Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 09 May 2023

Title 42 is ending at the U.S.-Mexico border

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

The United States is getting ready to lift COVID-19 restrictions that have blocked migrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum since 2020, a major policy shift with humanitarian and political implications.

What is Title 42?

  1. The COVID restrictions, known as Title 42, were first implemented under Republican then-President Donald Trump in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic.
  2. At the time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the order was needed to stem the spread of the coronavirus in crowded detention settings.
  3. Title 42 allowed border agents to rapidly expel many migrants to Mexico, but some public health experts, Democrats and advocates criticized its health justification, saying it was part of Trump’s goal of curbing legal and illegal immigration.
  4. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021 vowing to reverse Trump’s restrictive approach, but kept Title 42 in place and expanded it as his administration grappled with record migrant arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  5. Since its inception, migrants have been expelled more than 2.7 million times under Title 42, although the total includes many repeat crossers and Mexico has generally only accepted certain nationalities.

What is happening this month?

  1. The Biden administration intends to lift Title 42 when the U.S. COVID public health emergency ends. Migrants caught crossing the border will again be able to request asylum, a process that can take years to resolve. U.S. border officials are preparing for a possible increase in illegal crossings, the result of pent-up demand and the perception among migrants that they will be allowed in.
  2. The numbers are already climbing. In April, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended some 183,000 migrants, according to preliminary data provided by Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a 13 percent increase from March. More than 19,000 migrants are currently being held in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities, exceeding capacity by 200 percent, according to Judd.

What is the plan once Title 42 is gone?

  1. To deter would-be migrants after the order is lifted, the Biden administration plans to issue a new regulation.
  2. It would deny asylum to most migrants caught crossing if they passed through another country en route to the U.S. without seeking protection or failed to use other legal pathways, which Biden has expanded. U.S. authorities aim to process migrants in days and swiftly deport them if they fail an initial asylum screening.
  3. Nearly 500 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) personnel will temporarily be assigned to help with the interviews and the Pentagon will send 1,500 troops to support the Border Patrol on a temporary basis.
  4. The new Biden regulation toughening access to asylum is expected to face legal challenges. The administration may also struggle to hold migrants at the border and quickly deport them without additional funds from Congress.


World Thalassemia Day 2023

GS Paper -3 (Disease)

On 8th May 1994, Thalassemia International Federation (TIF) observedWorld Thalassemia Day in memory of George Englezos. George was the son of the TIF founder, who lost his life due to thalassemia. Thalassemia, as a disorder, its advocacy around all sectors, such as preventative awareness, healthcare, education, livelihood, and early interventions, have evolved dramatically.

More about the news:

  1. In India, thalassemia, along with two other blood disorders, was recognised as a benchmark disability in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, of 2016.
  2. This brought a landmark shift in recognition and advocacy for thalassemia that went beyond the health sector and preventative awareness.

About Thalassemia:

  1. Thalassemia is a genetic-blood disorder that requires people to have regular blood transfusions mostly throughout the span of their life.
  2. It is part of a group of disorders called Hemoglobinopathies. Hemoglobinopathies are a group of disorders that are passed down through families (inherited) in which there is abnormal production or structure of haemoglobin molecules.
  3. Diseases that are under the umbrella of Hemoglobinopathies include Thalassemia, Hemophilia and Sickle Cell Disorder.
  4. In thalassemia, the presence of haemoglobin is severely low which results in the damaging of Red Blood Cells immaturely. This results in a low count of RBCs and the constant need for blood transfusion.
  5. According to the data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, every year, 10,000 to 15,000 children are born with B-thalassemia major and make use of transfusion.
  6. The Health Ministry also highlighted that there are 42 million carriers of the thalassemia trait in India. Thalassemia trait carriers are those people who don’t have the disorder but carry a gene that can become a disorder in their offspring if their partner is a thalassemia carrier as well.
  7. Thalassemia is an easily preventable disorder and can be checked for in the nearest diagnostic centre. Thalassemia can also be detected in a neonatal screening test which allows people to make an informed choice for their future.

Measures taken by Government of India on thalassemia prevention and management:

  1. The National Health Mission has come up with guidelines for the prevention and management of hemoglobinopathies.
  2. The mission is to improve the care of Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Disease patients and reduce the prevalence of hemoglobinopathies through screening and awareness strategies.
  3. Community education and awareness programs, sustainable carrier screening programs, premarital and pre-conception screening, and extended family screening are all part of the strategy.
  4. For the management of the disorder, the goals of the public health strategy for thalassemia and sickle cell disease include providing optimal care through day-care facilities and safe blood, financial support for essential medicines, early diagnosis and intervention protocols, and community education.
  5. The strategy aims to improve treatment and management options and make them available through public health facilities.


India’s participation in US rail link plan for West Asia

GS Paper -2 (International Relations)

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met his counterparts from the US, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss an ambitious proposal being pushed by the White House to link West Asian countries through rail using Indian expertise and connect the region to South Asia via sea lanes.

More about the news:

  1. The participants are expected to discuss the broad contours of the massive joint project to build railway, maritime and road connectivity in the larger region, linking the Indian subcontinent in South Asia with West Asia, which the US calls the Middle East.
  2. It is among the key initiatives the White House wants to push in the Middle East as China’s influence in the region grows. The Middle East is a key part of China’s Belt and Road vision.

Participation of the Indian side in the project fulfils strategic objectives:

  1. Beijing has expanded its sphere of political influence in the West Asian region through what Delhi views as “mission creep”, the breakthrough in ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran had caught India unawares.
  2. This has potential implications for India’s interests in West Asia, which provides energy security. Such connectivity will allow for faster movement of the crude and minimise India’s costs in the long term.
  3. The connectivity boost will also help India’s eight million citizens who live and work in the Gulf region.
  4. The project will help India build a brand as an infrastructure builder in the railways sector. Boasting a strong rail network at home and buoyed by the success of creating such infrastructure in Sri Lanka, India has the confidence to do it overseas.
  5. It will also have the effect of countering the Chinese Belt and Road project, which has burdened many countries in the region with infrastructure that has limited utility.
  6. The US, which had proposed the Blue Dot network, is one of the elements in the creation of the connectivity project that will be financially sustainable and viable.
  7. India’s connectivity to its western neighbours has been limited for long by Pakistan’s blocking of overland transit routes; Delhi wants to use shipping routes to reach West Asian ports.
  8. Various ports include Chabahar and Bandar-e-Abbas (Iran), Duqm (Oman), Dubai (UAE), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and Kuwait City. Connectivity projects crisscrossing the Gulf and Arab countries, with Indian stakes, open up trading opportunities.

When did such an idea arise?

  1. The new initiative came up during talks held over the last 18 months in a forum called I2U2which includes the US, Israel, the UAE and India.
  2. The forum was established in late 2021 to discuss strategic infrastructure projects in West Asia.
  3. With China in mind, Israel raised the idea of connecting the region through railways by using India’s expertise on such big infrastructure projects during the I2U2 meetings over the last year.
  4. The Biden administration in recent months expanded on the idea to include Saudi Arabia’s participation. The initiative would include connecting Arab countries in the Levant and the Gulf via a network of railways that will also connect to India through seaports in the Gulf.

US objectives to promote such projects in Middle East:

  1. The US NSA said that one of the pillars of the Biden administration’s strategy in the Middle East is regional integration.
  2. more integrated, interconnected Middle East empowers our allies and partners, advances regional peace and prosperity, and reduces the resource demands on the US in this region over the long term without sacrificing fundamental interests and involvement in the region.

Israel is not part of this initiative at the moment, but could be added to it in the future if efforts to normalise relations in the region make progress.


Install CCTVs in Central agencies, police stations: SC

GS Paper -2 (Governance)

The Supreme Court has given the Centre a deadline of three months, till 18 July, to comply with the directions in its December 2020 judgment to install CCTV or closed circuit television cameras in the offices of its investigative agencies, for the sake of transparency and protection of human rights of accused and under trials.

More about the news:

  1. A Bench led by Justice B.R. Gavai noted that several agencies had not taken any steps to comply with the court order.
  2. The court directed that in case the Centre chose not to comply and file an affidavit, “the Secretary (Home), Union of India, shall remain personally present before the court on the next date of hearing to show cause as to why an action for committing contempt should not be taken against them.

Previous order:

In the December 2020 verdict, a three-judge Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman (retired) had specifically directed the Centre to install CCTVs and recording equipment in the offices of the Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau, Department of Revenue Intelligence, Serious Fraud Investigation Office, and “any other agency which carries out interrogations and has the power of arrest”.

Present state:

  1. In its latest order, the court noted that the Centre and the States were yet to fully comply with the judgment.
  2. The order noted that only two Union Territories Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Ladakh — as well as the States of Mizoram and Goa have fully complied with the directions, making budgetary allocations as well as actually installing the CCTV cameras.

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