9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 25th, 2022

Dear Friends,

We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
    6. Down To Earth
    7. PIB
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
    • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
    • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

Current Affairs Compilations for UPSC IAS Prelims 2022

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Side-stepping irritants: On India-U.K. ties

Source: This post is based on the article “Side-stepping irritants: On India-U.K. ties” published in The Hindu on 25th Apr 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations

Relevance: Indo-UK ties

News: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in Delhi recently, committing to more cooperation with India on trade, defence, combating climate change and cybersecurity.

What were the major issues discussed?

The deadline to complete the full FTA has been pushed till October-end or Deepavali, with a view to doubling bilateral trade by 2030.

Of concern to the U.K. is the lifting of Indian tariffs on Scotch whisky, which might make some headway, as India has accepted lower tariffs on Australian wine and the U.K. seems more flexible in increasing visas to Indian professionals.

Strengthening of defence ties and cooperating strategically in the Indo-Pacific.

The two leaders also discussed green technology transfers and international climate finance, although India has yet to commit in writing to the Nationally Determined Contributions described at COP26 in Glasgow.

The PM of UK referred to India’s long-standing relationship with Russia, expressing understanding of India’s position, in stark contrast to the visit of his Foreign Minister recently. He also brushed aside a question on human rights concerns in India.

A sub-group is to be set up to study “extremism” inside India and the U.K.

Mr. Johnson suggested it would be used to monitor Khalistani groups (as New Delhi desires), but has a broader mandate to counter all groups and individuals “seeking to incite violent extremism and terrorism”.

In return, New Delhi chose not to press the point too hard on why economic fugitives (Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi) have still not been extradited.

What is the way forward?

Both New Delhi and London must ensure more concerted efforts to bring those agreements to a finale in the near future, to reach their ambitious goals under “Roadmap 2030” agreed to at the last summit in 2021.

Demolishing the rule of law

Source: The post is based on an article “Demolishing the rule of law” published in The Hindu on 25th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – Provisions of the Indian Constitution

Relevance: The Rule of Law; Ethical Governance 

News: Recently, the Supreme Court ordered the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to maintain “status quo” on the demolition drive against the illegal constructions in the Jahagirpuri Area, Delhi.

Such demolition drives were also carried on the homes of the alleged rioters in Khargone in Madhya Pradesh and Khambhat in Gujarat which were also hit by communal violence. 

What are the arguments of the local authorities? 

The NDMC issued a statement that the demolition was a part of a drive against “illegal encroachments” 

What are the issues with the recently executed demolition drives? 

These actions of state and local authorities blatantly disregard the due process of law and established judicial precedents regarding evictions of the people from the permanent establishments.  

Such actions undermine the basic tenets of criminal law. They imply the brutal use of the state power for collective punishment 

In fact, most of the urban residents live on the margins of legality. According to the Delhi Economic Survey 2008-09, only about 24% of the city lived in “planned colonies” and the rest lived in informal or unplanned areas like jhuggi  jhopdi clusters and unauthorised colonies.  

The Draft Master Plan of Delhi, 2041 also acknowledges that unplanned areas have emerged as important places in Delhi. They provide high density, mix-use hubs, in addition to affordable options for housing, micro, small and medium enterprises. 

The regularisation of “unauthorised colonies” has become a norm in Delhi Since the 1970s. For example, In the run-up to the Delhi Assembly elections in 2020, the Union Government launched the PM-UDAY (Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojana) scheme which confers property rights to residents of unauthorised colonies. 

The principles of natural justice entails that No public authority can demolish buildings without giving the affected parties a reasonable opportunity to be heard. For example, the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 and the Delhi Development Act, 1957 mandates the authority to serve an advance notice before demolishing the permanent buildings.  

In Ajay Maken vs Union of India (2019), the Delhi High Court invoked the idea of the “Right to the City” and the “Right to Adequate Housing” from international law. The court held no authority shall carry out eviction without conducting a survey and consulting the population on eviction and rehabilitation for those eligible. The locals should be given “meaningful engagement” with respect to the relocation plans 

In the Sudama Singh vs Government of Delhi (2010), The Delhi High Court mandated that the state should comply with fair procedure before undertaking any eviction. 

The present case of demolition of homes and shops of alleged culprits of communal riots is the sign of majoritarian justice 

Way Forward 

In addition to judicial scrutiny, the protection of the rule of law demands a broader political discourse. The issue of the majoritarian upsurge from the state and society is a great cause of concern, 

Why reforming the system of free food is necessary?

Source: The post is based on an article “Why reforming the system of free food is necessary?” published in the Indian Express on 25th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – Issues of Poverty and Hunger in India

Relevance: Poverty 

News: Recently, the World Bank and the IMF released the working papers which has led to a renewed debate on poverty in India. The former used the Consumer Pyramid Household Surveys (CPHS) and the latter used the NSO Consumer Expenditure Survey for the poverty related assessment. 

What are the findings related to India’s poverty level in the last few years?  

Both the WB and IMF papers claim that extreme poverty based on the international definition of $1.90 per capita per day (in purchasing power parity (PPP) has declined in India. As per the WB it was 10.2% of the country’s population in 2019. As per the IMF it was 0.77% in 2019 and 0.86% in 2020. 

In case of the poverty line scaled up to $3.2 PPP: (1) the IMF claimed that the poverty would be at 14.2% of the country’s population in 2019 in India, and (2). As per the WB, it would be 44.9%.  

In addition, as per the multi-dimensional poverty index (MPI), Indian poverty was at 25% in 2015. It was calculated using twelve key components from areas such as health and nutrition, education and standard of living.  

By 2019-20, it is expected that MPI would have further declined as the access to health, education and other basic facilities has significantly improved amongst the poor, especially after 2015.

What were the factors behind decline in India’s poverty levels?
The government has been providing massive food grain subsidy under the National Food Security Act (NFSA, 2013) and PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY). These measures had direct effect including during the pandemic period.  

What are the issues with distribution of free food to millions of people in the name of food security?  

This is a vote bank politics game.

It involves freebies rather than a prudent policy.

For example, the pandemic has ebbed and the economy has bounced back. But the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) launched as a special relief scheme during Covid-Pandemic has still been extended without a proper rational.  

The freebies strain reduces public investments, strain the fiscal situation and will also hamper potential job creation 

India’s public grain management system is crying out for reforms. The FCI’s wheat and rice stocks extend way beyond the buffer stock norm. 

Is free food a sustainable path towards poverty alleviation?  

It is better to teach a person how to catch a fish than to give him/her a free fish every day. It cannot inspire a society to grow.  

There are issues of massive leakages in the PDS. For example, The High-Level Committee on restructuring FCI pointed out that it amounts to more than 40% leakage. 

Way Forward 

There is a need for reforming this system of free food. The former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s approach can be adopted. The Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)for poorest of poor should be focused (more rations at a higher subsidy). For the remaining below poverty line (BPL) families, the 50% of the procurement price can be charged. The above poverty line families (APL) can be charged 90% of the procurement price. 

Technology can help identify the poor. This will make PDS more targeted and lead to cost savings.  

The targeted beneficiaries should be given the option of receiving cash instead of providing grains.  

The reform can lead to generation of savings. The government can use that saving for investments in Agri-R&D, rural infrastructure (irrigation, roads, markets) and innovations. It will create more jobs and reduce poverty on a sustainable basis

A new indispensable power

Source: The post is based on an article “A new indispensable power” published in the Business Standard on 24th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations – International Org and Groupings

Relevance: India-the EU Relation, Free Trade Agreement 

News: Recently, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visited India. Further, the president of the European Commission is scheduled to visit India in the coming days. Therefore, India-EU relations become the centre of debate 

What are the various challenges for India to increase its integration with the EU?

The EU comprises a mammoth bureaucracy. It is highly complex. Therefore, it is more difficult to conclude an agreement 

The biggest hurdle to a deeper economic relationship has consistently been regulatory divergences. Both the EU and India have taken its decisions in different administrative silos. 

There are other differences on multiple regulatory and economic fronts. For example, differences from digital regulation to intellectual property to phytosanitary requirements 

At present, there is a lack of institutional basis for EU-India co-operation. This derails the regulatory convergence and economic integration between India and the EU.  

India’ trade negotiations face challenges from multiple quarters like lobbies and class interests. For example, the legal services firms in India do not want to have foreign competition.  

India’s primary concern is market access for labour-intensive sectors and favourable investment conditions. 

What is the importance of the European Union wrt India’s interest and vice-versa?  

In the post-Brexit era, the European Union (EU) might be more vital for Indian economic interests. The United States seems to be more inward-looking. 

India aims to enhance its trade engagement with the world. India has recently signed a free trade deal with Australia. India-Britain also wishes to conclude free trade agreement by the end of 2022. The trade deal with the EU is also in pipeline 

India needs investment for the government’s aspirational National Infrastructure Pipeline etc. The public funds in India are not sufficient to build infrastructure necessary to make the Indian economy environmentally sustainable, globally integrated, and competitive. Europe is the world’s major reserve of institutional capital, and if India is to address its investment deficit, then convergence between the two economies is vital.  

The EU needs India to partner with the EU on climate action and on Indo-Pacific connectivity. Fortunately, these desires are also very much in India’s interest. 

The EU is a regulatory superpower. It was the first mover on data privacy and on corralling the revenues from Big Tech. It can be beneficial for India in improving regulatory regime 

The EU will be influential for catalysing green finance. It can play a role in regulating new technological frontiers in sectors like energy.  

The Way Forward 

An India-EU Trade and Technology Council could thus fill a long-identified gap. It will be on the line of a new “trade and technology council” established by the EU and the US to coordinate approaches to key global trade and technology issues”.

GS Paper 3

Amway a Ponzi scheme? ’Buyer beware’ won’t do

Source: This post is based on the article “Amway a Ponzi scheme? ’Buyer beware’ won’t do” published in the Livemint on 25th Apr 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy

Relevance: Pyramid fraud

News: Recently, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) froze assets of Amway India worth 758 crore. The federal agency issued a statement, alleging that the company was perpetrating a “scam” by running a pyramid “fraud” in the guise of direct-selling MLM network.

The new members, it said, are not buying the products to use those, but to become rich by becoming members as showcased by the upline members.

In December 2021, the Central govt had banned direct-selling companies from promoting pyramid and money-circulation schemes as it notified new rules for the direct-selling industry.

Must Read: Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid scheme – Explained
How Amway’s scheme was similar to a Ponzi-scheme for direct sellers in India?

In a Ponzi investment scam, money from new ‘investors’ is not put to productive ends, but used instead to pay higher-ups large and loud ‘returns’ as the pyramid’s base expands with gullible incomers.

Amway’s new joinees had to put in some money for a bagful of stock items (for on-sale or self-use), while they were advised to go sign up others on the logic that enrolling more and more recruits they would also get a share of sales.

Amidst all this, the fate of the new recruits down the order was left unclear, as the market for Amway’s stuff got saturated.

Eventually, many sellers left using up more volumes at home than they could sell.

By its pyramid design, upper layers were to earn more than the bulk of its agents. To the extent this inequity caught most of its direct sellers unaware, the company can be accused of misleading people if not a financial scam.

Do such schemes actually give profit to its direct sellers?

At least one study of such schemes has shown that only 1% of the sales force can expect to profit.

By ED numbers, its local unit made a profit of 27,562 crore over a span of 2002-03 to 2021-22 and paid all its distributors about 27.5% of that as their cut.

If it’s a “ 2,000 crore business” (as its chief said late last year) with over half a million sellers just within the country to share an annual 550 crore or so, most awaiting payback lower down the order would’ve likely got less than 1,000 per month.

Even if this raw deal had their legal consent, the gap between Amway’s claims and their real prospects ought to have forced an ethical rethink at the very least.

That coal feeling: Shortage of rail wagons is one reason for dipping power plant inventory. But problem goes further

Source: This post is based on the article “That coal feeling: Shortage of rail wagons is one reason for dipping power plant inventory. But problem goes further” published in The Times of India on 24th Apr 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Mobilization of Resources

Relevance: Shortage of coal in India

Context: Thermal power plants in India are once again struggling with coal inventory dipping to critical levels. A similar coal crisis had surfaced in India in October last year.

Given that both coal mining and logistics through railways are dominated by GoI-owned enterprises, it reflects poorly on official management of an essential economic input.

What is the situation wrt shortage of coal in India?

On April 21, 62% of the plants had coal stock that was classified by the Central Electricity Authority as critical, inventory of less than 25% of the normative stock.

A month earlier, about 49% of plants were classified as critical.

What is the reason behind the present coal crisis?

CEA’s reports show that many plants have indicated inadequacy of railway rakes as the reason for low stock.

It’s inexplicable. Coal provides about 49% of railway freight earnings and is the key to a healthy financial performance. It’s puzzling how railways finds itself unable to anticipate the infrastructure needs of the most important item it moves.

Why the current shortage is worrisome?

What makes the current situation worrisome is that planning deficiencies at the central level have come in the backdrop of a weak financial position of state government distribution companies.

This makes it unlikely they will use imports to fill the gap as the benchmark coal Australia price has more than doubled in a year to an average of $197 per tonne in the January-March quarter.

What is the way forward?

India’s struggle with coal supply to its power plants has come about at a time when manufacturing still has spare capacity. It’s a timely wake-up call for the full chain in the power sector.

Ad hoc reforms will not work any longer.

The distribution link has to move to a more efficient pricing system while the upstream segments of the power sector are choked by mounting overdues.

And as the primary logistics provider in the sector, the railways needs to step up.

Living in hothouse India: We have entered a new age of heat extremes. Concrete and glass-heavy urban buildings are a major hazard

Source: This post is based on the article “Living in hothouse India: We have entered a new age of heat extremes. Concrete and glass-heavy urban buildings are a major hazard” published in The Times of India on 24th Apr 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Combating extreme heat caused by climate change

Context: India is searing. Large parts of the country are in the grips of unbearable heat and heatwaves. It’s not supposed to be like this in March and April. Such heat is usually expected in May and June – the year’s hottest months.

But this temperature anomaly is not unexpected.

In fact, various IPCC reports point to heatwaves becoming a major calamity in the coming years.

What is the situation wrt heatwaves in India?

March 2022 was the hottest March on record, and March-April has witnessed a record number of heatwaves.

Delhi has recorded eight heatwave days in April so far, and the maximum temperature in parts of the city has already hit 43-45°C, which is 5-7°C above normal.

Both temperatures and heatwaves have been increasing perceptibly since the 1980s. Each of the last four decades has been progressively warmer than the decade that preceded it.

The past decade (2011-20) was the hottest since records began in 1901, and 11 out of 15 warmest years were between 2007 and 2021.

Likewise, the heatwave days have also increased every decade since 1980.

In addition, the hotspots of intense heatwaves have expanded. They now engulf a large part of the country, hitting areas that were not prone to extreme heat events in the past, like Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

In fact, there has been an alarming increase in severe heatwaves in southern India. The problem is that south India also experiences high humidity. This means that in the pre-monsoon period, when the humidity is usually high, a heatwave could push the “wetbulb” temperature (that measures the combined effect of temperature and humidity) beyond 35°C.

Few humans can tolerate it for a long time because their bodies can’t cool themselves.

According to the latest IPCC report, the intensity and frequency of heatwaves will increase with every increment of warming.

The report also points out that the Indian subcontinent will be hardest hit by deadly heatwaves.

What are the possible steps that need to be taken?

Mitigation is the best adaptation. Global warming needs to be limited to 1.5 °C. Several mitigation options – solar and wind energy, energy efficiency, the greening of urban infrastructure, demand-side management etc.

Building cities that cool themselves: The urban heat island effect increases the severity of heatwaves. City centres are now a few degrees warmer than the hinterlands because of the large amounts of heat emitted from our buildings, roads, factories and cars. To combat outside heat, more and more ACs are being installed, thereby unleashing a vicious cycle of spiralling heat island effect.

This cycle can be broken only by building cities that cool themselves. This means more open spaces, green areas and water bodies, and more energy-efficient green buildings.

Changing our laws: Most modern buildings are built with too much concrete, glass and poor shading and ventilation, making them prone to overheating. Therefore, our building bye-laws, urban planning guidelines and construction technologies must be radically changed to adapt to the rising heat.

A new heat code: India needs a new heat code. Many regions of the country now experience wet-bulb temperatures exceeding 31°C during certain parts of the year, which is dangerous for manual labour. However, we are not declaring such days as heatwaves because our guidelines are based on dry-bulb temperature. Therefore, we need a heat code that outlines the criteria for declaring heatwaves based on wet-bulb temperature. It should also prescribe SOPs for heatwave emergencies, such as work-hour limits and relief measures in public places and hospitals.

Way forward

Heatwave is theoretical discomfort for some of us who move from an airconditioned home to an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned office.

But it is a matter of life and death for a poor person dependent on manual labour and living in a hothouse in an urban slum or a village.

India, therefore, needs a heat action plan that saves the majority from hot extremes.

Changing the skill development model

Source: The post is based on an article “Changing the skill development model” published in the Indian Express on 25th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Govt policies and interventions

Relevance: Skill Development 

Context: In a rapidly changing world, there is a need to talk about skill development and predicting where jobs will be in 2032. 

What are the challenges wrt job creation? 

It is difficult to predict what jobs will be created in the long run.

Also, India’s mental models for skill related policies were not only inefficient but dangerous. For example, P C Mahalanobis Model in India failed to integrate labour with capital and capital with the labour in the Indian economy.  

What are measures that can be taken?

(A) The government can enable the degree apprentices, a tripartite contract between an employer, university, and the youth. It will build a robust skill system and the world’s largest apprenticeship system for 10 million young people.  The five design principles of the degree apprentice model 

– Learning while earning: The Degree apprentices programme involves stipends and scholarships payments. The employers will be willing to pay because of the high return. The graduates have better productivity, lower attrition, and lower time needed to fill open jobs. Therefore,  

– Learning by doing: The skill system should be based on demand rather than driven by supply. Now more focus should be given on soft skills rather than hard skills. The degree apprenticeships programme and the employers should integrate a practical and theoretical curriculum with actual doing. 

– Learning with flexible delivery: Skills can be learnt in four classrooms: On-the-job (apprenticeships), online, on-campus, and onsite (faculty coming to workplaces). All Institutions offering degree apprenticeships should combine the four classrooms in varying proportions depending on the needs, abilities, and means of different employers and young job seekers.  

– Learning with qualification modularity: There should be no policy distinction between vocational and degree education. These distinctions were strengthened with the Radhakrishnan Report (1948), Kothari Commission (1968), and New National Policy on Education (1986). 

Learning with signalling value: In India, there are strict entry and exit rules in the higher education system like tight entry gates (IIMs/IITs) or tight exit gates (chartered accountants). Therefore, these regulations should be eased for massifying higher education. 

(B)  The NEP 2020 proposes to remove partitions between schools, skills, and college. Degree apprenticeships offer academic credit for prior skills and for on-the-job learning, and full qualification modularity via multiple on and off-ramps between certificates, diplomas, and degrees. 

(C) The policy and regulatory issues related to the tripartite apprenticeship contracts should be simplified. 

On Electric Vehicle adoption in India: The right push

Source: The post is based on an article “The right push published in the Business Standard on 24th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Energy and Infrastructure; 

Relevance: Draft battery-swapping policy, Electric Vehicle adoption in India and related issues

Context: Recently, the NITI Aayog released a draft battery-swapping policy pertaining to two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and e-rickshaws. The draft policy aims to address some key concerns within the electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem 

What is the objective of the draft policy?

It will promote adoption of EV. It would lower dependencies on fossil fuels and reduce the carbon footprint. It can help India reduce its coal-based thermal generation.  

What are the issues with EV technology? 

There are safety concerns.

These vehicles catch fire due to short-circuits, battery overheating due to the weather, high-stress driving, or even the charging of an already heated unit.  

There are issues of cost.

If batteries are made smaller to enable an easier swapping ecosystem. This would mean changes in vehicle design. It may increase cost.  

There are issues of availability of space and power.

The charging and swapping stations need places to be set up in cities. 

What have been suggested in the draft policy? 

It suggests adoption of advanced chemistry cell (ACC) batteries of uniform types for smaller vehicles. 

The battery-swapping system based on a battery-as-a-service (BAAS) model can be adopted, which will reduce the upfront cost of EV (Without installed battery). It would involve charging a subscription. The user can swap an exhausted battery for a freshly charged unit at the EV charging stations. 

– Further, a battery swap for a small vehicle would take a few minutes as opposed to a recharge. It will reduce “range anxiety” — the fear of running out of power on the road.  

The regulatory standards for batteries must improve to eliminate chances of such fires 

The police and fire brigade personnel have to be retrained and equipped to deal with the safety concerns.  

The production-linked incentive scheme favouring ACC manufacturing, and several firms, should continue. 

The public must be reassured that such incidents will not keep occurring, to ensure a widespread EV uptake.  

There has to be a  rapid roll-out of a widespread network of charging and swapping stations.  

The authorities may offer land in convenient spots for stations, and also lower tariffs for power used uniquely for EVs. Vast amounts of space are not required for swapping stations 

There should be standardisation of the size and specifications of the battery to ensure interoperability 

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Union Minister inaugurates CSIR-IIIM’s BioNEST-Bioincubator in Jammu aimed at providing alternative sources of livelihood to thousands of youth in the region

Source:  This post is based on the article “Union Minister inaugurates CSIR-IIIM’s BioNEST-Bioincubator in Jammu aimed at providing alternative sources of livelihood to thousands of youth in the region” published in PIB on 23rd April 2022

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Science & Technology has launched the BioNEST Scheme in Jammu.

What is the BioNEST Scheme?

Launched by: BIRAC

Full-Form: BioNEST stands for Bio Incubators Nurturing Entrepreneurship for Scaling Technologies.

Aim: To foster the biotech innovation ecosystem in the country by creating globally competent bioincubation facilities across the country. 

Mandate: To provide incubation space to entrepreneurs and Startups along with shared access to high-end infrastructure, specialized and advanced equipment, business mentorship, IP, legal and regulatory guidance and networking opportunities. 

Eligibility: The scheme provides support to establish bio-incubators either as a standalone entity or as a part of academia.

Achievements: Through the BioNEST scheme, BIRAC has supported 60 bioincubators.

Russia illegally holds disputed islands: Japan

Source: This post is based on the article “Russia illegally holds disputed islands: Japan” published in The Hindu on 23rd April 2022

What is the News?

Japan for the first time has said that Russia has illegally occupied four islands near the Kamchatka Peninsula. The Japanese have called these islands – the Northern Territories – while Russia calls them the Kurils. 

What are the Kuril Islands?

The Kuril Islands are a chain of islands stretching from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Russia’s the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The islands separate the Okhotsk Sea from the North Pacific Ocean.

The islands are part of the Ring of Fire belt of geologic instability circling the Pacific.

What is the Kuril Island dispute?
Source: Global Politics

The Kuril Islands dispute between Japan and Russia is over the sovereignty of the South Kuril Islands.

The South Kuril Islands comprise Etorofu island, Kunashiri island, Shikotan island and Habomai island.

These islands are claimed by Japan but occupied by Russia as the successor state of the Soviet Union.

History of Kuril Islands Dispute

Treaty of Shimoda (1855): In 1855, Japan and Russia concluded the Treaty of Shimoda, which gave control of the four southernmost islands to Japan and the remainder of the chain to Russia.

Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1875): In this treaty, Russia ceded possession of the Kurils to Japan in exchange for uncontested control of Sakhalin Island. However, these islands were again seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

Yalta Agreement (1945): In 1945, as part of the Yalta agreements the islands were ceded to the Soviet Union, and the Japanese population was repatriated and replaced by the Soviets.

San Francisco Peace Treaty (1951): It was signed between the Allies and Japan in 1951. It states that Japan must give up all right, title and claim to the Kuril Islands but it also does not recognize the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over them.

Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration (1956): The dispute over the islands has prevented the conclusion of a peace treaty to end World War II. In 1956, diplomatic ties were restored between Japan and Russia by Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration.

During that time, Russia offered to give away the two islands closest to Japan. But the offer was rejected by Japan as the two islands constituted only 7% of the land in question.

What is the current situation of the Kuril Islands Dispute?

Despite a series of agreements, the dispute continues, and Japan still claims historical rights to the Kuril Islands. Further, Japan has tried repeatedly to persuade the Soviet Union and, from 1991, Russia to return those islands to Japanese sovereignty.

Explained: What is GO 111, the order to protect Hyderabad’s Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar, that has now been lifted

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: What is GO 111, the order to protect Hyderabad’s Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar, that has now been lifted” published in Indian Express on 23rd April 2022

What is the News?

Environmentalists and activists are criticizing the Telangana government for withdrawing a Government Order(GO) 111 protecting the historic Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar reservoirs in Hyderabad, which they say will destroy the fragile surrounding ecosystem.

What is GO 111?

In 1996, the Government of erstwhile (undivided) Andhra Pradesh issued GO 111 prohibiting development or construction works in the catchment area of the Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar lakes up to a radius of 10 km.

The GO prohibited the setting up of industries, residential colonies, and hotels among others which cause pollution.

The aim of the restrictions was to protect the catchment area and to keep reservoirs pollution-free. The lakes had been supplying water to Hyderabad for nearly 70 years and were the main source of drinking water for the city at the time.

When were Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar built?

Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar were built in 1920 and 1927, respectively, under the last Nizam-era ruler Mir Osman Ali Khan, after the devastating 1908 floods in Hyderabad.

The reservoirs were created by building dams on the River Musi (Musi is also known as Moosa or Muchkunda and is a major tributary of the Krishna River).

Why has the Government withdrawn GO 111?

Hyderabad city no longer depends on these two reservoirs for water supply, and there was no need to continue with the restrictions on development in the catchment radius.

Why has this move been criticized?

Environmentalists have said that these reservoirs are still an important water source for the city.

The Murugavani National Park between the twin reservoirs and the entire area acts as a heat absorption unit for the city and if that is allowed to get concretised, the city would become a furnace.

All-India Household Consumer Expenditure Survey: After a hiatus, household consumer spending survey to resume in July

Source: This post is based on the article After a hiatus, household consumer spending survey to resume in Julypublished in The Hindu on 24th April 2022

What is the News?

The All-India Household Consumer Expenditure Survey is set to resume this year after a prolonged break.

What is the Consumer Expenditure Survey?

Conducted by: National Statistical Office (NSO) every 5 years.

Aim: To collect information on the consumption spending patterns of households across the country, both urban and rural. 

The data gathered in this exercise reveals the average expenditure on goods (food and non-food) and services. The data helps to generate estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure(MPCE) as well as the distribution of households and persons over the MPCE classes.

How is the survey useful?

The data from the survey was used to arrive at estimates of poverty levels in different parts of the country and to review economic indicators like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since 2011–12. 

Why was the Consumer Expenditure Survey stopped?

In 2019, the Government had decided not to release the results of the all-India Household Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted during 2017-2018 citing data quality issues.

The government had said that it was examining the feasibility of conducting the next Survey after incorporating all data quality refinements in the survey process recommended by an expert panel that examined the discrepancies in the 2017–18 results.

Hence, the next Consumer Expenditure Survey is expected to be completed by 2023.

Towards a resolution of the Arunachal-Assam border dispute

Source: This post is based on the article Towards a resolution of the Arunachal-Assam border disputepublished in The Hindu on 25th April 2022

What is the News?

The governments of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam have decided to form district-level committees for resolving boundary disputes.

What is the Assam-Arunachal border dispute?
Source: Arunachal24

Arunachal Pradesh shares a boundary of roughly 800 km with Assam.

The dispute between these two states dates back to 1873 when the British announced the “inner line” regulation demarcating an imaginary boundary between plains and the frontier hills which were later designated as the North-East Frontier Tracts in 1915. 

Assam-Arunachal border dispute post-Independence

After Independence, the Assam government assumed administrative jurisdiction over the North East Frontier Tracts which later became the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1954 and finally, the Union Territory(UT) of Arunachal Pradesh in 1972. It gained statehood in 1987.

However, before Arunachal Pradesh was carved out of Assam, a subcommittee headed by then Assam chief minister Gopinath Bordoloi made some recommendations in relation to the administration of NEFA (under Assam) and submitted a report in 1951. 

Based on the Bordoloi committee report, around 3,648 sq km of the “plain” area of Balipara and Sadiya foothills was transferred from Arunachal Pradesh (then NEFA) to Assam’s then Darrang and Lakhimpur districts.

This transfer remains the bone of contention between the two states as Arunachal Pradesh claims the transfer was done without consulting its tribes who had customary rights over these lands.

What steps are being taken now to resolve the Assam Arunachal border dispute?

Earlier, efforts were made to resolve the Assam Arunachal border dispute. But it did not work out. Now the two States have decided to form 12 committees involving the districts sharing the boundary in order to come up with a solution.

Explained: Can climate change be solved by pricing carbon?

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Can climate change be solved by pricing carbon?” published in Indian Express on 24th April 2022

What is the News?

Pennsylvania has become the first major fossil fuel-producing state in the US to adopt a carbon pricing policy to address climate change. 

What are the different approaches adopted by countries to address climate change?

The United States has adopted a less direct approach known as the Social Cost of Carbon. This approach calculates future climate damages to justify tougher restrictions on polluting industries.

On the other hand, countries like Canada have adopted a Carbon Pricing approach. For example, Canada imposes fuel charges on individuals and also makes big polluters pay for emissions. It’s one of 27 nations with some kind of carbon tax.

What is the Carbon Pricing Approach?

Carbon pricing is an instrument that captures the external costs of greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions and ties them to their sources through a price usually in the form of a price on the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted. 

These GHG emissions include the costs of emissions that the public pays for, such as damage to crops, health care costs from heatwaves and droughts, and loss of property from flooding and sea-level rise.

A price on carbon helps shift the burden for the damage from GHG emissions back to those who are responsible for it and who can avoid it.

Types of Carbon Pricing: There are two main types of carbon pricing namely: 

Emission Trading System(ETS): It is a system where emitters can trade emission units to meet their emission targets.

Carbon Tax: It directly sets a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions or – more commonly – on the carbon content of fossil fuels. It is different from an ETS in that the emission reduction outcome of a carbon tax is not pre-defined but the carbon price is.

What is the difference between the Social Cost of Carbon and Carbon Pricing?

The social cost of carbon attempts to capture the value of all climate damage centuries into the future.

Carbon pricing reflects how much companies are willing to pay today for a limited amount of emission credits offered at an auction.

In other words, the social cost of carbon guides policy, while carbon pricing represents policy in practice.

Days of misery over, PM tells J&K youth

Source: This post is based on the article Days of misery over, PM tells J&K youthpublished in The Hindu on 24th April 2022

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has launched several development projects in Jammu aimed at “reducing Dilli Saey Doori (distance from Delhi)”.

Using the “Delhi ki Dooriyan” phrase, PM said the ‘ Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ initiative in the past eight years was aimed at reducing distances whether ‘ Dilli ki Dooriyan’ or “cultural or linguistic distances.

What are the projects launched by the Prime Minister in Jammu?

Banihal Qazigund Road Tunnel: It is an 8.45 Km long tunnel that would reduce the road distance between Banihal and Qazigund by 16 km. The tunnel would help establish an all-weather connection between Jammu and Kashmir.

Ratle Hydroelectric Project: It is an 850MW hydroelectric project that will be constructed on the Chenab River in Kishtwar District in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kwar Hydroelectric Project: It is a 540MW hydroelectric project that will also be built on Chenab river in Kishtwar District in Jammu and Kashmir.

What is Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat Initiative?

Launched by: Prime Minister on 31st October 2015 on the occasion of the 140th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who played a significant part in the unification of the country post-independence.

Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Education

Aim: To promote the spirit of national integration and to strengthen the fabric of emotional bonds between the people of our country. 

Under the initiative, States and UT in the country would be paired with another State/UT for a time period, during which they would carry out a structured engagement with one another in the spheres of language, literature, cuisine, festivals, cultural events, tourism etc

For example, Andhra Pradesh is paired with Punjab. During this period, people from Punjab would attempt to learn keywords in Telugu and Andhra would hold food festivals offering Punjabi dishes among others.

Understanding the Olga Tellis judgment

Source: This post is based on the article Understanding the Olga Tellis judgmentpublished in The Hindu on 25th April 2022

What is the News?

The Supreme Court Judgment in the “Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation,1985” may become a game-changer in the Jahangirpuri case. 

What is the Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation Judgment?

Background: In 1981, Bombay Municipal Corporation had decided that pavement and slum dwellers in Bombay city should be evicted and deported to their respective places of origin or places outside the city of Bombay. This was challenged before the Supreme Court.

Questions before Supreme Court: 

Firstly, whether eviction of a pavement dweller would amount to depriving him/her of their livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Secondly, provisions in the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 allowing the removal of encroachments without prior notice were arbitrary and unreasonable. 

Thirdly, whether it was constitutionally impermissible to characterize pavement dwellers as trespassers.

What were the State Government’s arguments?

The government has said that the pavement dwellers should be estopped (Estoppel is a judicial device whereby a court may prevent or estop a person from making assertions. It basically prevents someone from bringing a particular claim).

Moreover, slum dwellers cannot claim any fundamental right to encroach and put up huts on pavements or public roads over which the public has a ‘right of way.’

What was the ruling of the Supreme Court?

Right to be heard: The Supreme Court agreed that pavement dwellers do occupy public spaces unauthorized. However, the court maintained they should be given a chance to be heard and a reasonable opportunity to depart before force is used to expel them.

Right to Livelihood: The court rejected the State Government’s argument of estoppel. It held that the right to life of pavement dwellers was at stake here. The right to livelihood was an integral component of the right to life. Hence, they can come to court to assert their right. 

Treating Pavement dwellers as Trespassers: The Court objected to authorities treating pavement dwellers as mere trespassers. The Court said that pavement dwellers manage to find a habitat in places which are mostly filthy or marshy, out of sheer helplessness.

Digital Services Act(DSA): Explained: European Union ground rules for Web

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: European Union ground rules for Web” published in Indian Express on 25th April 2022

What is the News?

The European Parliament and European Union(EU) Member States have announced that they have reached a political agreement on the Digital Services Act(DSA).

What is the Digital Services Act(DSA)?

Purpose: The Act is a set of rules on intermediaries’ obligations and accountability across the single market and ensures higher protection to all EU users irrespective of their country.

The Act will work in conjunction with the EU’s Digital Markets Act(DMA).

Coverage: The Act will apply to a large category of online services, from simple websites to Internet infrastructure services and online platforms. Any service with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU will fall into this category. 

What are the key provisions of the Digital Services Act(DSA)?

Removal of Illegal Content: Online platforms and intermediaries will have to add procedures for faster removal of content deemed illegal or harmful. The platforms will also have to clearly explain their policy on taking down content and users will also be able to challenge these takedowns as well. 

Data Access to researchers: It allows independent vetted researchers to have access to public data from these platforms to carry out studies to understand these risks better.

Ban Dark Patterns: It proposes to ban ‘Dark Patterns’ or “misleading interfaces” that are designed to trick users into doing something that they would not agree to otherwise.

Crisis Mechanism Clause: It incorporates a new crisis mechanism clause — it refers to the Russia-Ukraine conflict — which will be activated on the recommendation of the Board of national Digital Services Coordinators. This clause will make it possible to analyze the impact of the activities of these platforms on the crisis. However, these special measures will only be in place for three months.

Protection for Minors: It allows for stronger protection for minors and aims to ban targeted advertising for them based on their personal data.

Liability: The platforms and other intermediaries will not be liable for the unlawful behaviour of users. So, they still have ‘safe harbour’ in some sense. However, if the platforms are aware of illegal acts and fail to remove them, they will be liable for this user behaviour. 

Read more: Explained: Targeting big tech, what EU’s landmark Digital Act aims to achieve

Explained | Why has the China-Solomon Islands deal become the latest flashpoint between China and the U.S.?

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained | Why has the China-Solomon Islands deal become the latest flashpoint between China and the U.S.?” published in The Hindu on 24th April 2022

What is the News?

China’s government has signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands. 

What does the China-Solomon Islands security deal contain?

Firstly, it says that the Solomon Islands may request China to send police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement to the Solomon Islands. This is to assist the island in maintaining social order, protecting people’s lives and property or providing assistance on other tasks agreed upon by the parties.

Secondly, it allows China with the consent of the Solomon Islands to make ship visits, carry out logistical replenishment and have stopovers in the Solomon Islands.

What is the significance of this deal?

The Solomon Islands has great strategic significance as was evident during World War II (WW II). During World War II, it served as a bulwark for Australia against the advancing Japanese.

The Solomon Islands also sits on critical shipping routes, meaning China could potentially control maritime traffic in and around the region.

What are the concerns raised by other countries?

Officials from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand expressed concerns about the proposed security framework. They fear that the agreement could open the door to a Chinese naval base in the country and hence pose serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

How will this deal impact India?

The China-Solomon Islands pact does not directly affect India. The islands are at a significant distance from mainland India and even the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, China’s advances in the region will be a cause for concern even in India

What is Solomon Islands?
Source: Britannica

The Solomons are an archipelago of hundreds of small islands in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. It is located approximately 2,000 km from Australia.

There are six big islands – the largest, Guadalcanal, is home to the capital Honiara. The others are New Georgia, Santa Isabel, Choiseul, Malaita, and San Cristobal. 

The island in particular has significant reserves of timber and mineral resources, along with fisheries.

Mains Answer Writing

[Answered] Mains Marathon I Daily Answer Writing I May 19, 2022

Good Morning Friends, Following are answers to Mains Marathon questions, we posted yesterday. About Mains Marathon – This is an initiative of ForumIAS to help/aid aspirants in their writing skills, which is crucial to conquering mains examination. Every morning, we post 2 questions are based on current affairs. The questions framed are meaningful and relevant to the… Continue reading [Answered] Mains Marathon I Daily Answer Writing I May 19, 2022

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[Answered] Discuss the challenges in the way of achieving intended objectives under India’s ethanol fuel blending targets. Also suggest some measures to achieve targets.

Introduction: Contextual introduction. Body: Write some challenges in achieving the targets of ethanol blending program. Also write some measures to achieve the targets. Conclusion: Write some suggestions. The government of India has advanced the target for 20 per cent ethanol blending (E20) in petrol to 2025 from 2030. According to NITI Aayog, this will help… Continue reading [Answered] Discuss the challenges in the way of achieving intended objectives under India’s ethanol fuel blending targets. Also suggest some measures to achieve targets.

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[Answered] The number and duration of droughts around the world are increasing at an alarming pace. Highlight the multidimensional impacts of drought and suggest solutions with a special focus on recent report of United Nations.

Introduction: Contextual introduction. Body: Write some points related to the multidimensional impacts of drought and suggest solutions with a special focus on the recent Nations report. Conclusion: Write a way forward. In simple terms, drought is a period of unusually persistent dry weather that persists long enough to cause serious problems such as crop damage… Continue reading [Answered] The number and duration of droughts around the world are increasing at an alarming pace. Highlight the multidimensional impacts of drought and suggest solutions with a special focus on recent report of United Nations.

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[UPSC Interview 2021] – Transcript #198 : RN Choubey Board, PSIR Optional, Guitar Hobby

Date of Interview: May 04th, 22 Board:  RN Choubey Optional: PSIR Background: IITB Electrical Hobbies: Guitar, IoT To view all IAS Interview Transcripts 2021, visit this page Your experience in interview- 90% DAF based, smiling but poker faces, some answers and eye contact could have had been better from my side. Got out feeling nice but… Continue reading [UPSC Interview 2021] – Transcript #198 : RN Choubey Board, PSIR Optional, Guitar Hobby

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[UPSC Interview 2021] – Transcript #197 : TCA Anant Board, PSIR Optional

Date of Interview: 4th  May, 22 Board: TCA Anant Optional: PSIR College: University of Delhi Experience- Everything happened so quickly that it was hardly an “experience”. Yes, I’m talking about the PT only! Utility of Mocks- Very crucial part of preparation. Many direct questions. To view all IAS Interview Transcripts 2021, visit this page Chairman You’re… Continue reading [UPSC Interview 2021] – Transcript #197 : TCA Anant Board, PSIR Optional

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[UPSC Interview 2021] – Transcript #196 : M Sathiyavathy Board, Mathematics Optional, Swimming, Sports, Music Hobbies

Date of Interview: 2nd May, Afternoon session Board: M Sathiyavathy Ma’am Optional: Mathematics Background: Engineering Physics from IIT Delhi Hobbies: Swimming, playing Badminton, listening to Rock Music To view all IAS Interview Transcripts 2021, visit this page Experience of Interview : Overall a good interaction especially with M-4. Very cordial board. Questions asked from DAF &… Continue reading [UPSC Interview 2021] – Transcript #196 : M Sathiyavathy Board, Mathematics Optional, Swimming, Sports, Music Hobbies

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Must Read Current Affairs Articles – May 20, 2022

About Must Read News Articles: Must Read News Articles is an initiative by Team ForumIAS to provide links to the most important news articles of the day. It covers several newspapers such as The Hindu, Indian Express, Livemint, etc. This saves the time and effort of students in identifying useful and important articles. With newspaper websites… Continue reading Must Read Current Affairs Articles – May 20, 2022

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PM inaugurates country’s first 5G testbed

What is the News? The Prime Minister has inaugurated India’s first 5G testbed facility. What is a 5G Testbed? The 5G testbed has been developed as a multi-institute collaborative project by eight institutes led by IIT Madras. Purpose: It will enable startups and industry players to test and validate their products locally and reduce dependence… Continue reading PM inaugurates country’s first 5G testbed

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DRDO & Indian Navy conduct successful maiden flight-test of indigenously-developed Naval Anti-Ship Missile off Odisha coast

What is the News? The Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) and Indian Navy have successfully conducted the maiden flight test of an indigenously-developed Naval anti-ship missile. What is the Naval anti-ship missile? Developed by: Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) for the Indian Navy. Features: The missile has a weight of 380 kg and a range… Continue reading DRDO & Indian Navy conduct successful maiden flight-test of indigenously-developed Naval Anti-Ship Missile off Odisha coast

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The State of Inequality in India Report released

What is the News? The State of Inequality in India Report has been released. What is the State of Inequality in India Report? Released by: Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister(EAC-PM) and written by the Institute for Competitiveness. Purpose: The report presents a holistic analysis of the depth and nature of inequality in India.… Continue reading The State of Inequality in India Report released

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