22 November, 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Keeping a close eye on China's nuclear capabilities (Security )
  • Reliable data, good policy (Governance )
  • Prolonged school closures pose threat to gender equality (Social Justice )
  • Pratham gets Indira Gandhi Peace Prize (Current Developments)
  • Life expectancy lower for urban poor, says study (Social Justice )
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    UPSC Current Affairs: Keeping a close eye on China’s Nuclear Capabilities | Page – 6.  

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: China’s changing Nuclear Strategy | Concerns for India | UPSC

     

    Context: United States and China has agreed to hold strategic nuclear talks sometime in the near future. This development comes against the backdrop of the China Military Power Report (CMPR) recently released by the Pentagon that categorically underscores the growing challenge posed by the increasing capabilities of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its ambitions across various dimensions of military power. This can be said to be a concerning development specially for India along the Indian Ocean region.  

     

    China’s Changing Nuclear Strategies

    • The PRC’s nuclear capabilities, in particular, are undergoing a fundamental transformation and a shift seems to be evident in both the quantity and the quality of the PRC’s atomic arsenal.
    • Even before the release of the CMPR, there was significant concern globally about the trajectory of China’s strategic capabilities.
    • Confirmation provided by the CMPR reveals four specific areas where change is underway — 1. Quantitative Strength 2. Atomic Yield 3. Delivery Capabilities and Posture.

     

    1. Quantitative Strength

    The size of the China’s nuclear arsenal is set to increase. As of now, China’s nuclear arsenal has hovered at roughly 200 nuclear warheads, half of which directed at the United States (U.S.). By 2027, the CMPR estimates that this number is likely to increase to 700 weapons consisting of varying yields which is three and half times the current Chinese warhead strength.

     

    1. Atomic Yield
    • China has also focused on developing low-yield atomic arsenal ideal for battlefield use. Low-yield weapons have been an area of interest and development for the PRC. They are weapons meant for battlefield use during conventional military operations and against conventional targets such as concentrations of armoured, artillery and infantry forces. Prior to the release of the CMPR, evidence that the PRC was testing low-yield devices has periodically surfaced in years past.
    • April 2020 U.S. State Department’s Findings on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Non-proliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments drew attention to the PRC’s deliberate opacity in the use of explosive containment chambers and excavations at its Lop Nur nuclear facility which was testing low yield atomic weapons.
    • China also refused to grant permission to access data from its International Monitoring System (IMS) stations to the Data Centre under the operational authority of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
    • Actions of this kind have evoked strategic concern and increasingly confirm that China’s atomic arsenal consists of a large number of low-yield weapons ideal for battlefield use.

     

    1. Delivery Capabilities

    These low-yield nuclear warheads are also likely to find their way into a key delivery capability — the PRC’s Dong-Feng-26 (DF-26) ballistic missile. This missile has already undergone deployment at Korla in the Xinjiang region in Western China. It is an Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) which is launched from a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL). DF-26 has featured in extensive training exercises west of Jilantai in inner Mongolia. In addition to the DF-26, China has also developed the JL-2 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) with a range of 7,200 kilometres capable of striking targets across continental Asia (including IOR).

     

    1. Higher Alert Posture

    China’s move towards a Launch on Warning (LoW) nuclear posture marks an important shift in the PRC’s commitment to ensuring that no adversary doubts its response in the event of a nuclear first strike. Thus, retaliation through nuclear warheads can be a reality in case of nuclear escalation by adversaries (including India & USA). This may unintentionally lead to miscalculation and unintended nuclear use.

     

    Concerns for India

    • China’s nuclear competition with US may have a cascading effect and India may face the collateral damage.
    • Chinese HQ-19 Anti-Ballistic Missile Interceptor (tested in February 2018) - HQ-19 is the Chinese equivalent of the U.S. THAAD and can be used against ballistic missile warheads or satellites. HQ-19 interceptors are specifically designed and developed to execute mid-course interception of medium-range ballistic missiles. A significantly larger Chinese nuclear arsenal paired to missile defences will limit damage to the PRC and more menacingly threatens the survivability of the Indian nuclear arsenal.
    • HQ-19 when reinforced with Launch on Warning (LoW) Posture will reduce decision time for Indian retaliatory nuclear strike - in the heat of a war or crisis and places pressure on India to pursue its own LoW. Despite Beijing’s pursuit of No First Use (NFU), which is reversible, the PRC could also significantly degrade an Indian retaliatory strike
    • if China chooses to resort to First Use (FU) of nuclear weapons, and
    • even worse if China outrightly decapitate India’s nuclear forces.
    • India Need to Ensure Quantitative Nuclear Balance - Indian strategic planners will have to think about the quantitative nuclear balance and India’s nuclear posture vis-à-vis the PRC.
    • China adding nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines to its fleet – PRC have added two new Type 094 (Jin class) SSBNs/nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines to their existing fleet. The maritime dimension of China’s nuclear capabilities might not be an immediate strategic challenge but will potentially become one in the coming years for New Delhi. 
    • Bathymetric and Ocean Mapping Surveys carried out by China in the IOR - The Chinese Navy has carried out bathymetric and ocean mapping surveys in the Indian Ocean crucial to the execution of sub-surface military operations. The Bay of Bengal whose sea depth is very conducive for nuclear submarine missions will leave India exposed to a Chinese atomic pincer from the maritime domain in addition to the continental domain. (Bathymetry is the measurement of the depth of water in oceans, rivers, or lakes. Bathymetric maps look a lot like topographic maps, which use lines to show the shape and elevation of land features.)
    • Address subsurface nuclear delivery capabilities - Thus, India will have to specifically watch the pattern in the People Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) nuclear submarine deployments and address the deficit in its subsurface nuclear delivery capabilities.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Concerns on Delay in Data Collection Exercise | Page 7

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social Justice + Governance | GS Paper III – Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: Concerns on Data Collection | UPSC

     

    Context: Despite India’ good data collection exercise over the period of years including census, household surveys, economic survey, this article highlights some of the concerns on disquieting trends on data collections.

    • The National Statistical Office (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation carried out an all-India survey on household consumption expenditure in the 75th round during the period July 2017 to June 2018.
    • The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) is usually conducted at quinquennial intervals and the last survey on consumer expenditure was conducted in the 68th round (July 2011 to June 2012).
    • The NSS Consumer Expenditure Survey generates estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE) and the distribution of households and persons over the MPCE classes.
    • It is designed to collect information regarding expenditure on consumption of goods and services (food and non-food) consumed by households. 

     

     

    1. Impact of Delay on Data Release - despite having adopted latest data processing technologies, there has been a growing delay, sometimes by years, in the release of the collected data.
    • This renders such data less useful for policy intervention. 
    • The delay also implies less public scrutiny and hence undermines accountability. 
    • At times, the government does not release the data due to delay.
    • Affects framing of policies – food and nutrition security.

     

    1. Issue of comparability - In recent years, the government introduced changes to the estimation of GDP that made comparisons over time impossible. Adjustments to computation and survey methods and any revision must be done with aim to improve accuracy of data collected and not to suit political motives or benefits.

     

    1. Slippage in conduct of Sample Surveys
    • Monthly Household Consumer Expenditure
    • The statistical bureau has been revising the sample surveys almost every year. One crucial sample survey is the quinquennial ‘Monthly Household Consumer Expenditure’ (MHCE).
    • The MHCE provides the data base to compute the weightage assigned for commodities in the calculation of Inflation Index, the poverty line and poverty ratio, nutritional standards of people based on their consumption of various food items, and consumption expenditure in the national accounts system.
    • The government also uses the poverty estimates to decide on the State-wise allocation of food grains to be sold at subsidised prices through the Public Distribution System.
    • Hence, the MHCE is an important policy instrument despite the fact that the data provided through the MHCE surveys have been widely debated. 
    • The Government of India (GoI) in November 2019 announced that the MHCE data collected in 2017-18 could not be released due to ‘data quality issues’. Though it did not elaborate on what the issues were, it went on to announce that the sample surveys for consumption expenditure will be conducted in 2020-21 and 2021-22. At present, we do not have information on whether the GoI has conducted these sample surveys.
    • Postponing Decennial Census
    • The GoI has further postponed the decennial census in 2021 to 2022 on the grounds that COVID-19 has had a serious impact on migration and livelihood options of the people.
    • It is therefore important that the Census be conducted at the earliest and the results be made available to draw samples for the sample surveys in subsequent years.

     

    Conclusion - In the absence of timely and reliable public data, users are increasingly relying on data provided through large-scale surveys conducted by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). However, users have raised questions about the design and data collection framework of the CMIE’s high-frequency household survey. As they take recourse to other metrics for analysis, the onus is on the government to ensure that the data generation possibilities opened up by new technologies are embedded in a robust system of public data production and use.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Prolonged school closures pose threat to gender equality: study | Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Rights Issues | Mains: GS Paper-II – Social Justice

    Sub Theme: UNESCO Report | Steps Taken by India on Digital Education | UPSC 

     

    Context: UNESCO’s global study, titled “When schools shut: Gendered impacts of COVID-19 school closures” was published and highlighted limitations on education and learning. The report finds that while gender norms and expectations can affect the ability to participate in remote learning, interventions that challenge gender-based barriers can limit learning loss and drop-out rates when schools reopen safely.

     

    Four main areas where gendered impacts have been observed:

    1. Household demands on girls and boys, particularly in the poorest contexts, constrained their ability to participate in remote learning. Girls’ increased time spent at home often carried a greater burden of domestic responsibilities, as documented in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Niger, Pakistan and Sierra Leone and other low- and middle-income contexts. Boys’ participation was often limited by the need to earn an income: one-third of respondents in one survey across 55 countries indicated an increase in the prevalence of child labour related to COVID-19 school closures.
    2. The gender digital divide significantly constrained girls’ ability to learn online. In countries with data, adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 were less likely than boys to have used the internet in the past 12 months, and fewer of them owned a mobile phone. Among learners surveyed in three districts in Pakistan, 44% of girls, compared to 93% of boys, reported owning a mobile phone. Girls who did not own mobile phones reported that they relied on their relatives’ devices, typically those belonging to their fathers.
    3. Limited data available to date about school return rates also show gender disparities. A study conducted in four counties in Kenya found that 16 % of girls and 8 % of boys aged 15 to 19 failed to re-enrol during the two months following school reopening in early 2021, citing the inability to pay school fees as the main reason.
    4. Beyond education, school closures have impacted children’s health, notably their mental health, well-being and protection. Girls reported more stress, anxiety and depression than boys in 15 countries across the world. LGBTQI learners reported high levels of isolation and anxiety. Fears about increased crime and violence were also reported by boys, particularly in crisis-affected contexts.

     

    Steps taken to provide online education amidst COVID-19 pandemic

    • PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education: It include eight steps of online education.

     

    PM e-VIDYA - A comprehensive initiative has been initiated as part of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan unifies all efforts related to digital/online/on-air education to enable multi-mode access to education. The initiative includes:

     

      • DIKSHA (one nation, one digital platform) is the nation’s digital infrastructure for providing quality e-content for school education in states/UTs and QR coded Energized Textbooks for all grades are available on it. 35 of the 36 states and UTs have on boarded on DIKSHA platform and contextualised the content as per the local need.
      • Swayam Prabha TV Channel per class from Class 1 to 12 (One class, One channel).  
      • Shiksha Vani - Extensive use of Radio, Community radio and CBSE Podcast.
      • DAISY - Special e-content for visually and hearing impaired developed on Digitally Accessible Information System (DAISY) and in sign language on NIOS website/ YouTube.
      • MANODARPAN - Ministry of Education has undertaken a proactive initiative, named, ‘MANODARPAN’ covering a wide range of activities to provide psychosocial support to students, teachers and families for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing during the COVID outbreak and beyond.

     

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Life expectancy lower for urban poor, says study | Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Rights Issues | Mains: GS Paper-II – Social Justice

    Sub Theme: Healthcare equity in urban India Report | UPSC 

     

    Context: report titled “Healthcare equity in urban India” released recently by Azim Premji University in collaboration with 17 regional NGOs across India has pointed out that 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.

     

    Observations of the report:

    • It 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. 
    • 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.
    • Report 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.
    • a heavy financial burden on the poor, and less investment in healthcare by urban local bodies.

     

    What could be done?

    • 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
    • putting in place policy measures to reduce the financial burden of the poor.
    • better mechanism for coordinated public healthcare services and better governed private healthcare institutions..

     

    Ayushman Bharat –Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY)

     

    • Ayushman Bharat is a progression towards promotive, preventive, curative, palliative and rehabilitative aspects of Universal Healthcare through 
      • access of Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) at the primary level and 
      • provision of financial protection for accessing curative care at the secondary and tertiary levels through engagement with both public and private sector. 

     

    • These centres will provide Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC), covering both maternal and child health services and non-communicable diseases, including free essential drugs and diagnostic services.  
    • The Health and Wellness Centres will play a critical role in creating awareness about PMJAY, screening for non-communicable diseases, follow-up of hospitalization cases among others.  
    • Ayushman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) provide a cover of up to Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
    • PMJAY provide cashless and paperless access to services for the beneficiary at the point of service.
    • PMJAY help to reduce catastrophic expenditure for hospitalizations, which impoverishes people and will help mitigate the financial risk arising out of catastrophic health episodes. 
    • Two Components of AB-PMJAY
    1. Creation of 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centreswhich will bring health care closer to the homes of the people. 
    2. Providing health protection cover to poor and vulnerable families for secondary and tertiary care.

     

    Challenges - Healthcare Facilities 

    • Infrastructural Gaps still persists – Lack of adequate number of Doctors & nurses and beds for critical care, lack of diagnostic tools such as X-ray machines, CT-SCAN in rural areas. 
    • Exclusion Error: Various issues with Socio-economic caste census such as a non-transparent method of data collection, and several contradictions in the data. Similarly, Census data are outdated, and population numbers have changed over time. Hence, more reliable estimates should be used.
    • Asymmetric Federalism: Several states have increased the coverage of the scheme via state schemes. This entails increased expenditure by states which choose to expand coverage, such as Kerala. 
    • However, this may be particularly hard for cash-strapped states like Bihar who depend on Union government funding more than their own resources.
    • Ghost Beneficiaries: Unrelated ineligible beneficiaries are admitted based on forging a relationship with the head of the beneficiary family. The challenge that lies ahead for NHA is to strengthen artificial intelligence to pick up all such instances of fraud.
    • Cost: PM-JAY rates remained a mere guideline, which has either kept big hospitals at bay or have not been followed by states.
    • Connectivity: Ensuring seamless connectivity in regions of turmoil like Kashmir.
    • Empanelment: Empanelling hospitals in remote areas like the north-east and Leh remains a challenge.
    • Inequity in access: It is a serious issue, especially for the poor who suffer from serious ailments as their illness is not “listed” among the medical packages AB PM-JAY provides for.
    • Implementation:
    1. Even in the previous public health insurance schemes of some states, the private healthcare providers have been facing huge challenges.
    2. Particularly, improper procedure for empanelment, cost fixating mechanisms and inordinate delay in reimbursement to hospitals are some issues.
    3. Also, a proper mechanism for standardisation of services across the spectrum is absent and the current ‘National Accreditation Board for Hospitals’ (NABH) certification covers only some hospitals. 

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Pratham gets Indira Gandhi Peace Prize | Page 09

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current event of National Importance

    Sub Theme: Indira Gandhi Peace Prize | UPSC 

     

    Context: 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.
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