9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – August 30th, 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.
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Mains Oriented Articles 

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Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Mains Oriented Articles


GS Paper 2

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has great potential in government applications

Source: This post is based on the article “Free and Open Source Software has great potential in government applications” published in The Indian Express on 30th August 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 -E governance

Relevance: using open source technology to improve public services in India

Synopsis: India announced a policy to encourage open source in 2015. However, the true potential of this policy is yet to be realized, largely due to constraints in public procurement processes. A look at the misconceptions about FOSS and a roadmap for its optimum utilization.

What is FOSS?

Free and Open Source (FOSS) is a software that is licensed to be free to use, modify, and distribute. FOSS today presents an alternative model to build digital technologies for population scale. Unlike proprietary software, everyone has the freedom to edit, modify and reuse open-source code.

Benefits of FOSS

FOSS offers many advantages:

  • Reduced costs
  • No vendor lock-in
  • The ability to customize for local context
  • Greater innovation through wider collaboration
Usage of FOSS in India 

Recognising its potential, in 2015, the Indian government announced a policy to encourage open source instead of proprietary technology for government applications. We have seen some great examples of public services being delivered through systems that use FOSS building blocks, including Aadhaar, GSTN, and the DigiLocker.

  • Many other solutions launched by the government including Digilocker, Diksha, Aarogya Setu, the Covid-19 vaccination platform CoWIN have also been built on top of open-source digital platforms
Misconceptions about FOSS
  1. Lack of trust: “Free” in FOSS is perceived to be “free of cost” and hence many think that the solutions based on FOSS are not good enough. For example, FOSS is often mistaken to be less trustworthy and more vulnerable, whereas FOSS can actually create more trust between the government and citizens.
  2. Absence of one clear owner: Another important issue is that it can feel easier to deal with a proprietary software vendor who builds a customized software and can be held accountable for any failures. In the case of FOSS, there appears to be an absence of one clear “owner”, which makes it harder to identify who is responsible.
Suggestions/measures
  1. Incentivize uptake of FOSS in government: The government’s policy on the adoption of open-source software requires all tech suppliers to submit bids with open source options. Suppliers also need to justify in case they do not offer an open-source option, and sourcing departments are asked to weigh the lifetime costs and benefits of both alternatives before making a decision. The present policy can go a step further by formally giving greater weightage to FOSS-specific metrics in the evaluation criteria in RFPs, and offering recognition to departments that deploy FOSS initiatives, such as, a special category under the Digital India Awards.
  2. A repository of “GovTech ready” building blocks: Off-the-shelf FOSS software is often not ready for direct deployment by government. Creating a repository of ready-to-use “GovTech-ised” building blocks, can help departments quickly identify and deploy FOSS solutions in their applications.
  3. FOSS innovations can be encouraged through “GovTech hackathons and challenges”, bringing together the open-source community to design solutions for specific problem statements identified by government departments. The best innovations emerging from these challenges can be listed on government procurement platforms such as GeM.
    • One such challenge — a #FOSS4Gov Innovation Challenge — was recently launched to accelerate the adoption of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in government by harnessing innovation from the FOSS ecosystem.
  4. A national “FOSS Centre of Excellence”: Finally, a credible institutional anchor is needed to be a home for FOSS led innovation in India. Such an institution can bring together FOSS champions and communities that are scattered across India around a shared agenda for collective impact. Kerala’s International Centre for Free & Open Source Software (ICFOSS) is a great example of such an institution that led to Kerala being a pioneering state in the adoption of FOSS. A national “FOSS Centre of Excellence” can create the much-needed momentum to build world-class “made in India” FOSS products.

Biofortified food can lead India from food security to nutrition security

Source: This post is based on the article “Biofortified food can lead India from food security to nutrition security” published in The Indian Express on 30th August 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Issues related to poverty and hunger

Relevance: Tackling malnutrition

Synopsis: Using science to address the complex challenge of malnutrition, particularly for low-income and vulnerable sections of the society, can be a good intervention. Bio-fortification of food can come handy to address the issue of malnutrition in India along with other measures.

Context

The Prime Minister recently announced that, by 2024, rice provided to the poor under any government scheme — PDS, mid-day-meal, Anganwadi — will be fortified.

Malnutrition in India
  • 15.3% of the country’s population is undernourished
  • India has the highest proportion of “stunted” (30%) and “wasted” children (17.3%) below five years of age as per ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2021’ report.
Must Read: Food fortification in India – Explained
Recent developments 

Work done by ICAR

  • Scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have been developing biofortified crops in India with a view to eradicating malnutrition
  • As per the ICAR website, they had developed 21 varieties of biofortified staples including wheat, rice, maize, millets, mustard, groundnut by 2019-20
  • These biofortified crops have 1.5 to 3 times higher levels of protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids compared to the traditional varieties
  • These varieties are not genetically modified rather they have been developed through conventional crop breeding techniques

National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute

  • The National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute in Mohali has also developed biofortified coloured wheat (black, blue, purple) that is rich in zinc and anthocyanins

The HarvestPlus programme

  • The HarvestPlus programme of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research is working with ICAR, state agricultural universities (SAUs), the international centres of CGIAR, seed companies and farmer organisations.
  • It aims to accelerate production and improve the access of the poor in India to iron-rich pearl millet and zinc-rich wheat.

Malnutrition, is a multidimensional problem. Nutritious food is only a part of it. Hence, it requires a multipronged approach.

The correct approach
  • Nutrition is just one part of malnutrition challenge. Poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation (especially toilets), low levels of immunization and education, especially of women are other determinants of nutrition
  • About 50% of the rural population does not have safe and adequate drinking water within premises
  • About 15% of schools still lack access to basic infrastructure (electricity, drinking water and sanitation)
  • the average annual school dropout rate at the secondary level (Class 9-10) is still 18 percent (as per the Niti Aayog’s SDG Index for the year 2020)

All this calls for a multipronged approach to address the pressing problem of malnutrition

Suggestions/Measures
  • Improving mother’s education– There is a direct correlation between mothers’ education and the wellbeing of children. Children with mothers who have no education have the least diversified diets and suffer from stunting and wasting and are anemic. Hence, targeted programmes for improving the educational status of girls and reducing the school dropout rates, particularly at the secondary and higher educational levels, need to be promoted.
  • Increasing expenditure on agri R&D–  Innovations in biofortified food can alleviate malnutrition only when they are scaled up with supporting policies. This would require steps like, increasing expenditure on agri-R&D, incentivizing farmers by linking their produce to lucrative markets through sustainable value chains and distribution channels etc.
  • Private participation– The government can also rope in the private sector to create a market segment for premium-quality biofortified foods to cater to high-end consumers.
  • Creating awareness–  A national awareness drive on the lines of the “Salt Iodisation Programme” launched by the government in 1962 to replace ordinary salt with iodised salt, can play an important role at the individual and community levels.

Time to bury Mudra ‘loan mela’ (On MUDRA loans)

Source: This post is based on the article “Time to bury Mudra ‘loan mela’” published in The Business Standard on 30th August 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes

Relevance: MUDRA loans, Loan mela

Synopsis: Mudra loans have generated no jobs, resulting in misspending of trillions of taxpayers’ money. The loans were supposed to be for a three- to five-year period. The first cycle of the experiment is over, and the result has been disastrous.

Context

Recently, Chairman of State Bank of India (SBI), told that 20% in its loan portfolio under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) scheme had turned bad.

Background

Mudra loans were launched six years ago. They are collateral-free or unsecured loans of up to Rs 10 lakh extended to micro and tiny businesses. However, the idea of such “equitable lending” has been tried before and had failed miserably.

This very same desire to ensure fairness in lending drove the socialist Indira Gandhi to nationalise banks and force them to lend to “priority sectors”.

But government control over banks led to large-scale corruption and their repeated recapitalisation through taxpayers’ money. This further reduced the money available for small businesses.

Criticism of MUDRA 
  1. In 2018, when the economy was stagnating, Mudra was publicised as a job-generation scheme. However, since 90% of the loans were issued under the Shishu category (less than Rs 50,000), they could not have generated many jobs. Besides, the default rate for shishu category is the highest.
  2. Mudra was a populist and political move to give away money.  Not surprisingly, almost immediately bad debts started piling up and so, the scheme has remained a headache for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and banks. From 4.35% of Mudra advances in 2016-17, bad loans shot up to 9.3% in FY19, as political parties organised camps to canvass Mudra loans for their supporters.
  3. In July 2019, the RBI blamed the poor credit-appraisal system of banks for rising bad debts. The biggest bad loans (12.39 per cent) were in the smallest loan category (under Rs 50,000).
  4. The scheme emphasised more on cash flow-based lending and not security-based lending. Collateral securities were avoided, and repayment obligations were kept flexible.
  5. The staff at branches focussed more on meeting the target. Once the loan is given, there is virtually no effective mechanism that can be employed to get the repayment. Banks have recovery agents and business correspondents, but often they are local people and the borrowers don’t take them seriously.
Way forward

Government should consider burying the scheme.  More recent policies (renewable energy, production-linked incentives, timely tariff protection against dumping) where the government isn’t giving any direct loan and only helping the private sector, would generate much more economic growth and employment.

Terms to know


Towards a more humane race

Source: This post is based on the article “Towards a more humane police force” published in The Hindu on 30th August 2021.

Syllabus: GS-2 Police reforms

Relevance: To understand the requirements of police reforms

Synopsis: Efforts are on to improve the human rights protection regime in police stations

Context:

Recently, the Chief Justice of India expressed his concerns about the human rights violations in police stations. The violations happen despite various constitutional safeguards and guarantees. Unfortunately, the threat to human rights violation & bodily integrity is highest in police stations. Since the police are meant to protect human rights, efforts are needed to improve the situation in the police stations.

Findings of National crime Record Bureau:

According to NCRB, the number of deaths in police custody varies every year. The data reveals that:

  • 100 custodial deaths have taken place every year between 2010 -2019
  • Of these deaths,
    • 3.5% have been due to injuries caused by the police
    • 28.1 % because of suicide
    • 8.6 %, while escaping custody
    • Rest, due to other different reasons like illness etc.
  • A judicial enquiry is mandatory for suspicious deaths. It has been conducted only in 26.4 cases
  • On average, about 47.2 criminal cases were registered annually against policemen in the last 10 years
When Arrest should not be made?

Read the following articles.

Supreme court judgements to protect human rights:

The Supreme Court has pronounced many judgements to strengthen the human rights regime. For instance,

  1. In Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar (2014): The SC held that even though the offence is non-bailable, an arrest is not mandatory as per Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)
  2. In Special Action Forum v Union of India (2018): The SC held, the police officer shall explain to the magistrate the reasons necessitated the arrest for further detention of the accused.
  3. In Prakash Singh v Union of India (2006): The SC recommended separating the investigating police from law and order police to ensure better expertise in the investigation. Similar, recommendations have been given by the National Police Commission (1977-81), 154th Law Commission report (1996) & Malimath committee (2003).
    • Malimath committee also recommended that investigation officers should not investigate more than 10 cases a year.
  4. In DK Basu v State of Bengal (1996): The SC laid down the guidelines to check custodial torture and also mentioned steps to increase transparency & responsibility of police officers during an arrest.
  5. In Paramvir Singh v Baljit Singh (2020): The SC directed states to cover more areas of police stations under CCTV & to maintain a storage facility for audio-video recording for 18 months
 What needs to be done?
  • Training of police persons to sensitize and encourage them to adopt scientific tools of interrogation. For instance, Narco test, Lie detector test etc.
  • As was mentioned by the Home ministry, India needs to link police modernization with police reforms to create a police force that can meet the demands of contemporary times.

Guarding Democracy

Source: This post is based on the article “Guarding democracy” published in the Times of India on 30th August 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2  – Reforming the system to strengthen democracy

Relevance: To understand the significance of free speech

Synopsis: The governments seek to suppress free speech. However, no vibrant democracy can be formed if it lacks free speech.

Context

The article highlights the importance of democracy in the public sphere. The essence of which is in the participation of the public in the decision-making process.

But for that to happen, citizens should be adequately informed. The health of any democracy rests on the foundation of governments being truthful about the current state of affairs.

What is the role of citizens in ensuring a democratic process:
  • They should ensure that media is free, especially when it is giving a critique of public institutions.

However, the government at times seeks to silence criticism. This is evident through recently introduced Information Technology Rules. It imposes Draconian restrictions on a digital medium that is fast growing. A consequence will be that fake news, which undermines the health of a democracy, will proliferate through other digital platforms.

How can we strengthen democracy?
  • Education: Both the education system and democracy work well when children are allowed to develop a temperament that allows them to pose questions to power. Thus, education is the key to strengthening a vibrant democracy.
  • Elections: Voting is a right in India, something that people in many other countries cannot take for granted. However, this right needs more involvement from India’s more privileged citizens.
Way Forward

The commitment to search for truth is a key aspiration of our society.  The best way to realize this goal is to allow the plurality that characterizes Indian society free expression.

Thus, it can be said that democracy produces the best results when it creates a platform for multiple opinions.


The purpose of literature

Source: This post is based on the article “The purpose of literature” published in The Hindu on 30th August 2021.

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

Relevance: To understand the value of Indian literature

Synopsis: It is through inclusive and diverse writing that we get a socio-cultural understanding of the nation

Introduction

Recently, Delhi University dropped Mahasweta Devi’s renowned short story “Draupadi” & two Dalit writers “Bama & Sukirtharani” from their BA Hons syllabus

What should be the purpose of literature?
  • To understand who we are, or ought to be, as people
  • To understand where and how we live and the challenges that face our time and society

To understand literature better, all over the world, the literature syllabus is being redrawn to ensure inclusion and diversity.

What is special about writings that have been removed?
  1. Draupadi—it details the hardships of tribals, which still exist in today’s world.
  2. Bama’s Karakku: It gives a brief about subjugation, caste oppression & exclusion from society.
  3. Sukirtharani poems: It’s about Dalit feminist politics.

These are the important writings that highlight concerns that help us in getting a socio-cultural understanding of the issues that plague Indian society. These kinds of writings helps us to encourage critical questioning & thinking among young minds.

What should be done before removing any such writings?
  • There should be proper scrutiny by the experts
  • Proper reasoning why the particular text is chosen to be removed.
  • Ensure that there is no political interference/pressure.
Previous instances

This is not the first time such incidents have happened. There are many examples where such writings have been dropped from the University syllabus. The prominent ones are,

  • AK Ramanujan’s Three hundred Ramayanas
  • Rohinton Mistry’s A fine balance
Way forward
  • We should focus on Indian literature along with world literature.
  • An introduction to Indian writing will go a long way in creating passionate learners and critical thinkers.

The broken promise of justice in rape cases

Source: This post is based on the following articles.

  • “Rape & insensitivity” published in The Hindu on 30th August 2021
  • “The broken promise of justice in rape cases” published in the Indian Express on 30th August 2021

Syllabus: GS 2 mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections

Relevance: To understand crimes against women

Synopsis: Despite stringent laws, crimes against women continue. The problems go far beyond law and point to the legal and socio-political system.

Introduction

The issues of violence against women continue unabated in India. While the Nirbhaya case still lives in our collective memory, on August 24, an MBA student was gang-raped near Chamundi hills in Mysuru.

In such incidents, the Apex court has been viewed as a saviour by the weak and marginalized groups. This is also true because of power asymmetry in a society where often Police are seen to side with power holders.

Issues associated with the Indian legal and socio-political system
  • Legal system: Our legal system records that rape survivors are routinely killed or kill themselves in protest. But the legal system does not take any action on the root cause.
  • Media: Media discourse on rape is mostly spectacularised and sensationalized for TRP ratings.
  • Society immediately starts focussing on anti-rape protests and not on the welfare of the victim. Further, society also put restrictions on the women movements to prevent that from happening.
  • State response is focused on criminalizing anti-rape protests.
  • Victims are counter cased are filed and victims are victimized further.
  • Judiciary: There is no Judicial enquiry on why the victims are imprisoned on false counter cases?
Impact of the lockdown on rape survivors:
  • Victims were subject to intimidation as the system was busy fighting Covid
  • No moratorium was declared against arbitrary arrests of women and victims of violence
  • Guidelines on how to treat rape survivors during the lockdown were not announced
Judicial observations to protect freedom of women:
  • In June, the Supreme Court had to order police protection for a couple in a live-in relationship. As earlier they were denied relief by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
What needs to be done?
  • Recent rulings by the Chhattisgarh High Court and the Kerala High Court, reiterating that any sexual act by a man against his wife, even if it involved force, is not rape. This can be course-corrected.
  • In the Aparna Bhat & Ors vs. State of Madhya Pradesh case, the Supreme Court accepted the “paternalistic and misogynistic attitudes that are regrettably reflected at times in judicial orders and judgments”. This has to be course-corrected by the judiciary.

Instead of curbing the freedom of women, society and the state must ensure the protection of women both in public and private places.


Seize the opportunity to institutionalise accountability

Source: This post is based on the article “Seize the opportunity to institutionalise accountability” published in The Hindu on 30th August 2021.

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

Relevance: India’s vaccination program

Synopsis: India’s vaccine program is underperforming, and India should speed up vaccine acquisition from foreign manufacturers.

Context

India’s vaccination drive, though in full swing, is underperforming given the size of the Indian population. India has granted approval to a few vaccines, while many are seeking approval. We should not let the delay in approval to jeopardize the vaccination drive.

What options does India have to boost vaccination?

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) to the COVID-19vaccines manufactured by Moderna and by Johnson & Johnson, at the end of June and early August 2021.

Further, India also has an opportunity to receive 5 to 10 crore doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s mRNA-based vaccine, including through the COVAX mechanism, before the end of 2021.

The government initiatives to boost vaccination
  • The government had modified regulations like providing for fast track trials for Vaccines approved by UK, US, Japan etc.
  • The government has done away with requirements like bridging trials and the mandatory batch testing for vaccines manufactured abroad.
  • But a key bottleneck has been the demand of manufacturers seeking indemnity.
Must read: What is “Indemnity” and why vaccine manufacturers are demanding that?
Why India is not granting Indemnity?

Vaccines usually meet all safety parameters as immunobiological substances. But sometimes vaccines can be associated with rare and serious Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFIs).

For instance, vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VIT) and Myocarditis are well known AEFIs. This is the major reason India is not granting indemnity.

The other reasons are,

  • First, the supply from these manufacturers is likely to be a very small proportion of total vaccine availability in the country.
  • Second, if foreign manufacturers are granted this indemnity, manufacturers currently supplying vaccines might make similar demands.
    • The manufacturers of the 3 vaccines currently being administered in India (Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik V) have not been granted indemnity.
  • Thirdly, if indemnity is granted, in case of legal issues Government might have to pay the compensation.
  • Fourth, the stand of manufacturers to not supply vaccines till indemnity is granted is too rigid.
What are the existing provisions for compensation in India for AEFIs?
  • If the person is a trial subject, then the rules governing clinical trials in India specify that compensation must be granted in case of injury or death of a trial subject.
  • If any problem occurred in the government immunization programs, then no such compensation mechanism exists.
  • If any problem occurred during private vaccinations, then the legal responsibility for any vaccine-related injury lies with the manufacturers
Why do we need an urgent review of these procedures?
  • India’s Covid-19 vaccine drive is underperforming.
  • As per the data, only 11% of the total population has been fully vaccinated, and 35.5% have received the first dose.
  • One of the major reasons for this is the insufficient supply, which has consistently been less than the projected vaccine availability.
Other mechanisms in India to ensure the safety of vaccines

However, going beyond indemnity, India has mechanisms in the current legal framework to ensure safety and legal remedy for any harm.

  • First, the Drugs Controller General of India, while granting registration certificates, is empowered to take action against companies found to be in violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
  • Second, any individual seeking compensation can file petitions before consumer courts and the High Courts
  • Third, recent amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 disallow individuals but permit the regulatory bodies to initiate class-action suits (cases representing groups of people who have suffered from the same loss)’ based on individual complaints.

Way Forward

India’s need to take a comprehensive view and not be rigid about indemnity alone:

  • As long as citizens can redress the complaint, it makes little difference if compensation is paid by the Government or manufacturer.
  • India should also examine the safeguards in place in other countries which have granted indemnity, like America’s Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP).

Given the needs of India’s health, Government should work innovatively to speed up the vaccine supply to meet the demands of its vaccination program.


Soft power, India’s strength in Afghanistan

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

  • The Hindu
    • “Near and present” published on 28th August 2021
    • “Afghan situation uncertain, says India” published on 28th August 2021
    • “The Afghan theatre and judging India’s responses” published on 30th August 2021
  • The Indian Express
    • “Soft power, India’s strength in Afghanistan” published on 28th August 2021
    • “India’s limited options in Afghanistan” published on 28th August 2021
    • “India important, want to maintain ties: Taliban leadership in Qatar” published on 30th August 2021

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

Relevance: This article explains the recent developments in Afghanistan.

Context

Recently, the Taliban has declared that it will not allow any further evacuation of Afghan nationals. Following the announcement, a suicide bombing also took place in Kabul airport which claimed close to 100 lives. This shattered any optimism that the world had to hand over Afghanistan to the Taliban.

But a member of the Taliban leadership in Qatar has said that India is “very important for this subcontinent” and that his group wants to continue Afghanistan’s “cultural”, “economic”, “political” and “trade ties” with India “like in the past”. This explains India’s soft power investments in Afghanistan is reaping benefits.

Background

Please read the following articles for a better understanding:

  1. The script of the new endgame in Afghanistan
  2. Return of Taliban has implications for India
  3. New Delhi’s Af-Pak: Old friends versus old foes: Should India accept Taliban, betray Afghans or support resistance movements like Saleh’s?
  4. History over geography
  5. Modi, Putin discuss Afghanistan; India flags terror concern at BRICS, UNHRC
  6. Fourth evacuation from Kabul since 1992 & The legal challenges in recognising the Taliban
Taliban leadership opinion on India

Recently, a member of the Taliban leadership has said that India is “very important for this subcontinent” and they wanted to continue relations like in the past. This is the first categorical statement directed at India by a senior leader of the Taliban.

The Taliban has also mentioned that they will give due importance to Afghan’s political, economic and trade ties with India. Further, he mentioned that Trade with India through Pakistan is very important for them.

Furthermore, he also mentioned that the Taliban would address the issues holding up Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project after the formation of the government.

India’s investment in Afghanistan

India is currently the fifth-largest donor in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is also among the top five recipients of India’s external assistance.  India’s total development assistance over the years has been worth over $3 billion.

Hard power investments:
Soft power investments:

India’s soft power investments have helped India to build goodwill and greater people-to-people contact. It involves measures focusing on health, education, capacity development and food security, among others.

Many Indian projects have been community-driven, thus helping engage a large section of people in development efforts.

For instance, the Afghan Women’s Empowerment Programme is a collaboration between USAID and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) for providing vocational education for Afghan women.

How India’s development aid and cooperation distinguishes it from other donors?
  1. India follows a demand-driven approach, which implies that the sectors for investment are chosen by the recipient government.
  2. India’s aid and investments come without any political trappings. For instance, the US and Germany invested funds with the condition to have peace talks.
  3. In PPP terms, the value of the Indian rupee is often underestimated. This means with the rupee, one can buy substantially more goods and services at adjusted exchange rates.
    • For example, a study by the Stimson Centre found out that even though Indian aid in 2015-16 totalled $1.36 billion, in PPP terms it could be pegged at over $5 billion.
Criticism against India’s approach to Afghanistan

Despite India’s achievement in soft power, India also faces criticisms like:

  1. India did not follow an independent or national interest-based policy towards the events in that country. For example, India blindly accepted the governments installed by the US.
  2. India’s investment in Afghan earned goodwill among the people, but it did not earn any role in the political consultations.
  3. Further, India also did not engage or endorse the Taliban in the past. This makes it hard to begin negotiations at present.
India’s response to the condition in Afghanistan

Recently, the External Affairs Ministry has stated, “Currently, there is no clarity on any entity forming a government in Kabul. There has been a lot of stories going around about who will be represented in the government”. He also mentioned that India is “monitoring the situation and are in touch with partner countries”.

India’s External Affairs Minister has mentioned that the Government is pursuing a “wait and watch” policy. India needs to establish itself as a neutral entity that is keen on the development of the region, but ready to work with all parties concerned. The recent statement of India’s External Affairs Minister has affirmed that.


Taliban has put geo-economics on top in India-US ties

Source: This post is based on the article “Taliban has put geo-economics on top in India-US ties” published in the Livemint on 30th August 2021.

Syllabus: GS – 2:  Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: This article explains the issues surrounding developed countries vs developing and least developed countries.

Afghan issues mentioned in the article

Please read the following articles for the recent developments in Afghanistan:

  1. The script of the new endgame in Afghanistan
  2. Return of Taliban has implications for India
  3. New Delhi’s Af-Pak: Old friends versus old foes: Should India accept Taliban, betray Afghans or support resistance movements like Saleh’s?
  4. History over geography
  5. Modi, Putin discuss Afghanistan; India flags terror concern at BRICS, UNHRC
  6. Fourth evacuation from Kabul since 1992 & The legal challenges in recognising the Taliban
Context

There are two upcoming multilateral meetings over the next four months. These are,

  1. The upcoming CoP-26 in Glasgow, scheduled to kick off on 31 October.
  2. The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ministerial is scheduled this December.

Some key determinants are likely to emerge from the meetings. But, the fight between rich nations vs developing and poor nations will also get intensify.

What are the issues surrounding climate change negotiations?
  1. Developed nations, led by the US, are not yet willing to accept the developing bloc’s principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Instead, they are focusing on net-zero targets.
  2. Under the Paris Agreement, rich countries had promised to provide $100 billion every year to developing and poor nations. This fund will primarily help them to cope with the effects of climate change and gradually shift from polluting factories to greener ones. So far, the promise of $100 billion has remained only on paper.
Read more: Net Zero Emissions Target for India – Explained, Pointwise
What are the issues surrounding trade negotiations?
  1. Agricultural trade remains a bone of contention. Rich nations have consistently bullied developing countries at every trade negotiation. Rich nations tried to restrict farm subsidies of developing countries while refusing to touch their own.
    1. The rich nations mention that there is an asymmetry in the 1995 agriculture agreement. But one has to remember that the rich nations only introduced the agreement during the morphing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade into the WTO.
  2. Apart from that, the rich nations have also been trying to shift the goal-post by questioning special and differential treatment provisions for developing countries.
  3. The rich nations also add new issues to the agenda in which they have a competitive advantage, such as e-commerce and investment facilitation.
  4. A permanent solution to the public stockholding for food security has been pending since 2013. The pandemic has shown the importance of public stockholding by India and other poor nations. The issues with public stockholding are,
    • The formula is based on average crop prices of 1986-1988.
    • The developed countries are of the opinion that the minimum support price system in India is trade-distorting.
Read more: WTO rules on domestic support and food security

GS Paper 3

Genetically changed mosquitoes could transform Africa’s long fight against malaria

Source: This post is based on the article “Genetically changed mosquitoes could transform Africa’s long fight against malaria” published in The Down to Earth on 29th August 2021.

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

Relevance: Tackling Malaria via genetic programming of Mosquitoes

Synopsis: Genetic programming of mosquitoes along with traditional methods of Malaria prevention could help us reduce the increasing cases of Malaria globally and help reduce associated mortality.

Context

For Malaria prevention, some countries heavily depend on using insecticide treated bed nets and house spraying. These efforts, together with effective treatment, have greatly reduced the malaria burden across the continent. But lately, some countries, in Africa, have been reporting increases in cases because of resistance to insecticides.

Malaria control must, therefore, move away from relying too much on insecticides to more sustainable options.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) panel in 2016, concluded that even with the best use of current approaches, there would still be 11 million malaria cases in 2050. It called for long term strategies to complement current methods.

One of the solution is the release of genetically programmed mosquitoes.

About gene drive

In nature, there’s a phenomenon called gene drive which operates in the process of reproduction. This is when a genetic element is able to increase the chance that it will be inherited by offspring

  • The general underlying principle of all gene drives is an organism that will produce offspring similar to themselves.
  • Some characteristics are randomly passed on from parents to the next generation. However, gene drive forces a different type of inheritance that ensures a specific characteristic is always present in the next generation. Scientists engineer gene drive using various molecular tools.
  • Gene drive is not just a human invention; some occur naturally in insects
  • Unlike traditional genetic modification, gene drives enable extremely rapid spread of the desired characteristics
Genetically-programmed mosquitoes
  • The genetically programmed mosquitoes, are also called as “protector mosquitoes”.
  • Upon mating with wild mosquitoes they produce offspring that are either incapable of any further reproduction or unable to transmit malaria parasites
  • Researchers are using gene-editing tools to modify what certain mosquitoes are capable of, and make sure these capabilities are passed on to the next generation
  • The genetically programmed mosquitoes could take over wild populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes in just a few generations.
Concerns/Issues 
  • Ethical concerns about gene drive are often motivated by larger issues, such as how to stop gene drive from being used in biological weapons by engineering insects that are more dangerous. Then there is the question of who should decide which gene drive projects move forward and what types of insects with gene drive can be released into the environment.
  • Ecological concerns– Gene drive might cause unintended consequences in the ecosystem. What will happen to the natural ecosystem if a population, even of mosquitoes that make people sick, is driven to extinction? Potential threats to natural biodiversity and the security of food? etc, are some serious questions that need answering.

Way forward

More education and risk assessments are needed to inform further development of the technology. Regulatory and accountability systems are required so that regulations are adhered to and public safety is protected.


Infrastructure development and eco-conservation should go hand-in-hand

Source: This post is based on the article “Infrastructure development and eco-conservation should go hand-in-hand” published in The Hindu on 30th August 2021.

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

Relevance: Balancing economic development with environmental conservation

Synopsis: Infrastructural development, though necessary, must be rooted in regional ecological and environmental realities.

Context

Infrastructure development in the Himalayan region such as Hydropower is disturbing fragile ecosystem and leading to issues such as landslips, avalanches and the loss of lives and property.

The avalanche in Chamoli this February, that destroyed two power projects and killed at least 200, was only the latest reminder. It has brought attention back to development and conservation dilemma.

Background
  • In the aftermath of the devastating Kedarnath floods of 2013, the Supreme Court ordered a halt to hydroprojects in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins pending a review on whether they exacerbated the damage.
  • The future of hydroprojects is closely linked to the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) programme. For the health of the river, it must be allowed to flow unimpeded, and hydropower projects are an obstacle
Present scenario

Division of views b/w ministries: The Water Resources Ministry, which manages the NMCG, is opposed to hydropower projects while the Ministry of Power supports for them. Whenever a group of experts has recommended a cessation of infrastructure development, there is always another group of experts that differ and recommend the opposite.

Way forward

Uttarakhand, like all other States, is not immune from the demands for reliable power and infrastructure from its people. Along with better dialogue, power companies and the Centre must inspire greater trust in the residents of the region.

Infrastructure development will have to necessarily account for the region’s constraints.

Terms to know:


It makes sense to extract value from underutilized public assets (On Asset monetisation)

Source: This post is based on the article “It makes sense to extract value from underutilized public assets (On Asset monetisation)” published in The Live Mint on 30th August 2021.

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

Relevance: Resource Mobilisation

Synopsis: National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP), should be welcomed.

Background
Rationale behind Asset Monetisation
  • Additional Fiscal resource for states: Public assets like roadside parking slots, municipal grounds and advertising surfaces and parade grounds of police and defence services remain unused for most part of the year. Revenue-starved governments across the country could find new resources to finance higher demands on public expenditure.
    • For instance, imposing parking charges on a mere 1.5% of Bengaluru city roads could add 5% to its annual budget
  • Improved Governance and Public services: Corruption and inefficiency are often blamed for the poor state of public services like policing, health, education, transport and so on. However, cash-strapped governments are the single biggest reason for the poor public delivery of services. With increase in public finances governance and public services will improve substantially.
Suggestions/measures
  • To control corruption and cronyism (giving undue favors to friends and associates), policy design should be corruption-resistant, insist on transparency, promote market competition and punish wrong-doers.
  • NMP implementation should allocate assets in a way that the lessee has a natural incentive to maintain public assets.
  • Recommendations by NITI Aayog: NITI Aayog has made the following recommendations to make NMP a success,
    • First, government should give income tax breaks to attract retail investors into instruments such as Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs). More tax-efficient and user-friendly mechanisms like allowing tax benefits in InvITs as eligible security to invest under Section 54EC of the Income Tax Act, 1961, are important for initiating retail participation in the instruments.
    • Second, it also suggested bringing policy and regulatory changes to scale up monetisation instruments such as InvITs and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). Section 54EC allows taxpayers to offset long-term capital gains from transactions in immovable properties through investments in bonds issued by some government-backed infrastructure firms.
    • Third, it suggested expanding the investor base, which is a critical element for the NMP.
    • Fourth, it also called for bringing such trusts within the ambit of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) to provide greater comfort to investors.

GoI Plus India Inc (On lack of trust b/w govt & businesses)

Source: This post is based on the article “GoI Plus India Inc (On lack of trust b/w govt & businesses)” published in the Times of India on 30th August 2021.

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

Relevance: Industry-Government partnership

Synopsis: No nation became prosperous without trust between government and business. A look at some such events that indicate lack of trust.

Context

In the past few weeks, a series of events have raised the question of trust between government and business. It brought back unhappy memories of the Licence Raj.

What are those events?
  1. Present signs of distrust came in late July with the failure of the Indian Railways to attract a single private player to run 150 trains. The reform failed because of a lack of trust. Bidders had repeatedly insisted on an independent regulator to create a level playing field, flexibility in timings, routes and a fair exit. They didn’t trust the current regulator. However, the railways were not ready to heed to their demands.
  2. Second, govt released draft e-commerce rules and created uncertainty among foreign and Indian investors. E-commerce offers such hope to thousands of India’s small businesses of entering the world market via global e-commerce. It is India’s ticket to massive exports and millions of jobs.
  3. Third, differences came out in the open between India’s outward looking businesses, who want to integrate with global chains, versus the government’s inward looking atmanirbhar policy. In an intervention at a CII forum, the commerce minister reportedly said Indian industry doesn’t always act in national interest. He reportedly censured businesspersons of structuring foreign investments against the spirit of the rules.
  4. Fourth, the commerce ministry announced an online essay competition for students. One of the two topics was ‘Import substitution: Atmanirbhar ki Aur’. Surely, it was a mistake to revive a discredited policy of the 1960s that did so much harm to India’s exports.
  5. Fifth, Infosys was “summoned” by the finance ministry to explain failures with income tax e-filing. It could have been sorted out quietly. The vendor could be penalised for its faults without public messaging.
  6. Other issues that hamper Industry-Government connect
    • Criminalising short spending on CSR philanthropy.
    • Draconian amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act brought mistrust and panic among NGOs
Implications of distrust 

The prosperity of Germany, United States and Japan has been attributed to high levels of trust between business and the state.

In India, however, low trust has led to over-regulation, complicated laws, higher costs and making the nation uncompetitive.

Business was thus skeptical of Rs 6 trillion monetisation plan announced recently. Although its brownfield projects are free of risks of land acquisition, environment clearance, industry fears hassles at each stage of execution, from unfair PPP contracts to lack of justice from weak regulators.

Reforms of 1991 ushered in a new age of trust and prosperity. As tax rates came down, compliance rose, taxes collected went up. When a government weakens trust, it harms itself. People do not want a pro- or anti-business government. They want one open to new ideas.

 

 


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


NITI Aayog caught in e-com cross hairs

Source: This post is based on the article “NITI Aayog caught in e-com cross hairs” published in The Business Standard on 30th August 2021.

What is the news?

Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has criticized NITI Aayog on its opposition to some of the e-commerce policy rules.

  • In June, the consumer affairs ministry had proposed a range of amendments under the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, to ‘’protect the interests of consumers and encourage fair competition’’ in the market and had sought comments from relevant stakeholders.
Background
What did NITI Aayog say?

NITI Aayog had raised concerns regarding the fallback liability clause that puts the onus on marketplace platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart, instead of sellers.

Must Read: E-commerce companies call out lack of clarity in draft rules
What is the fallback liability clause?

The draft e-commerce rules define “fall back liability” as

the liability of a marketplace e-commerce entity where a seller registered with the entity fails to deliver the goods or services exactly in the way described on the platform, as a result of negligent conduct, omission or a seller’s fault.

Companies too have expressed their concerns regarding this clause.

Must Read: Issues with draft e-commerce rules
Why is CAIT criticizing NITI Aayog?

As per CAIT, the doubts cast by NITI Aayog on draft e-commerce rules under Consumer Protection Act are contrary to the objectives for which it has been constituted, and it seems to be doing so under pressure of e-commerce giants


Duopoly in telcom will hurt both consumers and govt

Source: This post is based on the article “Duopoly in telcom will hurt both consumers and govt” published in The Business Standard on 30th August 2021.

What is the news?

The government is reportedly looking at a relief package for the stressed telecom sector while also exploring ways to allow operators to pay their dues linked to adjusted gross revenue (AGR) over 20 years rather than 10 years currently.

Must Read: Two is too few – Issues with telecom sector

Preventing a duopoly in telecom sector is crucial for a large country like India. Hence, the need for a relief package is evident. Further, following steps can be taken,

Steps needed
  • The DoT (Department of Telecommunication) must revisit the components of AGR, which includes interest income, dividend, profits on the sale of assets, insurance claims, and forex gains.
  • The reserve price for the upcoming 5G spectrum auction should be rationalized to a level that would prevent telcos from any further bleeding.
  • Telecom companies must rationalize their tariffs without TRAI’s interference. Small beginnings have been made by telcos in the post-paid segment, but to make a real difference in their financial health, they need to ask the larger universe of pre-paid telecom users to shell out more for the services.

Terms to know:


No taper tantrum (On US Fed reserve policies)

Source: This post is based on the article “No taper tantrum (On US Fed reserve policies)” published in The Business Standard on 30th August 2021.

What is the news?

The US Fed Reserve is considering reducing the pace of its asset purchase. As per Fed’s Chairman, the economy had evolved as expected, and it could be appropriate to start reducing asset purchase this year.

But, it’s not clear at this stage as to when the Fed will start tapering and at what pace.

  • Tapering is the gradual reduction in the monthly purchase of assets by the Federal Reserve. It is the process of slowing down Quantitative Easing (QE).
Must Read: What is Quantitative Easing (QE)?
Concerns for India
  • The announcement of tapering in 2013 resulted in significant volatility, which led to a near currency crisis in India. A slower normalisation will give emerging markets more time to adjust. Some emerging market economies have started normalisation despite a slower economic recovery.
  • To be sure, India is in a much better position than in 2013. Unlike then, the current account is in far better shape and India reported a surplus last fiscal year.
  • It has also accumulated large foreign exchange reserves, which will help the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) manage volatility in the currency market effectively.
  • But it still has two big problems, (i) sustained higher inflation, (ii) large general government Budget deficit with high public debt.

Way forward

  • As the world starts returning to normal, Indian policymakers will need to address inflation and a budget deficit to preserve financial stability.
  • The government must also work on a medium-term fiscal plan.

Sambhar Lake needs faster restoration, says expert study

Source: This post is based on the article “Sambhar Lake needs faster restoration, says expert study” published in The Hindu on 27th August 2021.

What is the News?

According to an expert study, Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan is constantly shrinking with degradation of soil and water quality.

About Sambhar Lake:
  • Sambhar Lake is India’s largest inland saline water body, located near Jaipur in Rajasthan.
  • The lake is surrounded on all sides by the Aravali hills. The lake is spread across Jaipur and Nagaur districts and also a part of Ajmer district in Rajasthan.
  • The lake receives water from six rivers: Mantha, Rupangarh, Khari, Khandela, Medtha and Samod.
  • Ramsar Site: The lake was also designated as a Ramsar site in 1990.
  • Salt Production: The lake produces 196,000 tonnes of clean salt every year, which is around 9% of India’s salt production.
  • Migratory Birds: The lake attracts thousands of migratory birds every year.
    • In 2019, the death of more than 20,000 birds belonging to about 10 species that migrate annually to the lake had made international headlines. Later, it was found that the birds had died due to avian botulism.
Study on Sambhar Lake:
  1. Loss of Sambhar Lake Area: Almost 30% of Sambhar Lake’s area had been lost to mining and other activities, including the illegal salt pan encroachments
  2. Loss of Livelihoods of Local People: The loss of the area has also threatened the livelihoods of local people, who have always lived in harmony with the lake and its ecology.
  3. Reduction in Wetland: There has been a reduction of wetland from 30.7% to 3.4% at a constant rate with its conversion into saline soil, which increased by 9.3%.

What needs to be done?

  1. Urgent action is needed to restore the lake’s ecosystem for protecting the birds and biodiversity as well as the salt production.
  2. The study has recommended that Sambhar Lake Development Authority should be formed by taking experts from multiple agencies. 
  3. Further, a coordination committee should also be developed among the administration of three districts – Jaipur, Ajmer and Nagaur. 

Defence Minister dedicates to the Nation Indigenously built Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Vigraha’

Source: This post is based on the article “Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh dedicates to the Nation Indigeneously built Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Vigraha'” published in PIB on 28th August 2021.

What is the News?

The Defence Minister has commissioned the Indian Coast Guard (ICG)’s offshore patrol vessel (OPV) Vigraha.

About ICGS Vigraha:
  • Vigraha is an indigenously built Indian Coast Guard(ICG)’s offshore patrol vessel (OPV).
  • Built by: The ship has been designed and built by M/s Larsen & Toubro Shipbuilding Ltd.
  • Based at: The ship will be based at Visakhapatnam and operate on India’s Eastern Seaboard.
Key Features:
  1. Communication Technology: The ship is equipped with advanced radars. The sensors and machinery present in the ship make it capable of operating in tropical sea conditions.
  2. Carrying Capacity: The ship has been designed to carry one twin-engine helicopter and four high-speed boats for the purpose of boarding operation, search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime patrol.
  3. Climate Sensitive: The design of the vessel is also climate-sensitive. The ship is capable of carrying “pollution response equipment” to contain oil spills at sea.

Scientists are using new satellite tech to find glow-in-the-dark milky seas of maritime lore

Source: This post is based on the article “Scientists are using new satellite tech to find glow-in-the-dark milky seas of maritime lore” published in Down to Earth on 27th August 2021.

What is the News?

Scientists are using new satellite technologies to find the reasons for the Milky Seas effect.

About Milky Seas Effect:
  1. Milky seas are also called mareel. It is a luminous phenomenon in the ocean, in which large areas of seawater appear to glow translucently (in varying shades of blue).
  2. Such occurrences glow brightly enough at night to be visible from satellites orbiting Earth.
Reason for the Milky Sea Effect:
  1. Till now, only one research vessel has encountered a milky sea. That crew collected samples and found a strain of luminous bacteria (called Vibrio harveyi) colonizing algae at the water’s surface.
  2. Purpose of the Glow:
    1. Luminous bacteria cause the particles to glow when they colonize.
    2. Researchers also think that the purpose of this glow could be to attract fish that eat them.
      • These bacteria thrive in the guts of fishes, so when their populations get too big for their main food supply, a fish’s stomach makes a great second option. 
      • Example: If you go into a refrigerated fish locker and turn off the light, you may notice that some fish emit a greenish-blue glow – this is bacterial light.

The instrument used for detecting Milky Sea Effect:

  • Day/Night Band: These are new constellations of satellites planned for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They are designed to capture low-light emission sources, under a variety of illuminated conditions.

Government introduces a new registration mark for new vehicles “Bharat series (BH-series)” to facilitate seamless transfer of vehicles

Source: This post is based on the article “Government introduces a new registration mark for new vehicles “Bharat series (BH-series)” to facilitate seamless transfer of vehicles” published in PIB on 28th August 2021.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has introduced a new registration mark for new vehicles called the Bharat series (BH-series). 

What is the BH Number Series?
  1. BH number series is a newly introduced number series for vehicle registration across India. It is specifically meant for those vehicle owners who shift from one state to another on a regular basis due to their transferable nature of jobs. 
    • Currently, under section 47 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, a person is allowed to keep a vehicle for a maximum of one year in any State other than the one, it is registered in. Owners have to get such vehicles re-registered before the expiry of one year (12 months).
  2. The BH signifies Bharat and will replace the state letters in the number plate denoting the state of vehicle registration, like UP or DL.
Who is eligible to apply for BH Series?
  1. The vehicle registration facility under the ‘BH’ series will be available to defence personnel, employees of Central government, state governments, Central/State PSUs
  2. Further, individuals working in private sector companies/organisations, which have their offices in five or more states/Union Territories can also avail of this registration.

As the employees in these services have a transferable job, moving from one state to another every 2-3 years.

Motor Vehicles Tax:

  1. In general, one has to pay road tax for regular vehicles for 15 years.
  2. On the other hand, for the BH series, the motor vehicle tax will be levied for two years or in multiple of two.
  3. After completion of the fourteenth year, the motor vehicle tax shall be levied annually. 

Benefits of BH Series:

  1. Vehicles will not require any transfer of registration and will be valid across the country. This will allow free movement of personal vehicles across States/Union Territories. 

WCD Ministry to celebrate POSHAN Maah across nation throughout next month

Source: This post is based on the article “‘Thematic’ POSHAN Maah To Be Celebrated Across The Nation Throughout The Month Of September As Part Of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” published in PIB on 29th August 2021.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Women and Child Development will celebrate the POSHAN Maah across the nation throughout the next month. 

About POSHAN Maah:

  • POSHAN Maah is celebrated every year during the month of September under POSHAN Abhiyan (PM’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment).
  • Aim: To ensure community mobilisation and bolster people’s participation under POSHAN Abhiyan.
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Women and Child Development is celebrating it in convergence with partner Ministries and departments at the National, State/UTs, District and grass-root levels. 
  • Activities: During POSHAN Maah, activities related to nutrition awareness will be carried out across all the States/UTs right up to the grass-root levels. The weekly themed wise activities include:
    • Plantation Activity as “PoshanVatika”.
    • Yoga and AYUSH for Nutrition.
    • Distribution of ‘Regional Nutrition Kit’ to Anganwadi beneficiaries of High Burden Districts.
    • Identification of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) children and distribution of nutritious food.

Ayush Minister announces major plans for Boosting Ayush Initiatives in Northeast

Source: This post is based on the article “‘Ayush Minister Shri Sarbananda Sonowal announces major plans for Boosting Ayush Initiatives in Northeast” published in PIB on 28th August 2021.

What is the News?

Union Minister of Ayush has announced a number of major initiatives planned to boost the traditional medicinal practices in the northeastern states of India.

Major Initiatives Announced:

Health and Wellness Centres:

  1. The Government of India will set up 1,000 health and wellness centres (HWC) in the Northeast as a part of the National Ayush Mission(NAM) for the growth and development of Ayush systems.
  2. The aim of these centres will be to provide a holistic wellness model based on principles of Ayush systems of medicine.
Ayurvedic College:
  1. The Ministry of Ayush will provide ₹70 crore for the establishment of a new ayurvedic college at Dudhnoi in Assam’s Goalpara. 

Y-Break App:

  1. The Y-Break mobile application has been developed by MDNIY (Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga).
  2. Through this app, yoga and meditation can be done anywhere in just 5 minutes.

AyushAapkeDwar programme:

  1. Under the programme, saplings will be distributed to households to promote the concept of growing medicinal plants in the kitchen garden. It will help households to use the medicines from their gardens for common illnesses.

Schemes Mentioned in the Article:

The scheme on Conservation, Development and Sustainable Management of Medicinal Plants:

  1. It is a Central Sector Scheme.
  2. The scheme is implemented by the National Medicinal Plants Board, Ministry of Ayush.

Objectives of the scheme: Under the scheme, the following activities are supported for the management of medicinal plants:

  1. In-situ conservation/ Ex-situ conservation of medicinal plants.
  2. To support joint forest management committees (JFMCs) for value addition, drying, warehousing and augmenting marketing infrastructure.
  3. IEC activities like Training/ Workshops/ Seminars/ Conference etc.
  4. Research & Development.
  5. Promotion, marketing and trade of medicinal plants produce.

PIB Shillong Organizes Webinar on ‘Unsung Heroes of Meghalaya’ to Commemorate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav

Source: This post is based on the article “PIB Shillong Organizes Webinar on ‘Unsung Heroes of Meghalaya’ to Commemorate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” published in PIB on 28th August 2021.

What is the News?

Press Information Bureau, Shillong has held a virtual discussion on ‘Unsung Heroes of Meghalaya’ as part of the nationwide celebration of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Important Unsung Heroes of Meghalaya:

U Tirot Sing Sylem:

  1. U Tirot Sing was born in the year 1802 and died in the year 1835. He was one of the chiefs of the Khasi people in the early 19th century.
  2. He declared war and fought against the British for attempts to take over control of the Khasi Hills.

U Sib Charan Roy:

  1. U Sib Charan Roy was a Nationalist and socio-religious reformer, born in 1862 in Sohra, Meghalaya. He was the eldest son of Babu Jeebon Roy, the ‘Father of modern Khasis’.
  2. He joined government service in 1891 as an A.S.I of police. But, he grew disgusted with the oppressive measures resorted by the British Government. Subsequently, he resigned from Government service in 1892.
  3. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1920 and was the only Khasi who attended the famous ‘Lahore Session’ of 1929 and had seen the flag hosting and demand for ‘Purna Swaraj’ (complete independence) by the Congress.
  4. He started a monthly paper ‘U Nongphira’ (watchman).
  5. Furthermore, he knew Sanskrit and translated the Hindu religious book ‘Bhagavad Gita’ into the Khasi language.
U Kiang Nangbah:
  1. U Kiang Nangbah was a Khasi freedom fighter from Meghalaya who led an uprising against the British. 
  2. He was hanged by the British publicly at Iawmusiang in Jowai town in West Jaintia Hills district in 1862. 
  3. A postage stamp was issued by the Government of India to commemorate him in 2001. A government college was also opened at Jowai in 1967 in his honour.

PM dedicates renovated complex of Jallianwala Bagh Smarak to the nation

Source: This post is based on the article “PM dedicates renovated complex of Jallianwala Bagh Smarak to the nation” published in the PIB on 28th August 2021.

Context

To pay homage to Jallianwala Bagh brave hearts, PM dedicated renovated complex of Jallianwala Bagh Smarak to the nation. PM also inaugurated Museum Galleries at the Smarak.

About the Jallianwala Bagh massacre

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre also known as the Amritsar Massacre took place on 13th April 1919 under the command of General Dyer who ordered firing against the protestors who were gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to condemn the arrest of two national leaders Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew.

Read more: Jallianawala Bagh incident
Why April 13 is special?
  • It is the celebration of Baisakhi, a spring harvest festival.
  • It marks the establishment of “Khalsa Panth” by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, which had the objective of “Sarbat da Bhala” (blessings for everyone).

India warns arms cos of action for default in offset commitments

Source: This post is based on the article “India warns arms cos of action for default in offset commitments” published in the Times of India on 30th August 2021.

What is the news?

The Government of India has started taking action against foreign armament majors for failure to fulfill their offsets obligations in defence deals. It has threatened to ban a US company and put another 11 firms on watchlist for imposition of penalties.

What are offset obligations?

In defence sector, the offset is an obligation by an international player to boost India’s domestic defence industry if India is buying defence equipment from it.

  • Since defence contracts are costly, the government wants part of that money either to benefit the Indian industry, or to allow the country to gain in terms of technology.
  • An offset provision in a contract makes it obligatory on the supplier to either “reverse purchase, execute export orders or invest in local industry or in research and development” in the buyer’s domestic industry.
Must Read: Offset policy in defence

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in a report, defined offsets as a “mechanism generally established with the triple objectives of:

  1. partially compensating for a significant outflow of a buyer country’s resources in a large purchase of foreign goods
  2. facilitating induction of technology and
  3. adding capacities and capabilities of domestic industry
What will happen now?
  • A warning has been issued that if companies do not fulfill their offset obligations in a timely manner, their bank guarantees could be forfeited and payments could be deducted.
  • If these options are not available against a company, then a show cause notice will be sent to explain why it should not be banned.
  • The CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) has called for a major overhaul of the entire offset policy highlighting it has failed to meet the objectives

Rs 1.42-trillion tied grant to villages for water, sanitation: 15th FC

Source: This post is based on the article “Rs 1.42-trillion tied grant to villages for water, sanitation: 15th FC” published in the Business Standard on 30th August 2021.

Context

Recently, The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation – under the Jal Shakti ministry – has recommended the release of the first instalment of tied grant to 25 states.

Earlier, the Fifteenth Finance Commission (15th FC) has recommended a ₹1.42-trillion tied grant to local rural bodies and panchayats for the next five years (from 2021- 22 to 2025–26).

About the 15th FC recommendation:
Tied grant to villages
Source: Business Standard

About the Grant: The tied grant is 60 percent of the total amount of ₹2.37 trillion allocated to rural local bodies. The grant is meant for ensuring the supply of drinking water, rainwater harvesting, and water recycling. The grant is also to be used for sanitation and maintenance of open defecation-free status in villages.

Nodal Agency: The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation – under the Jal Shakti ministry – will be the nodal department for determining the eligibility of the rural local bodies for the 15th FC’s tied grant for water and sanitation.

Significance of the fund release
  • The funds will help village panchayats function as local public utilities with a focus on service delivery.
  • The funds will push tap water supply and better sanitation facilities in villages.
Other initiatives of the government
  • The government has selected 84 institutions to act as key resource centres to impart training and capacity building of gram panchayats for ensuring assured water supply, improved sanitation, and hygiene.
Other directions by the Union government to improve the water, sanitation at the local level

The government has directed the state and local authorities for the following initiatives.

  • States need to identify nodal departments and put in place a system in accordance with the guidelines during the 15th FC period.
  • States have been asked to institute a robust ‘operation and maintenance’ policy to recover service charges from households.
    • This is expected to help them meet the recurring expenditure on rural water supply and sanitation services in villages for long-term and assured service delivery.
  • Five-year Village Action Plan: To institute a robust ‘operation and maintenance’ policy, every village will have to draw up a five-year action plan for the same duration as the 15th FC’s period.
    • The plan will consist of components such as drinking water source strengthening, greywater treatment and its reuse, operation and maintenance, solid and liquid waste management, among others.
    • These village action plans are to be a part of gram panchayat development plans.
What is a tied grant?

The state and local bodies cannot utilise the fund for any other purpose other than the attached condition. So, these grants are also called conditional grants.

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