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9 PM for Main examination
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes – Agency for empowerment of Dalits
- Data governance for non-personal data
- Achieving Nutritional Self-reliance
- Power sector under stress
- The COVID-19 fiscal response and India’s standing
- Why it is the time to reskill India?
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.National Commission for Scheduled Castes – Agency for empowerment of Dalits
Source – Indian Express
Syllabus – GS 2 – Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies
Context – In 2020, new thoughts and new actions are needed by citizens, civil society, and governments to advance the socio-economic empowerment of the Dalits.
Steps National Commission for Scheduled Castes can take for the socio-economic empowerment of the Dalits:
- Strengthenthe Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act– Need is to develop Standard Operating Procedures for filing and investigating cases under relevant laws and make them available in all languages at all police stations.
- Successful prosecution vs case registration– Rewarding prosecutors who succeed in getting convictions in cases charged under the SC/ST Act is important because successful prosecution is a true metric rather than the registration of a case at the police station.
- Digitalization can ensure transparency – Online reporting and tracking of crimes, irrespective of jurisdiction will make system more transparent and will ensure social justice.
- Capacity Building– Training and capacity building of judges, lawyers, and policemen is of prime importance in strengthening the law and its implementation.
- In-house mechanisms– The eed is to create internal structures within organizations to respond to complaints — just like internal complaints committees for sexual harassment. This will minimize criminal procedures also and reduce burden on courts.
- Effective Governance– Generally, each ministry is supposed to set aside 15 per cent of its spending in a Scheduled Caste Sub Plan, but often their outcomes are insignificant. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes should work with legislators to identify four or five priorities across all government schemes and reorient all spending (SCP) around those priorities.
- For example, these could be employment generation and self-employment, capacity building, including soft skills. The ministries of civil aviation and skill development, for instance, could combine their SCPs into one.
- Tracking the output– NCSC can track the output of SCPs every quarter and then every month through a dashboard, just as the Niti Aayog tracks development in the “Aspirational Districts”.
- Involving all stakeholders – Need is to catalyze social change through 3C’s – civil society, corporations, and communities. For that the Commission can create a platform for structured engagement with civil society groups working on Dalit issues.
- Identifying key social practices– All stakeholders can identify key social practices across the country that still segregate Dalits—whether in schools, homes, or workplaces — and run targeted communication campaigns for students and teachers, villagers, companies, etc.
- Creating social capital– Creating a network of Scheduled Caste alumni of IIMs and IITs and encouraging them to suggest and implement ideas within and around their own organizzations that advance economic empowerment of Dalits will prove effective in long-term.
- Cultural advancement– Funding and encouraging directors, film-makers, photographers for art work like film, periodic dramas on Dalits is important for bringing Dalit culture in light.
Way Forward – The Commission has a constitutional mandate to participate in the social and economic planning for SC welfare and it should use this mandate to guide such a group. Tasks of the National Commission for SCs ,thus, needs to be reimagined to make it a transformative agency for the Dalit community.
2.Data governance for non-personal data
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 non-personal data committee’s data governance framework raises many questions.
To enable a robust regulation of Non-Personal Data, the report by a committee defines key stakeholders for the ecosystem. Following are the challenges associated with the report and its key stakeholders –
- Absence of Personal Data protection– For a country that does not have a personal data protection bill, the setting up of a committee to regulate non-personal data seems premature.
- Participatory approach in data management– There is recognition that data, in many cases, are not just a subject of individual decision-making but that of communities, such as in the case of ecological information. Therefore, it is critical that communities are empowered to exercise some control over how the data are used.
- Data principals– They are those who/ which can be individuals, companies or communities. The roles and rights of individuals and companies in the context of data governance are well understood.
- Lack of clarity on community as stakeholder– The idea of communities as data principals is introduced ambiguously by the report. While it provides examples of what might constitute a community, e.g. citizen groups in neighborhoods, there is little clarity on the rights and functions of the community.
- Data custodians– They are those who undertake collection, storage, processing, and use of data in a manner that is in the best interest of the data principal.
- Fuzzy definition– It is not specified if the data custodian can be the government or just private companies, or what best interest is, especially when several already vague and possibly conflicting principal communities are involved.
- Conflict of interest – The suggestion that data custodians can potentially monetize the data they hold is especially problematic as this presents a conflict of interest with those of the data principal communities.
- Data trustees and Data Principals– Being data trustee is a method through which communities can exercise data rights. Trustees can be governments, citizen groups, or universities. However, the relationship between the data principal communities and the trustees is not clear.
- Data trusts– The report explains data trusts comprising specific rules and protocols for containing and sharing a given set of data. Trusts can hold data from multiple custodians and will be managed by public authority.
- The power, composition and functions of the trust are not established.
Way Forward – The committee can organize broader consultations to ensure that the objective of unlocking data in public interest does not end up creating confusing structures that exacerbate the problems of the data economy rather than solving the arising issues in digital age.
3.Achieving Nutritional Self-reliance
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-3- Food Security
Context: India’s approach towards “food security” should change from the narrow availability aspect to achieving “nutritional self-reliance.”
India’s Approach to food security
- First Generation Approach to Food Security:
- Traditionally, India’s approach to food security was based on the ‘availability’ dimension of food security- looking at only the quantitative aspect. Policies and programmes were designed to ensure “self-sufficiency” in food grains.
- The Green revolution which was launched after two consecutive droughts in mid 1960s increased the production of food grains (mostly rice and wheat) by providing farmers an improved technology package consisting of high yielding seed varieties, modern farm inputs and credit, and assurance of a remunerative and fixed price
- The Green revolution though positively impacted the macro-level food security, had insignificant impact on ensuring access to food and hunger and malnutrition persisted.
- Second Generation Approach to Food Security:
- Since 1980’s there was an increasing acknowledgement that physical and financial access to food had a determining role in achieving food security in the country. The approach shifted from food production to access to food and from charity to a rights-based approach.
- The enacted of National Food Security Act, 2013 marked a shift in the right to food as a legal right rather than a general entitlement.
Eight-fold steps to achieve Nutritional Self-reliance
- Firstly,it is important to forecast nutrition requirement for the year 2050.
- Secondly, agroecological zones and the changing climate should be taken into account and accordingly, the government should draw area production plans for animal husbandry and crop production.
- Thirdly,based on these area production plans, identified crops and practices should be incentivised. The government should incentivise a risk and price support strategy for such crops and the farmers should be given the freedom to what they want to grow.
- Fourthly,the farm input (fertiliser, power etc) subsidy regime that incentivises production should shift to one of payment for environmentally sustainable agriculture practices such as intercropping, rainwater harvesting etc,
- Fifthly, the government should formulate a strategy to secure farmers’ interests and not only focus on providing cheap food to consumers.
- Sixthly,the government should invest in a robust market intelligence system to deal with production and abrupt price fluctuations. The system should also provide regular farm advisories to farmers
- Seventhly,the government needs to invest more in agriculture R&D. There should be collaboration with the private sector and extensive use of digital technologies.
- Lastly, there should be a twenty-year awareness campaign across India to inculcate healthier eating habits.
Conclusion: The major strength of the Indian food security system has been in achieving self-sufficiency in the production of cereals and public distribution system. However, it’s high time that India focuses on a ‘third generation’ approach towards nutritional self-reliance given India’s increased vulnerability to climate change.
4.Power sector under stress
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS 3 Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Context: Analysing the deteriorating financial position of power distribution companies after the pandemic and lockdown.
- Aggregate level: Electricity demand fell by 16% in the first quarter of the current financial year.
- Reasons for decline: Due to a fall in demand from industrial and commercial users. These consumers account for a sizable portion of discom earnings.
- Affect discoms financial position: They help subsidise tariffs for other segments such as for farmers, domestic users etc.
- According to ICRA’s estimate, discoms may be staring at a revenue gap of around Rs 42,000 to Rs 45,000 crore this year.
- Though the government had earlier announced liquidity support to the tune of Rs 90,000 crore to help discoms clear their obligations towards power generating companies but the off-take on these loans has been slow so far.
Stress on discom finances:
- Audited losses closer at pre-UDAY levels: Reports reveal that the audited book losses of discoms have been revised upwards to Rs 49,600 crore in FY2019 from the provisional estimate of Rs 28,000 crore.
- Failure of UDAY scheme: It is indicated by the mounting losses. (UDAY scheme was expected to engineer an operational and financial turnaround in the fortunes of the beleaguered discoms).
- Hope: The gap between average cost and realization per unit of power to be reduced.
- This continuing deterioration in their position stems from:
- Inadequate and irregular tariff hikes
- AT&C (aggregate technical and commercial) losses not declining to the levels envisage
- Delays in disbursal of subsidy by state governments.
- The central government has proposed several amendments to the Electricity Act 2003 aimed at addressing some of these issues like from privatisation of discoms to moving towards DBT for subsidies.
- To turnaround the sector: The reforms need to be supplemented with the imposition of stiff penalties on states for failing to usher in the changes needed or meeting the targets laid out.
5.The COVID-19 fiscal response and India’s standing
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 3- : Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
Context: Analyzing India’s fiscal response drawing on the IMF Policy Tracker, the COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Index (CESI) of Ceyhun Elgin at Columbia University and the World Bank.
Background: India lagging behind: Before the announcement of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package behind comparable developing countries that are similar in GDP per capita, state capacity and structure of the labour force.
Challenges in distinction between fiscal and monetary components for accurate figures:
- Atmanirbhar package:
- It is billed at 10% of GDP.
- The India’s fiscal response in international databases is around 4% of GDP.
- According to estimation the new fiscal outlay including the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, of March, the direct fiscal aspects of Atmanirbhar Bharat and the latest extension of free rations under the PDS is around 1.7% of GDP.
- Significant demand-side intervention in the Atmanirbhar Bharat package:For Rs. 40,000 crores of additional outlay for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
- Other demand-side measures: It involves the frontloading, consolidation or rerouting of existing funds for example Rs. 50,000 crore Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan.
- India surpassing in the stringency of its containment measures: The extent of relief measures does not seem to be commensurate with the economic disruption and dislocation caused by the severity of the lockdown.
Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt averaging less stringent measures than those in India have announced stimulus measures that are as large or more substantial as a share of GDP.
Lessons from other countries:
- On cash transfers:
- Cash transfers constitute the largest category of support.
- The World Bank reports that such transfers amount to 30% of monthly GDP per capita reaching 46% for lower-middle-income countries for an average of three months.
- Countries have also significantly expanded coverage of their cash transfer programmes from pre-COVID-19 levels such as Bangladesh and Indonesia have increased the number of beneficiaries by 163% and 111%, respectively.
- India could take these actions into account in decisions about expanding existing transfer programmes or even creating new ones.
- Enhance NREGA:
- In the World Bank’s list of 621 measures across 173 countries, half were cash-based.
- Most of the rest related to food assistance (23%) or waiver/postponement of financial obligations (25%).
- Only 2% related to public works which is a clear indication of the popularity of cash transfers over public works for income support.
- One example: Mexico announced an enlargement of its rural permanent employment scheme to 200,000 farmers and beneficiaries.
- Indonesia has directed village authorities to focus their budgets on a cash-for-work programme for day labourers and the unemployed.
- This is the right time to expand entitlements in MGNREGA as well as introduce an urban version of the programme, as many have called for.
- Steps in the developing world: They are resorting to drastic means to finance COVID-19 responses.
- Include: The amendment of legal budget limits and the enhanced issuance of bonds — including a ‘pandemic bond’ by Indonesia.
- Notable measure: Central banks in many emerging economies are experimenting with purchases of public and private bonds in the secondary market (quantitative easing) or directly purchasing government bonds on the primary market (monetising the deficit).
- Although the RBI has been buying sovereign bonds on the secondary market in India, the debate continues over whether the Indian government should invoke the “escape cause” in the FRBM Act, to enable the central bank to directly finance the deficit.
- Indonesia and Brazil have both amended laws to allow their central banks to buy government bonds.
- Reason for subdued fiscal response in India: A concern with the debt-to-GDP ratio which is higher than for most countries in our set.
- Additional fiscal outlay in the form of cash and in-kind transfers and expanded public works schemes — would save lives and jobs today and might prevent a protracted slowdown
6.Why it is the time to reskill India?
Source: Financial Express
Syllabus: GS-3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development and employment.
Context: The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant rise in unemployment has highlighted the importance of skill development in India.
Impact of Covid-19 pandemic
- Travel and Tourism Industry The travel and tourism industry which accounted for 12.2% of employment opportunities generated in India in 2017, have been one of the worst hits by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- As per initial estimates by the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH), losses could be in around Rs 5 lakh crore.
- Since, 80% of travel & tourism industry is composed of SMEs, it is possible to have 25-75% employment loss in the short to medium term.
- Reverse Migration: Due to Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown, there has been reverse migration from urban centres to rural areas.
- Impact on informal sector: Immediate burden of COVID19 lockdown in India has been on the informal sector and its workers. According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate in India is at its highest- 27.1%, with millions of informal workers out of job.
Which sectors can take up more jobs?
Domestic consumption-facing sectors: gig economy, healthcare sector, e-commerce, telecom, financial services.
For reverse migrants:
- entrepreneurship, self-employment and opportunities arising out of more focus on rural economy such as in construction of rural roads, houses and light manufacturing.
- Also, reverse migrants can be reskilled in high-value agriculture such as horticulture, livestock, sericulture, aquaculture and plantations.
Advanced vocational education and training (VET): It can be used as a livelihood continuity plan for a short-term period. Focus should be on courses relevant to Industry 4.0, automation and additive manufacturing.
Suggested Measures for Imparting Skill Education:
- In imparting skill education, focus should be on remote counselling and a digital delivery of learning.
- learning tools for feedback, self-monitoring, self-explanation should be integrated in online training.
- Trainer capacity has to be enhanced to provide more online training.
- There should be an overall change in the mindset at all levels of skill delivery, administration and governance
Conclusion: The Indian government should focus on reskilling programme to strengthen vocational education and address the issue of rising unemployment.
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