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Monthly DNA

29 Jan, 2021

75 Min Read

Vishakhapatnam: Best Performing Civic Body in Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Awards

GS-I : Art and Culture Awards & Honours

Vishakhapatnam: Best Performing Civic Body in Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Awards

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has selected Vishakhapatnam Municipal Corporation as the best-performing civic body.
  • Vishakhapatnam was placed under the Annual Awards for Excellence which recognises the outstanding contribution of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban in 2019.
  • Andhra Pradesh bagged a special category award in innovative construction technology and project monitoring tools.

Other Awards

  • Mirzapur won the best performing Municipal body.

Source: PIB

Stopping hate on Television is also essential for law and order: SC

GS-II : Governance Law and Order

Stopping hate on Television is also essential for law and order: SC

  • The Supreme Court said stopping hate on television was as essential for law and order as arming policemen with lathis and putting up barricades to prevent the spread of violence and riots.
  • Control over certain kind of news which agitate people to violence and riots is a law and order problem.
  • Preventing it is as powerful as putting up barricades. Preventing instigation is as important as providing lathis to policemen.
  • The CJI referred to how the government had shut down Internet facility on January 26 amid violence during the farmers’ tractor rally.
  • “You shut down the internet mobile facility because of the farmers’ visit to Delhi,” Chief Justice Bobde remarked.
  • The CJI said the court, by government control, did not mean to curb free speech on TV.

Source: TH

China and the New World Order

GS-II : International Relations New World Order

China and the New World Order

  • In 2017, China’s President Xi Jinping became the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of China to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos, a gathering synonymous with global capitalism.

World Economic Forum

  • WEF is a Swiss non profit foundation established in 1971 based in Geneva, Switzerland. Recognised by the Swiss authorities as the international institution for public-private cooperation.
  • It engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.
  • Founder and Executive Chairman – Klaus Schwab.

Reports of WEF:

  1. Global Competitiveness Report: Monitors on the set of 12 categories called 'pillars of competitiveness' institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business application and innovation.
  2. Global IT Report: by WEF along with INSEAD, and Cornell University. It examines the increasing proliferation of technology and its effects on advancing global prosperity.
  3. Global Gender Gap Report
  4. Global Risk Report: It enlists the threats which the world will face in future ranging from geopolitical and geo-economic tensions to environmental degradation and disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  5. Global Travel and Tourism Report: It measures set of factors and policies that enable sustainable development of travel and tourism sector.
  6. WEF Annual Meeting, 2019: Theme was Globalisation 4.0, which includes a strong cultural dimension.

  • He delivered a robust defence of globalisation, three days before newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump was set to be sworn in, and six months after the Brexit vote in the U.K. On January 25, Mr. Xi returned to the Davos platform, albeit virtually.
  • His speech carried many of the similar themes from four years ago, calling for global unity, closer coordination on macroeconomic policy, and more equitable growth.
  • It did also carry two messages that appeared to be aimed at Washington, a reflection of four turbulent years of a tariff and technology war between the world’s two biggest economies.
  • He hit out at attempts “to build small circles or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others, to wilfully impose decoupling, supply disruption or sanctions” and said a “misguided approach of antagonism and confrontation, be it in the form of cold war, hot war, trade war or tech war, would eventually hurt all countries’ interests.”
  • If Mr. Xi’s first Davos speech found a broadly receptive audience amid a crisis in capitalism, with the rise of populism in the West creating the space for China to try and fill a void in global economic leadership, China will find a harder sell four years on.
  • His message “to stay committed to international law and international rules instead of seeking one’s own supremacy” and for “the strong [to] not bully the weak” will appear especially jarring to those in China’s neighbourhood.
  • Indeed, only the day before the speech, military commanders from India and China spent over 16 hours in talks, the latest unsuccessful attempt to disengage two forces that have been eyeball-to-eyeball for months, after China’s unprecedented military mobilisation across the LAC starting in May.
  • It is not only India that is dealing with a harder Chinese military posture in the midst of a global pandemic.
  • On January 23, eight bombers and four fighters from China entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, the latest warning to Taipei.


  • One cannot find fault with Mr. Xi’s statement that “decisions should not be made by simply showing off strong muscles or waving a big fist”.
  • Indeed, its importance is in its relevance to all the big, militarised powers. And, China is one of them.

Source: TH

India China Ties: Way Forward

GS-II : International Relations China

India China Ties: Way Forward

  • Recognition of mutual respect, mutual sensitivities and mutual interests is key to repairing India-China relations, after what he called a year of “exceptional stress” in a relationship “profoundly disturbed” by the border crisis.

  • China’s actions last year had “not only signalled a disregard for commitments about minimising troop levels” but also “showed a willingness to breach the peace and tranquillity” on the border that had been the foundation for the relationship.
  • For all the differences and disagreements that we may have had on the boundary, the central fact was that border areas still remained fundamentally peaceful. The relationship is today truly at a crossroads and choices that are made will have profound repercussions, not just for the two nations but for the entire world.
  • Twenty Indian soldiers, and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers, lost their lives in a clash on June 15 last year in the Galwan Valley, following tensions that erupted in early May triggered by transgressions by China across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the massing of troops, and what India has described as a unilateral attempt to redraw the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in several areas in eastern Ladakh.
  • Even before the events of 2020, the relationship had reflected “a duality of cooperation and competition”. While both sides had made a common cause on development and economic issues and common membership of plurilateral groups was a meeting point, there were divergences when it came to interests and aspirations.
  • He cited as examples China’s issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir in 2010, a reluctance from China to deal with some of India’s military commands (Beijing had that same year refused to host the Northern Army Commander), China’s opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the UN Security Council as a permanent member, the blocking of UN listings of Pakistani terrorists, and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, violating India’s sovereignty in J&K.
  • Over the years, he said, there was no significant progress of arriving at a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC, while there was “increasing construction of border infrastructure, especially on the Chinese side.” India, he added, had made efforts to reduce the considerable infrastructure gap since 2014, including through greater budget commitments and road building.

The External Affairs Minister suggested “three mutuals” and “eight broad propositions” as a way forward for the relationship. “Mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests” were “determining factors”.

  • The first proposition, he said, was that agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and spirit.
  • Both sides also needed to strictly observe and respect the LAC, and any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo was completely unacceptable.
  • Peace and tranquillity in border areas was the basis for the development of the relationship in other domains. If that was disturbed, he said, the rest of the relationship would be too.
  • The fourth proposition, he said, was that while both remain committed to a multipolar world, they should recognise that a multipolar Asia was one of its essential constituents.
  • While each state had its interests, concerns and priorities, sensitivities to them could not be one-sided and relations were reciprocal in nature.
  • As rising powers, neither should ignore the other’s set of aspirations, he added.
  • While there “will always be divergence and differences”, their management is essential to ties, Mr. Jaishankar said.

Source: TH

USA Iran relations and JCPOA

GS-II : International Relations U.S.A

USA-Iran relations and JCPOA

  • On his first full day on the job, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the administration’s position that if Iran were to become compliant with the terms of the now defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or the “Iran deal”), the U.S. would re-enter it too. The Trump administration had pulled out of the deal in 2018.
  • “With regard to Iran, President Biden has been very clear in saying that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing and then we would use that as a platform to build, with our allies and partners, what we called a longer and stronger agreement and to deal with a number of other issues that are deeply problematic in the relationship with Iran,” Mr. Blinken told reporters during his first briefing as Secretary.
  • “But we are a long way from that point. Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts. And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance in time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations,” Mr. Blinken said.

For complete USA – Iran issues: click here

Source: TH

Analysis of COVID-19 situation in 2021

GS-III : Economic Issues Economic crisis

Analysis of COVID-19 situation in 2021

  • The course of the coronavirus pandemic in the new year presents a picture of contrasts, with some rich countries running out of vaccines, experiencing a tide of new cases and deaths, and poorer countries going without access to vaccination, while India reports a case decline.
  • Vaccine hesitancy may even be wasting precious vials in some States. Amidst suggestions that the worst is over, the Home Ministry has proposed further relaxations in the protocols for public activity from February, including occupancy levels in cinema theatres, holding of exhibitions and access to swimming pools.
  • This will come as a relief to some of the outlying sectors that could not fully unlock so far, although, as the Ministry points out, all other activities have been permitted.
  • The January 27 guidelines for Surveillance, Containment and Caution also create a window for further relaxation of international air travel, but the DGCA has decided to maintain the status quo on scheduled flights till February end.
  • Full-fledged inter-city rail services await a decision too.
  • In an economy struggling with a demand contraction for goods and services, a graded opening is the prudent course, with strict enforcement of public health measures.
  • It would be wrong to read the MHA’s unlock advisory, without taking cognisance of the protocols that must continue to be followed: use of face masks, healthy distancing, staggering of working hours, workplace sanitisation and firm action against spitting in public. These legal requirements, however, have been rendered moot in many instances by crowded election campaigns, agitations and gatherings. The many States are not even trying to persuade recalcitrant people in public.
  • India’s declining infections have prompted a further relaxation of activity curbs, but there is no cause to lower the vigil.
  • Genetic mutations of the coronavirus in South Africa, the U.K. and Brazil pose a new worry, with implications for those who have avoided infection so far or have recovered after a difficult battle.
  • Poor communication and lack of transparency on vaccine efficacy data have produced hesitancy, resulting in low uptake in some States.
  • On the other hand, the virus variants have turned the spotlight on second-generation vaccines that are expected to protect against them but will take time to arrive.
  • Without ready pharmaceutical remedies, citizens and policymakers have to fall back on the default toolkit of safe behaviour.
  • There will be considerable interest in new measures in Europe, where governments now require use of masks of N95 or FFP2 standards, to offer higher protection in public places and transport; Germany is to give these free to people over 60 and to vulnerable individuals.
  • In India, even with a sizeable population exposed to the virus, as seropositivity surveys show, the spate of infections in Kerala and Maharashtra underscores the value of the precautionary principle on the road to universal vaccination.

Source: TH

Analysis of the Whatsapp and its Monopoly

GS-III : Internal security Cyber Security

Analysis of the Whatsapp and its Monopoly

  • There are ongoing investigations worldwide, including in the European Union and the United States, on the abuse of monopolistic power by the Big Tech firms, especially Facebook and Google.
  • Many compare this with the earlier antitrust investigations in the U.S. on the telecom industry and the break-up of the AT&T dictated by the Department of Justice in its Modified Final Judgment in 1982.

What is different this time?

However, there are important differences this time around when compared with the earlier investigations.

  1. First, the information good that is being provided by the Internet firms of today, is largely non-rival. The consumption of information by one does not alter the value of others. However, in telecom, due to limited network capacity, the consumption by one has an effect of decreasing value for the others and, hence, is rival in nature.
  2. Second, telecom services are within the jurisdictional boundaries of regulators and, hence, the regulators have the power to lay down rules for the orderly behaviour of the licensed telecom operators. On the other hand, Internet firms operate globally, thanks to the ubiquitous Internet. Therefore, it is often difficult to lay down international rules of obligation and fulfilment by the different country regulators.
  3. Third, while it is debatable whether the goods and services provided by the Internet firms are excludable, telecom is certainly excludable due to the need for consumers to obtain connections from the respective telcos and pay the subscription charges for the same.
  4. It is this factor that was leveraged by the Internet firms to provide search, navigation, and social connectivity with no charge to the consumers, and, consequently, making these services non-excludable.
  5. In fact, the Internet, started as the Department of Defense project in the U.S., was created to be non-excludable.
  6. However, the commercialisation of the Internet has created this new avatar of non-excludability that includes subtle trade-offs of personal information for availing services of Internet firms.

Monetisation models

It must be pointed out that such non-excludable and non-rival goods, also known as public goods, are provided by governments. On the other hand, in a peculiar way, the information goods as described above are being provided by private firms. This arrangement poses several problems.

  1. First, while governments can cover the expense of providing public goods (such as police protection, parks and street lights) through tax-payers money, private firms need to have monetisation models to cover the costs of providing their services. Hence, the Internet firms have resorted to personalised advertisements and third-party sharing of the personal information of their users for monetisation purposes.
  2. Second, the strong network effects present in these Internet platforms warrant increasing the subscriber base and garnering as much market share as possible. This results in the near monopoly of some firms in their defined markets. In order to retain their pole position, these firms may resort to anti-competitive behaviour including acquiring rivals to vertically integrate; erecting entry barriers by refusing to interconnect and inter-operate with competing firms, and leveraging their capital base, thereby engaging in predatory pricing, and driving out competitors.

Indispensable applications

  • However, network effects create a huge consumer surplus. Even without our knowledge, these Internet firms have now become an indispensable part of our lives.
  • We cannot do without Google Maps for our day-to-day commute to various destinations; Google Searches are indispensable in our quest for information and news; Google Scholar is a necessary tool for academicians to explore relevant research artefacts.
  • There are positive externalities as well. For example, Google Maps Application Program Interface (APIs) is being used by almost all logistic and transport companies; Facebook APIs are used for advertisement by almost all firms across the industry. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, recently announced that its Search is being expanded to provide accurate and timely information on vaccine distribution to enable quick recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Hence, the question before policymakers is how to regulate these Internet firms from abusing their monopoly power while at the same time encouraging the positive externalities and consumer surplus they create.
  • This is a tough nut to crack as it is often very difficult to prove that the firms engage in the abuse of their monopoly power.
  • Due to strong network effects, it is not possible to ban or curtail these services. Even if other options are available (such as Signal and Telegram for messaging), the network effects bind customers to their often used platform (WhatsApp), even if it is not their favourite.

Possible solutions

A traditional view is to subsidise the good that creates positive externalities.

  • Should the governments provide tax subsidy to these Internet firms in return for their orderly behaviour in the marketplace?
  • Should the governments mandate sharing of Non-Personal Data (NPD) owned by these firms for societal and economic well-being as pointed out in the expert committee on NPD?
  • It is legitimate as pointed out by the Australian government in its media legislation, that Google and Facebook must negotiate a fair payment with news organisations for using their content in Facebook’s newsfeed and Google’s Search.
  • Controlled expansion of products and services without hurting the interests of consumers and smaller competing firms shall be the mantra used by these firms to minimise litigation, lawsuits and, eventually, wastage of tax-payers money.

The other way to control any abusive behaviour of Internet firms is to use the power of the public voice.

  • The million mails that were sent to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in March 2015, effectively put an end to the Free Basics programme of Facebook in India, thereby prohibiting any violation of Net Neutrality principles.
  • Similarly, the huge public outcry and subsequent government actions have delayed the recent changes to the privacy policy relating to the sharing of personal information between WhatsApp and its parent firm, Facebook.

While governments and regulators deal with these dilemmas, should not Internet firms adhere to core ethical principles in conducting their businesses?

  • Lessons from the Enron scandal, and collusions between large banks and financial institutions during the 2008 financial crisis, indicate that firms that aim at super monopoly profits and are greedy to become powerhouses of the world, often end up in the ditch.

Source: TH

Vaccines are safe for those who are on blood thinners: ICMR


Vaccines are safe for those who are on blood thinners: ICMR

  • Both COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in India — Covaxin and Covishield — are safe for people on blood thinners, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargav said on Thursday.
  • At a Health Ministry press conference, he said manufacturers of both the vaccines had approached the Drugs Controller-General of India (DCGI) for revision of this contraindication on their fact sheets.
  • “Relative contraindications regarding blood thinners have been mentioned in the fact sheets of both the vaccines and both the companies have written to the DCGI regarding revision of this. The revision will happen every soon. Blood thinners are of two categories — anti-platelets and anti-coagulants. For those on anti-platelets like aspirin, the vaccine causes no problem but for those on anti-coagulants, the tendency to bleed is much higher. This is also a relative contraindication and the anti-coagulant can be stopped a day or two before administering the vaccine,” Mr. Bhargav said
  • The Health Ministry added that it was engaging with private stakeholders to look at increasing the future coverage of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • “The Ministry is also actively working at reducing wastage of the vaccine by bringing in a more flexible digital platform and issuing an exhaustive guideline to States/UTs to manage waste below 10%,” Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

Source: TH

COVID-19 “performance index”


COVID-19 “performance index”

  • New Zealand and Vietnam were ranked the best performing countries in their response to the pandemic, according to a COVID-19 “performance index” put together by the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank, which sought to assess the impact of geography, political systems and economic development in assessing outcomes.
  • The index, which was based on six different indicators, including confirmed cases and deaths per million people and the scale of testing, sought “to gauge the relative performance of countries”, assessing 98 countries in the 36 weeks that followed their hundredth case.
  • “Fewer reported cases and deaths, both in aggregate and per capita terms, point towards a better response to the virus,” the Sydney-based think tank said.
  • “More tests conducted on a per capita basis reveal a more accurate picture of the extent of the pandemic at the national level. Lower rates of positive tests, meanwhile, indicate greater degrees of control over the transmission of COVID-19.”
  • India ranked 86 out of 98 countries, while the U.S. stood at 94 and Brazil at the bottom of the index. Taiwan, Thailand and Cyprus were in the top five. Sri Lanka was the best faring nation in South Asia, ranking 10, while the Maldives was at 25, Pakistan at 69, Nepal at 70, and Bangladesh at 84.
  • The think tank said China was not included “due to a lack of publicly available data on testing”.
  • Assessing regional responses, the institute found that although the outbreak began in China, the Asia-Pacific region fared the best, while Europe and the U.S. were initially overwhelmed. Europe, however, “registered the greatest improvement over time of any region” before succumbing to a second wave, which it attributed to more open borders.
  • Population size was one factor. Smaller countries with fewer than 10 million people “consistently outperformed their larger counterparts throughout 2020”.
  • The level of economic development and regime-type were less significant than expected, which it attributed to “the relatively ‘low-tech’ nature of the health measures used to mitigate the spread of the virus” which “may have created a more level playing field between developed and developing countries”. “In general, countries with smaller populations, cohesive societies, and capable institutions have a comparative advantage in dealing with a global crisis such as a pandemic,” the think tank concluded.

Source: TH

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