Contents

  1. Former CECs flag concerns over e-voting
  2. India’s position tanks in Global Hunger Index
  3. Tuberculosis deaths up in pandemic: WHO
  4. Kazakhstan CICA Foreign Ministers meeting
  5. Bhutan, China sign MoU regarding boundary disputes

Former CECs flag concerns over e-voting

Context:

  • Telangana State Election Commission is set to carry out an e-voting experiment and the Election Commission of India, too, is exploring remote voting.
  • Former Chief Election Commissioners (CEC) have raised a range of concerns regarding the idea of online voting and remote voting.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (e-Governance, Transparency and Accountability, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Introduction to Digital Voting
  2. The Key reason for the Election Commission to explore Remote Voting
  3. What are the benefits of remote voting?
  4. About the Election Commission of India’s interest in Remote Voting
  5. Significance of a Remote Voting Facility (RVF) by CEC
  6. Challenges with Remote Voting Facility
  7. Suggestions to improve Remote Voting Facility
  8. About Telangana SEC’s Mobile-Based e-voting system
  9. Back to the Basics: Timeline of Postal ballots and voting for NRIs

Introduction to Digital Voting

  • Democratic voting is a crucial and serious event in any country and the most common way in which a country votes is through a paper-based system.
  • However, Digital voting – which is the use of electronic devices, such as voting machines or an internet browser, to cast votes – is becoming increasingly relevant in the 21st century.
  • Digital Voting are sometimes referred to as:
    • e-voting when voting using a machine in a polling station, and
    • i-voting when using a web browser.
  • Estonia has had electronic voting since 2005 and in 2007 was the first country in the world to allow online voting.

The Key reason for the Election Commission to explore Remote Voting

  • Election Commission of India said that despite all efforts, voter participation had remained only around 67% in general elections.
  • A key factor contributing to this was the inability of the people, who had migrated from their native constituencies for various reasons, to vote.
  • Unless structural changes in the election processes were made, it would be difficult to increase participation.
  • Also, remote voting, as an option, has gained some priority during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to address social distancing.

What are the benefits of remote voting?

  • Remote voting would appear to benefit internal migrants and seasonal workers, who account for roughly 51 million of the populace (Census 2011).
  • The envisioned solution might also be useful for some remotely-stationed members of the Indian armed forces (although that exhaustive infrastructure of Elections has helped address this).
  • Remote voting solutions may facilitate the participation in elections by specific groups of citizens, including expats, military voters, voters resident in health and care institutions, and prisoners.

About the Election Commission of India’s interest in Remote Voting

  • In 2021, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has expressed hope that the concept of remote voting may see the light of day by the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
  • The CEC said that a dedicated team has been working hard for giving shape to this project which is neither aimed at internet-based voting nor does it imply voting from home.
  • The envisaged Remote Voting Facility (RVF) will enable a voter to cast his or her vote from any polling station in the country.
  • It will remove the compulsion on voting only at the domicile polling station. (As the voter is registered in his domicile).

The “blockchain” technology involved in the project

  • A blockchain is a distributed ledger of information which is replicated across various nodes on a “peer-to-peer” network (P2P Network) The data exists on multiple computers at the same time and it constantly grows as new sets of recordings or blocks get added to it in a decentralization manner. The ledger can record many transactions such as monetary transactions, property transfer, and even ballot storage.
  • The concept envisaged by the Election Commission is a “two-way electronic voting system in a controlled environment on white-listed IP devices on dedicated Internet lines enabled with biometric devices and a web camera”.
  • It does not mean voting from home – voters will have to reach a designated venue during a pre-decided period of time to be able to use this facility.
  • When the vote is cast, the ballot will be securely encrypted and a blockchain hashtag generated. This hashtag notification will be sent to various stakeholders, in this case the candidates and political parties.
  • The encrypted remote votes so cast will once again be validated at the pre-counting stage to ensure that they have neither been decrypted nor tampered with or replaced.
  • Voters may have to apply in advance to their returning officers to exercise the option.

Significance of a Remote Voting Facility (RVF) by CEC

  1. The voter turn in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was 67.11% across 542 constituencies. The RVF can increase the voter turnout in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
  2. Individuals who are ‘on the move’ like students, patients, migrant labourers, essential service providers, etc. will become part of the electoral process, hence increasing inclusivity.
  3. RVF gives more flexibility to voters. An individual can cast his/her vote from multiple locations and not solely from one registered polling station.
  4. RVF will give a voice to unheard groups like migrant workers and increase political accoutnability. The contesting candidates generally did not concern with them, as they will not vote in elections.
  5. RVF will ensure more eligible voters cast their vote, hence, strengthening representative democracy. Thus, it will help in fulfilling the ambition of the representative democracy.
  6. Article 326 of the Indian Constitution has given voting rights to every individual above 18 years i.e., universal adult suffrage. The spirit of this article calls for ensuring universal voter turnout in elections and RVF can help us fulfil this constitutional mandate.

Challenges with Remote Voting Facility

  • As RVF is based on blockchain, therefore it might be attacked by hackers which would distort the final result.
  • The process involves saving a user’s biometrics and facial data. Any misuse of such by concerned authorities or hackers would undermine the right to privacy.
  • Nowadays, political parties and candidates are questioning the credibility of EVMs. Instilling trust over RVF will be a challenging task.
  • As the RVF facility will be availed in front of an authorized officer, the secrecy of the voting process might get jeopardized.

Suggestions to improve Remote Voting Facility

  • The government has to do a wider consultation with all the concerned stakeholders before the rollout of RVF. This includes political parties and civil society groups (like the Association for Democratic reforms).
  • In the pilot phase, the Parties and candidates should get timely notifications of RVF. By providing real-time information can strengthen trust in the electoral process.
  • Also, The Election Commission should organise the RVF hackathons in order to build greater public confidence. So that the ‘didn’t want to vote’ category people also cast their vote with confidence.
  • For ensuring a universal voter turnout, awareness generation should be done.
  • Further, till the RVF develops, easing and enhancing the process of postal ballot is desired.

About Telangana SEC’s Mobile-Based e-voting system

  • The Telangana State Election Commission’s development of Mobile-Based e-voting system was driven by the necessity of holding polls in India amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Primary purpose of this system is to facilitate voting using smartphones from home. It will be India’s first smartphone-based e-voting process.
  • The state election commission of Telangana is implementing the system in association with the emerging technologies wing of IT Electronics and Communications (ITE&C) department of Telangana government and technical development by ‘Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC)’.
  • Mobile-based e-voting system will make use of Artificial Intelligence for a three-factor authentication of the valid voter. System will match the voter’s name with the Aadhaar, detect individual liveness and match image using EPIC database comprising of around 20-year-old records.
  • This technology has been used to secure de-identified and encrypted votes in order to maintain them as immutable records.
  • The “TSEC eVote App” is a security-hardened mobile application that will prevent any type of tampering. System cannot be misused because it binds a device ID and phone number to a specific citizen registration process. Only that device can be used during voting.

Back to the Basics: Timeline of Postal ballots and voting for NRIs

The ECI started to look for possible options after receiving several requests from MPs, industrialists, ministers and also writ petitions by NRIs in the Supreme Court (SC) in 2013 and 2014.

After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a 12-member committee was set up to study mainly three options of:

  1. Voting by post.
  2. Voting at an Indian mission abroad.
  3. Online voting.

The committee ruled out online polling as it felt this could compromise “secrecy of voting” and also shot down the proposal to vote at Indian missions abroad as they do not have adequate resources.

  • In 2015, the panel finally recommended that NRIs should be given the “additional alternative options of e-postal ballot and proxy voting”, apart from voting in person.
  • In 2017, the Union Cabinet passed the proposal on proxy voting rights for NRIs and brought a Bill amending the Representation of the People Act 1950. However, the bill lapsed in Rajya Sabha due to dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha and the proposal has not been revived yet.

Current Voting Process for NRIs

  • Voting rights for NRIs were introduced only in 2011, through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1950.
  • An NRI can vote in the constituency in his/her place of residence, as mentioned in the passport, is located.
  • He/She can only vote in person and will have to produce her passport in original at the polling station for establishing identity.

-Source: The Hindu


India’s position tanks in Global Hunger Index

Context:

The Global Hunger Index launched recently ranked India at 101 position out of a total 116 countries. India is also among the 31 countries where hunger has been identified as serious.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Hunger and Poverty, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Global Hunger Index (GHI)
  2. Highlights of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021
  3. Government’s response to the GHI 2021

About Global Hunger Index (GHI)

  • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool that measures and tracks hunger globally as well as by region and by country.
  • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) prepared by European NGOs of Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
  • The GHI combines 4 component indicators:
    1. Undernourishment: the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake (data are from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization)
    2. Child stunting: the share of children under age five who have low height for their age (data are from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Demographic and Health Surveys Program)
    3. Child wasting: the share of children under age five who have low weight for their height (data are from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Demographic and Health Surveys Program)
    4. Child mortality: the mortality rate of children under age five (data are from the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation).
  • The GHI is calculated annually, and its results appear in a report issued in October each year.
  • Besides presenting GHI scores, each year the GHI report includes an essay addressing one particular aspect of hunger.
  • The aim of the Global Hunger Index is to raise awareness and act against hunger to reduce hunger around the world.

Highlights of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021

Global:

  • Although the GHI scores show that global hunger has declined since 2000, progress has slowed down.
  • Even after decades of decline, the global prevalence of undernourishment is increasing. This may be an indication of reversals in other measures of hunger.
  • As per the current projections in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report launched on October 14, 2021, it is estimated that the 47 countries in the world will be unable to achieve even low hunger by 2030.
  • As per the 2021 GHI report, Somalia has the highest level of hunger. With a score of 50.8 points, Somalia is facing extremely alarming levels of hunger.
  • The other 5 countries with alarming levels of hunger are Yemen, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, and the Central African Republic. While 31 countries have shown serious levels of hunger, including India.

India:

  • The 2021 Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked India at out of a total of 116 countries 101st (GHI 2020 ranked India at 94th  of 107 countries).
  • The GHI report stated that India with a score of 27.5 is facing a level of hunger that is serious.
  • India has also been identified among the 31 countries where hunger has been identified as a serious threat.
  • India has been ranked below Pakistan (92nd rank), Bangladesh (76th rank), and Nepal (76th rank).
  • India has shown significant progress on the GHI score since 2000. India has witnessed a decrease in the GHI score of 38.8 points (extreme hunger) in 2000 to 27.5 points (serious hunger) in 2021. However, child nutrition remains an area of concern for India.

Progress in India leading to the 2021 GHI report

  • Undernourishment: The proportion of the undernourished population in India is now at relatively low levels at 15.3 per cent. It was 15 per cent (2012), 19.6 per cent (2006), and 18.4 per cent (2000).
  • Child stunting: Currently at 34.7 per cent, India has witnessed a decrease in child stunting from 38.7 per cent (2012), 47.8 per cent (2006), and 54.2 per cent (2000).
  • Child wasting: India accounts for 17.3 per cent of child wasting which is the highest rate among all countries on the GHI report. It was 15.1 (2012), 20 per cent (2006), and 17.1 per cent (2000).
  • Child mortality: The proportion of child mortality in India is now at relatively low levels at 3.4 per cent. It was 5.2 per cent (2012), 7.1 per cent (2006), and 9.2 per cent (2000).

Government’s response to the GHI 2021

  • The Govt. of India said that Concern Worldwide and Welt Hunger Hilfe have not done their due diligence and the methodology used by FAO is unscientific (who have based their assessment on the results of a ‘four question’ opinion poll, which was conducted telephonically by Gallup).
  • The Government has contested the performance of neighbouring countries (like Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) on the Index. – According to the FAO report ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021’ Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have not been affected at all by COVID-19 pandemic induced loss of job/business and reduction in income levels, rather they have been able to improve their position on the indicator ‘proportion of undernourished population’.
  • The Government has questioned the poll-based assessment that “has increased the value of ‘proportion of population undernourished’ from 14.0% for the previous period 2017-19 to 15.3% for the latest period 2018-20,” according to an official.

-Source: The Hindu


Tuberculosis deaths up in pandemic: WHO

Context:

The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of global progress in tackling tuberculosis and for the first time in over a decade, TB deaths have increased, according to the 2021 Global TB report released recently by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Health, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Tuberculosis?
  2. Highlights of the Global TB report by WHO
  3. India’s efforts in the fight against TB
  4. About National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination
  5. Highlights of India’s Annual TB Report 2020

What is Tuberculosis?

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria belonging to the Mycobacteriaceae family consisting of about 200 members.
  • Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis.
  • The bacteria that cause TB are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • In 15–20% of active cases, the infection spreads outside the lungs, causing other kinds of TB.
  • TB is a very ancient disease and has been documented to have existed in Egypt as early as 3000 BC.
  • In humans, TB most commonly affects the lungs (pulmonary TB), but it can also affect other organs (extra-pulmonary TB).
  • Other historically dreaded diseases like smallpox, leprosy, plague and cholera have been either eradicated or controlled to a large extent due to advances in science and technology.
  • However, TB continues to be a major public health problem in the world.
  • According to the WHO’s Global TB Report, 10 million people developed TB in 2019 with 1.4 million deaths. India accounts for 27% of these cases.

Highlights of the Global TB report by WHO

  • The WHO estimated that some 4.1 million people currently suffer from TB but had not been diagnosed with the disease or had not officially reported to national authorities. This figure is up from 2.9 million in 2019.
  • Approximately, 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020 (including 2,14,000 among HIV positive people). The increase in the number of TB deaths occurred mainly in the 30 countries with the highest burden of TB.
  • India (41%) was on the list of countries which topped those that contributed most to the global reduction in TB notifications between 2019 and 2020.
  • India along with Indonesia (14%), the Philippines (12%), China (8%) and 12 other countries accounted for 93% of the total global drop in notifications.
  • In addition, the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB fell by 15%, from 1,77,000 in 2019 to 1,50,000 in 2020, equivalent to only about 1 in 3 of those in need.

Reasons for the poor results in handling TB during Covid-19

  • WHO said that there was a reduction in provision of TB preventive-treatment.
  • It explained that the first challenge was disruption in access to TB services and a reduction in resources.
  • In many countries, human, financial and other resources had been reallocated from tackling TB to the COVID-19 response, limiting the availability of essential services.
  • The second was that people had struggled to seek care in the context of lockdowns.

India’s efforts in the fight against TB

  • India is aggressively implementing its fully-funded National Strategic Plan to End TB.
  • In the last few years, 50 million people have been treated.
  • India seeks to achieve national scale-up of TB preventive treatment (TPT).
  • It also seeks to achieve the UN High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) targets of 40 million persons started on TB treatment and 30 million on TPT globally in the remaining 18 months.
  • Sub-national Certification of States and Districts instituted in 2020- The initiative marks districts/States-UTs on “Progress towards TB Free Status” under different categories measured with graded milestones of decline in TB incidence.

About National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination

  • The implementation of National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination (NSP 2017-25) has started in January 2017 and the funds allocated for FY 2018-19 is Rs.2770.91 crore which includes funds for cash transfers and social welfare schemes.
  • The Vision of NSP for TB elimination 2017–25 is TB-Free India with zero deaths, disease and poverty due to tuberculosis. The goal of NSP for TB elimination 2017–25 is to achieve a rapid decline in burden of TB, morbidity and mortality while working towards elimination of TB in India by 2025.
  • The Key Components of National Strategic Plan For Tuberculosis Elimination 2017–2025 are as follows
    1. The early diagnosis of all the TB patients, prompt treatment with quality assured drugs and treatment regimens.
    2. The suitable patient support systems to promote adherence.
    3. The engaging with the patients seeking care in the private sector.
    4. The prevention strategies including active case finding and contact tracing in high risk / vulnerable population.
    5. The airborne infection control.
    6. The multi-sectoral response to address social determinants.
    7. The advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilization activities to promote awareness regarding TB among all the sections of the society.
  • The requirements for moving towards TB elimination have been integrated into the four strategic pillars of “Detect – Treat – Prevent – Build” (DTPB).
    1. DETECT – Find all TB cases with an emphasis on reaching TB patients seeking care from private providers and undiagnosed TB in high-risk populations.
    2. TREAT – Initiate and sustain all patients on appropriate anti-TB treatment wherever they seek care, with patient friendly systems and social support.
    3. PREVENT -Treatment for latent TB infection in contacts of bacteriologically-confirmed cases.
    4. BUILD – Build and strengthen enabling policies, empowered institutions and human resources with enhanced capacities.

Highlights of India’s Annual TB Report 2020

  • 20.04 lakh notified TB patients in 2019 in India, which is a 14% increase from 2018.
  • Reduction in the number of missing cases to 2.9 lakh cases as against more than 10 lakhs in 2017.
  • Private sector notifications increased by 35% with 6.78 lakh TB patients notified.
  • Proportion of children diagnosed with TB increased to 8% in 2019 compared to 6% in 2018.
  • Provision of HIV testing for all notified TB patients increased from 67% in 2018 to 81% in 2019.
  • Expansion of treatment services has resulted in a 12% improvement in the treatment success rate of notified patients. For 2019, it is 81% compared to 69% in 2018.

-Source: The Hindu


Kazakhstan CICA Foreign Ministers meeting

Context:

Addressing the 6th meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Conference of Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) Kazakhstan, External Affairs Minister asked the international community to unite against terrorism as seriously as it does on climate change and pandemics.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Foreign policies affecting India’s Interests, International Groupings and Agreements affecting India’s Interests, India and its neighborhoods)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures (CICA)?
  2. Highlights of India’s views at the CICA

What is Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures (CICA)?

  • The Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures (CICA) is an intergovernmental forum aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and ensuring peace, security, and stability in Asia.
  • CICA members include 27 Asian countries, including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Russia, South Korea, and Turkey, nine observer states, and five international organizations.
  • The CICA Secretariat has been located in Almaty (Kazakhstan) since June 2006.
  • The highest decision-making organ of CICA is the Meeting of the CICA Heads of State and Government (Summit) which is convened every four years in order to conduct consultations, review the progress of, and set priorities for CICA activities.
  • India co-chairs two CICA Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) on ‘Development of Secure and Effective Systems of Transportation Corridors,’ and ‘Energy Security’.

Highlights of India’s views at the CICA

  • India’s External Affairs Minister highlighted India’s launch of the Vaccine Maitri (Vaccine Friendship) initiative in January 2021 – which is a major diplomatic effort to gift and supply made-in-India vaccines to low-income and developing countries globally.
  • India advised the forum to strengthen collective resolve to tackle terrorism, arms trafficking, narcotics trade, and other forms of trans-national crimes.
  • India underscored the importance of the Taliban regime meeting the expectations of the international community as elaborated in the UN Security Council Resolution 2593.
  • India asserted that connectivity must respect the most basic principle of international relations-respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • India highlighted the inadequate representation of Asia, Africa and Latin America in United Nations’ (UN) decision-making.

-Source: The Hindu


Bhutan, China sign MoU regarding boundary disputes

Context:

In a step towards resolving their boundary disputes, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on a three-Step roadmap to help speed up talks on Bhutan-China Boundary Negotiations.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Bhutan and China Border Dispute
  2. Eastern sector claim
  3. The complicating factors

Bhutan and China Border Dispute

  • Bhutan and China have a border dispute since 1984. Talks between Thimphu and Beijing have been limited to three areas of dispute (two in North Bhutan — Jakarlung and Pasamlung areas — and one in West Bhutan).
  • Bhutan has the distinction of being the only other country apart from India with which China has an unsettled land border.
  • It is also the only state to border China that does not have official diplomatic ties with Beijing.
  • But despite this lack of official relations, the two sides have worked for years to arrive at a resolution to their border disputes, which until now primarily focused on areas in the central and western sectors.
  • The western sector dispute — over the Doklam plateau — has received the most attention after the 2017 India-China standoff there.
  • The central sector disputes — over areas known as Jakarlung and Pasamlung — have received less attention comparatively. Even without formal diplomatic ties, Bhutan and China have held 24 rounds of border talks between their envoys.

Eastern sector claim

  • The addition of the eastern sector is notable as this has not been part of the agenda across the 24 rounds of China-Bhutan border talks. The China’s MFA statement’s inclusion of the eastern sector came shortly after the government of Bhutan issued a demarche to China after a Chinese delegate at the 58th Global Environment Facility Council, held earlier this summer, referred to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, an area in eastern Bhutan, as disputed.
  • The claim itself may have some basis in history, but not one well supported by official Chinese maps. Back in 2017, in the course of studying the Sino-Indian and Sino-Bhutanese disputes over Doklam, it came across at least one older, unofficial Chinese map that portrayed a capacious dispute in the eastern sector.
  • Now, that view has changed in Beijing. The political geography of the area in question bears underscoring: Given that India fully administers Arunachal Pradesh, even if Bhutan were to unilaterally cede this area, it would amount to an enclave without any direct border with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

The complicating factors

  • The novelty of China’s claim in its dispute with Bhutan has already raised eyebrows, but there are other complicating factors here.
  • First, the purported eastern sector dispute over the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, in geographic terms, would be the single largest tranche of disputed territory across all sectors in the China-Bhutan context, representing about 11 percent of the territory currently administered by the Bhutanese government.
  • Second, the territory in question abuts the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is itself claimed in its near entirety as part of Tibet.
  • Not only is this the case, but the Sakteng area specifically borders Arunachal’s western Tawang region, which China has particularly prioritized in negotiations with India; arguably, Tawang is the least negotiable piece of territory for Beijing in the entirety of the eastern sector.

-Source: The Hindu

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