17 February , 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu
- Essay Mains Test Series and QIP announcement
- Looking ahead after the Ladakh walk back (International Relation + Geography mapping)
- Frayed tempers, confusion reign at toll plazas (Science & Technology + Governance)
- In telehealth, scaling up the Indian advantage (Polity & Governance)
- The viability of two proposals (Environment & Ecology)
- Question for the day (Science & Technology + Governance)
UPSC Current Affairs: Looking ahead after the Ladakh walk back | Page - 08
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations
Sub Theme: India-China| LAC| UPSC
The current disengagement is limited to two places on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh:
north bank of Pangong lake - There have been regular clashes between the soldiers of both sides at the north bank of Pangong lake, and nearly a quarter of all the Chinese transgressions on the LAC between 2014 and 2019 have taken place in the area.
Kailash range to the south of Pangong - The Kailash Range was the theatre of conflict during the 1962 Chinese offensive. In 2020, Indian troops secured Kailash Ridge in an operation that took the Chinese by surprise.
There are three other sites of contention on the Ladakh border where the PLA had come in — Depsang, Gogra-Hot Springs and Demchok — and talks will be held to resolve these after the current phase of disengagement is completed
But when considered from the perspective of the whole LAC in Ladakh, it raises questions about the wisdom of giving up the only leverage India had for the sake of disengagement at north bank.
The Indian military leadership is aware of the strategic importance of the Depsang plains in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector, not only due to its proximity to the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road, the DBO airstrip and the Karakoram Pass, but because of the threat it poses to Indian control over the Siachen glacier. This remains the only area on the Indian landmass where China and Pakistan can physically collude militarily, and has been identified by former northern army commanders as tough to defend in case of a Chinese military attack.
The excuse that the Depsang problem precedes the current crisis on the LAC and thus must be treated separately holds little water, for it would be in India’s interest to club them together and find a holistic solution. Moreover, even the current crisis on the north bank of Pangong lake has been there since at least October 2019 though it flared up substantially in May 2020.
The current disengagement plan provides us with a window into the mindset of the Indian decision makers who prefer the creation of a ‘no patrol’ zone or buffer zone as a solution to the tensions on the LAC. Before the buffer zone was created at the north bank of Pangong, a similar buffer zone was created in Galwan in July 2020 around the place where India lost 20 soldiers in a deadly clash a month earlier. That buffer zone has held good till date, even though it denies India access to the areas up to PP14 which it patrolled earlier. There are worries that such buffer zones would lie majorly on the Indian side of the LAC, thus converting a hitherto Indian-controlled territory into a neutral zone.
The Ladakh border crisis of 2020 will leave a lasting impact on India’s strategic calculus. The political imperative of defending every inch of territory, while lacking the wherewithal to reverse a Chinese ingress, is likely to favour an enhanced deployment of the Indian Army all along the LAC, from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. Not only will it stretch the Army, it would divert scarce resources towards the continental border away from the maritime domain. With India’s attractiveness to the United States and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as the Quad, firmly anchored in the Indian Ocean, such a move would work to China’s advantage. It is another matter that having struck a disengagement deal with China, New Delhi itself may no longer be as enthusiastic about the Quad as it was a couple of months ago when the Chinese threat was imminent. Will it lead to a reset of ties with Beijing?
By seeking the restoration of peace and tranquillity on the LAC instead of a reversion to the status quo ante as of April 2020, the Narendra Modi government has made a political choice in Ladakh. It will have to bear the strategic consequences of that choice.
UPSC Current Affairs: Frayed tempers, confusion reign at toll plazas | Page– 10
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & technology |
Sub Theme: RFID technology | Fastag|UPSC
Frayed tempers, confusion reign at toll plazas
India’s road network (including national highways etc) has grown by just about a third in the last decade whereas vehicle registrations have increased by almost three times. Thus, vehicle density is increasing at a much faster pace than road length - obviously, congestion will be higher.
The road sector in India accounts for the largest share in the movement of both passengers and freight. As per the National Highways Authority of India, about 65% of freight and 80% passenger traffic is carried by the roads.
The National Highways carry about 40% of total road traffic, though only about 2% of the road network is covered by these roads.
It is the Electronic Toll Collection program on toll plazas by National Highway Authority of India. Works on the principle of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology.
FASTags are basically stickers enabled with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, that are stuck to the windowpanes of vehicles so that automatic deduction of toll can happen in toll booths, without having the vehicle to stop.
It uses radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object.
The tag can be read from up to several feet away and does not need to be within direct line-of-sight of the reader to be tracked.
It was rolled out in April 2016, and the Government made it mandatory from December 1, 2017 for all new cars and trucks to be fitted with a FASTag before they were sold. Central Government has made all vehicles to have FAStags mandatorily by January 2020.
- The world’s first electronic toll plaza began operations in Norway in 1986.
- Japan was the first Asian Country to begin it in 2001 and China started in 2014.
It comes under the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) program that was launched by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IHMCL).
FASTags work all over the country and are not specific to the user’s place of residence or registration.
Currently, in national highways, cash is not being accepted at FASTag lanes, and any vehicle entering it will be charged twice the toll amount.
These tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment modules and are prepaid. Once the amount is exhausted (or the customer reaches the minimum amount to be kept in the tag), they can be recharged.
How does FASTag work?
- Whenever a vehicle passes through the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) lane of the Toll Plaza, the Toll Plaza system will capture the FASTag details like Tag ID, vehicle class, etc., and send them for processing to the acquiring bank.
- The Acquiring bank will send the request to the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) Mapper to verify the tag details.
- Once the Tag ID is validated, NETC Mapper responds with details like Tag Status, Vehicle class, VRN, etc. If the Tag ID is not present in the NETC Mapper, it will respond as the Tag ID not registered.
- The acquirer host will calculate the appropriate toll fare and initiate a debt request to the NETC system after the successful validation of Tag ID from NETC Mapper.
- NETC System will switch the debit request to the respective issuer bank for debiting the customer’s account.
- Then, the issuer host will debit the linked tag holder’s account and send an SMS alert to the tag holder. The issuer host will then send the response message to the NETC system. If the response is not sent within a specific time, the transaction will be considered as Deemed Accepted.
- NETC system notifies the response to the acquirer host and the acquirer host will notify to the respective toll plaza system.
- Decrease the traffic wait time at toll booths
- lower fuel cost; air pollution, reduced use of paper
- Enable more digital transactions in the country.
- Cost of storage and transportation of cash as well as manpower at the toll booths comes down.
- Makes it easier to keep tabs on vehicles and the toll booths.
- Ensure transparency and enhance data collection.
- Ease of payment – No need to carry cash for the toll transactions, saves time.
- Efficient tax collection which will help reduce the will also reduce toll tax.
Possible future applications
- Integration with the e-way bill system– will result in a more efficient track and trace system. It will check revenue leakage at the toll plaza. It will help revenue authorities check whether goods vehicles are actually headed to the specified destination. Suppliers and transporters can keep track of their vehicles through SMS alerts generated at each tag reader-enabled toll plaza.
- FASTag can be used at other facilities like fuel payment and parking charges. In January 2019, state-run oil marketing companies IOC, BPCL and HPCL have signed MoUs enabling the use of FASTag to make purchases at petrol pumps.
The expanding use of FASTags for the payment of toll on highways should be seen as an opportunity to formulate and articulate a clear strategy on road-pricing and public transport.
Relevant previous year prelims questions
With reference to ‘Near Field Communication (NFC) Technology’, which of the following statements is/are correct? 
It is a contactless communication technology that uses electromagnetic radio fields
NFC is designed for use by devices which can be at a distance of even a metre from each other
NFC can use encryption when sending sensitive information.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
a) 1 and 2 only
b) 3 only
c) 1 and 3 only
d) 1, 2 and 3
UPSC Current Affairs: In telehealth, scaling up the Indian advantage – | Page - 08
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Health sector
Sub Theme: Technology in health sector| UPSC
In telehealth, scaling up the Indian advantage
In the novel coronavirus pandemic, health-care providers have been reassigned from other specialties to COVID-19, restricting high quality care for other conditions. Simultaneously, lockdowns and fear of transmission have dampened demand for non-emergency care. A survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 105 countries in July 2020 showed that:
- Essential services were disrupted in the majority of countries, with immunisation, antenatal and childcare services among the most widely affected.
- About 45% of low-income countries incurred at least partial disruption of over 75% of services, relative to only 4% of high-income countries.
- Almost 60% of services were at least partially disrupted in South East Asian countries.
In India, detection of tuberculosis cases was down by 50% in April-December of 2020 relative to the same period in 2019, and antenatal care visits were down by 56% in the first half of 2020. With stoppage of routine follow ups, blood sugar control for diabetics was at risk, increasing the chances of adverse events requiring hospitalisation, including worse outcomes in the case of COVID-19 infection. Cancer care has been badly affected in many countries, as well as diagnosis and treatment of other non-communicable diseases.
The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities — people living in rural and remote areas were further disadvantaged by not being able to travel to cities to seek specialist care. The pre-existing shortage of specialists in many rural areas led to care being delayed or not happening at all.
Enhance technology use
The acceleration in the use of digital technologies has mitigated the impact of COVID-19 to some extent. Virtual consultations avoid the risk of COVID-19 transmission and are helping to bridge this socio-economic divide.
The Indian government’s eSanjeevani platform offers both provider-to-patient interactions and provider-to-provider interactions, where patients visit smartphone-equipped community health officers in rural health and wellness centres; these in turn connect to general practitioners and specialist doctors through a hub-and-spoke model. Private providers and non-governmental organisations have also expanded virtual access to underserved populations.
Yet, given the scale of unmet demand, there is an urgent need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of every minute spent in virtual care interactions. There are lessons we can learn from the pandemic that can be applied usefully to how we deliver health care.
Remote-shared medical appointments in which multiple patients with similar medical needs meet with a clinician at once, remotely, and where each receives individual attention, can greatly increase telehealth capacity by eliminating repetition of common advice.
Utilising shared appointments
Remote shared medical appointments essentially virtualise in-person shared medical appointments (SMAs) which have been offered successfully in the United States for over 20 years. Patients get more time with their clinician, albeit not in private. SMAs enable peer support and peer-to-peer learning. Providers who have offered SMAs have found them to improve both productivity and outcomes for many conditions, notably diabetes. SMAs could help tackle India’s widespread “sugar” problem.
The Aravind Eye Hospital in Puducherry has successfully trialled in-person SMAs for patients with glaucoma, a disease that causes gradual, irreversible blindness. Glaucoma progression can be slowed through regular follow up and taking prescribed medications. The eye hospital found that in shared appointments, patients spur one another to engage more and ask more questions. Such (virtual) peer interaction could be welcome in the current paradigm of social distancing.
eSanjeevani and other telehealth platforms could consider offering virtual shared medical appointments. Patients in different villages, with similar conditions can be seen at once remotely by a generalist or specialist, during the pandemic. Once transmission risk subsides, seeing patient groups within each village centre will help build supportive bonds, enable sharing of local knowledge, and likely attract supplementary providers (physiotherapists, optometrists, etc) due to scale.
Testing and vaccine adoption is stymied by misinformation. Providers can offer virtual group information sessions accessible via smartphone in which a health-care worker explains the benefits of COVID-19 testing and vaccination and answers questions, reaching potentially quite large audiences. Engaging in real time with a care provider in an interactive format will likely encourage safe behaviours to a greater extent than if the same information is provided without interaction.
Switching to radically different care delivery models requires rigorous testing combined with mentoring, training and behaviour change for both patients and providers. Adoption of in-person shared medical appointments has been slow. The unique telehealth capacity crisis which COVID-19 has created is drawing interest to virtual SMAs. Training platforms such as ECHO, which train primary-care providers in many States through an online platform — can accelerate adoption and should also guide implementers on how to gather data that can be used to scientifically validate this care model.
Patients who choose to attend an in-person SMA often like the experience and return for more. This is likely for virtual SMAs too. Trialling and acceptance of this model could amplify the impact of health systems both during the pandemic and beyond.
Relative to other nations, India is well poised to ramp up telehealth. Data plans are cheaper in India than anywhere. It is possible to get 1.5GB of data a day for a few hundred rupees a month, and Indians from all socioeconomic groups regularly enjoy group video chats with friends and relatives. Having a group interaction with a care provider on an appropriately secure platform is certainly conceivable.
WHO’s Global Strategy on Digital Health, adopted by the World Health Assembly, is a call to action providing a road map for nations to rapidly expand digital health services. With innovation in systems thinking, learning and adaptation, new digital tools bring an opportunity to leapfrog into a reality of ‘Health for All’.
UPSC Current Affairs: FOUR CAPITALS & CASSATION BENCH OF SC | Page–09
UPSC Syllabus: | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity
Sub Theme: Judiciary | UPSC
Context: This article highlights about two aspects: 1. Having Four National Capital 2. Having more Benches of Supreme Court in India. Let us understand about the benefits and challenges for each of these two proposals.
Having Four National Capital
The idea of having four Capitals where sessions of Parliament can be held on rotation was suggested by Bengal CM in a rally. The idea even though seems practical, but implementing such an idea comes with heavy cost to the exchequer. The problems of having four capitals as highlighted in the Article are:
- Selecting four Capital of Northern, Southern, Western and Eastern regions.
- Construction cost to build 3 more Parliament and residential houses for the MPs.
- Travelling Cost of MPs for different sessions of Parliament.
- Providing security to all the MPs will be a huge burden for the State Police.
- Most of the MPs from the northern and central India would prefer to stay in New Delhi.
- Even the vacant accommodations where the MPs don’t reside will have to be guarded round the clock.
- High Profile Ministers who get upgraded security needed to be guarded all the time at all the places. This will not only be additional cost to the exchequer but will also result in traffic mess once they start moving in different parts of the country when Parliament is in Session.
Having More Benches for Supreme Court
- A similar request was made in January 2021 when the Bar Councils of the five southern States called for a Supreme Court bench in south India.
- While speaking at an online event last year, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal suggested that four benches of Court of Appeal with 15 judges each be created across the country to reduce the burden of the Supreme Court.
- This would enable judges to go through each case thoroughly and deliver a well-thought-out verdict. Setting up these courts would call for an amendment in the Constitution.
The idea of Cassation Bench - Example of France
- Many continental countries have constitutional courts as well as final courts of appeal called Courts of Cassation (Cour de Cassation in French) for adjudication of non-constitutional matters. A court of cassation is the judicial court of last resort and has power to quash or reverse decisions of the inferior courts.
- A court of cassationis a high-instance court that exists in some judicial systems. Courts of cassation do not re-examine the facts of a case, they only interpret the relevant law. In this they are appellate courts of the highest instance.
- The Court of Cassation is the highest court in the French judiciary. Civil, commercial, social or criminal cases are first ruled upon by courts of first instance or lower courts, commercial courts and industrial or labour courts.
95th Law Commission Report
- In March 1984, the Tenth Law Commission of India, 95th Report titled “Constitutional Division within the Supreme Court – A proposal for”, under Justice K. K. Mathew recommended that the Supreme Court of India should consist of two Divisions, namely
(a) Constitutional Division, and (b) Legal Division and that only matters of Constitutional law may be assigned to the proposed Constitutional Division.
- To effect the recommendation, a constitutional amendment must be necessary to create Constitutional Division and Legal Division of Supreme Court.
125th Law Commission Report
- Eleventh Law Commission titled “The Supreme Court – A Fresh Look” under the chairmanship of Justice D A Desai (125th Report, 1988) following the previous report recommended for splitting the Supreme Court into the two abovementioned Constitutional and Legal divisions. The report also highlighted the high cost of litigation with respect to travelling to Delhi specially from far away areas of the country such as South India.
- Considering the cost analysis, Eleventh Law Commission suggested to split Supreme Court into Constitutional Court and Court of Appeal or a Federal Court of Appeal which will sit in Benches in places North, South, East, West and Central India.
- Rising Case Arrears - The Report highlighted that there is a rising arrears of cases in Supreme Court and this has also resulted in rise in litigation costs for most of persons involved in such dispute who stay in far flung areas.
- Increasing Cost of Litigation - Bringing one’s own lawyer who has handled the matter in the High Court adds to the cost of litigation. Thus, there is wastage of time, effort and money just to hear a case in Supreme Court which is located in Delhi.
229th Law Commission Report
- Eighteenth Law Commission under Justice A R Lakshmanan (229th Report, 2009) recommended that “a Constitution Bench be set up at Delhi to deal with constitutional and other allied issues”, and “Four Cassation Benches be set up in the
- Northern region/zone at Delhi,
- Southern region/zone at Chennai/Hyderabad,
- Eastern region/zone at Kolkata and
- Western region/zone at Mumbai
to deal with all appellate work arising out of the orders/judgments of the High Courts of the particular region”
- The Commission also referred various Reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice which has repeatedly suggested that in order to promote speedy justice available to the common man, benches of the Supreme Court have to be established in the Southern, Western and North-Eastern parts of the country.
- The 229th Report has also suggested territorial jurisdiction of each of these Cassation Benches of Supreme Court to be constituted under Article 130 of the Indian Constitution.
- Article 130 - Seat of Supreme Court - The Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.
Benefits of Cassation Bench
- Supreme Court will be relieved of the backlog of accumulated cases which are causing a burden and continuous strain on the resources of the apex court.
- Supreme Court would be free to deal with only constitutional cases such as interpretation of the Constitution, matters of national importance and other references made by the zonal benches to larger benches due to conflict of authority or any other reason.
- Benches can be set up under the Supreme Court Rules 1966 without much delay as it is under the preview of Supreme Court of India.
- Cassation Benches will reduce cost of litigation and reduce time taken to dispose of cases.
- Cassation bench will also lead to increase in strength of number of Judges in the higher judiciary. This will lead to more recruitment of judges in the higher judiciary.
- All India Judicial Service as prescribed under Article 312 of the Indian Constitution will have greater chance of coming into effect.