9 PM Daily Brief – December 7, 2020

9 PM DAILY BRIEF

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GS 2

India’s stand against ‘UN’s selectivity on religions’

GS 3

Issues in Labour codes

Monoculture farming- depleting natural resources

Highlights of MPC meeting

A new roadmap for end of oil age


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FACTLY

India’s stand against ‘UN’s selectivity on religions’

Source: The Hindu

GS2: Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate.

Context: India criticised UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) for “selectivity” in seeking to protect Abrahamic religions — Islam, Christianity and Judaism over others.

What is UNAOC?

  • UNAOC is an organisation which was set up in 2005
  • Objective: to prevent polarisation between societies and cultures and to bridge differences between them.

How UNAOC criticised India?

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, for example, has been criticised for offering fast-track citizenship to only a select group of religions, leaving out Muslims.
  • India cannot call for a culture of peace that stitches together an alliance of faiths, while Indian States bring laws that seek to make difficult inter-faith marriages.

What are the key highlights of statements issued by India while criticising the world body?

  • India pointed out that previous resolutions of the UNAOC dating back to 2006 had repeatedly decried the hatred against those religions “Islamophobia, Christianophobia and anti-Semitism”
  • However, the body didn’t condemn attacks on other religious groups including Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, who have suffered terror strikes and seen their shrines destroyed in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • The UNGA statement welcomed the Kartarpur Gurdwara corridor agreement between India and Pakistan.
  • The world body failed to note that Pakistan’s government has taken over the management of the Sikh shrine, which it called a contravention of the agreement and a violation of Sikh beliefs.
  • India’s delegate also accused Pakistan of a “culture of hatred” against “religions in India” and fostering cross-border terrorism.
  • UNAOC only serves to further the theory of an inevitable “clash of civilisations”.

What are India’s concerns?

  • UNAOC portrays only three religions as victims of religious hatred.
  • It is important that they are broadened to include every community that faces religion-based violence.
  • It is also important that the government thwarts Pakistan’s particularly insidious attempts to create a controversy against India at this time, by pushing these resolutions as India steps to take its two-year seat at the UN Security Council.
  • India has been concerned by an increase in intrusive language from the UN bodies concerned as well, given that UNAOC issued a statement of “grave concern” over the Delhi riots this year that it said resulted in casualties of “mostly Muslims”.
  • India is keen to push back on the UNAOC and other UN arms, like the UN Human Rights Council, that have criticised the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

India needs to maintains its own secular credentials enshrined in the Constitution and its pluralistic ethos.

Issues in Labour codes

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context: The labour codes will only better India’s ‘ease of doing business’ ranking instead of improving conditions of employment

What is the Significance of Labour codes?

  • Will generate employment and secure the basic rights of the workers.
  • It will universalise the right to minimum wage of workers and social security entitlements.

Why, have the labour codes not been universally welcomed by workers?

  • Social Security net is not universal: The codes mandate benefits of Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) and Provident Fund (PF) only for workers belonging to establishments employing 10 workers or more. This leaves out nearly 80% of all Indian workers in the informal sector from the ambit of these benefits.
  • Inadequate hospitals and dispensaries under ESI
    • The ESI employed around six doctors per one lakh beneficiaries in 2016, as against the World Health Organization norm of 100 doctors.
    • With the new codes seeking to cover 20% of all workers, the membership would further increase to around 10 crore workers a three-time increase over the membership in 2019 (3.6 crore). The available capacity of the hospitals and dispensaries would evidently be inadequate.
  • Disparity on ESI coverage between states: The ESI coverage follows the map of industrial growth in the country. Thus, in industrialised States like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the ESI covered is around 20% of the population as beneficiaries in 2016 whereas, for Bihar the ESI covered is only 0.7%.
  • Abridgement of cess-based welfare boards: The new labour codes also does away with a number of existing cess-based welfare schemes. For example, the Beedi Workers Welfare Board which covers five lakh home-based women workers.
  • Fixed Minimum wage is meager: The floor wage announced more recently by the Finance Minister of ₹202 is way less compared to the Labour Ministry’s Expert Committee recommendation on Wage in 2019 i.e. is ₹375 per day.

Monoculture farming- depleting natural resources

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 3- Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

Context- In the ongoing farm debate in the country the green reality check seems to be missing.

What is agro ecology?

It is a concept where agriculture sector of a country expanded along with keeping environmental protection [agriculture with sustainable environmental practice].

What is monoculture farming and is Impact?

Monoculture is the agricultural practice of growing a single crop, plant, or livestock species, variety, or breed in a field or farming system at a time.

  • Modern agricultural practices emphasize maximizing crop yields, farm incomes and global competitiveness. The single-minded pursuit of such goals has remade land and farms into monocultures.

Monoculture reduces diversity and leads to a host of other problems-

  1. Contributed significantly to climate emissions.
  2. Threatened farmer livelihoods and the natural resource base they depend upon-
  • Destroys soil nutrients– Single crop eliminates all soil nutrients and everything else is killed as pests or weeds.
  • Pollutes groundwater supplies sue to extensive use of fertilizers.
  • Adversely affects and alters the natural ecosystem.
  • Destroys the overall soil’s degradation and erosion.
  • Requires lots of water to irrigate- Monoculture results in the topsoil cover being harvested all at the same time, the topsoil loses elements that could help it retain moisture. Therefore, require vast amounts of water to irrigate the crops.
  1. Distorted food consumption patterns, replacing nutritious millets with polished rice and wheat and negatively affected our nutritional security.

In attempting to offer a new deal to farmers, the new farm laws do not address any of these fundamental concerns. Such changes often affect the resilience of production systems and their role in biodiversity.

How new farm laws and farmers demand promote monoculture farming?

Both government and farmers have continued to ignore the broader ecological and social contexts in which agriculture is embedded.

  1. Corporatization of agriculture through contract farming, higher stocking limits and private marketplaces will accelerate the growth of long supply chains of monoculture commodities.
  2. Guaranteed procurement in the past has incentivized monoculture farming.

What is the way forward?

Government should make policies that go beyond the productivity trope and populist posturing-

  • Instead of a resource-based approach, the need is to develop a relationship-based approach towards the environment.
  • Any sound economic and techno-scientific model must have agro ecology and equity at the core and, must indeed, be guided by them.
  • Government needs to promote less favoured crops like millets and pulses.

Highlights of MPC meeting

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 3- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Context- RBI in its 6th bi-monthly MPC meeting voted unanimously to maintain status quo on benchmark interest rates to support the economy.

What were the key highlights of latest MPC meeting?

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) recently left benchmark interest rates unchanged and maintained an ‘accommodative’ policy stance as it prioritized support for the economy’s recovery over ‘sticky’ inflation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The RBI keeping rates low despite high inflation shows its focus to boost economic growth over keeping inflation under check which is majorly a supply-side issue.

Key highlights-

  • Decision – The MPC kept the RBI’s key lending rate, the repo rate, steady at 4%.
  • MPC panel projected that the real GDP contraction will contract at 7.5% [-7.5%] for the financial year ending. It is an upgrade in comparison to -9.5% in October MPC review.
  • Citing the improvement in activity in the second quarter, it projected GDP would return to growth of 0.1% in Q3, and expand 0.7% in Q4.
  • The RBI also announced a raft of liquidity management measures and steps to improve regulatory oversight of the financial system.
  • MPC expects inflation to rise in the near term.

What are the key challenges?

  • Cost push pressure– The increase in the prices of iron ore, steel and transportation fuels also add to the worries that cost pressures are continuing to accumulate.
  • Food inflation surges to double in October 2020 across protein-rich items including pulses, edible oils, vegetables and spices on multiple supply shocks.
  • Booming financial markets and rising asset prices because of surplus liquidity will also contribute to upside risks.

Way forward-

  • MPC’s policy approach is clearly fraught with risks. A small window is available for proactive supply management strategies to break the inflation spiral being fuelled by supply chain disruptions, excessive margins and indirect taxes
  • The RBI policy is supportive of growth and in sync with the government’s reform agenda.

A new roadmap for end of oil age

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-3- Environment

Context: The latest book The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations, provides some pointers on how should India navigate future energy transitions.

Explain the key pointers on navigating future energy transitions.

  • Future pathway: It pulls together the transformative occurrences and technologies that have shaped the energy world in recent years into a clear framework.
  • Six broad themes define The New Map:
    • The first is the US shale revolution, which transformed the US from a major importer of oil and gas to a significant exporter.
    • The second is the leveraging of gas exports by Russia to compel former members of the Soviet Union to stay within its sphere of influence and to embrace China into an energy partnership.
    • The third is China’s assertion of its rights over the South China Seas which is a critical maritime route for its energy imports and the Belt and Road initiative.
    • The fourth is sectarian strife (Sunni/Shia) in the Middle East which, compounded by volatile and falling oil prices, has brought the region to the edge.
    • The fifth is the Paris climate summit and its impact on public sentiment, investment decisions, corporate governance and regulatory norms.
    • The last is the consequential impact of the manifold and impressive advancement of clean energy technologies.
  • Energy transition: Energy transition will unfold in different ways in different countries and over different time periods. This is because they will be influenced not just by economics and technology, but also by politics and public activism.
  • Peak oil demand: They bring out one development that plays to India’s advantage i.e. the onset of “peak oil demand”. The earlier concern was “peak supply” (supplies are finite and the market will face a shortfall).
    • There is no consensus, however, on the timing of peak demand.
      • BP believes, for instance, it has already peaked;
      • the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects it will peak by 2028;
      • IHS Markit’s “rivalry” scenario puts the date around the mid-2030s.

What are the policy initiatives for future energy transitions?

  • A framework for considering policy options
    • On the fossil fuel axis: The book suggests the government leverage its buyer (“monopsonist”) strength to secure “most favoured” terms of trade for crude supplies.
    • Battery storage: One, India must develop its own world-scale, competitive, manufacturing systems for photovoltaics (PVs) and battery storage.
      • If not, it will not be able to provide affordable solar units unless it accepts the further deepening of dependence on Chinese imports.
      • Currently, China manufactures 75 per cent of the world’s lithium batteries; 70 per cent of solar cells; 95 per cent of solar wafers and it controls 60 per cent of the production of poly silica.
    • Strategy: India must prepare a clean energy technology strategy.
      • The India strategy should identify relevant “breakthrough technologies”, establish the funding mechanisms and create the ecosystem for partnerships (domestic and international).

Conclusion

  • No disagreement over the fact that the oil market does face a structural supply overhang. In regard with India, clean energy technology offers an early and mutually beneficial platform for charting out a new roadmap for the end of oil age.

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