9 PM Daily Brief – July 13th,2020

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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  1. Curbing the growth of large cities – Not the right approach


  1. Importance of government interventions to reduce economic impact of COVID-19
  2. Smart Cities – No focus on public health infrastructure


  1. Sure power: On India’s solar strategy


  1. Leadership in times of Covid

9 PM for Preliminary examination


1.Curbing the growth of large cities – Not the right approach

Source – Financial Express

Syllabus – GS 1 – Urbanization, their problems and their remedies

Context – Considering a limited model that aims to curb the growth of large cities has its repercussions.

Parameters which affect growth of citiesLimited size of cities No restriction on size of cities
Economies of agglomeration – It refer to the benefits from concentrating output and housing in particular areas.

· If an area specializes in the production of a certain type of good, all firms can benefit from various factors such as:

a. Good supply networks

b. Supply of trained workers

c. Infrastructure built specifically for the industry

d. Good transport links.


Digitization eroding benefits of economies of agglomeration

Not all urban areas are digitized – The part of India’s urban economy that is ‘digitized’, while economically important, is small in demographic terms.

Population increase- Digitization is just one of the many factors that contribute to determining a country’s urban structure, the prime factor being the population increase. 

Diseconomies of scale – Beyond 1 million population rise, there is increase in per unit cost of goods and services. U-shaped cost curve – It hypothesized that the unit cost of supplying infrastructure and services tended to be high in small cities, costs tended to decline over a range of intermediate-sized cities, and to rise with cities attaining certain sizes.

4th Five-year plan – The social and economic costs of servicing large concentration of population are prohibitive. Beyond a certain limit, unit costs of providing utilities and services increase rapidly with increase in the size of cities.

The U-shaped cost curve didn’t apply  to India – Research in Indian cities on 1960’s proved that although unit cost of supplying infrastructure and services tended to be high in small cities, costs tended to decline over a range of intermediate-sized cities, but concluded that the cost curve did not rise as stipulated with the expansion in the size of cities.

Research work in 1980’s outlined that-

Changing the size distribution of cities was a long-term and a costly exercise

Well-managed cities were central to economic growth and poverty reduction—city size was of no consequence.

 Way Forward- According to the United Nations (2018), India’s rural population will begin to decline in absolute numbers from about 2027 onwards, where after population growth in India will wholly be an urban story. The task, thus, is to accept the inevitable and work on making the process of urbanization sustainable, resilient, inclusive and productive, rather than to consider a model that aims at curbing the growth of large cities.

2.Importance of government interventions to reduce economic impact of COVID-19

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Context: The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana targeting 800 million people for free rations through the Public Distribution System has been extended until November.


  • For vulnerable population: The government is taking a massive effort to minimize the economic impact of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable population.
  • Reach: Schemes such as Jan Dhan, PM Kisan and PM Ujjwala aim to transfer Rs 532 billion to 420 million people.
  • Danger: Many people in danger of slipping into poverty. It is imperative to create a regime, even with a sunset clause, of universal benefits.

The writer has commissioned a multi-round survey of 47,000 households of which mostly are below poverty line across 15 states. The surveys explore whether relief schemes have been working as intended, who is missing out and what more is needed.

Impact of COVID-19:

  • Primary income earners in two-thirds of the households have lost their jobs or wages.
  • The average family has lost more than 60 per cent of its pre-crisis income and is now making just Rs 4,000/month.
  • Twenty-four per cent of low-income households have run out of money and supplies.
  • Forty per cent families are in debt.
  • In some states, as many as one in five primary income earners do not expect to find work in the near future.
  • Government relief:
    • Ninety-four per cent of eligible families had received extra PDS rations by end May and 80 per cent had received cash entitlements averaging close to Rs 2,000.
    • About five million households could have both run out of savings and not received any cash transfer from the government.
  • On workers:
    • Estimation: Over 55 million workers who were earning above poverty line incomes have lost jobs during this crisis.
    • The scale of current urban-rural migration makes this challenge worse.

Steps to improve conditions of vulnerable:

  • Shifting to universal benefits:
    • To minimize a situation where millions miss out on critical relief.
    • For example:
      • Whoever turns up to a ration shop needing free/subsidized rations should be able to get it.
      • People should be able to sign up for a cash relief transfer with minimal paperwork.
    • Digitalization:
      • It has created efficiencies that can be leveraged to expand the welfare net.
      • Reducing leakages: The vast amount of leakage in the welfare system was not due to fraud by citizens but because of fraud and inefficiency by those delivering the benefits.
      • JAM trinity has helped:
        • Lower transaction costs-Aadhaar can prevent identity frauds.
        • Reduce leakages-Our sophisticated payments infrastructure enables DBT.
        • Reach beneficiaries quickly
      • Pilots for the One Nation-One Ration Card project have shown that inter-state portability is possible.
    • State models:
      • Several states have experimented with a more universal approach with positive results.
      • For example:
        • Tamil Nadu’s PDS system has strong coverage and equitable pricing, delivering 20 kg of rice at Rs 1/kg every month to all families who need it.
        • Chhattisgarh universalized PDS to provide for their returning migrants with encouraging results.
        • MGNREGA has always been open to all rural households.
      • Voluntary opt-outs:
        • Reducing burden on exchequer: The well-off could be inspired to give up their own benefits by highlighting the real intended targets of the relief effort and the adverse impact on millions of people.
        • For example: The “Give up LPG Subsidy” campaign.

Way Forward

  • During a crisis like COVID-19, the emphasis needs to be on including those who really deserve the help rather than making sure the wrong people are kept out.
  • It’s precisely because the current systems are largely working that we can contemplate a universal benefits approach. This approach can be discontinued once the pandemic ends and the economic shocks abate.

3.Smart Cities – No focus on public health infrastructure

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Context – The novel coronavirus pandemic has largely been an urban crisis so far, with megacities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai accounting for most of the COVID-19 positive cases.

Smart cities mission – The Mission had sought to make 100 selected cities “smart”, primarily through an “Area-Based Development” model under which a small portion of the city would be upgraded by retrofitting or redevelopment. It had the stated aim of improving the quality of life of urban residents.

Issues Indian cities are facing amidst the pandemic

  1. Public health crisis with rising number of case in urban areas.
  2. Economic issues and loss of livelihood faced by urban residents as well as migrant workers.

Issues related to smart city mission

  1. Lack of focus on public health infrastructure– An analysis of the smart city projects under the Mission shows that only 69 of over 5,000 projects undertaken under the Mission were for health infrastructure. These projects are for an estimated cost of ₹2,112 crore, amounting to just around one per cent of the total mission cost
  2. No capability building of local bodies– As per the 12th Schedule of the Constitution, introduced by the 74th Amendment, “public health” is one of the 18 functions that are to be devolved to the municipalities.  Centralised programmes such as the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ have driven local governments away from their core responsibilities.

Suggested solutions

  1. Empowering local bodies – The functionaries of local bodies need to be trained for better implementation of schemes and handling of crises such as covid.  Greater financial devolution can be considered by state government and focus need to be on mobilising revenue by increasing property tax base.
  2. Restoring economy health– Introduction of a national urban employment guarantee programme that assures jobs for urban residents and strengthens the capacities of urban local bodies is needed.
  • Kerala has been running such a scheme since 2010 and States such as Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand have also recently launched similar initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Way Forward – As Indian cities face an unprecedented challenge, it is important to get the priorities of urban development right and invest in programmes that improve the health and livelihoods of its residents.

4.Sure power: On India’s solar strategy

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-3: Infrastructure- Energy

Context: Prime Minister recently inaugurated Rewa Solar plant set up at Rewa, Madhya Pradesh.  It is Asia’s largest solar power project and has a total solar installed capacity of 750 MW

Solar Sector in India

  • As on April 30, 2020, the installed renewable energy capacity in India stood at 87.26 GW, of which, solar comprised 34.81 GW.
  • India has set a target of achieving 175GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022. This includes:
    • 60 GW from wind power,
    • 100 GW from solar power (100GW = 60 GW of utility-scale projects (both solar PV and CSP) like solar parks + 40 GW of rooftop solar applications for commercial users and households)
    • 10 GW from biomass power
    • 5 GW from small hydro power
India’s Nationally Determined Contribution:

The GoI in its submission to the UNFCC on Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) has stated that India will achieve 40% cumulative Electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources.

Issues and Challenges in the Solar Sector

  1. Dependence on Imports:
  • Lacks manufacturing base for solar components and systems
  • Heavy dependence on imported solar cells and modules, mainly from China
  1. Issue of Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO): There is lack of enforcement of RPO regulations and absence of penalties when obligations are not met. Many of the state DISCOMs (distribution companies) do not comply fully with their RPO targets.
  2. Rooftop Solar:Homeowners at large have not been installing solar panels at roof top. This is because small deployments naturally cost more than grid-scale farms. Homeowners do not generally consume all the energy it generates and are being unable to sell it.
  3. Investment:Issues such as uncertainty around import duties and future tax rates around purchasing power agreements (PPAs) have hampered investment
  4. Technological challenges– e.g. temperature sensor failures in PV cells, grid instability
  5. Land scarcityhindering establishment of large solar parks

Government Initiatives to Promote Solar Power

  1. National Solar Mission:Launched in 2010, it aims to achieve 100GW capacity by 2022. It is aimed at reducing the cost of solar power generation in the country through
    • long term policy;
    • large scale deployment goals;
    • aggressive R&D;
    • domestic production of critical raw materials, components and products, as a result to achieve grid tariff parity by 2022
  2. Grid Connected Rooftop and Small Solar Power Plants Programme: It aims at installation of grid connected roof top solar systems from 1 kWp to 500 kWp capacity in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings.
  3. Sustainable Rooftop Implementation for Solar Transfiguration of India (SRISTI) Scheme:Financial Incentives to be provided to the beneficiary for installing solar rooftop projects.
International Solar Alliance (ISA)

· ISA is partnership of solar resource rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on development of solar energy resource.

· It is an intergovernmental body registered with the United Nations under Article 102 of the UN Charter.

· It was jointly launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France in 2015 at UNFCCC CoP 21 Paris, France.

Way Forward:

  • India should plan a green deal, on the lines of what the EU has committed itself to: that future growth and employment should align itself to environmental and sustainability objectives, particularly in energy production.
  • India needs to enhance domestic manufacturing of solar components by having integrated policies and providing low cost financing to industries.
  • India should look at emerging trends in deploying solar innovatively. These include newer technologies such as aesthetic photovoltaic window and roof tiles for buildings, multi-role urban structures, and greater use of residential and commercial buildings to deploy more panels

 5.Leadership in times of Covid

Source – Financial Express

Syllabus – GS 4 – Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections

Context – Placebo leadership is need of the hour in India

 Placebo – The placebo effect is defined as a phenomenon that influences beneficially in illnesses, failures, despair, etc. It is attributable to the brain-mind responses to stimuli we receive from some people or some objects in our life.

 For instance – People follow some gurus and some follow soothsayers because they get the placebo effect.

 Placebo leaders- They are empathetic. Empathy is ability to accurately hear out and understand the thoughts, feelings and concerns of others, even when these are not made explicit. There is no feeling of pity.

 Importance of placebo leaders:

 Understand need of others – Empathetic leaders understand the needs of others; they are aware of not only their own feelings but also people’s feelings.

Encourage people – They maintain communication and show up during periods of uncertainty. Even when there is not much to say, keeping a regular pulse of communication, especially face to face, provides reassurance and consistency.

 For instance – Seven countries including Germany and Iceland, where women are heading the nations have tackled Covid-19 tactfully. Their empathetic leadership has cautiously tackled the situation.

  • Mumbai 2008 Terrorist Attack – Ratan Tata went all out to care for each and every employee of the hotel to help them recoup from the shock.

Way Forward – Covid has caused distress across the world. This is aggravated by rumours, misinformation which is travelling faster than verified information. Thus, need of the hour is to promote placebo leadership at all levels so that people feel comfortable in panic stricken world. 

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