- Chinese muscularity in South China Sea: Growing Protest
- In stand-off, keeping an eye on the nuclear ball
- Postal Ballots: Explained
- Mid-Day-Meal Scheme: Crisis of the future
Focus: GS-II International Relations
- Chinese muscularity in the South China Sea is leading to a growing chorus of protest.
- The South China Sea (SCS) is important not just to its littoral countries. It has been a transit point for trade since early medieval times, contains abundantly rich fisheries, and is a repository of mineral deposits and hydrocarbon reserves.
China’s Authority and Disregard to Judgements
- The Philippines invoked the dispute settlement mechanism of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2013 regarding the disputed Spratlys, to which the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) passed a Judgement that China’s position in the matter was NOT legal.
- China had aggravated the situation by undertaking land reclamation and construction, and had harmed the environment and violated its obligation to preserve the ecosystem.
- The award implied that China violated the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). China dismissed the judgment as “null and void.”
- Philippines had not followed up on the PCA judgment because the Philippines could not afford to fight China.
- Not one country challenged China, which agreed to settle disputes bilaterally, and to continue work on a Code of Conduct with countries of the ASEAN.
Countries around China Strengthening their Military
- Vietnam has added six Kilo-class, Russian-origin submarines to its navy.
- France, Germany and the Netherlands, respectively, have supplied Formidable-class stealth ships to Singapore, patrol boats to Brunei Darussalam, and corvettes to Indonesia.
- Japan is partially funding the upgradation of the Indonesian coast guard.
- Indonesia and the Philippines are in early stages of exploring procurement of the BrahMos missile from India.
How is China Exploiting the South China Sea?
Growing Chinese muscularity in the SCS is visible in
- Increased patrolling and live-fire exercising by Chinese naval vessels
- Ramming and sinking of fishing vessels of other claimant countries
- Renaming of SCS features
- Building of runways, bunkers, and habitation for possible long-term stationing of personnel on the atolls claimed by China
- Chinese exploration and drilling vessels competing aggressively with those of other littoral countries in the disputed waters.
- A complicating factor for China is Russia’s growing military and economic equities in the SCS.
- Russia and Vietnam have a defence cooperation relationship, which they are committed to strengthening.
- A Russian oil company has also been invited by the Philippines to conduct oil prospecting in its EEZ.
India’s relevant options: Way Forward
From India’s perspective, foreign and security policy in its larger neighbourhood covers the entire expanse of the Asia-Pacific and extends to the Persian Gulf and West Asia.
The SCS carries merchandise to and from India, hence, it follows that India has a stake in the SCS, just as China has in the Indian Ocean.
- India must continue to actively pursue its defence diplomacy outreach in the Indo-Pacific region.
- India must increase military training and conduct exercises and exchanges at a higher level of complexity.
- India must extend Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief activities and share patrolling of the Malacca Strait with the littoral countries.
- The Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships that India has concluded with Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the U.S., and Vietnam could be extended to Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore.
- India must also increase support to the military capacity of the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command.
-Source: The Hindu
Focus: GS-II International Relations, GS-III Security Challenges
Why in news?
Despite domestic and external challenges, there is now growing evidence that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to expand its nuclear arsenal.
- China is pursuing a planned modernisation of its nuclear arsenal because it fears the multi-layered missile defence capabilities of the United States.
- China is arming its missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) capabilities to neutralise America’s missile shield.
- The Peoples Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) fields a range of Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) and Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs), and China also on a sizeable inventory of fissile material.
- China’s expansion is cause for concern because even as the U.S. and Russia are attempting to reduce the size of their respective arsenals, the PRC is on an expansionist mode.
Recently in News: Click Here to read more about the Latest Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Report (3rd Article)
India’s Cause for concern
- This increase might not seem large relative to the size of the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. and Russia but it indicates a gradual shift toward a larger arsenal.
- This presents India with challenges because New Delhi has to contend with a nuclear-armed Pakistan as well.
- The Indian nuclear arsenal, according to the SIPRI, stands at roughly 150 nuclear warheads with the Pakistani slightly ahead with 160 warheads.
- China’s nuclear modernisation and diversified nuclear capabilities during conventional military escalation along the China-India boundary is one of the major concerns for India.
- The PRC is believed to base a part of its nuclear arsenal in inland territories such as in the Far-Western Xinjiang Region, which is close to Aksai Chin.
-Source: The Hindu
Focus: GS-II Governance
Why in news?
The Election Commission has announced that it will allow those above the age of 65 as well as those under home or institutional quarantine to vote using postal ballots during the Bihar elections.
What is Postal Voting?
Postal Voting is a facility for a set of voters, through which a voter can cast the vote remotely by recording the preference on the ballot paper and sending it back to the election officer before counting.
Who can avail this facility?
- Members of the armed forces like the Army, Navy and Air Force,
- Members of the armed police force of a state (serving outside the state),
- Government employees posted outside India and their spouses
- Voters under preventive detention
are entitled to vote only by post.
- Special voters such as the President of India, Vice President, Governors, Union Cabinet ministers, Speaker of the House and government officers on poll duty have the option to vote by post
- The Law Ministry, at the Election Commission’s behest, introduced a new category of ‘absentee voters’, who can now also opt for postal voting.
How are votes recorded by post?
- The Returning Officer is supposed to print ballot papers within 24 hours of the last date of nomination withdrawal and dispatch them within a day.
After receiving it, the voter can mark his/her preference with a tick mark or cross mark against the candidate’s name, and fill up a duly attested declaration to the effect that they have marked the ballot paper.
- The ballot paper and the declaration are then placed in a sealed cover and sent back to the Returning Officer before the time fixed for the commencement of counting of votes.
Arguments pointing at flaws of Postal Voting
- Allowing those aged 65 and above to vote by postal ballot violates secrecy in voting as a large segment of the population is uneducated and they might seek assistance from others at numerous stages, ending up disclosing their preferred candidate.
- Postal voting also exposes the aged to different forms of influence in unfair manner.
-Source: Indian Express
Focus: GS-II Social Justice
Why in news?
- In Bihar’s Bhagalpur district, the COVID-19 crisis has laid low the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme.
- Children of one of the most marginalised Dalit communities in Bihar have taken to rag-picking after the scheme, which guaranteed them one stable meal a day, came to a standstill.
- With schools closed and anganwadi workers engaged in COVID surveillance work, there is a real danger that the nutrition of such children could be compromised.
Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme
The Mid-day Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party, India has committed to yielding “adequate nutritious food” for children.
The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.
The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes.
The Students of:
- Government schools,
- Government aided schools,
- Local body Education Centres,
- Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres,
- Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan,
- National Child Labour Project schools run by the Ministry of labour.
How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be-
- Post-Independence, Tamil Nadu was the first state to introduce the MDM scheme in the 1960s.
- The Central scheme to provide meals to school children began in 1995, however, most states just limited themselves to providing dry rations.
Supreme Court Order: The Game Changer
- A Supreme Court order of 2001 provided for all states to introduce cooked meals.
- The Supreme Court order specified the states to provide “at least 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days in a year”.
Supreme Court on MDM during Pandemic
- The SC alerted state governments “Non-supply of nutritional food to the children as well as lactating and nursing mothers may lead to large-scale malnourishment, particularly in rural and tribal areas.”
- Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter the Court asked states to ensure that “schemes for nutritional food for children are not adversely affected”.
Has the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme helped?
Research has shown how hot, cooked food attracted students to schools and improved their nutritional status.
MDM has been proven to attract children from disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis) to school.
Along with Improvement of regularity, educational and nutritional benefits, socialisation benefits and benefits to women are also highlighted.
Hence, the main positives of this scheme are:
- Avoiding classroom hunger.
- Increased school enrolment and attendance.
- Improved socialisation among castes.
- Reducing malnutrition.
- Empowering women through employment.
Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation
- Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India, 42.5% of the children under 5 are underweight.
- Some simple health measures such as using iodised salt and getting vaccinations are uncommon in India.
- Many children don’t get enough to eat, which has far-reaching implications for the performance of the country as a whole.
- A 2005 study found that Caste based discrimination continued to occur in the serving of food.
- Media reports have also highlighted several implementation issues, including irregularity, corruption, hygiene, caste discrimination, etc.
- Poor food quality is a major concern, affecting the health of children (as many media reports show students falling sick dur to lapses in quality checking and control). There are provisions for regular social audit, field visits and inspections but these are seldom carried out.
- The schools do not function during holidays and vacations which deprives children of their one daily meal.
- The pandemic has led to widespread economic distress, and in such times, the need to strengthen food security programmes cannot be overstated.
- It would do good to address the major concerns regarding quality control measures to avoid students from falling sick.
- Providing MDM apart from regular school days can help avoiding children being hungry during holidays.
- Addressing the casteism in delivery of the food is also important to avoid students from dropping out due to discrimination.
- Improving quality inspections will help reduce the corruption that hurts the system.
-Source: Indian Express