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.
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Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Why valley is still distant, With end of Articles 370 and 35(A), there’s peace, hope and democracy in J&K
- Over the borderline: On Centre’s role in resolving Assam-Mizoram row
- Collapse of Adivasi self-governance system in Jharkhand: Need to implement PESA
- Several trade-offs impede Zero Hunger goal. A UN report explains why, and how
- No Fundamental Right To Strike
- A language ladder for an education roadblock
- Cabinet passes bill restoring power of states to make their own OBC lists
- A Check list for Trust Base Governance in the country
GS Paper 3
- Why switching to electric vehicles is fiscally imprudent
- Tesla is unlikely to launch its vehicles in India anytime soon
- A grand tax bargain in danger of coming apart
- Respect regulations
- Climate based protectionism: Green Public Procurement can incentivise public sector to eliminate polluting tech
- Arbitration Awards and The Public Interest
- Mediterranean a wildfire hotspot now : EU scientists
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, heads out to sea
- Cabinet approves continuation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Fast Track Special Courts for further 2 years
- Cabinet approves continuation of Samagra Shiksha Scheme for School Education
- 50% funds allotted for ongoing MPLADS projects lapse
- Black topping of world’s highest motorable road near LAC completed
- Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Bill 2021 passed in Parliament
- Air Quality Commission Bill for National Capital Region cleared
- New Hydrogen-Producing Method Shows Energy-Efficient Route To Manufacture Fuel
- Government signs US$ 250 Million Loan Agreement for Second phase of Dam Rehabilitation & Improvement Project (DRIP)
- Australia keen that India joins Exercise Talisman Sabre
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Why valley is still distant, With end of Articles 370 and 35(A), there’s peace, hope and democracy in J&K
Source: The Indian Express (Article 1 and Article 2)
Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
Relevance: This article explains the situation of J&K ever since the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A
With the anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, it is time to take a stock of the arguments regarding the abrogation.
India bid farewell to Articles 370 and 35 (A) and abrogated them two years ago
The government argued that:
- Articles 370 and 35 (A) created an unnatural and unhealthy divide in our nation.
- It would promote gender equality and end discrimination against marginalised communities like the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in J&K.
- The strikes like in 2008 can be better controlled and managed if Article 370 was not there.
- Abrogation would also put an end to terrorism in J&K
Many of these have failed to materialize because:
- The abrogation has deepened the alienation of large sections of the population
- The abrogation took place while J&K was under lockdown with limited scope for protest
- The Constitution required consultations with the State legislature, which was effectively bypassed during the abrogation.
- The Constitutional guarantees given to the people of J&K during the abrogation have been broken.
- The fissures that existed between various regions have deepened, e.g. Buddhist majority Leh and Muslim majority Kargil.
- The move of the Union Government interacting with political parties is a welcome step
- More political dialogue and people to people connect is necessary
- The move for the restoration of J&K statehood should be given due consideration.
Terms to Know
Over the borderline: On Centre’s role in resolving Assam-Mizoram row
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS2 – Issues & Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure [Inter-state disputes]
Relevance: Resolving the Assam-Mizoram border dispute
Synopsis: A people-oriented approach facilitated by the Centre can help resolve Assam-Mizoram row
The violent clashes on the Assam-Mizoram border in Lailapur on July 26th culminated in the death of five policemen and a civilian from Assam. FIRs were also filed.
But, the situation now seems to be calming down at least at the leadership level after governments announced withdrawal of FIRs against the Chief Minister of Assam and a Rajya Sabha MP from Mizoram.
|Must Read: Assam-Mizoram dispute – Explained in detail|
Addressing the dispute is a necessity. Following steps can be taken:
- Role of Central paramilitary forces: The governments have already taken the right decision to withdraw their police forces from a four-kilometre “disputed stretch” and let it be manned by central paramilitary forces till a permanent solution is found on the border question.
- Lifting the blockade: Locals in the Barak Valley in Assam had imposed a blockade, disallowing trucks with essential goods from entering Mizoram. Assam government must compel residents to avoid continuing the blockade.
- Inquiry into the clashes: An impartial inquiry into the sequence of events that led to the firing incident and the deaths must also be held so that such a situation does not recur.
- Settling the border dispute peacefully: Instead of a purely juridicial approach involving settling sovereign claims via historical claims, a people-oriented approach by the respective authorities with the facilitation of the Centre can help resolve the issue.
Continuing talks without accusing each other is the only way out to lower down tensions between the two States.
Collapse of Adivasi self-governance system in Jharkhand: Need to implement PESA
Source: Down to Earth
Syllabus: GS2 – Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes.
Relevance: Reviving tribal self-governance system
Synopsis: The PESA Act is considered to be the backbone of tribal legislation in India. Proper implementation can rejuvenate self-governance system in Jharkhand.
During most of the time in history, Adivasis had their own federal governance system. These decision-making processes were considered people-centric and democratic. The administrative systems during the colonial period and elected parliamentary democracy after independence affected this Adivasi governance system to a great extent.
- For example, the introduction of the Bihar Panchayat Raj System (BPRS) in 1947 made Adivasi traditional governance systems weak.
This was aggravated by industrialization, displacement of Adivasis and urbanisation. As a result, the traditional system disappeared from most Adivasi areas. Also, the PESA Act, which was supposed to uphold the traditional decision-making process, has so far not been fully implemented in its true spirit.
Traditional governance system of Adivasis: Village Council
- The Adivasis were not a part of the caste society. They had their own system of governance, which was, unlike the caste system, non-hierarchical.
- Every tribal village had a village council as the basic unit for self-governance.
- The names are different in different tribes though. For example, ‘Parha Raja System’ for Munda and Oraon tribe, ‘Munda Manki System’ for Ho tribe.
- These forums used to act as the decision-making bodies for all matters related to administration, justice, law making (social Sanctions). Consent from the whole village was considered to be the main component of this decentralised decision-making process.
Issues with traditional governance system
Though this traditional system of self-governance helped make the Adivasi communities decide for themselves, it had several loopholes too.
- Absence of women in this entire process of decision making.
- The chiefs of the traditional self-governance system of tribes in Jharkhand would be selected hereditarily. No woman was allowed to be the chief at any level.
- This system also denied women’s right to own property.
Introduction of PESA
- To promote local self-governance in rural India, the 73rd constitutional amendment was made in 1992.
- Through this amendment, a three-tier Panchayati Raj Institution was made into a law.
- However, its application to the scheduled and tribal areas under Article 243(M) was restricted.
- After the Bhuria Committee recommendations in 1995, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act 1996 came into existence for ensuring tribal self-rule for people living in scheduled areas of India.
- The PESA Act conferred the absolute powers to Gram Sabha, whereas state legislature has given an advisory role to ensure the proper functioning of Panchayats and Gram Sabhas.
- Out of 22 provisions in the PESA, Jharkhand has taken only seven of them and replaced the fifteen provisions by the general administrative norms of the Panchayat system for non-Scheduled Areas.
- PESA in Jharkhand remained partial in terms of the special rights that the Adivasis of Scheduled Areas in Jharkhand should enjoy.
- The partially implemented PESA has worsened self-governance in Adivasi areas in Jharkhand.
- Ananth and Kalaivanan (2017) stated that PESA did not deliver due to the lack of clarity, legal infirmity, bureaucratic apathy, absence of a political will, resistance to change in the hierarchy of power, and so on.
- Social audits conducted across the state have also pointed out that in reality different developmental schemes were being approved on paper by Gram Sabha as a vetting entity without actually having any meeting for discussion and decision making.
- Hardly any regular meetings of Gram Sabha are conducted.
- PESA recognises the traditional system of the decision-making process and stands for the peoples’ self-governance.
- If it is implemented in letter and spirit, it will rejuvenate the dying self-governance system in the tribal area of Jharakhand.
Several trade-offs impede Zero Hunger goal. A UN report explains why, and how
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
Relevance: This article explains the recent report of the United Nations on achieving Zero Hunger
According to UN, Achieving SDG2 of achieving ‘Zero Hunger’ will require new investments, smoothly functioning trade, and changes in consumption patterns.
The United Nations recently released a report ahead of the Food Systems Summit in September 2021.
In this, it mentioned that Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2 of achieving ‘Zero Hunger’ has been negatively affected, in the wake of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
|Read more: UN warns hunger is expected to rise in 23 global hotspots|
Relation of SDG 2 (Zero-Hunger) with other SDGs:
The report mentions that zero hunger goal works in tandem with many others: Poverty elimination (SDG1); good health and well-being (SDG3); and the need for clean drinking water (SDG6).
- The relation between SDG 2 and SDG 1 (poverty elimination) is highly synergetic. Food security does not only rely on food availability, but also on food access, the report said.
- Nutrition is key to good health, so the relation between SDG 2 and SDG 3 (good health and well-being) is also synergetic.
Similarly, education (SDG4), gender equality (SDG5), decent work and economic growth (SDG8), reduction of inequality (SDG10), sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG16), and partnership for the goals (SDG17) also influence consumption patterns and healthy diet choice.
Challenges in achieving zero hunger
- The UN report said that one of the most widely studied adverse environmental impacts of the food system is, its contribution to climate change. The food system contributes 34 percent of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
- Overconsumption of water resources is another critical challenge faced by agriculture. Irrigation represents about 70 percent of global water withdrawals, and this demand is expected to continue to increase in the coming decades. This also impacts the global food system and access to water.
|Read more: Oxfam: 11 people die of hunger each minute around the globe|
The report mentions that the success of achieving SDG2 will require new investments, smoothly functioning trade, and effective markets.
- Investment, research, and innovation for sustainable agriculture
- Reducing food waste and losses
- Changing our consumption patterns to leverage considerable benefits on SDG outcomes by relieving pressure on natural resources and fostering the health benefits
No Fundamental Right To Strike
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Governance Reforms, Fundamental Rights
Relevance: This article explains the Parliament’s Right to restrict the fundamental rights of the armed forces.
While the government seeks to reform the Ordnance Factory Board, the workers seem to stall the move by going on strikes. This article discusses the aspects of government bringing move to control these strikes
Essential Defence Services Bill
Recently introduced by Ministry of Defence for maintenance of essential defence services & to prevent government-owned ordinance factory’s staff from going on strike.
Previous such strikes by government employees and government actions:
This is not the first time that strikes by government employees are being made explicitly illegal by the government.
- MP (And Chhattisgarh) Civil Services Rule 1965 –Prohibits the strike or any activity resulting in halting of work. Other states also have similar provisions
- Article 33—Restrict the fundamental right of armed police forces to ensure proper discharge of their duties and maintenance of discipline among them.
The Example from Gandhi:
- A Gaya Havaldar was convicted upon which Gaya police gave notice of strike until relief was provided to Havaldar. The strike was commenced on March 24, 1947.
- When some representatives of policemen met Gandhi, he mentioned that “the police… should never go on strike. Theirs was an essential service and they should render that service, irrespective of their pay. There were several other effective and honourable means of getting grievances redressed…”
Supreme Court observations:
- Delhi Police vs Union of India (1986) case — Upheld the restrictions to form association after the amendment of Police Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act 1966. The court also said that although Freedom of Association is a fundamental right under Article 19(1), the recognition of that association is not. So, parliament by law can impose restrictions
- K Rangarajan vs Govt of TN (2003) case —The SC held that employees have no fundamental right to strike.
- There is no fundamental right to strike under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
- Parliament has the right to restrict even the fundamental rights of the armed forces.
A language ladder for an education roadblock
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to education
Relevance: This article explains the advantages, challenges, and suggestions in promoting learning in the mother tongue.
Learning in the mother tongue has to be promoted in India.
Recently, 14 engineering colleges across eight States decided to offer courses in regional languages in select branches from the new academic year.
Similarly, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) also decided to permit B. Tech programmes in 11 native languages in tune with the New Education Policy (NEP).
|Read more: PM to roll out academic credit bank|
Why does India need to promote learning in the Mother tongue?
- Multiple studies have proved that children who learn in their mother tongue in their early, formative years, perform better than those taught in an alien language.
- UNESCO and other organisations have been laying emphasis on the fact that learning in the mother tongue is germane to building self-esteem and self-identity, as also the overall development of the child.
- Even though our educational system has seen phenomenal growth. Over the years, English remained an academic roadblock and also let India’s own languages languish.
For these reasons only, the great Indian physicist and Nobel Laureate, Sir C.V. Raman observed, “We must teach science in our mother tongue. Otherwise, science will become a highbrow activity.”
|Read more: PM launches SAFAL for CBSE students, Vidya Pravesh for preschoolers|
Learning in the mother tongue – Global practices:
- Among the G20, most countries have state-of-the-art universities, with teaching being imparted in the dominant language of their people. For instance,
- France went to the extent of having a strict ‘French-only’ policy as the medium of instruction in schools.
- In Germany, while the language of instruction in schools is predominantly German.
- In South Korea, nearly 70% of the universities teach in Korean, even as they aspire to play a role on the international stage.
- This trend is also observed in other countries like China, Japan, and Canada (in the majority French-speaking Quebec Province).
Learning in the mother tongue – In India:
- The NEP put emphasis on the mother tongue as the medium of instruction to instill confidence in students from poor, rural, and tribal backgrounds.
- The NEP also outlines the road map, demonstrating the means to protect our languages while improving the access and quality of our education.
- AICTE and IIT Madras recently collaborated to translate SWAYAM’s courses into eight regional languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, etc. This will be a major boost for engineering students.
|Read more: One year of National Education Policy – Explained, pointwise|
Challenges faced during learning in the mother tongue:
- Unfortunately, some educators and parents still accord unquestioned primacy to English, and resultantly, the child’s mother tongue ends up as their ‘second/third language’ in schools.
- One of the biggest bottlenecks for students to take up higher education in their native languages is the lack of high-quality textbooks, especially in technical courses.
- Content in the digital learning ecosystem, still a nascent domain in our country, is greatly skewed towards English.
Suggestions to improve learning in mother tongue:
- India must begin with imparting primary education (at least until Class 5) in the student’s mother tongue, gradually scaling it up.
- For professional courses, while the initiative of the 14 engineering colleges is commendable, we need more such efforts all across the country. Private universities must join hands and offer a few bilingual courses.
- The government has to address the work on high-quality textbooks, creation of digital content in regional languages at war footing.
- Like, AICTE’s collaboration with IIT Madras, India needs more such tech-led initiatives to democratise higher education.
India at present does not need a ‘Mother tongue versus English’ debate. Instead, it needs a ‘Mother tongue plus English’ approach.
Cabinet passes bill restoring power of states to make their own OBC lists
Source: Business Standard
Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Fundamental Rights
The reservation has always been a sticky and political issue. While some time back Government gave constitutional status to NCBC, now Government is coming up with a move for states to make their own OBC list.
The Union Cabinet is learnt to have cleared a Constitution amendment bill which seeks to give power to states and UTs to make their own OBC lists
What were the changes brought by the 102 Constitution Amendment Act 2018?
- Article 338 B – Deals with structure, power & duties of National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC)
- Article 342A—President has the power to notify any particular caste as Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) for grant of quota in jobs and admissions.
What are the Court judgements regarding reservation?
- Set aside Maharashtra law granting the quota to Marathas
Read More: Maratha Reservation and the Reservation Policy in India – Explained, Pointwise
- Refused to refer 1992 Mandal verdict which puts a 50% cap on reservation
Read more: The Mandal case and Reservation in India – Explained, Pointwise
- Dismissed Centre plea to review 102 Constitution amendment which took away the power of states to provide benefits regarding job & admission to SEBC (Socially & Educationally Backward Classes)
SC Verdict on 102 Amendment Act 2018
- The SC upheld the constitutional validity of the act
- According to Article 342 A(1)—centre alone is empowered to identify SEBC for claiming reservation benefits. Further, Once the list is published, amendments can be done only by law enacted by the parliament
- The states can only make suggestions to President.
|Read more: Supreme Court Upheld Validity of 102nd Constitution Amendment Act|
A Check list for Trust Base Governance in the country
Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
The slogan of Sabka Sath , Sabka Vikas aivam Sabka Vishwas needs trust of all stakeholders. So we need to work out a strategy towards ‘trust-based governance’.
Working to achieve ‘trust-based governance’ requires:
- Work and social harmony leading to peace and which should check all forms of fundamentalism.
- Reliable data and statistical systems.
- Government should empower the States financially, particularly in domains like health, education and skilling.
- Empower GST council by converting it into Empowered State Finance minister’s council to be headed by State finance ministers.
- The finance commission, which now deals with Budget allocations would be able to generate confidence amongst States and other stakeholders.
- Administrative and bureaucratic reforms to bring about transparency and accountability
- A policy of Coherence to be centred around PMO and Chief Minister’s office.
- Work on EODB through easing permits, checking inspector raj, license raj etc.
- We need 2nd wave of economic reforms to reinvigorate the LPG reforms of 1991
- We need urgent judicial reforms to reduce pendency and delays and reduce the practice of long summer and winter breaks to Courts.
Move away from GDP based economic indicators to more inclusive indicators of development.
Terms to Know:
GS Paper 3
Why switching to electric vehicles is fiscally imprudent
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS –3 changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth
Relevance: Electric vehicles are necessary for pollution control and import substitution.
Synopsis: The government is promoting Electric vehicles in India at a good pace. However, there are issues attached to government policies towards EVs.
E-vehicles or EVs are becoming increasingly popular in India. It is evident in the increasing sales of TATA Nexons EVs.
The most important reason behind their popularity is their low running cost, which is a sixth of the diesel variant.
However, there are many issues attached to their popularity.
What are the issues attached to E-vehicles?
Moral blindness behind subsidies: The cost of a basic Nexon EV was Rs 14.3 lakh and that of the diesel variant Rs 8.3 lakh. At present five states — Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Meghalaya are providing a huge amount of subsidies per car i.e., Rs. 5 lakh per car.
- Issue: Only 1 car in 50 sold cars costs more than Rs 10 lakh, which is purchased by the affluent fraction of the car-owning population. It means that Rs. 2,770 crore subsidies from taxpayers, will be paid to the affluent class of the country.
Available alternatives: Instead of promoting EVs, India can promote other cheaper alternatives. For instance,
- Methanol can be produced from any biomass waste from crop residues to municipal solid waste. Furthermore, it is known for superior quality and greater safety
- For India, gasification holds even greater promise. Simple, air-blown gasifiers are already in use in food processing that can convert rice and wheat straw into a lean fuel gas. This gas can generate electricity and provide guaranteed 24-hour power to cold storage in every village.
- Biochar, which is the bi-product of gasification, is also very useful. It can replace imported coking coal in blast furnaces. It can also be used as a feedstock for producing transport fuels even more easily than municipal solid waste.
Tesla is unlikely to launch its vehicles in India anytime soon
Source: Live Mint
Syllabus: GS-3 – Changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth
Relevance: Electric vehicles are necessary for pollution control and import substitution.
Synopsis: India needs to ease its restrictive policies towards the import of electric vehicles.
Last month, Elon Musk complain about India’s restrictive policies for the import of electric vehicles. India’s restrictive policies are aimed at the Make in India campaign for developing domestic industrial manufacturing.
Due to this policy, importing a kit of unassembled auto parts containing an engine and gearbox (15% duty) is much cheaper compared to importing a fully built car (100% duty).
What are the issues attached to this policy?
Capacity crunch: Importing unassembled parts of e-vehicles is not sufficient, precision and quality of manufacturing these vehicles, like Tesla, is very important. India hasn’t yet built up the necessary capacity to pull off large-scale output.
Hurdles for foreign companies: On the other hand, foreign companies are also not interested in setting up manufacturing units in India, due to local content requirements.
Misplaced efforts: The government has targeted 30% EV penetration by 2030, up from under 10% currently. Furthermore, it is making efforts to develop charging infrastructure in the country. However, very little efforts are made to encourage the manufacturing of EVs in India.
Reducing tariff on cheaper vehicles: Average household incomes are low in India; the overall market is dominated by more affordable scooters and motorbikes. Thus, India should allow cheaper electric two-wheelers from China, at a lower tariff.
Lessons from China: Chinese also failed to create a high-quality, domestic auto industry, due to their unfocused subsidies and plans. However, with regard to EVs, they have evolved their policies.
China kept its import tax rates for EVs relatively low at 25%. When China became a big source of sales revenue for Tesla, it set up a manufacturing plant there. At present, Tesla is exporting cars from its Shanghai factory to Europe.
India must also come up with a new policy, suitable for present conditions. If big foreign companies like Tesla can help India in developing its EV manufacturing, then India should accept it with favorable policies.
A grand tax bargain in danger of coming apart
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS3 – Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors
Relevance: Issues with GST regime
Synopsis: A version 2.0 of GST may have to be designed sooner rather than later.
Issues existing with GST
- Non-expanding tax base: The tax base of GST does not appear to be expanding.
- The Tax to Gross value addition (GVA) is only about 5% to 6.5% though GVA growth was much higher.
- Political architecture: The fundamental weakness of the GST is its political architecture.
- In the voting, the central government has one-third vote and States have two-thirds of total votes (with equal voting rights regardless of size and stake).
- With the support of a dozen small States whose Budget is mostly underwritten by the central government the game is hugely in the Centre’s favour.
- With equal value for each States’ voting, larger and mid-sized States feel short-changed.
- Design flaws: There exist design flaws in the tax structure.
- Nearly 45% to 50% of commodity value is outside the purview of the GST, such as petrol and petroleum products.
- Most trading and retail establishments, (however small) are out of the fold of the GST.
- Exemptions from registration and taxation of the GST have further eroded the GST tax base compared to the tax base of the pre-existing VAT.
- As multiple rates are charged at different stages, it goes against the lessons of GST history.
- This tax works well with a single uniform tax rate for all commodities and services at all stages, inputs and outputs alike.
- India stands out and is among the five countries to have four rates/slabs.
- Petroleum products remaining outside the purview of GST has helped the Centre to increase cesses and decrease central excise. Central excise is shareable with the States while cesses are not. Equity requires that petrol and diesel be brought under the GST.
- Compliance with GST return (GSTR-1) filing stipulation and the resultant tax information is not up to date.
- The gap in filing GSTR-1 was 33% in 2019-20 and has been increasing.
- Fraudulent claims of Input Tax Credit (ITC) are quite high.
- Tax evasion, estimated by a National Institute of Public Finance and Policy’s paper, is at least 5% in minor States and plus 3% in the major States.
There is need to address policy gaps along with compliance gaps otherwise the grand bargain that resulted in the GST regime, will come apart.
Terms to know:
Source: Business Standard
Syllabus: GS3 – Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth
Relevance: Changes to minimum public shareholding norms and consequent impact
Synopsis: The government’s move to exempt any public sector listed company from complying with the minimum public shareholding norm is undesirable and inappropriate.
Issues with the latest move
- Blocked an option to raise resources: According to the latest data, the government has only managed to raise Rs 7,648.15 crore so far in the current fiscal year against the full-year target of Rs 1.75 trillion. Now, in a number of public sector banks and other firms, the government owns over 90%. Reducing stake in firms to comply with the regulation was, in fact, an opportunity for the government to raise resources, which would have helped increase expenditure.
- Govt had enough time to comply: Government reportedly argued that to comply with the regulation (maintain a public float of 25%), the government would have had to resort to distress selling, which it wanted to avoid. However, this is a flawed logic given that the government had enough time to comply with the public float norms.
- Policy U-turn: The decision to exempt PSUs from the regulation is a U-turn from the stated policy position of the government. In the July 2019 Budget speech, Finance Minister had noted that the government would take necessary steps to meet public shareholding norms in all listed PSUs.
- She also said that SEBI had been asked to consider raising the minimum public shareholding threshold from 25% to 35%.
- The total disregard of this commitment undermines the position of the securities market regulator and reflects poorly on governance of PSUs.
- This will further affect PSU valuations and create complications for the overall disinvestment programme of the government.
Terms to know:
Climate based protectionism: Green Public Procurement can incentivise public sector to eliminate polluting tech
Source: Down to Earth
Syllabus : GS3- Conservation, Environmental pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment
Relevance: Tackling Climate Change Through Innovative Methodologies
Synopsis: In June 2021, the European Parliament signed the first dedicated Climate Law. There are some problematic or protectionist provisions in the law, but it is still considered as a step in the right direction to tackle the issue of climate change.
- Till now countries have used various measures to reduce carbon emission such as Carbon tax, Emission Trading systems, and most recently Carbon Border Arrangements (CBA).
Note: CBA or CBAM or EU’s carbon border tax are one and the same thing.
|Must Read: EU’s carbon border tax – Explained, pointwise|
What is CBA?
It is a tool which taxes the imported goods in proportion to their carbon emission. Under this mechanism the importer will be required to buy emission certificates for carbon intensive products which will improve the shift towards Green Economy.
- Advantageous to low emission industries in EU: However, this mechanism places low emission industries of the European Union at an advantage compared to the industries from developing countries. Thus, it incentivizes domestic industries (in the EU), to lower their emissions to gain from CBA.
Implications of CBA
Despite the concerns raised from India, China, Brazil, and South Africa, CBA’s may see a greater adoption across the world in the years to come as a tool to tackle climate change.
Emerging economies need to understand that CBA might only be the first of many such regulations to come, thus thorough clean up of manufacturing sector’s emissions is the way forward.
There are two ways of doing this clean up –
- Offering subsidies to low emission businesses
- Incentivizing manufacturers to make switch themselves
How to incentivize the manufacturers?
- Green Public Procurement (GPP) is a tool through which government can capitalize on their purchasing power to incentivize the manufacturers.
- For India, GPP has immense potential, since public procurement in our economy accounts for 20-25% of our GDP.
- It is increasingly used by countries to achieve policy objectives in the area of environment protection.
- It also helps individual commitments of the G20 major economies towards the Good Practices for Integrity in Public Procurement prepared by the OECD
Obstacles to formalizing Green Procurement
There are three main obstacles –
- The perception that green products and services may be more expensive than conventional ones
- the lack of technical knowledge and capacity to integrate green standards in the procurement process
- the absence of monitoring mechanisms to evaluate if green procurement goals are achieved.
Examples from India
- Indian Green Building Council has certified over 2500 products and 150 manufacturers with GreenPro EcoLabel
- Indian Railways also replaced energy inefficient incandescent lights in railway housing colonies with compact fluorescent lamps.
Benefits of GPP
- Green public procurement presents an opportunity for the Indian manufacturing sector to change course in time for major policy shifts across the world.
- It has the potential to be a major driver for innovation, providing industries with incentives to develop environmentally friendly works, products and services.
- GPP may also provide financial savings for government when life cycle approach is taken into consideration.
- Help the world to actively cut down the emission and prevent ‘leaks’ by way of exports.
India needs to integrate green standards and specifications within its procurement manuals in a phased manner. This will act as a signal to industries and also gives them time to cope. It can have a profound impact on the quality of life that the country promises its future generations.
Terms to Know:
Arbitration Awards and The Public Interest
Source: Business standard
Relevance: Way forward for India in the Cairns Energy case
Synopsis: Recently, a court in Paris allowed Cairn Energy to freeze assets of Government of India in Paris in a tax dispute. Similar developments are possible in the US from actions by Cairn and Devas Multimedia. Thus, an objective, analytical approach to pursuing or resisting claims and arbitration awards is advisable.
Options before India
The choice before India are:
- to litigate continuously
- to accept the award
- to negotiate a settlement
Accepting the award
Accepting the award has the following consequences:
- Political – state appears to be weak if it accepts the award
- Social – it indicates selling out of public interest to business entities
- Economic – it could lead to more such cases such as Vodafone case, Vedanta case, Devas Multimedia case etc. which hurts public exchequer.
Implications of a non-resolution
Resolution would enable reallocation of India’s energies — our political, administrative, and judicial resources, and society’s productive capacity and mind-share — to more constructive purposes.
Additional considerations include substantial, continuing damage to India’s business reputation for not honoring agreements and awards, and for resorting to repeated appeals.
The indirect costs and collateral damage are enormous, such as to the telecom and energy sectors since 2012, to affected companies and employees, to the investment climate, and the cascading effects through the economy.
- Mindset change: The mindset will have to change for a more open approach, objective analysis, and decisions based on facts and reason. Cairn, Vodafone, and Devas have reportedly shown willingness to settle.
- Evaluate pros and cons: The government should seriously consider evaluating the pros and cons of asset seizure and indirect damages, compared with other options, including possible settlements.
By ending these disputes quickly and well, we can hope to build a more reasonable and stable business and investment environment, and better business practices.
Mediterranean a wildfire hotspot now : EU scientists
Syllabus: GS3 – Environment
Relevance: Impacts of human-induced climate change
Synopsis: Climate change is causing intense heatwaves across the world and contributing to rising cases of wildfires, too.
The Mediterranean has become a wildfire hotspot, with Turkey hit by its most intense blazes on record and a heatwave producing a high risk of further fires and smoke pollution around the region. Wildfires are raging in countries including Greece and Turkey, where thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes.
Southern Europe is already experiencing an intense heatwave, with some places in Greece on Tuesday recording temperatures of over 46oC. Human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe, scientists say, using the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). CAMS monitors wildfires through satellites and ground-based observation centers.
CAMS is one of six services that form Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth observation programme which looks at our planet and its environment
Causes of Wildfire
Both Anthropogenic and Natural factors causes fires. These include the following,
|Anthropogenic causes (90% of all wildfires)||Natural Causes|
|Smoking: Smoking is the leading cause of forest fires globally. Throwing away the cigarette butts without completely extinguishing them can lead to wildfires.||Lightning: A lightning strike can produce a spark. Sometimes the lightning can strike power cables, trees, or rocks and any other thing and this can trigger a fire.|
|Campfires: During camping or outdoor activities people normally leave lit fires or combusting materials unattended. That will ignite wildfires.||Volcanic eruption: Hot magma in the earth’s crust is usually expelled out as lava during a volcanic eruption. The hot lava then flows into nearby fields or lands to start wildfires.|
|Burning Debris: Wastes and trash are on several occasions burned to ashes as a way of reducing the accumulation of rubbish. For example, the recent Simlipal Forest fire is due to this only.||Heat patterns: Increased temp due to global warming are making the forests more vulnerable. Rising atmospheric temperatures and dryness (low humidity) make favorable circumstances for a fire to start.|
|Fireworks: Fireworks are used by humans for various reasons such as festivals. However, their explosive nature can start wildfires.||Climate Change: Massive fires in the Amazon forests in Brazil and in Australia are primarily due to Climate Change. The fires due to climate change have certain characteristics in common. It is also applicable to India. They are,|
|Slash and Burn Cultivation: This is one of the major reason for the fire in India’s Northeastern region.||In India the march and April month see more wildfires. It is due to the availability of large quantities of dry wood, logs, stumps, dead leaves, dry grass and weeds in forest lands.|
|Lack of soil moisture: The dryness in the soil triggers fire in forests. For example, the recent Uttarakhand wildfires are due to this.|
Suggestion to reduce wildfires
- Capacity development of forest departments’ officials at different levels (national,
regional, local) to reduce the vulnerability of Indian forests fire.
- Creating forests fire control manuals for field staff. Thus suggesting steps to early detection, reporting and controlling the fires.
- Policy at the national level: A cohesive policy or action plan should be formulated to set forth the guiding principles and framework for wildfire Management. The policy should also incorporate the dimension of climate change.
- Using indigenous knowledge and techniques of local and tribal people in comprehensive wildfire management.
- Improving the Staffing and capacity of firefighters in the country. For example, construction of watchtowers and crew stations, hiring seasonal fire watchers to spot fires, etc.
- Technology: Modern firefighting techniques such as the radio-acoustic sound system for early fire detection and Doppler radar should be adopted.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, heads out to sea
Source: Indian Express, The Hindu, The Business Standard and PIB
What is the News?
The much-awaited sea trials of India’s maiden indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) ‘Vikrant’ have begun.
About Indigenous Aircraft Carrier(IAC) ‘Vikrant’:
- IAC-1 Vikrant has been designed by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design (DND). It is being built at Cochin Shipyard Limited(CSL), a Public Sector Shipyard under the Ministry of Shipping.
Key Features of IAC-01 Vikrant:
- Vikrant is the first aircraft carrier designed and built in India. It has over 76 percent of the material and equipment which is indigenous.
- Vikrant is named after the Majestic-class aircraft carrier, which was operated by the Indian Navy from 1961 to 1997.
- The ship is 262 m long, It has over 2,300 compartments designed for a crew of around 1700 people including specialised cabins to accommodate women officers.
- The ship is equipped with numerous high-end technologies, including network-centric distributed data processing and control systems and state-of-the-art weapons such as the Barak LR-SAM (long-range surface to air missile) and sensors.
Why does it matter that this is a Made-in-India warship?
- Only five or six nations currently have the capability of manufacturing an aircraft carrier. India joins this elite club now.
- India’s earlier aircraft carriers were either built by the British or the Russians.
- The INS Vikramaditya, currently the Navy’s only aircraft carrier that was commissioned in 2013, started out as the Soviet-Russian Admiral Gorshkov.
- The country’s two earlier carriers, INS Vikrant and INS Viraat were originally the British-built HMS Hercules and HMS Hermes before being commissioned into the Navy in 1961 and 1987 respectively.
Cabinet approves continuation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Fast Track Special Courts for further 2 years
What is the News?
The Union Cabinet has approved the continuation of 1023 Fast Track Special Court (FTSCs) including 389 exclusive POCSO courts as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) till March 31, 2023.
- Incidents of rape and gang rape of minor girls below the age of twelve and similar heinous crimes against women have always shaken the conscience of the entire nation.
- To prevent such crimes, stricter laws were introduced through “the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018”. The act made provision for stringent punishment, including the death penalty, for perpetrators of rape.
- Moreover, to effectively implement the Criminal Law 2018 Act, the Government launched the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Fast Track Special Courts across the country.
About Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Fast Track Special Courts:
- Fast Track Special Courts are dedicated courts expected to ensure swift dispensation of justice. They have a better clearance rate as compared to the regular courts and hold speedy trials.
- Besides providing quick justice to the hapless victims, it strengthens the deterrence framework for sexual offenders.
- Purpose: The scheme by setting up Fast Track Courts aims to reduce the number of pending cases of the Rape and POCSO Act.
- Coverage: Currently the scheme covers 28 States. It is proposed to be expanded to cover all 31 states which are eligible to join the Scheme.
Cabinet approves continuation of Samagra Shiksha Scheme for School Education
What is the News?
Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for the continuation of the revised Samagra Shiksha Scheme for a period of five years, i.e. from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
About Samagra Shiksha Scheme:
- Samagra Shiksha is an Integrated Scheme for School Education. It has been launched throughout the country as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with effect from the year 2018-19.
- Merged Schemes: The scheme subsumes the three erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), and Teacher Education (TE).
- Aim: To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels of school education.
- Coverage: It is an overarching programme for the school education sector, extending from pre-school to class XII. It covers 11.6 lakh schools, over 15.6 crore students, and 57 lakh teachers of government and aided schools (from pre-primary to senior secondary level).
Samagra Shiksha Scheme(SSA) 2.0: The upgraded version has been aligned with recommendations of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. Based on this, interventions incorporated are:
- All child-centric interventions will be provided directly to the students through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode.
- Provision of up to Rs 500 per child for Teaching Learning Materials for pre-primary sections in Government Schools.
- For disabled children and children belonging to the SC/ST community in the age bracket of 16-19 years, ₹2,000 will be provided per child to complete their secondary/senior secondary levels through NIOS/SOS.
- Additional Sports grant of up to Rs. 25000 to schools in case at least 2 students of that school win a medal in Khelo India school games at the National level.
- The child tracking provision has been included for ensuring the safety of students of government and government-aided schools.
- A sum of ₹6,000 per annum will be extended to secondary level school students for availing transport facility
- Provision of training of master trainers for Anganwadi workers
- Incinerator and sanitary pad vending machines in all-girls hostels.
50% funds allotted for ongoing MPLADS projects lapse
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
The Standing Committee on Finance has pointed out the problems under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme(MPLADS).
Standing Committee on Finance on MPLADS:
- Half of the funds allotted for completing the ongoing MPLADS projects in 2020-21 simply lapsed.
- The resultant funding crunch would have hit several local area development projects under implementation across the country, especially in the five States that went to polls this year as no funds were released for these States citing the model code of conduct (MCC).
- Moreover, spending under the MPLADS had already halved before the government suspended the scheme for two years in April 2020 and diverted the funds for managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Terms to know:
Black topping of world’s highest motorable road near LAC completed
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has constructed and completed black topping of the world’s highest motorable road at Umling La Pass in Eastern Ladakh. The road was built under the ‘Project Himank’.
About Project Himank:
- Project Himank is a project of the Border Roads Organisation(BRO) in the Ladakh region of northernmost India that started in 1985.
- Under the project, BRO is responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads and related infrastructure in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control(LAC).
- Moreover, the project also ensures access to sensitive military areas including the world’s highest battleground at the Siachen Glacier and Pangong Tso Lake whose waters span the de facto India-China border.
About Umling La Pass:
- Umling La is located in the Eastern Ladakh region. The world’s highest motorable road is now situated at the height of 19,300 feet at Umling La Pass.
- The road at the Umlingla Pass connects the important towns in the Chumar sector of Eastern Ladakh.
- The road is close to the Line of Actual Control(LAC) and will allow quick movement of troops and equipment.
Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Bill 2021 passed in Parliament
What is the News?
Parliament has passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Purpose of the Bill:
- The bill seeks to amend the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.
- The 2008 Act established the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).
- AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (such as airport development fees) for aeronautical services rendered at major airports in India.
Click here to read the Key Features Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021
Air Quality Commission Bill for National Capital Region cleared
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
Lok Sabha has passed the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021.
About Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021:
- The Bill provides for the constitution of a Commission for better coordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems related to air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas.
- Adjoining areas have been defined as areas in states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh adjoining the NCR where any source of pollution may cause an adverse impact on air quality in the NCR.
- The bill also dissolves the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority established in the NCR in 1998.
Key Features of the Bill:
Functions of the Commission:
- Planning and executing plans to prevent and control air pollution in the NCR
- Providing a framework for identification of air pollutants,
- Conducting research and development through networking with technical institutions among others.
Powers of the Commission:
- Restricting activities influencing air quality
- Investigating and conducting research related to environmental pollution impacting air quality
- Preparing codes and guidelines to prevent and control air pollution and
- Issuing directions on matters including inspections, or regulations which will be binding on the concerned person or authorities among others.
Note: In case of any conflict, the orders or directions of the Commission will prevail over the orders of the respective state governments, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), state PCBs, and state-level statutory bodies.
- The Commission will consist of a Chairperson and others members. The Chairperson and members of the Commission will have a tenure of three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
- It will also include ex-officio members from the central government and concerned state governments and technical members from CPCB, the Indian Space Research Organisation and NITI Aayog.
- Contravention of provisions of the orders and directions of the Commission will be punishable with imprisonment of up to five years, or a fine of up to one crore rupees, or both.
- All appeals against the Commission’s orders will be heard by the National Green Tribunal.
New Hydrogen-Producing Method Shows Energy-Efficient Route To Manufacture Fuel
What is the News?
Researchers at IIT-Bombay have discovered a new way of producing hydrogen by using magnetized catalysts during electrolysis. This process lowers energy consumption in the process.
Hydrogen as a fuel:
- Hydrogen as a fuel has a critical role to play in driving the paradigm shift towards a green and sustainable economy.
- It is completely non-polluting and has about three-fold higher calorific value compared to non-renewable energy sources such as coal and gasoline.
Read more: Green Hydrogen – The Fuel of the Future
Production of Hydrogen:
- The simplest way to produce hydrogen is by using electrolysis where water is split into its constituent elements, hydrogen, and oxygen.
- But this method requires high energy input and is associated with a slow rate of hydrogen production.
- Moreover, the use of expensive platinum and iridium-based catalysts also discourages it for widespread commercialization.
- Therefore, the transition to “green-hydrogen-economy” demands approaches that lower the energy and material costs and simultaneously improve the hydrogen production rate.
- Hence, to solve this, researchers at IIT Bombay have come up with an innovative route that provides viable solutions to all these challenges.
What did researchers develop?
- The researchers have developed a method that involves the electrolysis of water in the presence of an external magnetic field.
- This method results in 19% less energy consumption and three times more hydrogen production.
Government signs US$ 250 Million Loan Agreement for Second phase of Dam Rehabilitation & Improvement Project (DRIP)
SOURCE : PIB
What Is The News?
In order to enhance water security in the country and support sustainable development, the Government of India today signed a $250 million loan agreement with World Bank for the Second Phase of Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP Phase II) to make existing dams and communities safe and resilient across India.
Status Of Dams In India –
India ranks third globally after China and the United States of America, with 5334 large dams in operation. In addition, about 411 dams are under construction at present.
Significance of these Dams –
These dams are vital for ensuring the water security of the Country. Indian dams and reservoirs play an important role in the economic and agricultural growth of our country by storing approximately 300 billion cubic meter of water annually.
Due to deferred maintenance and other health issues, these dams have associated risks in case of failure. The consequences of dam failure can be catastrophic, in terms of loss of human life and property, and damage to the ecology.
About Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project:
- The Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement project was launched in 2012 under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation(now Ministry of Jal Shakti). It is a World Bank-assisted project.
- The Central Dam Safety Organisation of the Central Water Commission is coordinating and supervising the Project implementation
Significance Of the Project –
- Strengthen dam safety initiatives taken by the Government of India through physical rehabilitation of selected dams by addressing various concerns to improve safety and operational performance
- Incentivise revenue generation for sustainable operation & maintenance of dams
- Infuse global know-how, innovative technologies in dam safety
- The introduction of a risk-based approach to dam asset management will help effectively allocate financial resources towards priority dam safety needs
- Complements the provisions in the Dam Safety Bill 2019, by ensuring capacity building of the dam owners as well as the proposed regulators
- Generate employment opportunities equivalent to approximately 10,00,000 person days for unskilled workers, and 2,50,000 person days for working professionals.
Funding – DRIP Phase II, co-financed by World Bank (WB) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with US$250 million each, covers large dams in 19 states of the country.
Conclusion – It will ensure long-term sustainability of required knowledge and human resources to assist our dam owners. India will also position itself as a knowledge leader on dam safety, particularly in South and southeast Asia.
Australia keen that India joins Exercise Talisman Sabre
Source: The Hindu
What Is The News ?
Australia is keen that India join its biggest war games ‘Exercise Talisman Sabre’ in 2023. And a formal invite could be extended during Australian Defence Minister’s visit to India, in next couple of months.
About Exercise Talisman Sabre
According to the Australian Defence Ministry,
- Talisman Sabre 2021 is the largest bilateral combined training activity between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the U.S. military.
- It also saw the participation of approximately 17000 military personnel from seven nations on land, air and sea.
- The other countries include Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and U.K.
India’s participation in other Exercises
Four frontline warships from the Navy’s Eastern Fleet are scheduled to depart on an overseas deployment of over two months to South East Asia, the South China Sea and Western Pacific during which they will conduct a series of exercises and interactions.
- SIMBEX with Singapore
- Samudra Shakti with Indonesia
- AUS – INDEX with Australia
- Malabar 21 Exercise (hosted by US) with Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, Royal Australian Navy and the United States Navy
Such exercises and interactions are conducted to:
- Deepen interoperability and high technology cooperation between member countries
- Enhance synergy and coordination between the Indian Navy and friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and commitment towards Freedom of Navigation at sea