9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – August 20th, 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

Arms and the Women

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population

Relevance: To understand women’s entry into the army

Synopsis: Gender parity in the army is happening at a slow pace and is mostly led by the courts.

Introduction

Recently, PM announcement to allow girls for admission in Sainik School is a welcome move that will prepare girls for equal roles & life in the military

Read more:

Supreme Court (SC) judgements to bring women equal to men in the army

  1. In Feb 2020 judgement: The court asked the government to abide by its own policy and grant Permanent Commission to women in Short Service Commission (SSC). The court also directs the government to give women command postings in all services other than combat.
  2. In Secretary, Ministry of Defence vs Babita Puniya & Ors: the Court pointed out the “significant role” played by women since their induction in the army in 1992. So extending permanent positions to women SSC officers is a step forward in bringing equality of opportunity in the army.
  3. In the recent judgement, SC allowed women to sit for National Defence Academy (NDA) exam as the current policy is based on “gender discrimination”.

Why permit women?

There have been arguments about the violation of Articles 14, 15, 16, 19 of the Indian constitution, which upholds the values of equality & allows equal, non-discriminatory opportunities at work. These provisions have been violated by the denial of granting equal opportunity to eligible women.

Read more: Finally, gender parity in the Indian Army

Back to basics

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues related to the development and management of Education

Relevance: Focus on inclusive and quality education.

Synopsis: It is important for India to work on ways to strengthen foundational education for children

Impact of the pandemic on children’s education

Pandemic & lockdowns have had a serious impact on the education system. There have been:

  1. Cases of alarming drop-out rates from school
  2. Migration of children from private to government schools because of inability to pay the fees.
  3. Increasing abuse of children at home
  4. Rise in inadequate nutrition & so on

Problems that need to be addressed

There are some major factors that need to be addressed at the foundation level:

  1. Nutrition: As per UNICEF, India should focus on the nutritional intake of children. Children, depending on their age & gender, need to consume 1000-3200 calories per day
  2. UNDP Human Development Report 2019 mentions that If the foundational learning is weak, and students are automatically promoted, then at higher grade students will struggle to grasp concepts.
  3. National Education Policy (NEP): NEP 2020 proposed pedagogical to teachers, but the content-heavy curriculum forces the teachers to adopt instructional rather than creative approaches.
  4. Skilled Teachers: NEP 2020 entrusted the intellectual development of kindergarten children from the unprivileged sections to matriculation. This will not fulfil the task of making these students into creators, as they lack expertise. Also, the proposal to upgrade their skills using the online method is grossly inadequate. These problems have to be addressed.

Suggestions

  • The government should recognize that EdTech is a resource of the privileged.
  • The government should mobilize students of higher education to work for 3 to 6 months in underdeveloped areas.
  • Private companies should also come up with mentorship programmes.

Way Forward

If the government wants to achieve the goal of SDG 4 (Quality Education), then the government need to work on a war footing.


The Abrahan Accord as India’s West Asia bridge

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – International Relations

Relevance: Study impact of Abraham accord on India

Synopsis: The signing of the Abraham Accord has helped India to remove strategic obstacles & aided defence cooperation

Introduction

India welcomed the Abraham Accord as it will bring peace and stability to the region. This accord is beneficial for India as it removed the long strategic obstacle for India: to maintain the balance between the Arab world & Israel.

About Abraham Accords:

These are a joint statement made between Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates on August 13, 2020. It also refers to the agreement reached between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE to normalise relations between them.

Click here to read more about Abraham Accords

How is India, strengthening the relationship with West Asian Region

  1. India conducted “Zayed Talwar” naval exercise with the UAE. This will further help to deepen the fast-developing strategic cooperation between both countries
  2. Visit of Indian Army Chief in Dec 2020 to the UAE & Saudi Arabia, becomes the first chief of the Indian army to do so
  3. Indian Navy Chief’s visit to the UAE & Oman. During the visit, the chief signed a deal with Oman for the access to Duqm Port, including dry dock to be used by the Indian Navy

Relationship with West Asia

  • Maintaining energy security is vital for India, given India meets 80% of its oil requirements via imports.
  • India has increased strategic defence relations with West Asian countries. This included the IAF visit to Saudi Arabia in 2015 to hosting the Iranian navy in 2018.
  • As tensions between Iran, Israel & the USA escalated, the Indian Navy carried out operation Sankalp which escorted 16 Indian-flagged vessels a day.
  • The Abraham accord may pave the way for greater defense relations with West Asian countries.
  • Right from NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) days, West Asia has been the focus of India’s foreign policy and will remain so in the near future.

Relationship with Iran

Iran, as a part of West Asia, plays a significant role:

  • India used Iranian airspace & facilities to evacuate its diplomatic staff from Kandahar. This shows a level of strategic interest and commonality at play on certain issues in the region
  • Projects like the Chabahar port & Chahbahar-Zahedan rail project plays a critical role in India- Iran relations.
  • Recent visits by various ministers on both sides highlights strategic cooperation between both countries despite the sanctions by the USA or Iran conflict with other West Asian countries.

Way forward

India’s assertive role in West Asia will be reflective of its interest and its greater role in West Asia and the world.


Collegium’s list of recommendations to Supreme Court breaks a deadlock — and leaves a trace

Source:  Indian Express

 Syllabus: GS 2 Structure, organization & Functioning of Judiciary

Relevance: To understand the issue of deadlock in judicial appointments

Synopsis: The main problem behind the judicial appointment process is its opaqueness. No reasons are given for the choice of those selected or left out. This was not always so.

Introduction

Recently, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana recommended nine names for appointment as judges to the top court. This is heartening, as it may also open the possibility of the first women chief justice of India.

Nearly after 22 months of deadlocks, the news of appointments of Judges to the High Court (HC) can pave the way for better access to Justice.

The beginning of the end of a deadlock between the government and the Judiciary over the appointments in HC is welcome news.

Read more: The Collegium System – Explained Pointwise

Issues with Collegium

There are problems with the opaqueness of the judicial process.

  • Earlier, in 2017, the collegium had decided that the decisions of collegium will be put on the website when they are sent to the Government.
  • However, there have been instances of opaqueness. For instance, In May 2019 the 2017 recommendation was reversed by the then collegium.

Way Forward:

Given the vitality of the Judiciary, it is important that it preserves its integrity and maintains public trust. Further, more women judges need to be elevated in the high courts.

Read more: Issue of Gender Gap in Judiciary – Explained, Pointwise

Lessons from India’s all cause mortality rate

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues related to development and management of services related to health

Relevance: To understand the impact of Covid 19

Synopsis: There have been allegations of the government suppressing the death data. This can be derived from the estimate of excess deaths during the pandemic period.

Estimates of excess death

Excess deaths are the deaths that have occurred over and above normal death.

It is difficult to estimate the deaths caused by Covid-19 as specific data is not available. However, reference can be taken from excess deaths caused by Pandemic, data of which can be taken from sources like civil registration system.

Data shows that there was an estimated “excess deaths” of 3.5 – 3.7 million nationwide from April 2020 to June 2021. This amounts to 35% more deaths than expected. The numbers are alarming as they can increase as more data comes in.

Deaths during the pandemic period

We have limited data related to death registration. In most of the states, either the data is incomplete or unavailable. Moreover, there is a problem with the organization of data.

Data taken from 12 states like AP, Bihar, and Haryana etc, shows six million deaths, which are 1.3 Mn more than the expected deaths.  Extrapolating this to Pan-India, it may reach around 2.8Mn, which is 8.5 times the official Covid-19 death toll.

Global Trends

  • India’s surge in mortality places India lower than Mexico but significantly higher than the USA.
  • However, we cannot be sure how many of India’s excess deaths were because of Covid-19.

Though, as per the latest National serosurvey, 60-70% of the population might have been impacted. This could mean a majority of India’s excess deaths could have been because of Covid 19.

State-wise trends

  • States like Kerala, HP, Punjab show lower excess mortality than expected.
  • AP and MP on the other hand show excess mortality.
  • Around 2/3rd deaths took place in the Covid wave of May 2021.
  • Thus, this calls for the need to close the gaps in the registration system.

Way Forward

Though the cause is difficult to determine what is evident that there was a significant surge in death rates during the pandemic. This calls for the need to strengthen the civil registration system.


GS Paper 3

The space race is getting harder

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS3 – S&T

Relevance: Understanding the impact of the new space race

Synopsis: A vast technological gap is opening up as humans race to colonize the solar system. A brief look into the space race of the past and the implications of the new age space race.

Why launching objects into space is hard?

India is among only a dozen nations that have put an object in orbit. The reason so few have succeeded is because launching objects into orbit is hard.

  • Things stay in orbit only if they achieve a speed horizontal to the earth of 27,000 kmph. If this “escape velocity” is not achieved, the object falls back.
  • The restrictions that physics imposes on rocket design are what makes this difficult: Over 90% of a rocket’s weight is just fuel.
Advances in rocket tech

Advances in rocket technology happened abroad in two phases.

  • Phase 1: The first was the decade of the 1960s. Russians put the first object in orbit, first satellite, first man in orbit, first spacewalk. Within a decade, from the late 1950s to the close of the 1960s, the world went from having no satellites to humans on the moon.
    • But after that was achieved, the high costs, boredom from the American public and the failure of the Soviet moon rocket ended the energetic race.
  • Phase 2: After 1972, the US went from having the capacity to put humans on the moon to limited capacity in lower earth orbit (LEO), a few hundred kms. After the Space Shuttle programme ended a decade ago, America had no ability to put humans even in low earth orbit.
    • Today that capacity exists only with Russia, using its very old rocket, China and the private firm SpaceX. 
Reasons behind the new space race

In the last few years, a new space race has begun. This time it is being driven by private companies and China. This time the motivations are different.

  • America wants a base on the moon, there are plans in place to colonise Mars
  • There are plans to mine asteroids for rare minerals and bring them to earth, to permanently occupy Mars and, in fact, even to change its climate to make it more earth-like.
Implications 
  • Technological gap is developing: This new space race means that a vast technological gap is opening up and will continue to open up between those doing this (few pvt companies, USA and China) and the rest of the world’s nations. This gap will not merely be limited to the access to potential new resources, but will also empower them with the new technologies that they will develop over the next decade.
  • Emergence of Spinoff tech: Spinoff tech from the first space race and the tens of billions of dollars pumped into innovation six decades ago produced the portable computer, the mouse, Lasik, artificial limbs, freeze-dried food, water purification and GPS. More breakthroughs of this magnitude will come, first to the entities that develop them, and perhaps then for wider commercial use.
  • Colonization of planets: We must consider also what colonies of humans, possibly of many nationalities, on another planet will mean for earth. The idea of nation-states and borders will appear to be a little silly when our species is colonizing the solar system.

Conclusion

India must consider the implications and what this new space race means for us in a future that we are rapidly moving into.

Must Read: Why ISRO’s launch of Earth-watching satellite failed?

India’s looming water crisis and urgent measures to address it

Source: Livemint

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

Relevance: Measures needed to address India’s water crisis

Synopsis: The groundwater table in India is falling at faster rate than ever, and thus we need radical changes in agricultural practices along with other measures to address the water crisis of India.

Context

India is facing a water crisis. Water tables in many states including Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh have declined by thousands of feet. Tanks and wells are going dry, while some rivers are getting shrunk. Water rationing is routine in many urban areas, while in many villages women are walk longer distances to fetch water.

Significance of groundwater
  • At 250 billion cubic metres per year, India is the world’s largest consumer of groundwater. It consumes more than China and US, the next two largest combined.
  • India’s gross cropped area has increased by over 120 million hectares since the 1980s, mainly due to an increase in groundwater irrigation, especially through tube-wells. In the past 40 years, about 84% of the increase in net irrigated area has come from groundwater.
Factors behind groundwater decline
  1. Green revolution: One of the ecological consequences of the policies carried out under Green Revolution, is the decline in groundwater. Due to policy incentives from government, farmers were able to sow high-yielding & water-intensive crops, like rice & wheat. (To produce a kg of rice 2,800 ltrs of water is required, while a kilogram of wheat takes 1,654 ltrs on average.) This established a Rice-Wheat-Cropping-System (RWCS) in areas, unsuitable for such crops. Water for such crops came mainly form tube well irrigation, leading to a decline in groundwater over the years.
  2. Cropping patterns: Our policies to ensure food sufficiency and assure farmers income have unfortunately caused crop distortions that have led to excessive drawing of groundwater and its depletion. Minimum Procurement Price (MSP) is one such example.
    • Though MSP is announced for 23 crops, but the majority of procurement done by the government at MSP is for wheat and rice. Both these crops are water guzzlers.
Measures needed

We need to implement the following in our agricultural practices and in the management of water:

  1. Shift in cropping pattern: Agriculture consumes about 90% of India’s water supply, and of this, 80% is consumed by just three water-guzzling crops: rice, wheat and sugarcane. Thus, we need to incentivize a shift in cropping pattern towards nutri-cereals, pulses and oilseeds.
  2. Procurement strategy– Around 95% procurement at MSP done by the govt is of rice and wheat alone. This causes farmers to grow more of such crops. Hence, government should encourage procurement of other crops such as jowar, bajra, ragi pulses etc. under MSP to promote crop diversification.
  3. Introduction of water-saving seed varieties even for rice and wheat
  4. Promoting water saving techniques such as rice intensification, conservation, tillage, drip irrigation, and direct seeding of rice. As per field trials, these practices can save between 17% (Rajasthan) to 80% (Tamil Nadu) of our blue water compared to conventional practices.
  5. Regulating groundwater– Groundwater use in India is completely unregulated, resulting in its overexploitation. Hence, legislation to regulate the use of groundwater is most urgent. States can adopt the model Groundwater Bill 2017 to local conditions and pass their own legislation
  6. Rejuvenation of catchment areas of rivers– the local communities could be given monetary benefits to protect catchment areas and keep river basins healthy, free from encroachment. Farmers, local communities can act as agent of change to preserve the groundwater.
  7. Role of the govt: Government has a crucial role in aggregating the local initiatives and scaling them up. Top down administrative arrangements will have to be replaced by participatory, bottom-up systems led by farmer producer organizations (FPOs) along the lines of the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union. Governments need to support the development of these institutions.
Must read: India’s water crisis: It is most acute for women

Terms to know


Why attempts to boost oil palm farming may work?

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS3 – Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country, Issues related to Direct and Indirect Farm Subsidies and Minimum Support Prices

Relevance: Analysis of  National Mission on Edible Oils

Synopsis: In light of the recently announced scheme to boost production of palm oil in India, a brief look at previous such attempts, their impact and the overall issues involved with palm oil cultivation.

Context

In order to boost domestic production of palm oil and make the country self-sufficient in the cooking medium, the government recently announced a Rs 11,000-crore National Mission on Edible Oils.

Must read: Cabinet approves implementation of National Mission on Edible Oils- Oil Palm

The target:

  • Mission plans to raise oil palm cultivation to one million hectares by 2025-26 and 1.7-1.8 million hectares by 2029-30
  • The domestic palm oil production is targeted to rise three times to 1.1 million hectares by 2025-26 under the Mission and 2.8 million tonnes by 2029-30
Present scenario
  • India consumes 10% of the total global production of palm oil
  • Import dependency: Since domestic production is not sufficient to meet the demand, India is a net importer of palm oil.
  • Demand for palm oil is driven by high consumption due to its various advantages in food industry in India
  • Most palm oil imports in India originate from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, accounting for over 90% of total imported volumes in 2019 and 2020.
Challenges with palm oil cultivation
  • Forest loss– As per estimate by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the expansion of oil palm plantations is likely to cause four million hectares (more than twice the size of Kerala) of forest loss
  • Deforestation of high biodiversity areas– Deforestation would most likely occur in high biodiversity areas such as Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra and the Congo Basin in Africa
  • Impact population of endangered wildlife– deforestation may impact populations of endangered wildlife such as Sumatran Tigers, Rhinos and Orangutans
  • Impact on human health and livelihood– forest loss can have adverse impacts on people’s health and disrupts local livelihoods.
  • Contribute to Global warming–  forest loss can lead to release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that contribute to global warming.
Previous attempts to boost production
  • TMOP: In 1991-92, the Department of Agriculture Started the Technology Mission on Oilseeds and Pulses (TMOP) in the potential states
  • OPDP: A comprehensive centrally-sponsored scheme, Oil Palm Development Programme (OPDP) was taken up during 8th and 9th Plans
  • ISOPOM: Support for oil palm cultivation was given under the Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses, Oil Palm and Maize (ISOPOM) during 10th and 11th plan
  • OPAE: The Government of India had also supported a Special Programme on Oil Palm Area Expansion (OPAE) under RKVY during the year 2011-12 with an objective to bring 60,000 hectares under Oil Palm cultivation
  • NMOOP: The National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP) was launched during 12th plan, in which Mini Mission-II (MM-II) was dedicated to oil palm area expansion and productivity increases. It is being implemented in 13 states which includes Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Goa.
Achievements under prev initiatives
  • Area expansion under oil palm from 8,585 ha in 1991-92 to 316,600 ha by the end of 2016-17
  • Increased production of fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) and crude palm oil (CPO)

At present, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are major oil palm growing States

Why previous attempt failed?
  • High gestation period– farmers had to wait for four years for the trees in India to start yielding palm fruit bunches to give palm oil and palm kernel oil.
  • Small landholding–  Indian farmers generally have very small farm holdings which makes investment difficult.
  • Lack of private investment– corporate sector investments in oil palm are limited compared with Malaysia and Indonesia.
 Must read: Palm oil and environmental, social challenges in India

Welcome rethink on FTAs

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS3 – Effects of Liberalization on the Economy, Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth

Relevance: Significance of International trade to Indian Economy

Synopsis: Increasing exports is important criteria for India’s sustained economic growth in the future.

Context

The government seems to be resetting its position on trade policy. The Union commerce secretary recently said that India would fast-track free trade agreements (FTAs) as the country needed to engage with the rest of the world. Since the world is moving towards bilateral and regional trade arrangements, such deals would be important.

What is an early harvest” agreement?

Recently, during an interaction with export promotion councils, the Union Commerce and Industry minister said that “early harvest” agreements with a host of countries, including the UK and Australia, were progressing fast.

  • An early harvest deal is a precursor to an FTA, in which the trading partners reduce tariff barriers on limited goods to promote trade.
How protectionism will impact India’s trade potential?

Economists have pointed out that since 2014, tariffs have been increased in about 3,200 product categories, affecting about 70% of imports.

The progressive reduction in tariffs after 1991 resulted in an export boom and helped India grow at a higher rate in the first decade of this century. However, a reversal in this policy position has affected trade over the last several years.

Why India needs to focus on exports & global trade?
  1. Economic recovery: India needs to focus more on trade at this point because of its domestic macroeconomic position. Recovering from a contraction, the Indian economy will grow at a higher rate this year, but sustainability in the medium term remains uncertain.
  2. Exports will boost growth: The government’s ability to drive demand will remain constrained because of existing higher levels of deficit and debt. Therefore, exports could become a driver of growth if the policy is carefully adjusted.
Suggestions/Measures
  1. The government should re-evaluate the overall tariff policy to strengthen India’s position as a more open economy.
  2. Indian industry should become more competitive and not seek protection.
  3. A review of the position on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is also required. It is likely that conditions in FTAs with the European Union, or the UK, would be testing as compared to the RCEP. If India is open to FTAs with other countries and groups, the RCEP should not be an exception.
Why India Should Join RCEP?

One of the biggest concerns to join RCEP both from an economic and strategic point of view is the presence of China. However, staying away from the RCEP is not an answer.

  • In today’s complex supply chains, it may not be easy to distinguish goods coming into India from other countries with significant value addition in China.
  • Besides, being a member of the most dynamic trading bloc will allow India to become part of the global supply chain, which will make it more competitive and help utilize other FTAs that are being negotiated more effectively.

Conclusion

The way the government reshapes its trade policy in the near term will determine India’s growth trajectory in the medium to long run.


Nehru’s real big mistake: Heavy industry wrongly got priority in 1950s. So even at 75, India isn’t rich

Source: Times of India

Syllabus: GS Paper 3, Indian Economy, Economic reforms since independence

Synopsis: Nehruvian Socialism has been criticized for many of India’s present problems. This article explains the main cause behind that.

Introduction

Nehruvian Socialism has often been criticized for India’s economic failures in the initial decades. Nehru’s push for a progressively larger share of the public sector has been tagged as the main cause of failure. However, it is not correct. Instead, the push for highly capital-intensive heavy industry, at a time of capital scarcity, was the main reason.

What was the conventional approach to industrialisation?

The conventional approach to making the nation self-sufficient would have been to follow the import-substitution industrialisation (ISI) model. This model works in 4 stages, at every stage, a particular type of activity requires protection and promotion:

  1. In the first stage, the assembly activities.
  2. In the 2nd stage, components production.
  3. Further, in the 3rd stage, machines, necessary to produce components and assembly activities.
  4. Lastly, in the 4th stage, machines, to produce machines.

What was the approach followed by Nehru?

However, Nehru never saw protection as the means to industrialization or self-sufficiency. Instead, he adopted exactly the opposite sequence that the ISI model recommended. He placed heavy industry consisting of products such as steel and machines at the beginning of the process. Nehru saw the heavy industry as essential for self-sufficiency.

Consequences of Nehru’s approach 

Low availability of capital: Despite reserving available capital for heavy industry, the scale of production in each product line within the heavy industry still remained suboptimal. It was because of the scarcity of capital compared to the requirements of heavy industries.

Light manufacturing activities: Whereas, light manufacturing activities were left for households and small enterprises. Due to low capacity, these activities also remained subject to production at a sub-optimal scale.

Higher Inflation: Furthermore, India faced higher inflation at home than abroad and a fixed exchange rate. This made majority of Indian products uncompetitive compared to foreign countries. Thus, strict import licensing was implemented.

Employment: The heavy industry created few jobs for the unskilled. Simultaneously, the demand for light-industry products and services could not increase at a fast pace due to low household incomes. Thus, the transition of workers from below-subsistence agriculture into industry and services was also very slow.

It led to a very ow reduction in poverty in that time period.

Why the transition has been very slow?

The transition from the socialist era of industrialisation, after 1991 liberalization, was also very slow. It was because the socialist era produced many intellectuals, who carried the legacy on and did not let the old models die off completely. These intellectuals further produced industrialists and politicians as their followers.


What India’s informal sector needs right now?

Source: Indian Express

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

Relevance:  Formalization of work force, problems faced by informal sector workers

Synopsis: Ignoring problems in the informal sector can be costly as it can lead to job and wage losses, higher inflation and even risk the livelihood of migrant workers.

Context

Informal sector workers suffered far more from the national lockdown in 2020 than their formal sector counterparts, due to the inadequate safety net.

Informal sector scenario in India
  • India’s large informal sector, employs around 80% of the labour force and produces about 50% of GDP.
  • Of the 384 million employed in the informal sector, half work in agriculture, living mostly in rural India, and the other half are in non-agricultural sectors. Of those, about half live in rural India and the remaining in urban areas.
Impact of COVID
  • Formal sector: They make up 20% of the workforce. The salaries of individuals working at large listed firms in the formal sector have held up relatively better, though they are lower than the pre-pandemic trend. Over the longer term, the prospects for this group will depend on the progress of policy reforms and economic growth, which are the leading drivers of real wages.
  • Informal agricultural sector: This sector employs 40% of the workforce. Rural wages have held up well over the pandemic, led by good monsoons, an exemption to the food trade from the various lockdowns, and more recently, higher agricultural exports. Higher government spending in various social welfare schemes has also helped. As this group emerges from the second Covid-19 wave, they may want to consume goods that make them feel more secure, such as two-wheelers and home repair services. Longer-term consumption will depend on agricultural reforms.
  • Informal non-agricultural sector: The prospects for the 40% in the informal non-agricultural sector is the most worrying. These workers are most vulnerable, as they have suffered the maximum impact of the economic disruption that the pandemic has unleashed.
    • One half of this group lives in rural India. They have not done as well as their farming counterparts. Most of them involved in construction, trade and manufacturing have seen wage growth fall. The sharp rise in demand for rural unemployment benefits is an indicator of the disruption faced.
    • The other half lives in urban India and is employed across the trade, hotels, transport, manufacturing and construction sectors. This group has been at the receiving end of formalization. Several surveys over this time also show a rise in urban unemployment and self-employment, with this category seeing the highest earnings loss.
What does this mean for economic growth?

Formalization can be a double-edged sword. While traditionally associated with efficiency gains, it also comes at the cost of putting small informal firms out of business, and the disruption in the informal sector. Hence, the formalization that leads to deep distress in the informal sector, may not be sustainable.

By contrast, formalization that happens on the back of policy changes that help small and informal firms grow over time into medium or larger formal sector firms is more sustainable.

Suggestions
  1. What is, needed now is protection for informal sector workers via social welfare schemes, such as rural MGNREGA scheme. This will ensure that the disruption they are facing doesn’t lead to a permanent fall in demand.
  2. India doesn’t have an equivalent urban social welfare scheme. Hence, there is a need for setting up a more permanent direct urban social welfare structure.
  3. In the meantime, steps to promote reforms that are needed to help small businesses grow are critical. For example, lowering the regulatory burden associated with growing firms.

Our Procrustean policy on airfares is pointless

Source: Livemint

Syllabus: GS3 – Effects of Liberalization on the Economy

Relevance: Issues related with Aviation industry

Synopsis: Heavy regulation on Aviation sector impact its efficiency and are much too arbitrary.

Background
  • The aviation business has always been one of India’s most heavily regulated. The covid pandemic, has left it even more so.
  • After lockdown relaxations, regular flights resumed in late-May 2020 with a number of rules on flying capacity, fares and certifications.
  • Many pre-1991 restrictive tools such as quantitative restrictions and price controls were imposed by the centre.
  • For instance, carriers could operate only a third of their flight capacity; and price caps had to be imposed to balance the demand.
  • Last week, the Centre revised rules again. Airlines can now fly at 72.5% of their strength and sell seats within price bands hiked in one go by 11-13%, about twice our annual rate of inflation.
  • The ministry raised the minimum charge for a seat on a flight up to 40 minutes to ₹2,900 and the top rate to ₹8,800.
  • Barring the odd exception, the private carriers have not complained, perhaps content with this central plan.

But it is time to resist such intervention. Aviation can be an ideal free market.

Need for regulation
  • The use of common facilities like airports and public resources like airspace makes regulation necessary. we are left with too few carriers for competitive prices to prevail.

Still, these conditions do not justify price distortions that cause inefficiency.

Moderate regulation
  • Airlines are in the business of perishables, as unsold seats can’t be sold once a flight takes off. We have a mix of emergency flyers and bargain hunters. For optimal flight realization, must-fly passengers should pay premium fares to subsidize others while saleable seats must not perish, even if they go ultra-cheap.

As every carrier has its own calculations, a one-size-fits-all scale can’t be fair to all players. Fairness calls for pricing freedom.


Govt announces incentive for mills exporting sugar, diverting it to ethanol

Source: PIB

Syllabus: GS 3 – Transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints

Introduction

The Government of India is taking proactive measures to boost the export of surplus sugar & diversion of sugar to ethanol. The move is to ensure timely payment of cane dues of sugarcane farmers and to boost the agricultural economy.

Measures taken by Government for Sugar Industry:

  1. India is the world’s second-largest sugar-producing country. It had to offer export subsidies in the past two years to reduce surplus stocks and help cash-starved sugar mills clear cane payment to growers.
  2. However, the global sugar prices have increased substantially in the past one month, and there is a huge demand for Indian raw sugar.
  3. Accordingly, the Government has asked domestic sugar mills to export sugar and sign forward contracts with the importers to take advantage of high international prices of sugar.
    • A forward contract is a customized contract between two parties to buy or sell an asset at a specified price on a future date.
  4. Moreover, the Government has announced that sugar mills that export sugar and divert sugar to ethanol will also be given incentives in the form of an additional monthly domestic quota for sale in the domestic market.
    • Currently, the government fixes a monthly quota for the sale of sugar in the domestic market. On an average, about 21 lakh tonne quota is fixed for a monthly sale for mills.

Benefits of Export of Sugar:

  1. Export of sugar would not only help in improving the liquidity of sugar mills but also enable them to make timely payments of cane dues of farmers.
  2. It would also stabilize the price of sugar in the domestic market, which will, in turn, improve the revenue realization of sugar mills and would address the problem of surplus sugar.

Benefits of Diversion of Sugar to Ethanol: 

  1. Dependence on imported fossil fuel will decrease
  2. It will reduce air pollution
  3. It will also boost the agricultural economy.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Data science and digital coding could soon be the new English

Source: Livemint

What is the news?

Last year, World Economic Forum (WEF) came out with its report titled – The Future of Jobs.

Significance

The report tries to answer this question – will Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology take over our jobs?

Findings
  • Double-disruption: Automation, in tandem with the COVID-19 recession, is creating a ‘double-disruption’ scenario for workers. While some businesses surveyed indicated that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, some have plans to expand their workforce. Some businesses also plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialized work.
  • By 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal. In 2020, humans did 2/3rd of work and machines the rest; just five years hence, the human-machine split will be nearly equal.
  • Job creation is slowing while job destruction accelerates. 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms. So, humans still have an edge, although a narrow one. But the pace of job destruction is more than that of creation. So we’ll see more jobs lost before new jobs appear.
  • The pace of technology adoption is expected to continue and may accelerate in some areas. The adoption of cloud computing, big data and e-commerce remain high priorities for business leaders.
Future scenario

Impact on jobs

  • Jobs which will vanish: High optimization and low compassion jobs (like telesales, customer support and dish-washing) will be the first to go. Also, data entry, administrative, door-to-door sales jobs will also vanish.
  • Jobs which will vanish, but after a long time: High compassion roles like those of CEOs, Merger & Acquisition experts and teachers will be last.
  • Jobs which always be there: The jobs which will always be there for humans will require communication skills, empathy, compassion, trust, creativity and reasoning.

Tech jobs will dominate

  • Future will be dominated by technology jobs like—data scientists, AI and machine learning specialists and digital transformation experts.
  • As technology enters into our lives, jobs that enable humans to manage it will gain dominance.
Impact on India

In India, for generations, knowledge of English was the passport for the best jobs. Soon, data science and digital coding could become the new English.


Explained: Ozone pact in climate fight

Source: Indian Express

What is the news?

India recently ratified the Kigali Agreement to the Montreal Protocol after 5 years of negotiation. It is expected to help energize collective global effort to address global warming as well as climate change.

Background:
  • In 1989 Montreal Protocol was signed to protect the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere.
  • It aimed at removal of a set of chemicals, mainly the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were extensively used in air conditioning system and found to be damaging the ozone layer
  • The Montreal Protocol mandated the complete phase-out of CFCs and other ozone depleting substances (ODS)
  • CFCs were gradually replaced, first by hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) and eventually by hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which have minimal impact on the ozone layer
  • Now the Kigali Amendment, negotiated in 2016 is aiming at gradual phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
Must Read: Cabinet approves ratification of Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol
About HFCs
  • HFCs are known to be much worse than carbon dioxide in causing global warming. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the average global warming potential of HFCs is about 2,500 times that of carbon dioxide.
  • However, HFCs are not harmful to the ozone layer (as they are weak ozone depleting substances) and for this reason they are not controlled substances under the Montreal Protocol.
  • Hence, as a problematic Greenhouse gases they were sought to be removed through climate change instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the 2015 Paris Agreement
  • But the Montreal Protocol has been a far more effective and successful agreement than the climate change instruments, thus it was decided to use the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs.
India’s efforts
  • India played a key role in negotiating the Kigali Amendment and successfully put forth the cause of domestic industry to get an extended timeline for phaseout of HFCs. The alternatives to HFCs are costly, and thus the extended timeline will help domestic industries to make swifter transition
  • It also announced India Cooling Action Plan, 2019.
Must Read: Explained: How the ozone layer hole over Arctic closed

How can  the new rebate scheme help exporters? (On RoDTEP scheme)

Source: Livemint

What is the news?

Recently, the Commerce Ministry released details of new scheme RoDTEP scheme to help exporters to stay competitive and increase exports at a time when there is an increase in demand from developed economies.

Background
How does the new scheme work?
  • The refund for the taxes paid by exporters under the scheme will be credited to an exporter’s ledger account held with customs.
  • This refunded amount can be used by exporters to pay basic custom duties on imported goods.
  • These credits can also be transferred to other importers.
  • A monitoring and audit mechanism has been put in place to physically verify the records.
Opinion of the exporters
  • Issues with low rates– Exporters are unsatisfied on the amount of relief offered and argue that the low rates under the scheme will have little benefits.
  • Issues with exemption– Exporters in sector like engineering and electronics, which use iron and steel as inputs, are unhappy because they are unable to claim the benefits for their inputs since iron and steel has been exempted from the scheme.

SC: Arrest shouldn’t be done as routine

Source: Times of India

What is the news?

According to Supreme Court, arbitrary arrest should not be done when the accused is cooperating in the probe and there is no reason to believe that s/he will abscond or influence the investigation.

Context

The court passed the order on a plea of an accused seeking anticipatory bail as an arrest memo was issued against him after a trial court in UP. The trial court took a view that unless the person was taken into custody, the chargesheet would not be taken on record in view of the Section 170 of the CrPC.

What did the SC say?
  • On section 170 CrPC: The Court argued that section 170 of the CrPC does not impose an obligation on the officer-in-charge to arrest each and every accused at the time of filing of chargesheet. The word “custody” under section 170 of the CrPC does not mean police or judicial custody, but it only means presentation of the accused before the court while filing of chargesheet.
  • Supreme court argued that despite comprehensive guidelines issued in 1994, routine arrest are being made and even lower courts are not adhering to such guidelines in non-bailable and cognizable offences.
  • When a person should be arrested? Arrest should be done only when custodial investigation becomes necessary or if the crime is of heinous nature, if there is possibility of influencing the witnesses or accused may abscond.
  • Arrest should not be made only because it is lawful and allowed under the law, because it causes incalculable harm to a person’s reputation and self-esteem.
  • There is need for distinction between the existence of power to arrest and the justification for its exercise.

DRDO develops Advanced Chaff Technology for Indian Air Force

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an Advanced Chaff Technology to safeguard fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) against hostile radar threats. 

What is Advanced Chaff Technology?
  1. Chaff is an electronic countermeasure technology. It is used by militaries worldwide to protect their assets like naval vessels and aircraft from radar and radio frequency(RF) guiding mechanisms of the enemy missile.
  2. A very little quantity of chaff material deployed in the air acts as a decoy.
  3. The chaff deployed in the air reflects multiple targets for the missile guidance systems, thus misleading the enemy radars or deflecting adversary missiles.
Who has developed this technology?
  1. The advanced chaff technology has been developed by DRDO units Defence Laboratory Jodhpur and High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL).
Difference between Chaff and Flares:
  1. Chaff and Flares are both used as defensive countermeasures to confuse the radar from detecting a vessel or deflect the missiles from the target.
  2. But there is a major difference between the two. While flares, when fired, generate a strong infrared source to attract heat-seeking missiles, chaff is used to misguide radar-tracking weapons.
  3. Chaff is composed of many small aluminium or zinc coated fibres. It will be stored on-board the aircraft as cartridges.

How transparent are India’s pollution control boards?

Source: Down To Earth

What is the News?

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has released the report titled ‘Transparency Index — Rating of Pollution Control Boards on Public Disclosure’.

About CSE Transparency Index:
  1. The index assessed the data disclosure performance of 29 state pollution control boards and six pollution control committees from across the country.
  2. The study has evaluated the information shared by SPCBs/PCCs during the last four to five years (2016-21) and uses 25 indicators that provide a broader assessment of the type and amount of information shared. 
  3. A few key indicators used in the study include the availability of information on public hearings, non-attainment cities among others. 
Key Findings of the Transparency Index:
  1. Data Disclosure: Most of the State Pollution Control Boards(SPCBs) and Pollution Control Committees(PCCs) are non-transparent when it comes to sharing information with the public. Out of 29 boards, only 17 boards and committees scored 50% or above.
    • The pollution control boards of Odisha and Telangana were the top performers and had scored 67% in transparency.
  2. Limited data on current pollution levels: Data indicating that the current pollution levels – air pollutants, waste etc – and the basic indicators of environmental health are missing. Most boards display inadequate data, indicating no trends.
  3. Information on the compliance status of industries: One of the serious drawbacks found during the review of annual reports is the lack of information on the compliance status of industries under various acts and rules. 
  4. The index also mentions serious non-transparency regarding the information on public hearings, Board meetings also.
  5. Annual Reports: No initiative has been taken by 11 SPCBs and PCCs of the following states and Union territories in sharing their annual reports
Recommendations of the Transparency Index:
  1. There should be a uniform format for presenting annual reports and sharing information on websites. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) should come up with a website format for the SPCBs / PCCs and guidelines for framing annual reports
  2. CPCB should come up with a website format for all SPCBs / PCCs for uploading information about the compliance history of industries at least for the grossly polluting. 
  3. All SPCBs must share Public hearing information online.
  4. Information related to waste management should be made available on the websites of the pollution control bodies.

Government of India developed robust mechanism for Online Trading of Energy Saving Certificates

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Ministry of Power issued more than 57 lacs Energy Saving Certificates to 349 industrial units because they saved more energy than the targets. These units will be able to trade certificates through Power Exchange Portal to those units that could not achieve their targets.

About Perform, Achieve and Trade(PAT) Scheme:
  1. Launched by: Ministry of Power
  2. Aim: PAT is a market-based compliance mechanism that aims to accelerate improvements in energy efficiency in energy-intensive industries.
  3. Nodal Agency: It is a flagship programme of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).
Key Features of the Scheme:
  1. The scheme seeks to enhance cost-effectiveness through certification of excess energy savings in energy-intensive industries.
  2. Under the scheme, an Energy Audit is done to verify the baseline data (current level of efficiency) and thereafter energy saving targets are given. 
  3. Energy Saving Certificates (ESCerts) are issued to those plants that have achieved excess energy savings over their targets. 
  4. Units that are unable to meet the targets either through their own actions or through the purchase of ESCerts are liable to financial penalty under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
Significance of the Scheme:
  1. The scheme has led to the total energy savings of more than 14 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) which has resulted in mitigation of about 66 million tonnes of CO2 emission.

An ancient Dravidian language link with the Indus Valley civilisation

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

A new research paper published in the journal ‘Nature’ has provided some interesting new insight into the linguistic culture of the Indus Valley Civilization.

About Indus Valley Civilization:
  1. Indus Valley civilization is the oldest urban civilization discovered to date. It flourished in the basins of the Indus River spreading across large parts of modern Pakistan, northwest and western India, and Afghanistan. 
  2. The civilisation is noted for its urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, large and new techniques in handicraft.
  3. Moreover, the archaeological sites of the civilization have always been a topic of interest for the scholar since its discovery in 1926.
  4. However, the language that the people spoke is yet to be deciphered.
What does the research paper have found?
  1. The research paper has taken clues from the few words shared between the Indus Valley people and the cultures they came in contact with, such as the Persian Gulf as well as Mesopotamia,
  2. Based on this evidence found, it has been said that Ancestral Dravidian languages were possibly spoken by a significant population in the Indus Valley civilization.
What is the evidence the researchers have found?
  1. The researchers have analyzed linguistic, and historical evidence to learn how some words in ancient Persian records match with proto-Dravidian language. 
  2. For example, words used for elephant -pri, pru -and for ivory -pirus in the ancient Persian records were originally derived from ‘plu’, a proto-Dravidian term for the mammal.
  3. Similarly, several Indic words refer to the ‘Salvadora persica’ as pilu.
    • Salvadora Persica is better known as the toothbrush tree in the western world and as ‘Miswak’ in Arabic-speaking countries, since its branches are used as natural toothbrushes).
    • This suggests that just like the elephant word- pilu, the name used for the tree too is rooted in the proto-Dravidian word for tooth.

Why RBI disagrees with market perception on policy normalization?

Source: Business Standard

What is the news?

RBI’s decision to conduct variable reverse repo (VRRR) auctions should not be considered as a reversal of the accommodative policy stance.

Background
  • Recently, RBI while announcing the review of the monetary policy, said the central bank has decided to conduct fortnightly VRRR auctions.
  • However, RBI Governor categorically stated that “these enhanced VRRR auctions should not be misread as a reversal of the accommodative policy stance”.
  • But most market participants interpreted liquidity absorption through the VRRR as an indication that the RBI has started to reverse its ultra-loose monetary policy.

Note: Please go through the basics of Repo and Reverse Repo at this link.

Rationale behind VRRR

Temporary liquidity absorption

The 14-day variable repo/reverse repo auction was categorized as instruments to manage short term or transient liquidity. When the tenor of VRRR is more than 14 days, the objective is to manage durable liquidity.

  • Hence, by announcing a 14-day variable repo rate auction, the message was clear from the central bank. They do not want to disturb the durable liquidity; it is the temporary liquidity surplus that they want to absorb. One of the reasons behind this temporary surplus is lack of government spending.

Aligning the overnight rates to the repo rate

One more objective behind announcing this particular measure was also to align the overnight rates to the repo rate. Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March 2020, the overnight rates are actually around the reverse repo rate. This decision to conduct VRRR auction will push up short term rates towards repo rate


Notification for Electronic Monitoring and Enforcement of Road Safety

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issued notification for ‘Electronic Monitoring and Enforcement of Road Safety.

What are Electronic Enforcement devices used for?
  1. Electronic Enforcement devices are devices used by the authorities to monitor traffic movements and also to issue challan against offences.
What do the rules say on the use of Electronic Enforcement devices?
  1. The rules specify the detailed provisions for the placement of electronic enforcement devices.
  2. According to the rules, state governments shall ensure that electronic enforcement devices are placed at the following locations.
    1. High-risk and high-density corridors on the National Highways and state highways 
    2. At critical junctions at least in major cities with more than one million population 
    3. Also in 132 cities specified by the ministry.
  3. Moreover,  all challans issued under Rule 167 shall be accompanied by information like clear photographic evidence highlighting the offence.

Community policing drive inaugurated

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

Delhi Police Commissioner has inaugurated a community policing programme ‘Ummeed’ in the North-East district of Delhi.

About Ummeed Initiative:
  • Ummeed is a community policing programme that aims to promote unity and mutual trust between communities so that everyone can live peacefully.
What is Community Policing?
  1. Community policing is a policing in active consultation, cooperation and partnership with the community at large. 
  2. Community policing requires the police to work with the community for prevention and detection of crime, maintenance of public order, and resolving local conflicts. It will provide for a better quality of life and a sense of security.
Examples of Community Policing in India:
  1. Janamaithri Suraksha in Kerala: It was introduced in 2008 to facilitate greater accessibility and closer interaction between police and the local community. 
  2. Meira Paibi (Torch-bearers) in Assam: The women of the Manipuri Basti in Guwahati help with improving the law and order problem in their area, by tackling drug abuse among the youth. They light their torches and go around the basti guarding the entry and exit points, to prevent the youth of the area from going out after sunset.
  3. Various other community policing models are: 
    1. Rajasthan through ‘Joint Patrolling Committees’
    2. Tamil Nadu through ‘Friends of Police’
    3. West Bengal through the ‘Community Policing Project’
    4. Andhra Pradesh through ‘Maithri 
    5. Maharashtra through ‘Mohalla Committees’.
Benefits of Community Policing:
  1. Residents have a more favourable view of their local police department.
  2. Improved trust between law enforcement and residents.
  3. More accurate information from residents regarding criminal activity in their community.
  4. A better understanding of the needs of citizens and their expectations of the police.

Government proposes amendment to Electricity (Late Payment Surcharge) Rules

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Ministry of Power has released the draft Electricity (Late Payment Surcharge) Amendment Rules, 2021.

Purpose of the Amendment:
  • The Rules seek to amend the norms for facilitating electricity generators to sell power to third parties. This can help reduce fixed costs and cut retail tariffs for electricity consumers.
Key Provisions of the rules:

Late Fee Payment:

  1. If a distribution licensee has any payment, including late payment surcharge, outstanding after the expiry of seven months from the due date as prescribed in the PPA (power purchase agreement).
  2. Then the generating company may sell power to any consumer or any other licensee or power exchanges for the period of such default.
Payment Bill:
  1. The payment shall be made by the distribution licensee first against the oldest procurement of power and then to the second-oldest procurement and so on. 
  2. This will ensure that payment against a procurement is not made unless and until all procurement older than that has been paid for.
Time Tagged:
  1. All the bills payable by a distribution licensee to a generating company or a trading licensee for power procured from it or to a transmission licensee shall be time-tagged with respect to the prescribed date of payment specified in the PPA.

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