Contents

  1. Lift the lockdown & open up
  2. Signalling support: On RBI relief for mutual funds
  3. The outline of another pandemic combat strategy
  4. Privacy concerns during a pandemic
  5. How the ozone layer hole over Arctic closed?

LIFT THE LOCKDOWN & OPEN UP

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Is the Curve Flattened?

  • So far, India has done a phenomenal job of ‘flattening the curve’ as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reported a test positivity rate (TPR) of 4.4% (i.e., 1in 23 people tested were positive). Compared to India, the US had a TPR of 19.3%, Spain 18.2%, Italy 13.2% and Japan 8.8%.
  • The number of active cases is doubling every 10 days, instead of every three days before the lockdown.
  • If we look at the mortality rate, India is much better than the western world due to the latter’s ageing population.

How to gear up for Post-Lockdown days?

  • After the lockdown is eased, our focus should be on protecting the vulnerable sections, especially those over-60.
  • Opening up the lockdown needs some lifestyle changes.
  • The government(s) should continue to enforce social distancing measures and prohibit large public gatherings.
  • Testing should also be scaled up to include general public, especially asymptomatic cases.

What should be done to help the Economy?

  • If we are unable to bring the economy back on track, India could lose 30-40 million jobs by end-2020.
  • Some amount of ‘quantitative easing’ to enhance liquidity in the economy is needed.
  • GoI will also have to provide a huge financial stimulus to boost industrial production, across small, medium and large enterprises.
  • India’s oil import bill could halve from $105 billion estimated for FY2020 on account of the collapse in global crude oil prices.
  • This will give GoI the firepower for announcing a big bang stimulus package to prop up the economy.
  • GoI should also look at introducing investment-linked and job-linked incentives tailored to the needs of a specific sector.
  • SMEs and start-ups must receive funding for manufacturing, services and innovation.
  • Funds should be earmarked for a big infrastructure push, both in terms of physical and cyber connectivity.
  • A significant part of healthcare investment ought to be directed towards providing universal healthcare and upgrading primary health centres (PHCs).

Conclusion

  • Today, India is in a position to negotiate as equal partners with the US, EU or Japan. We must rise to the occasion, lift the lockdown to revive the economy in a calibrated manner.
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects India’s FY2021GDP to grow 1.9%, making it the fastest-growing major economy in a recession hit world.
  • We now need a mid- to long-term strategy that balances the economic, social and public health benefits and costs, while allowing for a gradual easing of restrictions.

-Source: Economic Times


SIGNALLING SUPPORT: ON RBI RELIEF FOR MUTUAL FUNDS

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

  • The Reserve Bank of India’s decision to open a special facility to ensure the availability of adequate liquidity for the mutual fund industry is a timely move in signalling to investors that the central bank is alert to the need to preserve financial stability in these challenging times.
  • In assigning ₹50,000 crore exclusively for commercial banks to lend to mutual funds, the RBI made clear on 27th April that it wants to tamp down on any build-up of liquidity strains at mutual fund houses in the wake of heightened volatility in the capital markets and increased redemption pressures as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concerns and addressing them

  • There are concerns about the banking industry’s willingness to expose itself to the credit risk involved in making fresh loans.
  • Taking this into account RBI’s norms have been tailor-made to incentivise the banks to lend.
  • If the recent experience of getting lenders to support NBFCs through a targeted long-term repo operation backed by ₹50,000 crore is any pointer, clearly the banking industry – appears to have little interest in adding any credit that it deems risky.
  • With the economy still in lockdown and the credit ratings of even relatively well-established companies facing a real and not-too-distant threat of downgrades. How willing banks would be to use this facility to lend to debt mutual funds remains to be seen.
  • The Centre may need to be ready to step in with direct intervention if the RBI’s gambit fails to ease the pressure on mutual funds.

-Source: The Hindu


THE OUTLINE OF ANOTHER PANDEMIC COMBAT STRATEGY

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Will India Extend or Lift the Lockdown? Considerations

  • Experts say that without doubt there will be an increase in the number of cases once the lockdown is lifted.
  • Graded approach to lift the restrictions can still help prevent a huge spike in cases and create a concomitant strain on the healthcare system.
  • Any strategy adopted for lifting restrictions should bear in mind that the actual number of people who have been infected is many times more than the laboratory-confirmed cases.
  • While extending the lockdown in hotspot areas appears not only prudent but also essential, there should be more focus during the remaining days of the lockdown on silent areas that have not reported any case or just a few cases.
  • These States would not need a continued lockdown, once the true infection prevalence is ascertained.
  • It is important to segregate essential and non-essential activities and encourage more people to work from home till such time as an effective vaccine or anti-viral becomes available.
  • Universal mask wearing, physical distancing and observing hand hygiene will help in curtailing the spread; but these will not be practical in slums and other crowded neighbourhoods.

What about Herd Immunity?

  • Herd immunity arises when a sizeable population gets naturally infected over a period of time so that the virus does not easily find a susceptible host to infect, thus bringing the epidemic to a halt.
  • Strictly following containment measures, wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing not only slow down the rate of infection but also the rate at which herd immunity is achieved naturally.
  • The mutations that these viruses undergo make most people susceptible to infection, however, the novel coronavirus appears more stable.
  • WHO cautions that there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. Infected people may have some level of protection against the virus, but the level and duration of protection is still unknown.

Determinants

  • Increased surveillance of those exhibiting severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), influenza-like illness (ILI) and any COVID-19 suspect cases in the silent areas will help determine if restrictions should be eased or continued after May 3.
  • The decision on whether to continue the restrictions or not should be taken at the local level; a centralised approach to decision making will be hugely counterproductive.

-Source: The Hindu


PRIVACY CONCERNS DURING A PANDEMIC

Focus: GS-II Governance

Introduction quote

The greatest danger to liberty lies in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but lacking in due deference for the rule of law. – Statement of the Supreme Court in a previous judgement.

Extent of Powers to stop a Pandemic

  • On one side of the argument, a pandemic is an existential threat and the paramount need to save lives takes precedence over all other interests.
  • However, as Justice Khanna pointed out: When faced with crises, governments — acting for all the right reasons — are invariably prone to overreach.
  • Any temporary measures they impose have a disturbing habit of entrenching themselves into the landscape and creating a ‘new normal’ well after the crisis has passed.

How has the Government used Data technology?

  • First, in creating a list of persons suspected to be infected with COVID-19.
  • Second, in deploying geo-fencing and drone imagery to monitor compliance by quarantined individuals.
  • Third, through the use of contact-tracing smartphone applications, such as AarogyaSetu.

Data Concerns

  • The state’s most significant responses to the pandemic have been predicated on an invasive use of technology, that seeks to utilise people’s personal health data.
  • The mediums used in implementing the programme overlook important concerns relating to the rights to human dignity and privacy.
  • In creating a list of infected persons, these lists have also generated substantial second-order harms – and the stigma attached to the disease has led to an increase in morbidity and mortality rates, since many with COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms have refused to go to hospitals.
  • While cell-phone based surveillance might be plausible under the Telegraph Act of 1885, until now the orders authorising surveillance have not been published.
  • With respect to the use of drone technologies- Contrary to regulations made under the Aircraft Act of 1934, the drones deployed also do not appear to possess any visible registration or licensing.
  • The use of contact-tracing applications- the efficacy of applications such as these have been questioned by early adopters, such as Singapore. These Applications can be used as an object of coercion and without a statutory framework, and in the absence of a data protection law, the application’s reach is boundless.

Conclusion: The importance of civil rights

  • The Supreme Court’s judgment in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017) is renowned for its incantation, that each of us is guaranteed a fundamental right to privacy.
  • To be sure, the right to privacy is not absolute. There exist circumstances in which the right can be legitimately curtailed.
  • However, any such restriction, as the Court held in Puttaswamy, must be tested against the requirements of legality, necessity and the doctrine of proportionality.
  • Our Constitution is intended for all times — for times of peace and for times of crises.

-Source: The Hindu


HOW THE OZONE LAYER HOLE OVER ARCTIC CLOSED?

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

Last week, the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) announced that a hole in the Arctic ozone layer, believed to be the biggest reported, has closed.

Why did it close?

The ozone hole’s closing was because of a phenomenon called the polar vortex, and NOT because of reduced pollution levels due to COVID-19 lockdowns around the world, reports said.

Importance of Ozone Layer

  • Ozone (chemically, a molecule of three oxygen atoms) is found mainly in the upper atmosphere, an area called the stratosphere, between 10 and 50 km from the earth’s surface.
  • By absorbing the harmful ultraviolet radiations from the sun, the ozone molecules eliminate a big threat to life forms on earth. UV rays can cause skin cancer and other diseases and deformities in plants and animals.
Layers of the Atmosphere Ozone Layer Stratoshpere Absorbs UV Rays

What are Ozone Holes?

  • The ‘ozone hole’ is not really a hole — it refers to a region in the stratosphere where the concentration of ozone becomes extremely low in certain months.
  • The ‘ozone holes’ most commonly talked about are the depletions over Antarctica, forming each year in the months of September, October and November, due to a set of special meteorological and chemical conditions that arise at the South Pole, and can reach sizes of around 20 to 25 million sq km.
  • Such holes are also spotted over the North Pole, but owing to warmer temperatures than the South Pole, the depletions here are much smaller in size.

Why this year’s Arctic ozone hole was massive?

  • This year, the ozone depletion over the Arctic was much larger. Scientists believe that unusual atmospheric conditions, including freezing temperatures in the stratosphere, were responsible.
  • Cold temperatures (below -80°C), sunlight, wind fields and substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were responsible for the degradation of the Arctic ozone layer.

Ozone recovery

  • As per the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion data of 2018, the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3 per cent per decade since 2000.
  • At these projected rates, the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is predicted to recover by around 2030, followed by the Southern Hemisphere around 2050, and polar regions by 2060.

-Source: Indian Express

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