PM tells States to prepare for vaccine distribution Paper :

Mains : G.S.II Governance

Why in news?

PM Narendra Modi asked the state governments to set up steering committees and block – wise task forces to prepare for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as and when they are available.

Key details

  • Vaccines will be available when they pass all the tests for validation of data and regulatory frameworks.
  • We don’t know which vaccine will pass the scientific parameters for disbursal in the country and in which date until then we should make sure there is no unmanageable rise in cases.
  • It will be a large scale enterprise looking at the size of our country and keeping in mind our experience with large immunisation campaigns.
  • Distribution of vaccine needed to be a smooth exercise with great coordination with state governments, who are the best judge of how things are to be done in particular states.
  • While the availability of vaccines was in the hands of scientists and the pricing depends on various factors, as public servants, govts., should prepare cold chain spots.
  • Whichever vaccine is distributed in our country, it will have passed all the scientific parameters, he assured.
  • State government should keep logistics ready for vaccine rollout but, the primary focus should be on containing the spread of the virus. We must focus on bringing down the positivity rate below 5% and fatality rate below 1%.

Permanent Commission: Army Officers move SC Paper :

Mains : G.S. I & II, Women Empowerment, Gender Equality and Society

Why in news? 

Women army officers moved the SC to expose the hollowness of defence establishment’s announcement that 422 of 615 women officers screened have been found fit for a Permanent Commission. 

Key details

  • They said, only less than 50% of the women officers have been actually granted PC.
  • Compared to this number, 90% male officers have been cleared for PC in the army.
  • The exercise for grant of PC has been carried out more in optics, than in substance, rendering itself to be yet another instance of lip service.
  • Ministry of Defence issued the formal Government Sanction Letter for grant of permanent commission (PC) to women officers in the Army.
  • The order specifies the grant of permanent commission to SSC women officers in all the 10 streams in which they presently serve.
  • The above order follows a Supreme Court verdict that directed the government that women officers be granted PC and command postings in all services other than combat.

  • SC had dismissed the Union government’s submissions that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype”.
  • The court had found the remarks in the note not only constitutionally invalid but also discriminatory, affecting the dignity of women officers.

Poshan Abhiyaan needs a boost: study Paper :

Mains : G.S.II Issues related to women and children

Why in news?

The National Nutrition Mission or the Poshan Abhiyaan, the world’s largest nutrition programme for children and mothers, must be stepped up to meet the targets set by the Centre to reduce stunting, wasting and anaemia by 2022.

Key details

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) was launched by the government on March 8, 2018.
  • The Abhiyaan targets to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
  • The target of the mission is to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to ensure service delivery and interventions by use of technology, behavioural change through convergence and lays-down specific targets to be achieved across different monitoring parameters.
  • $200 million loan from World Bank will be used for implementing the National Nutrition Mission.
  • On stunting, the report says that India’s targets are conservative as compared to the global target defined by the World Health Assembly (WHA). The global targets aim for a prevalence rate of 5% of stunting as opposed to India’s goal of reducing stunting levels to 13.3% by 2022.
  • The target of reducing prevalence levels of anaemia among pregnant women from 50.3% in 2016 to 34.4% in 2022 and among adolescent girls from 52.9% in 2016 to 39.66%, is also considered conservative.
  • There is a need to quickly graduate to a POSHAN-plus strategy. The strategy apart from continuing strengthening the four pillars of the Poshan Abhiyaan also requires a renewed focus on other social determinants in addition to addressing the governance challenges of NHM/ICDS delivery mechanisms.

With U.S. drawing down troops, what’s next for Afghanistan? 

Paper : 

Mains : G.S. II International Relations

Why in news? 

Taliban continue their offensive even when talks are under way in Doha.

Key details

  • With the U.S. prepared to reduce it’s troop presence in Afghanistan to about 2,500 by January 20.
  • The Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001 after the U.S. invasion and have since been fighting both foreign troops and Afghan govt., now control more than half of the country and contest the whole of it.
  • In February this year, U.S. reached an agreement with the Taliban after prolonged negotiations in Doha.

  • According to the agreement, the U.S. would withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan in 14 months in return for assurances from Taliban that they would not allow Afghan soil to be used by transnational jihadist organisations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
  • The Taliban also committed that it would start direct talks with the Afghan government.
  • But the Taliban, while holding talks, continued being offensive. It is a time of uncertainty for the Afghan peace process.
  • The Taliban have given plenty of indications that they don’t intend to remain committed to the U.S. deal forever.
  • According to a UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan report in October, nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed in the first nine months of the year out of which, 45% of the deaths were at the hands of Taliban.
  • In early September, right before the peace talks opened, there was an attack on the convoy of Vice-president Amrullah Saleh, who’s known for his hard-line anti Taliban views.
  • At present, the U.S. and the coalition troops are not directly involved in frontline combat. They provide training to Afghan troops.
  • American air power is a critical ally of Afghan forces that resist Taliban’s repeated attempts to take over big population centres.
  • With the U.S. leaving at such a crucial point, it not only deprives Afghan forces of the support they need, particularly in the air power, but also affects their morale.
  • But all is not lost for the Afghan government, which has hundreds of thousands soldiers fighting for it and has backing in urban centres.
  • Much would depend on the policy, Joe Biden, the President elect of the U.S. would take towards Afghanistan.
  • In spite of the challenges, both the sides, the representatives of the govt and the Taliban remain at the negotiating table, and appear to have reached an early breakthrough.