9 PM Daily Brief – September 15th, 2020

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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  1. For a different yardstick: on ‘Doing Business’ report
  2. India’s geopolitical interest
  3. NEP and Socially and educationally backward
  4. The cost of peace: on intra-Afghan talks


  1. Reducing the vulnerabilities of urban employment

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1.For a different yardstick: on ‘Doing Business’ report

Source: The Hindu

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

Context: Recently, the World Bank has paused the publication of its ‘Doing Business’ report because of statistical irregularities.

What does the index indicate?

  • The index estimates the cost to business from regulations across areas including dealing with construction permits and paying taxes.
  • The rankings encourage countries to compete even on cutting vital regulations on health and environment.

What are the shortcomings of the index?

  • Shortcomings: The World Bank’s independent evaluation group (2008) and an external independent panel (2013) together flagged 15 shortcomings in the index, many of which are still relevant.
  • Lack of transparency and objectivity: For instance, questions have been raised on Russia’s leap in ranking from 120 out of 190 countries in 2012 to 62 in 2015. The survey excludes the informal sector. Curiously, low scores for China and India were associated with high growth in FDI.
  • Sidesteps societal costs:Survey ignores the impact on health, ecology, worker protection and right to information. China and India improved their scores sharply in 2019 and 2020, though the world’s first and third largest emitters increased carbon effluents significantly.
  • Slack business safeguards produce tragic results: The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh resulted from slipshod factory regulation. Brazil, India, and the U.S. have slashed environmental standards.
  • Weakening of standards during pandemic: India’s Parliament is considering an Environment Impact Assessment, the draft of which is filled with dilutions of the environmental law.
  • Based on presumption that less regulation is better: The 2008 global financial crisis resulted from too little banking supervision. Also, Climate change is driven by lax emission control in China, the U.S., etc.
  • One size fits all approach: The survey assumes that lower tax rates are best, which overlooks each country’s fiscal requirements. For example, Maldives and Qatar scored high on paying taxes, but are not role models for India as most of their revenue relies on unique assets.
  • Neglects other indicators: such as indicators of infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and competition.
  • Supports lighter rules and taxation to encourage shifts from informal to formal sectors:But formalisation as such may not create jobs and cut obstacles to starting a business if economy is facing severe capital shortage and a low-skilled workforce.
  • Unwieldy: the survey is overloaded with too many variables.

What needs to be done?

  • Workers’ well-being and safety: Changes to labour laws, especially during the pandemic.
  • Strengthen RTI:Global lessons warn India of the pitfalls of diluting the 2005 Right to Information Act.
  • Revamped indicator that rewards:A revamped indicator should reward investments in workers’ skills, health and safety, low polluting activities and climate resilience.

The need of the hour is to blend liberalisation of unhelpful barriers with fortification of needed regulations.

2.India’s geopolitical interest

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 2- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context- India’s foreign policy to suit the demands of the present.


India’s engagement with foreign countries has traditionally been focused on maintaining good relations with all the major powers in the region and avoiding involvement in their internal and intra-regional conflicts. However, the current geopolitical situations demand a significant change in India’s foreign policy.

What are the various Middle East peace deals?

  1. USA-Taliban peace deal-
  2. USA’s commitments – US and Taliban signed an agreement for bringing Peace to Afghanistan, which will enable the US and NATO to withdraw troops in the next 14 months.
  3. Taliban’s commitments– Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
  4. Removal of sanctions– UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months and US sanctions by August.
  5. Ceasefire– The agreement states ceasefire will be simply an item on the agenda when intra-Afghan talks start and indicate actual ceasefire will come with the completion of an Afghan political agreement.
  6. UAE-Israel Peace deal- The Abraham Accords
  7. Normalized relations– Israel and the United Arab Emirates just agreed to a historic deal to normalize their long-strained relations.
  8. Importance– This move is significant because, with the exception of Jordan and Egypt, Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab states owing to its long-standing conflict with Palestinians.
  9. Terms of the accord– The agreement comes after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to suspend plans to annex parts of the West Bank, one that had been bitterly criticized by these Gulf Arab states, Europe and a few other countries around the world.

How should India respond with the Middle East major powers?

  1. Understand geopolitical landscape of the both peace deals-
  • Taliban could not be defeated on the battlefield and must be accepted as a legitimate political force.
  • Need to accept the contradiction between Arabs and Israelis is no longer the dominant one in the region.
  1. Arabia’s enduring importance for the Subcontinent’s geopolitics-
  • Widening a horizon– India needs to pay more attention to the unfolding realignments in the Middle East, especially between the Arabs and non-Arab states like Iran, Turkey and Israel rather than only focusing on ensuring oil supplies and promoting manpower exports.
  1. Paradox of US power-
  • US political and diplomatic weight that facilitated the formal dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban and also led the efforts for reconciliation between Israel and Gulf Arabs. India needs to find its own space in such talks.
  1. Aiding economic integration-
  • India should extend support to Arab economic integration, intra-Arab political reconciliation and the strengthening of regional institutions.
  • India’s needs to make strong ties with all major players in the region to achieve its geopolitical interest.

Way forward-

In the current situation, it is essential for India to maintain its strong links with the Afghan government, build and support its traditional Afghan allies and open lines of communication with the Taliban. The UAE-Israel deal opens up new opportunities for India to play a much larger role in the regional security and stability in the Gulf.

3.NEP and Socially and educationally backward

Source:  The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- Education

Context: NEP 2020 fails to cater to the needs of rural India’s marginalised majority.

What is NEP and what are the issues with the report?

  • The National Education policy 2020 (NEP)is a layered document that recommends significant structural changes to the education system.
  • The NEP claims to “bridge gaps in access, participation and learning outcomes’’.However, it overlooks the fact that poor quality education marks and ruins the lives of rural citizens.
  • Neglecting to engage with equality of educational opportunity and equality in quality education:
  • It fails to address the growing school differentiationin which government schools are now mainly attended by children of disadvantaged castes and Adivasi groups, while the private schools caters to the desires of the more advantaged castes.
  • School differentiation defies the idea of education as a levellerand the possibility of schooling acting as a shared experience.
  • Growing privatisation of education along with no assurance of qualityis placing a huge burden on citizens and the report takes no notice of such trends.
  • Rural candidates are finding it increasingly difficult to gain entry into professional education.
  • The lack of fit between their degrees and the job market means that several lakhs of them find themselves both “unemployable” and unemployed.
  • The report fails to take into account the impact of poor-quality higher education on rural youth who are showing signs of hostility from their rootsand open to being recruited into violent anti-social activities.
  • Correspondence courses and distance education degrees have become a source of revenue generation for universities and institutions. They are run without guarantees of quality yet it has no mention in the report.

What are some key points that need to be added in the report?

  • Prepare youth for a global economy:Promotion and support the teaching of “lok vidya”, and the report highlights the importance of yoga, AYUSH, and Sanskrit, which can be taught along with Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and digital learning.
  • Even though, there is no scope for considering the establishment of smaller regional learning centres in which the youth can be taught a range of revamped older knowledge systems along with newer skills and knowledge.
  • Promoting environmental studies for local ecological restoration and conservation: Introduction of agro-ecologies that can draw on the varied sophisticated regional agricultural knowledge and practices, reviving local health and healing traditions.
  • Recognising vernacular architectural traditions and skills,and a range of artisan and craftsmanship to use local resources and thereby generate both employment and revive regional economies.

Way forward

  • Such measures can create a pool of skilled and employable youth who may make meaningful lives in the rural areas itself rather than become part of the tide of migrant labour whose insecure and dangerous lives were all too evident during the lockdown return migration.

4.The cost of peace: on intra-Afghan talks

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus-Gs2: India and its neighbourhood

Context: Recently held intra-Afghan talks were held between the Taliban, Afghan government and Afghan civil society in Doha.

What are the reasons behind delays in talks?

  • The talks were a key outcome of the S.-Taliban and U.S.-Afghanistan agreementssigned earlier this year.
  • Composition issues:
    • Delays over the compositionof the Afghan negotiating team led by chief negotiator Masoom Stanekzai.
    • There were also differences over appointmentsbetween the former rivals, President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who was appointed as the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation.
    • There were even concerns over whether the all-male Taliban team would deal with the negotiating team.
  • Issue of release of prisoners:
    • The Taliban set pre-conditionsincluding the release of all its prisoners, while not accepting the basic requirement of a ceasefire.
    • The biggest obstacle was the release of more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners and about 1,000 Afghan soldiers and others held by Taliban militia.
    • Issues of release of prisoners was resolved after a Loya Jirga of representatives approved the release.

What should be the aim of talks?

  • Declare a permanent ceasefire: To stop violence in Afghanistan that has claimed another 1,300 civilian lives in the first half of 2020.

What are the challenges present before Afghanistan?

  • How to shape Afghanistan’s future with Taliban ?
  • Whether Afghanistan can retain the constitution and political processes while bringing the insurgents into the mainstream.

What is the India’s stance on talks?

  • India has modified its stand, and External Affairs Minister attended the inaugural ceremony in Doha via videoconferencing.
  • It was the first ever address by an Indian official at a gathering that includes the Taliban (India still maintains that Taliban is a terror group).
  • India always stated that peace in Afghanistan as a result of an “Afghan-led, Afghan owned” process is a desirable outcome.
  • Peace should not come at the cost of gains made by Afghanistan in the post-Taliban era. Talks should include democracy, institutions of governance, and the rights of minorities and women.
  • The recent talks also ensured safe return of three Indian hostages, held since 2018 by the Taliban.

5.Reducing the vulnerabilities of urban employment

Source- The Hindu

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

Context- The contraction of the economy raises concern on the employment situation as the shrinking sectors are those that create the maximum new jobs in India.

What are impacts of COVID-19 on the economy?

  1. GDP contraction– India’s economy shrank nearly 25 percent in last quarter, the most drastic fall in decades.
  2. Public administration– higher government spending was in the form of transfer payments rather than spending on goods and services, which resulted in a negative growth number.
  3. Manufacturing and Services– The sector has been in the negative zone (–39%) across the board due to the national lockdown since end of March.
  4. Industries which have been hit harder
  • Travel or Entertainment (–47%)– will still be in a gradual normalization process, and probably won’t rebound completely until a vaccine is available.
  • Real estate (–50%)– The present stress on home loans can hinder a revival in residential real estate.

What is the impact of lockdown on low-end informal jobs in India?

The pandemic and associated policy responses have exposed the severe vulnerabilities of urban low-end informal jobs; the share of vulnerable employment is higher in India as compare to the world.

Vulnerable employment- It characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity and difficult conditions of work that undermine the basic rights of workers.

  • GDP contraction and lack of demand in the economy, which results a significant dip in urban employment generation.
  • In India, capital and labour are moving from low value-added activities in a sector to another sector, but not to higher value-added activities. This leads to a situation where a large proportion of the jobs being created is of poor quality (and is expected to remain so).

What are the possible solutions in securing the livelihoods of workers in urban areas?

  1. Generate more jobs-
  • The focus on urban employment generation programmes should be in coordination with local governments.
  • A major local initiative would be to design and implement employment-intensive investment policies.
  • Private investments need to be facilitated by conducive contractual relations between labour and capital.
  • Small and micro enterprises, the fulcrum of industrialization, need extra support to balance the interests between labour and capital as neither have collective bargaining powers.
  • Needs to launch of an urban employment scheme oriented toward building large-scale medical, health and sanitation infrastructure in cities and towns across India.
  1. To reduce vulnerabilities by proving decent wage and some form of job security-
  • It is important that MGNREGA be expanded by both increasing the budgetary allocations and the guaranteed minimum number of days of work.
  1. Prioritize urban infrastructure-
  • Infrastructure investments would spur employment, generate earnings and contribute to small enterprise formation.
  • Construction of low-cost housing is another activity that can be carried out using labour-intensive methods, while yielding substantial collateral benefits for urban dwellers’.

Way forward-

Given the structure of the economy and demographic profile, Government needs to focus on reducing the vulnerabilities of urban informal jobs in the long run.

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