GS Paper III
Context: The Punjab authorities shut down mobile internet and SMS services earlier this month while launching an operation to detain a pro-Khalistani preacher for more than four days. India has the biggest amount of internet shutdowns worldwide, therefore this is not an unusual incidence there.
Internet shutdowns in the world:
- The amount of internet outages in India is the greatest worldwide.
- Throughout the majority of Europe, North and South America, and Oceania, such shutdowns are seldom or almost ever performed, but they are common in Africa and Asia.
State-wise Instances of Internet Shutdowns:
- Punjab: Only in Punjab, the Software Freedom Law Center has documented eight such shutdowns.
- Southern states: On the other hand, just six of these outages were recorded in southern states over the same time period, with Kerala experiencing none of them.
- The biggest number of internet outages in India have been reported in the northern states of Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
Absence of Centralised Data:
- Lack of data: Despite the Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology’s strong recommendation, the Central government does not compile information on internet shutdowns ordered by state governments.
- Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology: The Committee strongly opposed the use of internet shutdowns as a stand-in for maintaining law and order and demanded that every internet shutdown include a note of the reason(s), the duration, the decision of the competent authority and the review committees, and that the information be made public.
Need for Internet Shutdowns:
- Civil unrest: The Internet is a means for the transfer of information through images, videos, and text that may worsen the law and order situation and lead to civil disturbance.
- Shutdowns to stop communication among activists or to impede the flow of information regarding government operations and stop the spread of rumours and fake news.
- Shutdown aids in preventing “the dissemination of rumours and false information through social media platforms which might undermine peace and law and order.”
- Turning off the Internet is a preventive and early measure to stop unruly organisations from planning disturbances against the government.
- National Interest: National sovereignty cannot be separated from the Internet. As a result, based on their own national interests, sovereign nations are justified in choosing to regulate the internet.
Costs of Internet Shutdowns:
- Education: Because students and instructors are unable to access internet resources, shutdowns have an influence on education as well. This may disrupt the educational process and have a detrimental effect on student achievement.
- Economy: Internet-dependent businesses may experience large financial losses during closures. For online merchants, e-commerce platforms, and other digital service providers, this is especially true.
- Health: Telemedicine and the dissemination of health information are made possible via the internet. People may find it challenging to get important health information or receive medical care while systems are down.
- Communication: Internet outages significantly restrict people’s capacity to connect with one another, both locally and globally. This might make it difficult to maintain contact with friends and family, organise protests, or engage in other types of social and political engagement.
- Human rights: Internet closures infringe on people’s rights to information access and freedom of speech. They may also make it more difficult for journalists and activists to report on violations of human rights.
- Shutdowns can be used in politics to stifle dissent and crush political opposition. This is especially true when there is political upheaval or an election, since the government may want to control the dissemination of information that might be used against them.
Internet outages in India are an increasing worry, having a big impact on the economy, healthcare, and education. Yet, there is no system in place for the government to evaluate the socioeconomic effects of internet outages. When maintaining peace and order, it’s crucial to keep in mind the proportionality principle and the economical effects of such shutdowns.
Source: The Hindu
GS Paper II
Context: The faltering economy of Sri Lanka will get a $3 billion bailout, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said last week. Pakistan, however, did not get any money. Most often in the form of a currency crisis, severe macroeconomic risks force countries to seek assistance from the IMF.
What is an IMF Bailout?
- An IMF bailout, sometimes referred to as an IMF programme, is a credit package given to financially struggling nations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- These loan packages come with certain requirements that the borrower nation must fulfil in order to get the monies.
- A nation must normally fulfil a set of requirements in order to be eligible for the loan package.
- These prerequisites, usually referred to as “conditionalities,” frequently involve actions that support budgetary restraint, monetary stability, and structural changes to raise the nation’s economic competitiveness.
- IMF programmes are frequently considered a last choice for nations experiencing financial crises and are only approved if a nation is unable to access credit markets independently. Programs from the IMF can be divided into three categories:
- Stand-by Agreements: These are short-term financing schemes created to offer financial support to nations dealing with immediate balance of payments issues. These initiatives, which normally span one to two years, demand that nations execute particular macroeconomic measures in order to stabilise their economies.
- Extended Fund Facility: These programmes are medium-term loan initiatives created to assist nations experiencing balance of payments issues brought on by structural problems. These initiatives often have longer terms and more stringent policy requirements, which need more major structural changes to the nation’s economy.
- Rapid Finance Instrument: This is a loan mechanism created to help nations with immediate balance of payments needs. With fewer requirements and a quicker application procedure than other IMF programmes, this one is intended to be more flexible.
Why do countries seek IMF bailouts?
- Countries need IMF bailouts when their economies are exposed to significant macroeconomic risks, such as a currency crisis, as a result of the central bank’s flagrant mismanagement of the country’s currency while operating under the cover of the in power.
- Such currency crises result in a sharp increase in the total amount of money in circulation, which drives up prices across the economy and decreases the currency’s exchange value.
- A crisis in a nation like Sri Lanka can also be attributed to unlucky events like a decline in international tourists.
Benefits provided by IMF bailout:
- Countries in financial trouble can benefit from IMF initiatives in a number of ways. For illustration:
- Availability to finance: A country undergoing a financial crisis can pay its immediate financial commitments thanks to an IMF bailout, which offers prompt financing.
- Push for credibility: A bailout can give foreign investors confidence in a nation’s economic policies by showing that it is making the required preparations to revive its economy.
- Help with structural reforms: As part of their IMF plans, nations are required to carry out structural changes that can assist address the underlying issues that contributed to the financial crisis and enhance their long-term prospects for economic growth.
Limitations of an IMF bailout:
- IMF programmes frequently demand that nations embrace rigorous economic policies, which can be difficult to implement and unpopular.
- Resources: The IMF has a restricted budget, which may limit the amount of aid it can give to developing nations.
- Bailouts can stigmatise a nation in the eyes of foreign investors by indicating that it is unable to manage its own economy without help from other sources.
Source: The Hindu
GS Paper III
Context: The decision to shrink the Disturbed Areas in Nagaland, Assam, and Manipur under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was recently made public by the Home Minister.
Reason for the decision:
- The “substantial improvement in the security situation in Northeast India” was the reason the decision was made.
- The majority of extremist organisations have put down their weapons as a consequence of the implementation of many peace agreements in the area.
- From 2014, the MHA reported a 76% drop in extremist occurrences, a 90% drop in security officer fatalities, and a 97% drop in civilian fatalities.
What is Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958?
- Simply expressed, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act empowers the armed forces to uphold public order in “disturbed regions.”
- Armed forces are permitted by the AFSPA to use force or even open fire after giving proper notice if they believe someone is breaking the law.
- In accordance with the Act, the armed forces may also detain a person without a warrant, enter a building without a search warrant, and forbid the possession of guns if “due suspicion exists.”
- The AFSPA, 1958 was put into effect during the North-Eastern States rebellion decades ago.
- The Army, Air Force, Central Paramilitary Forces, and other armed forces are given “special power” under this law.
- The question of whether the “special powers” conferred by AFSPA offer the armed forces complete immunity for any action committed by them has been hotly debated for a long time.
What are the Special Powers?
- The ability to use force, including opening fire and even killing someone if there are prohibitory orders prohibiting gatherings of five or more people, carrying weapons, etc. in the disturbed area;
- Ability to destroy buildings that are being utilised as hiding places, training grounds, or as a base of operations for attacks, etc.;
- the ability to make arrests without a warrant and to use physical force to do so;
- The ability to enter and search a location without a warrant, which might be used to make an arrest or retrieve hostages, weapons and ammunition, stolen goods, etc.
Who can declare/notify such areas?
The entire State or Union Territory may be declared to be a disturbed region by the Central Government, the Governor of the State, or the administrator of the Union Territory.
Issues with AFSPA:
- Killing power: Section 4 of the Act gave officials the freedom to “take any action,” even if it resulted in death.
- Misconduct by the Military Forces: The Committee on Changes to Criminal Law, also known as the Justice Verma Committee and established in 2012, looked at the subject of human rights violations caused by the activities of the armed forces. It was noted that women’s legal protection was disregarded in conflict zones.
- Autocracy: The truth is that there is no proof that any officer of the armed forces or paramilitary forces has been punished for their actions.
Recommendations to repeal AFSPA:
- The AFSPA should be repealed, according to the Judge B.P. Jeevan Reddy Commission, which was established in 2004 but whose findings have never been made public by the government.
- ARC II: The Administrative Reforms Commission had also advocated for the abolition of AFSPA in its Fifth Report on “Public Order.”
Voices for repeal:
- Human rights violations: The AFSPA must be repealed in order to acknowledge the sad history of our behaviour in Nagaland as well as to restore constitutional sanity.
- Need to protect individual dignity: If the Indian Constitution’s protections for person dignity are not expanded, Nagaland’s political integration (as well as the political integration of all other territories to which this provision applies) would suffer.
- Not a “state of exception”: We frequently refer to AFSPA as a “state of exception.” Yet, this theoretical concept is inaccurate. How is a statute that has existed almost continuously since 1958 considered a “exception”?
- Absence of empathy in people: A severe mutilation of human empathy is at the core of AFSPA.
- The administration must stay away from the pitfall of diluted peace deals if it wants to establish long-lasting peace in the North East.
- Although the decision to remove AFSPA is positive, it has to be repealed gradually.
- Changes in the circumstances on the ground would be essential for that. Simple drumming or smoke signals will never be effective.
Source: Indian Express
Interest Rate Risks
GS Paper III
Context: At a review of the performance of public sector banks (PSBs), the finance minister asked banks to stay cautious about “interest rate risks” and conduct routine stress testing. Concerns about the spread of the financial problems in the US and Europe as a result of inflation-driven increasing interest rates throughout the world have been raised.
What is Interest Rate Risk?
- Interest rate risk is the chance that a loss might occur as a result of an interest rate change.
- If the rate increases, the value of a bond or another fixed-income asset would decline.
- The market value of fixed-income assets and interest rate movement often follow opposite trends.
- In general, as interest rates increase, the values of currently issued fixed income instruments decline, and when they fall, the values increase.
How does it affect banks?
Interest rate risk affects banks in several ways-
- Interest yields: By providing loans to borrowers at a rate that is higher than the cost of obtaining those funds, banks generate interest revenue. Banks’ cost of borrowing money rises in response to an increase in interest rates, which reduces their net interest margins (NIMs) and profitability.
- Bond yield: Banks’ portfolios also contain a sizable amount of fixed-income assets, including corporate, government, and mortgage-backed securities. Changes in interest rates may have an impact on the fixed interest income that these assets produce. As interest rates increase, banks’ holdings of fixed-income securities lose value, which might result in a decline in the value of their investment portfolio.
- Bank obligations, like deposits, frequently have short maturities, but their assets, like loans, typically have longer maturities. While the income generated on longer-term assets remains unchanged as interest rates rise, the cost of financing short-term commitments also rises. The cash flows and profitability of banks may suffer as a result.
Why do banks resort to interest rate increases?
- Banks resort to interest rate increases for several reasons-
- To combat inflation, the central bank may raise interest rates in order to deter borrowing and spending, which will slow down the economy and lessen inflationary pressures. This strategy is used when prices are rising quickly in the economy.
- Banks may raise interest rates to entice more deposits from savers, which enables them to increase lending and boost profits.
- Risk mitigation: In reaction to shifts in the world financial market or to safeguard their own financial stability in the face of prospective risks or shocks, banks may also increase interest rates.
Source: Indian Express
GS Paper II
Context: The Tamil Nadu public health model has been successful in raising healthcare quality while preserving healthcare delivery equity. However, the public healthcare system has benefited from and suffered from the shift in healthcare financing to insurance companies.
The key features of the Tamil Nadu public health model:
- Primary Healthcare: Being the initial point of contact for individuals seeking medical assistance, primary healthcare is strongly emphasised in the Tamil Nadu public health model. Primary healthcare facilities offer preventative care and basic healthcare services, both of which are essential for lowering the burden of disease.
- The state’s public health infrastructure is well-established and consists of a network of basic healthcare facilities, secondary and tertiary care hospitals, and medical schools. The state government has also made investments in the infrastructure needed for health care, including as sewage systems, water supplies, and waste disposal.
- Health Insurance: The Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme (CMCHIS), a comprehensive health insurance programme put in place by the Tamil Nadu government, offers low-income and underprivileged households free medical treatment.
- The state government has placed a strong emphasis on strengthening human resources in the medical field. To teach medical personnel, it has established several nursing and paramedical institutes.
- Health Awareness: To inform the public about health concerns, such as communicable and non-communicable illnesses, the Tamil Nadu government has undertaken a number of health awareness initiatives. In order to encourage healthy lifestyle choices including a balanced diet and frequent exercise, the government has also started initiatives.
- Collaboration with NGOs: To put different health programmes into action, the government has cooperated with NGOs. These collaborations have aided in the efficient provision of healthcare services in the state’s outlying and rural regions.
- Innovations: Tamil Nadu has put into practise a number of cutting-edge healthcare strategies, such telemedicine, which allows patients to obtain medical advice and treatment from a distance utilising technology. In order to provide healthcare services to those who live in rural locations, the state has also constructed mobile clinics.
Benefits of Decentralization:
- Access to healthcare services can be made easier because to decentralisation, especially in rural or isolated locations. Services can be customised to meet the unique needs of the population by giving local communities and healthcare providers the power to decide how to deliver healthcare.
- Improved treatment: By allowing healthcare practitioners to react more promptly and successfully to their patients’ needs, decentralisation can improve the quality of care. Also, it can encourage experimentation and innovation in the provision of healthcare, resulting in fresh and better methods for treating patients.
- Enhanced accountability: By enabling local communities and healthcare providers to oversee and assess the quality of care, decentralisation can enhance accountability in the delivery of healthcare services. This can aid in locating and fixing issues with the delivery of healthcare, improving patient outcomes.
- Cost savings: By lowering the administrative expenses linked to centralised decision-making and administration, decentralisation can result in cost savings in the delivery of healthcare. Moreover, it may encourage improved healthcare delivery efficiency, resulting in less wastage and duplication of effort.
Insurance Funding in healthcare:
- The term “insurance funding” in the context of healthcare refers to the utilisation of insurance financing methods. In order to pay for healthcare services, this entails pooling financial resources from people or groups through insurance plans.
- Insurance money may aid in reducing the financial risks connected to healthcare and guarantee that people have access to the care they require without having to pay exorbitant prices.
Drawbacks of Insurance Funding:
- Focus moved: As a result of talks with insurance companies and the focus on indemnification, hospitals’ attention has switched from providing care to recouping costs.
- Service quality has been compromised as a result of the hiring of contract workers with low pay, which has led to a pay gap between permanent employees who earn high salaries and temporary employees who earn low salaries.
Notwithstanding the advantages of insurance payment, there are drawbacks as well, such as a decline in compassion among medical personnel and a shift in funding from public to private institutions. To ensure the continued success of Tamil Nadu’s public healthcare system, a balance between decentralisation, insurance financing, and the preservation of the core values of fairness, compassion, and excellence in treatment must be struck.
Source: Indian Express
Facts for Prelims
International Monetary Fund (IMF):
- The IMF is a global institution that offers its member nations loans, technical support, and policy recommendations.
- With the intention of encouraging global monetary cooperation and exchange rate stability, supporting balanced economic growth, and eliminating poverty worldwide, it was founded in 1944.
- Washington, D.C., serves as the organization’s headquarters, and it has 190 member nations.
- Its primary duty is to give financial aid to nations who are experiencing economic hardships such balance of payments issues, currency crises, and excessive levels of debt.
- In order to assist nations in strengthening their economic institutions and policies and to support economic development and stability, it also offers technical assistance and policy recommendations.
- The Board of Governors, which oversees the IMF, is made up of one governor and one alternate governor from each member nation.
- The IMF’s Executive Board, which is in charge of making decisions about financial assistance and policy recommendations, oversees the organization’s daily activities.
- In order to ensure that plastics that escape waste streams are handled and broken down effectively, biotransformation technology has been developed.
- In London, United Kingdom, Polymateria and Imperial College collaborated to create the technology.
- The quality of the plastics produced using this technique is maintained for a predetermined period of time during which they seem and feel like traditional plastics.
- When a product reaches its expiration date and is exposed to the outside environment, it self-destructs and biotransforms into bioavailable wax. Microorganisms then eat this wax, turning the waste into water, CO2, and biomass.
- The method assures that polyolefins entirely decompose in an open environment without producing any microplastics, making it the first of its kind in the world.
- The two main businesses that may employ this technology to cut waste are those that package food and those that provide healthcare.
- Compared to standard plastic that does not include this technology, the price increase is rather little.
- These technologies are used by a few well-known Indian companies in the food and packaging sectors.
- This technology offers biodegradable options for non-woven hygienic items including diapers, sanitary pads, face pads, and so on in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
- The primary use of the medication bedaquiline is to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
- Given the few and sometimes inefficient treatment options available for this illness, MDR-TB poses a severe danger to public health, particularly in nations with high TB prevalence.
- It was created by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Bedaquiline.
- It is an antibiotic that prevents the TB bacteria from producing energy by blocking the key enzyme ATP synthase.
- Usually, bedaquiline is given over a six-month period along with other medications.