9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – August 19th, 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 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Mains Oriented Articles


GS Paper 2

Keeping an eye on China’s expanding nuclear stack

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS2 – Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

Relevance: Implications of China’s expanding nuclear arsenal

Synopsis: The scope and prospective size of China’s nuclear capabilities is not known clearly. India should closely watch this build-up and work towards enhancing its own capabilities. An analysis of China’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal.

Context

Satellite images from Xinjiang province in the west of the country suggest it is building a nuclear missile silo field, a recent report from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) says. The site is believed to host 110 silos.

  • This development comes against the backdrop of evidence that China had already built a site with 120 silos in the arid region of Yumen, in the Gansu province.
  • These events indicate that China is fielding a larger nuclear force based on fixed land-based capabilities
China missile map
Source: BBC
What is a missile silo?

It is a vertical cylindrical structure constructed underground, for the storage and launching of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The structures typically have the missile some distance below ground, protected by a large “blast door” on top. They are usually connected, physically and/or electronically, to a missile launch control center.

Inside a Soviet ICBM Silo | History | Air & Space Magazine
A Soviet ICBM silo

The missiles are stored underground to provide protection from the natural elements and from attack.

China’s nuclear arsenal
  • Chinese nuclear forces stand at roughly anywhere between 250 to 350 nuclear warheads according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as well as the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
  • China’s nuclear tipped ballistic missiles forces, whether land-based or sea-based, have certainly improved in quantity and quality.
  • It’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capabilities and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) capabilities in the form of the Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) and the DF-26, respectively, are its most potent land-based missile systems.
Reasons behind current expansion by China
  1. Increase the survivability of its arsenal against a first strike from their nuclear adversaries, most prominently the United States. Washington, which possesses a larger arsenal, stands at 3,800 warheads, and paired with its growing missile defence capabilities poses a threat to Chinese retaliatory nuclear forces. However, other countries too figure in China’s nuclear expansion such as Russia and India, even if Russia is not an overriding concern presently.
  2. To mislead enemies: The current silo-based missile expansion being undertaken by China can also be to mislead and deceive enemies by hiding actual number of nuclear tipped warheads.
  3. A credible nuclear deterrent: Land-based nuclear capabilities, like silos also mean that for its enemies China will be a country with a huge number of targets to strike. The larger the target list for any potential opponent, the greater the chances of China’s arsenal surviving a first strike, thereby boosting the credibility of China’s nuclear deterrent. In all probability, China is expanding its nuclear forces to withstand a first strike and then execute a retaliatory attack that would defeat its enemy’s missile defences.
Implications for India

The growth in China’s nuclear arsenal might not have an immediate impact on India, but its development of land-based nuclear silos in the Xinjiang province should worry decision-makers in New Delhi given the region’s proximity to India.

  • On boundary disputes: It is likely to have an impact on the ongoing boundary stand-off between the two countries in Eastern Ladakh. Fixed land-based nuclear capabilities give the Chinese an advantage in consolidating their territorial gains in Depsang, Demchok and Gogra-Hotsprings. It is likely to produce a suppressive effect against any conventional military escalation.
Way forward

The strategic balance between China and India is unlikely to be altered because of the Chinese nuclear expansion, but New Delhi should keep a close eye on its neighbour and work on enhancing its own strategic capabilities.

Terms to know


Madras HC’s CBI reform ideas may be unpalatable to GoI. But change along similar lines is sorely needed

Source: Times of India

Syllabus: GS -2 – Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Relevance: This article explains the issues surrounding the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

Synopsis: The Madras High Court’s direction to reform CBI, is a reminder for the government to pursue reforms in the organization.

Introduction:

Recently, the Madras high court issued 12 directions to CBI. These directions are aimed at reforming CBI as a whole. These include apprising GoI of its infrastructure, personnel, and funding requirements. The court even asked the Centre to pursue structural reform, making the agency an independent body like EC and CAG.

About the case:

Recently, CBI made a claim that they were lacking resources to investigate a Rs 300 crore cheating case after a victim raised doubts about the state police probe. CBI has taken similar pitiful stances and pleaded overburden in the past. This dent the agency’s residual public standing.

So, Madras HC inquired into CBI’s affairs and issued 12 directions.

Other issues with the CBI:

High backlog in recent years: Data submitted to Madras HC indicates that between 2001 and 2020, its conviction rate topped 65% in most years. However, against 20,804 cases registered in this period, only 7,539 cases were seen through trial, indicating a high backlog.

Not enough investigators: Despite India’s massive economic growth between 2000 and 2020, CBI’s manpower has only marginally risen from 5,796 personnel to 7,273. The agency has flagged forensics as the area where investigations face huge delays due to a shortage of manpower.

About reforming CBI and the government decisions:

The government is reluctant to reform the CBI. For instance, earlier, the Gauhati HC had held CBI’s creation as unconstitutional. But the government seek a stay on the ruling.

Successive governments haven’t shown interest in improving the agency’s performance. So, the court itself mentioned CBI as a “caged parrot”.

Read more: Limits of CBI jurisdiction
Suggestions to improve performance of CBI
  • The government can implement the recommendations of the Madras High Court. Now it is for governments to proactively take steps that meet the needs of a premier national investigating agency.
  • The government can enact a proper law governing its functioning, funding and accountability. At present, CBI is operating through the sketchy Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
  • The government has to avoid ambiguity in the promotions of CBI officers. At present, State police inspectors and IPS officers on deputation get preference over CBI cadre in promotions to top echelons.
Read more: The need for CBI to become an autonomous body

How can we guarantee the Speaker’s impartiality?

Source: Indian Express

 Syllabus: GS-2 Parliament and State Legislatures—Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these.

 Relevance: To understand the role of the speaker in the functioning of the Indian parliament.

Synopsis: Either allow Parliament and state legislatures to descend into terminal decline or make the Speaker truly independent and let every legislature perform its constitutional function

Introduction

The main reason behind declining in the functioning of Parliament & State assemblies is the lack of independence and impartiality of the speaker

Features of Indian Constitution

  • India adopted Westminster’s model of governance.
  • Members of Parliament enjoy the same powers as that of the House of Commons.
  • Speaker is the supreme authority in Lok Sabha (LS) like in the United Kingdom.

 Role of Speaker

  1. Being the supreme authority, his primary duty is to ensure the orderly conduct of the business of the House.
  2. There are two essential qualities of the office of Speaker: Independence and impartiality
  3. Speaker has the power to decide what issues will be taken up for discussion
  4. He has the sole discretion to permit an adjournment motion or calling attention notice if the issue is of urgent public importance.

In the words of:

  • V Mavalankar “Once a person is elected Speaker, he is expected to be above parties, above politics
  • Pandit Nehru referred to the Speaker as “the symbol of the nation’s freedom and liberty” and emphasized that Speakers should be men of “outstanding ability and impartiality”
  • MN Kaul and SL Shakdher, in their book “Practice and Procedure of Parliament” refer the Speaker as the conscience and guardian of the House.

Why the position of the speaker is under question

In various judgement of Supreme Court on Anti Defection, the court pointed out the main cause for the partisan role of speakers in assemblies. The main reason behind that is speaker belongs to the active ruling party. This result in the frequent disruptions of the House.

Impact of frequent disruptions of house

  1. It not only impacts the prestige of the house but also stalls the primary function of the legislature: to make laws for the good governance of the country with proper debates and discussions.
  2. Frequent disruptions lead to the passing of bills without much discussion. For e.g. in the present session, not a single bill was referred to any Parliamentary committee – as highlighted by Chief Justice of India.
  3. Another consequence is delegated legislation empowers the executive and bureaucracy. E.g. power of retrospective notification given to the executive.

Suggestions

Separation of power is the basic structure of the Indian constitution. If that ceases to exist, our foundation of democracy will get weaker.

It is therefore suggested that the speaker of every legislature should resign from his political party to honour the constitutional obligation of impartiality & independence. For instance, in 1967, late N Sanjiva Reddy resigned from his party when he became the Speaker.

Read more: Functioning of Parliament: Challenges and way forward – Explained, pointwise

Way forward

If the office of the speaker is not made impartial, it will lead to the decline of Parliament. So, there is an urgent need for course correction.


What women bring to the 21st century workplace

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Human Resources.

Relevance: To recognize qualities of women and map them according to socio-economic needs

Synopsis: There is a need to see more women in positions of power, and that can only happen if they are recognized and enabled for their strengths and not for acting ‘like men’

Introduction

Women comprise 48% of the population, but yet a fraction of them are the active drivers of India’s economic growth.

Perception against women

  • Today the world is chasing the skills like AI and computing. Many reports, including World Economic Forum, highlighted the role of emotional intelligence, creative problem-solving and critical thinking. All these skills happen to be innate to women.
  • Though traits like empathy, compassion & sensitivity that women are gifted with are considered weak, they are actually strong. Leaders should equip themselves with these traits to solve problems in today’s work world.

Present Education system

Our education system mainly trains us in technical knowledge & academic skills. But in contrast, most of the companies give less importance to degree and are looking for “smart generalists”

What needs to change?

  1. There is a need to broaden the vision & aspiration of women belonging to low-income communities. Presently, they have limited access to jobs related to creative and emotional intelligence
  2. More leadership roles should be assigned to women not only on paper but in the reality, especially in Small & Medium Enterprises (SME) that create the majority of employment

What approach needs to be adopted?

There is a need to adopt the multi-stakeholder approach so that women from lower-income groups can aspire to become financial analysts, copywriters, product managers etc. Gender, income, background, type of college should not  act as deterrence in their path

Employment scenario

Employability is becoming a socio-economic and humanitarian crisis. The causative factor is inequality. Youth and women from elite institutions are more likely to get jobs as they are equipped with soft skills demanded by the market.

So, there is a need to create a mechanism that enables seekers from a less privileged background to develop soft skills.

Way forward

It is up to corporates and the market to realize and fill this gap. They should make an effort towards creating equal opportunities and a secure environment for women. This will enable us to beat gender and socio-economic inequality.


The police we need

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Relevance: To understand the demands of the contemporary police system.

Synopsis: As society and polity are in transition, there is an urgent need to bring transformative changes in police management to meet contemporary needs.

What citizens aspire from police

  1. To treat all the individuals equally irrespective of their financial status—rich or poor
  2. To receive the services that they are entitled to – without paying any bribes. However, most people are not able to access these basic services.
  3. Given the prevalence of IT, the police are expected to be tech-savvy.
  4. The police should have good conduct, empathy, and be responsive.

Personnel management

It is important to manage the police personal.

  • There is a need to appoint brilliant & straightforward officials to the public positions.
  • Nepotism or postings and positions based on linkages and contacts cannot be allowed.
  • Supreme Court (SC) mandate of the process of selection of DGP is the right step in this direction. The state government should now make the appointment of three names approved by UPSC.

Way Forward

India needs officers who are responsive, honest & hard-working, and not who instil fear amongst people.


The significance of the ” there is no data” answer

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

Relevance: To understand the government’s reluctance to release data

Synopsis: Governments have the tendency to escape public scrutiny. In recent days, this has resulted in the government resorting to not releasing data on sensitive issues.

Introduction

It has often been found that governments have not provided data for issues that may show the government in a bad light.

This is evident in many cases:

  • A World Bank report indicated 40 Million migrants lost their jobs. But the Government has said it has no Data.
  • When Government was asked how many health workers lost their lives in the pandemic, Government replied that it has no data.

Situation before pandemic

The same thing was witnessed even prior to the Pandemic:

  • The government decided not to release Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI) data on Household Consumer Expenditure Survey as elections were around the corner.
  • Leaks from this data had suggested a slump in consumption expenditure.

What are the reasons for not giving data:

  • Reluctance for opening up to scrutiny by public and opposition
  • To deflect the accountability to State Governments.
  • It also allows the government to change or rewrite the narrative.

Widening information gap

While the State is creating huge data-driven infrastructure like Aadhar and yet denying the data to the public. This widens the information gap between Public and state.

 Way forward

The state is creating information asymmetry by not revealing necessary information. This ultimately results in a power asymmetry. To avoid this, the state must remember that truth and information is the basis of any democracy.


GS Paper 3

Why the Global South needs birds and bees more than the North?

Source: Down to Earth

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

Relevance: Implications of the decline in pollinator population

Synopsis: World’s biodiversity is facing a risk from reduction of pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds, bats, etc. It is believed that the risk is greater for most of the developing world. A brief look.

Context

A recent study on the causes and effects of the dramatic decline of pollinators has raised concerns for Africa, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

Concerns 
  • On livelihood– Declining population of pollinators can impact the livelihoods of rural population.
  • On yield from crops– Yield of pollinator-dependent crops is becoming unstable and categorized as “serious” in South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania while it is “moderate” in Europe and North America.
  • Threat of extinction– Around 40% of the invertebrate pollinator species, particularly bees and butterflies, face extinction across the world as per report by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • On nutrition– it can affect nutrition and livelihood of the people since pollinated crops are of notable nutritional and economic value to livelihoods and well-being
  • On ecosystem services– that provide food and wellbeing to millions, particularly in the Global South are threatened by this declining trend
  • Global risk– Reduction in the quantity or quality of food, fibre, fuel or seed that can be produced as a result of pollinator loss, is another global risk
Causes behind pollinator decline
  • Destruction of habitat through natural as well as man made causes
  • Improper land-use such as excessive grazing
  • Excessive use of fertilizer and increased trend of monoculture farming
  • High pesticide use to increase the yield of crops
  • Climate change is considered as fourth leading clause behind declining population of pollinators
Significance of the findings

According to the 2016 assessment report by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), pollinator-dependent food production increased 300% over the past half century, thus these findings become more important.

Importance of pollinators

An impact on pollinators will have cause negative effects for humanity too. These small creatures play central roles in the world’s ecosystems, including many that humans and other animals rely on for nutrition. If they go extinct, human species would be in serious trouble.

Way forward

A focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation in pollinator research and conservation strategies is the need of the hour.


HAS IBC DELIVERED ON ITS LOFTY PROMISE?

Syllabus: GS Paper 3, Indian Economy,

Source: Live Mint

Relevance: IBC process is one of the most important aspects of industrial growth.

Synopsis: IBC Process has been a mixed bag of achievements and challenges. This article highlights issues and achievements of, and ways to improve the IBC process.

Recently, the chairperson of the standing committee on finance, Jayant Sinha informed parliament about the issues in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

Issues raised in IBC by committee

  1. Steep and unsustainable haircuts taken by financial creditors (as high as 95% in some cases).
  2. More than 71% of the cases remain pending for more than 180 days. It points to a deviation from the original objectives of the Code.
  3. Nearly half of the 2,653 companies, which have gone through the IBC process, received orders for liquidation, instead of resolution.

Read moreInsolvency and bankruptcy code

insolvency and bankruptcy code performance
Source: Live Mint

Positive impacts of IBC

Operational creditors: Under the earlier regimes, operational creditors, who are in the nature of unsecured creditors, could not initiate bankruptcy proceedings. Now, vendors whose payments are not paid and even workers whose dues have not been cleared can take a defaulting business to a bankruptcy tribunal. IBC has brought discipline and fear in the minds of borrowers. More than half of the bankruptcy cases so far have been initiated by operational creditors.

Average resolution time: The average resolution time has come down from 4.3 years in the earlier regime to 1.6 years under IBC, as per the World Bank’s 2020 ease of doing business report.

Recovery rate in India: The recovery rate in India (as a share of the claims made by creditors) stood at 71.6%, compared to 81% in the US. The recovery rate in Norway, the best performer in this parameter, is as high as 92.9%.

Causes Behind challenges facing IBC process

High liquidation: High liquidation is also due to the size of a business, e.g. a small business without physical assets, inactive for years will have to be liquidated for sure. Whereas big businesses are valuable. Thus, the majority of the high asset business got their resolution plans approved.

The size of the business also matters. For instance, a one million-plus tonne capacity steel plant is more likely to get a buyer than a 200,000-tonne plant.

Procedural hurdle: One such procedural hurdle is the share of vacant positions in the various benches of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). According to official data, about half of the 63 NCLT positions are vacant.

Suggestions to reform IBC process

The vacancies in NCLT are creating hurdles to meeting the strict timelines mandated under the bankruptcy resolution process. Thus, steps to fill vacancies must be prioritized.

A key pending suggestion is the automatic admission of IBC cases in tribunals. Since a record of default is available when an insolvency case comes for admission, it could become an automatic process.

Dilution of section 29A of the IBC, if the failure of a well-governed insolvent firm can solely be attributed to economic conditions. The section currently disallows a promoter under whose watch the firm defaulted on repayment from bidding for the assets.


Beyond bank accounts

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS 3 – Inclusive growth

Relevance: RBI has published the Financial Inclusion Index (FI- Index)

Synopsis: Given the need to attain equitable growth, it is important to Focus on financial inclusion. The study of RBI report becomes important in this regard.

Click here to read about FI-Index

What is the need for Financial Inclusion?

Financial Inclusion is the process of ensuring affordable financial products and services that meet the need of individuals. The government over the years has worked to connect more households to the financial system

For this, the government also launched Jan Dhan accounts and the use of direct benefit transfers. However, the RBI index acknowledged this, that mere opening of bank accounts or transferring the government benefits will not serve the purpose

What needs to be done

  1. Provide financial literacy to people and encourage them to keep their savings with the banking system and invest in financial products.
  2. Also, the government has to make sure that the person is able to access the account frequently with relative ease. For this, technology will play the great role

Benefits of Financial Inclusion

  • It will not only help individuals or lower-income groups but will also increase financial savings at the aggregate level.
  • This will further help boost investment over time and increase long-term growth potential.

However, many financial products — particularly insurance products — have been mis-sold to a large number of middle and upper-middle-class investors. These incidents can affect trust and defeat the very objective of financial inclusion.

Way forward:

Financial institutions are based on trust. This government and all regulators must work to build trust.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


India can do more, hints climate official (On upcoming COP26)

Source: The Hindu

What is the news?

Alok Sharma, president-designate of United Nations Conference of Parties (COP26), said he hoped India would consider more ambitious emissions targets. He is visiting India as part of a larger international tour, building consensus among nations for concrete outcomes ahead of the 26th round of climate talks.

Major issues
  • Carbon neutrality is a major theme for this year’s climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. It will be closely watched as to how many nations can commit to a net-zero target and by when. It is critical to ensure that the planet doesn’t heat up an additional half a degree by 2100.
    • Net-zero or carbon neutrality is when more carbon is sucked out from the atmosphere or prevented from being emitted than what a country emits.
  • $100 million climate financing: Another issue is the over-$100 billion that developed countries pledged to developing countries for financing clean energy investments and mitigation. Progress towards achieving this target has been slow. Climate finance reached $78.9 billion in 2018.
Global commitments on net-zero
  • By 2050: A little over 120 countries have committed, with varying degrees of firmness, to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
    • USA has said it would achieve net-zero by 2050 and nearly halve emissions by 2030.
  • After 2050: Five countries have net-zero pledges set for after 2050, – China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Australia and Singapore.
    • China, the world’s biggest emitter, has committed to peaking its emissions before 2030 and achieving net-zero by 2060.
India’s stand on net-zero

India is among the major countries that haven’t committed to a 2050 plan due to the following reasons:

  • En route to overachieving its NDC targets set under Paris Agreement: It’s one of the countries that has delivered on one of the 2015 Paris Agreement’s main goals of ensuring that its emissions don’t put the globe on a road to heating one degree more than present by the turn of the century.
  • Lowest per capita emissions: Further, India’s position is that it has among the lowest per capita emissions.
  • No compromise on economic growth: Also, India has stated that it is not responsible for the climate crisis, which the science has established is due to historical emissions by developed countries and cannot compromise on ensuring economic growth of its vast citizenry.

Adding micronutrients to rice: how, why, and how much (On fortification)

Source: Indian Express

What is the news?

In his Independence Day speech, Indian PM announced the fortification of rice distributed under various government schemes, including the public distribution system (PDS) and midday meals in schools, by 2024.

Background
Must Read: Food Fortification of India – Explained
How rice fortification is done in India?

Various technologies are available for rice fortification, such as coating and dusting. For rice fortification in India, ‘extrusion’ is considered to be the best technology. This involves the production of fortified rice kernels (FRKs) from a mixture using an extruder machine.

The fortified rice kernels are then blended with regular rice to produce fortified rice.

Extrusion technology
  • In extrusion technology, dry rice flour is mixed with a premix of micronutrients, and water is added to this mixture.
  • This mixture then goes into a twin-screw extruder with heating zones, which produces kernels similar in shape and size to rice.
  • These kernels are dried, cooled and packaged for use.

FRK has a shelf life of at least 12 months. As per guidelines issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, the shape and size of the fortified rice kernel should “resemble the normal milled rice as closely as possible”.

Cost of fortification

The Ministry estimates that the cost of producing FRK with three micronutrients — iron, folic acid, and vitamin B-12 — will come to around Rs 0.60 per kg. This cost will be shared by the Centre and the states. The government will pay this cost to rice millers.


India ranks second in terms of crypto adoption in the world

Source: Livemint

What is the news?

India ranks second in terms of crypto adoption worldwide behind Vietnam, but ahead of countries such as the US, UK, and China, according to the 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index by blockchain data platform Chainalysis.

Findings
  • India was followed by Pakistan and Ukraine at rank three and four respectively. The US and China’s ranking dipped from sixth to eighth and from fourth to thirteenth respectively.
  • Most of the top 20 countries are developing countries like Tanzania, Togo and Kenya.
  • Many emerging markets face significant currency devaluation, driving residents to buy cryptocurrency.
  • Usage:
    • To carry out international transactions, either for individual remittances or for commercial use cases, such as purchasing goods to import and sell. Many emerging markets limit the amount of the national currency that residents can move out of the country. Cryptocurrency gives those residents a way to circumvent those limits so that they can meet their financial needs.
Relevant facts:
  • A report by US-based research platform Finder had recently confirmed that the top five countries in terms of crypto adoption were all from Asia.
  • Bitcoin is the most popular coin in India, followed by Ripple, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash.
  • India’s “huge expatriate population” makes it the world’s number one remittance recipient in the crypto space.
    • India had the largest expatriate population in the world, with 18 million people from the country living outside their homeland last year, noted a January 2021 UN report.
  • Crypto adoption in India has also been led by smaller towns in the country, with growth in users from tier II and tier III cities in India.
  • The interest is mostly driven by referrals. The fact that cryptocurrencies have made money for many individuals almost overnight has drawn more such users to the space, especially from smaller towns. However, serious investors who will get in the space for the long term are yet to really take interest.
Must Read: Cryptocurrencies and Indian regulations – Explained

NE is cancer capital of India, finds govt study

Source: Times of India

What is the news?

A recently released report by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research highlighted that Arunachal Pradesh’s Papum Pare district and Mizoram’s capital Aizawl recorded the highest incidence of new cancer cases among both male and female.

  • The report is part of the Population Based Cancer Registry project, which aims to study the cancer trends under the National Cancer Registry programme.
Findings of the report
  • The report stated that Northeast India has emerged as cancer capital of the country because of high cases in the region
  • Oesophagus cancer was most prevalent in the NE region, followed by breast and lung cancer.
Significance

Cancer data revealed under the project can be utilized by the government in policymaking decisions regarding cancer prevention, treatment and management.

Must read: Cancer cases could increase by 12% in next 5 years

A delayed intervention (On need to exports)

Source: The Hindu

What is the news?

After delaying by 8 months, the Government has notified the rules and rates under Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) scheme. Based on these, exporters can claim rebates on the taxes paid on their exported items.

Must read: RoDTEP scheme
Current scenario
  • India is looking to sign free trade pact negotiations with Australia, the UK, the EU, and the U.S. after opting out of RCEP.
  • The global economy is on the verge of one of its strongest rebounds after increased rates of COVID vaccination all around the world.
  • Many advanced economies are looking beyond the China to fulfill the rising consumer demand in domestic economy, and thus India needs to aggressively step up to the opportunity.
Way forward

Due to weak domestic demand, the private investment by companies is unlikely to increase. Hence, in present conditions, only the public investment along with exports can act as a growth engine to aid India’s economic recovery.

Thus, an export policy push is the need of the hour.

Terms to know:


Cabinet approves Ratification of Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer for phase down of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

About Kigali Amendment
  1. The Kigali agreement is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. It aims to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by curbing both their production and consumption.
  2. Target: To achieve over 80% reduction in HFC consumption by 2047 which will curb a global increase of temperature by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
  3. India: India will complete its phase-down of HFCs in four steps from 2032 onwards with a cumulative reduction of 10% in 2032, 20% in 2037, 30% in 2042 and 80% in 2047.
About HFCs
  1. HFCs are entirely man-made. They are primarily produced for use in refrigeration, air-conditioning, insulating foams and aerosol propellants, with minor uses as solvents and for fire protection.
  2. HFCs were developed to replace stratospheric ozone-depleting substances (ODS) that are currently being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
  3. Though HFCs do not impact the ozone layer, many HFCs are very powerful greenhouse gases and a substantial number are short-lived climate pollutants with a lifetime of between 15 and 29 years in the atmosphere.
Implementation strategy of India to phase out HFCs
  1. National strategy for phase down of Hydrofluorocarbons will be developed after required consultation with all the industry stakeholders by 2023.
  2. Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules will be amended to allow appropriate control of the production and consumption of Hydrofluorocarbons to ensure compliance with the Kigali Amendment will be done by mid-2024.
Plans by other countries

Different countries have different phase down plans under the Protocol. The developed countries including the US, Canada, west European nations and Japan will reduce HFC use first, followed by China and then by 10 developing countries including India, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.

Expected Benefits of HFCs Phasedown
  • Emission reduction: Hydrofluorocarbons phasedown is expected to prevent the emission of up to 105 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases, helping to avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise by 2100, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.
  • Scope for domestic manufacturing: There would be scope for domestic manufacturing of equipment as well as alternative non-HFC and low-global warming potential chemicals. In addition, there would be opportunities to promote domestic innovation for new generation alternative refrigerants and related technologies.

Cabinet approves implementation of National Mission on Edible Oils Oil Palm

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Union Cabinet has given its approval to launch a new Mission on Oil palm, to be known as the National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP).

About National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP):
  • NMEO-OP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme that aims to boost domestic production of Palm Oil and reduce its dependence on imports.
  • The mission has a special focus on the North-eastern region and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Target: The mission hopes to increase the area under oil palm by an additional 6.5 lakh hectares by 2025-26. It also has a target to increase the production of crude palm oil to 11.2 lakh tonnes by 2025-26 and up to 28 lakh tonnes by 2029-30.
Major Focus Areas of the scheme:

Price Assurance:

  1. The oil palm farmers will produce Fresh Fruit Bunches(FFBs) from which Palm oil is extracted by the industry. 
  2. Presently, the prices of these FFBs are linked to the international Crude Palm Oil(CPO) prices fluctuations. 
  3. So if the market is volatile, then the Centre will pay the difference in price to the farmers through direct benefit transfer 
  4. This price assurance will be given in the form of viability gap funding, and the industry will be mandated to pay 14.3% of crude palm oil prices.
  5. Moreover, in a bid to encourage oil palm cultivation in northeastern India and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Centre will bear an additional cost of 2% of the crude palm oil prices in these States
  6. Hence, this will protect the farmers from the fluctuations of the international CPO  prices and protect them from volatility.  

The assistance of Inputs/Interventions: The scheme has been made a substantial increase in the assistance of inputs/interventions:  

  1. A substantial increase has been made for planting material for oil palm and this has increased from Rs 12,000 per ha to  Rs.29000 per ha. 
  2. Further, a substantial increase has been made for maintenance and intercropping interventions. 
  3. Moreover, assistance will be provided to seed gardens to address the issue of shortage of planting material in the country.

Foreign Minister announces rollout of tech to help protect U.N. peacekeepers

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

India’s External Affairs Minister has announced the launch of the UNITE AWARE platform.

About UNITE AWARE Platform:

  1. Launched by: India in partnership with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Operational Support.
  2. Purpose: UNITE Aware is a technology platform that utilises modern surveillance technology for real-time threat assessments to UN peacekeepers and helps them enhance their security.
  3. Where will it be deployed? The UNITE Aware platform will initially be rolled out in four UN Peacekeeping Missions: MINUSMA (Mali), UNMISS (South Sudan), UNFICYP (Cyprus) and AMISOM (Somalia).

About Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping initiative:

  1. The initiative was established in 2014 by the United Nations (UN) Department of Operational Support (DOS).
  2. Objective: To bring greater involvement to peacekeeping through innovative approaches and technologies that have the potential to empower UN global operations

Delhi moves five places down to 37th spot on Global prime cities index

Source: Business Standard

What is the News?

The Prime Global Cities Index has been released.

About Prime Global Cities Index:

  1. Released by:  Knight Frank, a residential and property consultant firm.
  2. Purpose: It is a valuation-based index that tracks the movement in prime residential prices in local currency across 45+ cities worldwide.
  3. Prime residential property is defined as the most desirable and most expensive property in a given location, generally defined as the top 5% of each market by value.

Key Findings:

  1. Prices of prime residential properties in Delhi fell a marginal 0.2% in the second quarter of 2021 leading to a drop of five spots — from 32 to 37.
  2. Mumbai and Bengaluru also saw a decline in the prices of prime residential properties. They have moved down to the 40th and 43rd rank in Q2 of 2021 compared to 36th and 40th in Q1 2021 respectively.
  3. Globally, 35 cities witnessed a rise in prime residential prices in Q2 2021 on a YoY basis.
    • This can be attributed to a strong buyer appetite for residential due to extended time spent indoors, appreciation for larger homes and a low-interest rate regime followed by central banks globally.

Defence Minister to launch Defence India Startup Challenge 5.0

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Defence Minister will launch Defence India Startup Challenge(DISC 5.0).

About Defence India Startup Challenge:

  1. Defence India Startup Challenge has been launched by the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), Defence Innovation Organisation(DIO) with support from the Ministry of Defence and Atal Innovation Mission.
  2. Aim: To support Startups/MSMEs/Innovators to create prototypes and/or commercialize products/solutions in the area of National Defence and Security.
  3. DISC 5.0: The fifth edition of DISC will have more challenges than the first four DISC editions taken together.

About SPARK: 

  1. SPARK or Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart (in Defence) is the scheme for funding startups selected through the DISC challenges. 
  2. Applicants showing capability, intent and promise to be able to produce functional prototypes or to productize existing technologies will be awarded up to Rs. 1.5 crores in the form of grant/equity/debt/other relevant structures. 

Govt to rationalise rates of health benefit packages under Ayushman Bharat

Source: Business Standard

What is the news?

In a move to encourage private hospitals to take part in Ayushman Bharat-Jan Arogya Yojana (JAY), the government is planning to rationalise the rates of health benefits packages under the scheme and also resolve issues with payments.

About the scheme:

Ayushman Bharat-Jan Arogya Yojana (JAY)

AB-PMJAY
Source: Business Standard

The scheme was launched by the Prime Minister in 2018. So far, 23,000 hospitals have been empanelled under the scheme, 40 percent of which are from the private sector.

The government has so far issued 160 million Ayushman cards and plans to issue another 100 million during 2020-21.

What are the issues in the scheme:

Private hospitals have raised concerns with the health ministry that the rates of treatment under the health scheme are not viable and becoming a hindrance for their participation in the initiative.

About the Government move:
  • The health authority plans to set up standardised rates and treatment protocols across hospitals so that the total spent by the exchequer can also be ascertained easily.
  • The health authority will also start joint review missions, headed by a retired government official, to increase monitoring and evaluation of the scheme.
  • In order to resolve payment issues and enable faster disposal of claims, the government is considering setting up a green channel for hospitals with a clean track record.
  • The government is also planning to set up beneficiary facilitation agencies in empanelled public hospitals to increase the uptake.
Benefits of the move:

All these moves will make Fifty percent of the claims of hospitals can be cleared immediately. Further, It will encourage them to ensure proper billing as well.


Nod for Indo-Swiss medical research agreements

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The Union Cabinet has approved agreements between the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) and Swiss research agencies to promote collaboration on diagnostics and antimicrobial resistance.

What are the agreements signed?

MoU between ICMR and Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Switzerland:

  • The MoU aims to strengthen the relations within the framework of the international scientific and technological collaboration and to promote cooperation in fields of mutual interest.
About FIND:
  1. FIND is a global health non-profit organization that facilitates the development, evaluation, and implementation of diagnostic tests for poverty-related diseases.
  2. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
  3. In India, FIND is registered as a non-profit organisation created under Section 8 of the (Indian) Companies Act, 2013.

MoU between ICMR and GARDP Foundation on Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Innovation:

  1. The MoU aims to develop and deliver new or improved antibiotic treatments, and also ensure their sustainable access. The collaboration will involve joint strategy and financial and in-kind contributions by both parties.
About GARDP:
  1. Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership(GARDP) is a not-for-profit organization created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative(DNDi).
  2. Mandate: It works with partners to develop new treatments for drug-resistant infections that pose the greatest threat to health. 

Pilot Launch of International Bullion Exchange – The Gateway for Bullion Imports

Source: PIB

What is the News?

International Financial Services Centres Authority(IFSCA) has launched the pilot run for the International Bullion Exchange.

What is Bullion?
  1. Bullion refers to physical gold and silver of high purity that is often kept in the form of bars or coins.
  2. Bullion can sometimes be considered legal tender and is often held as reserves by central banks or held by institutional investors.
  3. Investors can buy or sell bullion through dealers who are active on one of several global bullion markets.
About the International Bullion Exchange:
  1. International Bullion Exchange will be a ‘Gateway for Bullion Imports into India’, wherein all bullion imports for domestic consumption will be channelised through the exchange.
  2. Managed by:  India International Bullion Holding IFSC Ltd (IIBH) has been created for setting up and for operationalising International Bullion Exchange at IFSC, GIFT City.

Expected Benefits: The exchange ecosystem is expected to bring: 

  1. All the market participants at a common transparent platform for bullion trading 
  2. Provide an efficient price discovery and assurance in the quality of gold
  3. Enable greater integration with other segments of financial markets 
  4. Help establish India’s position as a dominant trading hub in the world.

Pineapple Agroforestry Systems can Address Twin Challenges of Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss

Source: PIB

What is the News?

According to a study, Pineapple-based agroforestry can be a sustainable alternative to jhum cultivation for North East India.

Background:
  • Jhum cultivation also called swidden agriculture is a dominant agricultural practice in the NorthEast Region.
  • Under this, the farming community slashes secondary forests on a predetermined location, burns the slash and cultivates the land for a limited number of years. 
  • The land is then left fallow and the farming community moves to the next location to repeat the process till they return back to the starting point. 
  • However, this practise has become unsustainable due to the reduced fallow cycle resulting in depletion in soil fertility, severe soil erosion and low agronomic productivity.
  • Hence, North East India and many south Asian countries are shifting to agroforestry and high-value cropping systems from traditional jhum practices.
  • But the researchers are looking for other agroforestry options that can provide twin solutions for climate change and biodiversity loss.
What is the solution the researchers have found?
  1. The researchers found that the Pineapple-based agroforestry(PAFS) can be a sustainable alternative to jhum cultivation for North East India. 
  2. This traditional practice can provide twin solutions for climate change and biodiversity loss.
What is Pineapple agroforestry systems (PAFS)?
  • Pineapple agroforestry systems (PAFS) is a dominant form of land use in the Indian Eastern Himalayas and other parts of Asia. It is mostly grown in association with multipurpose trees.
  • The ethnic ‘Hmar’ Tribe in southern Assam have been cultivating pineapples for centuries. At present, they practice the indigenous Pineapple agroforestry systems for both home consumption and boosting economic benefit

Online applications inaugurated making geospatial data collected by government freely & easily available to citizens and organizations in India

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The government of India has launched three web portals to offer the geospatial data collected by the Survey of India and the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization(NATMO) either free or at a nominal cost.

What are those three web Portals?

GEO Spatial Data Dissemination Portal:

  • Developed by: Survey of India(SOI).
  • Purpose: The portal is a rich repository of maps and functionalities. It will provide in various downloadable formats of 4,000 maps with national, state, district and tehsil level data.
SARTHI Portal:
  1. Developed by: Survey of India(SOI).
  2. Purpose: It is a geographic information system(GIS) that will help users in creating applications for geospatial data visualisation, manipulation and analysis without a lot of resources at their end.
MANCHITRAN Portal:
  1. Developed by: National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO)
  2. Purpose: It is a  geo-portal that showcases the huge, authenticated, and valuable data that NATMO acquired during its long 65 years of service. 
About Survey of India(SOI):
  1. SOI is the National Survey and Mapping Organization of the country under the Department of Science & Technology.
  2. It was established in 1767. It is the oldest scientific department of the Government of India.
  3. Headquarters: Dehradun, Uttarakhand

About National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation(NATMO):

  1. NATMO is a subordinate office under the Department of Science & Technology.
  2. Mandate: It is involved in the compilation of the National Atlas of India. Apart from that, it also makes National Atlas in regional languages. NATMO also helps in increasing speed and efficiency in the field of mapping with the help of installation of Automated Mapping System. It also offers training to geologists who want to venture into this field. 
  3. Headquarters: Kolkata, West Bengal

 

Print Friendly and PDF[social_warfare]