18 November 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Question

1) With reference to Birsa Munda and the Munda rebellion, consider the following statements:

  1. The movement was initiated against the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act of 1908.
  2. Birsa Munda was also known as Dharti abba.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

2) SITMEX Maritime Exercise, is held between which of the following group of countries:

  1. Indonesia, Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka
  2. India, Thailand and South Korea
  3. Thailand, India and Singapore
  4. Sri Lanka, Turkey and Iran

3) Dakshin Ganga, Bharati and Maitri are related to which of the following:

  1. These are the glaciers forming the Ganga River.
  2. These are India research base stations in Antartica.
  3. These are the defence exercise conducted between India and Nepal.
  4. These are space observatories set up by India in collaboration with NASA.

History

Sabz Burj restored to its Mughal-era glory

Sabz Burj, one of Delhi’s earliest Mughal-era monuments, has been conserved and restored over the last four years using traditional materials and building-craft techniques favoured by 16th century craftsmen.

Though it is said to be built in the 1530s, there is no record of who built the tomb and for whom. It demonstrates Timurid architectural style synonymous with Central Asia and is double-domed like Humayun’s Tomb. The tomb’s outer dome is dotted with glazed tiles and displays unique geometric and interlacing patterns in different colours, and forms a prominent part of the neighbourhood’s skyline.

With the word “sabz” in its name means “green”, the tomb is largely covered in turquoise blue tiles. The lotus finial atop the dome and the neck, however, consist of green tiles. The incised plasterwork also gives a hint of green colour in parts. Experts say that the name of the monument might have originated through local folklores.

A unique feature of the monument, that came to light during conservation works, was the revelation of a painted ceiling with detailed floral motifs and patterns created in real gold and lapis lazuli. Lapis lazuli, or lapis for short, is a deep-blue metamorphic rock used as a semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense color.

International Relations

1) India to hold first 2+2 with Russia on December 6

Context:India and Russia are scheduled to hold “2+2” format talks and also Russian President is expected to visit New Delhi for the annual India-Russia summit as well as the inter-governmental joint commission meeting.

Indian External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister will be holding the inaugural “2+2” format talks with their Russian counterparts.

Significance of the diplomatic exchanges – 2+2 format talks:

  • The 2+2 format talks hold immense significance for India-Russia bilateral relationship, given that India conducts joint foreign and defence ministerial meetings only with its closest ‘Quad’ partners — the U.S., Japan and Australia. Russia is the first non Quad nation to hold 2+2 format talks with India.
  • The 2+2 format talks could help further deepen the bilateral engagement and is also expected to help build India’s ties with Central Asia and deepen Russia’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific.

Important pacts to be announced:

  • Pacts on defence, science and technology, trade are expected to be announced during the proposed Russian President’s visit.
  • The collaboration and cooperation in the diverse sectors will only help deepen and strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

2) Maldives rejects ‘India out’ campaign

The Government of Maldives said it “strongly rejects attempts to spread false information” criticising its ties with India, its “closest ally and trusted neighbour”. A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said allegations that bilateral cooperation between the Governments of Maldives and India undermines the national security and sovereignty of Maldives are “misguided” and “unsubstantiated”.

Reports

School enrolment fell during pandemic: ASER study

The percentage of rural children who were not enrolled in school doubled during the pandemic, with government schools seeing an increase in enrolment at the expense of private schools, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2021. Over a third of children enrolled in Classes 1 and 2 have never attended school in person.

With Smartphone availability and access limited, online learning was restricted to a quarter of students, though there were major differences in the experience of students from different States. For instance, 91% of students from Kerala and almost 80% from Himachal Pradesh had online education, but only 10% from Bihar and 13% from West Bengal.

Annual Status of Education Report

  • It is a nationwide survey of rural education and learning outcomes in terms of reading and arithmetic skills that has been conducted by the NGO Pratham for the last 15 years.
  • It uses Census 2011 as the sampling frame and continues to be an important national source of information about children’s foundational skills across the country.

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 1 – Reading the forecast from China’s sixth plenum

Providing insights

The contents of the resolution adopted at the Plenum have a special significance, as it is only the third ‘historical resolution’ passed by the Party in the 100 years of its existence.Plenum will be remembered more for providing an insight into the evolving shape of the CPC as it completes 100 years of its existence.

Elevating Xi as helmsman

Interpreting the contents of the ‘historical resolution’, what appears most significant is the elevation of Xi Jinping to the position of helmsman, thus bringing him on a par with Mao Zedong, and ahead of Deng Xiaoping. Xi Jinping’s ‘Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ now appears to rank alongside Mao Zedong Thought, and eclipses ‘Deng Xiaoping Theory’. It clearly sends into oblivion both Jiang Zemin’s ‘Theory of Three Represents’ and Hu Jintao’s ‘Scientific Outlook on Development’.

The Plenum document affirms that Xi Jinping Thought contains a series of original ideas, revolving around the major questions of our time;

  • What kind of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics should be upheld and developed;
  • What kind of Marxist Party should be developed;
  • As well as how the Party should go about achieving these tasks.

It reiterates time and again, that the Party had established Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party, and that this reflects the common will of the Party, the armed forces and the Chinese people.

The message from the Sixth Plenum is loud and clear. Collective leadership of the kind favoured by Deng Xiaoping, and to which his two immediate successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao largely adhered, has come to an end.

Ideological rigidity will, and has already, replaced the limited flexibility that was seen during the period under Deng and his two immediate successors — though Deng himself had faltered on this count following the Tiananmen Square incident.

Strategy for India

For India, and its policy planners, these issues are hardly academic. With India being increasingly drawn into an anti-China phalanx led by the United States, the question uppermost should be whether some changes in policy need to be effected, given that Mr. Xi’s current rule over China appears to be carved in stone. How best to deal with China’s idiosyncrasies under Mr. Xi, involves opening a debate on whether to effect a change in strategy or continue with the present policy of confrontation based to a large extent on western attitudes and beliefs.

An additional problem for India is that across large parts of Asia, most countries faced with a choice between China and India, may be inclined to side with Beijing due to various exigencies. With the exception of Pakistan and Cambodia (which are near-client states of China), none of the others have any particular affection for China, but are compelled by circumstances to lean more towards China than India (which might otherwise have been their natural choice). In the circumstances, India could well take a hard look — given that Mr. Xi’s rule in China is likely to continue for not merely another five years, but for much longer — as to whether it should devise a different strategy to subserve India’s best interests.

Editorial 2- More a private sector primer than healthcare pathway

The central government’s flagship health insurance scheme, the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (ABPMJAY), aims to extend hospitalisation cover of up to ₹5 lakh per family per annum to a poor and vulnerable population of nearly 50 crore people.

NITI Aayog recently published a road map document entitled “Health Insurance for India’s Missing Middle”. However, to say the least, the report confounds all hopes and expectations of a credible pathway to universal health coverage (UHC) for India.

Suggestions by NITI Aayog –

  • Voluntary Contributory Mechanism – The report proposes voluntary, contributory health insurance dispensed mainly by private commercial health insurers as the prime instrument for extending health insurance to the ‘missing middle’. 
  • Out of pocket – The report rightly acknowledges that OPD expenses comprise the largest share of out-of-pocket expenditure on health care, and concomitantly have a greater role in impoverishment of families due to health-care expenses.

Those with even a rudimentary understanding of health policy would know that no country has ever achieved UHC by relying predominantly on private sources of financing health care.

For instance, consider countries such as Switzerland. Despite relying predominantly on private insurers and a competitive model of insurance, certain important checks and balances exist: benefits are etched in legislation; basic insurance is mandatory and not-for-profit; cream-skimming and risk-discrimination are prohibited. Such checks and balances are a long shot in the Indian scenario, neither have they been discussed in the NITI report.

Wrong disposition

The NITI report defies the universally accepted logic that UHC invariably entails a strong and overarching role for the Government in health care, particularly in developing countries. Rather than plot a pathway for UHC in India, the report is more about expanding the footprints and penetration of the private health insurance sector.

Further, the report looks to attain the elusive UHC with few or no fiscal implications for the Government, which is an absurd idea by any stretch of the imagination. Such a disposition is highly dismaying in the aftermath of COVID-19. The National Health Policy 2017 envisaged increasing public health spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2025. Let us not contradict ourselves so early and at this crucial juncture of an unprecedented pandemic.

Editorial 3 – Wide fault lines within the Global Climate Risk Index

Global Climate Risk Index is published annually by GermanWatch, a non-profit organisation.

What is the issue?

The Barbados Prime Minister’s remark on immoral measuring of extent of loss caused by climate change with respect to lives and livelihoods at COP-26 has brought the complexity in measuring climate risk to the forefront.

What is climate risk?

  • The IPCC defines climate risk as the likelihood of unfavourable impacts occurring as a result of severe climate events interacting with vulnerable environmental, social, economic, political or cultural conditions.
  • It is the product of the probability of a climate event occurring and its adverse consequences.

What is Global Climate Risk Index?

According to Global Climate Risk Index 2021, India was ranked the 7th worst-hit country in 2019.

  • The Global Climate Risk Index analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.).
  • The latest version of the GCRI, published in January 2021, ranked 180 countries based on the impact of extreme weather events and associated socio-economic data from 2000-2019.
  • This index uses historical data to provide insights on exposure to extreme events.
  • It cannot be used for linear forecasts about future climate impact.

What are the fault lines in the methodology and interpretation of the country rankings?

  • Selection of indicators -The GCRI ranks countries based on four key indicators:
  • Number of deaths
  • Number of deaths per 1,00,000 inhabitants
  • Sum of losses in Purchasing Power Parity (in U.S. dollars)
  • Losses per unit of GDP
  • The index suffers from exclusion errors and selection bias. A number of key micro indicators such as the total number of people injured, loss of livestock, loss of public and private infrastructure, crop loss and others are better candidates for assessing the composite loss resulting from climate change events.
  • The index accounts for information on weather-related events like storms, floods, temperature extremes and mass movements. However, it omits geological incidents like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis, which may be potentially triggered by climate change and can have economic and humanitarian impact.
  • The ranking under the GCRI is done based on data collected by Munich Re’s NatCatService, which is not validated at the ground-level. The data gaps particularly with regard to economic losses are based on experience, the prevailing intellectual property of MunichRe and the market value of elements at risk that are at best approximate values of economic losses.

How can the index be improved?

India’s module on National Disaster Management Information System (NDMIS) captures damages and losses caused by disasters and monitor the targets of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The NDMIS captures details on parameters like death, injury as well as economic losses in social and infrastructure sectors due to weather and geological events on a daily basis including all major climatic events.

Panchamrit or five-fold declarations were only “targets for India”, not its commitment to the United Nations.

At the World Leaders Summit on Nov 2, Mr. Modi said

  1. India would be net zero by 2070,
  2. India’s non-fossil energy capacity will reach 500 GW by 2030;
  3. It will meet 50% of its energy requirements with renewable energy by 2030;
  4. It will reduce its projected carbon emissions by a billion tonnes by 2030 and
  5. Reduce the carbon intensity of its economy to less than 45%.

Editorial 4 – No country for procedural justice

Context – On Tuesday, four civilians were killed in Srinagar’s Hyderpora. While the police stated they died in an encounter, the families of two of the civilians claimed that the “innocent” victims died in a “staged encounter” and that one of them was used as a “human shield”. In this piece from January 2020, Anuj Bhuwania argues that in the case of alleged encounter killings, the idea of substantive justice dominates the Indian public sphere while there is total impatience for procedural justice.

Difference between the Procedural and Substantive justice-

Procedural justice

Procedural justice is the idea of fairness in the processes that resolve disputes and allocate resources. One aspect of procedural justice is related to discussions of the administration of justice and legal proceedings. This sense of procedural justice is connected to due process (U.S.), fundamental justice (Canada), procedural fairness (Australia), and natural justice (other Common law jurisdictions), but the idea of procedural justice can also be applied to non-legal contexts in which some process is employed to resolve conflict or divide benefits or burdens. Other aspects of procedural justice can also be found in social psychology and sociology issues and organizational psychology.

Substantive justice

In law, substantive justice is the opposite of procedural justice. A clear definition for substantive justice is that it is a just behavior or treatment that is fair and reasonable. It has a solid foundation or basis and is concerned with the way in which an individual evaluates important and meaningful things to produce an outcome.

Popular cinema has long sensed this disdain for due process and has egged us on. Last year, for instance, began with Simmba in which the protaganist, a policeman, heroically murders two rape accused in his custody and gets away with it. Celebrations after the killing of the four accused in Hyderabad showed that due process is widely seen as a pesky hindrance to the rough and ready solutions promising substantive justice.

Investigating encounter killings

In a landmark judgment in A.P. Civil Liberties Committee v. Government of A.P. (2009), a five-judge Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court recognised the perversity of such a practice. The Bench made it mandatory for the police to register an FIR against police officers after every ‘encounter’ death. The court held that the finding of the police after such investigation would be examined by a judicial magistrate, who would then decide the next course of action. The court said that the policemen were free to claim the right to private defence, but such a defence could not preempt the investigation and would only be decided upon by the judicial magistrate at the appropriate stage. However, the Supreme Court stayed this judgment soon after, when an appeal was filed against it by the Andhra Pradesh Police Officers Association.

The norm in such extrajudicial killings has always been to file an FIR against the killed, and not against the killers.

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