9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 20, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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We know for a fact that learning without evaluation is a wasted effort. Therefore, we request you to please go through both our initiatives i.e 9PM Briefs and Factly, then evaluate yourself through the 10PM Current Affairs Quiz.

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Why Complete Elimination Strategy of COVID virus is not feasible?

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Synopsis: The empirical evidence shows that the idea of the complete elimination of COVID viruses in a selected few countries is not feasible. Rather, it will only increase the socioeconomic disparities thereby making the goal of elimination infeasible.


  1. A recent article published in The Lancet has advocated for “elimination strategy”, it is also known as the zero-COVID-19 strategy for eliminating the virus.
  2. Zero-COVID-19 strategy means that the replication of the virus will be reduced to the least so that no new cases will occur in a defined geographical area.
  3. The elimination strategy has the following three elements,
    • Rapid reduction in the number of infections to zero.
    • Creation of virus-free green zones and
    • Prompt outbreak management when new cases occur occasionally.
  4. Rich countries are working on this strategy by vaccinating each and every citizen.
  5. However, this strategy of the complete elimination of the virus is not suitable for every country.

Why this strategy is not suitable for all countries?

Complete elimination of the virus by vaccination is only suitable for geographically isolated countries such as New Zealand. It can afford strict border control measures. Even here, it is difficult because of the following reasons,

  • First, the virus will keep on circulating in other countries. So, the threat of a Virus outbreak will stay for a while.
  • Second, the Virus is mutating at a very fast pace. Universal vaccination will not be helpful against new variants. It is difficult to consistently upgrade vaccines.
  • Third, a zero-COVID-19 strategy will worsen global health inequities. The idea of creating green zones for free travel will benefit richer countries and alienate poorer nations.
  • Fourth, the experience from the elimination of other diseases shows that the complete elimination of the COVID virus is not possible. For example,
      • Measles and neonatal tetanus are present for more than 20 years. It caused nearly 25,000 newborn deaths in 2018. Despite the global efforts for vaccination it still remains a major public health challenge in the developing world.
      • Polio, eradicated from Southeast Asia, is still endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
      • Also, according to immunologists surveyed by the science journal Nature, the COVID virus will become endemic in certain countries.

What are the Solutions?

Instead of isolated strategies for few countries, global leadership and resources to vaccinate the vulnerable population are required.

  • First, disease control measures should be implemented globally. The vaccine coverage for vulnerable populations across the globe should be increased.
  • Second, the current pace of vaccination needs to be increased by 4.3 times to vaccinate 6.4 million persons per day.
  • Third, along with this, mapping of elderly and persons with comorbidities needs to be done on a priority basis for vaccination.
  • Fourth, there is a need to strengthen epidemiological and genomic surveillance for COVID-19.
  • Fifth, a plan for the goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is required. Because the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed the gains made in other health programmes like tuberculosis control.

Thus, the idea of eliminating virus in selected few countries should be replaced with a pragmatic goal of controlling COVID-19. Since the zero-COVID-19 strategy comes with zero evidence of feasibility, focusing on it will result in wastage of our attention, funds, and time.

‘Weakness of Indian state’ in elimination of poverty

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis: The pandemic has exposed the weakness of the Indian state in fulfilling the needs of the poor. This calls for a change in the current approach to eradicate the miseries faced by the poor.


  • Two books have tried to explain the shortcomings of the Indian state in meeting the aspirations of the poor. 
  • The books are Locking Down the Poor: The Pandemic and India’s Moral Centre by Harsh Mander and Despite the State: Why India Lets Its People Down and How They Cope by M. Rajshekhar.
  • They threw light on the problems faced by the poor during the pandemic including loss of jobs, shortage of food, etc. 
  • As per them, the failure is based on the systematic weakness of the Indian state which is devoid of the key pillars of a strong state.

What are the key pillars of a strong state:

  • It is built with strong support from people
  • It has robust administrative machinery for the delivery of services and maintenance of stability.
  • Furthermore, it has managerial abilities to shape and implement change.

Issues with Indian state:

  • First, it is very difficult to develop a shared identity among Indians due to the high degree of diversity. Shared identity is essential for obtaining the support of people as seen in the case of strong states like Japan and China. They used Japanese and Han Chinese identities for unification.
  • Second, apart from the diversity, the Indian state is also suffering from caste division. It is often used by leaders to divide the Indian masses.
  • Third, the Indian bureaucracy performs poorly in the domain of shaping changes. This is mainly due to the colonial mindset which focuses more on stability and compliance.
  • Fourth, governance is more focused on capitalist ideology. It induces the bureaucracy to function as corporate managers. This eventually neglects the spirit of socialism which is necessary to uplift the poor people. 
  • Fifth, the approach of looking at politics as not more than an extension of economics has led to privatization of necessary services such as health and education.
  • Sixth, the approach of strengthening the top of the pyramid and expectation of improving the bottom through trickle-down effect has not delivered desired results.

Way Forward:

  • The focus should be on uniting the masses around a modern and inclusive identity as taught by our constitution-makers.
  • The bureaucrats must be given due training in order to simultaneously balance stability and change. As too much change can create chaos and no change can solidify the inefficiencies of the current setup.
  • Public servants should not function as corporate managers. Rather they must be willing to devote their lives for the welfare of the masses in order to strengthen the process of nation-building. 
  • The state must realize that it can’t function like a private corporation that can easily fire its employees. It must ensure everyone is given due opportunities to grow and prosper.
  • The state must now focus on parameters like economic justice, environmental sustainability, etc. rather than focusing solely on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers.  

In a nutshell, India today desires political leaders who can unite the masses, administrators who can deliver good governance, and business leaders who are wealth creators as well as distributors.

Overexpansion of IIT’s will reduce its standards

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

Synopsis: The recent decision by UGC to allow IITs to open branches abroad will jeopardize the Institution’s brand. This overexpansion of IITs will reduce their quality.


  • The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are India’s premier institutes with world-class quality standards. They are among few Indian higher educational institutions that perform well in the global rankings.
  • However, in the last decade, the IIT institutes have expanded beyond their capacity. This accelerated expansion is likely to affect its quality standards. For example, Currently, there are 23 IITs as compared to 5 IIT’s in the early 1960s.
  • Moreover, recently, the University Grants Commission permitted selected IITs under the ‘Institutions of Eminence’ category to set up campuses abroad. This decision could further weaken the quality standards of IITs.
  • So, we need to rethink the changing role and mandate of IITs in order to ensure that quality and focus are maintained.

How the expansion of IITs is affecting the quality standards of the premier institutions?

In recent years, the government expanded the number of IITs throughout the country. This has the following consequences:

  • Most of the new IITs are located in smaller towns. Mandi (Himachal Pradesh), Palakkad (Kerala), Dharwad (Karnataka), and others.
  • It will be difficult for IITs in small locations to attract top-quality faculty and staff. For example, IIT Dhanbad has been approved to hire 781 instructors, but only 301 positions were filled as of January 2021.
  • Also, it will be difficult to provide world-class facilities and infrastructure for IITs that are located in smaller towns.
  • Thus, inevitably it will lead to quality decline and the dilution of “IIT brand”.

What are the other issues hampering the growth of IIT’s?

  • First, IIT’s are unable to attract a sufficient number of young faculty to fill vacancies resulting from retirements.
      • Because the salaries offered by IIT’s are relatively less compared to the salaries offered by the industries.
      • Also, bright minds are getting attracted to universities and industries in other countries.
  • Second, exclusive focus on technology and engineering and very less importance given to the humanities and social sciences.
      • Recently, the 2020 National Education Policy emphasized that the IITs should focus more on “holistic and multidisciplinary education”.
  • Third, lack of correlation between the local needs and IITs. Only a few State governments are effectively utilizing the presence of IITs for community outreach programmes through knowledge-sharing networks.
      • An effective approach for local area development through IITs could have prevented the resistance of local groups for setting up new IIT in their region. For example, Goa.

What needs to be done?

  • First, rather than creating new IIT’s we need to prioritise limited “IIT system”. It should be funded at “world-class” levels and staffed by “world class” faculty. Only, 10 to 12 “real” IITs located near major cities are practical for India.
      • Whereas, the newly established institutes can be renamed. After that, they can be provided with sufficient resources to produce high-quality graduates and good research.
      • The recent decision to liberalise the recruitment rules to attract more foreign faculty is a good step in the right direction.
  • Second, IITs need to pay attention to internationalization by collaborating with the best global universities and hiring foreign faculty. Rather than starting overseas branches we need robust policies to attract international students.
      • This move will produce excellent results and build the IIT’s international brand. For instance, IIT Bombay-Monash Research Academy and University of Queensland-IIT Delhi Academy of Research (UQIDAR), are promising examples.
  • Third, adequate and sustained funding is mandatory from both the government and the philanthropist to ensure high-quality standards.

A tussle between Australia and Facebook over News Charges

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora

Synopsis: Recently, a clash erupted between the Australian government and Facebook. The Big Techs in Australia are opposing the Fee to media companies for using their content.


  • Recently, the Australian government has proposed the ‘News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020’.
  • The Bill aims to make Google and Facebook pay to media companies for using their content.
  • It also proposes for an arbiter to decide the payments. It is important because small publishers have no bargaining power against Big tech companies.
  • Facebook has retaliated with a news blackout. It blocked all the news links on its platform. In this process, it also ended up blocking out emergency services such as weather forecast, rescue operation, news related to health, etc.
  • In response to this bullying action by Facebook, Australia’s Prime Minister has sought global diplomatic support for forcing Internet giants to pay media companies.
  • In this context, he also contacted Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the progress of media platform bill.
  • The legislation sets a precedent in regulating social media across countries.

Why the government resorted to draft a bill for this purpose?

  • In 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended a voluntary code for internet companies. It was to balance the negotiating power differential between major digital platforms and media businesses.
  • However, the businesses were not able to reach an agreement voluntarily. This prompted the government to legislate a mandatory code.

Why the internet companies are reluctant to accept this bill?

The basic argument of both companies is that,

  • The media industry is already being benefitted from the traffic routed to them by the digital platforms.
  • Also, they are of the opinion that the proposed rules would expose the Internet companies to unseen levels of financial and operational risk.

How it is being regulated in other countries?

  • Both the platforms Facebook and Google aim to formalize payment pacts with news companies in several other countries.
      • For example, Facebook is planning to launch its news tab feature in the US and in the UK, with likely tie-ups with The Guardian, The Economist, and The Independent.
      • Whereas Google has planned to roll out its news offering platform, Google News Showcase. It has 450 publications on board in a dozen countries.
  • Similarly, Google has accepted to pay news publications in France for using their content online.
  • Even in Australia, Google has opted for a more conciliatory position by signing a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Whereas, Facebook has resorted to retaliation. 

Why internet companies are having double standards with respect to different countries?

  • Paying for a news feed is not an issue for the tech giants. They have already accepted to pay News publications in France.
  • But the fight in Australia is over, how much control these companies would be able to retain on their pay-out process and on operational aspects. For example, the power to decide the payments for news feed sources, revealing changes in their algorithms, etc.,
  • European laws have specifically linked payments to copyright, without any pressuring features into the agreements. Whereas Australia’s code is entirely focused on the bargaining power of news outlets and has some coercive features.

What is the status in India?

  • According to a FICCI-EY report for 2020, there are 300 million users of online news sites, portals, and aggregators in the country. It comprises around 46% of Internet users and 77% of smartphone users in India at the end of 2019.
  • Also, India is the second-largest online news consuming nation after China. This has increased the revenue for aggregators, news publishers through digital advertising.
  • For example, according to EY estimates, digital advertising spends in 2019 grew 24% and is expected to grow to Rs 51,340 crore by 2022.
  • Despite huge prospects, a substantial discussion on this issue is yet to begin in India.
  • In India, Daily hunt and In Shorts are the other major news aggregators. They are yet to find a sustainable revenue model to make payments to publishers.

Need to regulate Big techs in India

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 3: role of media and social networking sites

Synopsis: The Indian government is planning to announce important regulations on big Internet-related technology companies. 


At present the world has two visions of the internet technology:

  •  Libertarianism: Under this, liberal internet policies were followed by countries such as the USA. This model was successful in the past but now under pressure due to internal conflicts.
  • Authoritarianism: Under this, Countries will enforce strict authoritative Internet policies. For example, China. This model is now getting strong support. 

Both of these creating a dilemma for other countries in regulating the big techs.

What is the need to regulate the big-techs?

There are several issues with internet platforms. These issues get intensified after big-techs starts creating and generating their own contents. The issues are 

  1. Big tech companies acquire monopoly power in their operations. This leaves no scope for free and fair competition. 
  2. The algorithms used by the big-techs were opaque and not subject to accountability.
  3. These big tech companies became the symbol of inequality. They acquired more economic and political power.
  4. These companies viewed themselves as a sovereign power and regulated speech on their own. For example, a private CEO banning the elected president trump from social media. 
  5. There might be a harmful impact of big tech on democracy and democratisation. Democracies became more polarised and free speech abuses got increased. 

What does India intend to achieve by regulating the big-techs?

The regulations against big tech are an attempt to curb the unfair advantages taken by the big techs to exploit the Indian market. India can create competition and be more self-reliant in the internet space.

  1. Ideological push to Atmanirbhar Bharat: China kept out big tech companies from exploiting their market. At the same time, China did not face any difference in financial flows or investment in other areas. This is because China developed more indigenous technology. India can also create Atmanirbhar Bharat by regulating big techs.
  2. Many critics have urged the government to potentially control the information as much as possible. By regulating big techs India can control the data generated by Indians more easily. 


  • The government should show a moral commitment and invest in science and technology
  • India can address complicated issues by following these steps: 
    • Enhancing India’s technological capabilities. 
    • Creating an institutional structure to prevent big techs from diminishing democracy and freedom of speech.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 20, 2021

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