June 2nd, 2021
Your 10 minute read!
LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE
(i) Supreme court seeks details on orphaned children
The Union government informed the Supreme Court that the modalities of a PMCARES scheme to fund the education and welfare of children orphaned by the pandemic need to be worked out. The Centre has said it would support the education of the children and set up a ₹10 lakh corpus fund for them. Each child had a corpus of ₹10 lakh, which he/she would get on reaching the age of 23.
The court asked to detail the mechanism for identifying the beneﬁciaries of the scheme and the method to monitor the ﬂow of beneﬁts to the children. The court further agreed to initially focus on the welfare schemes available for COVID-19 orphaned children.
The petitioner observed that the pandemic had wreaked havoc on the lives of many children who have either lost both parents or guardians to the virus. There had been a marked increase in child traﬃcking, especially of girls. The government had an obligation to protect children.
(ii). Delhi High Court questions centre on vaccinating the youth
The Delhi High Court questioned the Centre’s vaccination policy for not prioritising the younger population over older people, saying “it is the younger people who are the future of this country”. The Bench pointed out that many young persons have succumbed to COVID-19 during the second wave as they were not prioritised in the vaccination policy.
The High Court’s observation came while directing the Centre to frame a policy on prioritising mucormycosis patients when it came to administering liposomal amphotericin B. Noting that the shortage of liposomal amphotericin B has been continuing for over two weeks, leading to fatalities, the court said it was high time that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) came out with guide lines on the use of the drug.
(iii). NPCR tracks data on Orphans
Bal Swaraj, an online tracking portal of a national child rights body, shows details of nearly 10,000 children in the country in immediate need of care and protection. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) informed the Supreme Court that these children ran a high risk of being pushed into traﬃcking and ﬂesh trade.
A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose is suo motu examining ways to protect children who have suﬀered personal loss and trauma due to the pandemic. On May 28, the Bench directed the Centre to state welfare measures for the children orphaned by the pandemic. The States were asked to compile data identifying children in need of immediate care. District authorities were asked to immediately cater to the basic needs of food, shelter and clothes to orphaned and abandoned children. They have been asked to upload the information of children who have become orphans after March, 2020 on the portal “Bal Swaraj”.
NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS
(i). New chief at Andaman and Nicobar Command
Among a series of top level appointments in the armed forces were the new Commanding-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), the Eastern Army CommandinginChief, the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff and the DirectorGeneral of the Assam Rifles.
Lt. Gen. Ajai Singh assumed charge as the 16th Commanding-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), the only tri service command of the armed forces based at Port Blair. His predecessor, Lt. Gen. Manoj Pande, who relinquished charge on May 31, took over as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command based in Kolkata.
(ii). Vaccination rate is key to lifting lockdowns: ICMR
Unlocking of the country has to be done patiently and guided by the number of vaccinations done for the vulnerable population, Balram Bhargava, DirectorGeneral of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said at the Health Ministry press conference. Currently, India has just managed to suppress the second wave but it can resurface at any time, he added.
Meanwhile, the Central government announced a new system of processing the insurance claims under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) – Insurance Scheme for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19’. “Claims will be certified by the District Collector and after approval claims are to be settled in 48 hours,” said a release issued by the Health Ministry.
(iii). IMD increase monsoon rain outlook to 101%
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) expects more rain in the monsoon months of June-September than its April estimate. It said monsoon rain would be 101% of the Long Period Average (LPA) of 88 cm. On April 16, it said the rain would be 98% of the LPA. ‘Normal’ rainfall is anywhere from 96-104% of the LPA.
Rainfall in the northeast would likely see a 5% shortfall whereas over central India, which constitutes the core rainfed agricultural region, there would be a 6% increase over the usual for the monsoon. Seasonal rainfall is most likely to be below normal over the northeast (<95%) and above normal over central India (>106%), the update noted.
The latest global model forecasts say the sea surface temperatures at the Equatorial Paciﬁc conditions are unlikely to signiﬁcantly rise. There are also ‘negative’ IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole) conditions over the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season. Thus, these larger climate factors are, as of now, unlikely to have a signiﬁcant inﬂuence over the prevailing monsoon.
What is Indian Ocean Dipole? Also known as the Indian Niño, is an irregular oscillation of sea surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer (positive phase) and then colder (negative phase) than the eastern part of the ocean.
The monsoon was to have arrived in Kerala on May 31 but the IMD, on May 30, said its advent would be delayed to June 3 because wind speeds and cloud formation over the Kerala coast hadn’t picked up yet.
(iv). CBSE class 12th boards stands cancelled
The Class XII examinations of the Central Board of Secondary Education have been cancelled. In case some students wish to take the exams, such an option would be provided to them by CBSE, as and when the situation becomes conducive. Following the meeting, the Council for the Indian School Certiﬁcate Examinations also decided to cancel its Class XII examinations.
CBSE is yet to announce its alternative assessment method. About 14 lakh students had registered to write the examination, which was originally scheduled to be held in May.
(v). Doctor's observed black day against Ramdev's remarks
- Doctors of diﬀerent hospitals across the country observed Tuesday as “black day” against comments made by Baba Ramdev. Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) said doctors protested against the “illogical, unscientiﬁc, demeaning and derogatory statements” made by Ram dev against modern medicine, its practitioners and the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
(vi). China's new child policy and lessons for India
China’s decision to relax its two child norm and allow couples to have three children must serve as a warning for India that coercive population strategies can be counter productive. After enforcing one child and two child policies to control its population over the past four decades, China announced that it will allow couples to have a third child.
In Sikkim and Lakshadweep, India is already facing the same challenge of an ageing population, shrinking work force and an increase in sex selective practices given that they have low fertility rates. Experts think that India has long been concerned about curbing population “explosion”, but needs to focus its attention on population stabilisation instead. India has done very well with its family planning measures and now is at replacement level fertility of 2.1, which is desirable. India doesn't need any coercive measures, but needs to sustain population stabilisation. Replacement level fertility is the level of fertility at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES
(i). Europe demands explanation after U.S.Danish spying claims
France, Germany and other European countries demanded answers following reports the U.S. spied on its allies using Danish underwater cables, as questions mounted over whether Denmark knew about the operation.
In an investigative report, Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) and other European media outlets said the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had eavesdropped on Danish underwater Internet cables from 2012 to 2014 to spy on top politicians in France, Germany, Norway and Sweden.
The NSA got access to text messages, telephone calls and Internet traffic, including searches, chats and messaging services – including those of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, DR said.
(ii). China jails blogger for Galwan comments
Chinese authorities have sentenced a once popular blogger to eight months in prison “for defaming martyrs” over his comments questioning the government’s account of last year’s clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley.
Qiu Ziming “received a jail term of eight months for defaming martyrs”, the Communist Party run Global Times reported, adding that this was “China’s first such reported case since a new amendment was attached to the Criminal Law” that introduced penalties for “insulting” or “slandering” national heroes or martyrs.
(iii). Pope updates canon law to address paedophilia by priests
Pope Francis updated the Catholic Church’s criminal code by adding details on punishing sexual abuse crimes of minors by priests, measures long sought by activists against paedophilia.
Revision of the penal sanctions within the Code of Canon Law followed a years long process involving input from canonist and criminal law experts and came after repeated complaints by victims of sexual abuse and others that the code’s previous wording was outdated and in transparent.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
ANALYSIS : COVID diplomacy 2.0, a different order of tasks
- In the past month, the focus for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Missions abroad has shifted. While the focus in 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, was on coordinating exports of COVID-19 medicines, flights to repatriate Indians abroad (the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’) after the lockdown, and then exporting vaccines worldwide (‘Vaccine Maitri’), after the second wave, Covid Diplomacy 2.0 has a different order of tasks, both in the immediate and the long term.
(ii). The health crisis
- The immediate imperative was to deal with oxygen and medicine shortages that claimed the lives of thousands in the matter of a few weeks across the country. The Ministry of External Affairs has had to deal with internal health concerns while galvanising help from abroad for others.
(iii). Handling vaccine shortages
- The rest of the year, if not much of 2022 will focus on bringing in vaccines. The shortage of vaccines in the country has arisen from three factors: the failure of the Government to plan and place procurement orders in time; the failure of the two India Based companies to produce vaccine doses they had committed to, and the MEA’s focus on exporting, not importing, vaccines between January and April this year.
(iv). Patents, diplomatic fallout
- Nor will the promise of patent waivers, from India’s joint proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) reap early benefits, despite support from world leaders such as the U.S, Russia and China. Many countries are still holding out on the idea of freeing up intellectual property rights on vaccines for three years. Both India’s neighbours and partners in Africa as well as global agencies depending on India for vaccines have been left in the lurch by the Government’s failure to balance its vaccine budget.
(v). Tracing virus pathways
Finally, as more waves of COVID-19 are being speculated, it is becoming increasingly clear that there must be a fuller understanding of what caused it, and India, as one of the worst pandemic hit countries, must be at the forefront of demanding accountability.
India, which has now begun to speak up on the issue, must call for a more definitive answer and also raise its voice for a stronger convention to regulate any research that could lead, by accident or design, to something as diabolical as the current pandemic. With its seat at the UN Security Council as nonpermanent member and its position on WHO’s Executive Board, India could seek to regain the footing it has lost over the past few months of COVID-19 mismanagement, by taking a lead role in ensuring the world is protected from the next such pandemic.
COMMENTARY : Breaking the cycle of Child Labor
- The true extent of the impact of the COVID-10 pandemic on child labor is yet to be measured but all indications show that it would be signiﬁcant as children are unable to attend school and parents are unable to ﬁnd work. Presently, 152 million children around the world are still in child labour, 73 million of them in hazardous work.
(ii). Digging the data
A Government of India survey (NSS Report No. 585, 201718, Statement 3.12, p.35) suggests that 95% of the children in the age group of 6-13 years are attending educational institutions (formal and informal) while the corresponding ﬁgures for those in the age group of 14-17 years is 79.6%. Hence, a large number of children in India remain vulnerable, facing physical and psychological risks to a healthy development.
The Census of India 2011 reports 10.1 million working children in the age group of 5-14 years, out of whom 8.1 million are in rural areas mainly engaged as cultivators (26%) and agricultural labourers (32.9%). UNESCO estimates based on the 2011 Census record 38.1 million children as “out of school” (18.3% of total children in the age group of 6-13 years).
A Rapid Survey on Children (2013-14), jointly undertaken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNICEF, found that less than half of children in the age group of 10-14 years have completed primary education.
(iii). The pace of improvement
Child labour in India has decreased in the decade 2001 to 2011. Policy interventions such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005, the Right to Education Act 2009 and the Mid Day Meal Scheme have paved the way for children to be in schools along with guaranteed wage employment (unskilled) for rural families.
Ratifying International Labour Organization Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 in 2017, the Indian government further demonstrated its commitment to the elimination of child labour including those engaged in hazardous occupations. The Ministry of Labour and Employment operated online portal pencil allows stakeholders to share information and coordinate on child labour cases at the national, State and local levels for eﬀective enforcement of child labour laws.
While child labour has declined during the past decade globally, estimates indicate that the rate of reduction has slowed by two thirds in the most recent four-year period.
(iv). Pandemic and the current situation
The pandemic has led to significant income reductions for enterprises and workers, many of them in the informal economy. The large number of returned migrant workers has compounded the socio-economic challenges.
With increased economic insecurity, lack of social protection and reduced household income, children from poor households are being pushed to contribute to the family income with the risk of exposure to exploitative work. With closure of schools and challenges of distance learning, children may drop out. The ‘digital divide’ is a challenge that India has to reconcile within the next several years.
The NSS Report No. 585 titled ‘Household Social Consumption on Education in India’ suggests that in 2017-18, only 24% of Indian households had access to an Internet facility, proportions were 15% among rural households and 42% among urban households.
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2020 survey highlights that a third of the total enrolled children received some kind of learning materials from their teachers during the reference period (October 2020) as digital mode of education was opted for.
Through strategic partnerships and collaborations involving government, employers, trade unions, community based organisations and child labour families that we could make a diﬀerence building back better and sooner. We need a strong alliance paving our way towards ending child labour in all its forms by 2025 as countries around the world have agreed to in Sustainable Development Goal 8.7. UN’s declaration of 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.
ECONOMICS & FINANCE
(i). Moody's cut India's GDP forecast
Moody’s Investors Service cut its 2021-22 India GDP growth forecast to 9.3%, from 13.7% earlier, while noting that longer-term risks to the economy would increase if the second COVID-19 wave lasted beyond June and the vaccination rollout remained a challenge.
Following the 7.3% contraction in GDP last year, the second wave would push a recovery to the country’s pre pandemic level out even further, Moody’s said, with a ‘catch up’ unlikely till the end of 2021. In 2022-23, the agency now expects growth of 7.9% compared with its earlier expectation of 6.2%. “We do not expect a sustained recovery in private investment until domestic economic conditions strengthen and the health of the ﬁnancial sector improves.”
On government spending, it projected revenue shortfalls and diversion of more funds to countering the pandemic would push the general government ﬁscal deﬁcit to 11.8% of GDP this year instead of 10.8% projected earlier. And impact of slower growth and a wider deﬁcit would drive the general government debt burden to 90% of GDP in FY22. Structural constraints and limited effectiveness of reforms will also be a reason for subdued growth numbers.
(ii). NBFCs and HFCs collections hit by second wave
Collections of non-banking ﬁnancial companies (NBFCs) have been adversely impacted due to widespread and more stringent lockdowns in May 2021, rating agency ICRA said. With 25-30% of collection through ﬁeld operations, loan overdues are set to increase as regular collections and recoveries from overdues were impacted.
Housing ﬁnance companies (HFCs), with a lower share of ﬁeld collections, had been less impacted than the NBFCs, ICRA said.
(i). Sanjeet wins 91kg bout
Sanjeet won the Asian boxing championship in Dubai. Sanjeet’s 91kg title win was India’s lone gold medal in the men’s section of the Asian championships. “This is my best performance. I beat two Olympic qualiﬁed boxers (Sanjar Tursunov of Uzbekistan 5-0 in the semi finals and Olympics silver medallist Vassiliy Levit of Kazakhstan 41 in the ﬁnal).
Sanjeet said his game was improved after he joined the Army in 2015 and participated in the semi-professional league World Series of Boxing (WSB) in 2018.
(ii). Roland Garros to host first ever night match
- The ﬁrst oﬃcial night match under the lights on Court Philippe Chatrier was played behind closed doors due to a 9 p.m. curfew imposed by the French government due to COVID-19 at the French Open. Serena Williams played Romanian Irina Camelia Begu in the ﬁrstever night session at Roland Garros.
1. Digital divide and the COVID vaccine https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-cowin-portal-digital-divide-covid-vaccine-175103
3. Profile : Arun Mishra as NHRC chairperson https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-seeks-comparison-between-indian-international-prices-of-covid-vaccines-175118?infinitescroll=1
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Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench