We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- 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:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
- 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.
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Key priorities for employment policy
- The vaccine’s last mile problem
- Still hanging fire on transparency
- Marital Rape: An indignity to women
- 7 years of PM Jan Dhan Yojana
- Break the deadlock: Increase women’s representation
- The strategic signal of an Indian presence in the South China Sea
GS Paper 3
- Getting finance onside for climate
- Banks could end up beholden to online platforms with reach
- World freed from toxic leaded petrol: A global win
- Making NMP work
- How private businesses imperil our health as well as prosperity
- India is indeed walking the green talk
- Conserving groundwater: Role of women crucial in bringing about significant change
- A Power Cut For India
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Adopting crypto assets as currency is a risky bet: IMF
- We ought to clarify ourstance on Chinese apps
- Habitat of bird that flies non-stop for 5 days from Japan to Australia under threat
- Conserving Chitkul: Why the ‘last village of India’ cannot be allowed to drown in plastic
- Dara Shikoh never became emperor. But he was a true child of India
- PPP model of BharatNet: DoT starts meets, hopes to float bid by Sept-end
- 102 Vande Bharat trains to be operational by 2024
- Mapping groundwater sources by CSIR will help to utilise groundwater for drinking purposes: Union Minister
- India elected to key bodies of Universal Postal Union
- RBI permits card-tokenization services in a bid to make card transactions more safe
- Union Home Minister launches nutritious ‘Laddu Distribution Scheme’ for pregnant women in his Parliamentary constituency Gandhinagar
- New initiative in J&K to restore lost glory of Pashmina shawls
- Hurricane Ida hits Louisiana
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Source: This post is based on the article “Key priorities for employment policy” published in Business Standard on 30th August 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 – Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre
Relevance: Employment Generation in India and Employment strategy for India.
Synopsis: Measures that generate income for the poor are more important than modifying the applicability threshold for labour laws.
Several decades of relatively high growth has failed to generate enough quality employment for the majority of Indians. The consequences of this failure are visible in
- rising inequality of income,
- the social unrest and vigilante violence fuelled by unemployed youngsters,
- a growing politicization of the tension between locals and migrants from other parts of India,
- stagnation, and
- a decline in the living conditions of millions trapped in low-quality employment.
Hence, India needs to focus on creating a sound employment strategy for youth because out of the 22 million who are unemployed in terms of usual status, 18 million are workers in the 15-29 age group.
It should be based on the following dimensions:
- Employment approach that strengthens the links between growth and job creation.
- Increase opportunities for educated youth.
- Improves substantially the conditions of work and remuneration for the millions at the bottom of the work pyramid.
- Increases substantially the participation of women in the workforce.
What needs to be done?
- First, improve the quality of education from pre-primary upwards and improved child nutrition. For example, the new education policy includes a proposal for mandatory skill acquisition programmes in schools.
- Second, giving incentives to encourage school and college leavers to participate in these skilling programmes. Provide all secondary school and college leavers with an unemployment benefit on the condition that they participate in an organised skill development course.
- Third, connect the skill programmes and the institutions implementing them to potential employers by involving them in the funding and management of skill development.
- Fourth, provide every employed person with a written contract and the strict enforcement of minimum wage legislation.
- Fifth, improving the conditions of work for the vast majority of workers. In agriculture, the number of employers is so large that the best strategy is programmes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act that provide supplementary employment and underwrite statutory minimum wages in rural areas.
- Lastly, raising the participation of women in the workforce. At present, only 23% of women are in the labour force, as against 57% of men. There is a wide range in the Labour Force Participation Rate of women, from 6% in Bihar to 52% in Himachal Pradesh. This suggests that the differences are partly because of variations in the local pace of development and due to social practices.
If we improve the earnings for people at the bottom of the income pyramid, there will be substantial economic gain with a better connection between growth and job creation.
Source: This post is based on the article “The vaccine’s last-mile problem” published in The Hindu on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Relevance: Universalisation of vaccination programme.
Synopsis: In vaccination programmes, which have complex delivery requirements, the last mile means to make or break.
The article highlights the problem of increased inequalities in vaccination, which have been aggravated by the Covid pandemic. Now, as vaccines are becoming available, the next important task is to vaccinate the whole world.
This is especially true for the most vulnerable people or places like the mountains of Afghanistan and Amazon, nomadic populations etc. The debates over vaccine nationalism, intellectual properties or technology transfer should not be allowed to stifle the drive of vaccinating the entire world.
What are the issues that require immediate attention?
For vaccines, to be delivered to everyone, we need to address the following challenges:
- Logistical Issues: There is a need to address logistical challenges like cold chain delivery requirements, supply chains etc.
- Infrastructure: There is a need to provide proper transport infrastructure, electricity availability to store vaccines.
- Health system: For the successful rollout of vaccines, there is a need to upgrade the health infrastructure with proper training to vaccinators to full availability of health staff.
- Communication: Communities should be fully aware of the purpose of the vaccination drive.
- Sustainability: There is a need to ensure sustainable methods to dispose of medical waste generated from the vaccination drives.
What are the long term benefits of extensive vaccination?
The extensive vaccination drive may also provide certain long term benefits. Such as:
- It provides the opportunity to build resilient health systems.
- If the infrastructure was created in a sustainable way at present, then it will serve the communities after the pandemic also. For instance, the solar water heaters, cold chain facilities, medical waste incinerators, etc can be used by the local community for the long term.
The pandemic revealed the inequalities and also the gaps in our health infrastructure. Thus, it should be seen as an opportunity to revitalize our health infrastructure and health systems.
Source: This post is based on the article “Still hanging fire on transparency” published in The Hindu on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS -2 Structure, organization and functioning of the judiciary
Relevance: Understand issues of criminalization of politics.
Synopsis: Courts need to go beyond appealing to the fictional conscience of our lawmakers.
Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) fined 8 political parties for being in contempt of the Court’s decisions to inform citizens about criminal antecedents of their candidates.
Criminal cases against the politicians:
There has been an increase in criminal cases against politicians. In 2004, 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them. This figure rose to an alarming 43% after the 2019 general elections.
|Read more: Functioning of Parliament: Challenges and way forward – Explained, pointwise|
Instructions by SC
In various judgements, the SC directed political parties to inform the electorates about:
- The criminal antecedents of candidates.
- Why the party found these candidates more suitable than those without criminal backgrounds?
- Party should give reasons for selections with reference to qualifications, achievements and other merits.
Despite these clear directives, parties have not worked as per these directives.
There are many instances in the past where political parties have shown contempt to directives of court:
- In Union of India vs ADR (2002): Court directed all candidates to file an affidavit declaring their educational, financial and criminal backgrounds. But, political parties amended the Representation of the People Act, 1951, to nullify the disclosure requirements. The Court later struck down the amendments.
- In 2013, the Central Information Commission (CIC) declared six national political parties as ‘public authorities’ under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Parties were required to appoint Public Information Officers(PIO) and submit themselves to provisions of the transparency law.
- Political parties immediately introduced a bill in Parliament to amend the RTI law to exclude political parties from the ambit of the RTI legislation. It was only due to strong public opposition that the amendments were finally dropped. But still, Political parties have not appointed PIOs.
Introduction of Electoral Bonds
Political parties often oppose the scrutiny of political funding by the public. Further, they do not want any examination which may reveal the names of their donors (who give financial support to parties). So, the introduction of electoral bonds has created a further blow to people’s right to know and consolidated the role of money in electoral politics.
|Must read: Electoral Bond and its challenges – Explained, Pointwise|
While hearing the challenge to the instrument of electoral bonds, the Supreme Court in 2019 observed that the transparency of electoral bonds is vital for the sanctity of the electoral process. Unfortunately, the case has not received the urgent attention that it requires, and the petition has been pending for nearly four years.
What should the courts do?
- It needs to urgently hear the matter of the electoral bond, along with the issue of the refusal of political parties to comply with the CIC’s order.
- Judiciary needs to put in a mechanism that ensures that its directives are followed before the conduct of elections.
- It should debar candidates who violate its orders.
What further steps are needed to bring transparency in electoral funding?
The country can no longer afford courts to become mere spectators of the erosion of democracy.
In the public interest, the courts should intervene and not just limit themselves to appealing to lawmakers to formulate strict laws. The courts need to make decisive judgements and lay down directions to enhance the transparency in the matter of public funding.
Source: This post is based on the article “Marital Rape: An indignity to women” published in The Hindu on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS-2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Relevance: Understand the issue of Marital Rape.
Synopsis: The marital rape exception is antithetical to women’s dignity, equality and autonomy.
Recently, the High Court of Chhattisgarh decided a criminal revision petition. The charges were framed against the husband based on the allegations of his wife. The High Court upheld charges under Sections 498A (cruelty towards wife by husband or relatives) and Section 377(unnatural sex) but discharged the husband under Section 376 (rape).
Why the person has been discharged from Section 376?
This was done as an Exception 2 to Section 375 (the definition of rape). As this section provides that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife (provided that wife is over the age of 18) would not amount to the offence of rape. This is based on the premise that all sex within marriage is consensual.
Earlier in the Independent Thought vs Union of India (2017) case, the government defended these provisions by stating that making marital rape a crime would destroy the institution of marriage.
However, there are many inconsistencies in this provision of the law:
- First, the husband may be tried for sexual offences like sexual harassment, molestation etc as they make no exception for the marriage.
- Second, a husband can be tried for unnatural sexual intercourse under section 377 instead of under section 376.
- In Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India, 2018, the SC ruled that Section 377 is applicable only when the intercourse is done without the consent of the other partner.
- Third, it is argued that marriage is a sexual relationship. So, determining the validity of allegations of marital rape is difficult. However, one should keep in mind that marriage does not grant permanent and perpetual consent.
- Fourth, this section goes against the constitutional goal of individual autonomy, individual dignity and gender equality. The provisions seek to make the husband her master and thus, it promotes patriarchal beliefs. It goes against the norms of Article 21 and Article 14 of the Indian constitution.
- This notion of patriarchy which believes that women are husband’s property was challenged by Joseph Shine vs Union of India (2018). In this case, the Supreme Court held that criminal prosecution under adultery was unconstitutional. Adultery as a criminal offence should either apply equally to both genders or not apply to any gender at all.
What steps should we take going forward?
The presence of Exception 2 under 375 is antithetical to the liberal and progressive values of our constitution. We should take cues from Independent Thought vs Union of India (2017) where SC had read down the exception and laid emphasis on the significance of consent in any sexual relationship. Thus, this protection should also be afforded to women against their husbands.
Source: This post is based on the article “7 years of PM Jan Dhan Yojana” published in the PIB on 28th August 2021.
Syllabus: GS-2 Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes
Relevance: To Understand PMJDY
Recently, PM Jan Dhan Yojana (PM-JDY) has completed its 7 successful years of implementation.
What is PMJDY?
It is National Mission for Financial Inclusion to ensure access to financial services, namely, Banking/ Savings & Deposit Accounts, Remittance, Credit, Insurance, Pension in an affordable manner.
|Read more: PM Jan Dhan Yojana|
Impact of PMJDY:
- PMJDY has opened the gates of financial inclusion for poor and marginalized households. It brings the benefits of credit, insurance, remittances and government services through DBT.
- It has aided many government schemes as schemes like PM-KISAN, MGNREGA etc. are dependent on active bank accounts.
- Not only that, but it has also been of great help during the lockdown as within 10 days of lockdown, 20 Crore women PMJDY accounts received the money in the form of government assistance.
Achievements of the scheme
- Accounts: More and more people are coming under financial inclusion through JDY.
- More than 43.04 crore beneficiaries were linked to the banking system.
- It has also helped in social empowerment as no. of women account holders in total JDY accounts is 55.47%.
- In fact, 66.69% of Jan Dhan accounts are in rural and semi-urban areas.
- Currency circulation through operative accounts: Out of the total 43.04 crore PMJDY accounts, 36.86 crores (85.6%) are operative, which helps in reviving credit and currency flow in the economy.
- Deposits: Deposits have increased about 6.38 times. This is another indicator of increasing usage of accounts and inculcation of saving habits among the account holders.
- Rupay Card: The number of RuPay cards and their usage has increased over time.
- Jan Dhan Darshak App: It was launched to provide a citizen-centric platform for locating banking touchpoints such as bank branches, ATMs, Bank Mitras, Post Offices, etc. This app is also being used for identifying villages that are not served by banking touchpoints.
- PM Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) for PMJDY women beneficiaries: Under this, an amount of ₹500 (for 3 months) was transferred to women PMJDY account holders during Covid lockdown.
- Ensuring smooth DBT transactions: Close monitoring by the government with banks and NPCI (national payment Corporation of India) has reduced the DBT failures. The share of DBT failures due to avoidable reasons as a percentage of total DBT failures has decreased from 13.5% (FY 19-20) to 5.7% (FY 20-21).
What should be further done?
- We should endeavour to ensure coverage of PMJDY account holders under micro-insurance schemes, such as PMJJBY (PM Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana) and PMSBY (PM Suraksha Bima Yojana).
- We should work for the promotion of digital payments including RuPay debit card usage among PMJDY account holders through the creation of acceptance infrastructure across India.
- Furthermore, we should work towards improving access of PMJDY account holders to Micro-credit and micro-investment such as Flexi-recurring deposit etc.
Terms to know
Source: This post is based on the article “Break the deadlock: Increase women’s representation” published in The Times of India on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS-2 Representation of women in Indian Legislature.
Relevance: Reservation for women in the legislature.
Synopsis: Providing reservations for women in a way that makes the parliament gender equal.
With women performing excellently in sports, cinema & other fields, it is time that women get adequate representation in the legislature also. Despite consensus across all major political parties on increasing the representation of women in political parties, their numbers in the legislature are still disappointing.
Status of women in legislation:
In terms of numbers, presently there are less than 15% women legislatures in most state assemblies and Parliament. Most of these legislators happen to be from urban areas where there is good access to education. There are certain exceptions to this general rule, like:
- Women coming from political families and
- Women who received recognition in other fields (mostly films, TV)
What are the roadblocks which prevent women’s entry into politics?
- Reservation Policy: There is less support from male legislators because of the process of how reservation policy works.
- If we decide 30% of seats to be reserved for women, then women alone are allowed to contest from those seats. This is not acceptable to many, as they may take decades to build their reputation in their constituency. If a constituency suddenly becomes reserved, it would bar them from contesting.
- Followers: Political parties and leaders take years, even generations, to build followers. They would not like to hand over their constituency to anyone, as they are apprehensive of losing their followers. So, despite verbal support, political parties are not keen on reservation for women in the legislature.
What can be done to improve women legislators?
Given the reluctance of the political parties, following approaches we can adopt
- Introduce phased increase in women representation e.g. 20% in 2024 elections, 25% in 2029 elections
- Instead of constituency-wise reservation, India can ask the recognised political parties to reserve a required percentage of seats for women.
- India can also request all political parties to field the mandated percentage of women candidates in those constituencies where they have either won or have been runner-ups in previous elections.
How would the above approaches prove beneficial?
- With no particular constituency reserved for women, the fear of losing the male seats will be eliminated.
- Unlike sports, where men and women compete separately, here they can compete with each other. And as the process would be gradual, and would provide parties enough time to nurture the women candidates.
Thus, through this approach, the deadlock can be broken, and we can pave the way for increasing women’s reservation in the Parliament.
Source: This post is based on the article “The strategic signal of an Indian presence in the South China Sea” published in The Livemint on 31th August 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Relevance: This article explains India’s presence in the South China Sea.
India’s naval manoeuvres in the South China Sea annoy China, but such bold signalling plays a role in safeguarding national interests.
The last year’s border clash and continuing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) have raised questions on India’s China policy. In a major message to China, the Indian Navy made its presence felt in the waters of the South China Sea.
This month, a task force of four warships sailed to the South China Sea. They performed last week’s Malabar 2021 naval exercises with India’s Quad partners. They will also conduct various bilateral exercises with naval forces from South China Sea littoral states, including Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
|Read more: Explained: The Malabar Exercise of Quad nations, and why it matters to India|
What is the significance of the move?
- India claimed that these maritime initiatives are aimed at enhancing synergy and coordination between the Indian Navy and friendly countries.
- At a time when tensions with China are high along the LAC, India is signalling that it is willing to challenge China in the maritime sphere along with other like-minded nations.
How global countries are showing their presence in the South China Sea?
- The South China Sea is claimed by China as its sovereign territory almost in its entirety. The claims of other countries are tackled by China through artificial islands heavily fortified with missiles, runways and weapon systems.
- Several ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counterclaims on China.
- The US also mentioned, “nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea”.
- In recent weeks, a British aircraft carrier strike group and an American surface action group have marked their presence in the South China Sea region.
|Read more: Quad Summit and its relevance – Explained, Pointwise|
What is India’s interest in the South China Sea?
India has wider stakes in the South China Sea, as nearly 55% of India’s trade with the Indo-Pacific region passes through these waters. So India’s interest is primarily to keep the region’s trade routes safe and secure, thereby helping uphold regional stability and freedom of navigation.
So, India has been pushing for a rules-based order in the region, including by means of upholding the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is evident as in the recent meeting of the East Asia Summit, India stressed that any Code of Conduct in the South China Sea should be fully consistent with the relevant UN convention and negotiations.
What India needs to do?
India is willing to reciprocate and play its role, as seen in its recent deployment of Indian Navy vessels. But China is gaining greater operational control over the disputed territories in the South China Sea. Thus, the challenge for India is rising by the day. So, Greater activism, both diplomatic and military, is needed and is beginning to shape up with the involvement of Quad and other military exercises.
India is waking up to the challenge by trying to increase its presence and influence in China’s backyard. This will annoy China, but rattling China is necessary if India is to suitably protect its interests from the Himalayas to the maritime domain.
Terms to know:
GS Paper 3
Source: This post is based on the article “Getting finance onside for climate” published in Business Standard on 30th August 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Environment
Relevance: Role of finance in alleviating climate crisis.
Synopsis: Climate crisis demands enormous economic and societal changes. The challenge is manageable. But if it is to be managed well, finance must play its part.
The world has finally awoken to the need of securing a rapid transition to a green economy. Finance will play a pivotal role in that process. But while some financial institutions have done their part, far too many continue to provide capital to the fossil-fuel industry and support other parts of the economy that are incompatible with a green transition.
Such type of financing activity is irresponsible.
Creation of stranded assets
Many of the investments currently being financed in the fossil fuel industry are long-lived. For example: Discovering, developing, and fully exploiting a new oil field takes decades. This means they stretch well beyond the time in which the world must become carbon-neutral. As such, these projects almost certainly will become “stranded assets”.
- Stranded assets are holdings that have lost their value and usefulness amid the fight to save the planet.
Impact of creation of stranded assets
Losses suffered in the form of stranded assets pose a risk to the investor and, potentially, to the economic system and the planet.
- Lobbies to fight green transition: Most owners of stranded assets will selfishly fight to exploit their holdings no matter what, hence, financing for these investments creates an adverse political dynamic. Powerful lobbies, heavily invested in such projects, will fight the green transition, because otherwise they’ll be the ones left with stranded assets.
- Demands for compensation: Moreover, if the transition succeeds, these same groups will demand compensation.
- Deploy regulatory tools: Since markets are short-sighted and often fail to account fully for key risks, the obligation to ensure financial stability lies with those overseeing the economy, including central banks.
- Disclosure of climate risk: It should be obligatory to disclose the full climate risk of any fossil fuel-based project to the regulator. Risk must include not just physical dangers, but also direct and indirect financial risks based on various scenarios listed in the IPCC reports.
- Smooth transition: We need a smooth, efficient transition to carbon neutrality, with gradual adjustments in asset prices. For this to happen, finance must not only stop providing funds for investments that destroy our environment but also provide funds for the investments needed to move us in the right direction.
- No subsidization: Those investors who continue to make investments in fossil fuels should not effectively be subsidized by the public through the deductibility of losses.
- Compensation guarantee: To encourage investments that are based on a high carbon price, governments could issue “guarantees” that if the price of carbon turns out to be lower than expected in, say, 20 years, the investor will be compensated. This would function as a kind of insurance policy, pressing governments around the world to uphold their commitments under the Paris climate agreement.
Green development banks
These and other similar policies will assist the green transition. But even then, the private financial sector is unlikely to do enough on its own. Hence, to help fill the gap, green development banks have already been created in many jurisdictions, including the state of New York. In some other countries, existing development banks’ mandates have been broadened to include green development.
These institutions are making an important contribution not just in providing finance, but also in assisting with the design and structuring of the green projects themselves.
Source: This post is based on the article “Banks could end up beholden to online platforms with reach” published in Livemint on 30th August 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.
Relevance: Disruption in the banking sector by tech giants.
Synopsis: Deposit mobilization through Big Tech apps might weaken banks.
What has happened?
According to a press release, Equitas Small Finance Bank will now offer Google Pay customers up to 6.85% interest on one-year funds.
Alphabet’s Google already provides one of the two most popular payment wallets (Google Pay) in the country. But now, Google Pay wants to push time-deposit products (fixed deposits) of small Indian banks.
- It exposes the weak nature of the financial institutions on a core operation like deposit-taking, and their vulnerability to an assault from an online search, social media and e-com giants.
- Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon.com may pose a far bigger challenge to brick-and-mortar lenders than fintech startups that don’t have the scale of platform businesses.
- In India, banks short on deposits might face problems as tech intermediaries have hundreds of millions of active users. Once these giants enter the sector, even larger banks will lose control of banking.
- Consumers will gain: Equitas doesn’t have a pre-existing relationship with the Google Pay customer, and even after getting the money, the lender might not get to build one. Once the deposit matures, the money will simply go back into whichever bank’s account it came from, [And] if another lender offers a better deal, idle funds might go there next. Customer loyalty, which is often just inertia, will no longer ensure stickiness. Savers will gain.
- If the move is successful, the likes of PhonePe and WhatsApp Pay might also want to copy it. For a fee, platforms can easily extend their insights into consumer behaviour and payment flows to influence deposit mobilization. The higher the commission, the lower the banks’ profit.
China’s tech giants have already shown how easy it is to dislodge traditional lenders. In a growing network of users, real-time non-financial data can be a more powerful predictive tool than credit scores relied upon by banks. Adding a layer of financial activity to an online platform brings in yet more information. Before Beijing stepped in, Jack Ma’s Ant Group pursued this advantage to its maximum.
The present scenario in India
Silicon Valley never had a chance in China. However, it’s in a stronger position in India.
- Traditional bank strongholds are being challenged by tech innovation: For instance, the government’s digital identification system [Aadhaar] has made paper trails and physical presence redundant. A wallet can establish a customer identity as easily as a bank and manage the process of seeking her consent. This has turned the cumbersome KYC procedure into a simpler process.
- Customers prefer to use other apps/wallets: Even in the case of retail money, India’s banks have no special advantage. They still hold the accounts for sending or receiving funds but rather than transacting on their bank apps or cards, customers prefer to use Google Pay or Walmart’s PhonePe to pay one another and merchants. The two wallets were used to transfer ₹5 trillion in July 2021, giving the duo an 85% share of a market that has more than 50 apps, including from banks.
What must Indian PSBs do?
India’s state-run lenders will need to become more efficient. Or they’ll have to lobby regulators to rein in tech giants. Amazon, Google and Facebook were all competing to build a new payment network in India, but the central bank put the licence on hold because of data safety concerns.
Regulated banks may hold licences to take deposits, but platforms will decide if their offers are displayed prominently or put in a corner. What happened to print media after publishers lost their influence over readers may be waiting to happen with the banking too.
Source: This post is based on the article “World freed from toxic leaded petrol: A global win” published in the Down to Earth on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Relevance: removal of lead from petrol
Synopsis: It is a remarkable achievement for the global community to remove lead from petrol across the world. It will have positive impact on human health, especially on children and vehicle system. Let’s have a brief look into the topic.
Globally, automotive fuel is completely lead-free now. Not a single fuel outlet sells leaded petrol any more anywhere.
It was announced formally by the United Nations Programme on Environment (UNEP) at a press event August 30, 2021. It has taken 100 years to stop the use of leaded fuel finally.
Furthermore, it is one of the most consistent, persuasive and aggressive global campaigns to fight the poison to protect public health, especially the brain health of children.
- The practice of adding tetraethyl lead to petrol had spread widely to all countries soon after its anti-knock and octane-boosting properties were discovered. This deadly neurotoxin has already done a great deal of harm since then.
- While all countries have followed different timelines for the lead phaseout, developing countries, especially those in Africa and a few in Asia, have taken the longest time.
- Algeria was the last country to phaseout lead from petrol.
- The campaign was led and supported by the UNEP and its Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) in accomplishing the global objective.
What led to this success?
- Setting of clear objectives agreed by all partners representing major target groups.
- Adoption of a voluntary approach
- Early attention given to high level political commitment such as the Dakar Declaration for sub-Saharan Africa
Effects of lead
- On Human health– Fumes from petrol vehicles using leaded petrol has been a significant source of lead exposures. According to the WHO, lead is toxic. It affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children. It affects the brain, liver, kidneys and bones. Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing foetus.
- According to WHO, there is no safe level for lead exposure.
- On emission control system of vehicles– The lead has damaging impact on the emissions control systems of vehicles. Evidence suggest that lead in petrol damages the catalytic converters.
Efforts by India
- India was among those countries that took early action to phase out leaded petrol.
- Initially, low-leaded petrol was introduced in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Madras in 1994, followed by unleaded petrol in 1995.
- The entire country got low-leaded petrol in 1997 while leaded fuel was banned in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
- The final introduction of unleaded petrol in the entire country was mandated in April 2000.
- India’s experience has also highlighted the importance of regulatory vigil on other harmful octane enhancers that could potentially replace lead in petrol.
- After the lead phaseout, Indian refineries took voluntary steps to not use MMT (Methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl). It is a dangerous neurotoxin which several developed countries have virtually banned by setting an exceptionally low permissible limit for its use.
There is a great learning from this experience for future clean air action. This is relevant for similar and ongoing campaigns like reducing sulphur in fuels to enable application of advanced emissions control systems. It is also important to achieve much cleaner emissions worldwide.
Source: This post is based on the following articles published on 31st August 2021:
- Asset monetization mustn’t end up as a Potemkin show – Livemint
- A monetization move that doesn’t tick most boxes – The Hindu
- Making NMP work – Business standard
Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment
Relevance: Resource Mobilisation
Synopsis: Challenges in the Implementation of National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) and suggestions to overcome those challenges.
Is asset monetization new to India?
Asset monetization is not a new concept in India. The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (Sarfaresi) Act of 2002 introduced the concept of monetization of stressed assets to turn the illiquid ones among them fungible and create a market for non-performing assets.
|Must Read: National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) project – Explained|
- India’s Poor record in contract enforcement: India ranks No. 163 among 190 countries on the World Bank’s index for contract enforcement, and not much progress has been made on this. The case of India’s insolvency code shows how weak judicial infrastructure and a poor debt market can pose a challenge to the success of a well-designed law.
- Asset recycling is not a silver bullet that always works well for the public or eases the sovereign debt: For instance, In Chicago, the US, where 36,000 parking slots were handed over to a private consortium, asset recycling only made parking more expensive. In the case of Transport of London, which was being operated by a private operator, it had to be bailed out twice by the UK government from near bankruptcy.
- Risks involved in the prescribed modes of implementing the monetisation: The main instruments proposed for implementing the NMP are public-private partnerships and a stock market-based investment trust (InvIT). Both have serious shortcomings, as experience demonstrates.
- Issues in PPP: PPP in infrastructure has been a financial disaster in India. After the 2008 financial crisis, as the world economy and trade plummeted, and as India’s GDP growth rate slowed down, many PPP projects failed to repay bank loans.
- Issues in Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT): An Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT) is being mooted as an alternative means of raising finance from the stock market. The idea is based on the current stock market boom. However, the current high stock prices seem like a bubble with heightened uncertainties in the global financial market. With the U.S. Fed committed to reducing its assets purchase programme, it may cause financial instability.
- External Instability: Rising external debt by foreign portfolio investors carries a greater risk to external instability. Foreign portfolio investment has skyrocketed by 6,800% in 2020-21, over the previous year, to $38 billion as per RBI data. This, perhaps, poses a greater financial hazard as portfolio investment is risky.
- Asset Monetisation Plus Privatisation: The government could adopt both measures of selling and leasing assets, depending on the nature of each asset and also the associated risk and return, etc. The centre should retain its ownership only of those assets that have a chance of offering the Centre higher returns in the future.
- Resource Mobilisation: Government should also cash in the other two methods of raising resources;
- Setting up of a development finance institution (DFI).
- Raising the share of infrastructure investment in the central and State Budgets.
- Trust building measures by the government: In order to make the NMP work, the government will have to make matching investments of its own i.e., In institutional and regulatory capacity.
- Independent Regulators: If the NMP is to work, each sector in which assets are to be monetised will need an independent, empowered regulator with no connections to the bureaucracy.
- Participatory governance: In a democracy, policymaking must be done through public consultation. This is especially so for any project that has wide ramifications and could affect the lives of citizens at large.
Source: This post is based on the article “How private businesses imperil our health as well as prosperity” published in Livemint on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS3- Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth
Relevance: Corporate Responsibilities, Indian Industries and growth.
Synopsis: Private sector receives so much from the government such as tax breaks and subsidies but offers very less in return to the citizens of India. It considers consumers more as a source of profit than the reason for its existence.
Problems with India’s private sector
- The so-called excellent companies, treat customers in an indifferent manner, and they end up cheating not just their consumers but the entire economy. This culture that employees imbibe seeps into their psyche. Even if some of them step out to become entrepreneurs, they practice the art they had learned while employed.
- Some of these firms conceal data regarding healthy foods or drinks. For example, former head of the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) revealed the difficulties that the statutory body has faced in trying to announce standards. On one hand, processed and packaged food manufacturers have been stalling efforts on labelling their products with color codes for their fat, salt and sugar content. And on the other hand, Indian children suffer from obesity and malnutrition because food products do not carry adequate information on their sugar content.
- Self-governance is all but rare. These industry bodies implore the government to remove red tape, lower tax rates, provide tax breaks and offer subsidies. They want interest rates to go down, which serves business borrowers well, but they have not stepped up and offered something in return.
- Lastly, industry organizations do not spearhead a campaign on any issue of national significance such as supporting MSMEs by making large firms pay their bills on time.
The private sector should be held accountable for matters of national importance as it receives a tiny fraction of the scrutiny that governments face for their acts of omission and commission.
Source: This post is based on article “India is indeed walking the green talk” published in The Hindu on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Relevance: India’s effort to mitigate climate change
Synopsis: India is doing its part to fulfill its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under Paris Agreement. When compared with other countries, India is doing better than its capacity.
Global pressure is intensifying on India to commit more towards climate change at the Conference of the Parties (COP26) meeting, scheduled for November 2021 in Glasgow.
- India is the only G20 nation compliant with the Paris Agreement.
- It has been ranked within the top 10 for two years consecutively in the Climate Change Performance Index released by Germanwatch.
- The Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme is the world’s largest zero-subsidy LED bulb programme for domestic consumers.
Comparison of India with other countries
- With China– According to World Bank data for CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) over two decades, both China and the U.S. could emit five times more than India in 2030. China is aiming to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 for bending the emissions curve. China remains committed to supporting the coal industry while the rest of the world experiences a decline.
- With USA– the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement and committed to reducing emissions by 50%-52% in 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. It will require much more near-term investment than even the U.S. President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package.
- With France– Despite French government’s efforts to make aviation industry green, the analysts say that no baseline for reducing emissions from domestic flights has been fixed.
- With Australia– Domestic politics in Australia is keeping it away from fulfilling its commitment towards climate change.
Progress made by India
- India is on track (as reports/documents show) to meet and exceed the NDC commitment to achieve 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based sources by 2030
- Similarly, against the voluntary declaration for reducing the emission intensity of GDP by 20%-25% by 2020, India has reduced it by 24% between 2005-2016.
- India is implementing one of the most extensive renewable energy expansion programmes to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030.
- As part of the fiscal stimulus, the Government has announced several green measures. It includes a $26.5-billion investment in biogas and cleaner fuels. Further, $3.5 billion in incentives for producing efficient solar photovoltaic (PV) and advanced chemistry cell battery, and $780 million towards an afforestation programme.
- India provided leadership for setting up the International Solar Alliance, a coalition of solar-resource-rich countries.
- India is also at the forefront of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, a partnership of governments, United Nations agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and knowledge institutions.
India has indeed walked the talk. Other countries must deliver on their promises early and demonstrate tangible results ahead of COP26. The responsibility of sustaining the entire planet does not rest on a few countries; everyone has to act.
Terms to know:
Source: This post is based on article “Conserving groundwater: Role of women crucial in bringing about significant change” published in Down to Earth on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Relevance: Role of women to address the water crisis of India.
Synopsis: Increased women participation in groundwater management will shift the intended objectives from technology to governance, demand management, efficiency, improved crop choices and enhancing soil moisture.
India is facing one of the worst water crisis. India is entirely dependent on groundwater and is pumping out the lion’s share of the global volume. Moreover, women, who have a limited say in groundwater governance, are the ones who suffer the most from the water crisis.
This needs to change.
Why women are at the forefront of the issue?
- Women, who have no decision-making role in investments on such wells, are forced by authorities to take over the liabilities.
- They are the first respondents to the crisis and are responsible for repayment, overcoming drinking water shortages, finding alternative livelihoods and running the farm and family.
Need for women led approach
- Women prefer for crops with a lower water footprint.
- They do farming integrated with animals, which reduces their vulnerability.
- They have easy market access for vegetables / flowers / fruits.
- Women have strong desire for use of green water (rainwater that collects in soil) over blue water.
Benefits of women participation
- Women’s judgement on crop plans, water demand and footprint of crops is different from that of men. For example: In Chipko movement, women settled for nothing short of a complete ban on the felling of trees to help protect the environment, while their male counterparts conceded to controlled logging in exchange for livelihood.
- The scope of reducing irrigation is immense when Gram Panchayat-level governance seriously acknowledges recommendations by women.
Any solution to groundwater distress need women collectives and non-profits to focus on alternative models that are based on:
- regulated pumping
- enforcement of local governance and
- adoption of sustainable cropping systems.
Any future approach to groundwater conservation needs to be centered around:
- Organising small farmers in villages into registered bodies, federated at the district with equal participation of women responsible for managing the entire value chain
- Technical tools and skills for women to monitor distress
- Displaying daily technical data at the village centre, bringing value to data through sales to government as well as commercial agencies
- Creating barefoot groundwater experts with a diploma through year-long farmer water schools
- Conducting annual groundwater audits at different units scaled up to river basin
- Capping groundwater pumping for each farm based on approved crop plan. This will increase water availability for future generations.
- Imposing local governance through Gram Panchayat, with penalties for offenders
- Linking crop outputs to markets through dedicated marketing channels
The yardstick of success will be the volume safeguarded within the aquifer, instead of what is pumped out. Appropriate incentivisation on water savings will accrue to the collectives.
Following this approach will also lead to reinventing of grass-root democracy, strengthening local institutions and exercising local governance on natural resources.
Terms to know:
Source: This post is based on the article “A Power Cut For India” published in The Times of India on 31st August 2021.
Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment
Relevance: This article explains the link between India’s economic performance and geopolitical developments.
The setback in Afghanistan highlights a recent decline in the country’s geopolitical & economic weight.
India’s external environment and domestic foundations have facilitated India’s rise as a major power in the post-Cold War period. But the geopolitical setback in Afghanistan and prolonged economic underperformance at home have raised questions about the government’s policy, priorities and strategic objectives in the near term.
What is the state of India’s economic performance?
After three decades of annual average growth of national income of around 3.5%, during 1950-80, the economy grew at 5.5% during 1980-2000 and 7.5% thereafter. During the ‘golden era’ of growth, 2003-10, the economy grew at over 8.5%.
This acceleration of economic growth enabled a decline in poverty, a rise in employment and urbanisation, a doubling of the share of external trade in national income and more than a doubling of the share of Indian exports in world exports. The emergence of globally competitive Indian firms and professionals defined the ‘rising India’ narrative.
How economic performance helped to increase India’s geopolitical performance?
A report of the Indian National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) (chaired by the late K Subrahmanyam) was observed in 2000, “Economic power is the cornerstone of a nation’s power in the contemporary world.” India has so far lived up to the point. For example,
- The global countries, especially the US, Japan and Australia, imposed sanctions on India after the Pokhran-II nuclear weapons test in 1998.
- But the ability of the Indian economy to withstand the impact of economic sanctions attracted global countries for Indian markets.
- Now, India is a part of the Quad with the same countries that imposed sanctions.
- Economic prosperity helped India to address two key geopolitical challenges.
- India is able to withstand the economic rise of an authoritarian China.
- India is able to control the cross-border terrorism fuelled by ‘global jihad’.
- Further, India’s economic rise has also made the global environment more conducive. For instance,
- India’s sustained economic rise and its ability to weather storms such as the 2008-09 trans-Atlantic financial crisis reinforced positive perceptions about its rise.
- After the signing of the ‘strategic partnership’ agreement between India and the US, the international community began to adopt a benign approach towards India.
Based on the above points, it is clear that India’s rise in the post-Cold War period has been defined principally by its economic performance.
What is the status of India’s economic performance at present?
- The slowdown of the Indian economy was initially viewed as a temporary blip. But the slowdown now appears as longer term. The Covid-19 pandemic has only made matters worse but is not the starting point of the slowdown.
- Despite several policy interventions aimed at jumpstarting growth, there is no evidence yet that the economy will return to the 7.5% trajectory of the 2000-14 phase.
- This has already imposed fiscal limits on domestic public investment and on external soft and hard power capabilities. In this situation, the rise of the Taliban can only further hurt India’s national security environment.
- So, to restore the momentum to the economy, India requires a stable domestic and regional environment. A new and honest strategic dialogue is needed between India and the US to secure an objective reassessment of their partnership.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Source: This post is based on the article “Adopting crypto assets as currency is a risky bet: IMF” published in Livemint on 31st August 2021.
What is the news?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that adoption of crypto assets such as Bitcoin as national currency can impact a country’s macroeconomic stability.
The warning came ahead of the Central American nation, El Salvador, officially adopting the world’s most popular decentralized digital currency, Bitcoin, as a legal tender from 7th September.
|Must Read: El-Salvador makes bitcoin a legal currency|
What did IMF say?
Many cryptocurrencies are indeed secure, easy to access, and cheap to transact. However, that in most cases risks and costs outweigh potential benefits.
- Substantial risks with bitcoin: Privately issued crypto-assets like bitcoin come with substantial risks. Making them equivalent to a national currency is an inadvisable shortcut.
- Too much volatility: Households and businesses would have very little incentive to price or save in a parallel crypto asset such as Bitcoin, even if it were given legal tender or currency status. Their value is just too volatile and unrelated to the real economy.
- Wastage of time: If goods and services were priced in both a real currency and a crypto-asset, people would spend significant time and resources choosing which money to hold as opposed to engaging in productive activities.
- Exchange-rate risks to govt: Similarly, government revenues would be exposed to exchange rate risk if taxes were quoted in advance in a crypto asset while expenditures remained mostly in the local currency, or vice versa.
- Banks and other financial institutions could also be exposed to the massive fluctuations in crypto-asset prices.
However, new digital forms of money have some benefits too, like
- the potential to provide cheaper and faster payments
- enhance financial inclusion
- improve resilience and competition among payment providers
- facilitate cross-border transfers
But doing so is not straightforward.
Source: This post is based on the articles “Banning Chinese apps has proved to be ineffective” & “We ought to clarify our stance on Chinese apps” published in Business Standard and Livemint respectively on 30th August 2021.
What is the news?
A little over a year after India’s post-Galwan crackdown on Chinese apps for smartphones, several of these apps have been found to be still around.
Recent reports indicate a group of at least eight popular apps of Chinese origin have increased their combined Indian user-base to 211 million monthly users in July 2021, compared to the base of 96 million when they were banned in July 2020. Many more popular apps of Chinese origin are still in common usage.
Between April and November 2020, the Indian government banned as many as 267 apps of Chinese origin, including apps of giants such as Alibaba, Bytedance, and Xiaomi.
- This was under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, as the government was worried about data protection.
How are these apps still present in India?
These apps have used a mix of holding companies outside Mainland China, and of rebranding, to maintain and/or re-establish a presence.
- These apps re-entered by setting up subsidiaries in Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, etc, and sometimes rebranded using new names. The companies providing these apps in India are generally subsidiaries located outside China.
- Example: PUBG re-entered as a Korean app marketed by Krafton, for example. Krafton is controlled by Tencent. The fastest-growing app in India is PLAYit which offers downloads of popular movies and shows via Telegram. PLAYit is developed by Vidmate, which is owned and developed by UCWeb, which, in turn, is owned by Alibaba.
What should be done?
- If Chinese investments in India are a concern, a deep review of the entire start-up ecosystem is required, since many start-ups have Chinese investors.
- As a guiding principle, we should be granted explicit ownership of what we place in an app’s custody—so that clear and comprehensive rules can be framed for this data’s collection, use, storage and retention.
- Should the state have a valid reason to fear the abuse of our data or cameras by errant apps, then our privacy law could enable blanket bans on them. For all this, we need a law drafted to maximize the security of individuals as much as the country.
Source: This post is based on article “Habitat of bird that flies non-stop for 5 days from Japan to Australia under threat“ published in Down to Earth on 31st August 2021.
What is the news?
The Latham’s Snipe shorebird, flies non-stop for five days over thousands of kilometres of ocean for its survival, twice a year.
Unfortunately, their wetland habitat is now being lost to development and other pressures, putting this tough little bird at risk.
Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii)
- Latham’s Snipe, formerly known as the Japanese Snipe, was once a popular game bird.
- It breeds in northern Japan and parts of eastern Russia during May-July and spends its non-breeding season (September to March) along Australia’s eastern coast. Historically, it used to breed in Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands
- It has incredible endurance, undertaking a non-stop, over-ocean flight between its breeding and non-breeding grounds.
- Latham’s Snipe hides away in thickly vegetated wetlands during the day to avoid local predators, and does not remain in large flocks.
- Their exceptional eyesight helps them constantly scan for dangers at night, when they forage for food in open wet and muddy areas.
- Latham’s Snipe is the ultimate sun-seeker. It breeds in the Northern Hemisphere when the snows have melted and the weather is warm. Then returns to the Southern Hemisphere to take advantage of spring rains, warmer weather and food-rich wetlands.
- Threat– Hunting and wetland loss during the 20th century have contributed to a decline in Latham’s Snipe in south-eastern Australia. Urban development continues to threaten Latham’s Snipe habitats.
- IUCN Red list status: Least Concern (LC)
Source: This post is based on article “Conserving Chitkul: Why the ‘last village of India’ cannot be allowed to drown in plastic” published in Down to Earth on 31st August 2021.
What is the news?
Plastic waste is making its way to even remote location in mountainous region such as “Chitkul (in Himachal Pradesh)” affecting the ecology of the region. This calls for following principles of sustainable tourism to mitigate the impacts of pollution.
Chitkul in Kinnaur district is home to an ancient mountain culture, high mountains and beautiful forests.
- It is also an important religious site as the resident deity of the village, Goddess Mathi Devi, is revered across Sangla valley.
- Scores of her devotees and those of Lord Badrinath, Nag Devta and Shamshare Devta visit the village each year.
- The village is difficult to reach, yet, in 2018, the hamlet received most of the district’s 250,000 tourists, who bring with plastic waste of every kind.
Unsustainable tourism of this kind poses a massive threat to the ecology of the mountainous region, which is vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation.
What steps can be taken?
Adopting the principles of sustainable tourism offers an opportunity to mitigate the issue.
- First, vehicles should not only pay user-fee for tourism development but also be vigorously checked for plastic wrappers, bottles and non-biodegradable material.
- Second, a carrying capacity assessment to fix a limit of tourist visitation should be undertaken.
- Third, ecologically responsible construction should be adopted that restricts unsustainably built high rises, even by locals. New construction permits should be restricted and allowed under strictly agreed guidelines.
- Fourth, activities such as loud music and campfires should be disallowed.
- Finally, waste management should be adopted as a priority to ensure that the menace of plastic is addressed.
Source: This post is based on the article “Dara Shikoh never became emperor” published in “Indian Express” on 31st August,2021.
What is the News?
At a time when incidents of intolerance in the name of faith are being reported from Afghanistan, Dara Shikoh, one of India’s most enlightened thinkers, needs to be remembered.
About Dara Shikoh:
- Dara Shikoh (1615-59) was the eldest son and a chosen successor of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
- He was designated with the title Padshahzada-i-Buzurg Martaba (Prince of High Rank)
- However, he was killed after losing the war of succession against his brother Aurangzeb.
Dara Shikoh as Liberal Muslim:
- Dara Shikoh was a champion of interfaith understanding, philosopher, artist, architect, translator, poet and administrator.
- He is described as a “liberal Muslim” who tried to find commonalities between Hindu and Islamic traditions. He translated the Bhagavad Gita as well as 52 Upanishads into Persian.
- Moreover, his most important works, Majma-ul-Bahrain (Mingling of Two Oceans) and Sirr-i-Akbar (Great Mystery) are devoted to the cause of establishing connections between Hinduism and Islam
The architecture of Dara Shikoh: Dara Shikoh is credited with the commissioning examples of Mughal architecture such as:
- The tomb of his wife Nadira Begum and Shrine of Mian Mir in Lahore,
- Dara Shikoh Library in Delhi
- Akhun Mullah Shah Mosque and the Pari Mahal garden palace in Srinagar, Kashmir.
Source: This post is based on the article “PPP model of BharatNet” published in Indian Express on 31st August,2021.
What is the News?
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has started pre-bid meetings with various stakeholders with respect to the public-private partnership model implementation for BharatNet.
About BharatNet Project:
- BharatNet is a project envisioned by the Government of India to digitally connect all the Gram Panchayats (GPs) and Villages.
- The project is being implemented by the Department of Telecommunication under the Ministry of Communications.
|Read more: BharatNet Project|
BharatNet project through Public-Private Partnership model:
- Under this model, private partners will be selected through a competitive international bidding process.
- The selected private partner will be responsible for the creation, upgradation, operation, maintenance and utilisation of BharatNet.
- The project will initially be implemented in 16 states, with an aim to connect 3.61 lakh villages with the internet.
- Moreover, the project will be divided into nine packages, each corresponding to one or more telecom circles. No private investor will be awarded more than four packages to avoid monopoly.
Source: This post is based on the Article “102 Vande Bharat Trains” published in “The Hindu” on 31st August,2021.
What is the News?
Indian Railways has planned to operate 102 Vande Bharat trains by March 2024.
About Vande Bharat Train:
- Vande Bharat is India’s first indigenously built engineless semi-high speed train. Earlier, it was known by the name Train 18.
- The train has been built by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, in a record time of 20 months.
- The train is a 100% ‘Make in India’ project and is claimed to be built at half the cost of a similar train set that is imported.
- The train has some unique features such as modern air-conditioned coaches, touch-free automatic doors, GPS-enabled passenger information system, onboard uninterrupted Wi-Fi and Bio Toilets.
- The maiden run of the Vande Bharat train was inaugurated on the New Delhi-Varanasi route in 2019.
About 102 New Vande Bharat Trains by 2024:
- These trains will be manufactured at Integral Coach Factory (Chennai), Modern Coach Factory (Rae Bareilly) and Rail Coach Factory (Kapurthala).
- Some of the new features in these trains include four emergency windows for easy evacuation of passengers in case of an emergency; disaster lights in all coaches, more emergency push buttons (four per coach), “pushback arrangement” for better reclining of seats among others.
Mapping groundwater sources by CSIR will help to utilise groundwater for drinking purposes: Union Minister
Source: This post is based on the article “Mapping groundwater sources by CSIR” published in PIB on 30th August,2021.
What is the News?
The Union Science and Technology Minister has said that the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is using the latest technology to map sources of groundwater in arid regions that will help to discover water for drinking.
- Northwestern India includes parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab. It covers nearly 12% of the total geographical area of the country and is home to more than 8 crore people.
- However, the annual rainfall in the Northwestern states ranges from less than 100 to 400 mm. So, this area faces an acute shortage of water throughout the year.
What is being done to overcome this shortage of water?
- CSIR along with National Geophysical Research Institute(NGRI) is implementing the High-Resolution Aquifer Mapping & Management Project in Arid Regions of North-Western India.
- Aim of the Project: To map the potential sites for groundwater withdrawal and conservation.
- The technique used: Under the project, the Heli-borne geophysical mapping technique is being used to provide a high-resolution 3D image of the subsurface up to a depth of 500 meters below the ground.
- Significance: This technique is cost-effective, precise and is useful to map large areas (districts/states) within a short time to map the vast extent of groundwater resources in arid regions of our country.
Source: This post is based on the article “India elected to key bodies of Universal Postal Union” published in “ANI” on 30th August 2021.
What is the News?
India has won elections for membership of the Council of Administration (CA) and the Postal Operations Council (POC) of the Universal Postal Union(UPU) at the 27th UPU Congress.
About Universal Postal Union(UPU):
- Universal Postal Union(UPU) was established by the Treaty of Bern in 1874. It is a United Nations specialized agency. It is also the second-oldest international organization worldwide.
- Purpose: It is the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players. It helps to ensure a truly universal network of up-to-date products and services.
- Headquarters: Bern, Switzerland
- Any member country of the United Nations may become a member of the UPU.
- Any non-member country of the United Nations may become a UPU member provided that its request is approved by at least two-thirds of the member countries of the UPU. The UPU now has 192 member countries.
Bodies: The UPU consists of 4 bodies:
- The Congress: It is the supreme authority of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and meets every four years.
- The Council of Administration: It ensures the continuity of the UPU’s work between Congresses, supervises its activities and studies regulatory, administrative, legislative and legal issues.
- The Postal Operations Council: It is the technical and operational mind of the UPU and consists of 40 member countries elected during Congress.
- The International Bureau: It provides logistical and technical support to the UPU’s bodies
Source: This post is based on the article “RBI permits card tokenization services” published in AIR on 26th August,2021.
What is the News?
The Reserve Bank of India has permitted authorised card networks to offer card tokenization services to any token requestor in a bid to make card transactions more safe, secure and convenient for the users.
What is Tokenization?
- Tokenization refers to the replacement of actual card details with an alternate code called the “token”.
- The token will be unique for a combination of card, token requestor (the entity which accepts the request from the customer for tokenization of a card and passes it on to the card network to issue a corresponding token) and device.
How is the Tokenization process different?
Benefits of Tokenization:
- A tokenized card transaction is considered safer as the actual card details are not shared with the merchant during transaction processing.
Union Home Minister launches nutritious ‘Laddu Distribution Scheme’ for pregnant women in his Parliamentary constituency Gandhinagar
Source: This post is based on the Article “Union Home Minister launches nutritious ‘Laddu Distribution Scheme’ for pregnant women in his Parliamentary constituency Gandhinagar” published in “PIB” on 30th August 2021.
What is the News?
Union Home Minister has launched a nutritious “Laddu Distribution Scheme” for pregnant women in his parliamentary constituency, Gandhinagar.
About Laddu Distribution Scheme:
- Under the Scheme, around 7,000 pregnant women will be provided 15 nutritious laddus, free of cost every month till the birth of their child through the NGOs.
- This will ensure that there would not be a single mother and child who remains under-nourished.
Other Schemes Mentioned in the Article:
About Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan:
- Launched by: Ministry of Health & Family Welfare(MoHFW) in 2016.
- Aim: To provide assured, comprehensive and quality antenatal care, free of cost, universally to all pregnant women on the 9th of every month.
- Target Beneficiaries: The programme aims to reach out to all Pregnant Women who are in the 2nd & 3rd Trimesters of pregnancy.
Source: This post is based on the article “J&K to restore lost glory of Pashmina shawls” published in “The Hindu” on 31st August,2021.
What is the News?
The administration of Jammu and Kashmir is taking various initiatives to restore the lost glory of Pashmina Shawls.
About Pashmina Shawls:
- Pashmina Shawl is a fine wool made from the undercoat of the Changthangi or Pashmina goat.
- Kashmir Pashmina has been assigned a Geographical indication (GI) tag under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
About Changthangi or Pashmina goat:
- Changthangi or Pashmina goat is a special breed of goat mainly found in the Ladakh region and Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh
- The goats are raised for ultra-fine cashmere wool, known as Pashmina wool.
- These goats are generally domesticated and reared by nomadic communities called the Changpa in the Changthang region of Ladakh.
Initiatives to revive Pashmina Shawls:
- A Centre For Excellence (CFE) has been set up by the ‘Me&K’ brand and Aditya Birla Group in Kashmir to restore the lost glory of handwoven Pashmina Shawls.
- Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom, Kashmir has announced a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for geographical indication (GI)-certified hand-made Pashmina shawls to sustain the old techniques.
Source: This post is based on the article “Hurricane Ida hits Louisiana” published in The Hindu on 31st August,2021.
What is the News?
Hurricane Ida has made landfall in Louisiana, US. It is an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm and one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US.
- Hurricane is the name given to the tropical cyclones occurring in the Atlantic Ocean.
- They are large, swirling storms that are formed over the warm ocean waters.
- When a storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it is called a hurricane.
Note: Tropical Cyclones are known by different names in different regions:
- Cyclones in the Indian Ocean
- Hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean
- Typhoons in the Western Pacific in the South China Sea
- Willy-Willies in Western Australia
Categorization of Hurricanes: Hurricanes are categorized using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed:
- Category 1: Winds 74 to 95 mph (Minor damage)
- Category 2: Winds 96 to 110 mph (Extensive damage)
- Category 3: Winds 111 to 129 mph (Devastating)
- Category 4: Winds 130 to 156 mph (Catastrophic damage)
- Category 5: Winds 157 mph or higher (The absolute worst and can level houses and destroy buildings)