addition

  1. India spends 1.3 per cent of GDP on health, less than half of what China does, a third of Brazil’s outlay. Last year’s union budget had allocated just under $10 billion to healthcare.
  2. The GAVI report also identified India’s economic burden due to the Covid-19 pandemic as “disproportionate” and suggested a donor-funded plan of $1.3 billion to secure 190-250 million doses.
  3. A report by GAVI Vaccine alliances estimated that in addition to the support being extended to India under the COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme, the country will need an additional $1.4 billion to inoculate over 300 million people in the first phase of the vaccine rollout.

Question: –

India needs to strengthen measures to promote the private vaccination drive for COVID-19. Critically elucidate the statement.

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