9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 8, 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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Internet shutdowns in India: impacts and way forward

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2-Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Synopsis: Frequent internet shutdown by the state government has many negative consequences. Governments must find alternatives to balance civil liberties and security.

Background:

  1. The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 under the Indian Telegraph Act contains the procedure to  restrict internet access.
  2. The Rules empowers the central and state governments to suspend internet services during public emergencies or for protecting public interest.
  3. However, this provision has been frequently used in India. In the past 4 years, India has witnessed more than 400 internet shutdowns throughout the country, which is the highest compared to any democracy in the world.
  4. For instance, after the abrogation of Article 370, J&K witnessed the longest Internet shutdown across the world.
  5. Most recently, Internet services were shut down in Delhi NCR following the violence that erupted during the Farmers protest on Republic day.
  6. Many civil society organizations including UN rights groups have termed these shutdowns a form of collective punishment for people, and an overreach of governments on citizens’ rights and liberties.

What are the views of the Supreme court in this regard?

  • In January 2020, the Supreme Court has declared that the right to access the Internet is one of the fundamental rights.
  • It is a part of Article 19 of the Constitution along with the freedom to carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of the Internet.

What are the negative impacts of Internet shutdown?

Arbitrary internet shutdowns have many undetermined consequences. Particularly during the crisis of the pandemic.

  1. First, Lack of internet connectivity or digital illiteracy will force many citizens to be excluded from social and economic systems.
  2. Second, Blanket bans on digital connectivity during the COVID-19 crisis will widen digital inequalities.
  3. Third, It will cut off the most vulnerable i.e. the elderly, and pregnant women, from accessing vital digital health services, health and welfare alerts.
  4. Fourth, It denies access to learning for students as now most of the classes are online to maintain physical distancing norms.
  5. Fifth, Internet shutdown will cause large-scale disruptions in the economy. Many white-collar employment sectors, including IT, financial and consulting services, have resorted to work from home option. For example, according to an estimation India has lost over ₹20,000 crore in 2020 because of Internet shutdowns.

What is the Way forward?

  • Internet bans should be used as a last resort and must be enforced following well-formulated protocols.
  • Emergency response and relief systems for the vulnerable should be planned in advance before enforcing internet shutdowns.
  • Other alternatives should be used. Cyber divisions of law enforcement agencies can be upgraded to use new-age innovations such as mass surveillance systems and communication interceptors.
  • The government should focus on balancing civil liberties with security concerns. For that modern, independent institutions having expertise in this domain can be created.

Concerns regarding DNA Technology (Use and Application) Bill, 2019

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-3: concern associated with technologies.

Synopsis: DNA Technology (Use and Application) Bill, 2019 has many concerns over its use when implemented. So, it is necessary to debate the effects before finalizing the Bill.

Background

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment, Forests, and Climate Change was tasked to review the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Bill, 2019.
  • In its final report, it acknowledged that the use of technologies in the criminal justice system is important. Yet, it cautioned that it should not violate the constitutional right of privacy.
  • The report has also raised concerns over the creation of a national database of genetic profiles gathered at crime scenes.

What are the concerns raised by the committee?

The committee has raised the following concerns in The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Bill, 2019. These concerns need to be debated extensively in the parliament before the finalization of the bill.

  1. First, many countries in the world collect Genetic Information of Persons unrelated to the crime. It is a violation of their Privacy.
    • Prosecution agencies collect flakes of skin, strands of hair, drops of blood and saliva from the crime scene. This helps the Prosecution agencies to validate the identity of an individual.
    • However, many times the footprints collected at a crime scene may not necessarily be of those individuals associated with the incident.
    • Hence, the DNA repository proposed by the Bill should exclude the information of the people who have nothing to do with the crime.
  2. Second, a lack of infrastructure will lead to undesired outcomes.
    • India is lacking the infrastructure for conducting DNA tests in the country. According to the Committee, the labs in the country can fulfill only 2-3 percent of the country’s DNA profiling.
  3. Third, India’s criminal justice system is not ready for the use of DNA technology. Already, India’s justice system lacks a legal aid system especially for the marginalized sections of society.
    • Most people charged with criminal offenses, are not aware of their rights. This deficit will widen when technology, such as DNA profiling, is deployed to establish crime.
    • Also, proper training is required for educating a range of criminal justice functionaries. (police, lawyers, magistrates). Then only this technology can be used effectively.

The parliament before deciding the features of the DNA Technology Bill should recall the verdict in Malak Singh v State of Punjab. Then supreme court Judge O Chinnappa Reddy remarked that, though organised crime needs close surveillance it may not be permitted as it infringes the fundamental right to personal liberty.

 


Bad Banks – pros and cons

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Synopsis: The centre is proposing to set up Bad Banks or Asset Reconstruction Company to acquire bad loans from banks.

Introduction

There is a persisting issue of bad loans in the Indian banking sector and the COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdown even worsened the situation. Setting up the bad Banks will help the Banking sector in dealing with this crisis.

International Experience of bad bank

  • It helps in combining all bad loans of banks under a single exclusive entity. Countries like the US, Germany, and Japan have used this concept.
  • The US implemented the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) after the 2008 financial crisis. It was moulded around the idea of a bad bank. The US Treasury earned nominal profits under the TARP.

What are the problems with a bad bank?

According to the former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, transferring bad assets from one pocket of the government to another will not lead to success. The reasons are,

  1. First, bad banks are backed by the government. The government will pay the high cost for stressed assets (to make bad bank profitable). It is not good for the fiscal health of the country.
  2. Second, there is a bad loan crisis in PSUs because they are managed by the bureaucrats. Bureaucrats are not like private banks and cannot offer the same commitment to lenders and ensure profitability. If a Bad bank is allowed to manage by bureaucrats, then there is no point to create a bad bank at all.
  3. Third, bad banks do not address the root problem. The reason behind the bad loan accumulation is the lack of focus on the quality of credit provided by banks. Establishing a bad bank might create a mindset that there is a system in place to recover the loans. This can lead to careless lending by banks in a larger manner and worsen the present bad loan crisis.

Will bad banks help in reviving the credit flow in the economy?

Some experts believe a bad bank can help free capital of over ₹5 lakh crore that is locked in by banks as provisions against these bad loans. This will give banks the freedom to use the freed-up money to give more loans.

  • This gives the impression that banks have unused funds lying in their balance sheets. They could use these funds only if they could get rid of their bad loans.
  • Many public sector banks may be considered to be technically broke. In reality, Their liabilities are far exceeding the assets they have.  So, a bad bank could help them reduce their liabilities by purchasing bad loans.

The way forward

  • A new bad bank set up by the government can improve banks capital safeguards by freeing up capital. It could help banks feel more confident to start lending again.

Why India-EU trade pact is still difficult to achieve?

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: The EU is in a turbulent situation currently due to COVID-19, Brexit, and international tensions with the US. This has unsettled the EU and worsened internal issues.

Introduction 

India is planning to start negotiations on investment and trade agreements with the European Union (EU). 

  • However, these discussions might face the same problems as faced during  2007 discussions on free trade agreements.
  • The EU was one of India’s major trade and investment partners before COVID-19 and Brexit. But it is facing many internal issues at present. To revive its relations with the EU, India need to recalibrate its policies. 

What are the issues EU facing at present?

First, Euroscepticism is impacting the unity of the EU. After the UK, many other EU member countries are resisting the EU Policies. Unity is lacking on issues such as-Eurozone, migration crises, secularism, and implementing COVID-19 lockdowns. There is no consensus upon the strategy for dealing with China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

Second, EU countries are facing many Internal issues. For the first time in 40 years, Netherlands faced Pandemic led riots.

Third, deteriorated relations with the US. During the Trump regime in the US, the EU-US relations took a downfall. Now many EU countries are looking for greater self-reliance in security. However, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, and others are uncomfortable with the prospect of building larger military capabilities.

The EU is trying to avoid involving in the US-China conflict. It has signed the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment which was decided after negligible consultation with Washington.

Fourth, Vaccine nationalism is widening the divide. The COVID-19 introduced divisive vaccine nationalism into the Union. Germany and France restricted exports of personal protective equipment. 

The German government had negotiated a separate vaccine contract with Pfizer in September last year. On the other hand, it is a strong advocate of European solidarity.

However, the EU’s procurement program for the union from Astra-Zeneca, Moderna and Pfizer, has filled the gaps to an extent on this part. 

Conclusion 

  • The EU will require enormous political will and clever skill to resolve these innumerable and diverse problems without further widening the existing gaps. Trade agreements with India will be the least of its problems.

Gandhian imprint in the farmer’s protest

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus:

GS 4 – Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.

GS 3 – Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System-objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping.

Synopsis: The protesting farmers are going through physical and mental suffering in Delhi’s severe winter. But the Government and the urban middle classes do not seem to feel a sense of discomfort.

Background

  • Gandhiji always backed non-violent methods of protest. Gandhiji also believed rural economy based mass movement follow non-violent methods. This is evident in the incident when he cancelled the Non-Cooperation Movement after Chauri Chura incident.
  • Today also, India is facing a rural economy based mass movement, following the principle of non-violence (Farmers protest). But the government and supporters of the farm laws are not respecting the non-violence.
  • Scholars, columnists and advisers supporting the laws are of the view that farmers who are protesting are being misled and do not represent the farming community as a whole.

What steps should the government take to end the farmers protest amicably?

  • First, Persuasion approach- Persuading farmers about the benefits and other important efforts towards farmer’s welfare can end the protest.
  • Second, Dialogue between equals- The Government should reach the farmers for negotiation as an equal partner.
  • Third, Removal of stereotypical perception- The urban educated class has certain stereotypes about farmers. These stereotypes have to be removed during negotiations. According to urban educated class:
      • Farmers do not know their own benefits due to the general ignorance and lack of education.
      • The farming community is simple-minded and therefore can be easily misled.

How the farmer’s protest and the Gandhian principles are relatable?

  • First, the idea of a peaceful protest is a legacy of Gandhi.
  • Second, the faith in non-violence by the protesting farmers must be respected by the other side (the government).

Thus, according to Gandhiji’s view, the protester’s willingness to undergo physical or mental sufferings is a means of awakening opposite party’s human instincts.

Way Forward

  • The government and the urban middle classes need to change their stereotypical perception regarding farmers.
  • The government should also consider the suffering [physical as well as mental] of the farmers.

 

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