03 November, 2020
- The nutrition fallout of school closures (Science & Technology)
- A-G declines consent for contempt case against Jagan - (Polity & Governance)
- HC panel questions setting up of special courts to try MPs - (Polity & Governance)
- Reinforcing RBI accountability (Indian Economy)
- Serosurveys underestimate building of herd immunity - (Polity & Governance)
- Strategic Partnership will aid smooth work in the event of regional crisis
- Question for the day (Indian Economy)
UPSC Current Affairs: The nutrition fallout of school closures | Page 7
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Schemes | Mains – GS Paper II – Social Justice
Sub Theme: Mid Day Meal Scheme |UPSC
The nutrition fallout of school closures
As per the report of State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020, released by the Food and Agriculture Organization in partnership with other UN organisations, 369 million children globally were losing out on school meals, a bulk of whom were in India.
A report by the International Labour Organization and the UNICEF, on COVID-19 and child labour, cautions that unless school services and social security are universally strengthened, there is a risk that some children may not even return to schools when they reopen.
The recent Global Hunger Index (GHI) report for 2020 ranks India at 94 out of 107 countries and in the category ‘serious’, behind our neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The index is a combination of indicators of undernutrition in the population and wasting, stunting, and mortality in children below five years of age.
We are already far out in terms of achieving the ‘Zero Hunger’ goal (SDG goal-2). According to NITI Aayog’s report on Sustainable Development Goals 2019, only seven states have managed to address UN’s zero hunger goal.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party, India has committed to "adequate nutritious food" for children.
Right to food is a fundamental right - In April 2001, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) initiated the public interest litigation - popularly known as the "right to food" case. The PUCL argued that article 21 – "right to life" of the Indian constitution when read together with articles 39(a) and 47, makes the right to food a derived fundamental right which is enforceable by virtue of the constitutional remedy provided under article 32 of the constitution.
The PUCL argued that excess food stocks with the Food Corporation of India should be fed to hungry citizens. This included providing mid-day meals in primary schools. The scheme came into force with the supreme court order which requires all government and government-assisted primary schools to provide cooked midday meals.
Article 39(a) - citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means to livelihood
Article 47 - Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health
Mid-day meal scheme
- The scheme guarantees one meal to all students up to Class VIII, least 200 days in a year, in government and aided schools and madarsas supported under Samagra Shiksha.
- The Scheme comes under the Ministry of Education.
- It was launched in the year 1995 as the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, a centrally sponsored scheme. In 2004, the scheme was relaunched as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme.
- The central government provides free food grains to the states.
- The cost of cooking, infrastructure development, transportation of food grains and payment of honorarium to cooks and helpers is shared by the centre with the state governments.
- The MDM rules 2015, provide that:
- The place of serving meals to the children shall be school only.[Kerala is a providing hot-cooked meals to students at home during COVID-19 pandemic].
- If the Mid-Day Meal is not provided in school on any school day due to non-availability of food grains or any other reason, the State Government shall pay food security allowance.
- Procuring AGMARK quality items for preparation of midday meals.
- The School Management Committee mandated under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 shall also monitor implementation of the Mid-day meal Scheme.
- The State Steering-cum Monitoring Committee (SSMC) shall oversee the implementation of the scheme including establishment of a mechanism for maintenance of nutritional standards and quality of meals.
- Nutritional norms
- The children in primary schools must be provided with at least 450 calories with 12 grams of protein, including adequate quantities of micronutrients like iron, folic acid, Vitamin-A, etc. The children in upper primary schools should get 700 calories with 20 grams of protein. This is approximately one-third of the nutritional requirement of the child
- The food intake per mealby the children of primary classes is 100 grams of food grains, 20 grams of pulses, 50 grams of vegetables and 5 grams of oils and fats. For the children of upper-primary schools, the mandated breakup is 150 grams of food grains, 30 grams of pulses, 75 grams of vegetables and 7.5 grams of oils and fats.
- Joint Review Mission of MDMS, 2015-16 noted that many children reach school on an empty stomach, making the school’s mid-day meal a major source of nutrition for children, particularly those from vulnerable communities.
- The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.
- Government of India announced that the usual hot-cooked mid-day meal or an equivalent food security allowance/dry ration would be provided to all eligible school-going children even during vacation, to ensure that their immunity and nutrition is not compromised. Nearly three months into this decision, States were still struggling to implement this.
- According to the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) food grain bulletin, the offtake of grains under MDMS from FCI during April and May, 2020 was 221.312 thousand tonnes. This was 60 thousand tonnes, or 22%, lower than the corresponding offtake during April and May, 2019 (281.932 thousand tonnes).
- There were 23 States and Union Territories that reported a decline in the grain offtake from FCI in April-May 2020, compared with corresponding months in 2019.
- Data and media reports indicate that dry ration distributions in lieu of school meals are irregular.
The other worrying angle is the fact that there are reports of children engaging in labour to supplement the fall in family incomes in vulnerable households.
A local livelihood model
Linking local smallholder farmers with the mid-day meal system for the supply of cereals, vegetables, and eggs. This will help in –
- meeting protein and hidden hunger needs
- diversify production and farming systems
- transform rural livelihoods and the local economy.
- Development of decentralised models which can overcome supply chain constraint due to COVID-19 like crisis.
School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden
- to provide fresh vegetables for mid-day meals.
- First hand experience to children on nature and gardening.
- Enhance children’s knowledge on nutrition
- Nagaland is promoting kitchen gardening in every school.
[The Ministry of Human Resource Development has recently released set of guidelines mandating schools to set up a School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden.]
UPSC Current Affairs:A-G declines consent for contempt case against Jagan | Page 01
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Schemes | Mains – GS Paper II – Social Justice
Sub Theme: Contempt of Court |UPSC
Mr. Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay filed PILs in Supreme Court against the criminalisation of politics and the long-pending trials against legislators.
The top court ordered the setting up of special courts to try MPs and MLAs expeditiously.
The Bench led by Justice Ramana is presently monitoring the process.
Chief Minister of A.P, Jagan Mohan Reddy, wrote letter to the Chief Justice of India, containing allegations against Supreme Court judge N.V. Ramana and others.
Mr. Upadhyay wanted to seek consent from Attorney General to file Contempt case against the CM.
Mr. Upadhyay claimed that Mr. Reddy had 31 criminal cases against him. Mr. Reddy is not only indulging in bench-hunting but also wants the court to stop hearing these PILs. This is not a silly mischievous deceitful act but deliberate fraudulent calculated attempts to not only undermine apex court but also to terrorise the judiciary.
Article 129 states that the Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.
Section 2(a) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines contempt of court as civil contempt or criminal contempt.
- Civil contempt refers to the wilful disobedience of an order of any court.
- Criminal contempt includes any act or publication which:
- scandalises' the court, or
- prejudices any judicial proceeding, or
- interferes with the administration of justice in any other manne
In case of contempt other than the contempt referred to in rule 2, the Court may take action
- Suo motu, or
- on a petition made by Attorney-General, or Solicitor-General, or
- on a petition made by any person, and in the case of a criminal contempt with the consent in writing of the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General.
UPSC Current Affairs:HC panel questions setting up of special courts to try MPs| Page 08
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity and Governance
Sub Theme: Criminalization of Politics |UPSC
What is the news?
- Supreme Court in 2017 had authorised the Centre to set up 12 Special Courts to exclusively try criminal politicians across the country.
- However, the three Member Committee of the Madras High Court has questioned the constitutional validity to constitute such Special Court by the Supreme Court.
- The Report of Madras High Court has come at a time when a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice N.V. Ramana is looking at ways to expedite these trials pending for years, in some cases, for decades.
- As of now over 4,400 criminal trials are pending against legislators where more than 2,500 trials involve sitting legislators.
What is the observation of Madras High Court Committee?
- Madras High Court has constituted Criminal Rules Committee on Special Courts for Trial of Criminal Cases against MPs/MLAs. The Committee comprises of Justices P.N. Prakash, G. Jayachandran and N. Sathish Kumar.
- Three Judge Committee of Madras High Court has observed that –
- If any MP/MLA commits an offence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), or other Special Acts like Prevention of Corruption Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, The Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 etc. which provides for the mechanism of Special Courts ---- then such offence committed by MP/MLA has to be tried by such Special Court under the Act.
- There cannot be cannot be another Special Court created outside the Act exclusively for trial of an MP/MLA for offences committed under such Acts which provides for Special Courts.
- The Committee further observed that Special Courts can only be constituted by a statute/legislation and not by any executive or judicial orders.
- Based on this observation, committee raised strong reservations against setting up special courts in Tamil Nadu as the Committee feels that existing court structure in Tamil Nadu, which is robust, is more than enough to deal with the cases involving MPs and MLAs.
- The Committee also urged the Madras High Court Chief Justice to bring this “fact” to the notice of the Supreme Court to get an “exemption from establishing special courts for trial of cases involving MPs and MLAs”.
- These observations of the three member committee of Madras High Court have been filed in the Supreme Court.
- Conclusion - Accordingly the Three Judge Committee of the Madras High Court has questioned the constitutional validity of setting up special courts to exclusively try MPs and MLAs for various crimes. The Court observed that the special courts should be “offence-centric” and not “offender-centric.”
UPSC Current Affairs:Serosurveys underestimate building of herd immunity | Page 07
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Schemes | Science and Technology
Sub Theme: Sero Surveys | Anti Bodies |UPSC
- Author suggests that the antibody prevalence data derived from serosurveys must be interpreted with caution and correction factors
The theory behind population-based serological surveys (seroprevalence surveys or sero surveys) to detect the prevalence of antibodies against COVID-19 is robust.
What is the purpose behind Sero Surveys?
- Their purpose is to measure the proportion of a population already infected, as evidenced by antibody positivity.
- When applied on a national scale, a random sample of the entire population is tested. Then, the data are extrapolated to the whole population.
Let us first understand the “Random ness”
- ‘Random’, according to the dictionary, means something without a deliberate order. In biostatistics, it means each individual has an equal probability of getting selected. Statisticians stratify the population and select a random sample from all strata so that the prevalence figure obtained is representative of the whole population. The result of random sample sero surveys can be confidently extrapolated to obtain national-level prevalence of antibodies.
What presence of antibodies indicate?
- Antibodies are the footprints of the host’s response to virus infection. Their presence in the blood-serum confirms past infection.
However, test results for antibodies throw up surprises. Antibody prevalence data derived from serosurveys must be interpreted with caution and correction factors.
So why is there a need for caution?
- The virus carries several antigens, both on the surface and internally. The body responds to all of them.
- Four antigens selected to detect antibodies are spike protein (S1, S2), receptor-binding domain (RBD) and nucleocapsid (N).
- An antibody against each antigen has its own time of appearance, duration in blood and rate of decay over time.
What does data suggest: Study
- In people with asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infections, these antibody levels decline over time, reaching 50% of the initial levels by about 36 days and become undetectable by 60 days after proven infection.
- Such asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic cases constitute more than 80% of those infected with the virus.
Let us understand this with the help of a example: 2nd Sero Survey
- The second serosurvey gave 7.1% prevalence for those immune between July 20 and August 25.
- For the sake of simplifying calculations, we assign August 4, the midpoint of this time interval to represent the second survey results.
- Subjects who were antibody positive by August 4 would have contracted the infection a month earlier by July 4. The result is not time-appropriate as at least 50% of those infected two months earlier by June 4 (representing the midpoint between April 20 and June 25) would have become antibody negative. This was the time when infections were rapidly rising. In short, the result is a gross underestimate of the true level of those with antibodies. Taking 50% as the correction factor, prevalence was 14.2% on August 4.
Evidently, serosurvey results have to be cautiously interpreted to arrive at the true level of prevalence of antibodies. If taken at face value, serosurvey results grossly underestimate true prevalence, except in the very early phase of the epidemic when infected people two months earlier were very few.
Governments must continuously exhort citizens not to let their guard down, not only for the safety of those who celebrate, but also, more importantly, their family members, particularly senior citizens. People can celebrate festivals but governments must enforce strict norms regarding crowding, especially inside buildings.
UPSC Current Affairs:Reinforcing RBI’s accountability | Page 07
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains: GS III Macroeconomy
Sub Theme: RBI | |UPSC
This article has appeared in the newspaper in the context of RBI's failure to maintain Inflation rate within the targeted range. Accordingly, it argues for ensuring greater accountability of the RBI with respect to inflation targeting.
Monetary Policy Framework Agreement
The RBI act, 1934 was amended in 2016 to provide for the adoption of flexible inflation targeting. Under this act, the Central Government shall determine the inflation target in terms of the Consumer Price Index, once in every five years. This inflation target is required to be met by Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
Presently, the Monetary Policy agreement (MPA) signed between Centre and RBI provides that MPC should maintain an ideal rate of inflation of 4% which could increase or decrease by 2% i.e. the rate of inflation should always be between 2% to 6%.
Such a flexible inflation targeting has been adopted in order to provide necessary autonomy to the RBI to control inflation. This autonomy is in turn matched by its accountability.
As per the agreement, if the rate of inflation is above 6% or below 2% for 3 consecutive quarters, then it would be termed as the failure of the RBI to maintain Inflation. Accordingly, in order to ensure its accountability, the RBI would be required to publish a report stating the following:
(a) the reasons for failure to achieve the inflation target;
(b) remedial actions proposed to be taken by the Bank; and
(c) an estimate of the time-period within which the inflation target shall be achieved.
The rate of Inflation as measured by CPI has been higher than 6% in the last 3 quarters. As per the Monetary policy framework agreement, this can be considered to be RBI's failure to maintain inflation within the targeted range. Hence, accordingly RBI should have come out with detailed report explaining the reasons for its failure and what actions it proposes to undertake.
There is a need to ensure the accountability of the RBI. The RBI should be made to explain the reasons for its failure to maintain the rate of inflation. The RBI should also come with what concrete steps would it take to bring inflation under control. This would enhance credibility, transparency and predictability of monetary policy.
UPSC Current Affairs:‘Strategic Partnership will aid smooth work in the event of regional crisis’| Page 07
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS II International Relations
Sub Theme: Comprehensive Strategic Partnership | |UPSC
A steady uptick in the momentum of bilateral cooperation
- Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP): Upgradation of the existing 2+2 dialogue to the Ministerial level, elevating the 2009 bilateral Strategic Partnership to a CSP.
[India has signed CSPs with the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) thus far, while Australia has CSPs with China, Indonesia and Singapore.]
- As part of the CSP, there were agreements in relation to critical technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, and 5G
- Mutual Logistic Support Arrangement, which is designed to improve the collaboration between the armed forces.
[India has such agreements with the USA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement-LEMOA), France, Singapore and South Korea]
- Australia’s inclusion in the Malabar naval exercises.
- Supply of rare earth minerals will help India’s program for batteries or electric vehicles.
- Australian India Strategic Research Fund has been going for over 20 years. Australia is contributing to India’s National Quantum Mission by facilitating partnerships with universities, research institutions and businesses.
- Since 2013, Australia has been doing laser ranging for Indian regional navigational satellite systems. temporary ground station tracking facilities in Australia to support Gaganyaan Mission is being planned.
India and Australia have decided to recommence suspended talks over India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). which has been suspended since 2015. This move comes in the wake of India opting out of the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Area that need more cooperation/understanding
- Tensions between India and China over the standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Australia-China tensions over trade issues and differences over the handling of the pandemic.
- Australia still expresses hope that India would reconsider joining RCEP.
Both India and Australia share a vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region and cooperative use of the seas by adherence to international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and peaceful resolution of disputes rather than through unilateral or coercive actions.