Current Affairs 22nd November

Post-COVID, positive change in police attitude towards public #GS2 #Governance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a police meet on Sunday that post-COVID-19, there had been a positive change in police attitude towards the general public.

The Prime Minister addressed the valedictory session of the three-day annual DGPs’ conference that was held in Lucknow in a hybrid format this year.

The conference was inaugurated by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 19 where on stage he was accompanied by the three Ministers of State for Home — Nityanand Rai, Nisith Pramanik and Ajay Kumar Mishra. Mr. Mishra, whose son is accused of mowing down farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh last month, was conspicuously absent from the group photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the senior police officers on Sunday.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Director, Intelligence Bureau Arvinda Kumar, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and the three Ministers were there for the photo session. Though Mr. Mishra attended the conference on Friday and Saturday, he was not there on Sunday. A day ago, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra wrote to PM Modi to sack Mr. Mishra and not share stage with him at the conference.

‘Earned trust’

Mr. Modi told the officers that he had, in previous conferences, observed that the police used force and curfews to resolve issues but this time he saw the police leadership serving the citizens professionally and had also earned their trust, a senior official who attended the conference said.

Mr. Modi also called for an analysis of all police related incidents and developing case studies, to make it an institutionalised learning mechanism.

“He called for constituting a high-power police technology mission, under the leadership of Union Home Minister to adopt future technologies for grassroots policing requirements. Citing the importance of technology in the lives of the general public, the Prime Minister gave examples of CoWIN, GeM and UPI,” a Home Ministry statement said.

The conference was attended by 62 DGPs and IGPs, DGs of the Central Armed Police Forces. More than 400 officers of various ranks attended it virtually from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) offices.

SMART policing

In the run-up to the conference, various core groups of DGPs were formed for holding discussions on key aspects of national security such as prison reforms, terrorism, Left Wing Extremism, cyber crimes, narcotics trafficking, foreign funding of NGOs, drone-related matters, development of border villages, among others, the statement said.

“He suggested development of inter-operable technologies which would benefit police forces. …He also suggested positive use of drone technology. He stressed on review of SMART policing concept introduced in 2014 and suggested development of a roadmap for its continuous transformation and institutionalisation. To tackle some of the routine challenges, he urged involvement of highly qualified youth to look for technological solutions through hackathon,” the statement said.

Some nations stalling maritime order: Rajnath #GS3 #Defence

Stating that global security reasons, border disputes and maritime dominance have forced countries to move towards strengthening their military power, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday that some “irresponsible nations”, for narrow partisan interests, keep on giving “new and inappropriate” interpretations to international laws. These are creating obstacles in the path of a “rule-based maritime order”, the Minister said.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony of the first Project-15B class stealth guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam , in Mumbai, Mr. Singh said, “In the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, territorial waters of nations, exclusive economic zones and the principle of ‘Good order at sea’ have been propounded.

Some irresponsible nations, for the sake of their narrow partisan interests, keep on giving new and inappropriate interpretations to these international laws from hegemonic tendencies. The arbitrary interpretations create obstacles in the path of a rule-based maritime order.”

Freedom of navigation

“We envision a rule-based Indo-Pacific, with freedom of navigation, free trade and universal values, in which the interests of all the participating countries are protected,” Mr. Singh stated.

Asserting that India’s interests are directly linked with the Indian Ocean and the region is crucial for the world economy, Mr. Singh said challenges such as piracy, terrorism, illegal smuggling of arms and narcotics, human trafficking, illegal fishing and damage to the environment are equally responsible for affecting the maritime domain.

“Therefore, the role of the Indian Navy becomes very important in the entire Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

Describing the development of indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant , which is undergoing trials, as an important milestone in indigenous development, Mr. Singh said: “The carrier will increase our reach from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. Its commissioning will be a golden moment in the history of the Indian defence. It will be the best occasion to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence and the 50th anniversary of India’s victory in 1971 war.”

INS Visakhapatnam is the first of four P-15B ships designed by the Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design and constructed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, Mumbai. It measures 163m in length, 17m in breadth with a displacement of 7,400 tonnes and is propelled by four powerful gas turbines, in a Combined Gas and Gas (COGAG) configuration, capable of achieving speeds in excess of 30 knots.

The ship has enhanced stealth features resulting in a reduced Radar Cross Section (RCS) and is packed with sophisticated state-of-the-art weapons and sensors such as BrahMos Surface-to-Surface missiles and Barak-8 Surface-to-Air missiles.

Named after the historic city of Andhra Pradesh on the east coast, Visakhapatnam, the ‘City of Destiny’, the ship has a total complement of about 315 personnel. The ship will be under the command of Captain Birendra Singh Bains, a Navigation and Direction specialist.

Pratham gets Indira Gandhi Peace Prize #GS2 #Governance

Pratham, a civil society organisation dedicated to improving the quality of education among underprivileged children in India and across the world, has been selected for the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2021.

The international jury of the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, chaired by the former Chief Justice of India, Justice T.S. Thakur, announced the award of the prize to the organisation.

“The 2021 Prize is awarded to Pratham for its pioneering work over more than a quarter century in seeking to ensure that every child has access to quality education, for its innovative use of digital technology to deliver education, for its programmes to provide skills to young adults, for its regular evaluation of the quality of education, and for its timely response in enabling children to learn during the COVID-19 related school closures,” said the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust in a statement.

Mumbai slums

Set up in 1995 in Mumbai by Dr. Madhav Chavan and Ms. Farida Lambay, Pratham started work in Mumbai slums, setting up community based “Balwadis” or pre-schools and offering remedial education for students lagging behind their grade level curriculum.

“Its Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), based on surveying 6,00,000 rural Indian children, is now used as a model to assess education outcomes and learning deficiencies in 14 countries over three continents,” said the Trust.

In basic education, Pratham develops low-cost and replicable innovations, working with the Government and community to improve learning outcomes. Its programmes now cover children and young adults in 21 States.

PM likely to join Biden’s Democracy Summit #GS2 #IR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to take part in U.S. President Joseph Biden’s “Summit for Democracy”, officials said, confirming that the Government has received an invitation for him to take part in the conference in virtual format on December 9 and 10.

Mr. Modi’s participation, along with leaders of more than 100 countries invited, is expected to include “individual and collective commitments to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad”, according to the White House announcement on the summit, in a manner akin to the climate change “goals” leaders at the Glasgow summit spelt out.

Mr. Biden, who had promised the Summit during his election campaign, also wants the grouping to send a message to the U.S.’s chief rivals China and Russia, who are not invitees, though both countries refer to themselves as democracies.

The summit will follow close on the heels of Mr. Modi’s annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the 2+2 meeting of Indian and Russian Foreign and Defence Ministers on December 6, when the two countries are expected to announce a number of bilateral agreements and defence deals.

Russia has been sharply critical of the Democracy Summit, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called an attempt to divide the world to garner “maximum loyalty” from invitees, while excluding other countries such as Russia and China.

According to lists of invitee countries reported in U.S. media, leaders of 108 countries have been invited, including four in the South and Central Asian (SCA) region: India, the Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan. It is unclear whether other democracies in the region such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan are also being invited, but the omission of those countries is just one of a number of aspects of the conference that is raising eyebrows in New Delhi.

Afghanistan and Myanmar, two countries in the region where democratic governments were overthrown forcibly this year, are likely to be on the agenda instead, as a key point of discussion. The White House has outlined three key themes: “Defending against authoritarianism”, “Addressing and fighting corruption”, and “Advancing respect for human rights”.

Another point of concern would be the extent of commentary about the quality of democracy amongst the conference invitees. India has traditionally regarded issues of democracy and human rights an “internal matter” for the country, and in the past few years, the Ministry of External Affairs has rejected attempts by the U.S., the European Union and the U.K. legislature to pass resolutions on issues such as restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, and protests over the farm Bills and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Conversely, the Modi Government has also spoken quite strongly about promoting democracy and full representation in the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, while expressing concerns about the rights of minorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and it remains to be seen whether Mr. Modi will raise any of these issues during the summit.

The summit follows months after an attempt by the U.S. and the U.K. to expand the G-7 meeting into a “D-10” or group of 10 democracies that would represent 60% of the global population, including Australia, India and South Korea, along with the G-7 group.

Life expectancy lower for urban poor, says study #GS3 #Economy

Life expectancy among the poorest is lower by 9.1 years among men and 6.2 years among women from the corresponding figures for the richest in urban areas, noted a report released recently by Azim Premji University in collaboration with 17 regional NGOs across India.

The report, “Healthcare equity in urban India”, explores health vulnerabilities and inequalities in cities in India. It also looks at the availability, accessibility and cost of healthcare facilities, and possibilities in future-proofing services in the next decade. It notes that a third of India’s population lives in urban areas, with this segment seeing a rapid growth from about 18% (1960) to 28.53% (2001) and 34% (in 2019). Close to 30% of people living in urban areas are poor.

The study also draws insights from data collected through interactions with civil society organisations in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Surat, Lucknow, Guwahati, Ranchi and Delhi. This also included an analysis of the National Family and Health Surveys, the Census, and inputs from State-level officials on the provision of healthcare.

The report, besides finding disproportionate disease burden on the poor, also points to a chaotic urban health governance, where the multiplicity of healthcare providers both within and outside the Government without coordination are challenges to urban health governance. The other key findings include a heavy financial burden on the poor, and less investment in healthcare by urban local bodies.

Steps to be taken

The report calls for strengthening community participation and governance; building a comprehensive and dynamic database on the health and nutrition status, including comorbidities of the diverse, vulnerable populations; strengthening healthcare provisioning through the National Urban Health Mission, especially for primary healthcare services; and putting in place policy measures to reduce the financial burden of the poor.

It also advocates for a better mechanism for coordinated public healthcare services and better governed private healthcare institutions. “As urbanisation is happening rapidly, the number of the urban poor is only expected to increase. A well-functioning, better coordinated and governed healthcare system is crucial at this point.

Prolonged school closures pose threat to gender equality: study #GS2 #Governance

Educational disruption due to prolonged closure of schools across the globe will not only have alarming effects on learning loss but also poses threat to gender equality, a new study by UNESCO has pointed out.

The global study, titled “When schools shut: Gendered impacts of COVID-19 school closures”, brings to the fore that girls and boys, young women and men were affected differently by school closures, depending on the context.

“At the peak of the pandemic, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures. Not only did they lose access to education, but also to the myriad benefits of attending school, at an unparalleled scale,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO, Assistant Director-General for Education.

Drawing on evidence from about 90 countries and in-depth data collected in local communities, the report shows that gender norms and expectations can affect the ability to participate in and benefit from remote learning.

“In poorer contexts, girls’ time to learn was constrained by increased household chores. Boys’ participation in learning was limited by income-generating activities. Girls faced difficulties in engaging in digital remote learning modalities in many contexts because of limited access to Internet-enabled devices, a lack of digital skills and cultural norms restricting their use of technological devices,” the report said.

The study pointed out that digital gender-divide was already a concern before the COVID-19 crisis.