Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Current Affairs 01st June-2021

Topics

  • Olympics
  • Mali Coup
  • Vitamin D
  • National Human Rights Commission [NHRC]
  • Supreme Court and Sedition

 

 

  1. Olympics

Context: Scientists and experts demands cancellation of Olympics as fourth wave of Covid continues to ravage Japan.

Key points:

  • Japan is in state of emergency, with daily cases at 120 per 100,000 people while just 5.23 per cent of the population is vaccinated.
  • Around 80% of the Japanese people have called for the July event to be cancelled or postponed.
  • Cities that were supposed to host foreign teams are slowly pulling out. And the Japanese government seems divided on the road ahead.
  • Many Sports persons including Japan’s own Naomi Osaka is in favour of postponing the event.
  • Since 1896, the Games have been cancelled only six times, mostly due to wars.
  • In 2020, the Olympics got postponed due to a pandemic.
  • The medical organisation, which represents about 6,000 primary care doctors, posted an open letter to PM Yoshihide Suga on its website saying that it would “strongly request” the authorities to arrange a cancellation.
  • Despite mounting criticism and protests, John Coates, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, has promised that the Games would “absolutely” go ahead, even under Covid restrictions.

Why has the fourth wave hit Japan so badly?

  • Mutant Virus: Highly infectious strains of virus caused a spike in new cases. The western region has been particularly hard hit and has become the epicentre of cases caused by a variant first identified in Britain that is more infectious and causes more serious conditions.
  • Strain on Health Infrastructure: Hospital resources are stretched to the verge of collapse. Compared to the number of infections, the number of beds for severe cases is very limited in Japan.
  • Slow Vaccination: Japan’s vaccine rollout has been among the slowest in the industrialised world, with only 2.6 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. It started inoculating people only in February, much later than other developed nations.
  • Small Target group: Also, it is only this week that the government started mass vaccination campaigns in Tokyo and Osaka. But the government’s current goals call for only those over 65 to be fully vaccinated by the end of July, when the Summer Games are slated to begin.
  • Multiple Hurdles to Vaccination: However, the progress is considerably slow owing to supply shortages and logistical hurdles, such as getting enough local doctors to help out. There has also been considerable confusion over how to secure slots. Many across the country have complained about errors while booking their slots for the new mass vaccination centres run by the government

About Tokyo Olympics 2020:

  • The 2020 summer Olympics is an international sports event which will be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021, in the city of Tokyo, Japan.
  • Theme of Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics is ‘United by Emotion’. The theme reflects the unifying power of sports, as per the organisers.
  • The name of the 2020 Summer Olympics Mascot is Miraitowa. It is derived from the Japanese words Mirai (future) and Towa (eternity). The mascot embodies both the old and the new, echoing the concept of “innovation from harmony”. The Mascot was created by Ryo Taniguchi.
  • Someity, is the mascot for 2020 Paralympic Tokyo.
  • Tokyo has hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1964 thereby becoming the first Asian city to host Summer Olympics twice.
  • The 2020 Games will see the introduction of new competitions including 3×3 basketball, freestyle BMX, and madison cycling, as well as further mixed events.
  • Under new IOC policies, which allow the host organizing committee to add new sports to the Olympic program to augment the permanent core events, these Games will see karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding make their Olympic debuts, as well as the return of baseball and softball for the first time since 2008.
  • Economic Cost: Tokyo is spending $12.6 billion to host the Games and a postponement could cost it $6 billion as the short-term period loss.
  • It will also be a bitter blow to sponsors and major broadcasters who rely on this four-yearly event for critical advertising revenue.

International Olympic Committee (IOC):

  • It was created on 23 June 1894 and is the supreme authority of the Olympic Movement.
  • It is a not-for-profit independent international organisation that is committed to building a better world through sport.
  • It ensures the regular celebration of the Olympic Games, supports all affiliated member organisations and strongly encourages, by appropriate means, the promotion of the Olympic values.

Pattern of Olympics Games:

  • The Olympics have been held every four years since 1948.
  • The honour of holding the Olympic Games is entrusted to a city, not to a country. The choice of the city lies solely with the IOC.
  • Thus , the application to hold the Games is made by the chief authority of the city, with the support of the national government.

 

  1. Mali Coup

Context: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is attempting to mediate to solve the crisis in Mali.

Background:

  • Since 1960, when Mali gained independence from France, there have been five coups — and only one peaceful transition from one democratically elected president to another.
  • After a previous military coup in 2012, Islamist rebels, some with ties to al Qaeda, took advantage of the disarray to seize control of large areas of the country’s north, including the ancient city of Timbuktu.
  • Under their brutal rule, Malians in those areas under jihadist control were forced to follow a strict religious code or risk severe punishment. Women were forced into marriage, and historical sites were demolished.
  • The rebels lost control of their territories after French forces intervened to help the Malian military drive them out.
  • But armed groups continue to terrorize civilians in the countryside, and the violence has metastasized across borders into the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger.
  • More than 10,000 West Africans have died, more than 1 million have fled their homes and military forces from West Africa and France have suffered many losses.

Recent coup:

Nine months ago, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was overthrown in the wake of mass anti-government protests.

  • Last week, the announcement of a new cabinet was made that excluded two key military leaders. Following this, the army has detained the President and the Prime Minister.
  • Mali’s constitutional court has named the colonel Assimi Goit who led a military coup this week as the country’s new interim leader.

Military Coup:

  • It calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People and has pledged to stabilise the country by enacting a political transition and stage elections within a reasonable time.
  • It has imposed a curfew and closed the borders sealing the country.
  • It would respect all the past agreements, including Mali’s support for anti-jihadist missions in the region and its commitment to the Algiers process which is a 2015 peace agreement between the Malian government and armed groups in the north of the country.
  • It held that United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), France’s Barkhane force, the G5 Sahel (Institutional framework of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), Takuba (a European special-forces initiative) will remain Mali’s partners.

Reasons:

  • Arab Spring: After the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya in 2011, hundreds of heavily armed Malian rebels who had fought for the Libyan leader returned home and attacked northern towns, creating the chaos that preceded the military takeover.
  • Political crisis that grew out of the disputed legislative elections of March 2020.
  • Economic crisis due to economic stagnation, corruption and further complications by the Covid-19 pandemic. There was dissatisfaction among the troops due to poor payments.
  • Security crisis due to the failure to contain terrorism and jihadists and the actions of the military against civilians.

Implications:

  • The effects of the turmoil could spill beyond the borders of Mali, a country whose strategic location has geopolitical implications for West Africa, the Sahel, the broader Arab world, the European Union and the United States.
  • France has remained deeply involved in the affairs of Mali, its former colony, decades after the country gained independence.
  • Armed groups continue to terrorize civilians in the countryside, and the violence has metastasized across borders into the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger.

International Reaction:

  • ECOWAS suspends Mali over second coup in nine months and call for a return to democracy, but it did not impose any new sanctions.
  • France has urged Mali to return to civilian rule, it has several thousand troops based in Mali fighting Islamist militant groups.
  • The African Union had already suspended Mali on the account that military coups were something of the past and cannot be accepted in present times.
  • The UN’s Security Council has demanded the immediate release of all government officials and the restoration of constitutional order.

ECOWAS:

  • It is a regional political and economic union of fifteen countries located in West Africa.
  • Established in 1975, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos.
  • The goal of ECOWAS is to achieve “collective self-sufficiency” for its member states by creating a single large trade bloc by building a full economic and trading union.
  • It also serves as a peacekeeping force in the region.
  • Considered one of the pillar regional blocs of the continent-wide African Economic Community (AEC).

ECOWAS includes two sub-regional blocs:

  • The West African Economic and Monetary Union is an organisation of eight, mainly French-speaking states.
  • The West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), established in 2000, comprises six mainly English-speaking countries.

About Mali:

  • Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. Its capital is Bamako.
  • Mali borders Algeria to the north-northeast, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso to the south-east, Ivory Coast to the south, Guinea to the south-west, and Senegal to the west and Mauritania to the north-west.
  • Most of the country lies in the southern Sahara Desert. its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert, while the country’s southern part features the Niger and Senegal rivers.
  • Some of Mali’s prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent and salt.

 

  1. Vitamin D:

Context: A study done by the doctors of Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) has revealed that high Vitamin D levels reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, and administration of the vitamin in the infected patients considerably reduce mortality.

Key details:

  • Vitamin D deficiency can affect COVID-19 high-risk patients, particularly those who are diabetic, have heart conditions, pneumonia, obesity and those who smoke.
  • It is also associated with infections in the respiratory tract and lung injury.
  • Besides, vitamin D is known to help in having the right amount of calcium in the bones, catalyse the process of protecting cell membranes from damage, preventing the inflammation of tissues.
  • Moreover, it helps stop tissues from forming fibres and weakening bones from becoming brittle, leading to osteoporosis.
  • According to a study conducted by Boston University’s School of Medicine COVID-19 patients with adequate levels of vitamin D have a lesser chance of showing “adverse clinical effects of the coronavirus” — like becoming unconscious and suffering from hypoxia.

Vitamin D:

  • Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it dissolves in fats and oils and can be stored in your body for a long time.
  • It is produced when sunlight falls on the skin and triggers a chemical reaction to a cholesterol-based molecule, and converts it into calcidiol in the liver and into calcitriol in the kidney.
  • It is naturally present in very few foods like fatty fish, and fish liver oils, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.
  • These molecules technically called 25-OHD are physiologically active.
  • Vitamin D maintains adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations in blood. It prevents weakening of bones.
  • Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.

Vitamin D Deficiency:

  • India has a large population suffering from vitamin D deficiency among the public.
  • This is despite India being a tropical nation getting abundant sunshine, which is a precursor to Vitamin D formation in the body.
  • Females showed consistently lower levels than males.
  • According to data by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) over the last 50 years, the calcium levels in average Indian populations has plummeted from 700 units per day to 300-400.
  • The normal, needed level of Calcium is 800-1,000 units per day. Vitamin D helps in absorption of Calcium by the body.
  • The body needs calcium to maintain strong bones. It is also needed for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part.
  • It also helps release hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in the human body.
  • This deficiency of Calcium stands in contrast to the fact that India produces the maximum amount of milk per day in the world which is a rich source of calcium.

Effects of Deficiency:

  • Rickets in children and osteomalacia (softening of bones) in adults.
  • Bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen (Effects of deficiency).

What can be done to improve Vitamin D:

  • The meals given to the poor or children should include vegetables like spinach and other green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, carrots, tomato, potato, milk/curd and fruits like bananas, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (and an egg).
  • The government can mass supply free-of-charge vitamin D, other vitamins and calcium, in consultation with medical and public health experts to the public.
  • Many Indian pharmaceutical companies manufacture these. Procuring these supplements from Indian companies will fall in line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government.
  • The consumption of Seaweed can be very beneficial. Seaweeds are vegetarian, and rich in vitamins, minerals, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids. As India has a long coastline, these can be affordable nutritional supplements for Indians.
  • Schools can have their students stand in sunlight for 20-30 minutes daily, and encourage physical exercise and games for an hour per day.
  • Further, it is important to raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating and nutritional requirements of the human body.

 

 

  1. National Human Rights Commission: [NHRC]

Context: High powered recommendation committee has proposed the name of former Supreme Court judge Arun Kumar Mishra for the position of Chairperson of NHRC.

Details:

  • The selection panel consisted of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Harivansh, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge.
  • The NHRC has been without a full­time head for over five months now.
  • Plea to include member from marginalised groups from either the Dalit, Adivasi or minority communities rejected by selection panel as there is no legal mandate for compulsory inclusion.
  • The leader of opposition is learnt to have argued that since most complaints at the NHRC pertained to these socially disadvantaged groups, there should be at least one representative from these communities in the Commission.

About NHRC:

  • It is a statutory body established on 12th October, 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993.
  • It was established in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted for the promotion and protection of human rights in Paris (October, 1991) and endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 December, 1993.
  • The Act also provides for the creation of the State Human Rights Commission as well.

Composition:

  • The chairperson is a retired chief justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court.
  • They are appointed by the President on the recommendations of a six-member committee consisting of:
    • Prime Minister (head)
    • Speaker of the Lok Sabha
    • Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
    • Leaders of the Opposition in both the Houses of Parliament
    • Union Home Minister.
  • The chairman and the members of State Commission are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Chief Minister, Home Minister, Speaker of Legislative Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Assembly.

Term and removal:

  • They hold office for a term of three years or until they attain the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.
  • The President can remove them from the office under specific circumstances.
  • They can be removed only on the charges of proved misbehavior or incapacity, if proved by an inquiry conducted by a Supreme Court Judge.

Functions and Powers of NHRC:

  • NHRC investigates grievances regarding the violation of human rights either suo moto or after receiving a petition.
  • It has the power to interfere in any judicial proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights.
  • It can visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government to see the living conditions of the inmates and to make recommendations thereon.
  • It has the powers of a civil court and can grant interim relief.
  • It also has the authority to recommend payment of compensation or damages.
  • It submits its annual report to the President of India who causes it to be laid before each House of Parliament.

Limitations of NHRC

  • NHRC does not have any mechanism of investigation.
  • The Recommendations made by the NHRC are not binding.
  • NHRC can only make recommendations, without the power to enforce decisions.
  • Many times NHRC is viewed as post-retirement destinations for judges and bureaucrats with political affiliation moreover, inadequacy of funds also hamper its working.
  • A large number of grievances go unaddressed because NHRC cannot investigate the complaint registered after one year of incident.
  • State human rights commissions cannot call for information from the national government, which means that they are implicitly denied the power to investigate armed forces under national control.
  • National Human Rights Commission powers related to violations of human rights by the armed forces have been largely restricted.

 

  1. Supreme Court and Sedition

Context: The Supreme Court on May 31st opined that section 124A of the IPC, which deals with the sedition, will need interpretation.

Background:

  • Supreme Court restrained the Andhra Pradesh police from taking coercive action against two TV news channels charged with sedition for reporting on Covid Mis management in the state.
  • The Supreme Court said that the ambit and parameters of the provisions of Sections 124A, 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code would require interpretation, particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information.
  • It was in favour of setting necessary guidelines on the use of Sedition law by governments.
  • Supreme court had categorically told the States not to initiate penal action
  • against the critics of COVID­19 management measures.
  • The court acknowledged the argument that the media was well within its rights to air critical programmes about a prevailing regime without attracting sedition.

What is Sedition Law?

  • Sedition in India is defined by section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Section 124A was introduced by the British colonial government in 1870 when it felt the need for a specific section to deal with the radical movements during 19th

Section 124 A states:

  • “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt,or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

Some Famous Sedition Trials:

  • It is accepted that the first time, the act was invoked, was against Jogendra Chandra Bose, the editor of Bangobasi, for voicing against Age of Consent Bill, 1891.
  • Bal Gangadhar Tilak. First in 1897 for exhorting to act against Rand, the Plague Commissioner. Second in 1909 in respect of certain articles published in the “Kesari” in May and June 1908, for which he was deported to Mandalay.
  • Gandhiji in 1922, for three articles published in the magazine Young India.
  • Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, 2011. He was arrested in Mumbai under IPC Section 124 (sedition), section 66 A of Information Technology Act and section 2 of Prevention of Insults to Nation Honour Act. The Kanpur-based artist had been accused of putting up banners mocking the Constitution during a rally of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare in Mumbai and posting the same on his website.
  • Latest case against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar.

What are the concerns?

  • It is an irony to retain a provision that was used extensively to suppress the freedom struggle.
  • It is to be noted that, Britain itself abolished it 10 years ago.
  • There have been repeated instances of misuse of the Section.
  • The foremost objection is that the definition of sedition remains too wide.
  • Under the present law, it offers scope to consider as seditious
  • strong criticism against government policies and personalities
  • slogans voicing disapprobation of leaders
  • depictions of an unresponsive or insensitive regime
  • In recent times the core principle enunciated by the Supreme Court in this regard has been forgotten.
  • It specifies that incitement to violence or tendency to create public disorder are the essential ingredients of the offence.
  • Sedition systematically destroys the soul of Gandhi’s philosophy that is, right to dissent.

Way forward:

  • As long as sedition is seen as a reasonable restriction on free speech on the ground of preserving public order, it will be difficult to contain its mischief. There are thus two ways of undoing the harm that sedition provision does to citizens’ fundamental rights: It can be amended so that there is a much narrower definition of what constitutes sedition
  • The second and best course is to repeal the section altogether
  • The higher judiciary should use its supervisory powers to sensitize the magistracy and police to the constitutional provisions protecting free speech.
  • Civil society must take the lead to raise awareness about the arbitrary use of Sedition law.

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