9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – August 24th, 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

An unworthy Chinese example that India ought not to emulate

Source: Live Mint

Syllabus: GS2- Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries

Relevance: Economic policies of India

Synopsis: India shouldn’t become too much restrictive to business by trying to copy recent policy actions of Chinese government.

Background

China’s crackdown on businesses has been going on steadily and continually. Initially, it was felt that the target was Jack Ma because he dared to challenge the system in a speech last October. But soon, it became clear that it was not just about Jack Ma or non-bank companies and the systemic risk they posed to China’s financial stability. The ruling Communist Party was worried about some businessmen becoming too successful, and hence too powerful, and that they might one day challenge the party’s authority.

China’s recent crackdown on large businesses

The communist party ordered Jack Ma to step down from the helm of the affairs of a futuristic business-cum-leadership school that he had set up.

Then came China’s crackdown on ride-hailing app DiDi right after it listed its shares in the US. It was said that Beijing was concerned about the privacy and sovereignty of Chinese data. Overnight, these for-profit businesses were asked to turn themselves into non-profit entities.

The country’s online recreation and entertainment industry was the next target. They were branded ‘moral opium.’

What are the reasons for such actions?
  • Threats from big capital: According to some journalists and experts, China is now against the big capital, especially if it flows into areas that the government does not consider priorities. Also, more importantly, big capital was creating power centres that could threaten the government.
  • Standardizing unreasonable income: Recently, China’s President presided over the 10th meeting of the Central Finance and Economics Committee and emphasized the promotion of common prosperity. The meeting concluded that it was necessary to strengthen the regulation and adjustment of high incomes
    and to clean up and standardize what it called unreasonable income.
Why India shouldn’t copy China’s present actions?

India faces elections in 16 states before 2024 and national elections in 2024. Political parties might be tempted to play the populist-socialist card to retain power or win elections. In India, the tendency to play the populist card either through policies or through fiscal support is no longer sustainable

While America and China, that have created far more economic wealth than India, can turn their attention towards sharing it. India still has to expand its wealth to engage in a meaningful redistribution.

Way forward

Indeed, some of our growth-friendly measures would automatically help raise incomes at the bottom of the pyramid, if the licence, inspection and compliance raj is systematically dismantled at all levels. This is the ‘populism’ that India needs, not failed social and economic engineering that destroys capital.


Give it a rest: SC reminds lower courts, cops to avoid unnecessary arrests. But bureaucratic habits die hard

Source: TOI

Subject: GS 2 –  Judiciary and the Fundamental Rights

Relevance – To differentiate between the right to arrest and need to arrest

Synopsis: Supreme Court (SC) mentioned that arrest provision in law does not mean that government can use power indiscriminately to crush the personal liberty

Introduction

Recently, the SC has held that merely because the law allows arrest, it doesn’t mean that the State can use the power indiscriminately.

SC clarified, word “custody” under section 170 of the CrPC does not mean police or judicial custody, but it only means the presentation of the accused in the court by the investigating officer.

Read more:

When a person should not be arrested?

  • When an offence is not heinous
  • When a person is cooperating with the investigation
  • When a person is not influencing the witness

Where does the problem lie?

The high court in many instances and the SC in Joginder Kumar guidelines 1994 instructed the police and courts to follow for arrest in cognisable offences.

But despite that, the SC mentioned that the trial court judges were insisting on arrest as a “prerequisite formality” for taking charge sheets on record.

What needs to be done

  • There is a need for better training and refresher courses for judicial officers
  • India also needs an effective method for circulating important SC judgments and statutory changes to the lower judiciary and police.
  • For example,
    • There are still courts accepting Section 66A of the IT Act cases blissfully unaware of its 2015 scrapping
    • Police officers are ignorant of the far older 1962 Kedar Nath Singh judgment underlining that criticism of the government isn’t sedition

Way Forward

There is a need to strike the right balance between thorough investigation and the rights of the accused.

Terms to know:


Finding a healthy way to cook

Source: The Hindu

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

Relevance: To understand the issue of Environment and misery of women

Synopsis: This article highlights the problem of women using firewood based stoves/ chulhas in many poor households.

Introduction

There is a need to introduce more alternative sources of energy rather than providing free LPG connections

Ill Effects of Chulhas

  • It affects the health negatively
  • This leads to indoor pollution because of the release of toxic gases like carbon monoxide & carbon dioxide
  • It also has a negative effect on the environment
Read more: Burning wood, coal for cooking can cause blindness: Study

What efforts have been made by the Government?

To get rid of this problem, the government, in the 1980s, introduced smokeless or fuel-efficient chulhas for cooking.

  1. National Programme on improved Chulhas: The government launched this scheme in 1984. But this programme did not attain its objective because of the following limitations:
    • Losing interest of government & withdrawal of subsidies
    • Less participation of people to use these chulhas
    • Beneficiaries were not properly targeted
    • Little quality control
  2. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) under PAHAL scheme:
    • The government introduced this scheme in 2013.
    • Its aim was to alleviate the public health burden posed by household air pollution on women.
  3. LPG under PM Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY): It was launched in 2016 & aims to provide universal access to LPG by 2025.
    • Under the scheme, an adult woman member of a below poverty line family was given a deposit-free LPG connection with the financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.
  4. Ujjwala 2.0:
    • Under this, the government announced the target of an additional one crore LPG connection.
    • It aims to provide deposit-free LPG connections to those low-income families who could not be covered under earlier PMUY.
    • Under this scheme, migrants will not require to submit a ration card or address proof.

Problems with the existing scheme

According to studies, it was found that many LPG connection holders were still using other fuels like fuelwood or dung cakes. The main reasons behind that are:

  • Many people got the connection but were unable to refill because of economic reasons.
  • More use of cow dung and other similar fuels because of their easy availability and also at free of cost.
  • Generally, a low value is attached to women’s time in production, as the opportunity cost of women’s labour is low.
    • LPG is used for cooking when the opportunity cost of women labour is high, such as peak season in farming.
  • Administrative constraints such as distance to LPG distribution centres, long waiting time, the rising cost of LPG cylinders etc

Way Forward

Women need a better source of cooking, but LPG connections work only for non-poor households. Women in India can achieve energy security for cooking only through cheaper & efficient alternatives.

  • As one solution may not fit all, there is a need to offer a set of energy resources to households so that each of them finds suitable energy for itself.
  • The government should introduce affordable alternatives such as solar cookers, biogas plants, smokeless chulhas etc for the poor households
  • The public & Private sector needs to be encouraged to research & development to explore these alternatives

Terms to know


Why the citizens’ assembly is an idea whose time has come

Source: Indian Express

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

Relevance: To understand the idea of democracy and citizen assembly

Synopsis: Democratic exercise has been reduced to periodic elections. It is time that we think of innovative solutions like Citizen’s assemblies.

Introduction:

There is disenchantment with political parties in the US and Europe. Assemblies are divided along the party lines and there is hardly any open-minded deliberation. Major issues such as poverty, citizens’ privacy are often ignored.

How can the right to information and protest help in this?

The right to vote, to elect and free and fair democracy is vital, but not enough for deep democracy. All governments, even authoritarian ones, work for the people. What makes a government democratic is the sense of accountability.

This is dependent on access to information, thus Right to Information was a step in the right direction. Social media has opened other avenues for protest. However, the flow of information must be two-way, where the Government must listen too.

  • When they don’t, Citizens must have the right to protest.
  • The government, in the public interest, can place restrictions w.r.t site or timings, but should not seek to curb the protest completely.

What needs to be done to access “the missing middle”?

The problem in governance is the “missing middle” – the space between public protest and constitutional mechanisms like Parliament. To address this problem:

  • We need to build a middle layer of institutions for public deliberation to solve public problems.
  • Consent of Governed should go beyond just the elections. It should also include expanding the franchise of democracy through the widespread inclusion of people in the political process.

What solutions can we adopt?

An EU civil society movement “Citizens for Europe” proposed “A European Citizens Assembly” – a transnational forum for deliberation and citizen’s participation.

  • These assemblies should be established in cities, districts and states.
  • They not only act like think tanks but also act as a forum where citizens are heard.
  • They should run parallel to formal constitutional bodies that have “decision rights”, such as elected assemblies and courts, and must become a source of solutions for them.

 Way Forward

The state must support them and provide resources, as citizen’s assemblies will fulfil the essential requirement of good governance.

Terms to know


Why the post-pandemic school is an opportunity to reinvent learning?

Source: Indian Express

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

Relevance: Importance of student-friendly learning

Synopsis: The classroom must be centred on joyful and creative learning. It should join the dots between children’s lives and education.

Introduction

Education is not a race. It is a child’s journey to fulfilling his potential. Reopening schools can be an opportunity to rethink the teaching and learning process itself.

Concept of Santiniketan School

It was started by Rabindranath Tagore. His concept is not limited to education alone. It seeks to bring life in harmony with all existence.  He dismissed any pedagogy that sought to cut children off from the world around them. He put his philosophy into practice at Santiniketan, or the “Abode of Peace”.

  • Classes at Santiniketan were held outdoors, under an assigned tree, unless it was raining, or if the lesson needed a laboratory.
  • Students were carrying small mats sat on the ground and teachers sat on cement seats.
  • The approach was to help the child to learn through exploration — art, music, curiosity, and the careful observation of nature
  • There was no concept of corporal punishment.

In the words of Amartya Sen:

He, himself, was a student in Santiniketan. In his memoir “Home in the world”, he talks about his experience of learning there. Here he discovered the freedom of learning at his own pace as there was no pressure to excel in terms of grades or exam performance

What Indian education system can learn from it?

  • Need to make education more joyful & focus on creative learning
  • Every child should be able to learn in an atmosphere that is free, reflective, and affirming.
  • They should be able to relate new concepts to what they are already familiar with in their own lives.

Karnataka model

Karnataka adopted the Vidyagamma programme during the pandemic. It is a group of committed teachers creating informal, outdoor learning circles or “vataara shaale”.

  • Under this model, children gather with a teacher for in-person teaching in small groups, in outdoor community spaces. They are not bound by blackboards and textbooks, but learning interactively, through stories and activities.
  • This model is acknowledged as an example of an alternate model of teaching and learning.

Way Forward

If these models got integrated into regular schooling, such learning environments can bring new life into our education system, not only during Covid but also beyond, in normal times.

The pandemic, itself can be a starting point for inquiry-based learning: Children should be encouraged, within the safe space of the learning circles, to discuss what they saw, experienced and learned during the pandemic.

In Gandhi’s words: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

 Terms to know


Capital Disadvantages: Delhi & Washington DC

Source:  TOI

Syllabus: GS 2, centre-state relations

Relevance: To understand the issue of Delhi’s statehood.

Synopsis: Full statehood remains a dream for residents, both in Indian and US national capitals

US and India both are reluctant to allow residents of their capitals full statehood.  Both territories enjoy lesser power than the states

Status of Washington DC

  • It has 3 electoral votes to elect the president (since 1961), but its people have no vote in Congress.
  • It has a Mayor and a Council, but laws passed can be overturned by US Congress under Article 1, Section 8 of the US constitution

Progress has been slow in Washington DC too:

  • DC was set to allow control over its own security after the 1783 mutiny.
  • Such tentative steps were reversed in 1874 when Congress decided to rule abruptly through a 3 member commission.
  • As the city’s economy grew, demands for self-governance grew.
  • But despite demands from citizens, the statehood progress has been slow.

 What is the status of Delhi?

  • Initially, it was a Part C state under the constitution enjoying a measure of self-governance
  • After the reorganisation of states, when Delhi became UT, it was the only Part C state to lose an elected government
  • By 69th AA, Article 239AA, it was again given an elected assembly and CM. Delhi presently enjoys all the power except land, police, law and order.

What is the real problem?

  • The government report states that Delhi’s residents enjoy special status and must pay the price for it.
  • However, the trend towards greater Democratization has helped Delhi and Washington DC to improve their governance.
  • But with the recent move(GNCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act), the standoff between the governor and CM has only increased in Delhi. Further, the Supreme court also has not been able to resolve the deadlock.

Way forward

Even the recent amendments can not solve the problem. The real problem in Delhi and Washington DC is political and not administrative.


GS Paper 3

What it’ll take to achieve goods exports of $400 billion?

Source: Livemint

Syllabus: GS3- Industrial policy and growth

Relevance: Doubling India’s exports

Synopsis: The blueprint for doubling India’s exports has already been crafted 10 years ago. It needs to be adapted to the modern times by incorporating suitable changes. A brief look at some factors that merit attention.

Context

India has set a target of merchandise exports of $450 billion in a couple of years.

Also, as per the commerce secretary, the present fiscal year’s exports are growing between 25% and 30%, which is ahead of target. And to boost exports, a strategy paper to double exports in three years had been prepared by the ministry.

Opportunities present before India
  1. The world economy, led by two of its largest economies, the US and China, is booming.
  2. These two economies make up nearly 40% of global GDP, and they will clock an average growth of 5% over the next two years. That is the equivalent of India’s economy growing at 50%.
  3. Booming international trade will result in high commodity prices, increased freight charges, container and ship shortages, and overflowing order books.
  4. The run-rate of exports in the first three months of this fiscal indicates that a $400 billion target is achievable.
  5. Economic diplomacy will serve the cause of energizing exports.
Must Read: RoDTEP Scheme and export competitiveness – Explained
Key factors to consider
  1. First, along with free trade agreements, tax and trade reforms, decrease in transaction costs are also necessary. For example, India’s biggest trade partner is the US, with which we do not have an FTA. An FTA is not a prerequisite to keep export engine running. Almost three-fourths of India’s exports are outside the ambit of FTAs. So, trade and investment treaties with the EU, Australia, Canada and the US should not hamper export growth.
  2. Secondly, nearly 80% of our exports are from only 21 chapters of the Harmonised System (HS) of codes for classifying goods. The remaining chapters lie underused, which need focused attention to double exports.
  3. Thirdly, India needs to ensure that initiatives like Atmanirbhar Bharat or production-linked incentives (PLIs) do not result in protectionism.
  4. Fourthly, export incentives must be generous enough to negate the effect of domestic taxation.
  5. Fifth, the embrace of global value chains means that our exports will have significant import content. Hence, tariff barriers for imports have to be modest. Otherwise, it will result in delays and cumbersome processes.
  6. That is why tariffs should be modest and let exporters focus on enhancing their competitiveness.
  7. Sixth, another aspect is the rupee’s exchange rate. For exports, a slight bias towards an undervalued currency is preferable. India has a current account deficit, so it should not fear being labelled a ‘currency manipulator’.
  8. Last, access to global markets for small enterprises. Omnipresent global e-commerce players should be the way for this, where a buyer in remote Alaska can click on an item to be shipped from Coimbatore.

Terms to know


India needs an ecosystem that’s conducive to MSME expansion

Source: Live Mint

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

Relevance: Issues related to the growth of MSMEs in India

Synopsis: We must adapt our policy settings to favor new opportunities for small businesses if we want them to play a big role in job creation.

Context

With 65% of India’s population below the age of 35, job generation by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) therefore assume a high level of importance.

To reap the dividends, the country must equip MSMEs to use modern marketing tools, especially of e-commerce, which could be key for their expansion and sustainable growth.

Significance of small businesses in India

India has approximately 63 million MSMEs, more than 99% of them are tiny businesses. Only a fraction of them are registered.

According to data shared by India’s MSME minister in the Rajya Sabha,

  • The list of registered MSMEs is dominated by micro enterprises, which number 2.2 million in 2019-20.
  • Mid-sized businesses numbered10,981 during the same period.
What needs to be done?
  1. Proper tracking: The first need is to continue to track MSMEs, so that we have a repository of information on these businesses, by geographical area and the products they sell. The aggregation of similar businesses will enable us to target skilling and handholding initiatives closely and also expose them to new market opportunities.
  2. Quality manufacturing: Efforts need to focus on quality manufacturing, with the use of automation to enhance operations, and the exploration of new markets through e-commerce. This would require a holistic approach of hand-holding existing manufacturers in the sector, equipping both managers and their workforce with appropriate skills, and educating them on new technologies and standardization norms. New MSMEs, especially, should be encouraged to start off with this advantage.
  3. Skilling through Apprenticeship: India’s current goal of skilling 402 million people is way too large, unnecessary and unattainable. Skilling plans, in accordance with sector-wise requirements, will enable us to create appropriate job opportunities not just in India but also across the globe. For the formal sector, the key is to forge collaborations with industry, and for the non-formal sector, schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana will need to deliver results. Given the prevailing trends, industrial units and emerging e-commerce platforms are best equipped to provide the right kind of skilling
  4. Statutory backing for Apprenticeship. The traditional concept of apprenticeship, involving part-time work, does not find mention in India’s wage-protection rule-books. This oversight can be fixed via coverage by either the wage code or social security code rules, or perhaps the Shops and Establishments Act rules, as deemed appropriate. At this juncture of the development of our digital economy,
    it should be lawful for employers to engage part-time workers, ideally for up to six hours a day.
  5. Suitable policy framework: Apart from trained manpower and a compliance burden, what holds India’s MSME sector back is a policy framework. It effectively acts as a disincentive for MSME’s to adopt emerging market platforms like e-commerce. Indian policies need to be revisited so that discrepancies are removed and we encourage small units to take advantage of e-com platforms.
Way forward

Policies should be designed to evolve an ecosystem that acts more as a facilitator with a light compliance regime and a sustainably credible framework for these units to plan and invest in expansion over longer time periods.


India remains a very difficult country for dying companies

Source: Live Mint

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

Relevance: Insolvency bankruptcy code and corporate failure

Synopsis: The failure of Insolvency bankruptcy code to achieve its intended objectives is dubbed as ‘isomorphic mimicry’ by developmental scholars.

What is ‘isomorphic mimicry’?

It is the tendency of governments to mimic (copy) other governments’ successes, replicating processes, systems, and even products of the “best practice” examples.

Issues pertaining to the IBC

Global investors were genuinely excited by India’s 2016 insolvency law, hoping to profit from bad loans. Initial success with distressed steel plants raised hopes that the savings-starved economy would extricate valuable capital from failed ventures.

But now, IBC is challenged by

  • Low recovery rate (90% haircuts)
  • Lack of bailout funds
  • Long delays in admitting cases by tribunals
  • Shortage of judges: Across the country, 27 tribunals are being run by 29 judges, at least 25 short of what’s required. Many have no experience in financial matters. Insolvency courts also adjudicate unrelated matters under the Companies Act, overwhelming an already strained system. Delays abound, not just in approving a sale or liquidation in 270 days as the law proposed originally (it was later increased to 330 days), but even in admitting cases.
Way forward

It’s still not too late to fix the bankruptcy regime. Maybe it will happen only once the state is no longer a dominant player in the lending market.


India pivot from Look east to trade West

Source: LiveMint

Syllabus: GS 3 – Foreign Trade

Relevance: To understand India’s Free Trade Agreements (FTA)

Synopsis: India has signed numerous FTA’s, but they have not yielded expected results. As India embarks on a new spree to sign new trade deals, India needs to do its homework very well.

Introduction

India recently backed from Regional Comprehensive Economic partnership (RCEP). Probable causes include:

  • Widening trade balance with China
  • Chinese goods might make a two-way entry via some other countries
  • Border conflict with China
Why did India face setbacks in the East?

India’s Look East was followed by ASEAN (2009), South Korea (2009) and Japan(2011). India’s Act East policy was to cement this further, with RCEP at the fulcrum. But all this faced

  • India has sought a review of FTA’s with S Korea and Japan, which have been refused by the respective countries.
  • Some experts claim that is because India’s major export items like Pharma etc. are subject to regulatory norms and thus face Non-Trade Barriers.
  • This has led to the belief that India’s FTA is not working, or their utilization is low.
  • According to a Deloitte study, FTA utilization is about 70-80% for developed countries, but 3-4% for developing countries.
Why India is turning towards the west for FTAs?
  • There is a compulsion as many of India’s trade partners in Asia are unhappy with India not joining RCEP.
  • Moreover, India’s exports have been stuck at $300 billion for over a decade now. So India needs market access.

This is visible as India is negotiating trade deals (FTA) with the UK, EU. Similarly, India is also working to close a PTA with Canada and maybe with the UAE.

  • EU and UK, post-Brexit have emerged as hopeful candidates for FTA’s.
    • While the UK is keen to expand its trade basket post-Brexit, EU and India are keen to start again after the failure of the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement.
What are the stumbling blocks to sign FTA’s with the west?
Challenges in Europe:
  • EU insistence on labour and environmental standards, access to Government procurement and stricter IP norms will not be easy for India to meet.
  • While India seeks zero duty access to garments, textiles and leather, the EU is keen for market access to automobiles, wines etc.
  • Also, the EU wants to split talks into 3 compartments – trade, GI tagged goods and services and investment. While India favours parallel talks and simultaneous agreements.
  • Data access is another sticky point with the EU not granting India the ‘data adequacy’ status. As per experts, this requires India to legislate similar law like EU’s GDPR (General data protection regulation) guidelines.
Challenges in the US:
  • Though India was hopeful of FTA under the Trump administration, the recent US government has signalled that they are not in a hurry to sign FTA.

Way Forward:

Despite difficulties, India will find it easier to settle with the West than with the East.

Terms to know


Tauktae, Yass and Planning for the next

Source:  The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS3 – Disaster and disaster management

Relevance: Cyclone, its impacts and mitigation strategies

Synopsis: Cyclones in India, are the second most frequent phenomena causing widespread damage across the board. A brief look at cyclone scenario in India, the devastation caused by cyclones, including the protective measures that have been taken and can be taken in the future. 

Cyclones in India 

  1. Every year, around five to six tropical cyclones are formed in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea; of these, two to three turn severe.  
  2. The World Bank and the United Nations (2010) estimate that around 200 million city residents would be exposed to storms and earthquakes by 2050 in India. The west coast experienced 31 cyclones, while 282 cyclones crossed the east coast.  
  3. The Odisha coast witnessed 97 cyclones, followed by Andhra Pradesh (79), Tamil Nadu (58), West Bengal (48), Gujarat (22), Maharashtra/Goa (7), and Kerala (2). 
Extreme weather-related events in India 

Cyclones are the second most expensive in terms of the costs incurred in damage, accounting for 29% of the total disaster-related damages after floods (62%). Such extreme-weather related events cause massive loss to India every year.

  • India lost around 2% of GDP and 15% of total revenue over 1999-2020. 
  • According to the Global Climate Risk Index report 2021, India ranks the seventh worst-hit country globally in 2019 due to the frequent occurrence of extreme weather-related events 
  • In 2019, India also ranked first concerning human deaths and economic losses due to extreme weather-related events. 
Trends related to Cyclones in India 
  • Increasing frequency of cyclones: According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), 2013 data, increasing sea surface temperatures in the northern Indian Ocean and the geo-climatic conditions in India have led to a rise in the frequency of devastating cyclones in the coastal States accounting for 7% of the global tropical cyclones 
  • Decline in fatalities: Fatalities due to cyclones declined from 10,378 in 1999 to 110 in 2020. The significant drop was on account of improved early warning systems, cyclone forecasting, and better disaster management activities such as timely evacuation, rehabilitation and relief distributions. But these measures are not adequate to achieve a zero-fatality approach and minimise economic losses from cyclones. 
  • Increase in damages: Between 1999 and 2020, cyclones inflicted substantial damage to public and private properties, in the absence of long-term mitigation measures. In addition, damages caused due to cyclones increased nine times during the same period. 
  • Cyclones also led to an increase in the fiscal burden of governments through increased spending to implement effective cyclone preparation measures. As a result, direct government expenditure on natural calamities increased 13 times 
Suggestions/Measures
  • Improve the cyclone warning system and revamp disaster preparedness measures. 
  • Widen the cover under shelter belt plantations and help regenerate mangroves in coastal regions to lessen the impact of cyclones. 
  • Adopt cost-effective, long term mitigation measures, building cyclone resilient infrastructure (storm surge resilient embankments, canals, improving river connectivity to prevent waterlogging). 
  • Installing disaster resilient power infrastructure in the coastal districts, providing concrete houses to poor and vulnerable households and creating massive community awareness. 
  • A healthy coordination between the State and the Center for the effective implementation of measures. 
Must Read: Steps and suggestions to handle cyclone related disasters in India

Telcos need three more bold decisions

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS3 – Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth.

Relevance: Resolving issues plaguing the telecom sector in India

Synopsis: Undoing the retrospective tax amendment affecting Vodafone Group and Cairn Energy among others was an excellent move, and proves what the government can do. These moves must now be followed by further policy changes. A brief look at some of them. 

Problems that remain 
  • Overreach in Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) definition (this issue is quite evident; several times SC has set aside such claims). AGRs for telecom operators need to be defined rationally. 
  • Spectrum allocation and pricing: This structure needs to be completely changed. Instead of requiring companies to make up front payments (in auctions) for spectrum allocation, rules can be made which allow its usage to be paid for by a share of revenues. This will make spectrum costs an operating expense, and will not require enterprises to make up-front capital investments, as with other resources: Electricity, water, and leased land.
    • Moreover, currently the spectrum is priced at five times the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, whose per capita income is 15-20 times higher than us.
Implications

Like retro tax, these problems have restricted telecom and digitization support, limiting our capacity, hereby leading to an adequate communication infrastructure. This has led to issues in many areas such as energy and water management, education and skilling, healthcare, and productivity across sectors —commerce, transportation, hospitality and tourism, manufacturing, agriculture— and in mitigating environmental impact.

Suggestions/Measures
  • A rationally, fair and transparent definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue. 
  • Wider swathes of spectrum for high data throughout; better wireless access network. 
  • Sharing of spectrum and facilities among operators, which will likely be the norm in 5G and 6G, providing a high multiplier to network usage, while considerably reducing capital investment needs countrywide.
Way forward

Constructive emphasis on infrastructure support is the way forward. The major changes of using spectrum as a shared resource with payment for usage through a share of revenues, in combination with undoing retro taxes and AGR, are the required steps. There are different ways to do this, and the government needs to steer the process through consultations to an acceptable way for us to move forward with 4G, 5G and beyond, for effective communications and digitisation.

 


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Lower costs, ink FTAs to push exports: CEO panel

Source: TOI

What is the news?

The Steering Committee for Advancing Local Value-Add and Exports (SCALE committee), comprising top Indian CEOs, has argued that India’s proposed free trade agreements (FTAs) could help push exports of auto components and textiles.

Must Read: Free Trade Agreements (FTAs): Challenges & opportunities – Explained, pointwise
Key suggestions

The panel made the following key recommendations:

  • India needs a sustained effort to reduce problems in the following areas for domestic companies:
    • Cost and ease of doing business
    • Market access via trade treaties
    • Technology and quality issue
    • Supporting Brand India for manufacturing.
  • Addressing cost issues: The government needs to urgently address cost issues related to land, power and capital, apart from addressing scale, which lowers cost disabilities.
  • Making companies more competitive: Addressing concerns around infrastructure and logistics, labour flexibility and strengthening MSMEs could also help in lowering costs for companies and make them more competitive in global markets.
  • China plus one strategy: We need to push the “China plus one strategy” to attract investment from multinationals, while positioning India as an export hub.
  • Biggest gains to auto components: With FTAs in place, the panel concluded that auto components could be the biggest gainer across markets, including the US, UK and the EU.
  • Similarly, treaties with the UK, EU, Asean, South Asia and the US could benefit textiles.

Delhi’s new smog tower: the technology, the impact, the evidence

Source: Indian Express

What is the news?

Ahead of its infamous smog season, Delhi has installed a ‘smog tower’, a technological aid to help combat air pollution.

smog tower, delhi smog tower, what is smog tower, kejriwal smog tower, delhi news
Source: Indian Express
Background

In 2019, the Supreme Court directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi government to come up with a plan to install smog towers to combat air pollution. The court was hearing a matter related to air pollution in the national capital due to stubble-burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. IIT-Bombay then submitted a proposal for the towers to the CPCB.

Extent of Delhi’s pollution
  • Delhi was the most polluted capital city in the world in 2020 for the third consecutive year, according to a report by a Swiss group (released in March 2021) that ranked cities based on their air quality measured in terms of the levels of ultrafine particulate matter (PM 2.5).
  • Also, since 2009, an increase of 258% to 335% had been observed in the concentration of PM10 in Delhi, a 2016 report by the CPCB noted. But the most prominent pollutant in Delhi and neighboring areas is PM2.5
What is a smog tower?
  • Smog towers are structures designed to work as large-scale air purifiers. They are fitted with multiple layers of air filters and fans at the base to suck the air.
  • After the polluted air enters the smog tower, it is purified by the multiple layers before being re-circulated into the atmosphere.
Must watch: Smog tower inaugurated in Delhi – ForumIAS YouTube
How does a smog tower work?

The tower uses a ‘downdraft air cleaning system’ developed by the University of Minnesota. IIT-Bombay has collaborated with the American university to replicate the technology, which has been implemented by the commercial arm of Tata Projects Limited.

  • Polluted air is sucked in at the top, and filtered air is released at the bottom of the tower, at a height of about 10 m from the ground.
  • When the fans at the bottom of the tower operate, the negative pressure created sucks in air from the top.
  • The ‘macro’ layer in the filter traps particles of 10 microns and larger, while the ‘micro’ layer filters smaller particles of around 0.3 microns.
Likely impact

Scientific modelling by IIT-Bombay suggests the tower could have an impact on the air quality up to 1 km from the tower. The actual impact will be assessed by IIT-Bombay and IIT-Delhi in a two-year pilot study.

Do smog tower actually work?

This is the first experiment with a large-scale outdoor air-purification system in India. Small smog towers have been raised in the Netherlands and South Korea; larger ones have been set up in China.

As per experts, there isn’t enough evidence that smog towers work.


Finance Minister launches the National Monetisation Pipeline

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express, Livemint and PIB

What is the News?

The Union Minister for Finance has launched the National Monetisation Pipeline.

About National Monetisation Pipeline:

Prepared by: It was prepared by NITI Aayog in consultation with infrastructure line ministries, based on the mandate for ‘Asset Monetisation’ under Union Budget 2021-22. 

Note: Asset monetisation consists of a limited period transfer of performing assets (or disposing of non-strategic / underperforming assets) to unlock “idle” capital and reinvesting it in other assets or projects that deliver improved or additional benefits.

Objectives:

  1. To unlock the value of investments in brownfield public sector assets by tapping institutional and long-term capital, which can thereafter be leveraged for public investments.
    • A brownfield investment is a form of investment in which a company or government entity purchases or leases existing production facilities to launch a new production activity.
  2. To enable ‘Infrastructure Creation through Monetisation’ wherein the public and private sector collaborate, each excelling in their core areas of competence, so as to deliver socio-economic growth.

Key Features of the Plan:

National Monetisation Pipeline
Source: Livemint
  1. The National Monetisation Pipeline comprises a four-year pipeline from 2022-2025 of the central government’s brownfield Infrastructure Assets.
  2. The top three sectors identified for asset monetisation include railways, airports and coal mining. 
  3. Besides these, assets such as roads, power transmission lines and gas pipelines will also be part of the monetisation plan. 
  4. Under the plan, private firms can invest in projects for a fixed return using the Infrastructure investment trusts(InvITs) route as well as operate and develop the assets for a certain period before transferring them back to the government agency.
  5. Hence, the ownership (of assets) will remain with the government and there will be a mandatory hand back after a certain time. 
  6. Moreover, only under-utilised assets will be monetised, and the plan will help identify brownfield assets that need to be better monetised.

Challenges of NMP: The key challenges that may affect the NMP roadmap are 

  1. Lack  of identifiable revenue streams in various assets,
  2. level of capacity utilisation in gas and petroleum pipeline networks, 
  3. Absence of proper dispute resolution mechanism,
  4. Regulated tariffs in power sector assets
  5. Low interest among investors in national highways below four lanes and 
  6. Lack of independent sectoral regulators as potential impediments.

India could gain $11 trn in 50 years with climate action: Deloitte report

Source: Business Standard

What is the News?

Deloitte Economics Institute has released a report, titled “India’s turning point: How climate action can drive our economic future”.

Key Findings of the Report:

Impact of Climate Change on Economy:

  1. India can gain $11 trillion in economic value over the next 50 years by limiting rising global temperatures and realising its potential to ‘export decarbonisation’ to the world.
    • Decarbonisation is the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions through the use of low carbon power sources, achieving a lower output of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
  2. However, if  India doesn’t act now to mitigate the effects of climate change, it could lose $35 trillion in economic potential which could be 12.7% of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2070.

Top Five Impacted Industries due to Climate Change:

  1. Over the next 50 years, the top five most impacted industries in terms of economic activity are expected to incur a significant share of climate-related loss.
  2. These industries will be services (government and private), manufacturing, retail and tourism, construction, and transport which currently account for more than 80% of India’s GDP.
  3. The report estimates that by 2070, these five industries alone would experience an annual loss in the value-added to GDP of more than $1.5 trillion per year.

Government launches Yuktdhara portal to facilitate Geo-spatial planning of MGNREGA assets

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Ministry of Rural Development has launched a new geospatial planning portal named  ‘Yuktdhara’.

About Yuktdhara Portal:

  1. Yuktdhara is a geospatial planning portal under Bhuvan.
  2. Purpose: The portal will help in facilitating new MGNREGA assets using remote sensing and geographic information system-based data.
  3. Developed by: The portal is a culmination of joint efforts of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Ministry of Rural Development.
  4. Name: The name of the portal is very apt as the word ‘Yukt’ is derived from Yojanam, indicates the planning and ‘Dhara’ indicates the flow.

Key Features of the Portal:

  1. The portal will serve as a repository of assets (geotags) created under the various National Rural Development Programmes, such as MGNREGA, Per Drop More Crop Programmes, Integrated Watershed Management Programme and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.
  2. It will integrate a wide variety of thematic layers, multi-temporal high-resolution earth observation data with the analysis tool.
  3. Planners will be able to analyse previous assets under various schemes and facilitate the identification of new works using online tools. Prepared plans will be then evaluated by appropriate authorities under State Departments.

RBI panel suggests umbrella body for helping smaller UCBs scale up

Source: Business Standard and Livemint

What is the News?

The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has released the report of the Expert Committee on Primary Urban Co-operative Banks(UCBs). 

About the Expert Committee on UCBs:

  1. The committee was set up under the chairmanship of former RBI deputy governor N.S. Vishwanathan.
  2. Mandate: To examine the issues and to provide a road map for strengthening the Urban Co-operative Banks(UCBs) sector. 

Key Recommendations of the Committee:

4 Tier Structure: The committee has suggested a four-tier structure for the urban cooperative banks (UCBs) depending upon the deposits:

  1. Tier-1 with deposits up to  ₹100 crores; 
  2. Tier-2 with deposits between  ₹100- ₹1,000 crores
  3. Tier-3 with deposits between ₹1,000 crores to  ₹10,000 (They must function like Small Finance Banks(SFBs) if they meet regulatory requirements). 
  4. Tier-4 with deposits of over  ₹10,000 crores (They should be allowed to function like universal banks if they meet all regulatory requirements).

Umbrella Organisation: 

  1. The committee suggests setting up the umbrella organisation, with a minimum capital of Rs 300 crore.
  2. It can act as a self-regulatory body for small UCBs. It should provide cross liquidity and capital support to the UCBs when needed.

Compulsory Amalgamation:

  1. RBI can prepare a scheme of compulsory amalgamation or reconstruction of UCBs, like banking companies.
  2. This may be resorted to when the required voluntary actions are not forthcoming or leading to desired results.

Supervisory Action Framework(SAF):

  1. The objective of the Supervisory Action Framework (SAF) should be to find a time-bound remedy to the financial stress of a bank
  2. SAF should adopt a twin indicator approach, wherein asset quality and capital are measured through Net non-performing Asset(NNPA) and Capital to Risk-Weighted Assets Ratio(CRAR) respectively

Use of Cloud Services:

  1. The committee preferred the use of Cloud services as it will standardise the information technology platform across all member UCBs and would eliminate the need to have the skills or hire services to maintain IT infrastructure.

Terms to know:


Indian scientists discover new algae

Source: Tribune

What is the News?

Scientists from the Central University of Punjab, Bathinda have discovered a new species of marine green algae from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The green seaweed is named Acetabularia jalakanyakae.

About Acetabularia jalakanyakae:

Acetabularia jalakanyakae
Source: Independent
  1. Acetabularia jalakanyakae is a bright green algae with a size as small as 20 to 40 mm.
  2. This algae species is named after the word ‘jalakanyaka’ which means ‘goddess of oceans’ or ‘mermaid’ in the Sanskrit language. 
  3. It is the first species of the genus Acetabularia discovered in India.

Key Features:

  1. Acetabularia jalakanyakae  have caps with intricate designs as if they were umbrellas of a mermaid.
  2. The main feature of the newly discovered species is that the plant is made up of one gigantic cell with a nucleus.
  3. Its nucleus forms a rhizoid structure, which facilitates the algae to attach itself to shallow rocks.
    • Rhizoids are a structure in plants and fungi that functions like a root in support or absorption.
  4. Moreover, the species is highly regenerative in nature such that even if one chops off the top portion, the algae can regrow.

About Algae:

  1. Algae are chlorophyll-bearing, simple, thalloid, autotrophic and largely aquatic (both freshwater and marine) organisms. 
  2. They also occur in a variety of other habitats: moist stones, soils and wood. Some of them also occur in association with fungi (lichen) and animals (e.g., on sloth bear).
  3. The algae reproduce by vegetative, asexual and sexual methods. 
  4. Algae are useful to man in a variety of ways. At least a half of the total carbon dioxide fixation on earth is carried out by algae through photosynthesis.
  5. They are also of paramount importance as primary producers of energy-rich compounds which form the basis of the food cycles of all aquatic animals.  

E-tailers can’t store your card data, says RBI

Source: TOI

What is the News?

Reserve Bank of India is all set to implement its revised set of guidelines on the card data storage policy from January 2022.

RBI’s Guidelines on Card Data Storage Policy:

  1. As per the guidelines, Payment Aggregators(PAs), Payment Gateways and online merchants shall not store card credentials of customers in their database.
  2. This means that customers who own a debit or credit card will have to enter their 16-digit card details — name, card number, expiry date and CVV — every time they do a transaction.
  3. The reason behind these guidelines is a series of ransomware attacks in the country, where computer networks open to the internet have been hijacked by malware.

What is the alternative method available?

  1. Payment aggregators and online merchants can implement tokenization as one of the alternative methods.
  2. The term tokenization means converting a meaningful piece of data, such as an account number, into a random string of characters known as tokens. 
  3. This ensures that the card information remains masked and helps prevent data theft and fraud. Moreover, these tokens have no meaningful value if breached.

Note:

  • Payment Aggregators: They facilitate e-commerce sites and merchants in accepting payment instruments from the customers for completion of their payment obligations without the need for merchants to create a separate payment integration system of their own. Example: Billdesk.
  • Payment Gateways: These are entities that provide technology infrastructure to route and facilitate the processing of an online payment transaction without any involvement in the handling of funds.

Russian stealth frigates to come in 2023

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The first of the two additional Krivak class stealth frigates being built by Russia is expected to be delivered to India in the middle of 2023.

About Krivak Class Stealth Frigates:

  1. Krivak or Talwar stealth frigates are a series of frigates and guard ships (patrol boats) built by Russia since 1970.
  2. Objective: They are primarily used to accomplish a wide variety of naval missions. Such as finding and eliminating enemy submarines and large surface ships.
  3. Indian Navy currently operates six Krivak class frigates in two different batches, such as the Talwar class and the upgraded Teg class.

India-Russia Deal for new Krivak Class Stealth Frigates:

  •  In 2016, India and Russia signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for four Krivak or Talwar class stealth frigates — two to be procured directly from Russia and two to be built by Goa Shipyard Ltd. 

Key Features of Krivak Class Stealth Frigates:

  1. Krivak Class Stealth Frigates have a displacement of 4,000 tons and a speed of 30 knots.
  2. Due to the use of stealth technologies and a special hull design, these frigates have reduced radar cross-section (RCS) as well as electromagnetic, acoustic and infrared signatures.
    • Stealth Technology is used to make vehicles or missiles nearly invisible to enemy radar or other electronic detection.

FM launches Ubharte Sitaare Fund

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The Ministry of Finance has launched ‘Ubharte Sitaare’ Alternative Investment Fund.

About ‘Ubharte Sitaare’ Alternative Investment Fund:

  1. Aim: To provide debt and equity funding to export-oriented MSMEs as well as providing them with the required technological support to make their businesses more competitive.
  2. Setup by: The fund has been set up jointly by Exim Bank and SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India).

Objectives of the Fund:

  1. To enhance India’s competitiveness in select sectors through finance and extensive handholding support
  2. To identify and nurture companies having differentiated technology, products or processes, and enhance their export business;
  3. To assist units with export potential which are unable to scale up their operations for want of finance;
  4. To identify and mitigate challenges faced by successful companies which hinder their exports;
  5. To assist existing exporters in widening their basket of products and target new markets through a strategic and structured export market development initiative.

Key Features of the Fund:

  1. The fund will support Indian companies that are future champions with good export potential. It can be supported even if it is currently underperforming or may be unable to tap its latent potential to grow.
  2. Eligibility: Companies will be selected for support based on their 
    1. unique value proposition in technology
    2. products or processes that match global requirements;
    3. fundamentally strong companies with acceptable financials
    4. small and mid-sized companies with an annual turnover of up to approx.₹500 crore
    5. companies with a good business model.
  3. Nature of assistance: The fund can support companies by both financial and advisory services through support by way of:
    • equity / equity-like instruments.
    • Debt (funded / non-funded): Term loans for modernisation, technology / capacity upgradation, R&D
    • Technical Assistance (TA) for product adaptation and improvement, cost of certifications, training expenses, market development activities.

Global emissions can decline 10% this decade if refineries clean up their act

Source: Down To Earth  

What is the news?

As per the report published in One Earth, global cumulative emissions could be reduced by 10% during 2020-2030 if refineries adopt low carbon measures. 

Findings 
  • Emissions have increased: It estimated that emissions from the refineries in 2018 were about 1.3 gigatons (Gt) which would increase to 16.5 Gt of CO2 in 2020-2030 if refineries do not adopt low carbon measures. 
  • Number of refineries has increased from 755 in 2000 worldwide, to 946 refineries in 2018. 
  • The oil refining industry plays a crucial role in both the energy supply chain and climate change. The petroleum oil refining industry is the third-largest stationary emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, contributing 6% of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, CO2 accounts for approximately 98% of greenhouse gases emitted by petroleum refineries. 
  • CO2 emissions from the oil refineries in India experienced growth between 2000 and 2018; contribution climbed 7% in 2018 from 3% in 2000. 
Mitigation strategies 

Based on the findings, the authors recommend mitigation strategies, such as  

  • improving refinery efficiency  
  • upgrading heavy oil-processing technologies 

These strategies could potentially reduce global cumulative emissions by 10% from 2020 to 2030. 

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