9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – August 23rd, 2022

Dear Friends,

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

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

Current Affairs Compilations for UPSC IAS Prelims 2022

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Anganwadi system: Not centres of learning yet

Source: The post is based on the article “Not centres of learning yet” published in The Hindu on 23rd August 2022.

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

Relevance: To understand the issues associated with the Anganwadi system.

News: The Anganwadi system, part of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), at present serves over 30 million children in the age group of 3-6 in 1.3 million centres across the country.

What are the challenges faced by the Anganwadi system?

The ICDS scheme is designed to support all children under six with their health, nutrition, and education needs. Over 70% of children are enrolled in Anganwadis at present. But the centres face low attendance because parents do not perceive Anganwadi centres as centres of learning. This is because,

Neglect the role of parents: In ICDS reports parents are addressed as “beneficiaries.” The parents look for learning English (speaking and writing) and math skills when they enrol and send their children to a learning centre. But this is absent in anganwadis.

Read more: Anganwadis model has enormous potential, however, it is struggling to deliver quality Early Childhood Education (ECE)
Why does the child not learn Maths and English in the Anganwadi system?

According to experts, the ideal preschool has a skilled facilitator who ensures that children spend most of their time in free and guided play. It includes exploring and manipulating their physical environments to develop early language, early numeracy, socio-emotional, executive function, and motor skills.

The early childhood care & education (ECCE) curricula of various states also focus on local language-driven, and play-based pedagogy recommended by leading educators in India for this age group.

The Anganwadis in many States is staffed by Anganwadi workers with roots in play-based pedagogy. Thus attending the Anganwadi for the prescribed two hours a day helps children build critical skills by playing with inexpensive, locally made, indestructible toys in a group setting.

Read more: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE): Anganwadis should provide early childhood care and education
What do the private preschools teach as ECCE?

As the parents look for learning English and math skills they send their children to private preschools. Here the children will sit in neat rows, practising joyless, rote-based learning and memorisation of letters and numbers to the exclusion of all else.

Over 7 million children in India attend these age-inappropriate private preschools that focus on rote learning from the earliest ages.

Read more: Anganwadi centres are in urgent need of an overhaul
What should be done to promote the Anganwadi system?

Imparting language and maths in a child-friendly way: The Anganwadi system must adopt a middle ground. Anganwadi centres can follow regular daily schedules that balance time spent on self-directed free play and teacher-led activities focused on developing cognitive, literacy and numeracy skills.

This can be done by a) Exposing children to the English language at an appropriate age, b) Giving children a pencil to scribble for a few minutes a day, of course without forcing them to write anything, c) Imparting the fun concepts of maths such as estimation, comparison, sorting, and seriation

Gaining trust from parents: a) Anganwadi centres can conduct regular Shiksha Choupals (parent-teacher meetings) and share regular messages to showcase the learning happening in the Anganwadi to the parent community.

b) Mass campaigns such as “School Chalen Hum” and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan change minds and behaviours with sustained action. A similar mass campaign for creating awareness of age-appropriate ECCE that brings parents in as stakeholders is crucial.

India needs to embrace the power of ‘abhibhavaak-bhagidari’ (participation of parents) to activate Anganwadi 2.0.


A Centre-State skew further widened

Source: The post is based on the article “A Centre-State skew further widened” published in The Hindu on 23rd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.

Relevance: To understand the issues of the financial health of States and Centre.

News: In a NITI Aayog meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, various Chief Ministers expressed their concern about dwindling State revenues. They sought a higher share in the divisible pool of taxes and an extension of GST compensation.

What is the reason for the poor financial health of States’?

a) Slowdown in growth in 2019-20, b) Implementation of the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana, c) Providing farm loan waivers, d) Heightened health and other expenses during the pandemic, and e) Revenue shortfall: Due to the reduction in gross tax revenues of states during the pandemic and the States’ share of the Union government’s taxes recorded a steep fall of 15% and 9% in FY20 and FY21, respectively.

About the financial health of the Centre
Centre-State Revenue
Source: The Hindu

The Union government’s share continued to rise while the state government face financial issues. This is because, a) Even though the Finance Commission raised the States’ share in Central taxes, it didn’t translate into an increase in the actual share devolved as the divisible pool shrank, b) The Centre increased its revenue by levying cesses and surcharges which are not shareable with the States. For instance, their contribution raised from 10.4% in FY12 to 20% by FY21. This has also shrunk the divisible pool of resources.

About the Centre’s revenue sharing with states and the role of the Finance Commission
Centre-State revenue sharing
Source: The Hindu

The Constitution grants the Union government more revenue-raising powers while the States are tasked to undertake most of the development and welfare-related responsibilities.

According to the 15th Finance Commission’s report, in FY19, the Union government raised 62.7% of the total resources raised by the Union government and States, while States had borne 62.4% of the aggregate expenditure.

The role of FC to correct the imbalance: The allocation of taxation powers and expenditure responsibilities to centre results in an imbalance. the Constitution provides for sharing of the Union government’s revenue with the States. Successive Finance Commissions (FC) have attempted to reduce the imbalance by increasing the States’ share in Central taxes.

What is the reason for the persistence of imbalance?

Though the 14th and 15th FC raised the share of States in gross taxes to over 40%, the actual share never reached the mandated level. At present, the actual devolution has widened to more than 11 percentage points, the highest in at least two decades.

What is the status of Cess and Surcharge according to the CAG report?
Cesses and Surcharges
Source: The Hindu

Various cesses and charges are imposed by the government to raise resources. They are transferred to Reserve Funds to ensure that they are being used for the intended purpose. But according to the CAG report, this has not happened.

For instance, between FY10 and FY20, ₹1.28 lakh crore was collected as a cess on crude oil. However, not a single penny was transferred to the Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB).


New Delhi’s balancing act: We must find our own way to manage the current turbulence in the triangular relationship between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing

Source: The post is based on the article “New Delhi’s balancing act: We must find our own way to manage the current turbulence in the triangular relationship between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing” published in the Indian Express on 23rd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Relevance: To understand the present development of great power rivalry.

News: A Chinese scholar has said that India will be a major beneficiary if the US can contain China in East Asia and the Western Pacific. Some other scholars said that the fight between Russia and Europe weakens both sides and would eventually benefit a rising India.

What will be the impact of the China-Taiwan conflict?

In a deeply integrated world, great power conflict has systemic effects and consequences for everyone. For instance, the Russian war in Ukraine and the Western sanctions in response have roiled global oil markets, disrupted the food supply chains and pushed the global economy into a fresh crisis.

If the current tensions around Taiwan turned into a war, the global economy will sink even further. Taiwan’s geopolitical location, its special place in US-China relations, and its centrality to global manufacturing supply chains will make war in Asia far more consequential than the European one.

Must read: The Great Power Rivalry (China, Russia and the US) and its Impact on India – Explained, pointwise
What are the policies of global governments at present times?

China: China is convinced now that it has the power to redeem its historic territorial claims vis a vis India and other Asian neighbours. Further, the changing Asian balance of power allows China to set the terms of engagement with the US in its own favour.

Russia: It proclaimed an alliance with China without limits.

In Europe, the Russian aggression has compelled Finland and Sweden to join the US-led NATO.

Japan: It has embarked on its own rearmament and is strengthening its alliance with the United States and is eager to build regional coalitions against China.

Read more: Explained: 2 years after Galwan clash, where India-China relations stand today
India’s evolution of China policy

India pursued long a “China-first strategy” despite persistent evidence that Delhi’s contradictions with Beijing are structural and not amenable to easy resolution. For instance, a) At a time when China was isolated in Asia and the world in the 1950s and 1960s, India campaigned with the rest of the world to engage with China, b) India insisted that China is the rightful owner of a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.

But China’s Galwan clash tampered with the three decades of peace and tranquillity on the disputed frontier and brought a change in India’s China policy.

Read more: Global challenges can be tackled in spite of great power rivalry
How can India benefit from the China-Taiwan conflict, and what are the concerns associated?

China’s fight with Taiwan will reduce China’s “attention toward the Indian Ocean. So the experts are of the opinion that India would take this opportunity to strengthen its maritime power and consolidate its advantages in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

Concerns of the expert’s view: a) China’s conflict with the US over Taiwan during the late 1950s was also the period when Sino-Indian tensions over Tibet turned into the 1962 war, b) China now has the political will, economic power, and growing naval capability to pursue a two-ocean strategy.

Read more: Why India Needs to Balance Relations with China, Russia and US?
What should India do in the great power rivalry?

India must find its own way to manage the current turbulence in the triangular relationship between the US, Russia, and China. India should reduce the power gap with China, build the capacity to deter China’s aggressive actions on its land and maritime frontiers, and rebalance the Indo-Pacific.


More women are making a career in science. A lot more needs to be done to ease their journeys

Source: The post is based on the article More women are making a career in science. A lot more needs to be done to ease their journeys published in The Indian Express on 23rd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Social Justice – Women and related issues

Relevance: Women making careers in science.

News: The social sciences and humanities register a larger presence of women researchers. Now, the presence of women has increased appreciably in the sciences as well.

What does the data say?

The data released by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has confirmed a rise in the participation of women in scientific and technological fields over the last two decades.

The percentage of women researchers has increased from 13.9 in 2015 to 18.7 in 2018.

Women today occupy key research and leadership positions in institutions such as ISRO, DRDO, etc.

What are the factors behind the higher enrollment of women in science?

First, the efforts of the individual enterprise

Second, the effort of the government through grants on gender diversity and aligning the infrastructure for greater inclusivity.

Third, Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy 2020 focus on meeting its target of 30 percent women at a post-doctoral level by 2030. In pursuance of the policy, DST is implementing GATI, a grading system for institutes. Grading of an institute will be on the basis of enrollment and impetus to the careers of women in its ranks.

What are the challenges to further increase in the participation of women?

First, according to the 2018 Global Gender Gap report, India is ranked 108 out of 149 countries.

Second, 2019 All India Survey on Higher Education shows a significant lag in female participation at doctoral levels.

Third, women scientists often have to shoulder a disproportionate burden of academic housekeeping in comparison to their male counterparts.

How the issues can be solved?

A proper system of mentoring and availability of funds can be set up, especially for those women who want to get back into the workforce after a break.


The New Drugs Bill

Source: The post is based on the article The New Drugs Bill” published in The Business Standard on 22nd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance.

News: The recently unveiled New Drugs, Cosmetics and Medical Devices Bill, 2022, has left many issues unaddressed.

History of laws associated with the AYUSH industry.

1940 – The parliament enacted the Drugs Act in 1940. But the definition of “drugs” in that law excluded Ayurvedic and Unani (Ayush) medicines. It was because standardization of traditional medicine was not possible like modern medicine. Ayush drugs are prepared from plants and herbs with little knowledge of the “active pharmaceutical ingredient”.

1964 – The government brought Ayush drugs within the purview of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940, but without standardization.

1982 – The law was amended to introduce the concept of “patent & proprietary” Ayush drugs, which allowed for the creation of new Ayush medicines using ingredients mentioned in the traditional texts.

Provisions under New Drugs, Cosmetics and Medical Devices Bill, 2022 and issues associated with it.

First, it requires Ayush drugs to meet the “standards of identity, purity, and strength specified in Ayurveda or Siddha, or Sowa- Rigpa or Unani Pharmacopoeia of India”.

Issues: a) Ayush pharmacopeias are exceptionally vague and very different from the rigorous standardization introduced by modern pharmacopeias. b) Most Ayush products in the market are “patent or proprietary” and are not included in the Pharmacopoeia. c) Also, this requirement has existed since 1995 in the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, the drafting committee merely relocated it from the rules to the main law.

Second, it creates a new category called “innovative drug of Ayurveda or Unani”. It does not require Ayush medicines seeking “patent & proprietary”, to undergo the same testing and evaluation in clinical trials as for modern medicine. Instead, AYUSH medicines will be tested in accordance with the guidelines to be laid down by a new body called the “Scientific Research Board” (SRB) which will be staffed by Ayush experts.

Issues: It is not clear why these drugs cannot be approved by the same experts approving modern medicine.

Third, Section 108(a) of the new Bill treats the issue of safety such as the presence of heavy metals in Ayurvedic drugs in a light manner. It has reduced the punishment for this offense to a mere fine of Rs 50,000 despite the dire health consequences.

Issues: Causing harm to patients due to heavy metal contamination deserves to be punished with jail time and not a mere fine.

GS Paper 3


Factoring in the risk-Development of mountain areas over the years has upset the ecological balance

Source: The post is based on the article “Factoring in the risk-Development of mountain areas over the years has upset the ecological balance” published in The Hindu on 23rd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3: Disasters and disaster management.

Relevance: To understand the impacts of development activities in hilly areas.

News: At least 25 people were killed over the weekend as torrential rains triggered flash floods and landslips in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Several arterial roads were blocked by debris, as currents washed away bridges and vehicles. This highlights the challenges associated with the development activities in hilly areas.

About the present trend of the Indian monsoon and its impacts in hilly areas

The monsoon compresses around 75% of India’s annual rainfall into four months and unevenly waters the country’s highly diverse terrain. Monsoon rain patterns are being disrupted leading to a rise in cloudburst-like events as well as a rise in the frequency of high-energy cyclones and droughts.

For instance, monsoon rainfall over India is 8% more than what is usual for this time of the year. This creates a better situation for agriculture in some regions. But it also means floods and concentrated downpours with devastating consequences. Mountain areas are far more vulnerable and bear a disproportionate impact of climate change.

Read more: Explained: What are cloudburst incidents and are they rising across India?
Why do the governments ignore the impact of development activities in hilly areas?

A recent report released by the Himachal Pradesh government highlighted that mountain areas are highly vulnerable to natural disasters. The development in those areas over the years has compounded the problem by upsetting the ecological balance of various physical processes.

The inherent risks of infrastructure development in hills and unstable terrain are often neglected by authorities in the name of balancing the demands of the people for better infrastructure and services.

What are the challenges in providing early warning forecasts in hilly areas?

The government has improved the early warning forecasts. The India Meteorological Department now provides fortnightly, weekly and even three-hourly weather forecasts to districts. Within these are integrated warnings about flash floods and lightning.

Challenges in early warning forecasts: These are a) Not always accurate, b) Not provided early enough for authorities to prepare themselves and c) The success of predicting cyclones has not been observed for floods.

What should be done to regulate development activities in hilly areas?

a) The increased risk and cost to such projects and infrastructure should be factored in when they are tendered out by the government, and b) The government must adhere to the strict scientific advice regarding development.


Pill pushers: Dolo PIL another reminder of dubious doctor-pharma relationships. Generics can minimise the problem

Source: The post is based on the article “Pill pushers: Dolo PIL another reminder of dubious doctor-pharma relationships. Generics can minimise the problem” published in The Times of India on 23rd August 2022.

Syllabus:  GS 3 – Changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

Relevance: About the pill-pushing activity of pharma firms.

News: The Federation of Medical & Sales Representatives Association of India (FMRAI) has moved to the court with public interest litigation (PIL), accusing the marketer of Dolo-650 of bribing doctors with “freebies” worth ₹1,000 crores to recommend the tablet. This has again put the doctor-pharmaceutical firm relationship under scrutiny.

Must read: Pharma oversell clearly needs to be reined back
Why pill-pushing is often ignored by patients?

a) Demand for medicine is often urgent considering the medical conditions of the patient. For example, the opioid crisis in the US was a particularly shocking demonstration of this, b) There’s a huge information asymmetry between doctor and patient.

This is clearly evident by India’s out-of-pocket medical expenditure. India’s OOP medical expenditure is 55% of citizens’ total spend, as compared to the global average of 18%.

Note: In the opioid crisis, pain-management pills were prescribed by doctors across the US, their addictive and harmful after-effects hidden or ignored. It took years for the crisis to be officially acknowledged. Litigation and finally bankruptcy filings by drug manufacturers followed.

How government is regulating pill-pushing?

1) Since 2015, for pharma firms, there’s a voluntary code of marketing practices in place, 2) The Indian Medical Council regulates the conduct of doctors through powers flowing from statutory legislation.

In both these regulations, the misconduct is expected to be addressed within the fraternity.

Read more: The Draft Drugs, Medical Devices and Cosmetics Bill, 2022: Provisions and Concerns – Explained, pointwise
How does the government regulate pill-pushing?

The government should aim to neutralise doctor-pharma “deals” by 1) Effectively using the government’s existing programme of bulk purchases and sales of generic drugs. Bulk buying provides a price discount of 50-90% over branded medicines, 2) Expanding government distribution program and utilising the existing network of private chemists to improve its effectiveness, 3) Creating awareness about palliatives and the availability of generics can substantially reduce the scope of pill-pushing.

Must read: Drug Regulations in India – Explained, pointwise

Death by pothole: There’s a way to change that

Source: The post is based on the article Death by pothole: There’s a way to change that” published in The Times of India on 23rd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure

Relevance: Death caused by potholes.

News: As per reports, India ranks the worst in road deaths worldwide. Among these deaths, death by potholes is most shocking in India.

Last week, Kerala high court directed district collectors to proactively avert these “pothole deaths”, as the head of the local disaster management authority.

What is the present situation?

India ranks the worst in road deaths worldwide. Government data put the 2016-20 annual average of pothole deaths at 2,300.

The government data is an underestimation, as the reason behind many such deaths are labeled as ‘death due to negligence’. In these cases, the responsibility for deaths is put on the victims/drivers, instead of engineers or contractors.

The phrase pothole death is unique to India.

What causes these deaths?

Other than Kerala High Court, as mentioned above, Bombay HC as well constituted a special bench on the issue.

Similarly, Karnataka HC warned Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike of the contempt case against it.

All these cases prove the negligence of the authorities and give the culprits orders again and again.

What steps can be taken further to stop pothole accidents?

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019 has the provision of a fine up to Rs 1 Lakh to the designated authority, contractor, consultant, or concessionaire for low-grade work that leads to road accidents.

The monetary penalty under the Act 2019 for pothole deaths should be increased.

The use of advanced polymer techniques and rapid-setting concrete in the roads will assure pothole-free roads.


How should public sector banks be privatised?

Source: The post is based on the article How should public sector banks be privatized? published in The Indian Express on 22nd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy

News: In the Union Budget 2021-22, the government announced its decision to privatize two public sector banks.

What were the reasons behind Privatization?

India’s public sector banks have struggled with high levels of non-performing assets (NPAs). High levels of NPAs erode a bank’s profitability.

This has led RBI to put banks under Prompt Corrective Action (or PCA) and forced them to improve their financial performance metrics before being allowed to resume normal banking activities.

Due to the rise in NPAs, PSBs struggled to finance India’s growth needs.

The government even had to recapitalize many PSBs to ensure that they stayed in business. This has drawn criticism of wasting taxpayers’ money.

What are the arguments in favour of the privatization of PSBs?

A recent paper by Poonam Gupta of NCAER and Arvind Panagariya of Columbia University, titled “Privatization of Public Sector Banks in India Why, How and Ho Far?”, argues that “the government should move as rapidly as politically feasible”.

According to the paper published, all PSBs should be privatized.

The paper has taken different metrics to compare Pvt. banks and PSBs. They are:

Gross non-performing assets: The study shows that there has been an increase in the gross non-performing assets of PSBs from 2014-15.

Extending loans: Pvt. banks had a greater contribution towards extending loans.

Deposits growth: Pvt. banks had a higher percentage of contribution to getting deposits from savers.

Number of branches and Employment generation: The report argues that the private banks added more branches and created new jobs while the public sector banks saw declines on both counts.

Fraud Amount: The data reveals that PSBs have higher fraud than Pvt. Banks.

Market capitalization: The Market capitalization of Pvt. Banks is higher than PSBs.

Arguments against privatization

In a paper titled “Privatisation of Public Sector Banks: An Alternate Perspective”, members of RBI’s Banking Research Division warn against the perspective of viewing privatization as a solution to all problems.

Following are the arguments given against the privatization of the banks in the report:

While the private banks dominate the metropolitan area it is the public sector banks that operate branches in rural India.

PSBs provide more ATMs in rural areas than PVBs.

PSBs are more efficient in bringing financial inclusions, and it can be seen through beneficiaries of the Jan Dhan Yojana.

PSBs are more efficient than PVBs in providing agricultural advances and PSL advances.

PSBs have a greater share in the lending for infrastructure finances, and this lending plays an important role in the country’s development and growth.

RBI researchers found that PSBs are also more effective in monetary policy transmission, aiding the countercyclical monetary policy actions to gain success.


India’s clean energy transition plays to the country’s strengths

Syllabus: GS Paper 3, energy and climate change

News: While India’s current commitments are a promising start, they won’t be enough to avert the worst effects of climate change.

India has committed to 500 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030.

What more is required over and above India’s present climate commitments?

More financing from developed countries.

There is a need for better batteries to electrify the economy.

Direct air capture technologies are prohibitively expensive. They must be made a lot cheaper to deploy at scale.

What are the benefits of emissions cut to India?

30% emissions cut by 2030 can create 39 million new jobs, as per report from Energy Innovation.

It can move the country from bearing the high price volatility of oil and natural gas to the zero price volatility of renewable sources.

India will benefit from the downward cost curve of advancing technologies in the field of clean energy.

Al Gore’s Climate Trace, uses satellite technology to report on emissions around the globe. World including India will need all these technologies to tackle climate change.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Lancet warns about ‘Tomato Flu’ in India among children

Source: The post is based on the article “Lancet warns about ‘Tomato Flu’ in India among children” published in The Hindu on 23rd August 2022.

What is the News?

Lancet has sounded an alarm over the emergence of a new non-life-threatening virus called tomato flu among children below five years of age.

Note: Tomato Flu in India was first identified in the Kollam district of Kerala.

What is Tomato Flu?

Tomato Flu is a viral disease. It is caused by Coxsackie virus A 16. It belongs to Enterovirus family. 

Note: Hand-foot-and-mouth-disease(HFMD) is a frequent febrile rash illness of childhood caused by enteroviruses(EV).

Named After: The flu was named on the basis of the eruption of red blisters giving a resemblance to a tomato.

Symptoms: The primary symptoms observed in children with tomato flu are similar to those of chikungunya, which include high fever, rashes, and intense pain in joints. 

Transmission: Tomato flu is very contagious and children are at increased risk of exposure to tomato flu as viral infections are common in this age group and spread is likely to be through close contact.

Treatment: Tomato flu is similar to chikungunya and dengue as well as hand, foot, and mouth disease. Hence, the treatment is also similar — isolation, rest, plenty of fluids, and a hot water sponge for the relief of irritation and rashes. 


Hunger Stones: Carved in stone: What are these warning signs that Europe’s drought has revealed

Source: The post is based on the article “Carved in stone: What are these warning signs that Europe’s drought has revealed” published in Down To Earth on 18th August 2022.

What is the News?

Europe is suffering from the worst drought in half a millennium. Rivers have dried up so much that ‘hunger stones’ have been revealed and have gone viral on social media.

What are Hunger Stones?
Hunger stones
Source: Down To Earth

Hunger stones or hungersteine in German are a common hydrological marker in central Europe. They date back to the pre-instrumental era.

These stones were embedded into rivers by ancestors when rivers were subdued to severe levels subsequently causing famine and food shortages.

Many of the hunger stones found have unique carvings on them that seek to remind the next generation that if water levels get to this point, food availability will be affected.

One famous carving example is in the Elbe river in Děčín, Czech Republic which says “Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine” (“If you see me, weep”).


Improving rice yield with an additional gene

Source: The post is based on the article “Improving rice yield with an additional gene” published in The Hindu on 20th August 2022.

What is the News?

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences have discovered a way to boost the yield of rice crops by up to 40%. 

What did the Chinese Scientists do to boost the yield of the rice crop?

By giving a Chinese rice variety a second copy of one of its own genes, Chinese scientists have boosted its yield by up to 40%. 

For instance, they inserted an extra copy of one of the genes, known as OsDREB1C, into a rice variety called Nipponbare.

This change allowed the plant to absorb more fertilizer, increase photosynthesis and accelerate flowering. All of this could contribute to larger harvests.

Note: The researchers added the same ‘native’ gene again, and not any foreign one (as in the case of BT cotton or BT soybean). This method is best described as genetic modulation.

Gene modulation refers to the process of temporarily altering gene expression levels without making heritable changes to the underlying cellular DNA. It is not a genetic modification (GM) and neither the result of a transgenic plant, carrying elements from another donor. 

What is the significance of this research for India?

These findings are particularly relevant to India, which must aim to continue its world position in the production of rice and marketing.

India is the world’s largest exporter of rice. It exported 18.75 million metric tons to over 150 countries during the year 2021-22, thereby earning $6.11 billion. Vietnam was the second-largest producer of rice.

With the growing demand in the coming years, strategies like this can be used by India to increase the production and export of rice. 


Explained: Who was Pandurang Khankhoje, Ghadarite revolutionary and a hero of Mexico?

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: Who was Pandurang Khankhoje, Ghadarite revolutionary and a hero of Mexico?” published in Indian Express on 23rd August 2022.

What is the News?

Lok Sabha Speaker will be travelling to Mexico where he will unveil statues of Swami Vivekananda and Maharashtra-born freedom fighter and agriculturalist Pandurang Khankhoje (1883-1967).

Who was Pandurang Khankhoje?

Pandurang Khankhoje(1884 – 1967) was an Indian revolutionary, scholar and agricultural scientist.

He was one of the founding members of the Ghadar Party, established by Indians living abroad in 1914, mostly belonging to Punjab. Its aim was to lead a revolutionary fight against the British in India.

What was the connection between Pandurang Khankhoje and Mexico?

Pandurang Khankhoje decided to go abroad for further training in revolutionary methods and militaristic strategy. He joined the Mount Tamalpais Military Academy in the US.

At the military academy, he met many people from Mexico. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 had led to the overthrow of the dictatorial regime and this inspired Khankhoje.

Along with the Indian workers, militant action was planned by Khankhoje in India, but the outbreak of the First World War halted these plans. He then reached out to Bhikaji Cama in Paris, and met with Vladimir Lenin in Russia among other leaders, seeking support for the Indian cause. 

However, as he was facing possible deportation from Europe and could not go to India, he sought shelter in Mexico.

In Mexico, he was appointed as a professor at the National School of Agriculture. He researched corn, wheat, pulses and rubber, developing frost and drought-resistant varieties and was part of efforts to bring in the Green Revolution in Mexico.


Puros helmet: A breath of fresh air for bikers

Source: The post is based on the article “A breath of fresh air for bikerspublished in PIB on 22nd August 2022.

What is the News?

A Delhi Based Startup has developed a helmet called “Puros”. This helmet can help two-wheeler riders breathe clean air. 

What is Puros?

Puros is an anti-pollution helmet that can help 2-wheeler riders breathe clean air. 

Developed by: Shellios Technolabs with the help of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Features: The helmet has a system set at the back that picks up all particulate matter coming from outside and cleans the air before it reaches the biker.

– It also has a Bluetooth-enabled app that lets the rider know when it requires cleaning.

Significance: This helmet will help the two-wheeler riders who were having prolonged daily exposures and that too, to a double whammy of particulate matter and vehicular emissions in the air that they breathe.


‘Kerala Savari’, India’s first online taxi service as a public option

Source: The post is based on the article “‘Kerala Savari’, India’s first online taxi service as a public option” published in The Hindu on 23rd August 2022.

What is the News?

Kerala has soft launched ‘Kerala Savari’, the country’s first online taxi service owned by a State government.

What is Kerala Savari?

It is an online taxi service launched by the Kerala government.

Aim: To ensure fair and decent service to passengers along with fair remuneration to auto-taxi workers.

What are the main attractions of Kerala Savari?

No Surge Pricing: It ensures safe travel for the public at ‘government approved fares’ without any ‘surge pricing’. 

Safe for women: It is a safe and reliable online service for women, children, and senior citizens. A police clearance certificate is mandatory for drivers joining the scheme apart from the required proper training.

Low Service Charge: It only charges an 8% service charge in addition to the rate set by the government whereas the private cab aggregators charge up to 20 to 30% service charge.

Panic Button: ​​A panic button system has been introduced in the app. This button can be pressed in the event of a car accident or in cases of any other danger.


Purslane: This common weed can offer drought-resistant crops

Source: The post is based on the article “This common weed can offer drought-resistant crops” published in Down To Earth on 8th August 2022.

What is the News?

A study has found that a common weed named “Portulaca oleracea”, commonly known as purslane, offers important clues about creating drought-tolerant crops in a world beset by climate change.

What is Purslane?

Purslane is a succulent plant that grows in many countries because it thrives in poor soil.

It has an extensive distribution extending from North Africa and Southern Europe through the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent to Malaysia and Australasia.

Purslane possesses evolutionary adaptations that allow it to be both highly productive and drought tolerant.

How does Purslane remain drought tolerant according to the study?

Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants use sunlight to synthesize nutrients from carbon dioxide and water.

Over time, different species have independently evolved a range of distinct mechanisms to improve this process.

For example, corn and sugarcane have evolved ‘C4 photosynthesis’, which allows them to remain productive under high temperatures.

Meanwhile, cacti and agaves have evolved ‘CAM photosynthesis’, which allows them to thrive in areas with little water.

The study has found that the purslane plant integrates both these two distinct metabolic pathways namely C4 and CAM to create a novel type of photosynthesis. This allows the weed to endure drought while remaining highly productive.

Significance of the findings: The researchers hope these findings could inspire innovations in modifying corn and other crops to tolerate drought.


India, Iran sign MoU for smooth movement of seafarers between both countries

Source: The post is based on the article India, Iran sign MoU for smooth movement of seafarers between both countriespublished in The Hindu on 23rd August 2022.

What is the News?

India and Iran have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) mutually recognising certificates of competency in unlimited voyages of seafarers from both nations.

What is the significance of this MoU signed between India and Iran?

The MoU has been signed as per the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping for Seafarers(1978).

This agreement will smoothen the movement of seafarers from both countries.

What is the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping(STCW) for Seafarers?

The convention was adopted in 1978 by a conference at the International Maritime Organization(IMO) in London and entered into force in 1984.

The convention was the first to establish minimum basic requirements for training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level.

The Convention prescribes minimum standards relating to training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers which countries are obliged to meet or exceed.

One important feature of the Convention is that it applies to ships of non-party States when visiting ports of States which are Parties to the Convention.

The Manila amendments to the STCW Convention and Code were adopted in 2010 marking a major revision of the STCW Convention and Code.

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Explained: What are flash floods and why they may increase in the next few years

Source: The post is based on the article Explained: What are flash floods and why they may increase in the next few yearspublished in Indian Express on 21st August 2022.

What is the News?

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister has expressed concern over the loss of life and property due to torrential rains and flash floods.

What are Flash Floods?

Excessive or continuous rainfall over a period of days, or during particular seasons can lead to stagnation of water and cause flooding. Flash floods refer to such a situation but occur in a much shorter span of time.

For instance, the US’s meteorological agency, the National Weather Service, says flash floods are caused when rainfall creates flooding in less than 6 hours.

It adds that flash floods can also be caused by factors apart from rainfall, like when water goes beyond the levels of a dam.

Note: In India, flash floods are often associated with cloudbursts – sudden, intense rainfall in a short period of time.

Must read: Explained: What are cloudburst incidents and are they rising across India?
Where do Flash Floods commonly happen?

Flash flooding commonly happens more where rivers are narrow and steep, so they flow more quickly.

They can also occur in urban areas located near small rivers since hard surfaces such as roads and concrete do not allow the water to absorb into the ground.

How common are Flash Floods in India?

India is the worst flood-affected country in the world after Bangladesh and accounts for one-fifth of the global death count due to floods.

Flash floods have been commonly witnessed in cities like Chennai and Mumbai. Depression and cyclonic storms in the coastal areas of Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and others also cause flash floods.

What is the reason for Flash Floods in India?

According to National Disaster Management Authority data, one of the reasons for flood situations occurring so frequently is that nearly 75% of the total Indian rainfall is concentrated in a short monsoon season of four months (June to September). As a result, the rivers witness a heavy discharge during these months.

Note: According to the National Flood Commission, about 40 million hectares of land in the country are liable to floods and an average of 18.6 million hectares of land are affected annually.


 

Let The Land Heal

Source– The post is based on the article “Let the Land Heal” published in The Indian Express on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS3- Agriculture and Environment Relevance– Unsustainable agriculture practices News– The article explains the issues related to excessive use of pesticides. It also suggests measures to reduce their use. What is the issue? There… Continue reading Let The Land Heal

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India-US ties: Depth & nuance

Source– The post is based on the article “India-US ties: Depth & nuance” published in the The Indian Express on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS3- International Relations Relevance– India and US relationship News– The article explains the relationship between India and the USA. How India-US relations have evolved historically? Following the nuclear tests of May… Continue reading India-US ties: Depth & nuance

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5G services to be rolled out today; how will your experience change?

Source: The post is based on an article “5G services to be rolled out today; how will your experience change?” published in The Indian Express on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 Relevance: benefits of 5G News: The Prime Minister of India will launch 5G on 1st October and the sixth edition of India Mobile Congress in New Delhi. What… Continue reading 5G services to be rolled out today; how will your experience change?

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Swachh Bharat 2.0: Moving forward together

Source: The post is based on an article “Swachh Bharat 2.0: Moving forward together” published in The Indian Express on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 Relevance: measures taken to improve sanitation News: The article highlights the importance of private sector in resolving the issue of Sanitation. The concept of sanitation in India has been around since the Indus Valley… Continue reading Swachh Bharat 2.0: Moving forward together

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Letting go of a chance to democratise telecom services

Source– The post is based on the article “Letting go of a chance to democratise telecom services” published in The Hindu on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS2- Indian Polity Relevance– Regulation of telecommunication services in India News-There is a need to resolve the issues with the new Telecommunication Bill, 2022. What are the issues with… Continue reading Letting go of a chance to democratise telecom services

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Vacation pe vacation: No major country has their top court going on long holidays. Neither should Supreme Court

Source: The post is based on an article “Vacation pe vacation: No major country has their top court going on long holidays. Neither should Supreme Court” published in The Times of India on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 – Functioning of Supreme Court Relevance: concerns associated with vacation of courts News: The article discusses the issue of too many… Continue reading Vacation pe vacation: No major country has their top court going on long holidays. Neither should Supreme Court

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No discrimination – ON Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights

Source– The post is based on the article “No discrimination” published in The Hindu on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS1- Social empowerment. GS2- Vulnerable sections Relevance– Abortion rights of women News– The article explains the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights of unmarried women. It also explains the ruling by Delhi High Court on… Continue reading No discrimination – ON Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights

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As India ages, keeping an eye on the elderly

Source: The post is based on an article “As India ages, keeping an eye on the elderly” published in The Hindu on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated Issues News: 1st October is celebrated as International Day for Older Persons by the United Nations. World Population Prospects 2022 report published by the UN Department of… Continue reading As India ages, keeping an eye on the elderly

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Punish vandals: Needed: smart law on property damaged in protests

Source: The post is based on the article “Punish vandals: Needed: smart law on property damaged in protests” published in The Times of India on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.. Relevance: About the damages to public and… Continue reading Punish vandals: Needed: smart law on property damaged in protests

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‘Lichens are a pioneer species which enable all life — conserving them is vital’

Source: The post is based on the article “‘Lichens are a pioneer species which enable all life — conserving them is vital’” published in The Times of India on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation. Relevance: About Lichens. News: At present most conservation work is focused on charismatic species, like tigers… Continue reading ‘Lichens are a pioneer species which enable all life — conserving them is vital’

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