The HINDU Notes – 08th June 2021 - VISION

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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

The HINDU Notes – 08th June 2021


📰 Draft Rules for live-streaming, recording of court proceedings out

Court invites suggestions from stakeholders.

•Draft Rules released by the Supreme Court e-Committee on Monday for live-streaming and recording court proceedings propose a 10-minute delay in transmission and exclusion of communally sensitive cases and matters that involve sexual offences and gender violence against women.

•The Rules are part of the National Policy and Action Plan for implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the judiciary.

•Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana recently said the process to make live stream a reality was actively under consideration.

•Now, the Supreme Court has invited inputs and feedback on the ‘Draft Model Rules for Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings’. The Rules would cover live-streaming and recording of proceedings in High Courts, lower courts and tribunals.

Letter to CJs

•Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who heads the Supreme Court e-Committee, had written to the Chief Justices of the High Courts for their feedback on the draft Rules.

•A sub-committee consisting of judges of the Bombay, Delhi, Madras and Karnataka High Courts was constituted to frame the model draft Rules.

•In his letter, Justice Chandrachud said the right of access to justice, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, “encompasses the right to access live court proceedings”.

•The Rules intend to balance between access to information and concerns of privacy and confidentiality.

•Matrimonial matters, cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act would also be exempted from livestream. The Bench can exempt, for reasons recorded in writing, any case it considers antithetical to the administration of justice.

•Cameras would be positioned to cover five angles; the Bench, lawyers on both sides, accused and witnesses.

•A remote control device would be provided to the presiding judge on the Bench to pause or stop the livestream at any time.

•“The final decision as to whether or not to allow the live-streaming of the proceedings or any portion thereof will be of the Bench, however, the decision of the Bench will be guided by the principle of an open and transparent judicial process,” the Rules said.

No personal information

•Personal information such as date of birth of parties, home address, identity card number, bank account information, and the personal information of related parties, such as close relatives, witnesses and other participants, will be deleted or muted during live-streaming.

•The content of the recording would be vetted and posted, usually within three days of the conclusion of the proceedings. The content would be posted on the court website or made available on digital platforms authorised by the court.

•“No person/entity (including print and electronic media, and social media platforms) other than an authorised person/entity shall record, share and/or disseminate live-streamed proceedings or archival data,” the Rules proposed.

📰 Supreme Court urged to stop illegal adoption of children orphaned by COVID-19

Justice Nageswara Rao said the court would pass the necessary orders on the issue of illegal adoption of children orphaned by COVID-19

•The Supreme Court on June 7 agreed to intervene after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) sounded the alarm on a spate of complaints about illegal adoption of children orphaned by COVID-19 through private individual and organisations.

•The NCPCR informed a Bench led by Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose that it has received many complaints in May that private individuals and organisations have been actively collecting data on these children while claiming that they want to assist families and children in adoption.

•“Social media posts are circulating thar children are up for adoption. This is plainly illegal and violates the Juvenile Justice Act,” advocate Shobha Gupta, for an intervenor, made an impassioned plea.

•“The adoption of orphaned/abandoned/surrendered children is lawful only after the adoption procedure as given under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 is followed and the final adoption order is passed by the prescribed authority,” Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, for NCPCR, submitted.

•The NCPCR statistics shows that 3,621 children were orphaned, 26,176 children lost either parent and 274 children were abandoned between April 1, 2021 to June 5, 2021. The second wave of the pandemic was at its worst form during this period, leaving a trail of death across the country.

•Justice Rao said the court would pass the necessary orders on the issue of illegal adoptions.

•The national child rights body said information about these children, including their personal details, are being leaked from within government sources to private bodies, which circulate them.

•“The Commission is receiving intimation regarding disclosure of children’s identity/ information by government authorities to private NGOs and organizations. Care must be taken by the authorities to ensure that their action is not in violation of Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act,” the NCPCR affidavit said.

•The provision prohibits the disclosure of identity of children with regard to the name, school, age, address or any information which would reveal the essential details of the child.

•The NCPCR urged the court to direct the States and Union Territories to not place any confidential information about children in the public domain which would make them susceptible to trafficking,

•“The Commission is also concerned to note that several NGOs are seeking monetary support in the name of children impacted by COVID. However, there is no disclosure to authorities regarding actual beneficiaries, as mandated under the JJ Act, 2015,” the NCPCR said.

•The Commission asked the court to direct the States and UTs to create State Juvenile Justice Funds to enable the credit of donations/ contributions/ subscriptions directly in the notified account.

📰 Fivefold increase in farm protests since 2017: CSE report

Apart from 12 pan-India agitations, most protests were in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

•Apart from the three contentious farm laws, procurement and agricultural market price-related failures have contributed to a fivefold increase in major farmers’ protests since 2017, according to data collated by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

•In 2017, there were 34 major protests across 15 States. That number has now shot up to 165 protests across 22 States and Union territories.

•The CSE’s State of Environment in Figures 2021 report records that 12 of these are pan-India protests, including 11 agitations against the three farm reform laws introduced last year. Along with protests against State legislation and inadequate Budget allocations for the agricultural sector, such anti-policy agitations account for 96 major protests across the country.

•However, large numbers of farmers are also fighting against market failures and demanding fair prices, which have led to 38 major protests. Battles against the acquisition of farm land for development projects, including highway and airport construction, are the prime cause of 17 agitations.

Loan waivers

•At least seven agitations have been to demand loan waivers or to protest poor insurance coverage and delayed compensation. Farmers have gathered at least four times over 2020-21 to protest the unavailability or increased prices of farm inputs and infrastructure, such as irrigation or fertilisers. The arrests of protesting farm leaders have also led to further stirs.

•Although Punjab and Haryana farmers have caught the limelight for the recent protests outside Delhi, the CSE data shows that the largest number of recent protests have taken place in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

•The report noted that India now has more farm labourers than landowning farmers and cultivators. This is true in 52% of the country’s districts, as well as in all districts of Bihar and Kerala. More than 28 agricultural workers and cultivators end their lives every day. The latest data available shows that 5,957 farmers and an additional 4,324 farm labourers died by suicide in 2019.

•The CSE called for the better maintenance of agricultural data, noting that 14 States had actually witnessed a deterioration in the quality of their land records. “India is sitting atop a massive time-bomb of agrarian crisis and disquiet, and the clock is ticking away,” said a CSE statement.

📰 Government will revert to centralised procurement of vaccines, says Modi

PM also says the Centre will provide vaccines for free to all adults from June 21.

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced that India would revert to a system of centralised procurement of vaccines against COVID-19, with free vaccines to be provided for the 18-44 age group as well and with 25% of procurement kept open for the private sector. This system will be operationalised by June 21.

•Announcing the decision during a televised broadcast to the nation, Mr. Modi said many chief ministers had “come forward with a demand for reconsideration of the vaccination strategy and for bringing back the system in place before May 1.” He announced a cap of ₹150 on the amount private hospitals can charge over the cost of purchase of the vaccine from the manufacturer. 

•He also announced the extension of the free ration distribution scheme for 80 crore beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana till Diwali, in November. 

•The Prime Minister’s announcement comes a week after the Supreme Court asked for an affidavit from the Centre on how the sum of ₹35,000 crore allocated in the Union Budget for vaccines has been spent so far. The Court sought to know why these funds cannot be used for giving free vaccination for those in the age group of 18 to 44 years, observing that the Centre’s policy of not providing free vaccines to this particular age group was prima facie “arbitrary and irrational.” The affidavit is due on June 15 and the next hearing is on June 30.

•The Chief Minister of Odisha had written to chief ministers across the country urging a consensus on central procurement of vaccines, while Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written to chief ministers of 11 non-NDA States to unite to ask for free vaccines from the Centre.

•Expressing grief at the loss of life especially during the massive second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit India, Mr. Modi said his government had dealt with the challenges of resources on a war footing to deal with a “once in a century” pandemic.

•“Never in a 100 years has there been such a pandemic, and this saw an unprecedented demand for medical oxygen across the country. We pressed the government, railways, army, air force, navy and other wings into service to procure medical oxygen and other medicines required in our fight against the COVID19 pandemic,” he said.

•At the receiving end of much criticism over vaccine shortages, Prime Minister Modi defended his government’s record and capacity.

•“When we were first elected in 2014, we found that vaccine coverage under the universal immunisation programme was around 60% and we quickly launched ‘Mission Indradhanush’ to not only increase coverage but we added other vaccines to improve the health of our children. When COVID-19 hit, our scientists got to work to develop a vaccine to deal with the disease. Government of India set up a vaccine task force in April 2020 itself and provided logistical support, funds and other encouragement to our scientists and manufactures, with the result that by the end of the year we had two “made in India” vaccines. A situation different from before, when it would be decades before vaccines developed abroad could become available in India,” he said. 

•“We launched the vaccination drive against COVID-19 on January 16 and kept to guidelines provided by WHO and best practices of other countries. We prioritised our healthcare and frontline workers, elderly and those with comorbidities. It doesn’t bear thinking what would have happened in the second wave if our frontline workers had not been vaccinated,” Mr Modi said. 

•“As corona cases started declining, questions arose about the lack of choice for States and some people questioned why the Central government was deciding everything. Flexibility in lockdown and one-size-does-not-fit-all type arguments were were forwarded,” he said.

•As the vaccination progressed from January 16 to April end, India’s vaccination programme was running under the Central government and people were “showing discipline in getting vaccinated when their turn came” he said. 

•“Amidst this demands for decentralization of vaccination were raised, decision about priority to certain age groups was raised. Many types of pressures were exerted and certain sections of the media houses ran a campaign to this effect as well,” he said. “So, we announced that from May 1, 25% of all procurement for the vaccination programme would be done by State governments. Many tried and came up against many challenges that the Centre had managed to overcome, dealing with manufacturers, pricing etc. Then a few days back many States said that a reverting to the old system was better,” he said. 

•“We will be reverting to the old system where the Centre can procure upto 75% of the doses of vaccines and it will provide them free to State governments, even for the age group 18-44,” he said. “Those who want to go to private facilities, that too will be allowed, as private institutions can procure 25% of vaccines from manufacturers, but there will be a cap of ₹150 per dose as service charge over the cost of the vaccine,” he said. 

•He expressed optimism that more vaccine candidates will be available in the country in the future, including an under development nasal vaccine. He added that trials for vaccines for children were also going on in the country. He urged people to spike rumours over vaccines and encourage as many people as possible to take the vaccine. 

•The battle over vaccine procurement had been raging for the last couple of months, between the Centre and the States. It is left to be seen how State governments view this reversal of policy, much of it laid at their door. 

📰 China hosts ASEAN ministers, with message for Quad

A vaccine passport connecting China and ASEAN countries is also being discussed.

•China is hosting foreign ministers from the 10 ASEAN countries on Monday and Tuesday, with Beijing pushing for closer economic cooperation and aligning COVID-19 recovery efforts even as it looks to push back against the recent regional outreach of the Quad grouping.

•Chinese officials have in recent weeks stepped up criticism of the Quad — the informal India, Australia, Japan and United States grouping — and of Washington in particular. During recent visits to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, China’s Defence Minister called on both countries to reject “military alliances” — a term that some Beijing are using to describe the Quad, but a label that the group rejects.

•China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a statement the China-ASEAN foreign ministers meeting, in the city of Chongqing, would mark the 30-year anniversary of relations and also “focus on combating COVID-19, promoting economic recovery, [and] better dovetail[ing] strategic plans.” A vaccine passport connecting China and ASEAN countries is also being discussed.

•China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi will hold bilateral meetings with all the visiting ministers, and also chair a meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

•Deepening economic cooperation, particularly following the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, would be China’s focus, analysts in Beijing said, even as it grapples with disputes over the South China Sea. Recently, China and the Philippines have clashed over the presence of Chinese vessels near a disputed reef, while Malaysia alleged the intrusion of 16 Chinese aircraft into its airspace.

•The Communist Party-run Global Times on Monday blamed the U.S. for those tensions rather than China’s moves that prompted the protests from the Philippines and Malaysia. Countries “see clearly that quarrels on South China Sea are not the biggest threat to regional stability; it is the U.S., whose warships frequently sail through the sensitive waters and try to force ASEAN countries take sides to confront China,” the newspaper wrote.

•After the first Quad leaders’ summit held in March and the announcement of a regional vaccine initiative, many Chinese analysts framed ASEAN as a key space where Chinese and Quad initiatives may rub up against each other.

•China “cannot rule out the possibilities that Quad members will further rope in ASEAN members to counter China as Southeast Asia is of great significance to the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy,” wrote Yuan Zheng, senior fellow of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Yet ASEAN will not easily take sides.”

•The framing of the Quad as “an Asian NATO” by Beijing has been criticised by the group’s members. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in April described the using of words such as “Asian NATO” as “a mind game which people are playing”.

📰 Heightened stress could delay bank privatisation: Fitch

‘Investor interest needed for success’

•The Centre’s plan to privatise two public sector banks this year could face delays on account of higher stress levels in banks’ balance sheets due to COVID-19, as well as political hurdles in effecting necessary legislative changes, Fitch Ratings said on Monday.

•The government has announced an ambitious disinvestment target of ₹1.75 lakh crore for 2021-22, which includes the sale of two banks, yet to be officially identified from the dozen public sector entities in the sector.

•“The bold move to privatise state-run banks faces risk from political opposition and structural challenges including heightened balance-sheet stress due to the pandemic, which is likely to keep bank performance subdued for the next 2-3 years,” Fitch said in a note.

•Arguing that investors’ appetite for government-owned banks is muted due to ‘structurally weak governance frameworks’ and ‘persistently weak performance, reflected in significant asset-quality problems’, the ratings agency said that larger banks have generally ‘compromised’ financials.

‘Resistance from unions’

•Investor interest might be especially muted in banks prohibited by the central bank from pursuing fresh loans and new branches under the prompt corrective action framework.

•“There could also be more resistance from the trade unions this time around, who will be against the safety-net withdrawal of state ownership. Success of the plan would also require sufficient interest from investor(s) willing to acquire large stake(s) in state-owned banks and run them,” it added.

•State-owned banks have been more active in extending relief and forbearance measures announced by the authorities than their private peers, Fitch noted, stressing this would make it more difficult to assess stress levels at these banks.

•Work culture differences and more ‘bureaucratic’ organisational practices at public sector banks also pose a challenge.

•“Similar challenges and the absence of meaningful investor interest resulted in the state ultimately having to sell its majority stake in IDBI Bank to LIC in 2019, which has somewhat been privatisation in letter but not in spirit.

•“However, this could change in 2021 if both government and LIC are able to divest a majority stake in the bank to an external investor, as it may be indicative of broader investor appetite in state banks with adequate loan-loss reserves,” it concluded.

📰 School ranks: On Performance Grading Index

High-performing States with good schools can nudge others if they have the political will

•The Union Education Ministry has been attempting to get States into a competitive mode in upgrading their school education system by recognising progress with a Performance Grading Index (PGI) that assigns them a score. It can be argued that countries and State governments use school education as a transformative tool most effectively where the political imperative is strong. The Centre’s effort with the PGI scoring system has been to try and nudge all States using a hall of fame approach. In the latest set of scores and grades for the pre-COVID-19 year, 2019-20, the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Chandigarh, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have performed the best, although they still fall short of the 951-1,000 points slab, the highest possible. It should be heartening to 33 States and Union Territories that their PGI scores have improved over the previous year, and in the case of Andaman and Nicobar, Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh, by a noteworthy 20%. Several middling States continue to make marginal progress, some have improved merely by tweaking their data, while Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh actually regressed, although the PGI scheme is now three years old. The score is derived using databases on 70 parameters such as access, equity, governance processes, infrastructure and facilities, and learning outcomes that are mostly self-reported by the States but vetted by the Centre, with National Achievement Survey data also being incorporated. On some parameters, such as uneven learning outcomes between students from deprived communities and others, bridging the gap earns a better score.

•The Centre, with its transparent scores and data for each parameter and sub-topic made available in the public domain, seeks to create a resource-sharing system that low-performing States can tap into. This initiative is laudable, but it can work only if governments and Opposition parties see value in strong and open school education, and work to strengthen access, equity and infrastructure by budgeting fees and funds for universalisation. It is such commitment that led Southeast Asia to carry out a renaissance in school education in the later decades of the last century, on the lines of Meiji-era Japan. India’s school system has to contend with not just patchy access and infrastructure, but major equity issues that have come to the fore during the pandemic. Clearly, the shadow of COVID-19 will persist over the education system for the foreseeable future, and further progress on all parameters will depend on bridging the gaps, particularly on digital tools, infrastructure and subsidies for access. The PGI scores show that the southern and western States are on firm ground to achieve this, while those in central India and parts of the east and Northeast are less resourced. What is evident from the Education Ministry analysis is that governance processes are the weakest link in some States. A new deal for schools can transform them as the Right to Education law envisages.

📰 Fair wind: On IMD's projection of good monsoon

A good monsoon will aid agriculture, now one of the few bright spots in the economy

•If everything aligns, India could see a third consecutive year of surplus rainfall. The IMD has said that monsoon rains will likely be 101% of the Long Period Average (LPA) of 88 cm. In 2020, it was 109% of the LPA and in 2019, 110%. While the forecast 101% LPA is short of the rainfall received in these years and still within the range of what the IMD considers ‘normal’ rainfall, it is positive news because the current forecast is ‘above normal’ rainfall in the core agricultural zone. This zone includes States where agriculture is significantly rain-fed including Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal. The IMD’s estimate of the distribution of this rainfall also suggests that except for the Northeast, where rainfall is expected to be ‘below normal’, other regions are expected to get above normal rainfall. A general pattern of the monsoon is that weakened rains over Northeastern India — which has a higher base rainfall than other parts of India — translate into stronger rainfall in Central India. Propitious rain this year is premised on forecasts from Indian and global climate models, veering towards no excess sea-surface temperatures at the Equatorial Pacific conditions. There are also ‘negative’ IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole) conditions over the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season, meaning warmer water and greater precipitation in the eastern Indian Ocean. Put together, they mean that these larger climate factors are, as of now, unlikely to have a significant influence over the prevailing monsoon.

•A good monsoon could aid agriculture which has been among the few bright spots in the Indian economy. Two good years of rains have boosted storage in the key reservoirs. However, the flip side of a forecast for a bounteous monsoon is the possibility of flash floods, landslides and disease outbreaks. In the last year and before it, the IMD had not, in June, warned about the exceptionally high rains. While three consecutive years of above normal rain are exceedingly rare, the IMD itself assigns a 22% probability of it occurring, which is just below the 40% probability of ‘normal’ rainfall. India is now moving to a system where medium range forecasts, or expected changes in monsoon or larger weather patterns over two weeks, are better captured by the monsoon models deployed. These inputs must be used by the Government to better prepare infrastructure in the eventuality that excessive rains can wipe out the potential gains for agriculture. It may also be worthwhile to encourage farmers to sow higher-value crops than only rice via the MSP route. The favourable tidings should not be an excuse to abandon caution.

📰 Towards a stronger mental health strategy

More needs to be done in India in the context of COVID-19, which has exacerbated mental illnesses

•Mental health issues are a major health challenge in the world today. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a 10-25-year life expectancy reduction in patients with severe mental disorders. About 72% of member states had a standalone policy or plan for mental health in 2017. India introduced the National Mental Health Policy (NMHP) in 2014, and a rights-based Mental Healthcare Act in 2017, which replaced the Mental Healthcare Act of 1987. The NMHP, National Health Mission, National Adolescent Health Programme, and Ayushman Bharat have the necessary components to address the mental health issues of all sections of the population. But more needs to be done in the context of COVID-19, which has exacerbated mental illnesses everywhere.

Mental health indicators

•Studies in The Lancet Public Health (2019) revealed that median mental health spending across the world was around 2% of the total government health expenditure in 2015. In the case of low-income countries, it was around 0.5% of their health budget; for lower-middle-income countries, it was 1.9%; for upper-middle-income countries, 2.4%; and for high-income countries, 5.1%. There was higher allocation in developed countries than in developing countries. Government expenditure on hospitals dealing with mental health issues as a percentage of total government expenditure on mental health is 1.3% in India; in developed countries, it ranges from 3% to 15%.

•In India, the share of mental hospitals per 1,00,000 population is as low as 0.01 in line with developing countries, according to the WHO. This may possibly be due to the lack of focussed attention given to mental health compared to other major diseases in India.

•In the distribution of mental health units in general hospitals (per 1,00,000 population) globally, in 2016, India was ranked 114 with just 0.03 units per 1,00,000 population. India was at the 99th position in the distribution of mental health outpatient facilities (per 1,00,000 population), with 0.18 units per 1,00,000 population. India was also at the 64th position in the distribution of mental health day treatment facilities (per 1,00,000 population).

•Residential mental health services, particularly community ones, are an important component for good quality mental health care. In most industrialised economies, there has been a growth of community healthcare facilities in line with the increase in patients with mental health issues. Research also shows that long-term patients with mental health issues are usually admitted to residential facilities. The distribution of community residential facilities globally for the median year 2016 showed India at the 58th position, with 0.017 units per 1,00,000 population among the WHO member countries.

•The people working in the mental health sector help us understand mental health issues better. Here, India was ranked 107 with 0.292 per 1,00,000 population. Nurses, social workers and psychologists working in the mental health sector (per 1,00,000 population) in India are 0.796, 0.065, and 0.069, respectively. The leading countries in each of these three areas have 150.3, 145.4, and 222.6 per 1,00,000 population. India’s ranking in this context among the WHO member countries was 97, 79 and 104, respectively.

Mental illnesses

•Mental illnesses include anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, substance use disorders, personality disorders and eating disorders. The majority of suicides in the world are related to psychiatric problems or to the illnesses listed above. Death by suicide is a complex phenomenon and not fully reported. Globally, the suicide rate was 10.6 per 1,00,000 population whereas in India, it was 16.3 per 1,00,000 in 2016. The suicide rate was higher among males compared to females.

•Mental health may not be the primary concern in developing economies like India as there may be other communicable and non-communicable diseases which may be more prevalent. There are also challenges regarding funding, delivery of mental health packages, lack of trained staff, etc. However, these challenges need to be considered more seriously in the wake of COVID-19 as mental health issues are widely prevalent among the Indian population due to lockdowns and related issues.

•Recent reports published in Lancet revealed that one in seven people in India had a mental disorder ranging from mild to severe in 2017. Also, the proportional contribution of mental disorders to the total disease burden had doubled between 1990 and 2017. Mental disorders include depressive and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This situation was generally worse in the southern States compared to the northern States due to the nature of development, modernisation, urbanisation and other factors not understood yet. Depressive disorders were more prevalent among females than males which could be due to sexual abuse, gender discrimination, stress due to antenatal and postnatal issues and other reasons.

Additional measures for India

•In order to further address mental health issues, India could reduce the treatment gap for mental disorders, increase the number of personnel in the mental health sector, work towards reducing discriminatory attitudes, and devise an integrated approach for detecting, treating, and managing patient needs. More counselling facilities, especially in rural areas, with special support for women through the provision of women doctors are needed. More telemedicine, telephone-based helpline numbers, and mental health apps could help. Communities and families have an important role in this regard and so do community-based programmes. School-based programmes on mental health can improve the mental health of children. More fund allocation for treatment of mental health, especially to those States in need of funds, could do wonders. The pandemic may be the best time to explore various policy options including creating online mental health awareness.

•There needs to be a road map for mental health awareness. This should include the traditional media, government programmes, the education system, industry, and social media. Media awareness and government involvement is already happening in India but both can improve. It is high time that industry and private sector companies set up counselling facilities. The application of big data and crowd sourcing ideas may help us in informed decision-making.