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Daily Current Affairs 17.07.2021 (U.P. can’t proceed with Kanwar Yatra amid pandemic, says SC, India needs a renewed health-care system, Won’t recognise Taliban govt. that takes power by force: U.S. Special Envoy,Bach visits Hiroshima to mark first day of Olympic Truce)

Daily Current Affairs 17.07.2021 (U.P. can’t proceed with Kanwar Yatra amid pandemic, says SC, India needs a renewed health-care system, Won’t recognise Taliban govt. that takes power by force: U.S. Special Envoy,Bach visits Hiroshima to mark first day of Olympic Truce)

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1.U.P. can’t proceed with Kanwar Yatra amid pandemic, says SC

Right to life trumps religious sentiments: court

The Supreme Court on Friday disagreed with the Uttar Pradesh government’s proposal to conduct a “symbolic” Kanwar Yatra amid the pandemic for “compelling religious reasons”, saying the fundamental rights of citizens across faiths and their right to life trumped religious sentiments.

A Bench of Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai gave the State time till July 19 to rethink its proposal and file an affidavit. If it did not change its plans, Justice Nariman said, the court “will deliver whatever we have to deliver”.

“We are of the prima facie view that this is a matter that concerns everyone of us as citizens of India and goes to the very heart of Article 21 [right to life], which has the pride of place in the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the Indian Constitution. Health of the citizenry of India and the right to life are paramount. All other sentiments, albeit religious, are subservient to this basic fundamental right,” Justice Nariman dictated in the order.

The hearing began with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitting that the “State must not permit movement”.

An affidavit was filed by the Centre “late” in the Supreme Court. After speed-reading the affidavit, Justice Nariman announced peremptorily, “State of Uttar Pradesh cannot go on with this, 100%”.

The Bench refused to permit a “physical yatra”.

Right to Life

According to Article 21:

“Protection of Life and Personal Liberty: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

  • This fundamental right is available to every person, citizens and foreigners alike.
  • Article 21 provides two rights:
  • Right to life
  • Right to personal liberty
  • The fundamental right provided by Article 21 is one of the most important rights that the Constitution guarantees.
  • The Supreme Court of India has described this right as the ‘heart of fundamental rights’
  • The right specifically mentions that no person shall be deprived of life and liberty except as per the procedure established by law. This implies that this right has been provided against the State only. State here includes not just the government, but also, government departments, local bodies, the Legislatures, etc.
  • Any private individual encroaching on these rights of another individual does not amount to a violation of Article 21. The remedy for the victim, in this case, would be under Article 226 or under general law.
  • The right to life is not just about the right to survive. It also entails being able to live a complete life of dignity and meaning.
  • The chief goal of Article 21 is that when the right to life or liberty of a person is taken away by the State, it should only be according to the prescribed procedure of law.

Interpretation of Article 21

Judicial intervention has ensured that the scope of Article 21 is not narrow and restricted. It has been widening by several landmark judgements.

A few important cases concerned with Article 21:

  1. AK Gopalan Case (1950): Until the 1950s, Article 21 had a bit of a narrow scope. In this case, the SC held that the expression ‘procedure established by law’, the Constitution has embodied the British concept of personal liberty rather than the American ‘due process’.
  2. Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India Case (1978): This case overturned the Gopalan case judgement. Here, the SC said that Articles 19 and 21 are not watertight compartments. The idea of personal liberty in Article 21 has a wide scope including many rights, some of which are embodied under Article 19, thus giving them ‘additional protection’. The court also held that a law that comes under Article 21 must satisfy the requirements under Article 19 as well. That means any procedure under law for the deprivation of life or liberty of a person must not be unfair, unreasonable or arbitrary.
  3. Francis Coralie Mullin vs. Union Territory of Delhi (1981): In this case, the court held that any procedure for the deprivation of life or liberty of a person must be reasonable, fair and just and not arbitrary, whimsical or fanciful.
  4. Olga Tellis vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985): This case reiterated the stand taken earlier that any procedure that would deprive a person’s fundamental rights should conform to the norms of fair play and justice.
  5. Unni Krishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1993): In this case, the SC upheld the expanded interpretation of the right to life.

The Court gave a list of rights that Article 21 covers based on earlier judgments. Some of them are:

  1. Right to privacy
  2. Right to go abroad
  3. Right to shelter
  4. Right against solitary confinement
  5. Right to social justice and economic empowerment
  6. Right against handcuffing
  7. Right against custodial death
  8. Right against delayed execution
  9. Doctors’ assistance
  10. Right against public hanging
  11. Protection of cultural heritage
  12. Right to pollution-free water and air
  13. Right of every child to a full development
  14. Right to health and medical aid
  15. Right to education
  16. Protection of under-trials

2.India needs a renewed health-care system

The new Health Minister needs to focus on the core lessons from the pandemic and rebuild trust in public health

India has a new Union Health Minister after the recent cabinet reshuffle. So, what does the new Health Minister need to learn from previous experience, and what unfinished tasks need to be taken forward? As citizens, how should we expect the Government to perform better on the public health front, given the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic? If the Union Health Ministry acts upon the following health system lessons, this would not only enable improved handling of COVID-19, but would also have widespread positive impacts extending much beyond the COVID-19 situation.

Two States and a comparison

For any population, the availability of functional public health systems is literally a question of life and death. This is evident by comparing two States which currently have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in India — Maharashtra and Kerala. Their per capita gross State domestic product (GSDP), reflecting the overall economic situation in each State, is similar. However, their COVID-19 case fatality rates are hugely different — this being 0.48% for Kerala and 2.04% for Maharashtra, with the shocking implication that on average, a COVID-19 patient in Maharashtra has been over four times more likely to die when compared to one in Kerala.

A major reason for such critical divergence is likely to be the huge differences in the effectiveness of public health systems. Kerala has per capita two and a half times more government doctors, and an equally higher proportion of government hospital beds when compared to Maharashtra, while allocating per capita over one and half times higher funds on public health every year. Despite Maharashtra having a large private health-care sector, its weak public health system has proved to be a critical deficiency.

In contrast, robust government health-care services in Kerala have translated into: a more effective outreach, timely testing, early case detection and more rational treatment for COVID patients, which all together reduce fatality rates. Existing evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic provides a clear message: a neglect of public health systems can mean large-scale, avoidable losses of lives;hence, public health services must be upgraded rapidly and massively as a topmost priority.

Focus on public health

Talking of priorities, if the ₹20,000 crore or nearabout allocated for the Central Vista project were to be utilised instead to set up oxygen plants, two-thirds of the over 25,000 government hospitals across India could acquire their own oxygen source, thus helping to save the lives of lakhs of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. A larger programme which requires the immediate attention of the Health Minister is the National Health Mission (NHM); since 2017-18, Union government allocations for the NHM have declined in real terms, resulting in inadequate support to States for core activities such as immunisation, while systemic gaps affect the delivery of COVID-19 vaccination.

Although urban people across India have experienced major shortages of public health services during COVID-19, the condition of the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) remains pathetic. This year’s Central allocation for the NUHM is ₹1,000 crore, which amounts to less than ₹2 per month per urban Indian. This situation must change, and as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, for reaching National Health Policy targets, the Government must allocate ₹1.6-lakh crore for public health during the current year. This would amount to a doubling of the present central health Budget, which could enable major strengthening of health services in rural and urban areas across the country.

Private sector regulation

Another clear priority that has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to regulate rates and standards of care in the private sector. Massive hospital bills have caused untold distress even among the middle class; COVID-19 care often costs ₹1 lakh to ₹3 lakh per week in large private hospitals. The ‘Remdesivir panic’ was significantly linked with major overuse of this medicine by unregulated private hospitals, despite the drug lacking efficacy to reduce COVID-19 mortality. Although various determinants have contributed to the Mucormycosis outbreak, irrational use of steroids in COVID-19 patients, especially diabetics, appears to be an important factor.

Yet, despite accumulating evidence on the need for comprehensive regulation of private hospitals, the central government is yet to take necessary steps to promote the implementation of the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act (CEA).

Passed in 2010 and presently applicable to 11 States across India, this Act is not effectively implemented due to a major delay in notification of central minimum standards, and failure to develop the central framework for regulation of rates. Responding to public distress, around 15 State governments invoked disaster-related provisions to regulate rates for COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals. However, initiatives from the central government to promote regulation of private hospitals during the COVID-19 situation are conspicuously inadequate. Learning from stark market failures during the COVID-19 pandemic, comprehensive regulation of private health care in public interest now must be a critical agenda for the new Health Minister.

NITI Aayog prescriptions

A logical corollary of the first two lessons is that health services should not be further privatised. However, flying in the face of health-care distress faced by ordinary Indians during the last 16 months, NITI Aayog has recently published the document, ‘Investment Opportunities in India’s Healthcare Sector’. This promotes further privatisation of health care in a country which already has one of the most privatised health systems in the world.

Published in the midst of widespread experiences of large-scale overcharging and irrational care by private providers during the COVID-19 epidemic, the report fails to acknowledge the negative aspects of unregulated private health care; neither is there any mention of the need for regulation of private hospitals. Instead, the document celebrates the COVID-19 epidemic as a prime business opportunity to be exploited, stating that ‘in the hospital segment, the expansion of private players to Tier 2 and Tier 3 locations, beyond metropolitan cities, offers an attractive investment opportunity’. Proposals for handing over public hospitals to private operators, who would presumably now run these key public institutions on commercial lines under the ‘Viability Gap Funding’ scheme are deeply worrisome, especially since public health services which were hitherto free of cost, would begin to be charged for.

Assuming that the Union Health Ministry has a primary mandate to shape national health policy in India, the Health Minister must assert his authority to stop such moves for further privatisation, which might benefit health-care corporates but would be damaging for ordinary people.

To conclude, this is a time when it is critical to rebuild people’s trust in public health systems. This would help in overcoming COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy while strengthening the promotion of healthy behaviours necessary to deal with the current wave of COVID-19 and prevent a third wave. This would be done best if the new Health Minister acts on three core health system lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic — a need for strengthening public health systems; regulating private health care, and preventing further privatisation of the health sector. It is not unjustified to expect our new Health Minister to present an example to the people of India, by acting decisively for public health systems.

The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 has been enacted by the Central Government to provide for registration and regulation of all clinical establishments in the country with a view to prescribe the minimum standards of facilities and services provided by them. The Act has taken effect in the four States namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim, and all Union Territories except the NCT of Delhi since 1st March, 2012 vide Gazette notification dated 28th February, 2012. The States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam and Haryana have adopted the Act under clause (1) of article 252 of the Constitution.

The Ministry has notified the National Council for Clinical Establishments and the Clinical Establishments (Central Government) Rules, 2012 under this Act vide Gazette notifications dated 19th March, 2012 and 23rd May, 2012 respectively.

The Act is applicable to all types (both therapeutic and dignostic types) of Clinical Establishments from the public and private sectors, belonging to all recognized systems of medicine, including single doctor clinics. The only exception is Clinical Establishments run by the Armed forces.

3.Won’t recognise Taliban govt. that takes power by force: U.S. Special Envoy

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad says there is no ultimate military solution and there has to be a political settlement for lasting peace

The U.S. will not recognise a Taliban government that takes power by force, said U.S. special Representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, striking a difference from the British Defence Minister, who suggested this week that the U.K. would engage with any government in power in Afghanistan. In an interaction, Mr. Khalilzad also said Pakistan must fulfil its “special responsibility” towards peace in Afghanistan

The Taliban do not seem to be waiting for the outcome of intra-Afghan talks, and are making advances on cities. We heard from the Afghan First Vice-President yesterday that Pakistan is threatening to use missiles, if the Afghan Air Force acts against the Taliban. What, if anything, is the U.S. prepared to do if the Taliban forcibly take power in Kabul, and try to take over the country?

Well, there is no ultimate military solution, there has to be a political settlement for lasting peace in Afghanistan, and it has been made clear to the Taliban that not only ourselves, but many countries in the region and beyond will not recognise, will not assist the government that takes power by force. For an agreement that can produce stability, and peace and progress for Afghan people, we need two key features — it has to be broadly accepted by the Afghan people. And it has to have the support and acceptance of the neighbours and donors and other countries around the world.

And for those two things to happen, there is a need for a political dispensation, for a political agreement, for political arrangements that produce an inclusive government that reflects the diversity of Afghanistan, and that government respects the fundamental rights of all Afghans, men, women. People of Afghanistan must be given the opportunity to have a say in the choice of how they’re governed and who governs them. And finally, that Afghanistan doesn’t pose a threat to the neighbours and beyond by allowing terrorists to use its territory, whether groups or individuals. There is an international consensus on these principles. And all the neighbours one way or the other have said the same. And so I know that there are military movements and developments, but ultimately what is needed is a political settlement for these aspirations for peace and development to be achieved.

But what if that doesn’t happen? What is the U.S., if anything, prepared to do?

We will continue to support the Afghan government. We have said that while forces withdraw, yes, that is ongoing. But we will support the Afghan security forces where the [U.S.] President’s budget has asked for $3.3 billion in assistance for the Afghan security forces. We will provide economic support, we will provide humanitarian support. And at the same time, we will work with others to press for these objectives that I described.

You said the neighbours are on board, yet we see this threat apparently from Pakistan, saying they will practically give a cover to the Taliban if the Afghan Air Force were to act against them in Spin Boldak.

I don’t know whether the Pakistanis have said that, we don’t know that. The Pakistani Prime Minister is here, the Afghan President is here… I hope they will meet.

It’s vital that Pakistan play its role in helping Afghans to achieve an agreement of the kind that I described. And Pakistan has a special responsibility in this regard. So we’re working with all sides in the service of those objectives.

You met with the Indian Foreign Minister as well, and what are your expectations from India in all of this?

India, of course, is a very important country in the region, with a long history with Afghanistan. And we had a good discussion with the Foreign Minister [S. Jaishankar], covering mostly Afghanistan. And we agree despite the challenges that exist, and we have to address those challenges, that a political settlement of the kind I described is the ultimate solution. There is really no military solution.

Some may have the illusion that there may be a military solution. But the costs of pushing for a military solution will be very high, and it will not achieve the objectives that I described. The Taliban said they [don’t want to be shunned] and want to be accepted by the neighbours and by the international community as a legitimate actor, partner in the future. And those are aspirations that cannot be achieved if the military solution is sought.

4.Bach visits Hiroshima to mark first day of Olympic Truce

Protestors raise slogans against holding the event in pandemic-affected time

IOC President Thomas Bach got a mixed reception in his visit on Friday to Hiroshima to mark the first day of the so-called Olympic Truce.

Bach’s vice president John Coates also appeared on Friday in Nagasaki, the second city that was hit by an American atomic bomb in 1945.

Bach and Coates have been meeting daily with Japanese officials from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, repeating their message that the Olympics will be “safe and secure.” He was accompanied to Hiroshima by Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee.

Bach laid a wreath and observed a minute of silence in the rain in front of the Peace Memorial Park cenotaph. Faint voices of protesters, who were kept at a distance, could be heard shouting “go home Bach” and “you’re not welcome here.”

Dozens of protesters were seen near the Atomic Bomb Dome with signs that read “Cancel The Olympics” and “No Bach.”

“You should understand you are not welcome here,” one protester said, speaking into a microphone.

“The COVID-19 situation is getting worse, it hasn’t come to an end, and I wonder why this has to go ahead,” said Sayuri Yamada, who identified herself as a medical worker. She was not among the protesters.

Unnecessary risks

She said she did not oppose Bach’s visit, but raised questions about running unnecessary risks for the Olympics. “It’s not that I don’t want him to come absolutely,” she said. “But rather, thinking about the safety of people, including the athletes, my opinion is like he doesn’t have to do this at a time when the risk is high.”

Takayoshi Kayano, who said he was an office worker, respected Bach’s right to visit but raised other issues.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach has thanked President Ram Nath Kovind for co-sponsoring the United Nation Olympic Truce Resolution, which was recently adopted in the United Nation General Assembly.

About:    

The resolution will aim to ensure a halt to all hostilities, allowing the safe passage and participation of athletes and spectators for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The Olympic Truce, or ekecheria, is based on an ancient Greek tradition, dating back to the original Olympic Games in Ancient Olympia in 776 BC.

The Truce was revived by United Nations Resolution 48/11 of 25 October 1993.

In 1999, the International Olympic Committee announced the establishment of the International Olympic Truce Foundation and the International Olympic Truce Centre in cooperation with Greece. 

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