News & Editorial Analysis 30 December 2022


News & Editorial Analysis 30 December 2022


The Hindu News Analysis

1 – About the EVM:

GS II

Topic Election related issues

Context:

According to the Indian Election Commission, a prototype of the Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine, which would allow migrant voters to cast their votes remotely, was revealed on Thursday.

A single distant polling location can administer several constituencies by using remote electronic voting devices (EVMs).

The ECI reported that it had invited all recognised 8 national and 57 state political parties and had also given them a concept note explaining the technical, administrative, operational, and legal obstacles. On January 16, the multi-constituency prototype Remote EVM would be exhibited.

About EVM:

Voters can electronically cast their ballots using an electronic voting machine, or EVM.

The poll worker always has the EVM control unit with them.

The poll worker will be able to confirm the voter’s identify as a result.

The voting button is turned on by the poll worker so that the voter can cast their ballot.

The polling area, where voters can cast their ballots, contains the balloting device.

The device has a list of candidates’ names or symbols and a blue button next to it.

Voters can choose a candidate by clicking the button that is located next to their name.

The traditional way of voting, which calls for the voter to place their voting mark on or near the candidate symbol on the ballot paper, fold it first vertically, then horizontally, and then place it into the ballot box, is far more complicated than using an EVM.

A vote is cast by merely depressing the button on the Ballot Unit next to the candidate and symbol of your choice in an EVM.

EVMs in India:

The Election Commission of India, in conjunction with Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, created the Indian electronic voting machine (EVM) in 1989.

In 1982, a few polling places in Kerala’s North Paravur Assembly Constituency adopted the first electronic voting machines.

In the general election (statewide) for the Goa assembly in 1999, electronic voting machines (EVMs) were utilised for the first time.

Following its successful implementation in all state and by-elections in 2003, the election commission decided to employ electronic voting machines exclusively for the Lok Sabha elections in 2004.

Electricity is not required for EVMs:

EVMs are powered by a typical battery made by Bharat Electronics Limited or Electronic Corporation of India Limited.

Only 2,000 votes can be recorded by the Indian Election Commission’s EVMs.

The use of M2 EVMs (2006–2010), including NOTA, has a 64 candidate cap.

The maximum number of candidates who may use M3 EVMs is 384, including NOTA (Post 2013).

Who was the EVM’s creator?

The Technical Experts Committee (TEC) of the Election Commission and two public sector companies, Bharat Electronics Ltd. in Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd. in Hyderabad, collaborated on the design of the EVMs.

The two companies that were previously stated produce the EVMs.

About VVPAT: Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail:

By linking the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) to a different method known as the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, voters can confirm that their votes were cast as intended (VVPAT).

With the assistance of the manufacturer’s engineers, serial numbers, candidate names, and symbols assigned to them are supplied into the VVPAT unit.

After a vote is cast through a clear window, a slip with the candidate’s name, symbol, and serial number is printed and left exposed for 7 seconds.

The printed slip is mechanically cut and dropped into the secure drop box of the VVPAT.

The first bye-election for the Nagaland Noksen Assembly Constituency utilised VVPATs with EVMs.

Until the end of the election petition period, the VVPATs and EVMs are kept in a safe strong room.

Using EVMs has the following benefits:

No longer is there any opportunity to cast “Invalid Votes.”

EVMs have made it possible to reflect voter preference honestly and accurately.

It is not necessary to produce millions of ballots for every election when using EVMs. The cost of paper, printing, shipping, storing, and distributing is significantly reduced as a result.

Compared to the old Ballot paper technique, which typically requires 30 to 40 hours to complete, the counting procedure is fairly swift and the results can be announced in 3 to 5 hours.

Up to 14 Control Units can be stored in a device called a “Totalizer” that tallies votes without disclosing the candidate-by-candidate total of each individual EVM utilised at a specific polling place.

Totalizers are not currently in use in India due to a legal dispute, investigation into the technical merits of totalizers, and other pertinent factors.

Safeguards the privacy:

The outcome may be kept in the control unit’s memory up until the data is removed or purged.

Ensures a fair election and a secure environment:

A one-time-programmable/masked chip that cannot be read or rewritten is the microchip used in EVMs.

There is no method to specifically modify the EVM programme.

Since the EVMs are standalone, non-operating system devices, no network that is connected to any external devices can access them remotely.

It is impossible to programme the electronic voting machines to favour a certain candidate or political party.


2 – Details of the RT PCR Test:

GS III

Topic Science and Technology

Context:

Members of the community have recently observed that while visitors have voiced their concerns with India’s intention to do restricted RT-PCR tests on international arrivals, it is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the majority of tourists, including those from the diaspora.

RT-PCR identifies Covid-19 in what ways?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is the cause of Covid19. Being an RNA virus, it spreads and thrives by infecting healthy cells.

The objective of the RT-PCR test is to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA. In this, RNA is reverse-transcribed into DNA in order to identify viruses.

How is it executed?

During the acute stage of the illness, respiratory specimens frequently include the SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

For this, samples are taken from the nasopharynx and upper respiratory system.

This sample is treated with a variety of chemical solutions, which only extract the RNA that is already present while eliminating components like proteins and lipids.

Approximately 35 billion new copies of viral DNA will have been produced by each virus strand in the sample by the time a standard real-time RT-PCR setup is finished.

The marker labels bind to the DNA strands as fresh copies of the viral DNA sections are created, releasing fluorescent dye that is recorded by the machine’s computer and displayed in real time on the screen. After each cycle, the computer logs the sample’s fluorescence levels. The presence of the virus is established when the level of fluorescence exceeds a set threshold.


3 – About the Vibrant Village Program:

GS II

Topic Government Policies and Interventions

Context:

In order to permanently secure the country’s borders, Union Home Minister Amit Shah urged the border-guarding troops to use the Vibrant Village Program (VVP) to flood border communities with patriotic individuals who care about their country.

About:

Villages along the northern border will be included in the new Vibrant Villages Program, per the Union Budget 2022-2023.

Development of village infrastructure, housing, tourism attractions, road connectivity, the provision of decentralised renewable energy, direct home access to Doordarshan and educational channels, and assistance with livelihood creation are just a few of the efforts that are planned.

More money will be made available for some programmes.

Existing plans will be combined, and results will be acknowledged and routinely tracked.

Better infrastructure is needed in the towns that are located along India’s border with China in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Border towns with small populations, limited infrastructure, and little growth usually miss out on development’s benefits.

The new Vibrant Villages Programme will include such northern border settlements.

It emphasises creating revenue, tying together rural infrastructure, housing, and roads, as well as renewable energy, television, and broadband connections.

Infrastructure in villages close to the Line of Actual Control will be improved to achieve this (LAC).

Why is such a scheme necessary?

The programme is a response to China’s model villages, but the name was picked specifically to avoid offending the neighbouring nation.

Over the past few years, China has built new villages along the LAC, largely on the other side of the border from Arunachal Pradesh.

Villages on the Indian side of the frontier have had abnormally high rates of emigration while China has been introducing new residents to border districts.


4 – Details of the Current Account Deficit:

GS III

Topic Indian Economy

Context:

In the second quarter of FY22 and FY23, India’s current account deficit (CAD), which was $9.7 billion and $18.2 billion respectively, nearly doubled sequentially to reach an all-time high of $36.4 billion. For FY22, CAD totaled $38.77 billion.

According to figures issued by the RBI, the Q2 CAD represented 4.4% of the nation’s GDP, up from 2.2% in the previous quarter and 1.3% in the same period last year.

About:

The country’s inflow and outflow of goods, services, and investments are tracked by the current account. If the value of goods and services we import exceeds the value of goods and services we export, the nation has a deficit. Net income, which includes dividend and interest payments as well as transfers like foreign aid, is included in the current account.

A country’s competitive advantage may have been lost, as shown by an increase in CAD, which could dissuade investors from making investments there. India’s current account deficit might be lowered by increasing exports while lowering imports of luxury goods like electronics, jewellery, and mobile phones.

Not every current account deficit is alarming. According to the Pitchford thesis, a current account deficit that is primarily caused by the private sector is insignificant. Because it maintains that deficits are not a problem if they are the consequence of private sector agents engaged in mutually beneficial trade, it is also known as the “consenting adults” perspective of the current account.

Why is CAD important?

A key indicator of both competitiveness and the volume of imports and exports is the current account deficit. An economic imbalance that needs to be rectified over time by a decline in currency value and/or an increase in competitiveness is frequently indicated by a substantial current account deficit.

By luring capital inflows, such as foreigners investing in domestic assets, a current account deficit is financed. Foreigners consequently have a stronger claim to assets and dividends. A CAD offers the benefit of allowing higher levels of local spending because we are making overseas purchases.

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The Hindu Editorial Analysis

India Maldives Bilateral Relations

Context:

Only a year before the country’s elections, Abdulla Yameen, the former president of the Maldives, was found guilty by a local criminal court. This verdict may have an effect on his plans to head the opposition alliance.

The part India plays in Maldivian politics:

Since the island nation’s president proclaimed an emergency, relations between Mr. Yameen and India have been tight. He oversaw the “India Out” campaign as the opposition’s leader, and he continues to blame India for his imprisonment in spite of the most recent ruling.

India has acquired tremendous prominence thanks to its infrastructure support, credit lines, loans, and commissioning of various projects (including the Greater Male Connectivity Project, Hanimaadhoo Airport, Hulhumale Cricket Stadium, and Gulhifalhu Port). Additionally, because of the close connections and high-level military exchanges, rumours that India is planning a base have been circulating since 2018.

The protests have gained a lot of support in some regions of the nation despite the Solih government’s prompt responses to Mr. Yameen’s accusations, its condemnation of the “India Out” movement, and the arrest of a prominent opposition figure for making violent threats against the Indian High Commission.

Even though Mr. Yameen might not be able to run in the upcoming election, this might allow the opposition coalition to include even more extremists. The conflict between President Solih and former President Nasheed, two of India’s closest allies there, must be closely monitored by New Delhi since it jeopardises the stability of the Maldivian Democratic Party.

Preparing for emergencies:

Both the tsunami of 2004 and the water crisis in the Maldives in December 2014 began with initial aid from India. India immediately transported bottled water to Malé as part of Operation NEER utilising Navy ships and Air Force aircraft. Even after Covid-19 disrupted the global supply networks, India kept supplying the Maldives with needs as part of Mission SAGAR.

Financial exchanges:

In 2021, India surpassed China to become the Maldives’ third-largest trading partner. Scrap metals make up the majority of Maldives imports to India.

India exports a wide range of items to the Maldives, including agricultural products like rice, spices, fruits, vegetables, chicken products, and radar as well as engineering and industrial products like medications and medicines, granite boulders, aggregates, and cement.

India has exempted the Maldives from its limitations on the export of necessities due to geographical reasons.

The Maldives’ primary source of income is tourism. Indian tourists increasingly enjoy visiting the nation.

Military collaboration:

Since 1988, India and the Maldives have mostly worked together in the security and defence fields. The equipment and training requirements for Indian defence forces have been met in a highly flexible and accommodating manner. The Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) receives the majority of its training chances from India, which fulfils about 70% of their needs in this area.

To enhance defence collaborations, a thorough Action Plan for Defense was also agreed upon in April 2016. Defence cooperation between India and the Maldives also covers infrastructure development, equipment contributions, joint exercises, maritime domain awareness, and more.

A new Ministry of Defence Headquarters is being built in addition to the Composite Training Centre (CTC) for MNDF, Coastal Radar System (CRS), and CRS.

Working together to grow:

According to ongoing and finished development aid, the largest projects India has undertaken are:

The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital serves as one example.

The Institute of Technical Education in the Maldives (now called the Maldives Polytechnic).

Faculty of Hospitality & Tourism Studies, India-Maldives.

Technology Adoption Program for the Maldives’ Education Sector

To assist the Maldives in coping with the COVID-19 outbreak-related economic depression, India pledged a USD 500 million package for air, sea, intra-island, and telecommunications.

India will fund the Greater Male Connectivity Project with a $100 million grant and a new $400 million line of credit.

to promote the employment of cargo ships that sail directly between India and the Maldives in order to facilitate the import and export of goods between the two nations.

People will be transported between India and the Maldives via air bubbles for a variety of purposes, including jobs, travel, and urgent medical situations. The first nation with whom India has operationalized a travel bubble is the Maldives.

Moving forward:

To guarantee regional security in South Asia and along the maritime borders of the area, India must be a significant player in the Indo-Pacific security architecture.

The expansion of extraregional powers (notably China’s) in India’s maritime sphere of influence led to the creation of the Indo-Pacific security space.

To protect its “sphere of influence,” the Indian government must closely monitor the “India Out” campaign.

While having obvious political favourites, New Delhi must actively promote the image of the friendly and helpful neighbour without overtly attempting to sway the outcome of the election the following year.

Conclusion:

The Maldives play a significant role in India’s “Neighborhood first” policy. We ought to show our neighbours the respect they merit.


The Indian Express Editorial Analysis

COVID-Three Years Later

Current situation:

There have been rumours of a fourth wave in India as a result of the largest and most violent Covid-19 wave in China. State and federal officials have conducted drills, held high-level discussions, and issued some recommendations based on conjecture.

This has, of course, caused some trepidation and unease among the general people.

An epidemic or disease outbreak’s progression:

In any context or nation, a disease outbreak or epidemic is the consequence of complex interactions between the “epidemiologic trinity” of the agent, host, and environment.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, is the culprit in Covid-19. The term “hosts” refers to both individuals and the variables that are related to them, such as the susceptibility pool, population-level immunity, age distribution, burden of co-morbidities, etc.

The degree of social and commercial activity, travel, and any prevailing infections that might stop the spread of diseases are examples of environmental or external variables.

India’s fight against the Covid-19 was made easier by a carefully thought-out immunisation programme:

Beginning in 2020, SARS CoV2 had the potential to quickly spread and go global. It was a brand-new virus at the time, highly contagious, and affecting the entire population.

Because of a prior natural infection, a vaccination, or most usually both, people are protected against mild to severe sickness three years after the virus was first discovered.

It is estimated that 95% or more of the population, comprising persons of all ages, including children, have spontaneously contracted the disease at least once after three waves of the Covid-19 virus, particularly in India. Additionally, 97% of individuals have had the Covid-19 immunisation at least once.

There is a very low chance that 98 percent or more of Indians would be afflicted by a moderate-to-severe illness by the end of 2022.

But when one or more of the elements of the epidemiologic triad are significantly changed, the chance of a new national wave in India rises.

Has India’s condition changed as a result of the Covid boom in China?

Omicron (B.1.1.529) and its sub-lineages, including XBB and BF.7, are expanding in China, according to the agent factor.

The third wave in India was brought on by the Omicron strain, whose sub-lineages had been circulating there for some time. The continuous Covid-19 pandemic has always seen fresh waves as new sorts of worry have emerged (VoC). It is unknown for the same VoC to produce a second wave under identical conditions. The agent factor for India remains stable since no new VoC have been detected.

The increase in Covid vaccinations and preventive dosages since the third wave in January 2022 is one of the host variables. Omicron and its sub-lineages have continued to spread asymptomatic diseases.

Even after accounting for the decline in antibody levels that happens after vaccination or a natural infection, the low incidence of moderate to severe Covid cases suggests that regular exposure to sub-lineages in the natural environment has likely more than made up for that. One could contend that the susceptible population has shrunk even further.

In terms of environmental or external influences, social connections and activities have grown this year compared to earlier in the year, but mask use and adherence to physical distance have decreased.

But these methods were more helpful for those with weak immune systems (not exposed to the virus and not vaccinated).

Only when the agent factor or the emergence of a new VoC alters do environmental factors become relevant.

Omicron is now the only VoC, limiting the effectiveness of masks and physical isolation as public health measures, with the exception of a small portion of the population sub-group that is vulnerable and unvaccinated.

Therefore, if we interpret the epidemiological, virological, and immunological evidence, supplemented by the data from genomic and wastewater surveillance, as well as the trend in reported cases and deaths in India, it makes sense to draw the conclusion that the current wave in China is highly unlikely to trigger a new national wave in India.

But if the Covid virus is to be kept from spreading, caution must be exercised:

Depending on perspective and individual interpretations of the historical facts, it may be necessary to prepare for a “potential” future wave.

The trends of previous Covid waves are extrapolated based on the present allegation that “the next 40 days will be key” in India.

The “context” is crucial for illnesses that have the potential to spread like epidemics. The situation has altered three years into the pandemic, making it impossible to make wise decisions based on prior trends.

Now, the answer must be based on research, supported by the relevant data, and take into account the lessons learned. It must be situational and diplomatic.

Covid is still around today, thus it’s unlikely that it will ever totally vanish. Even after the pandemic is gone, waves and spikes (localised or at the national level) will continue to occur at random times in various regions of the planet.

Conclusion:

India and other nations should be equipped to handle such a situation. There don’t appear to be any limits at the moment, not even ones that require wearing masks, in-depth testing, or physical separation.

Covid-19 has spread throughout India over the past several months, thus the government needs to classify it in the same category as other respiratory illnesses. Additionally, now is the perfect time for India to create a data-based “Covid-19 endemic stage reaction strategy.”

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