30 July 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) COVID-19 and a country club India must leave-
- Billion Indians have experienced the pandemic sweeping(spreading) and harming the lives of vulnerable in our country.
- East Asia and Europe where the virus threatened and devastated have recovered well.
- India isn’t alone in failing to contain the pandemic. We have Trump’s U.S. and Bolsonaro’s Brazil to give us company.
THE POISON OF INEQUALITIES:
- All these three are populous, federal, diverse and democratic.
- Tese three countries share is the toxic levels of historic inequalities which affect every structure of society including, most importantly, the health-care system.
- The value of investing in a just public health-care system has never been as starkly obvious as now.
- To be sure, there have been far deadlier epidemics which continue to kill many more people than COVID-19.
- Diseases like HIV, diarrhoeal diseases and tuberculosis, have mostly killed the poor and the marginalised, outside the conscious radar of those in power.
- More to the point, no previous epidemic brought the engines of the economy to a standstill(halt).
- If some poor person died of a horrible disease in some slum, C-grade town or village in the back of beyond, the stock market could not care less.
- However, on this occasion, for the first time, the wealthy and the powerful in their urban palaces have found themselves under pressure.
- And their high-tech doctors and “super-specialist” hospitals can do little to rescue them.
ON UNIVERSAL COVERAGE:
- What differentiates countries which have recovered from Covid from those, like ours, which remain still affected, is the commitment by both the state and civil society to the principles of universal health coverage.
- To be fair, if universal health coverage was understood with the simple existence of a publicly financed health-care system, then India, like the United States and Brazil, can already boast(pride) to have met this goal.
- However, this is not what universal health coverage means in spirit.
- Only a system which all people, rich and poor, those in power and those who are powerless, can rely on to be given care with the same quality regardless of their station in society, can be truly considered “universal”.
A QUESTION OF QUALITY:
- Such a universal health coverage system does not exist in India, or the U.S. or Brazil.
- More than half the population in these countries, concentrated in the upper income groups, seeks health care in the fee-for-service private sector.
- The private sector in India provides almost 80% of outpatient and 60% of inpatient care, as a result of which falling ill is one of the most important contributors to indebtedness in the country.
- Health care in India has become a leading cause of poverty.
- Universal health coverage is recognised by many countries as a strategy to empower people to lift themselves out of poverty.
- It is also the foundation of sustainable development.
- The fact that, despite this knowledge, the majority of our people prefer private care, is a hurting evidence to their experiences of the public health-care system.
- The titans of corporate medicine in India justify their costs by arguing that these are much cheaper than in the U.S. or Europe.
- Such comparisons are ridiculous as they are oblivious(unaware) of the fact that India’s per capita income places us as one of the poorest countries in the world.
- The clearly visible ills of the wholesale commercialisation of health care, standards of our infrastructure needs to be taken care.
- There are a host of other challenges to realise universal health coverage, the honesty and competency of health-care workers which contribute to the abysmal(bad) quality of care, in both the private and public sectors.
- The pandemic has brought the scandalous(poor) quality of our health-care system to the fore.
- Stories of pigs roaming freely and the absence of doctors in public hospitals to shameless profiteering and refusal to care by private hospitals are emerging out.
- The proclivity(inclination) of doctors to irrational medical procedures and drug prescriptions, the lack of dignity with which the poor are cared for, and the corrupt practices are well documented.
- At the heart of this pathetic(worst) state of affairs is the complete lack of accountability of either the private or public sector.
- And the absence of the stewardship role of the state in ensuring justice and quality of health care for all its citizens.
- It comes as no surprise that there is a fundamental breakdown of trust between civil society and the health-care system, exemplified at its most extreme by violence against health-care providers.
- Fixing the rot will need structural reforms far beyond the top-down “missions” and knee-jerk(sudden) punitive actions which have dominated our policy-making for over 70 years.
- But for this to happen, we will need a broad coalition across the political establishment and civil society, in particular the wealthy and ruling classes, to demand change.
- It is clear as how a dysfunctional, fragmented and unaccountable health-care system will ultimately destroy the economy itself.
- Even if the pandemic has hit the poor the hardest, it has also crippled(handicapped) the nation.
- But we need more than just new money for while health care is the wisest investment for the economy.
- Such an investment must be accompanied by a social compact that the same system caters(serves) to all.
- This philosophy of universal health coverage is already practised in diverse ways, including engagement of the private sector, by scores of countries.
2) A quest for order amid cyber insecurity-
GS 3- Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security
Cyberspace is a notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs.
- In cyberspace, it is the best of times for some and the worst of times for others.
- Between them, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have added more than a trillion dollars in market value, since the start of 2020.
- On the other hand, cyberattacks have grown.
- In one week in April 2020, reportedly, there were over 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 monitored by a single email provider.
- There were also 240 million COVID-19-related daily spam messages.
- There is also concern about the role of states. Australia mentioned of attacks by a state actor.
ROLE OF STATES:
- China has been accused of hacking health-care institutions in the United States working on novel coronavirus treatment.
- The United Kingdom has warned of hackers backed by the Russian state targeting pharmaceutical companies conducting COVID-19 vaccine research.
- The ban on specified Chinese Apps, on grounds that they are “engaged in activities prejudicial(harmful) to the sovereignty and integrity of India” adds another layer of complexity to the contestation in cyberspace.
- Cyberinsecurity of individuals, organisations and states is expanding amidst COVID-19.
- While we are embracing new ways of digital interaction and more of our critical infrastructure is going digital, the parameters of the transformation under way are not understood by most of us.
- Like global public health, cybersecurity is a niche(new) area, left to experts.
- COVID-19 made us realise the role of the global public health infrastructure and need to abide by agreed rules.
- Similarly, a better understanding of the global cyberspace architecture is required.
NO GLOBAL COMMONS:
- Borderless cyberspace, as a part of the “global commons” does not exist.
- The Internet depends on physical infrastructure that is under national control, and hence is subject to border controls too.
- Each state applies its laws to national networks, consistent with its international commitments.
- States are responsible for cybersecurity, enforcement of laws and protection of public good.
- States are responsible for their actions, as well as for actions taken from within their sovereign territory.
- This is easier said than done. The infrastructure on which the Internet rests falls within jurisdictions(authority) of many states with differing approaches.
- Cyberspace has multiple stakeholders, not all of which are states. Non-state actors play key roles — some benign, some malignant.
- Many networks are private, with objectives differing from those of states.
- Finally, cybertools are dual use, cheap and make attribution and verification of actions quite a task.
- Nevertheless, states alone have the rights of oversight. In short the search for cyber “rules of the road“ is still on.
- We are at an incipient(early) stage of looking for “cyber norms” that can balance the competing demands of national sovereignty and transnational connectivity.
GAPS IN CURRENT PROCESSES:
- It was in 1998 that Russia inscribed the issue of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in international security on the UN agenda.
- Since then six Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) with two-year terms and limited membership have functioned — the most on any issue at the United Nations.
- In addition, an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) began last year with a broadly similar mandate, but open to all.
- More than 100 states evinced(demonstrated) interest.
- The discussions are narrowly focused in line with the mandate(responsibility) of the forum that set it up.
- Issues such as Internet governance, development, espionage, and digital privacy are kept out.
- The net result of the UN exercise has been an acceptance that international law and the UN Charter are applicable in cyberspace; a set of voluntary norms of responsible state behaviour was agreed to in 2015.
- What aspects of international law and in what circumstances will be applicable remains to be addressed.
- UN Secretary General António Guterres’s recent report, “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation”, gently calls for action.
- A few confidence building measures may follow.
- However, short of a cataclysmic(tragic) event, these processes do not hold much hope in the current geopolitical circumstances.
MORE ENGAGEMENT NEEDED:
- Generally the growth of technology is way ahead of the development of associated norms and institutions. Cyberspace is experiencing this too.
- It provides countries such as ours some time and space to evolve our approach, in tune with the relevance of cyberspace to India’s future economic, social and political objectives.
- Despite the digital divide, the next billion smart phone users will include a significant number from India.
- As India’s cyber footprint expands, so will space for conflicts and crimes (both of a private and inter-state nature).
- Shared “rules of the road” become imperative(needful).
- We have a very active nodal agency for cybersecurity in the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- India has had representatives on five of the six GGEs. We participate actively at the OEWG.
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, of which we are a member, voiced support for a code of conduct.
- India joined the Christchurch Call which brought together countries and companies in an effort to stop the use of social media for promoting terrorism and violent extremism.
NEED OF INTENSE PARTNERSHIPS:
- The next phase in an increasingly contested and fragmenting domain requires better arrangements and more intense partnerships, but with more safeguards.
- Domestically, we need the clarity that adoption of a data protection legislation will bring. Globally, we need to partake(take part) in shaping cybernorms.
- Acceding to the Budapest Convention, or Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe (CETS No.185), which started as a European initiative but has attracted others, is an option that we should examine.
- We need to encourage our private sector to get involved more in industry-focused processes such as the Microsoft-initiated Cybersecurity Tech Accord and the Siemens-led Charter of Trust.
- Engagement in multi-stakeholder orientations such as the Paris Call (for trust and security in cyberspace) can help.
- In preparation for the larger role that cyberspace will inevitably play in Indian lives, we need a deeper public understanding of its various dimensions.
- Cyberspace is too important to be left only to the experts.
3) Fewer species, more disease-
GS 3- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Development, Bio diversity, Environment
- The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted human life and the economy in an unprecedented way.
- Across countries, lockdowns have kept people indoors and provided opportunities for wild animals to roam around spaces they otherwise don’t venture into.
- Scientists believe that the loss of biodiversity, and wildlife trade, have strong linkages with the emergence of epidemics.
- The pandemic is an opportunity for the global community to explore the consequences of its unscientific actions on nature and prepare for behavioural change.
LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY:
- Dangerous infectious diseases (Ebola, Bird flu, MERS, SARS, Nipah, etc.) have been transferred from wild animals to humans.
- In order to clear land for agriculture and development, forests and habitats have been destroyed. In the process, we have lost several species.
- Human-induced environmental changes reduce biodiversity resulting in new conditions that host vectors and/or pathogens.
- It is not yet fully understood which species have contributed to the transmission of COVID-19 and how.
- However, according to experts, there is strong evidence that it spread from a wildlife market in Wuhan, China.
- Two hypothesis have been discussed: (a) the virus jumped from bats directly to humans; and (b) from bats to pangolins and then to humans.
- Apart from wildlife markets, illegal trade of wildlife is part of the growing problem.
- Trafficking in wild plants and animals and wildlife products has become one of the largest and most lucrative forms of organised crime.
- By deliberately pursuing and hunting certain species or by establishing monocultures, habitats and ecosystems are being damaged, fragmented or destroyed.
- Illegal wildlife smuggling is an emerging threat to India’s unique wildlife heritage.
- According to an NGO based in Guwahati, which works for the protection of Eastern Himalayan biodiversity, India shelters a number of vulnerable and threatened species.
- Body parts of animals including pangolins, Asiatic black bears and rhinos are being traded illegally to countries such as China, Vietnam, and Laos.
- Another study has found that there was a significant increase in the poaching of wild animals in India even during the lockdown.
- Species are being wiped out by organised trade networks, with new poaching techniques, for manufacturing traditional Chinese medicines.
- The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services shows that people extensively encroach natural habitats; hence biodiversity is declining significantly.
- By disturbing the delicate balance of nature, we have created ideal conditions for the spread of viruses from animals to humans.
- We should realise that we live in a world where biodiversity is our common heritage and natural capital.
THE WAY FORWARD:
- We need to revisit our relationship with nature and rebuild an environmentally responsible world.
- Nations should work towards realising the 2050 vision for biodiversity, ‘Living in Harmony with Nature’.
- We must follow a ‘one health’ approach which considers the health of people, wild and domesticated animals, and the environment.
- We need to strictly regulate high-risk wildlife markets, promote green jobs and work towards achieving carbon-neutral economies.
- India should strictly enforce the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, which prohibits the trade of 1,800 species of wild animals/plants and their derivatives.
- We need to focus on the Biological Diversity Act of 2002; strategies and action plans including the National Biodiversity Targets; and the National Biodiversity Mission.
- The mainstreaming of biodiversity is needed in our post-COVID-19 development programme.
- The over 2 lakh biodiversity management committees (local-level statutory bodies formed under the Act) can play a significant role in this regard.
- Mass biodiversity literacy should be our mission.
- Ecosystem integrity will regulate diseases and restrict the transmission of pathogens from one species to another.