IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


14th April, 2020



1.MGNREGA jobs crash to 1% of normal


—Employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has collapsed to just over 1% of the usual rate this month due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

—Activists petitioned the Supreme Court demanding that the government pay full wages to all active job card holders during this time, following its own instructions issued to other employers.

—Data from the MGNREGA website show that less than 1.9 lakh families have been provided work under the scheme so far in April 2020, in comparison to almost 1.6 crore households which were provided work in March, and the 1.8 crore households employed under the scheme in February before the lockdown began.

Chhattisgarh was the highest employment generator under the scheme in April, providing work to more than 70,000 families, followed by Andhra Pradesh with more than 53,000 households given work.

Key source

The scheme, which guarantees 100 days of work per year at an average daily wage of ₹209, is key to providing livelihoods to poor villagers and is a backbone of the rural economy in difficult times.

—Overall, 7.6 crore families hold active job cards under the scheme, and almost 5.5 crore families found work under the scheme last year.

—While announcing the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana relief package last month, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said MGNREGA daily wages would be increased by ₹20, and would support the 13.6 crore families who hold job cards.


—“This is a collapse of the employment guarantee given to rural Indians at a time when it is most needed,” said Nikhil Dey, an activist with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, who has filed a Public Interest Litigation petition in the Supreme Court on the issue along with Magasaysay award winner and RTI activist Aruna Roy.

About Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016 (PMGKY)

—It is an amnesty scheme launched by the Narendra Modi led Government of India in December 2016 on the lines of the Income declaration scheme, 2016 (IDS) launched earlier in the year.

— A part of the Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Act, 2016, the scheme provides an opportunity to declare unaccounted wealth and black money in a confidential manner and avoid prosecution after paying a fine of 50% on the undisclosed income.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-mgnrega-jobs-crash-to-1-of-normal/article31334478.ece


2.Google, pay: on re-use of news content

—Last week’s ruling by France’s competition regulator that Google must pay news publishers and agencies for re-use of their content marks a significant turn in what has been a see-saw battle between European regulators and publishers on the one hand and the tech giant on the other.

—How this ends and what this leads to could set the template for not just the news industry in France and Europe but also the rest of the world.


—Google became the primary gateway for readers. While this worked well for the readers and for Google, which as a result could build a mammoth advertising business, it never worked well enough for news publishers, notwithstanding the increase in traffic they experienced.

--Many publishers are, hence, now in a position where they can neither let go of their dependence on the tech giant nor make monetary sense from this arrangement. Also, individually, they are too small to challenge Google’s might. It is by recognising the skewed nature of this copyright marketplace that the European legislators amended rules in April last year — something which France then gave force to in July.

—The genesis of the order by the French competition regulator was a complaint filed against Google by unions representing publishers. They charged Google with abusing its dominant position in response to the law, which seeks to create fairer grounds of negotiation.

—This it does by allowing for the possibility of publishers to be paid for article extracts picked up by aggregators. The complaint was that Google, on the grounds of complying with the new law, decided it would not display the extracts and other elements unless publishers authorise free usage.

— The regulator said it found that Google’s practices “were likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position, and caused serious and immediate harm to the press sector.” It could be argued that the French case will do little to shake up the existing framework. Previous legislative attempts by other European Union constituents, such as Germany and Spain, to allow for such extracts to be monetised by publishers have proved counterproductive.

—For instance, Google ended up shutting down its news service in Spain. But the French attempt promises to end differently. That is because, built in in the regulator’s order is a requirement that negotiations “effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google.” Where will this go from here? Publishers across the world will be watching.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/google-pay-on-re-use-of-news-content/article31333903.ece


3.All policy tools at disposal to fight virus impact: RBI

—The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will not hesitate to use any conventional or unconventional policy instruments to mitigate the adverse economic impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Shaktikanta Das said, according to the the minutes of the monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting released by the central bank on Monday.

—The six-member MPC, at a non-scheduled meeting held in the last week of March, had decided to reduce the policy interest rate by 75 basis points (bps) to 4.4%, as the nationwide lockdown brought economic activity into a grinding halt.

About MPC

— The Monetary Policy Committee is responsible for fixing the benchmark interest rate in India. The meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee are held at least 4 times a year and it publishes its decisions after each such meeting.

—The committee comprises six members - three officials of the Reserve Bank of India and three external members nominated by the Government of India. They need to observe a "silent period" seven days before and after the rate decision for "utmost confidentiality".

—The Governor of Reserve Bank of India is the chairperson ex officio of the committee. Decisions are taken by majority with the Governor having the casting vote in case of a tie.

—The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 was amended by Finance Act (India), 2016 to constitute MPC which will bring more transparency and accountability in fixing India's Monetary Policy.

—The monetary policy are published after every meeting with each member explaining his opinions. The committee is answerable to the Government of India if the inflation exceeds the range prescribed for three consecutive months.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/all-policy-tools-at-disposal-to-fight-virus-impact-rbi/article31333787.ece



1.Free tests only for the poor, clarifies SC

—The Supreme Court on Monday modified its April 8 order to clarify that free testing for COVID-19 shall continue to be made available to the poor eligible under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

—Free testing would also be made available to any other category of economically weaker sections of society as notified by the government from time to time, the court said.

—Private labs would continue to charge the Indian Council of Medical Research rates of up to ₹4,500 for tests from people who can afford to pay.

About Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY)

—It is a flagship scheme of the Indian government's National Health Policy which aims to provide free health coverage at the secondary and tertiary level to its bottom 40% poor and vulnerable population.

—PM-JAY is the world's largest and fully state sponsored health assurance scheme which covers a population of the combined size of USA, Mexico and Canada.

—It was launched in September 2018, under the aegis of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India.

Key Features  

—PM-JAY is a health assurance scheme that covers 10.74 crores households across India or approx 50 cr Indians.

—It provides a cover of 5 lakh per family per year for medical treatment in empanelled hospitals, both public and private.

—It provides cashless and paperless service to its beneficiaries at the point of service, i.e the hospital.

—E-cards are provided to the eligible beneficiaries based on the deprivation and occupational criteria of Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (SECC 2011).

—There is no restriction on family size, age or gender.

—All previous medical conditions are covered under the scheme.

—It covers 3 days of hospitalisation and 15 days of post hospitalisation, including diagnostic care and expenses on medicines.

—The scheme is portable and a beneficiary can avail medical treatment at any PM-JAY empanelled hospital outside their state and anywhere in the country.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/free-tests-only-for-the-poor-clarifies-sc/article31334539.ece


3.Government urged to revoke patent on cancer drug

—The Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) has written to the Health Ministry to revoke the Indian patent on Remdesivir, a potential anti-viral drug under testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. Remdesivir is produced by Gilead Life Sciences.

—The efficacy of the drug in curing extremely sick COVID-19 patients, particularly those requiring ventilator assistance, is still being investigated.

—The CPAA said the patent on the drug would make it unaffordable and this would include cancer patients who are at heightened risk of complications from the viral infection.

—The Association said the patent ought to be revoked not only on the grounds that it could incentivise other manufacturers to make the drug and offer it cheaply but also on the grounds that the drug wasn’t “novel.”

—The Office of the Controller of Patents is the Indian body responsible for granting patents. The government has the authority to revoke a patent on a drug if it deems it to be essential.

—Several drugs are in the clinical trial stage, and combination drugs used to treat HIV — Lopinavir and Ritonavir (Kaletra) — are also being tested to combat the SARS-Cov2 virus that causes COVID-19. —Drugs that are useful in the treatment of RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses, like hepatitis C (HCV), HIV, Ebola, etc. are being tested as treatment regimens for COVID-19.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/coronavirus-government-urged-to-revoke-patent-on-cancer-drug/article31333796.ece



1.Tiger carcass found in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

—A male tiger, aged around eight years, was found dead in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary on the morning of April 13. Sanctuary sources said the carcass was found in Thazhathur section of the forest in Kurichyad forest range.

About Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

—It is an animal sanctuary in Wayanad, Kerala, India. It has an extent of 344.44 km2 with four ranges namely Sulthan Bathery, Muthanga, Kurichiat and Tholpetty.

—Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala. It is bestowed with lush green forests and rich wildlife.

—Established in 1973, the sanctuary is now an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It is bounded by protected area network of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka in the northeast, and on the southeast by Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu.

—It is part of the Deccan Plateau and the vegetation is predominantly of the south Indian moist deciduous teak forests. Also, the sanctuary has pastures of the west-coast semi-evergreen trees.

—The wildlife sanctuary comes under Protect Elephant and one can spot herd of elephants roaming in the area.

—Wayanad district has the largest population of Adivasi in Kerala. Scheduled tribes here include Paniyas, Kurumas, Adiyans, Kurichiyas, Ooralis and Kattunaikkans.

—The sanctuary is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of the sanctuary, is under consideration by the World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/tiger-carcass-found-in-wayanad-wildlife-sanctuary/article31328110.ece


2.Staying at home on planet earth

—In April 1970, the first Earth Day was inspired by a photograph from Apollo 8, an image of the Earth as a fragile blue ball in the vastness of space. Many hoped this vision of a vulnerable world would catalyse environmental consciousness and bring a planetary healing, dissipating the rancour of social and political antagonism.

—As the 50th anniversary of this moment nears, in 2020, we seem to be edging even closer to ecological catastrophe. And yet the alternative remains, the chance to take the earth itself as a place of collective shelter.

About Earth Day

—Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/staying-at-home-on-planet-earth/article31333984.ece



1.Sacking by subterfuge: on removal of AP top election official

—The legality of the removal of the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) is seriously in doubt.

— That it was the culmination of an open conflict between the Election Commissioner, N. Ramesh Kumar, and Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy makes it a glaring instance of misuse of power. —The State government got the Governor to issue an ordinance to cut the SEC’s tenure from five to three years, and amend the criterion for holding that office from being an officer of the rank of Principal Secretary and above to one who had served as a High Court judge. This automatically rendered Mr. Kumar’s continuance invalid.

—The State government seems to have gone by legal opinion that cited Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. (2007) in which the Allahabad High Court ruled that cessation of tenure does not amount to removal, and upheld the State Election Commissioner’s term being cut short. The Supreme Court, while dismissing an appeal against the order, kept open the legal questions arising from the case.

—The judgment seems erroneous, as it gives a carte blanche to the State government to remove an inconvenient election authority by merely changing the tenure or retirement age.

—This was surely not what was envisioned by Parliament, which wrote into the Constitution provisions to safeguard the independence of the State Election Commission.

—It is a well-settled principle in law that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. Therefore, the removal of an incumbent SEC through the subterfuge of changing the eligibility norms for appointment may not survive judicial scrutiny.

—Further, the Constitution, under Article 243K, prohibits the variation of any condition of service to the detriment of any incumbent.

About SEC

 —The agency is responsible for overseeing the voter registration and election processes in the state, including maintaining the statewide voter registration system, supporting the statewide voting system, and conducting the training and certification program.

—The Constitution of India vests in the State Election Commission, consisting of a State Election Commissioner, the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of all elections to the Panchayats and the Municipalities (Articles 243K, 243ZA). The State Election Commissioner is appointed by the Governor.

—As per article 243(C3) the Governor, when so requested by the State Election Commission, make available to the State Election Commission such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the SEC.

 Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/sacking-by-subterfuge-on-removal-of-ap-top-election-official/article31333885.ece


2.Accessing justice online

—With Indian courts too under a lockdown for three weeks (and probably more), citizens have severely restricted access to justice for this period.

—However, the deeper malaise is the complete inability of the conventional court system to deliver timely justice. This shakes the very foundation of the polity on which we rest our constitutional promises.

Technology, however, now provides us an opportunity to meet the challenge headlong.

—The Kerala High Court on March 30, 2020 created history by not only conducting proceedings through video conferencing but also live streaming the proceedings. The judges conducted the hearing from their homes. Nearly 30 urgent matters were taken up for hearing, including bail applications and writ petitions, and were disposed of. The advocates concerned and law officers also participated in the proceedings from their respective offices. This example must be institutionalised and eternalised.

A blueprint for e-courts

—To achieve this, the government must establish an effective task force consisting of judges, technologists, court administrators, skill developers and system analysts to draw up a blueprint for institutionalising online access to justice.

—Such a task force must be charged with the responsibility of establishing hardware, software and IT systems for courts; examining application of artificial intelligence benefiting from the data base generated through e-courts projects; establishing appropriate e-filing systems and procedures; and creating skill training and recognition for paralegals to understand and to help advocates and others to access the system to file their cases and add to their pleadings and documents as the case moves along.

—Once the blueprint is ready, the High Courts across the country may refer the same to the Rule Committee of the High Court to frame appropriate rules to operationalise the e-court system.

—The facility must not only enable access to courts but must provide access to justice through other processes as well.

Role of Legal Services Authorities

—The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 and the officers functioning under them all over the country can play a huge role.

—If there is difficulty in accessing these schemes, a system must be set in place for the applicant to lodge online complaints with the Legal Services Authorities who can then ensure accountability and effective implementation.

—The local panchayat, municipal or corporation office, or any well-intentioned NGO can assist the complainant to make these online complaints to the Legal Services Authority if the complainant is unable to do so directly.

About Legal Services Authorities

—These are statutory bodies constituted in the states of India by the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, as enshrined by article 39-A of the Constitution of India, for providing free legal services for the citizens.

—These authorities give free legal aid to a person if he/she is not capable of bearing the expenditure. This includes appointing a lawyer in case the person is a defendant in a case.

—These authorities periodically organize 'lok-adalats' for out-of-the-court settlement of the cases (under provision of the law). There are two types of lok adalats i.e permanent and non permanent.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/accessing-justice-online/article31333630.ece


3.Ambedkar and the Poona Pact

—In late September 1932, B.R. Ambedkar negotiated the Poona Pact with Mahatma Gandhi.

— The background to the Poona Pact was the Communal Award of August 1932, which, among other things, reserved 71 seats in the central legislature for the depressed classes.

—Gandhi, who was opposed to the Communal Award, saw it as a British attempt to split Hindus, and began a fast unto death to have it repealed.

Fair representation

—In a settlement negotiated with Gandhi, Ambedkar agreed for depressed class candidates to be elected by a joint electorate. However, on his insistence, slightly over twice as many seats (147) were reserved for the depressed classes in the legislature than what had been allotted under the Communal Award.

—In addition, the Poona Pact assured a fair representation of the depressed classes in the public services while earmarking a portion of the educational grant for their uplift.

—The concessions agreed to in the Poona Pact were precursors to the world’s largest affirmative programme launched much later in independent India.

—A slew of measures were initiated later to uplift Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Despite what Ambedkar had achieved for the depressed classes through the Poona Pact, there were carpers.

—Perry Anderson and Arundhati Roy argued that Gandhi through his fast coerced Ambedkar into the Poona Pact.

—Ambedkar, however, was hardly the person to bend to someone else’s will. As he observed in a talk years later, he was clear he would not “tolerate anyone on whose will and consent settlement depends, to stand on dignity and play the Grand Moghul.”

—It is also highly unlikely that an erudite and sharp person like Ambedkar would not have weighed the consequences of not signing the Poona Pact. It would also not have been lost on him that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, with the Muslims of India strongly backing him, was watching and waiting to take advantage of the evolving situation.

Positive outcomes

—The Poona Pact had several positive outcomes for Ambedkar.

—It emphatically sealed his leadership of the depressed classes across India. He made the entire country, and not just the Congress Party, morally responsible for the uplift of the depressed classes. —Most of all he succeeded in making the depressed classes a formidable political force for the first time in history.

—On the 129th year of his birth on April 14 this year, we would do well to remember Ambedkar as much for the Poona Pact as we do for the Constitution he helped conjure. Without the former, the latter would never have been.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/ambedkar-and-the-poona-pact/article31333684.ece




1.Coronavirus lockdown | ‘Online child porn traffic rises by 95%’

—Consumption of child pornography after the lockdown in the country has gone up by 95% with online data monitoring websites showing an increase in demand for searches like “child porn,” “sexy child” and “teen sex videos.”

—“Traffic from India increased by 95% between March 24 and 26, as compared to average traffic before the lockdown,” the India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) said in a statement citing data from Pornhub, the world’s largest pornography website.

About ICPF

—The ICPF was set up in January 2020 and aims to support NGOs with funding resources for curbing exploitation of children. The fund is managed by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s son, Bhuwan Ribhu.

—As children spend more time online during the lockdown, international agencies like Europol, the United Nations and ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) have reported that paedophiles and child pornography addicts have increased activity to target children online to ‘groom’ them — befriending them on social media, building an emotional connection and luring them to perform sexual activities through photos and videos.

Violent content

—In a survey conducted in December on demand for child pornography in 100 cities, the ICPF found that on an average there were 5 million downloads per month. It also pointed out there was an increase in demand for violent content involving children.

—It demands an urgent crackdown on child pornography through a pan-India tracker through the use of artificial intelligence which can monitor hosting, sharing, viewing and downloading of child sexual abuse material and provide the information to the government agencies.




3.1.27 lakh individuals join Disaster Management Authority as volunteers

—More than 1.27 lakh individuals and 5,300 organisations have so far registered themselves as volunteers with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for the fight against COVID-19.

—The NDMA has also received donation offers for more than 8.35 lakh items including digital infrared thermometers, digital thermal scanners (full body), masks, gloves, sanitisers and personal protective gear.

—The Authority, through its subordinate and State bodies, is monitoring all the operations associated with the measures being taken at the ground level.

—The NCC students have been helping the local administrations in extending help to the needy and spreading awareness about the preventive measures to be taken to arrest the spread.

—The Integrated Government Online Training (iGOT) courses are available on the Diksha platform, both for the laptop/desktop and mobile phone users. The launch of iGOT platform was fast-forwarded as requested by the respective Empowered Group of Officers to prevent the spread of infection among, and through, the frontline workers.

About NDMA

—National Disaster Management Authority, abbreviated as NDMA, is an apex Body of Government of India, with a mandate to lay down policies for disaster management.

—NDMA was established through the Disaster Management Act enacted by the Government of India on 23 December 2005.

—NDMA is responsible for framing policies, laying down guidelines and best-practices for coordinating with the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) to ensure a holistic and distributed approach to disaster management.

—It is headed by the Prime Minister of India and can have up to nine other members. Since 2014, there have been four other members. There is a provision to have a Vice Chair-person if needed.

—NDMA has a vision to "build a safer and disaster resilient India by a holistic, pro-active, technology driven and sustainable development strategy that involves all stakeholders and fosters a culture of prevention, preparedness and mitigation."

—NDMA equips and trains other Government officials, institutions and the community in mitigation for and response during a crisis situation or a disaster. It works closely with the National Institute of Disaster Management for capacity building. It develops practices, delivers hands-on training and organizes drills for disaster management. It also equips and trains disaster management cells at the state and local levels.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-127-lakh-individuals-join-disaster-management-authority-as-volunteers/article31332581.ece


4.Law enforcers worried as Deep Nude makes a return

—Cybercrime agencies in Maharashtra and the country are currently tracking Deep Nude, a website that uses a simple Artificial Intelligence algorithm to generate nude pictures of clothed people. The website requires a user to upload any picture and within seconds generates a nude version of the subject of the picture, which are typically of women.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/law-enforcers-worried-as-deep-nude-makes-a-return/article31334415.ece