IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


23rd March, 2020


Coronavirus | 80 districts in lockdown to contain virus spread
Government actions:

-       All train, metro and inter-State transport services across the country were suspended on Sunday until March 31.

-       Unprecedented restrictions were imposed in 80 districts across 17 States and 5 Union Territories affected by the pandemic. 

-       Allowed only essential services to operate in districts with confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

-       All these measures were temporary in nature but “vital to break” the chain of transmission of the pandemic. 

-       The Railways announced suspension of all passenger services until March 31, including all suburban train services. Only goods trains will run during the period.

-       The nature of “essential services” would be decided by the individual States.

-       State governments could request industries / establishments allow their staff to work from home and “provide remuneration to them during this period”. 

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-india-locks-down-80-districts-to-contain-virus-spread/article31134567.ece

Not an unfettered right


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, filed an application seeking to intervene as amicus curiae in the pending litigation in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, (CAA) 2019. 

About the litigation:

-       This is a voluntary application rather than at the invitation of the Supreme Court.

-       It accepts that India is a state party and signatory to various international conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights which contain important non-discrimination clauses, including on the ground of religion. 

-       India is obliged, under international law to ensure that migrants in its territory or under its jurisdiction receive equal and non-discriminatory treatment regardless of their legal status.

Impact of litigation:

-       The intervention may enable the Supreme Court to read in public international law principles in determining the constitutionality of CAA.

-       This intervention, if permitted it would serve as a precedent for a number of future applications. 

Concept of Sovereignty:

-       International court of justice defines it as capacity to exercise, to the exclusion of other states, state functions on or related to that territory and includes the capacity to make binding commitments under international law.

-       It states, “Such sovereignty is exercisable by the governmental institutions established within the state”.

-       Indian constitution has resolved to constitute Indian Republic into a sovereign and not just any one authority. 

-       As such, the courts (judiciary), the government (executive) and elected legislatures (legislature) are equally sovereign authorities. No one can claim exclusivity over sovereignty.

Challenges to Sovereignty

-       But, according to international law national political authorities are responsible to the citizens internally and to the international community through the UN.

-       It is subject to constraints including the responsibility to protect its citizenry and the larger international community.

-       Furthermore, Article 14 extends the right to equality to all persons, which is wider than the definition of citizens.

-       Even illegal immigrants shall, consequently be treated by the government in a manner that ensures equal protection of Indian laws. 

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/not-an-unfettered-right/article31138687.ece


A range of factors are at play behind Italy’s coronavirus disaster

Factors behind failures of Italy:

-       The median age of the overall population was 45.4 last year — greater than anywhere else in Europe.

-       The only thing that makes Italy different is that the first couple of (locally-transmitted) cases arrived in Italy about 10 days before they arrived in Germany, the United States or Canada.

-       Diseases start spreading much faster once the healthcare system reaches its saturation point.

-       The world has suddenly realized that it does not have enough test kits to screen for COVID-19.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/covid-19-a-range-of-reasons-are-at-play-behind-italys-coronavirus-disaster/article31131044.ece

Lessons from Italy for the COVID-19-wracked world

Italy now has more than 53,000 recorded infections and more than 4,800 dead, and the rate of increase keeps growing, with more than half the cases and fatalities coming in the past week.

Poor response by Italy:

-       Despite currently having some of the toughest measures in the world, Italian authorities made some mistakes during the early stages of the epidemic, when it mattered the most.

-       In its efforts to preserve basic civil liberties as well as the economy, Italy resorted to piecemeal attempts to impose social distancing. It went in for a gradual lockdown by isolating towns first, then regions, then shutting down the country.

-       This gradual lockdown provided sufficient time for the epidemic to reach its third stage of community transmission.

-       Despite the lockdown in place, the Italian government failed to communicate the threat powerfully enough to persuade Italians to abide by the lockdown rules, which itself had many loopholes.

-       In the critical early days of the outbreak, top officials sought to downplay the threat, creating confusion and a false sense of security that allowed the virus to spread.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-international/lessons-from-italy-for-the-covid-19-wracked-world/article31138701.ece

Can China’s model work for the West?

China has reported only one new local infection over the past four days, which marks a remarkable success in the country’s effort to contain the initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan.

Chinese Steps to contain the virus:

-       China shut down Wuhan and placed its 11 million residents in effective quarantine and similar moves were replicated in the rest of Hubei province, putting 50 million people in mass isolation.

-       Neighborhood committees policed people’s movement, ensuring strict compliance of social distancing regulations. 

-       Necessary to wear a mask as apartment blocks, businesses and even parks barred entry without one.

-       Citizens are required to show a QR code on their phone that rates them as “green”, “yellow” or “red”, based on tracking of whether they visited a high-risk zone.

-       The state authorities were able to enforce stricter regulations without concerns over infringement of civil or privacy rights.

-       Produced up to 1.6 million N95 respirator masks per day.

-       Installed temperature checkpoints at public buildings, shops and other public places helped boost detection rates.

Concern with Chinese steps:

-       Given the particular features of Chinese state there are doubts whether China’s strategy can be followed successfully by other countries, particularly Western liberal democracies in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-international/can-chinas-model-work-for-the-west/article31138697.ece


Air quality is picking up in quarantined countries

Improvement of Air Quality:

-       The concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) fell dramatically in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, passing from an indicator that was red/orange to blue.

-       NO2 is mainly produced by vehicles, industrial sites and thermal power stations.

-       NO2 is a short-lived pollutant, with a lifetime in the atmosphere of about one day.

-       This pollutant stays near the emissions sources and can be used as a proxy of the intensity of activity in different sectors.

-       In northern Italy, “average NO2 concentration levels have been almost halved on average.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/air-quality-is-picking-up-in-quarantined-countries/article31138668.ece

Wild berry gets a new cousin in Assam, but the ‘Great Hedge of India’ faces threat

-       A new study has revealed that wild species in Assam (Carissa kopilii) is related to the multi-utility wild berry (Carissa carandas).

-       The Carissa kopilii is named after the river Kopili in central Assam.

-       The Carissa carandas was also among several thorny plants the British had grown 140 years ago for a 1,100-mile barrier apparently to enforce taxes and stop the smuggling of salt. 

-       Carissa carandas is known as karonda in Hindi, kalakkai in Tamil, koromcha in Bengali and karjatenga in Assamese.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/wild-berry-gets-a-new-cousin-in-assam-but-the-great-hedge-of-india-faces-threat/article31138667.ece

After 7 years, olive ridleys go for daytime nesting in Ganjam

Mass nesting of olive ridley turtles was witnessed during the daytime along the Rushikulya rookery coast in Odisha’s Ganjam district.

About Olive Ridleys:

-       The name for this sea turtle is tied to the colour of its shell—an olive green hue.

-       They are currently the most abundant of all sea turtles.

-       Their vulnerable status comes from the fact that they nest in a very small number of places, and therefore any disturbance to even one nest beach could have huge repercussions on the entire population.

Mass nesting of turtles:

-       Orissa State, in the north east of India, hosts one of the world's major annual mass-nesting events of marine turtles.

-       Hundreds of thousands of olive ridley turtles come ashore to nest each year in a spectacular "arribada" (mass arrival).

About Garihmatha Marine Sanctuary:

-       Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary is the biggest breeding home of the sea turtles.

-       Gahirmatha is located in Orissa’s Kendrapara District.

-       Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is world famous for Olive Ridley sea turtles.

-       The entrance of the River Dhamra is truly the breeding place of the olive Ridley sea turtles. It has been confirmed as a world heritage site.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/olive-ridleys-go-for-daytime-nesting-after-7-years-in-ganjam/article31138673.ece


The perils of an all-out lockdown

As the novel coronavirus spreads, a double crisis looms over India: a health crisis and an economic crisis. 

Economic crisis:

-       It is not class-neutral, but hurts poor people the most.

-       Migrant workers, street vendors, contract workers, almost everyone in the informal sector is being hit by this economic tsunami. 

-       It is spreading fast to other States as factories, shops, offices and worksites close with little hope of an early return to normalcy. 

Dealing with economic crisis:

-       First step is to make good use of existing social-security schemes to support poor people — pensions, the Public Distribution System (PDS), midday meals, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), among others.

-       Advance payment of pensions

-       Enhanced PDS rations

-       Immediate payment of MGNREGA wage arrears

-       Expanded distribution of take-home rations at schools and anganwadis. 

-       Avoid squandering government resources on corporate bailouts: most crisis-affected sectors of the economy will soon be lobbying for rescue packages.

-       Self-protection of public employees is not a major issue (for the time being), the main consideration is public purpose.  Keeping public services going in this situation is likely to require some initiative and creativity. 

-       Re invention of some public services: anganwadis could play a vital role of public-health outreach at this time, even if children have to be kept away.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/the-perils-of-an-all-out-lockdown/article31138684.ece