9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – August 18th, 2021

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 
  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

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Mains Oriented Articles


GS Paper 1

The horrors of Partition must be remembered — but for the right reasons

Source: The Hindu and Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 1 – Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

Relevance: Announcement of 14th August as “Partition Horrors Remembrance Day”.

Synopsis: The journey of remembrance should be to seek forgiveness and not to reopen wounds or reignite hatred

Importance of Remembrance Day

It is an attempt to acknowledge the sacrifice, mass killings, and violence and to seek forgiveness for the crimes committed against humanity and to make sure not to allow these kinds of terrible events to happen in the future again

Various other countries have celebrated National Remembrance Day like Israel, Germany and Japan. India too has announced its remembrance day on 14th Aug started from this year

Read More about Remembrance Day

Why does India need a remembrance day?

  • There is no national memorial in India to remember the horrors that happened during the partition.
  • Partition museum had been set up in Amritsar. It is established by a trust set up by a group of citizens, not by the government.
  • Although academic work on partition studies is there, it is yet not able to reach a large section of people. It is now limited to students and the academic community.

Why the date 14th Aug is a cause for concern?

  • Choosing the date of commemoration as 14th Aug can bring more harm as the same day has been celebrated by Pakistan as Independence Day.
  • It might also bring negative domestic political consequences, which can limit India’s foreign policy options.
  • There is the possibility to reopen wounds again, which can have dangerous consequences in future
  • There is an increase in cases of communal violence in India even after 1947. From Jabalpur (1961) to Rath Yatra killings (1989) to Babri Masjid Demotion Violence (1992-23) to Gujarat (2002). So, announcing Aug 14 is not ideal.
  • There have been various incidents happening across the country where the Muslim community has been targeted. These incidents are a threat to independent India’s vision of “Building a nation of communal Harmony”

What should we actually remember?

On the occasion of completing 74 years of independence, it is time to recall what is truly remarkable about our country — that it is home to an extraordinary spectrum of ethnicities, religions, languages and cultures.

We should grieve in silence & remember the people of all communities who lost their lives or were forced to flee their homes in the partition. For this, the government should also take the initiative to build a national museum of partition to remember/ recall those events.

Way Forward

It is time to prevent the fragmentation of India on various fronts e.g. social and political, and we need to uphold India’s image of Unity in Diversity


GS Paper 2

The script of the new endgame in Afghanistan

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express, Times of India, Livemint and The Economic Times

Syllabus: GS – 2:  India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Relevance: This article explains the recent developments in Afghanistan.

Synopsis:

Taliban will have to show moderation if they wish to be accepted as a member of the global community.

Introduction

The U.S. forces vacated the Bagram airbase (near Kabul) on July 2. Within six weeks, the Taliban captured Kabul. This shows the brittleness of Afghan security forces.

Afghanistan today is in a condition that is far worse than what existed when the Russians withdrew in the 1990s.

How the situation is different from the 1990s?
  1. In the 1990s, the Taliban were a band of outlaws. But today, they are recognised by powers such as the U.S., Russia, and China, and are on the brink of gaining a country.
  2. In the 1990s, Russia had to contend with a superpower (the US) to hold the region. But this time, the US withdraws from Afghan without any credible outside power.
How did the US decision to withdraw impact it?

The US has long been searching for an honorable exit. The U.S. decision to withdraw (after the Doha Agreement) results in three important signals.

  1. The US failed to safeguard the interests of the Afghanistan people.
  2. The U.S. had acknowledged the Taliban’s supremacy in return for the safe passage of their troops.
  3. In 2001, the US decided to take a global war on terror. Beginning with Afghanistan, the US went through Iraq, Libya, and Syria. All with mixed results.

All this has diminished the image of the U.S. in Asia. In light of this, US’s claim to ‘make America great again’ sounds extremely impossible.

Read more: As Taliban makes a rapid military advance through Afghanistan, India too must brace itself for the consequences
How did the US decision to withdraw impact China?

The US now regards China as its principal strategic competitor. While the US struck in Afghan, China started asserting its claims in the East and South China Seas.

To tackle China effectively in the Indo-Pacific, the US needs resources and attention. With the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, the US now will have better options and greater resources in dealing with China.

On the other hand, the absence of the US in Central Asia provides an opportunity for China in that region.

Read more: Afghan Peace Process and India – Explained, Pointwise
How do the old terror outfits get benefits out of Afghanistan?
  • After two decades of active involvement in the affairs of Afghanistan, and spending over a trillion dollars in the process to defeat terrorism and al-Qaeda, the U.S. has left Afghanistan without achieving any of its objectives.
  • Further, there has been a resurgence in al-Qaeda activities recently.
  • The IS, after some earlier setbacks, is again regrouping and currently poses a real threat.
  • So, the collapse of the Afghan state will ignite many old threats in West Asia.
India – Afghanistan relations

Read this post to know about India’s Afghanistan investment. The other investments are,

  • India also provides assistance to Afghan nationals under its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) programmes. So far, more than 65,000 students have studied in India under various scholarships, and there are 15,000 such students presently.
  • Under the Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), Pakistan provided Afghan traders access to its Wagah border with India, thus allowing Afghan exports to reach India. The agreement, however, does not allow Indian goods.
Read more: India’s future Afghan policy – Explained, pointwise
What India needs to do?

India needs to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 to protect the minorities in Afghanistan.

Read other suggestions from Return of Taliban has implications for India

International relations with Taliban’s Afghanistan:
  • Among Afghanistan’s neighbours, India and Iran are two countries that would find accommodation with a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan very difficult. This is due to their warm relations with the Karzai and the Ghani regimes in the past two decades.
  • The Taliban will need Pakistan at least in the short and medium term. So, Pakistan will maintain cordial relations with the Taliban in the near future.
  • Relations between Taliban Afghanistan and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan may not be easy, but will not lead to any major problems for now.
Read more: India must directly engage with Taliban 2.0
Conclusion

The situation in Afghanistan represents a severe setback for India. Afghanistan under the Taliban would remain the ‘sick man of Asia’ for generations to come. Because, taking over a country by force is one thing, but governing it effectively is quite another matter.


Doctor at the door

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Relevance: The article highlights the problems that our healthcare system is struggling with

Synopsis: Doorstep delivery can mitigate the effects of disruption caused by pandemics

Introduction:

Even before the start of the pandemic, health experts warn India of a health epidemic – one that involved Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD). During the pandemic, faults in our healthcare system were seen visibly when access to institution-based treatments was severed suddenly. There is a need for states to introspect how to strengthen the healthcare setup to prevent this from happening again.

An initiative of Tamil Nadu (TN)

TN suffers from a high burden of NCD. The state has very low community control rates for hypertension (7.3%) and diabetes (10.8%). To work on this, it introduced the “Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam” scheme aimed to take healthcare to the doorsteps of the people.

  • It is a community-based scheme to tackle and treat NCDs and to address the crucial issues of prevention and early detection
  • It included population-based screening for 18 plus population for 10 common conditions—hypertension, diabetes, oral, cervical and breast cancers, TB, Leprosy, kidney disease, Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and mental health
  • Delivery of drugs-hypertension, diabetes to patients above 45 years of age

Impact of NCDs on India

According to India: Health of Nation’s States report: 55% of the total disease burden in India were caused by NCD in 2016. This burden has been increasing across all states from 1990 to 2016.

Way forward

There is a need to necessitate uninterrupted access to health care services, especially when the correlation between NCDs like hypertension, diabetes etc and Corona was clearly known.

States should take an example from the TN model and prepare themselves for the upcoming epidemics. They have to ensure that similar disruption will not happen again.


GS Paper 3

Single-use plastic ban: Reading the fine print reveals ominous loopholes

Source: Down to Earth

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

Relevance: New Plastic Waste Management Rules 2021 and issues associated with it

Synopsis: The recently announced Plastic Waste Management Rule 2021 prohibits 20 identified single-use plastic items by 2022 to tackle the issue of plastic pollution. However, civil societies have raised some concerns with the new provisions.

Must read: Beating plastic pollution

What is Single Use Plastic (SUP)?

Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 define SUP as “a plastic commodity intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled”.

20 SUP items have been identified to be phased out on the recommendation of an expert group constituted by the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC) under the direction of the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers on SUP.

Single Use Plastic

Issues with the rules:

  • Selection of the items – Some of the items which are low on utility, but high environmental impact are left out of the rules, thus benefiting big corporations.
  • Discriminatory provisions– Schedule for phase out does not cover a range of SUPs generated by fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs) such as cigarette filters, plastic water bottles etc. rather they impact MSME’s.
  • Plastic packaging waste outside the rules– Plastic packaging, which contributes to almost 60% of the total plastic waste generated, is not listed for being phased out.  It was proposed to be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the extended producer responsibility (EPR) according to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. However, the EPR for plastic waste management remains only on paper, due to non-compliance by companies and weak enforcement by authorities.
  • Exemption of compostable plastic– Compostable plastic is exempted, but India does not have an existing labelling mechanism to differentiate fossil-based plastics from the compostable ones. This loophole could be misused to label 50-micron plastics as compostable.
  • Moratorium– Notification gives a 10-year moratorium to the plastic industry, rather than pushing the plastic industry to invest in relevant research and development and ensure use of recycled products in their non-food packaging applications.
  • Exemption to Multi-layer plastic (MLP)– The 2021 amendment have exempted MLP from the list of items to be phased out for another 10 year.

Global best practices:

Here are some global best practices regarding managment of plastic waste:

  • European Union– it has come up with a clear vision in the form of EU plastics strategy which gave the industry a three-year window till 2021 to phase out 10 identified SUP items
  • Israel– it has proposed to levy double purchase tax on SUP and disposable plastic ware. The move is expected to reduce usage by 41 per cent

Second-generation bioethanol: It is time to launch it headlong

Source: Down to Earth

Syllabus: GS3 – Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights

Relevance: Going from waste to wealth for producing clean energy

Synopsis: Second generation bioethanol can help us reduce our oil import dependency. A brief look at its advantages.

Context

On the eve of 75th Independence Day, Indian PM announced a new goal of transforming India into an ‘energy-independent’ nation by 2047. However, the earlier set target of reducing crude oil import dependency by 10% by 2022 is still far from being achieved.

The recent announcement of the country’s target of 20% ethanol blending in petrol (E20) by 2025 can play a key role in reducing the crude oil imports and bolstering India’s energy independence. India currently blends approximately 8.5% ethanol with petrol.

About bioethanol

Bioethanol is an alternative to fossil transportation fuel. It is categorized as first (1G), second (2G) and third-generation (3G), based on the source of raw material used for bioethanol production

  • First generation (1G) bioethanol uses corn seeds and sugarcane as raw material. There is not enough food for everyone; so the use of 1G is a major concern. However, some countries have enough raw materials to manufacture 1G.
  • Second generation (2G) bioethanol uses inedible farm waste left over after harvest. Corn cobs, rice husks, wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse can all be transformed into cellulose and fermented into ethanol
  • Third generation (3G) bioethanol uses algae grown in wastewater, sewage or salt water  to produce bioethanol.

India has been promoting 2G bioethanol to achieve its E20 target.

Benefits of 2G bioethanol
  • Unlike 1G bioethanol, 2G does not use food resources having no impact on food security
  • 3G bioethanol has issues with respect to economic cost.
  • It also reduces agricultural waste burning issue, thus helps in reduction of air pollution

Finding work is work in progress (COVID’s impact on jobs)

Source: Times of India

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance: Dealing with economic implications of COVID

Synopsis: Reversing the pandemic hit to the job market is only a first step. The real jobs challenge still lies ahead. A brief look at the impact of COVID on the job market and the future challenges.

Context

Economy is coming to pre-covid level by witnessing a swift recovery. The Nomura India Business Resumption Index, which tracks the pace of business resumption has risen  above its pre-pandemic level of 100 for the first time since the pandemic began last year. However, despite the sharp economic recovery, the job market challenges appear complex.

Impact of pandemic on jobs
  • Uneven impact– High-skilled jobs in sectors such as IT and finance witnessed less impact due to shift to Work From Home (WFH) but WFH is not feasible in contact-intensive services such as hotels, restaurants, travel and tourism, which require physical proximity. Also, the low-skilled jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors took an economic hit due to the pandemic.
  • MSME’s impacted most– Small firms have been hit harder than big firms due to pandemic. MSME’s had no option but to cut wage costs to remain afloat.
  • Increase in unemployment– According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), unemployment rate stood at 8% in mid-August 2021, marginally higher than the 7.8% in February 2020
  • Job losses– the pandemic has led to employment loss for 6.6mn workers. Around 10.9mn workers have dropped out of the labour force and are no longer actively seeking work.
Why recovery in jobs market is slow?
  • Slow pace of vaccination– vaccinating a majority of the adult population is widely expected to take until end-2021, at the earliest. Until then, the economy remains vulnerable to pandemic shocks
  • Hesitancy of firms– Firms will want to assess the durability of demand before starting on full-scale hiring
  • Sectoral issues- job recovery will be faster for formal sector workers than for the informal sector. For informal sector workers, returning to pre-pandemic level of employment is likely to take much longer due to fear of contracting Covid-19
  • Business closures– Many MSMEs, restaurants and small businesses have permanently closed, leaving no jobs behind for some.
Opportunities brought by pandemic
  • The pandemic has accelerated the pre-existing trend towards digitization and e-commerce. Telemedicine, delivery and fintech are a few examples of sectors that have witnessed fast-paced growth during the pandemic
  • Supply chain relocations as firms adopt a China plus one strategy have opened up newer opportunities for India to integrate into global value chains and create new manufacturing jobs.
Challenges
  • Business travel will likely decrease in a post-pandemic world. Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions (MICE) type of tourism will likely decline
  • Demand for commercial office space may be lower
  • Automation may reduce employment intensity of manufacturing, hurting low-skilled workers
  • More market concentration, as big firms becoming even bigger, while small firms are closing down, which could hurt job creation.
Measures
  • Re-skilling and upskilling of the worker is need of the hour.
  • Creating an enabling ecosystem for MSMEs to thrive by reducing compliance costs, funding costs.
  • More jobs will need to be created in the infrastructure and construction sectors.
  • An ecosystem for startups to gainfully employ India’s youth is needed.

More feed, better productivity (On Sub-Mission on Fodder and Feed)

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS3 – Direct and indirect farm subsidies

Relevance: livestock sector in India, doubling farmers income

Synopsis: Government has recently announced Sub-Mission on Fodder and Feed for livestock sector.

Background

About 200 million Indians are involved in dairy and livestock farming, but lack of quality fodder and feed has resulted in sub-optimal productivity levels.

Issues with livestock sector
  • Lack of fodder: A study by the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute has observed that for every 100 kg of feed required, India is short of 23.4 kg of dry fodder, 11.24 kg of green fodder, and 28.9 kg of concentrate feed.
  • Lack of fodder leads to low milk productivity: Indian livestock’s milk productivity is 20%-60% lower than the global average.
What is the need of revised scheme?
  • National Livestock Mission was launched in 2014. It focused on supporting farmers in producing fodder from non-forest wasteland/grassland, and cultivation of coarse grains.
  • But this model could not sustain fodder availability due to lack of backward and forward linkages in the value chain. The good quality green fodder is only available for about three months during the year. So, the ideal solution would be to ferment green fodder and convert it into silage.

Also, the significance of Sub-Mission on Fodder and Feed is underscored by the fact that livestock is the major source of cash income for about 13 crore marginal farmers and is an insurance in the event of crop failure.

Features of Sub-Mission on Fodder and Feed

Objective: increasing productivity, reducing input costs, and doing away with middlemen.

Availability of green fodder

  1. Under the fodder entrepreneurship programme, farmers will receive subsidies and incentives to create a consistent supply chain of green fodder throughout the year.
  2. Entrepreneurs can then convert it into silage and sell it at nearby markets at one-tenth of the price of concentrate/dry feed ensuring affordable quality fodder to dairy farmers.
  3. It provides for 50% direct capital subsidy to the beneficiaries under the feed and fodder entrepreneurship programme and 100% subsidy on fodder seed production to identified beneficiaries.
  4. It intends to create a network of entrepreneurs who will make silage (the hub) and sell them directly to the farmers (the spoke).
  5. The large-scale production of silage will bring down the input cost for farmers since silage is much cheaper than concentrate feed.
  6. The scheme will provide 50% capital subsidy up to ₹50 lakh towards project cost for infrastructure development and for procuring machinery for value addition.
Who can avail the benefit?

Private entrepreneurs, self-help groups, farmer producer organisations, dairy cooperative societies, and Section 8 companies (NGOs).

Conclusion

An effective implementation of the scheme will play a major role in increasing the return on investment for our farmers.


A BIT for FDI (On the need to renew BIPA)

Source:  Business Standard 

Syllabus: GS3 – Investment Models. 

Relevance: Taxation laws in India, Issues with BIT 

Synopsis: Repeal of retrospective tax law gives government the opportunity to renew the 70-odd Bilateral Investment and Protection Agreements (BIPA)

Impacts of BIT and retrospective taxation

BIT and retrospective taxation increased international arbitration cases.

  1. First, India has never been comfortable recognizing investments from abroad when they are asset-based. It sought to promote an “enterprise” based definition for greenfield investment as a more suitable example of foreign direct investment (FDI).  
  2. Second, issue of national treatment, which the department of economic affairs in the finance ministry notes, should be the sole non-discrimination standard to be applied to all companies investing in India. To qualify for it, companies have to demonstrate they have a permanent business establishment in India, as well as agree to some new yardsticks such as data localization and sourcing requirements. If they do not do so, there could still be problems for investors to invoke BIT to protect their interests. 
Evolution of BIT policy
  1. From 1993, India began to sign International Investment Agreements. Less importance was given to the consequences of these agreements as India needed the foreign money.  
  2. In 2011, in White Industries of Australia and Coal India case, the arbitration went in favour of the Australian firm.  
  3. In July 2012, the government set up a committee to review these agreements which recommended for a uniform BITs regime that India should adopt with all countries.  
  4. But as per United Nations Conference on Trade and Development noted, the new framework was not designed “as an instrument for investment promotion”. It was drafted to safeguard India as a host State from the large number of investment treaty claims. 
  5. The model BIT with the retrospective law allowed the government to tax indirect transfers of an Indian capital asset. Foreign investors have argued that the rights of punitive taxation written in the BIT are similar to expropriation 

The Indian tax department had argued there can be no restriction in its power of taxation. Now by 2018, India had the largest number of international arbitration cases. 

Why India needs to renew BIPA? 

1]. First, countries assure foreign investors when inviting their investment that their administrations will provide tax certainty. If that certainty comes unstuck, BIPA comes into play.  

  • For instance, China does not have a BIPA and there are several countries with such agreements that do not draw in money from abroad.  
  • They are costly and the publicity surrounding the action makes foreign investors nervous.  
  • New options are now available to investors to avoid having to live under a BIPA.  

2]. Second, India discovered this fact once it had begun with attempts to enter global bond indices. Fund managers for foreign investors have said India has to list its government debt papers in European depositories. 

  • The process helps investors avoid exchange or tax losses.  
  • Despite these innovations, BIPA retains its importance for investors who buy or develop physical assets in India.  

3]. Third, the Model BIT of 2016 inserted clauses that tilt strongly in favour of the sovereign. That is why no BIPA has been renewed since 2017 when most of them expired.  

Conclusion

The BIT framework has the opportunity to be reworked. However, the challenge with this move is that it would circumscribe the rights of the tax department. 


A report that is at odds with access to knowledge

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 3 – Issues relating to intellectual property rights

Relevance: To understand the copyright act

Synopsis: The copyright act should provide education for all. It should also respect the rights of publishers. So we need to attain a balance between the two.

Journey of Education through court cases

Supreme Court (SC) in various judgements has expanded the right of education

  1. Miss Mohini Jain vs State of Karnataka & Ors, Emphasized on the Right to Education (RTE). Thus, the 86th  Amendment Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of 6-14 years as a Fundamental Right
  2. Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India, Avinash Mehrotra vs Union of India: The court broadens the horizons of RTE by making it obligatory on government and civil society.
  3. Farzana Batool vs Union of India: The Court states, although professional education is not a fundamental right, the government should take necessary measures to secure the right to education at all levels

The standing committee report and Copyrights:

The Parliament Standing Committee on Commerce in its recent report highlighted the worrying state of education. The committee suggests curtailing “fair dealing provisions” under Indian Copyright law. As the law enables access to the work without copyright’s holder assent. This provision poses a detrimental impact on the publishing industry and authors who are dependent on royalties

Court view in the DU photocopy case and Committee recommendations:

In this case, the court adopted a wider understanding of educational exceptions enumerated in the list of “Fair Dealing provisions” in the Copyright Act. The court allows

  • Section 52(1) (1) allows the reproduction of any work by teacher/pupil in the course of instruction. The court held that the course of instruction does not confine to time & place of instruction.
  • Court also permitted the content reproduction as long as it is justified by special purpose under Section 52
    • Section 52(1)(a) provides for the right to a “fair dealing” of any copyrightable work

The Parliamentary committee in its report mentions that the conflict between educational institutions and copyright owners does not bode well for the “overall literary culture and image of the country”.

So, the committee requested the government to make amends in Section 52 of the law to allow copying only in government-owned institutions. Also, to provide regulations on how much content can be copied & for storage of copied works in digital formats

A flawed View

But the committee’s views are flawed on many counts:

  • They betray the reason for being, granting copyrights in educational content. The committee misunderstood the role of ‘fair dealing’ in this context.
  • Having quantitative restrictions on the extent of permissible copying would not be apt. Instead of this, steps should be taken to make education more equitable and fairer.

Looking backwards

Coronavirus has further revealed the challenges as the provisions failed to handle the scenario of dissemination of digital education.

The committee should have recommended measures to amend section 52 to meet the demands of today’s challenges.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


African cheetahs in Kuno-Palpur: Have we assessed disease risks well

Source: Down to Earth

What is the news?

The forest minister of Madhya Pradesh had announced in July that 10 male and 10 female cheetahs will be flown from South Africa to Gwalior in two phases in November. They will then be sent by road to the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary.

Background

After the Supreme court order permitting introduction of African Cheetah last year, the recent announcement by the Forest Minister of Madhya Pradesh to begin the process from November this year has raised various concerns, particularly about disease risk.

  • Cheetahs were declared extinct in India in 1952 after extensive hunting wiped out their populations.
What is the disease risk?

When animals are being introduced to a landscape, there is a risk of disease spread to both the individual animals that are being introduced and to other wildlife species which inhabit the site chosen for reintroduction.

Concerns
  • During transit, the stress of unfamiliar or unnatural conditions of confinement increases disease risk because of poor transport containers, inadequate disease prevention protocols and long duration of travel.
  • They may be exposed to local diseases such as CDV (Canine Distemper Virus), feline infectious peritonitis and infection from the feline leukaemia virus.
  • These cheetahs could also pose a risk of diseases such as prion disease to other animals.
    • A prion is a type of protein that can trigger normal proteins in the brain to fold abnormally. Prion diseases can affect both humans and animals.

Way forward

India needs thorough disease screening processes and protocols for managing threats from infections as part of the cheetah re-introduction plans. Such processes and protocols may increase the time, but they are necessary to address disease risk.


A third of India’s coastline underwent erosion in 28 years, Bengal worst affected

Source: Down to Earth

What is the news?

According to a recent technical report by the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), between 1990 and 2018 nearly 32% of India’s coastline underwent sea erosion and 27% of it experienced expansion.

  • NCCR carried out a national shoreline change assessment mapping for Indian coast using 28 years of satellite data from 1990 to 2018 along nine coastal states and two Union territories (UT) to provide information for coastal management strategy
Relevant facts:
  • Erosion: 60% of the coastline underwent erosion during the period in West Bengal, followed by 56% in Puducherry.
  • As many as 98 coastal pockets of the country have been facing sea erosion. Tamil Nadu has 26 coastal areas vulnerable to sea erosion, followed by West Bengal (16).
  • Expansion: Odisha’s coast expanded by 51% followed by Andhra Pradesh, which expanded 48%
Significance:

The coastal erosion impacts coastal communities residing in the erosion prone areas, including fishermen communities.

Note: Planning and execution of anti-sea erosion measures are undertaken by the maritime states and UTs as per their own priority and from their own resources. The role of the Union government is technical and advisory.


Govt notifies RoDTEP rates, guidelines

Source: Livemint and The Hindu

What is the News?

The government of India has notified the rates and norms for the Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) scheme.

About RoDTEP Scheme:
  1. Launched by: Ministry of Commerce & Industry 
  2. Which scheme is it replacing? The RoDTEP scheme is replacing the earlier Merchandise and Services Export Incentive Schemes (MEIS and SEIS) that were in violation of WTO norms.
  3. Aim: To reimburse all the taxes/duties/levies being charged at the Central/State/Local level which are not currently refunded under any of the existing schemes but are incurred at the manufacturing and distribution process.
    • The refund under the scheme shall not be available in respect of duties and taxes already exempted or remitted or credited.
  4. Implementation: The refund under the scheme will be credited in an exporter’s ledger account with the customs. It will be used to pay basic duty on imported goods. The credits can also be transferred to other importers.
Key Features of the Scheme:
  1. Coverage: The scheme covers over 8,555 tariff products, accounting for about 75% of traded items and 65% of India’s exports.
  2. Rates: The tax refund rates will vary between 0.5% and 4.3% of the export value of goods.
    • The lowest rate is offered on items like chocolates, toffees and sugar confectionery
    • Yarns and fibres have been granted the highest rate.
  3. Sectors Included: The scheme covers sectors such as marine, agriculture, leather, gems and jewellery automobile, plastics, textiles, electronics among others.
  4. Sectors Excluded: Pharmaceutical, steel and chemicals have been kept out of the purview of the scheme. Products manufactured at export-oriented units and special economic zones have also been excluded from the scheme for the time being.

Reserve Bank launches index to capture financial inclusion

Source: Livemint and Business Standard

What is the News?

The Reserve Bank of India has released India’s First composite Financial Inclusion Index (FI-Index).

About Financial Inclusion Index(FI-Index):
  1. Released by: Reserve Bank of India(RBI)
  2. Aim: To capture the extent of financial inclusion across the country.
  3. Parameters: The index comprises three broad parameters — access (35% weightage), usage (45%) and quality (20%). Each of these parameters will consist of various dimensions, which are computed based on 97 indicators.
  4. Unique Feature: A unique feature of the index is the parameter related to the quality of financial inclusion. It captures information related to financial literacy, consumer protection and inequalities and deficiencies in services, 
  5. Scores: The index captures information on various aspects of financial inclusion in a single value ranging between 0 and 100 where 0 represents complete financial exclusion and 100 indicates full financial inclusion.
  6. When it will be published?  The index will be published in July every year.
  7. Base Year:  The index has been constructed without any “base year”. It reflects the cumulative efforts of all stakeholders.
Key Findings of the Index:
  1. The FI-Index for the financial year ended March 2021 crossed the halfway mark to 53.9, as compared to 43.4 for the year ended March 2017.
  2. This indicates that 46.1% of the parameters considered are still financially excluded, despite the launch of several initiatives by the Government.

India to host second UNWGIC in 2022

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Global Geospatial Information Community was sensitized about the second United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress (UNWGIC) to be organized by India in 2022.

About United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress(UNWGIC):

  1. Organized by: United Nation Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) every four years.
  2. Aim: To enhance international collaboration among the Member States and relevant stakeholders in Geospatial information management and capacities.
    • A geographic information system(GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analysing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.
  3. First Summit: The first UNWGIC was organized by China in 2018.
  4. Second Summit: India is going to host the second UNWGIC in 2022, at Hyderabad. The theme is: “Towards Geo-enabling the Global Village.”

About United Nation Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management(UN-GGIM):

  1. Established by: United Nations Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC) in 2011.
  2. Aim: To play a leading role in setting the agenda for the development of global geospatial information and to promote its use to address key global challenges.
  3. Committee: The committee consists of government experts from United Nations Member States as well as experts from international organizations, as observers. The UN-GGIM is scheduled to meet at least once a year and reports directly to ECOSOC.

India records 572% growth in grant of Patents in last 7 years

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Minister of Commerce and Industry has conferred the National Intellectual Property Awards 2020.

About National Intellectual Property Awards:
  1. Given by: Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks(CGPDTM), Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  2. Aim: To recognize and reward the top achievers, comprising individuals, institutions, organisations that have contributed towards strengthening the IP ecosystem in the country and encouraging creativity and innovation.

Click Here to Read about Intellectual Property Rights(IPR) and Patents

India’s Achievements in Patents:
  1. Firstly, India recorded a growth of 572% in grant of Patents in the last 7 years. Around 28,391 patents were granted in 2020-21 as compared to 4,227 grants during 2013-14.
  2. Secondly, there has been a reduction in the Time of patent examination from 72 months in 2016 to 12-24 months in 2020
  3. Thirdly, around 14.2 lakh trademarks were registered in the last 4 years (2016-2020) in comparison to 11 lakh during 75 years (1940-2015).
  4. Fourthly, India’s ranking in Global Innovation Index has improved to 48th in 2020 from 81st in 2015-16.
    • India is now working in a mission mode to achieve the ambitious target of being in the top 25 nations of the Global Innovation Index.

Indian Government Initiatives to Promote Patents Filing:

  1. There will be an 80% fee reduction in the filing of IPRs for all Recognized Educational Institutions (Govt/Aided/Pvt). This will be applied irrespective of whether such an institute is in India or outside India.
  2. Moreover, the Office of CGPDTM (IP office) will impart training & awareness to 10 Lakh students as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (15th Aug 2021 to 15 Aug 2022).

Atal Innovation Mission in collaboration with Dassault Systemes launch Student Entrepreneurship Program 3.0

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Atal Innovation Mission(AIM),NITI Aayog in collaboration with Dassault Systemes  has launched the third series of the ‘Student Entrepreneurship Program’ (SEP 3.0) 

About Student Entrepreneurship Program(SEP 3.0):
  1. Launched by: Atal Innovation Mission(AIM) in collaboration with Dassault Systemes
  2. Target Group: Young Innovators of Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL).
  3. Aim: To push school students to become future innovators and entrepreneurs
  4. Theme: ‘Made in 3D – Seed the Future Entrepreneurs Program’
Key Features of SEP 3.0:
  1. As part of this program, a total of  50 teams from 26 states are selected for the SEP 3.0. Among them,  10 teams from Aspirational Districts and 10 teams from Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and North east regions were selected.
  2. Then the selected teams (6 students and a teacher) will be allocated seed funding towards creating their own start-up.
  3. They will also be allowed to work closely with Dassault volunteers and gain – Mentor support, testing support, Manufacturing support as well as launch support of the product in the market.
  4. Moreover, the program also allows interaction opportunities for students and teachers between French and Indian schools for cultural and technical interactions.

Vriksharopan Abhiyan – 2021 of Coal Ministry to be Launched as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav Celebrations

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Ministry of Coal will be launching Vriksharopan Abhiyan – 2021 as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav Celebrations.

About Vriksharopan Abhiyan: 
  1. Organized by: It is a tree plantation campaign to be organized by the Ministry of Coal.
  2. Under the initiative, large scale plantations will be carried out in colonies, offices, and mines and in other suitable areas of coal and lignite PSUs. Seedlings will also be distributed in the nearby areas for promoting plantation by society.
  3. Target:  It is expected that more than 300 plantation sites in and around coalfields across the country will be connected during the Abhiyan.
  4. Significance: The initiative is expected to give a major boost to the Go Greening Initiative of the Ministry of Coal which has set an ambitious target to cover 2385 hectares of area under bio-reclamation/plantation.
    • Bio reclamation aims to restore the natural capital of flora and fauna and productivity of land, which had been previously converted into fabricated capital through mining.
What is the need for these initiatives?
  1. The Indian economy is facing the twin challenge of fulfilling its commitments for decarbonizing the energy sector on the one hand and, on the other, meeting the country’s rising energy demand.
  2. But the energy demand would primarily be reliant on coal due to its affordability and substantial indigenous availability. 
  3. Thus, our coal sector has to play a very crucial role in the foreseeable future in fulfilling the country’s energy demand for meeting various developmental needs and at the same time, be responsible towards the environment and society. 
  4. Against this backdrop, India’s coal sector has been taking several innovative initiatives to promote sustainable mining.
Read more: Phasing Out Coal in India – Explained, Pointwise

India, UK plan world bank for green energy

Source: Livemint

What is the News?

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-26),  India and the UK are planning to explore the possibility of setting up a World Bank for green energy.

What will be the purpose of the World Bank of Green Energy?
  1. The World Bank for Green Energy could materialize the proposal for $100 billion in climate finance pledged by developed countries under the Paris Agreement. 

Click Here to Read about National Hydrogen Mission

About COP-26:
  1. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference is also known as COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference. 
  2. Presidency: It is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland in 2021 under the presidency of the United Kingdom.
Ratchet Mechanism:
  1. Under the Paris Agreement, countries have submitted Intended nationally determined contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to a “business as usual” scenario. 
  2. The framework also expects each country to submit enhanced nationally determined contributions every five years to ratchet up the ambition to mitigate climate change. This process is informally known as the ratchet mechanism.
  3. COP 26 is expected to be the first time that Parties are expected to commit to enhanced ambition since COP21. 
Green Hydrogen:
  1. The Indian Government has invited the UK to participate in the upcoming bids for green hydrogen and lithium-ion.
  2. Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using an electrolyzer powered by electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. 
  3. Green Hydrogen can be a game-changer for India, as India imports 85% of its oil and 53% of gas demand.

Click Here to read about PLI Scheme for Battery Storage


MeitY-NASSCOM Start-up Women Entrepreneur Awards in partnership with UN Women

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The government has announced the winners of the Start-up Women Entrepreneur Awards 2020-21. It has also launched the Amrit Mahotsav Shri Shakti Innovation Challenge.

About Start-up Women Entrepreneur Awards 2020-21:
  1. Setup by: Ministry for Electronics and IT (MeitY)-NASSCOM in partnership with UN Women.
  2. Aim: 
    • To recognize and cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit in women. It also inspires the next generation of women to lead the Indian digital era to serve as guiding role models; 
    • To encourage promising entrepreneurs who not only contribute to the nation’s economy but also to the social community
    • To provide leadership and serve as guiding examples for emerging and young future entrepreneurs.
  3. Significance: The winners of the awards have also been selected for the MeitY-NASSCOM Tech Women Entrepreneur Accelerator Program. The program gives them access to networks, connections, learning and resources that are needed to build scalable, profitable and global businesses.
About Amrit Mahotsav Shri Shakti Innovation Challenge:
  1. Launched by: MyGov under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, and UN Women
  2. Aim: The aim of the Challenge is ‘Nari Sashaktikaran’, which is, to empower women to help them achieve their full potential.
  3. Objective: To support and promote women entrepreneurs and women-led Startups to find innovative solutions in the area of Women Safety and Empowerment.
  4. Implementation: The Challenge is being implemented under the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (COVID-19) Programme.
  5. Benefits: The five winners of this challenge will be awarded INR 5 lakh each to develop, market and implement their solutions.

Celebrating Einstein’s century (On 100th year of Einstein receiving Nobel prize)

Source: The Hindu

What is the news? 

2021 will mark the 100th year of Einstein receiving the Nobel Prize in physics for “his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”

Law of photoelectric effect

It argues that light is made of photons and when light shines on a metal, each photon’s energy is correlated to the electron’s speed on the metal’s surface. This theory redefined the composition of light, and it is held as a revolutionary theory, for which Einstein received the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Special theory of relativity

Einstein’s theory establishes that time moves slower within a moving body when measured from a point at rest (but moves normally within the moving body itself) and the length of the moving body contracts when measured from an outside point at rest.

When a moving body emits light, the length contraction and time slowdown of the moving body are just exactly what are needed to restore the speed of light to its constant value.

An example of the application of the special theory of relativity is the use of GPS on our phones

  • Satellites account for time differences in their clocks due to their high speed and their positions away from earth’s gravity, and then calculate the geolocation.
General theory of relativity
  • It tries to explain how does gravitational force act instantaneously between massive stars and planets that are millions of miles away
  • Einstein took help of geometry of curved spaces and multi-dimensional geometry to understand the effect of gravitational force.
  • As per this theory, space and time form a continuum, like a fabric, and every object in the universe distorts this fabric, like a large ball distorts a tight trampoline sheet. This distortion is gravity.
  • It produces two effects.
    • One, the fabric causes any other object in the vicinity to move towards the heavier object and this is why gravity causes an object to pull things towards it
    • Two, it bends light in the process of attracting it which is recently captured by LIGO observatory
  • This theory applies to all forms of motion, including those where gravity does not appear.

About LIGO

  • LIGO is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory.
  • It operates three gravitational-wave detectors: Two are at Hanford, USA, and one is at Livingston, USA.

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