9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 27th, 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 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 1

Cities will drive growth, but only if we build right: Follow master plans, develop transit networks, grow vertically, conserve water, recruit urban managers

Source: This post is based on the article “Cities will drive growth, but only if we build right: Follow master plans, develop transit networks, grow vertically, conserve water, recruit urban managers” published in The Times of India on 26th Apr 22.Syllabus: GS1 – Urbanisation

Relevance: A blueprint for sustainable Urbanisation in India

Context: Urbanisation will be the single biggest agent of growth in the next few decades in India, but only if we design optimum policies alongside.

What is the scale of urbanisation in India?

India is already the second-largest urban system in the world with 11% of the total global urban population living in Indian cities. This is more than the urban population of the US, Germany, Japan and UK.

The UN estimates that around 416 million people will be added as urban dwellers in India between 2018 and 2050, and the country will be more than 50% urban by 2050.

This year’s Budget takes cognisance of urbanisation and has listed not one but multiple actions to steer a paradigm shift.

How can India ensure sustainable Urbanisation?

Master plans are critical for managing urbanisation.

The urban system of India consists of 7,933 settlements, comprising statutory towns and census towns.

We have 3,892 census towns which are classified as urban in the census as they meet the relevant criteria. However, they continue to be governed as villages and do not have urban local bodies. Plus, it’s estimated that in addition to the existing census towns identified by Census 2011, another 2,231 census towns have come up by 2021. These census towns account for almost 72 million ‘urban’ population and remain under the ambit of ‘uncatered’ or ‘ignored’ urbanisation.

Almost half of our statutory towns are expanding in an unplanned, unscientific manner without any master plan to guide their growth. None of the census towns has a master plan.

This is leading to haphazard growth with piecemeal interventions leading to urban sprawl.

The first and foremost challenge is to prepare scientific master plans for all statutory towns and govern census towns as urban local bodies and prepare their master plans to guide their spatial growth.

Transit Oriented Development: Indian cities must grow and evolve on the back of Transit Oriented Development. Planned development along the mode of a rapid transit network has multifold benefits. a) It reduces the number of cars, b) increases walkability and bikeability, c) brings people and offices closer to each other through compact and vertical development. All of this leads to agglomeration and enhanced productivity.

Therefore, urban planning in Indian cities must support bus rapid transit, light rapid transit, mass rapid transit and non-motorised transit systems like cycling and walking.

Densify and increase FSI: There is a need to densify our cities, build them vertically and reap agglomeration benefits of enhanced economic productivity and lower transaction costs.

The maximum Floor Space Index (FSI) in Singapore is 25, Tokyo 20, New York 15, whereas in Mumbai it is 1.33, Pune 1.25, Ahmedabad 2 and Delhi 3. 5.

Restricting the FSI to such low levels a) creates distortions in the land market, b) pushes development to the peri-urban areas, c) reduces availability of serviced land within cities, particularly for low-income groups, d) increases commuting distances and their environmental costs.

People from rural areas will continue to move to cities in search of livelihoods.

Keeping FSI artificially low to control the densities is a failed strategy.

Sustainable management of water: Water will be a key determinant in our ability to sustainably manage our cities and enhance the quality of life of our citizens.

Indian cities need to collect, treat and reuse used water on a vast scale, and need to be fully sewered to collect all used water.

Construct separate drainage and sewerage systems to facilitate used water reusage.

There is also a necessity for rational and pragmatic policy for pricing water. The pricing mechanism should be based on “pay as you use” with direct benefit transfer of a subsidy for those who cannot afford to pay.

Strengthen urban governance: States need to build up a cadre of professional urban managers and create an ecosystem of light-touch regulations, reform building bye-laws and use technologies like geospatial systems. Moreover, states need to provide greater financial autonomy and administrative freedom to cities.


Women entrepreneurs need digital empowerment

Source: This post is based on the article “Women entrepreneurs need digital empowerment” published in Livemint on 27th Apr 22.

Syllabus: GS1 – Women empowerment

Relevance: Digital empowerment of Women entrepreneurs

Context: A digital gap highlighted by the covid pandemic must be bridged for progress to be made on entrepreneurial gender parity.

Why women entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged in the society?

Better educated and healthier generations: Encouraging women entrepreneurship could play a pivotal role in uplifting India’s economy and bring about improvements on various social indicators linked to the quality of life and well-being of families.

As their role as primary caregivers in the family, women tend to prioritize the well-being of their families. Therefore, they spend a considerable portion of their income on ensuring better education for their children along with the health and nutrition of family members. This results in better educated and healthier generations.

Positive impact on the GDP: Past studies have indicated that promoting women’s participation in employment and entrepreneurship in India can potentially increase the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by $0.7 trillion by 2025.

What is the present situation wrt women entrepreneurship in India?

The contribution of women to India’s GDP is estimated at just 17% as compared to the global average of 37%, with the share of women-led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) being a meagre 14%

What are the reasons for low participation in workforce and entrepreneurship?

Deep-seated patriarchy: Patriarchy dictates that women should only engage in household chores rather than in income-earning activities. As a result, women entrepreneurs often face a lack of information, technical know-how and access to technology, which adversely impacts the sustainability and scalability of their startups.

Little or no access to digital information and platforms: In India, digital penetration in terms of mobile-internet usage by women was likely to be 33% less than that of men. Even among families that do own smartphones or have internet connections, male counterparts are usually in possession of these digital resources instead of women. Only 54% women have a mobile phone that they use on their own.

This has caused women entrepreneurs to suffer more in the wake of pandemic-induced disruptions, as their low internet usage for business purposes meant they had very limited capacity to make a quick shift towards internet-based solutions.

What are the various measures that have been taken to bridge this digital gap?

Gender equality and digital development are intimately linked, making the adoption of digital solutions by women entrepreneurs imperative.

Global level

The Digital Development Global Practice adopted by the World Bank recently focuses on these five pillars of women’s digital empowerment: a) digital infrastructure, b) public platforms, c) financial services, d) businesses and e) skills.

Domestic level

Various initiatives of the government—such as the Digital Literacy Mission, Pradhan Mantri Grameen Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, Aadhaar-enabled payment systems and Digi Dhan Abhiyan, among others—have focused on this aspect as a tool for empowerment.

Niti Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurship Platform has also proven helpful as a one-stop-shop for women entrepreneurs to access information, learning modules and also loans, support and mentorship digitally.

Corporate-led initiatives have also have worked to bridge gaps in internet access and generate awareness among women entrepreneurs.

– Google Internet Saathi

– EdelGive Foundation’s UdyamStree campaign

– Facebook Pragati, etc,

Banks and other financial institutions have also conducted ‘going-digital’ camps aimed at helping micro-entrepreneurs gain access to digital financial means.

The FICCI-FLO Empowering the Greater 50% mission also lays a special emphasis on the digital inclusion of women.

What is the way forward?

There needs to be a better adoption of these initiatives at the grassroots level in order to empower women entrepreneurs across the country. Not only must they have access to digital technology, they should also feel confident of using it to conduct their enterprise operations.

As smartphones can prove to be expensive for micro-scale firms, awareness of financing options for smartphones is paramount.

If the India is to realize its vision of achieving a $5 trillion economy, digital technology must henceforth be an integral part of all its entrepreneurial development programmes for women.


GS Paper 2

“India as a democratic superpower

Source: The post is based on an article “India as a democratic superpower” published in The Hindu on 27th April 2022. Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations,  Relevance: India’s Foreign Policy 

News: India is the world’s third-largest economy, at least in purchasing power terms. Further, it has been argued that India has emerged as a democratic superpower capable of providing the leadership that the world needs.

What are the geopolitical and other challenges in front of the international community? 

Russia has launched an unprovoked war against Ukraine. It is a war against Ukraine’s existence as a free and independent country. 

Russia wants to correct what he sees as the greatest geo-political disaster of the last century. It aims to restore Greater Russia. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a step in that direction. 

China has grown itself based on China-centred globalisation over the past couple of decades. It has started asserting itself. It may endanger the free, and safer world order 

The ongoing saga in Ukraine will boost the morale of China. China would be inspired to take Taiwan. China wants to become the world’s top country. 

Further, Beijing and Moscow have minted a “no limits” partnership. This is going to be the greatest geopolitical threat 

How can India leverage the opportunities presented by the global geopolitics today?

India is a member of Quad. The group has been organized to resist Chinese aggression. And Australia is the key member in this pursuit. 

There is a need to reduce dependence on China. It could threaten the national security. 

India has the opportunity to substitute China. India can become a trustworthy trade partner with fellow democracies. The Australia-India trade deal can play a major role in this direction.  

India should extend the “make in India” campaign to all the consumer lines and the intermediate goods currently made in China. The Indian economy is a vibrant free market, has a booming tech sector, and a large population base to support the economic activities.  

Countries like India having democratic values in common can promote free and fair trade across the world.  

India gained its freedom through moral suasion and peaceful protest, through satyagraha. After 75 years of independence, India does not have to be anyone’s junior partner in the international community. India can act as the leader of the free world. India should support free countries and free people.  

India shares traditional friendship with Russia. It has earned palpable goodwill among the ordinary Russians. Therefore, India is uniquely placed to exercise moral leadership and appeal to Russian leadership. 

Way forward

As per Ex-Australian PM, India has emerged as a democratic superpower, and can provide much needed leadership to the world at present.


Data-dependent policy

Source: The post is based on an article “Data-dependent policy” published in the Business Standard on 26th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – Governance; Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Relevance: Public Data, Evidence based planning  

Context: Recently, the World Bank and the other by the International Monetary Fund published two different papers to assess the level of poverty in India. They concluded that poverty in India had declined considerably in recent years.

In this backdrop, the government has done well to restart the consumer expenditure survey process because the survey is critical for understanding the functioning of the Indian economy.  

The importance of timely collection and dissemination of data cannot be overstated in a rapidly changing economic environment. It is perhaps the most powerful tool to guide policy interventions.

What has been the state of the Indian economy in the last two years? 

Indian Economy has witnessed severe impact on employment and income over the past two years due to pandemic-induced disruption. The disruption is likely to have affected consumption significantly. 

What measures were taken by the government to check slowdown in the economy? 

The fiscal interventions were made during the pandemic. It involved the distribution of free food grains to a large number of households.   

The government has done well to restart the economic activities and economic processes in India. 

What are the issues with the measurement of poverty?

There has been a lack of more recent and official consumption data. Therefore, Economists had to adopt different methods to gauge the level of poverty. 

The government had decided to scrap the consumer expenditure survey conducted in 2017-18 because of data quality issues.  

A fresh survey has not been conducted thereafter because of the outbreak of the pandemic.  

It has been argued that the consumption basket of Indian households has changed significantly over the last 10 years due to a growing economy 

The weighting of food in the consumption basket has declined. The expenditure on services has increased.  

Way Forward 

Now the pandemic is under control, therefore, a new consumer expenditure survey must be carried out as soon as possible. The outcome of the survey would be critical for gauging the state of household consumption, poverty, or revising the base for GDP estimates and the consumer price index. 

The inflation rate based on headline consumer price index is the nominal anchor for monetary policy. Therefore, the index must be appropriately updated. 

The data is the most powerful tool to guide policy interventions. Therefore, it must be timely collected and disseminated in a rapidly changing economic environment.  

The government should also publish a new producer price index. can measure output, consumption, and price changes more accurately. This will help to ensure higher growth with macroeconomic stability. 

Way forward


Mission Antyodaya’ should not fall by the wayside 

Source: The post is based on an article “Mission Antyodaya should not fall by the wayside” published in The Hindu on 27th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes

Relevance: Mission Antyodaya 

Context: Recently, the Mission Antyodaya Project related report on infrastructure and service gaps and the other on a composite index have been released so far. The Government of India launched the mission in 2017-18 to revive the objectives of the great democratic reforms in India. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Ministry of Rural Development act as the nodal agents to take the mission forward.  

What are the constitutional provisions/laws which ushered decentralisation reforms to deliver social justice and progress in rural India? 

The Indian Constitution mandates population-based representation to Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities, and one-third reservation for women (in most States, now 50%). 

The constitution mandates that the local governments are empowered to prepare and implement plans for ‘economic development and social justice’ (Articles 243G and 243W).  

It mandates establishment of various Institutions to perform various functions like the Gram Sabha facilitate people’s participation, the District Planning committee (DPC) prepare bottom up and spatial development plans, the State Finance Commission (SFC) ensure vertical and horizontal equity,  

Background 

The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 revealed very disturbing facts about rural India. Most of the rural households had no salaried jobs, were landless, many had no adult member to support (female-headed households), suffered multiple deprivations, engaged in manual casual labour, no room or only one room to live, and so on. 

About the ‘Mission Antyodaya’ project 

Objectives 

The main objective is to ensure optimum use of resources. It is done through the convergence of resources of various schemes. For example, the convergence of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the National Rural Livelihood Mission, National Social Assistance Programme, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, etc.) and save administrative expenses. 

The planning process is inspired by the people’s plan of Kerala. The mission wants to make the gram panchayat the hub of a development plan 

Functioning of the Mission 

An annual survey is conducted to assess the various development gaps at the gram panchayat level. The data is collected for the 29 subjects assigned to PRI. The assessment-based approach can foster economic development and inter-jurisdictional equity. The data enables sectoral and spatial development planning, from the village level to the State and the country as a whole. . 

The findings of the ‘Mission Antyodaya’ survey 2019-20

The gap report and the composite index has exposed the fact that we have not achieved ‘economic development and social justice’ so far. This remains a distant goal even after 30 years of the decentralisation reforms and nearly 75 years into Independence. 

In fact, India has not witnessed rural development, the goal posts have been moved to 2022 which coincide with the 75th anniversary of Independence. 

Way Forward 

The government should reduce the growing rural-urban disparities across primary health care, literacy, drinking water supply and other issues.  

The data can be deployed to India’s fiscal federalism. It can improve the transfer system and horizontal equity in the delivery of public goods in India at the sub-State level.  

The strong policy interventions can help in the attainment of the constitutional goal of planning and implementing economic development and social justice in India. 


Common values, shared threats in India-Australia cyber security ties

Source: This post is based on the article “Common values, shared threats in India-Australia cybersecurity ties” published in The Indian Express on 27th Apr 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations – India and its neighbourhood

Relevance: Indo-Aus bilateral ties in cybersecurity

Context: The signing of India-Australia ECTA is a concrete example of the bilateral faith in common values, and understanding of threats and goals. A reflection of this is cooperation in cybersecurity.

Significance of cybersecurity as an important area of cooperation

Russia-Ukraine conflict:

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has shown how cyber threat actors, both state and non-state, have become significant players in hybrid or “unrestricted” warfare.

Both countries have used malicious elements in the information as well as operational space.

Also, non-state actors like the hacktivist group Anonymous claimed to have caused significant damage to critical Russian and Belarusian financial and military infrastructure.

China’s actions

China is accused of having amassed numerous cyber weapons and has allegedly carried out sophisticated operations aimed at espionage, theft of intellectual property, and destructive attacks on internet resources of some countries.

Australia and India have been at the receiving end of several such campaigns by the so-called Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups, supported by or assumed to be located in China.

Efforts to promote cooperation in cybersecurity b/w India and Aus

At the June 2020 virtual bilateral summit, Prime Minister of India and his Australian counterpart elevated the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

The new cyber framework includes a five-year plan to work together on the digital economy, cybersecurity and critical and emerging technologies. This will be supported by a $9.7 million fund for bilateral research to improve regional cyber resilience.

An annual Cyber Policy Dialogue, a new Joint Working Group on Cyber Security Cooperation and a joint working group on ICTs have been established.

An annual India-Australia Foreign Ministers Cyber Framework Dialogue will be held.

India will now be included in a core Australian initiative called the International Cyber Engagement Strategy. It began in 2017 to actively conduct capacity-building arrangements in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, and support similar activities in Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

– In 2021 Australia added critical technologies to the initiative, making it important to the bilateral partnership with India and to the Quad.

In February, the foreign ministers of India and Australia recognised cooperation in cyber governance, cyber security, digital economy, cyber and critical technologies as an essential pillar of the relations between the two countries. A joint Centre of Excellence for Critical and Emerging Technology Policy, to be located in Bengaluru, will be set up.

What steps have been taken by both the countries on the domestic front to secure their cyberspace?

Australia

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) in Canberra is the focal point of the country’s cybersecurity information, advice and assistance efforts.

It draws expertise from national law enforcement, intelligence agencies, crime investigation, and national security bodies.

ACSC has a partnership programme with the corporate world to facilitate intelligence-sharing on threats.

AustCyber, another government effort, aims at establishing an internationally competitive domestic cybersecurity industry.

India

India has set up the office of the National Cybersecurity Coordinator, a national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), a national Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Agency (NCIIPC)

It has also made appropriate amendments to the Information Technology Act and Rules to enhance its cybersecurity posture. This has upped India’s rank to 10th in the Global Cyber Security Index (GCI) 2020, from 47th just two years earlier.

Way forward

India and Australia share common concerns around 5G rollouts, threats by APT groups, cybercrime, information warfare and threats to a democratic order.

Deepening cooperation can develop avenues for mutual learning and create complementary markets in cyber tools and technologies, boosting bilateral business and strategic commitments on both continents.


GS Paper 3

Public Sector Banks must move beyond recapitalization bonds

Source: The post is based on an article “Public Sector banks must move beyond recapitalization bonds” published in the Live Mint on 27th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy; Issues in mobilization of resources, growth and development

Relevance: NPA; Banking Reforms 

News:  Recently, the public sector banks (PSBs) had a huge amount of gross non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans. It peaked at ₹8.96 trillion or around 14.6% of total loans in March 2018. However, the gross NPAs have fallen to ₹5.59 trillion, or around 7.9% of total loans as of December 2021. 

What are the challenges before PSBs? 

The PSBs have constantly been losing market share to private banks due to competition since 2010. 

For example, the PSBs share in overall outstanding loans has been reduced from 3/4th in 2010 to 55% in 2021. However, the share of private banks having risen. 

What factors have contributed to decline in the bad loans? 

There has been writing off of the bad loans, the recurrent recapitalization of PSBs by the government, the recovery of a few bad loans, and the RBI pushed the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework 

Over the years, the bad loans of PSBs had been written off against their accumulated capital.  

Recapitalization: The government had regularly invested fresh money in them. From 2010-11 to 2017-18, the Centre infused ₹1.12 trillion.  

In order to put fresh money into PSBs, the government has issued recapitalization bonds worth ₹2.79 trillion so far. The bank bought these bonds. The Centre took that money and re-invested it back in the bank. Such bonds recapitalized the banks which were running short on capital. It also prevented the government from spending any money from its budget.   

Way Forward 

The RBI Governor asked the banks to strengthen their lending capacity by raising capital. Banks are being encouraged to raise capital from sources other than the government. This is so because at present the government’s shareholding in addition to LIC stands at 73% in PNB, 64% of Bank of Baroda and 80% of Indian Bank etc. However, the banks should not dilute the centre’s share below the minimum requirement of 51%.     

The Second Narasimham Committee 1998 recommended that the minimum shareholding of the government in PSBs be brought down to 33%. It will ensure that the PSBs stay in competition. 


PDS has had a spectacular run. That may not last

Source: The post is based on the article “PDS has had a spectacular run. That may not last” published in The Hindu on 27th April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Agriculture and Allied Sector; The Public Distribution System and Food Security in India

Relevance: The PDS Reforms 

Context: Its golden chapter was scripted in an environment of low global commodity prices and surplus domestic foodgrain production. That party is over, even as food inflation is back.

Why was the 2020-21 year very important for the agricultural sector? 

(1) In 2020-21, Agriculture was the only sector to grow at 3.3%, even as the economy overall contracted by 4.8%. The farm sector added 11 million when the rest of the economy shed 15 million jobs from 2019-20 to 2021-22. 

(2) Till 2015-16, only a handful of states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal had a well-functioning PDS. In 2020-21, India’s public distribution system (PDS) reforms were seen in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh (UP). 

As per the NITI Aayog’s National Multidimensional Poverty Index, the offtake of rice and wheat significantly increased both at the all-India level and for the three poorest states Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh (UP). 

(3) The PDS was expanded beyond rice and wheat in some states. For example, Kerala leveraged its PDS network to supply free food kits to all ration card holders during the 2020 Covid lockdown. 

(4) Unlike the 1943 Bengal or 1966-67 Bihar famines, this time India was able to avert widespread starvation during the Covid-19 pandemic. On 2020-21, the PDS system turned out to be the only effective social safety net amid massive job and income losses during the pandemic.  

What were the factors responsible for improved functioning of the PDS system in 2020-21? 

The National Food Security Act (NFSA) along with PMGKAY has led to a massive jump in grain offtake through the PDS.  

(1) The NFSA legally entitled 5 kg of grain per person per month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 3/kg for rice up to 75% of India’s rural and 50% of the urban population.  

(2) The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) scheme was launched in the wake of the Covid-induced economic disruptions. It mandated an extra 5 kg grain per person per month free of cost to the PDS beneficiaries. 

Both the schemes led to increase in the offtake of the food grain in the poorer states like UP, Bihar and Jharkhand. The offtake of these states increased from 21.6% in 2012-13 to 28.6% in 2021-22. 

What are the upcoming challenges to India’s food security?  

This year, the procurement of food grain is likely to be short. The wheat procurement can be low due to poor crop yield owing to bad weather in March 2022. The rice procurement can be challenged due to disruption in supply of fertilisers in the Kharif season. 

The Food Corporation of India’s stocks can probably sustain the annual offtake for NFSA. But PMGKAY offtake can see challenges. 

At present, the global food inflation is posing a challenge. The PDS is mandated to protect ordinary people from extraordinary price rises.  


Electric vehicles have a dark side too: Blood batteries and child labour

Source: This post is based on the article “Electric vehicles have a dark side too: Blood batteries and child labour” published in DTE on 26th Apr 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Energy and Infrastructure

Relevance: Environmental cost of Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Context: EVs are being pitched as cleaner, greener and sustainable. But are they?

Underlying the shiny exteriors of an electric vehicle lies a shocking story of blood batteries, extreme poverty and child labour.

What is the usage of Cobalt in production of EVs?

Electric cars use batteries. Lithium and cobalt which make up these batteries are rare metals.

The cobalt in the battery keeps it stable and allows it to operate safely. It is a bluish-gray metal. It is found in the earth’s crust or what we call crustal rocks.

In addition to its use in jet turbine generators, tool materials, pigments and smartphone batteries, cobalt is also used in lithium-ion batteries. Cobalt is used in about half of electric cars, which is about four to 30 kilograms per battery.

It is found all over the world in countries such as in Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, South Africa, the United States and the Philippines.

What are the humanitarian problems associated with production of EVs?

Child Labour: 70% of the total supply of Cobalt comes from one country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Cobalt is mined in two ways in the DRC: Industrial (large-scale mining) and artisanal (small-scale mining). There are no labour laws or safety protocols governing artisanal mines in the DRC, where 20-30% of the country’s cobalt is mined.

These mines employ some 200,000 miners, and at least 40,000 of them are children, some as young as six years old. The children in the mine dig for cobalt under inhumane conditions in a furnace-like environment. Upon digging the rock, they crush it, wash it and then take their finds to the market in order to sell them. They sometimes make as little as a dollar.

Many miners suffer permanent lung damage, skin infections and other life-changing injuries.

Is the demand for Cobalt increasing?

Yes.

According to reports by the International Energy Agency (IEA), EVs sold more than 6.5 million units worldwide in 2021. The number is expected to reach 66 million units by 2040. Therefore, 66 million multiplied by 30 kilograms of cobalt.

According to the WB, the demand for cobalt will increase by 585% by 2050.

What is the role of China in this entire issue?

The vast majority of companies dealing in blood batteries are Chinese.

By far, the largest producer of refined cobalt is China, with 66%, followed by Finland (10%), according to Mining.com.

In the last 15 years, Chinese companies have bought out North American and European companies mining in the DRC, according to the New York Times.

China has promised the DRC billions of dollars in investment in the form of infrastructure, schools, and roads in exchange for Congolese cobalt.

In today’s world, China is leaking blood cobalt into the supply chain for electric vehicles. Chinese companies are purchasing cobalt from children in an effort to encourage them to engage in the trade in blood batteries.

Are the global automakers aware of these issues?

The world’s largest automakers including Tesla, Volvo, Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, all source cobalt from Chinese mines in the DRC.

While they may claim to have a zero-tolerance policy on child labour, they are also aware that there is no way to map their entire supply chains.

Way forward

EVs thus run on dirty energy, on blood batteries and are not a climate solution.

This is human rights abuse and the two cannot co-exist. A climate solution should not be at the expense of human life.

Long story short, electric vehicles have a long way to go before they can claim to be clean.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Increase in disasters leads to spike in intentional homicides of women: UN Report

Source: This post is based on the article Increase in disasters leads to spike in intentional homicides of women: UN Reportpublished in Down To Earth on 26th April 2022.

What is the News?

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has released a report titled “Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022: Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future”

What are the key findings of the report?
Disasters

Every year between 350 and 500 medium to large-scale disasters took place over the past two decades.

The number of disaster events is projected to reach 560 a year – or 1.5 each day, statistically speaking – by 2030.

Disasters disproportionately impact developing countries which lose an average of one percent of GDP a year to disasters, compared to less than 0.3% in developed countries.

Impact of Disasters on Women and Children

Violence against women and girls increases in the aftermath of disasters and at the extreme end, this even takes the form of intentional homicides.

This strong correlation between the number of people affected by disaster and the number of female victims of intentional homicide was found to be the highest in central and South Asia, followed by East and Southeast Asia.

Shadow Pandemic

The report highlighted a ‘shadow pandemic’ of gender-based violence globally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, a study on the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and associated economic losses on urban populations in four Latin American cities found a high correlation between stresses and violence within the home affecting women.


Union Minister launches, ‘Azadi Ki Amrit Kahaniyan,’ a short video series showcasing inspiring stories

Source: This post is based on the articleUnion Minister launches, ‘Azadi Ki Amrit Kahaniyan,’ a short video series showcasing inspiring storiespublished in PIB on 26th April 2022.

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting has launched ‘Azadi Ki Amrit Kahaniya’.

What is Azadi Ki Amrit Kahaniya?

Launched by: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting(I&B) in collaboration with major OTT platform Netflix.

Aim: To bring out beautiful stories of inspirational Indians on various themes including Women Empowerment, Environment & Sustainability and others. 

In the first phase, short videos featuring seven Women Changemakers from across the country will be released. 

The Seven Changemakers include

a) Poonam Nautiyal, a healthcare worker who walked miles across the Bageshwar district in Uttarakhand to vaccinate everyone; b) Tessy Thomas, the first woman scientist to head a missile project in India;  c) Tanvi Jagadish, India’s first competitive woman stand-up paddleboarder among others.

Significance: The diverse set of stories will help motivate and empower Indians from every corner of the country.


International Religious Freedom Report 2022: India’s designation by the USCIRF

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s designation by the USCIRF” published in The Hindu on 27th April 2022.

What is the News?

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom(USCIRF) has released the International Religious Freedom Report 2022.

What is the International Religious Freedom Report?

Released by: USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body separate from the U.S. Department of State. 

Purpose: The report assesses religious freedom violations and progress in 27 countries during the calendar year 2021 and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy. 

The focus of the report: The Report’s primary focus is on two groups of countries:

– “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)” is a designation of a nation engaged in severe violations of religious freedom under IRFA (International Religious Freedom Act of 1998).

– A “Special Watch List” country is one that is deemed not to meet all of the CPC criteria but engages in or tolerates severe violations of religious freedom.

Note: The recommendations of USCIRF are not binding on the US government.

What are the key findings of the report?

Country of Particular Concern (CPC): USCIRF has recommended for the second year in the row to put India on the Countries of Particular Concern(CPCs) list for the worst violations of religious freedoms in 2021.

The other countries under this category are Afghanistan, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

Special Watch List: Algeria, Cuba, and Nicaragua were placed in 2021. Others include Azerbaijan, CAR, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

What are the concerns raised by the report on India? 

The report highlighted that a) The Indian government had “repressed critical voices” especially minority communities and individuals reporting on them. b) Non-Governmental Organizations(NGOs) are facing challenges, especially regarding foreign funding. c) Issues with anti-conversion laws: In October 2021, Karnataka’s government ordered a survey of churches and priests in the state and authorized police to conduct a door-to-door inspection to find Hindus who have converted to Christianity.

What is the likely impact of the USCIRF’s recommendation on India?

The U.S State Department hasn’t acted on such recommendations so far. But India may come under greater pressure this time given its divergence from the US  position on the Ukraine war and refusal to endorse U.S.-backed resolutions against Russia at the UN.


New research: How self-replicating mRNA Covid-19 vaccines work, and what the trial results show

Source: This post is based on the article “New research: How self-replicating mRNA Covid-19 vaccines work, and what trial results show” published in Indian Express on 26th April 2022.

What is the News?

A self-amplifying mRNA vaccine named ARCT-154 has shown promising results against Covid-19 in ongoing phase 1/2/3 trials.

What is ARCT-154 Vaccine? 

It is a self-amplifying mRNA vaccine against Covid-19.

Developed by: Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings, based in San Diego, California, and its trials are in progress in Vietnam.

Efficacy: It offered 95% protection against severe Covid-19 and death, and 55% against Covid infection.

What are mRNA and self-amplifying mRNA vaccines?

mRNA vaccine uses messenger RNA that encodes the spike protein of the coronavirus. In other words, the mRNA directs the cell to produce copies of the spike protein so that the immune system will recognise the spike if and when actual infection takes place, and mount a response.

On the other hand, self-amplifying mRNA vaccines are an improvement on the traditional RNA platform. These are the ones in which the delivered RNA multiplies inside the body. The basic advantage of these vaccines is that a) It comes at a lower cost, b) Their self-amplifying design allows for smaller doses.


Explained | What is NASA’s space equity action plan?

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained | What is NASA’s space equity action plan?” published in The Hindu on 25th April 2022.

What is the News?

NASA has released its first-ever Space Equity Action Plan.

What is the Space Equity Action Plan?

Released by: NASA

Objective: To allow the agency to track progress toward improved diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility both internally and externally.

Focus Areas: The four focus areas the plan addresses are:

Increasing integration and utilization of contractors and businesses from underserved communities and expanding equity in NASA’s procurement process;

– Enhancing grants and cooperative agreements to advance opportunities, access and representation for underserved communities;

Leveraging Earth Science and socioeconomic data to help mitigate environmental challenges in underserved communities;

Advancing external civil rights compliance and expanding access to limited English proficient populations within underserved communities.

Monitoring of the Plan: An executive team, led by NASA’s deputy administrator will lead the organization’s efforts towards equity. 

The space agency has also established a leadership council that will be led by the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity and will provide quarterly reports to the executive team.


Trilateral Development Corporation(TDC) Fund: To counter China’s BRI, MEA launches growth model

Source: This post is based on the article “To counter China’s BRI, MEA launches growth model” published in Economic Times on 25th April 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of External Affairs has launched a platform called the Trilateral Development Corporation(TDC) Fund.

What is the Trilateral Development Corporation(TDC) Fund?

Launched by: Ministry of External Affairs

Aim: To provide an alternative to the Chinese development partnership model that has pushed parts of the developing world into a debt trap.

The fund would involve private sectors with state support for big-ticket investments in the Indo-Pacific region as well as other geographies. 

India’s Global Innovation Partnership(GIP) launched with the UK will provide a template to use the TDC Fund for trilateral projects with other countries like Japan, Germany, France and the EU.

Moreover, India’s contribution to GIP will be channelised through the TDC Fund.  

UN approves measure requiring permanent member states to justify veto

Source: This post is based on the article “UN approves measure requiring permanent member states to justify veto” published in New Indian Express on 27th April 2022.

What is the News?

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution titled  ‘Standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council’.

What does this resolution provide for?

The resolution would require the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to justify their use of the veto in future.

Note: The United States, China, Russia, France and the UK are the five members with veto power.

It says that the UN General Assembly will be convened within 10 working days after a veto to hold a debate on the situation as to which the veto was cast.

The UN assembly is not required to take or consider any action, but the discussion could put veto-wielders on the spot and let other countries be heard.

What is the significance of this resolution?

The resolution is intended to make veto-holders more accountable while exercising their power.

It will also shed light on the use of the veto and on the blockages within the Security Council.

What is the criticism against this resolution?

Firstly, this resolution is non-binding and nothing prevents a country that has used its veto from declining to explain its actions to the General Assembly.

Secondly, many analysts feel that this resolution is directed against Russia. This is because the resolution came as the UN Security Council has proven incapable of condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because of Moscow’s veto power.

Mains Answer Writing

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[UPSC Interview 2021] – Transcript #181 : Smita Nagraj Board, Gujarat Home State, PSIR Optional

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Indian Economy Current Affairs Compilation – 2022 | UPSC IAS Prelims 2022 Material | Part -2

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[Answered] Mains Marathon I Daily Answer Writing I May 16, 2022

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UPSC IAS Prelims 2022 Material| Science and Tech Current Affairs | Defence technologies – Part 2

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[Answered] What is India’s Project 75-I? Discuss the significance of the project and also highlight the challenges it is facing in building submarines domestically.

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[Answered] Road safety is a universal concern, only megacities of India witnesses thousands of accidents annually. In this regard, suggest some remedial measures with special focus on the Delhi model.

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Important Species in news | Current Affairs Compilation for Prelims 2022 | Part 2

Dear Friends, This post is a part of our current affairs series for the UPSC IAS Prelims 2022. In this post, we have covered the all Important Environmental initiatives in news. This post covers the current affairs of September, October 2021 and April 2022 months. To Read Other Current Affairs Compilations for Prelims 2022– Click… Continue reading Important Species in news | Current Affairs Compilation for Prelims 2022 | Part 2

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UPSC IAS Prelims 2022 Material| Science and Tech Current Affairs | Space technology – Part 2

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[Answered] Uniform Civil Code can be the real unifying force in India; however, India’s complex diversity makes the execution and applicability of the UCC difficult. Elaborate.

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