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25th July – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. The spectre of crowds in the COVID city
  2. Presidential form of government for India?
  3. Serological survey and What is herd immunity?

THE SPECTRE OF CROWDS IN THE COVID CITY

Focus: GS-III Social Justice

Introduction

  • The pandemic has stigmatised social density, recalling Dickensian spectres of overcrowding, contagion and disorder.
  • Crowding in markets, mosques or transport hubs were repeatedly highlighted as irresponsible and threatening to the health of the national body.

Positives seen in the Urban setting

  • Distancing, isolation and the thinning out of public spaces in Indian cities have offered up new pastoral landscapes of delight for urban dwellers, with clean air, summer blooms, and assorted wildlife crossing streets.
  • Fuel-saving work-from-home arrangements, cost-saving virtual meetings, and spare social gatherings are seen as offering new, mellower possibilities of urban inhabitation that may help rejuvenate the environment.

Key Attributes

  • Agglomeration, density and crowds have long been definitional attributes of the urban.
  • Cities, as close-knit, dynamic constellations of human and non-human bodies, offer ideal grounds for the spread of a virus, but also facilitate other diffusions.
  • Urban mixings have helped dissolve or remake categories of caste and gender and have enabled socio-economic mobility, widened horizons of possibility, and allowed historically discriminated groups to forge new identities, claim public resources, take risks and assert rights.

Explaining crowding in India

Three conditions stand out as common catalysts of crowding in the Indian city.

I. Scarcity

Chronic scarcity, often induced by lopsided resource distributions, induces a repertoire of techniques such as the jostle, the push, the rush to reach the counter before rations or tickets run out.

II. Protest

The city is the staging ground for protesting crowds bringing diverse discontents from far afield.

III. Ritual or Celebratory Gatherings

Ritual or celebratory gatherings such as funerals and temple festivals regularly take over city streets, sidelining traffic for a public assertion of communal emotions.

Migrant distress

  • The most pronounced legacy of India’s lockdown is the explosion into public visibility of lakhs of inter-State migrant workers, hitherto hidden inside the urban machinery.
  • Within days of the unplanned lockdown which had entirely ignored their existence, these workers were spilling into the streets of every city — hungry, jobless, abandoned by employers and contractors, desperate to return to their families.

Conclusion

  • The pandemic has sharply exposed the faultlines of urban labour value chains, which valorise individualised work-from-home arrangements at the apex of the system, while treating the mass of physical labouring bodies as problems to be contained and controlled.
  • As cities slowly open up – private vehicles and taxis with limited occupancy are permitted, but safe mass transport arrangements, the economic and social lifeline of cities, are still a far cry.
  • Thus there is an urgent need for an imagination of post-pandemic cities that resists retiring into a closeted isolation that only the privileged can afford.

-Source: The Hindu


PRESIDENTIAL FORM OF GOVERNMENT FOR INDIA?

Focus: GS-II Governance

Understand the Indian Parliamentary System of Government

  • India is a federal (or quasi-federal) democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government largely based on the UK model.
  • India’s federal legislative branch consists of the President, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) as the upper house, and the Lok Sabha (House of the People) as the lower house.
  • If a political party or a coalition receives more than half of the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha is able to form a Government.
  • Under Indian Parliamentary system of government – the executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts.
  • The Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary form of government, both at the Centre and in the States.

Introduction to the Issues

  • Pluralist democracy is India’s greatest strength, but its current manner of operation is the source of our major weaknesses.
  • There have been legislators who are largely unqualified to legislate and who have sought election only in order to wield executive power.
  • Since governments depend on legislative majority, they obliged to focus more on politics than on policy or performance.
  • The preferences of the electoral college are distorted as they know their individual preference that they want to vote for but not necessarily which parties.
  • Spawned parties that are shifting alliances, for selfish individual interests.
  • Sometimes governments focus on catering to the lowest common denominator of their coalitions is more rather than governance.

Reasons for emerging weaknesses:

  • In the absence of a real party system, the voter chooses not between parties but between individuals, usually on the basis of their caste, their public image or other personal qualities.
  • It has come to be such a situation in India where a party is often a label of convenience which a politician adopts and discards frequently.
  • The prime minister cannot appoint a cabinet of his choice, in order to cater to the wishes of the political leaders of several parties.
  • In many cases, the anti-defection Act of 1985 has failed to cure the problem, since the bargaining has shifted to getting enough MLAs to resign to topple a government.
  • Most laws are drafted by the executive (in practice by the bureaucracy) and parliamentary input into their formulation and passage is minimal, with many bills being passed after barely a few minutes of debate.
  • MPs have to vote as their party directs, as a disagreement with the “party whip” itself attracts disqualification (Click Here to read more about the related recent The Rajasthan high court verdict). (2nd Article)
  • Many instances where the parties that failed to form government demonstrate of their power to disrupt.

Positives / Reasons for a Presidential System

  • For the individual he or she wants to be ruled by, and the president will truly be able to claim to speak for a majority of Indians rather than a majority of MPs.
  • At the end of a fixed period of time, the public would be able to judge the individual on performance in improving the lives of Indians, rather than on political skill at keeping a government in office.
  • Presidential System will ensure stability of tenure free from legislative whim.
  • The Presidential System will provide sufficient power and space to be able to appoint a cabinet of talents,
  • With the Presidential system in place, a President will be able to devote his or her energies to governance, and not just to government.

Risks of Presidential System

  • As a commanding president, immune to parliamentary defeat and unaffected by public opinion, could rule the country arbitrarily – resulting in a dictatorship.
  • If the ruling party in the presidential system loses majority midway, then there is no provision for opposition party to form the government (as available in Parliamentary system, where the president invites opposition to form government and prove majority) – This means there will disruption as new government cannot be formed without fresh elections.
  • As the executive is not part of the legislature, the presidential system increases the probability of conflicts between the executive and legislature and may lead to delays in passing of bills. (As it can be seen in the U.S. where the Senate blocks passage of bills that are coming from the House of representatives.)

Conclusion

A switchover to the presidential system is not possible under present constitutional scheme of India because of the ‘basic structure’ doctrine propounded by the Supreme Court in 1973.

-Source: Indian Express


SEROLOGICAL SURVEY AND WHAT IS HERD IMMUNITY?

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Introduction

  • Results of a recent serological survey in Delhi are being interpreted to suggest that more than 45 lakh people in Delhi could so far have been infected (while the official confirmed cases are only around 1.25 Lakh cases) with the novel coronavirus, and that “herd immunity” could be approaching.
  • However, any talk of “herd immunity” at this stage is not only premature but also misplaced.

What was the serological survey about?

  • The serological survey was meant to detect whether the person being tested had developed antibodies against the coronavirus.
  • Since it is not possible to test everyone, detecting antibodies in random sets of people is an indirect way of estimating the extent of disease spread in a community.
  • The antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to fight external organisms like viruses that try to enter the body.
  • These are produced only after the infection has happened, and are specific to the attacking virus or bacterium.
  • The presence of antibodies, therefore, is an indication that an infection by that particular virus or bacterium has already occurred.
  • Subsequent attempts to infect the body can be thwarted by these antibodies.

What about Vaccines then?

  • Vaccines work in a similar manner – wherein they inject harmless doses of a virus or a bacterium inside the human body to trigger the production of antibodies by the immune system.
  • These antibodies can then fight off an actual attack by those viruses or bacteria.

Do antibodies ensure Immunity?

  • The mere presence of antibodies does not mean that the person is protected against the disease.
  • What is also important is the amount of antibodies present, and whether it also includes what are known as “neutralising antibodies” which actually fight the disease.

What is Herd Immunity?

  • Herd immunity is a stage of an epidemic in which some members of a population group remain protected from infection because a majority of those around them have already developed immunity, either through vaccination or because they have been infected earlier.
  • Once a certain proportion of population gets infected, and thus builds immunity against the disease, the epidemic begins to slow down and eventually stop.
  • No one clearly knows what percentage of the population needs to be infected before herd immunity kicks in. It is different for different diseases, and different population groups.

-Source: Indian Express

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