March 8th, 2021
Your 10 minute read!
LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE
1. HC sets up panel to find ways to treat patients with rare diseases
The Delhi High Court has set up a special committee to find a time bound solution on ways to provide treatment and therapy options to patients suffering from rare diseases. Justice Prathiba M. Singh ordered the committee to also give “immediate concrete proposals for crowdfunding of the costs of treatment for children with rare diseases”.
The High Court’s direction came while hearing a bunch of petitions filed by patients suffering from rare diseases such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and Hunter’s syndromes seeking direction to the government to provide them uninterrupted free treatment in view of the exorbitant cost of treatment.
2. All woman crew of SCI vessel makes history
- To acknowledge the efforts of women in breaking down the stereotypes in the erstwhile male-dominated maritime sector, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has flagged off an all-woman crew onboard Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) vessel m.t. Swarna Krishna, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.
NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS
1. Jaishankar, Zalmay Khalilzad discuss Afghan peace talks
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and United States special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad discussed the latest developments pertaining to the Afghan peace talks. Last November too, Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Khalilzad had held talks during the latter’s visit on the historic peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government and related issues.
India has been keenly following the evolving political situation after the U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February last year. The deal provided for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, effectively drawing curtains on Washington’s 18-year war with Taliban.
India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists and their proxies can relocate. India has been a major stakeholder in Afghanistan and it has extended $3billion developmental assistance in the last few years to the country.
2. Janaushadhi is helping the poor, says Modi
Urging people to buy affordable medicines from Janaushadhi Kendras, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated the 7,500th Janaushadhi Kendra at NEIGRIHMS, Shillong through videoconference as part of his address on ‘Janaushadhi Divas’ celebrations.
“There were not even 100 centres in India six years ago and we hope to achieve the target of 10,000 centres. Now, 75 AYUSH medicines are also available in the Janaushadhi centres. Patients will benefit by getting AYUSH medicines at a reduced cost.”
Pointing out the enormous burden of medical treatment on poor families, the Prime Minister said in recent years, efforts had been made to remove all types of discrimination and treatment had been made accessible to every poor person in the country. For this, prices of essential medicines, heart stents and knee surgery related equipment had been reduced manifold, he said. Ayushman Yojana had ensured free treatment of up to ₹5 lakh for the country’s more than 50 crore poor people. So far, more than 1.5 crore had taken advantage of it and saved about ₹30,000 crore, Mr. Modi added.
3. Support for Myanmar resistance rises
Amid reports of the increasing crackdown on protesters in neighbouring Myanmar, organisations in Manipur and Nagaland have joined their counterparts in Mizoram in extending support to the civil disobedience movement (CDM) against the military junta.
Officials in Mizoram said more than 50 people from Myanmar, including at least eight police personnel, have crossed over fearing punitive action by the Tatmadaw – the Myanmar military – for opposing the coup that took place in February. Four northeastern States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram — not only share a 1,643km border with Myanmar but also ethnic ties with groups across the border.
The dominant Mizo community in Mizoram are ethnically related to the Chins in the adjoining Chin State across the border. The Chins are also related to the Kuki Zomi group in Manipur. Myanmar also has several Naga communities with affinity to Nagas spread across Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
“The international community regardless of any political, religious or ideological affinity must step in to restore normalcy in Myanmar and save lives due to the presence state-sponsored terrorism,” Romeo Bungdon, working president of the All Manipur Tribal Union (AMTU), said in his appeal to the United Nations Security Council.
The AMTU expressed solidarity with the people of Myanmar resisting the military and condemned the overthrow of a democratically elected government, as did the Tenyimi Students’ Union in Nagaland. Tenyimi is an umbrella group comprising 10 Naga communities.
4. First downstream dams on Brahmaputra
A draft of China’s new Five Year Plan (2021-2025), has given the green light for the ﬁrst dams to be built on the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is known in Tibet before it ﬂows into India. The plan speciﬁcally mentions the building of hydropower bases on the lower reaches of the river as among the priority energy projects to be undertaken in the next ﬁve years. The draft plan will be formally approved before the NPC session ends on Thursday.
China’s media reported in November that State owned hydropower company POWERCHINA had signed “a strategic cooperation agreement” with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government to “implement hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River”. Earlier efforts did not pass technical feasibility studies because of concerns over the environmental impact. The 50km section at the Great Bend alone oﬀered the potential of 70 million kWh.
India has expressed concerns to China over the four planned dams on the upper and middle reaches, though the dams are not likely to greatly impact the quantity of the Brahmaputra’s ﬂows in India because they are only storing water for power generation, and the Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream ﬂows with an estimated 35% of its basin in India. Dams on the lower reaches and at the Great Bend would, however, raise fresh concerns because of the location across the border from Arunachal Pradesh and the potential impact downstream.
5. Haryana to discuss quota laws
- The Haryana government is open to including suggestions from industry bodies while framing rules for a law that provides 75% reservation in the private sector to jobseekers from the State, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala said. Last week, Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya gave his assent to the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020, which provides 75% reservation for those who have a domicile certiﬁcate and are seeking private sector jobs with a monthly salary of less than ₹50,000.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES
1. India, China need ‘enabling conditions’ to settle dispute
- China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said India and China needed “to create enabling conditions for the settlement” of the boundary dispute, even as he reiterated China’s view that “the rights and wrongs'' of last year’s crisis were clear. India has conveyed a different message, underlining that without full disengagement along the LAC, and then de-escalation, restoring normalcy in the relationship would not be possible.
2. China warns U.S. over its Taiwan stand
- China’s Foreign Minister warned the Biden administration to roll back former President Donald Trump’s “dangerous practice” of showing support for Taiwan, the island democracy claimed by Beijing as its own territory. “We urge the new U.S. administration to completely change the previous administration’s dangerous practices of ‘crossing the line’ and ‘playing with fire,’” Mr. Wang said.
3. Saudi-led coalition jets bomb Sana’a
A Saudi-led military coalition mounted air strikes on Yemen’s Houthi Controlled capital Sana’a after it intercepted 10 drones launched by the Iran Backed rebels, state media reported. Yemen alongside the internationally recognised government against the insurgents, said the drones were aimed at “civilian” targets in Saudi Arabia, SPA reported, without specifying locations. Targeting civilians in the kingdom was a “red line”, the coalition said after the retaliatory strikes on Sana’a.
The Houthis have stepped up attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, while they escalate an offensive in Yemen to seize the government’s last northern stronghold of Marib. The escalation comes even after the U.S. last month delisted the Houthis as terrorists and stepped up efforts to de escalate the six year conflict.
“The removal of the Houthis from the list of terrorist groups has been interpreted in a hostile way by the militia,” SPA cited the coalition as saying. The coalition added that their “victories'' in Marib had prompted the rebels to step up attacks on the kingdom. On Saturday, fierce fighting between pro government forces and the rebels in oil rich Marib had left at least 90 combatants on the two sides dead over the span of 24 hours.
4. British-Iranian woman released after 5 years
- A British-Iranian woman held in an Iranian prison for five years on widely refuted spying charges ended her sentence on Sunday, although she faces a new trial and cannot yet return home to London. Although Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe completed her full sentence and was allowed to remove her ankle monitor and leave house arrest, her future remains uncertain. She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s government.
5. At ruined Iraq church, Pope calls on Christians to forgive
- Pope Francis called on Iraq’s Christians to forgive the injustices committed against them by Muslim extremists and to rebuild as he visited the wrecked shells of churches and met ecstatic crowds in the community’s historic heartland, which was nearly erased by the Islamic State group’s horrific reign. Traditionally Christian towns dotting the Nineveh Plains of the north were emptied as Christians – as well as many Muslims – fled the Islamic State group’s onslaught in 2014. Only a few have returned to their homes since the defeat of IS in Iraq declared four years ago, and the rest remain scattered elsewhere in Iraq or abroad.
6. Sri Lankan Catholics mark ‘Black Sunday’
- Sri Lankan Roman Catholics attended Mass dressed in black on Sunday, with prayers and protests calling for justice for those killed in coordinated suicide bomb attacks on Easter Sunday two years ago. Church bells tolled and prayers were chanted at 8.45 a.m., the time when bombs were detonated at two Roman Catholic churches and a Protestant church during Easter services on April 21, 2019. More than 260 people, including 171 from the two Catholic churches, were killed in the attacks, which were blamed on two local Islamic extremist groups.
7. Swiss narrowly back proposal to ban face coverings in public
Swiss voters narrowly approved a proposal to ban face coverings, both the niqabs and burqas worn by a few Muslim women in the country and the ski masks and bandannas used by protesters. The measure will outlaw covering one’s face in public places like restaurants, sports stadiums, public transport or simply walking in the street.
National legislation will put Switzerland in line with countries such as Belgium and France that have already enacted similar measures. The Swiss government had opposed the measure as excessive, arguing that full face coverings are a “marginal phenomenon.” It argued that the ban could harm tourism as most visitors from well heeled Persian Gulf states wear such veils.
Experts estimate that at most a few dozen Muslim women wear fullface coverings in the country of 8.5 million people. Supporters of the proposal argued that the full face coverings symbolise the repression of women and said the measure is needed to uphold a basic principle that faces should be shown in a free society like Switzerland’s. In the end, 51.2% of voters supported the plan.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Analysis : Internal Surveillance
- The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), launched the Cyber Crime Volunteers Program with the aim to allow citizens to register themselves as “Cyber Crime Volunteers’’ in the role of “Unlawful Content Flaggers”. As per the official website of the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, the programme will help law enforcement agencies in identifying, reporting and in the removal of illegal/unlawful online content.
(ii). Explored further
This form of surveillance, which enables citizens to “watch over” one another, is called lateral surveillance. The vertical relationship between the person watching and the person being watched, which is usually the state and its citizenry. Lateral or social or peer-to-peer surveillance differs from typical surveillance.
While surveillance of any kind shows an imbalance of power between the person who surveils, and the one under surveillance, lateral surveillance specifically ensures that the imbalance of power no longer exists.
Informal watching of communities by their members has been an age old part of society, and its members view it as a harmless activity. The problem arises when it is organised and state- sponsored.
Surveillance has been implemented in India. The scope of lateral surveillance was greatly expanded during the pandemic lockdown, both with and without the introduction of technology. The lateral surveillance is used to further emotional objectives such as community building and strengthening relationships with neighbours where emotional and social factors act as a driving force, thus creating a situation where privacy may be undermined for the betterment of the community.
The surveillance technologies not only act as a tool for social control but also as a tool for social exclusion. Lateral surveillance thus makes it easier to discriminate between those who conform to the social norms of the majority.
Despite the potential harm, the government, on February 25, notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which intends to expand “due diligence” obligations by intermediaries. This not only substantially increases surveillance but also promotes lateral surveillance. This will further create an incentive to take down content and share user data without sufficient due process safeguards, violating the fundamental right to privacy and freedom of expression.
Analysis : LPG subsidy, utility and shortcomings
- Subsidised LPG prices have increased by a massive 50% in this ﬁnancial year alone. Its impact on the government's ﬂagship scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is under scan.
(ii). PMUY : Game changer and shortcomings
Since 2016, PMUY has provided LPG connections to 8 million poor households to reduce women’s drudgery and indoor air pollution. PMUY helped expand LPG coverage to more than 85% of households.
However, multiple studies assessing PMUY concluded that while access has increased, many new beneficiaries are not consuming LPG in a sustained manner. PMUY beneﬁciaries consumed only about half the LPG compared to long standing regular consumers. Limited uptake of LPG among poor households has two main reasons. First, the eﬀective price of LPG is not aﬀordable for such households, despite the subsidy. Second, many rural consumers have access to freely available biomass, making it diﬃcult for LPG to displace it. The recent increases in the subsidised LPG price have made it more diﬃcult for the poor to sustain LPG use.
(iii). How India prices LPG
- India determines domestic LPG prices based on imported LPG price (we import more than 50% of our consumption). As the pandemic set in, the LPG subsidised price began to rise. Now with LPG prices rising globally, a 50% reduction in the LPG subsidy budget for FY22 (versus FY21) does not bode well. The government’s lack of transparency in the pricing of subsidised LPG adds further to the citizen's plight. Currently, the government provides a uniform subsidy per cylinder to all LPG consumers (PMUY or otherwise).
(iv). The way forward
Many long-term LPG users, who are also middle and higher income households, will continue to use LPG even at a higher unsubsidised price. In contrast, economically poor households need a greater subsidy to make it aﬀordable for them to use LPG as their main cooking fuel.
One approach for such targeting is to rely on the existing LPG consumption patterns of consumers. Provide households exhibiting low consumption or a decline in LPG consumption over time with greater subsidy per cylinder to sustain health gains. The subsidy levels could be dynamic with diﬀerent slabs reﬂecting the previous year’s consumption.
The continued support to the economically poor for sustaining LPG use is not merely a ﬁscal subsidy but also a social investment to free up women’s productive time and reduce India’s public health burden.
1. SWISS OPEN
- Carolina Marin outplayed P.V. Sindhu 21-12, 21-5 in a lopsided women’s ﬁnal of the Swiss Open Super 300 tournament on Sunday. The 25 year old Indian couldn’t handle the speed and accuracy of her opponent and went down rather tamely. It was Sindhu’s third successive loss to Marin.
Djokovic owns Federer's Number 1 ranking record : Novak Djokovic will set a new landmark on Monday of 311 weeks as World No. 1, surpassing Roger Federer. Djokovic reclaimed the top ranking from Nadal in February 2020 and finished as year end No. 1 for the sixth time, tying the mark set by Pete Sampras. He is currently in his fifth different spell atop the rankings.
Petra Kvitova wins the Qatar title : Petra Kvitova beat Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-1 to win her second Qatar Open title on Saturday. It was her 28th career title from 38 finals. She represents Czech Republic and won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014.
- Star Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat claimed her second gold medal in as many weeks with a dominant win in the Matteo Pellicone ranking series event and reclaimed the top rank in her category. The 26 year old World bronze medallist and only Indian woman wrestler to qualify for Tokyo Games, Vinesh blanked Canada's Diana Mary Helen Weicker 40 in the 53kg title clash. The Indian had entered the event as World No. 3, but is back to No. 1. She was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India's highest sports award in 2020.
1. Women's day : of Courts and Women https://www.livelaw.in/columns/womens-day-of-courts-and-women-gender-equality-170860
2. Cyber Attack and Act of war https://www.thequint.com/news/law/is-cyber-attack-an-act-of-war#read-more
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Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench