9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – August 7th, 2021

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

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

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Mains Oriented Articles


GS Paper 2

An opportunity for India to pitch for holistic maritime security

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations: Regional & Global groupings

Relevance: India’s role at steering the debate on maritime peace and security at UNSC

Synopsis: India has an opportunity to ensure that the global debate on maritime peace and security is approached more holistically, rather than focussing just on the security aspect of it.

  • A discussion of various current threats to global maritime domain and role India can play as it undertakes the rotating Presidency of the UN Security Council.

Context

In a departure from normal practice, Indian PM will preside (in virtual mode) over an open debate at the UN Security Council, on Aug 9 when India holds the President’s chair for one month.

This will mark a diplomatic first for an Indian PM: This role has been performed in the past by a minister or a senior diplomat.

The subject to be deliberated upon by the UNSC members centers around the maintenance of international peace and security which is an extension of India’s advocacy of SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region)  in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).

Must Read: India can act as a peace agent in UNSC

Debate should focus on the following issues and threats concerning the global maritime domain.

Threats to maritime peace & security

Geopolitical

  • Tension in South China Sea (SCS): South China Sea has been marred by tensions over freedom of navigation (FON) rights in international waters and China’s claims to “territoriality” based on artificial structures (not natural islands).
    • US doesn’t accept it and has exercised transit rights in these waters.
    • Many ASEAN nations and Quad members such as Japan, Australia and India subscribe to the principle of FON and do not buy the Chinese interpretation of the “nine-dash-line”.

Environmental

  • Maritime pollution: Accidents onboard large crude carriers and cargo vessels in the IOR have added to the anxiety about marine pollution and its downstream consequences for the health of the oceans.
  • Over the last few decades, global warming and carbon emissions have changed the chemistry of the oceans, and as per a UN report they have become more acidic as seawater absorbs more carbon dioxide and furthermore, the upper layers of the open ocean have lost between 0.5% and 3.3% of their oxygen since 1970 as temperatures have risen.
  • In a worst-case scenario, the report cautions that left unchecked, greenhouse gases could result in sea levels rising at a relentless pace for hundreds of years, potentially by 17 feet or more by 2300, and submergence of many islands and low-lying coastal areas along the global littoral.
    • Littoral means a region lying along the shore.

Technological

  • Drone attacks on ships: Safety of merchant ships has been a concern lately. Recently, an Israeli-controlled tanker in the north Arabian Sea off Oman came under a suspected drone attack that killed two crew members.

Traditional

  • Piracy and non-traditional challenges at sea such as gun-running and smuggling

Way forward

China, being a permanent member of UNSC, will stall any debate on issues like SCS, so India can direct the debate on issues of global good, like welfare of seafarers which has been grossly neglected during the pandemic.

Conclusion

A sustained focus on the maritime domain and its correlation with globalization, the blue economy, the health of the ocean and the overall impact on human security is a laudable goal and encouraging the UNSC to prioritize this issue is a worthy cause.

Terms to know:


India’s schoolchildren need their childhood back

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 need to reopen schools and recommendations to open them.

Synopsis:

India needs to stop asking whether schools are safe and start acknowledging that in-person school is essential

Introduction:

Malls, bars, restaurants, and some offices are open, but schools have been closed for 16 months and counting. But schools are not. This situation needs to change.

Read more: Our children need education. How much longer can schools remain shut?

Why do we need to reopen schools?

  • In-person school education teaches children to share, wait for their turn, negotiate, and compromise. Depriving these will affect societal learning and development.
  • For children from economically weak backgrounds, schools are a key source of nutrition (Mid-day meal scheme).
  • For some, schools serve as safe spaces from the chaos of their homes.
  • Many children do not have educated parents or cannot afford home tutors, for them, the denial of education results in learning losses.
  • Further, the researchers agree that children are at a low risk of developing severe COVID-19 compared to adults.
  • Results of Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) Fourth National Sero-Prevalence Survey.
    • More than 80 percent of children from both urban and rural areas had antibodies. This means they were already infected and developed antibodies.
Read more: Let’s chalk out a plan to reopen our schools before it gets too late

ICMR recommendation to open schools:

  • It will be wise to open primary schools first and then secondary schools.
  • Vaccinate all support staff and teachers before opening the schools
Read more: Why are government schools not the first choice?

Suggestions to reopen schools:

  • There are a host of recommendations on how to open schools safely, including by the World Bank, the Lancet COVID-19 Commission India Task Force etc. The government can follow them.
  • Start schools in areas where the community level of infection is low.
  • Declare school staff and teachers as frontline workers
  • Public campaigns to make school staff and parents aware of the low risk of transmission in schools and low severity in children
  • Upgrade school infrastructure to facilitate a hybrid system of learning so that if parents are not willing, they can continue with online learning
  • Formulate and issue guidance on COVID-19 protocols to be adopted by schools
  • Greater investment in healthcare facilities and implementation of systems to track the local levels of infections.
Read more: A pandemic-optimized plan for kids to resume their education

Overall, India needs to stop asking whether schools are safe and start acknowledging that in-person school is essential.

Terms to know:


GS Paper 3

South Asia’s emerging digital transformation

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life

Relevance: Digitization and its benefits, scope, issues and way forward

Synopsis: Adoption of digital technology has increased manifold during the pandemic, and it will continue its upward trajectory. An analysis of the issues involved with digitization and how South Asia can leverage its potential to come out of economic stagnancy.

Context

Covid-19 has forced South Asia to take a quantum leap in digitization. The shift to remote work and online education has led to rapid increase in internet penetration. Even a small nation like Nepal recorded almost 11% increase in internet users. For a region with an inadequate public health infrastructure it acted as a watershed moment providing novel solution to the public health crises.

Impact of Covid 19 on digitisation

  1. Accelerated launch of National Digital Health Mission – In India, COVID-19 accelerated the launch of the National Digital Health Mission, enhancing the accessibility and the efficiency of health-care services by creating a unique health ID for every citizen.
  2. Increased adoption of E-commerce – The pandemic-induced lockdown spurred South Asia’s embrace of e-commerce, boosted by digital payment systems. For instance, Bangladesh alone witnessed an increase of 70-80% in online sales in 2020, generating $708.46 million in revenues.

Why digitization is key for India and South Asia?

Digital transformation through advanced technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, Big Data, etc., will become  key to success in future and thus role of digital technology can not be overlooked.

  • Economic growth – Adoption of digital tech will drive post-pandemic growth in South Asia, including India.
  • Business opportunities – digitization will provide new business opportunities and access to larger markets
  • Create employment – In India, e-commerce could create a million jobs by 2030 and be worth $200 billion by 2026
  • Poverty reduction and financial inclusion – Fintech could drive significant growth and reduce poverty by building financial inclusion

Problems with digitization 

  1. Lack of access – Despite having the world’s second-largest online market, 50% of India’s population are without Internet, 59% for Bangladesh and 65% for Pakistan.
  2. Gender divide – 51% of women in South Asia got excluded from social security measures due to lack of access to internet.
  3. Exclusion of children – According to UNICEF data 88% of children lacked access to Internet powered homeschooling which can create other problems such as increase in out of school children, place girls at risk of early marriages, can push poor children into child labor
  4. Impact on businesses – Many South Asian firms failed to embrace e-commerce or other cloud-based technologies to survive the financial problems of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The region recorded a 64% decline in sales, with small and women-led firms impacted the most.
  5. Creating unemployment – With increased pace of digitization due to Covid crisis, the acute skill gap among the youth will create problem of unemployment.

Digitisation in South Asia: South Asia has also made significant strides in the adoption of digital technologies.

  • The Digital Bangladesh Vision 2021 envisages transforming Bangladesh into a prosperous, digital society
  • India’s JAM Trinity (Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile) systems intend to improve the efficiency of welfare programmes through digital innovation.

However, the region still has a long way to go.

Measures/Suggestions

  1. Addressing legal and regulatory issues -South Asia needs to address legal, regulatory and policy gaps as well as boost digital skills
  2. Boosting digital infrastructure – A robust digital infrastructure is a sine qua non
  3. Increasing Funding to the sector – public private partnership needs to be leveraged for the region’s digital infrastructure financing
  4. Regulatory roadblocks need to be addressed – as e-commerce regulations are weak in South Asia
  5. Other issues – such as customer protection, digital and market access regulation, etc. need to be addressed
  6. Addressing digital illiteracy and skills – Governments and businesses need to come together to revamp the education system to meet the demand for digital skills and online platforms
  7. Stringent cybersecurity measures – needed to protect data of the users.
  8. Cooperation among countries: Roadblocks to digitization could be effectively addressed, drawing inspiration from recent cooperation among South Asian countries against the COVID crisis. To fight COVID, South Asian countries collaborated with various initiatives like contributing towards a COVID-19 emergency fund, exchanging data and information on health surveillance, sharing research findings etc.

Conclusion

Collaboration at all levels is needed to push South Asia out of stagnancy and towards a digital future of shared prosperity. A shared “digital vision” could place the region on the right track towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Terms to Know:


Prime Minister unveils strategy to boost exports

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources

Introduction:

The Prime Minister has spelt out a strategy to boost the export of goods from India while interacting with the Heads of Indian Missions abroad and stakeholders of trade and commerce virtually.

India’s Exports Strategy:

The PM pointed out four factors that are very important for accelerating outward shipments from India. These factors are:

  • Increasing domestic manufacturing
  • Ironing out problems of transport, logistics
  • Need for the Centre and state governments to walk shoulder to shoulder with the exporters
  • Expanding the international market for Indian products.

India’s Exports:

  • Currently, India’s exports are about 20% of GDP.
  • India’s export basket is currently dominated by products with engineering goods, petroleum products, gems and jewellery, pharmaceuticals being the top items.
  • Among the exports, merchandise exports over the last nine years have been around $260-330 billion, with the highest ever being $330 billion in 2018-19.
    • The Government of India has set up a target of $1 trillion in 2027-28 for merchandise exports and $400 billion worth of merchandise exports in the current fiscal.

Suggestions:

There is also a need for diversification of India’s export basket as well as identification of new products that can be exported and relevant markets for such items and prepare strategies for that.


Harness power of nature-based solutions to fight climate crisis: G20 ministers

Source: Down to Earth

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Fighting climate change

Synopsis: India can leverage the global best practices regarding Nature-based solutions (NbS) to fight against the climate crisis. Significance of NbS and discussion of its major roadblocks.

Background

In the recently concluded meeting of The environment, energy and climate ministers from the ‘Group of 20’ on in Naples, the Ministers expressed their commitments towards addressing the challenges presented by urbanization, climate change and biodiversity loss. A major emphasis was placed on the inclusion of nature-based solutions (NbS) in the fight against the climate crisis.

Nature-based solutions (NbS)

Nature-based solutions to climate change involve conserving, restoring or better managing ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is a relatively new concept and still at a nascent stage of development. However, certain countries of G20 have begun implementing this concept already, like

  1. Argentina – It launched the Forest AR2030 platform to boost environmental sustainability through massive restoration programmes. The initiative aimed to restore two million hectares of forested land.
  2. Canada – It is establishing a natural climate solutions fund that will be investing $4 billion over the next 10 years.
  3. European Union – It is among the top leaders of NbS. It has implemented numerous projects and funding programmes like Horizon 2020
  4. China has been aggressively pursuing the NbS since the 1998 mass flooding. They have established more than 20,000 miles of levees systems.
    • Levee is an embankment built to prevent the overflow of a river.

Significance for India

India can potentially leverage these global practices and harness multiple benefits by implementing NbS.

  1. Protecting coastal cities – Planting mangroves can play a crucial role in climate-proofing India’s coastal cities
  2. Mitigating Urban Heat Islands – NbS can be an effective tool in mitigating urban heat island problems.
  3. Creating resilient cities – By protecting cities against urban flooding and improving air quality.
    • Programmes such as GrowGreen, funded by the European Union or the Sponge City programme in China, have been exemplary examples of managing urban floods and addressing urban heat stress.
  4. Fulfilling international obligations – NbS effectively link the long-term agenda of ecosystem restoration announced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Sendai framework and others.

Major roadblocks

The failure of developed countries  to mobilize $100 billion Climate fund post the Paris Agreement, 2015 and secure new financial resources for the implementation of NbS in developing countries is acting as major roadblock for effective implementation of NbS.

Must Read: Leveraging lo-tech to fight climate change

Spreading disinflation over 2-3 years to reduce output loss, says RBI

Source: Business Standard

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

Relevance: Addressing various issues ailing the financial sector of the Indian economy.

Synopsis: RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das, other deputy governors took questions from the media and addressed the raging topics in the financial sector.

Here is what he had to say regarding RBI’s view on various issues.

On inflation

  • Between 2016 and 2020, RBI had kept inflation at 4%.
  • Owing to the pandemic, inflation went up to 6.2% on average.
  • Now, looking at average inflation of 5.7%, from a historical perspective, is a remarkable improvement over 2021.
  • So, the path of inflation is being set downwards to reach 4%. RBI is aiming for disinflation (a decrease in the rate of inflation) over a period of 2-3 years so that the loss of output is minimized.

On current account norms 

Regarding the current account norms for small borrowers –

  • There is no blanket ban on opening of current accounts. RBI have been quite flexible. And now taking into consideration some concerns put out by banks, RBI have extended the timeline.
  • Further, RBI is trying to address the issues in consultation with the Indian Banks’ Association and banks.

On Govt’s fiscal measures

RBI’s views on government’s fiscal measures:

  • As far as fiscal support is concerned, it has been very prudent, calibrated, and responsive.
  • Initially, the focus was on the marginalized sections of society, which then shifted to sectors that were under stress due to the pandemic.

Terms to know:


How COVID-19 protocols can propagate social discrimination in India

Source: Down to Earth

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: To learn about the climate crisis and lessons from Covid-19 to avert it.

Synopsis: Covid-19 has brought many changes in people’s behaviour. Similar such behaviour is needed to avert the climate crisis.

Population and Climate crisis 

  • The pressure of the rising population is designated as a significant contributing factor to the climate crisis. Earth can sustain only a fraction of the present world population’s consumptive demand
  • Population pressure, along with energy and resource-intensive lifestyles, is acting as a major cause of climate change.
  • This will induce crises like health issues, economic issues and other issues.
  • However, it is unethical to impose the pressure of costly lifestyles of western people up on the people in developing countries.

Covid-19 and Climate crisis

  • The outbreak of COVID-19 in the human population is rightfully denoted as a prime example of environmental imbalance affecting human health.
  • A direct link between environmental imbalances and health emergencies is likely to give rise to the medicalisation of the climate crisis. 

Few important changes brought by COVID-19

  • Medicalization of death: This includes distancing of the dead body, bureaucratic restrictions imposed on conducting the last rites, etc.
  • Medicalization of social experiences: This includes Covid appropriate behaviour, Social distancing norms, etc.

Suggestions:

Numerous initiatives like the half-earth project, neo-Malthusianism, United Nations Agenda 21 showcase the need to contain or reduce the growing population especially the global South population.

On many occasions, experts have highlighted that our capability to manage COVID-19 demonstrates our future capability to manage climate change. Many experts argue to announce climate change as a health emergency. It is time for global nations to consider that seriously.


Widen met station network in Himalayas to better predict extreme weather: Panel

Source: Down to Earth, Down to Earth 2, Down to Earth 3

Syllabus: GS 3 – Disaster Management

Relevance: Fighting the flood problem in India

Synopsis: Standing Committee of Parliament (Water Resources) presented its report in both the houses. A detailed look at its findings and the recommendations made.

Context

The report of the Standing Committee of Parliament (Water Resources) for the 17th Lok Sabha, was presented in both houses.

Findings of the report

Here is a brief list of the findings:

1]. Impact of Flooding: According to the report of the Standing Committee of Parliament (Water Resources) for the 17th Lok Sabha,

  • Flooding has affected approximately 40 million hectares of India’s land area.
  • From 1953-2018, 109,374 people died as a result of floods and heavy rains in the country.
  • During these 65 years, the country is estimated to have lost Rs 400,097 crore.

2]. Reasons for flood disasters: Every year, floods caused enormous losses due to

  • Poor planning
  • Failure of flood control policies: For instance, flood plain zoning mandated as per the Model Bill of Flood Plain Zoning Act is yet to be implemented in many states.
  • Insufficient preparedness
  • Ineffective disaster management
  • Unpredictable rainfall patterns due to rising temperature. For instance, flooding of the Kedarnath Valley during the Uttarakhand floods due to extreme precipitation in a short span of time.
  • Natural Events: Flash floods, glacial lake outbursts and landslides. For instance, the Parechu river, a left bank tributary of the Spiti river was blocked in Tibet due to a landslide. It resulted in the creation of an artificial lake upstream and accumulation of huge volumes of water

3]. Declaring a flood as a national calamity: States have often demanded natural calamities to be declared as national ones, especially after floods in a region.

  • But surprisingly, under the existing Scheme of State Disaster Response Fund / National Response Fund of the Ministry of Home Affairs, there is no provision to declare any disaster including flood as a National Calamity.
  • The reasoning behind this is, it is not practical and economically feasible to provide complete protection to all flood-affected areas. Therefore, reasonable economic security is given to reduce the damage caused by floods.
Must Read: India-Nepal flood management needs course correction

Recommendations

1]. Collaborative approach: All stakeholders (Centre & State) needed to understand that managing floods was their collective responsibility.

2]. Changes in Administrative structure

  • Make Jal Shakti ministry the in charge of flood management in India: Because, it appeared that the responsibility of flood management lay with everyone and hence no one paid attention to it.
  • Set up a permanent body: Centre should form a permanent National Integrated Flood Management Group chaired by the Minister of Jal Shakti and at least one meeting be held each year.
  • Centre govt should take up responsibility: Central govt should take the responsibility of flood control and coordination, keeping in view the loss of life and property due to floods.

3]. Policy implementation

  • The Standing Committee also requested that the Dam Safety Bill and the River Basin Management Bill be passed as soon as possible and that the existing Disaster Management Act of 2005 be properly implemented.
  • The committee also proposed developing an Integrated River Basin Management Plan involving all flood-affected states as well as neighboring countries, in order to manage the water of neighboring countries.

4]. Flood mitigation

  • The Centre should put in place and strengthen weather forecasting technology to warn about cloudbursts, flash floods and glacial lakes.
  • Centre should make efforts to set up and widen the network of high altitude meteorological and discharge stations to keep track of changes in water bodies in the Himalayas. Such stations should be equipped with modern technology, including synthetic aperture radar imagery, to detect new lake formations and watersheds in the Indian Himalayas.
  • Early warning without early communication and early action was useless. We need all-weather communication systems.
    • Community radio is an excellent way to do this in the Himalayas

Does bill scrapping retro tax go far enough? Worries are the no interest clause, later I-T interpretation

Source: The Hindu, The Indian Express and Times of India

Syllabus: GS Paper 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to growth, development

Relevance: This article explains issues with the 2012 amendment which provide retrospective taxation and the challenges with the recent bill.

Synopsis:

Delayed reset on retrospective tax is only the first step to regaining investor confidence

Introduction:

The government has recently introduced the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in Parliament. The bill seeks to nullify the contentious retrospective tax law by amending the Income Tax (IT) Act of 1961 and the Finance Act of 2012.

Read more: Retrospective taxation and the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill – Explained, pointwise

Evolution of retrospective taxation in India:

  • Earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled against the retrospective reading of the law by tax officials in the case of Vodafone. Despite that, In 2012, the Indian government then retrospectively amended the tax code, giving itself the power to go after mergers and acquisitions(M&A) deals all the way back to 1962 if the underlying asset was in India.
  • The present government called the retrospective provisions a form of ‘tax terrorism’ and introduced a law to nullify them.

Issues with the 2012 amendment:

  1. Immediately, several large transactions done by foreign companies prior to 2012 came into the tax officials net.
  2. Foreign investors were naturally alarmed that the Indian government could go back in time and charge them for transactions legitimately done in the past.
  3. The arbitration cases internationally led to large awards upwards of $1 billion against India, including interest and damages.
  4. Further, the winning parties started enforcing their award in foreign courts and dented India’s image internationally.

Challenges with the Bill:

  • The Bill allows for the refund only of the principal amount in these cases, not the interest. But the Bill is silent on what if the companies are not ready to accept the payments without interest.
  • Since the bill does not provide for the payment of any interest, the companies might prefer the arbitration and litigation proceedings where they are likely to get the refund with interest at the market rate.
  • Similarly, the government’s stand is also not mentioned in the bill, if the companies are not withdrawing the cases within India and abroad.
  • Large entities like Cairn Energy Plc, Vodafone, etc have already received large arbitration awards in their favour. So, they might not give up the demands for the lower amount provided by the government.
  • The bill also provides that apart from these conditions, further conditions may also be stipulated by CBDT. In the past, the CBDT and IT departments prefer to put stringent conditions.

Conclusion

India needs to demonstrate greater clarity and consistency in policy across the board to fix its broken credibility.

The government should allow, at the least, payment of interest on amounts that have been already recovered.

Terms to know:


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


India, Sri Lanka and Maldives to collaborate on security

Source: The Hindu

What is the news?

India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have agreed to work on “four pillars” of security cooperation, in a recent virtual meeting of top security officials of the three countries.

Background

The discussion comes nine months after India’s National Security Adviser visited Colombo for deliberations with the Secretary to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence and Defence Minister of the Maldives. In this discussion, the three countries agreed to expand the scope of intelligence sharing.

Their meeting marked the revival of NSA-level trilateral talks on maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region after a gap of six years.

Four pillars of co-operation

The recent meeting identified “four pillars” of cooperation in

  1. Marine Safety and Security
  2. Terrorism and Radicalization
  3. Trafficking and Organized Crime
  4. Cybersecurity

Other relevant points

  • Colombo Security Conclave: The ‘Colombo Security Conclave’ among the three neighboring countries seeks to “further promote” maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region.
    • It was established in November 2020 at the NSA-level meeting of India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives to forge closer cooperation on maritime and security matters among the three Indian Ocean countries.
    • The initiative, related to military and security collaboration, assumes significance in the region, in the wake of the current geostrategic dynamic that India shares with Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
    • Earlier this year, India aired security concerns over China being awarded development projects on an island off Sri Lanka’s northern province, close to India’s southern border.
  • Maldives: Maldives’s engagement with members of the ‘Quad’, has been growing over the last year, especially in the area of defence cooperation. The Ibrahim Mohamed Solih government signed a ‘Framework for a Defence and Security Relationship’ agreement with the United States in 2020, an initiative that India welcomed.

Terms to know:


Khel Ratna Award will hereby be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The government of India has announced that the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award will be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award.

About Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award:
  • Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award (formerly known as Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna) is the highest sporting honour of India.
  • It is awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports since 1991-92.
  • Named After: The award is named after Dhyan Chand (1905–79)
  • The recipients of the award are selected by a committee constituted by the Ministry and are honoured for their “spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports over a period of four years” at the international level. 
  • As of 2020, the award comprises a medallion, a certificate and a cash prize of ₹25 lakh.
About Major Dhyan Chand:
  • Major Dyan Chand is a three-time Olympic gold medallist.
  • He is an Indian Hockey Player widely regarded as the greatest field hockey player of all time.
  • His birthday, on August 29, marks National Sports Day, when the National Sports Awards are presented each year.

India’s first bio-bank for heart failure research inaugurated at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and technology

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The first National Heart Failure Biobank (NHFB) in India was inaugurated at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST).

About Biobank:
  • A biobank is a collection of biological samples (such as blood) and health information.
  • It can be used to understand molecular pathways and to improve the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of diseases.
About National Heart Failure Biobank (NHFB):
  • National Heart Failure Biobank(NHFB) is the first heart failure Biobank in the country that would collect blood, biopsies, and clinical data as a guide for future diagnosis and treatment of Heart Failure Patients.
  • The biosamples collected by the biobank will include the blood, serum, tissue samples obtained during open-heart surgery and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and genomic DNA collected from heart failure patients.
  • The samples will be collected after informed consent from patients who are willing to donate specimens.
  • Moreover, the biobank activity will be supervised by a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) with a member from the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR).

What was the need for National Heart Failure Biobank (NHFB)?

  • Heart failure (HF) is emerging as a major health problem in India, with a reported mortality of nearly 60% at five years, which is higher than many common cancers.
    • Hence, there was a need for more research in the field of Heart Failure(HF) and it was in this background that the heart failure biobank was inaugurated.
  • This Biobank will help in providing insights into heart diseases and heart failure among Indian children and adults, which are very different from that seen in the West.
  • The facility will also be useful for the research and treatment of post-covid heart failure.

Advanced Wound Dressing Material Based on Seaweed Agar can Treat Diabetic Wounds and Manage Chronic ones at Competitive Cost

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Indian Scientist from IIT Kanpur has developed an advanced wound dressing Material based on Seaweed Agar.

About Advanced Wound Dressing Material:
  • This material is a biodegradable, non-immunogenic wound dressing based on agarose. Agarose is a natural polymer derived from seaweed agar.
  • The dressing material can be used for the treatment of infected diabetic wounds and patients suffering from chronic wounds. 
  • The material was developed with the support of the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies programme of the Department of Science & Technology.

About Advanced Manufacturing Technologies programme: 

  • The Government has set a growth target for the manufacturing sector from 16% of GDP to reach 25% of GDP by 2025.
  • In accordance with this objective, the Department of Science and Technology has initiated this program for developing Advanced Manufacturing Technologies in October 2015
Objectives of the Programme:
  • Five thrust areas were selected for developing novel manufacturing technologies:
    • Nanomaterials & surfaces,
    • Robotics & automation
    • Precision manufacturing,
    • The manufacturing process of Pharmaceuticals & Biomanufacturing
    • Advanced forming & near net shape processing.
  • Encourage R&D labs to move some of their activities from “discovery research” towards “industrially relevant R&D”.

Increasing Temperature and Low Winter Precipitation are Causing Retreat of Glaciers in Zanskar Valley, Ladakh

Source: PIB

What is the News?

According to a study by Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Pensilungpa Glacier (PG) located in Ladakh”s Zanskar Valley is retreating.

About the Study:
  • Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun, is an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology. The WIHG has been studying the glaciers since 2015.
  • Method: The study is based on the field observations of glacier mass balance collected via stake networking over the glacier surface from 2016-2019.
    • Stake networking is a method where a stake made of bamboo is installed (insert) on the glacier surface using the steam drill for mass balance measurement.
Key Findings of the Study:
  • Pensilungpa Glacier (PG) located in Zanskar, Ladakh is retreating. The study has attributed the retreat to an increase in the temperature and decrease in precipitation during winters
  • The study also points to the significant influence of debris cover on the mass balance and retreat of the glacier’s endpoint, especially in summer.
  • It is also possible that the precipitation of summer periods at higher altitudes will change from snow to rain, and that may influence the summer and winter patterns.
  • The study suggests that due to continuous rise in the air temperature in line with the global trend, the melting would increase.

Scientists from four BRICS countries to carry out genomic sequencing and mathematical modelling of the COVID-19 pandemic

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Indian scientists in partnership with other BRICS countries namely China, Russia and Brazil will carry out the genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2. They will also study epidemiology and mathematical modelling of the Covid-19.

What is Genome Sequencing?
  • Genome sequencing is a process of determining the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome.
Why do we need Genome Sequencing and other studies?
  • A whole-genomic sequencing is required for the identification of genetic mutations and recombinations of the virus.
  • On the other hand, epidemiological studies are needed to help assess the distribution of the virus.
  • Further, Mathematical modelling is required to assess the virus future spread.
About BRICS Genome Sequencing on Covid-19:
  • Under the research, the Indian and Brazilian sides will assess the distribution of SARS-CoV-2 in the environmental samples. 
  • The Chinese and Russian scientists will carry out the Real-Time PCR detection of SARS-CoV-2 in biological material (nasopharyngeal swabs) from patients with symptoms of respiratory diseases and investigate the genomic variability.
  • Then the data from all countries will be integrated to develop mathematical models to reveal the spread and dynamics of the virus.
  • Hence, this research will help trace genetic mutations, recombinations as well as distribution of the virus.
    • The research will also make predictions about the future of its spread.

Power Minister Launches “Reform and Regulatory Knowledge base for Power Sector

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Union Minister for Power has launched a “Reform and regulatory knowledge base for the power sector” and a “Regulatory Data Dashboard Program”. These initiatives have been developed by IIT Kanpur.

About Reform and regulatory knowledge base for the power sector:

  • It is an e-certification program to provide regulatory training to practitioners from diverse backgrounds through virtual mode.
Read more: NITI Aayog and RMI Release a Report on Power Distribution Sector

About Regulatory Data Dashboard Program:

  • Regulatory Data Dashboard is an e-compendium of data containing State-wise details of tariff and DISCOM performance.
  • The dashboard would assist in benchmarking the sector performance, over time and across the power sector utilities. 
  • This would help regulators and policymakers as well as the entities themselves to identify areas for improvement
Read more: “Reform-based and result-linked scheme” to revive discoms

Explained: Status check on world climate

Source: Indian Express

What is the news?

In the last few weeks, the world has seen unexpected floods in Europe and China, record-breaking heat-waves in the United States, and deadly forest fires in Siberia, and Turkey and Greece. Amid gloomy predictions of a continued rise in the frequency and intensity of such extreme weather events, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to release its 6th Assessment report.

About the 6th assessment report
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report, the periodic status check, which is the most widely accepted scientific view of the state of the Earth’s climate. It reflects on latest scientific understanding of the climate system, how and why is it changing, and the impact of human activities on this process.
  • The second and third parts of the report, dealing with the expected impacts of climate change, and the actions required to prevent the worst impacts, are slated to come out next year.
Significance of IPCC reports

All of them, starting from the first one in 1990, have been categorical in stating that

  • The rise in global surface temperatures since the 1950s was most likely caused by human activities
  • Any rise beyond 2°C, compared to the temperatures of the late 19th century, would make the Earth extremely difficult place to live for human beings, and thousands of other species of plants and animals.

The reports have also presented projections for temperature rise till 2100 under different scenarios and the kind of impacts that can be expected under each of these pathways.

Highlights of IPCC reports

What will be new in 6th Assessment report?

  1. Regional Focus – Unlike the previous reports which focused on global scenarios, the 6th assessment report will be focusing on regional scenarios too.
  2. Extreme events – There is expected to be bigger focus on extreme weather events, like the ones we have seen in the last few weeks. The report now will try to link whether a particular event was a result of climate change.
  3. City-specific climate scenarios: Densely populated mega-cities are supposed to be among the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change. The Sixth Assessment Report is expected to present specific scenarios of the climate change impacts on cities and large urban populations, and also implications for key infrastructure.
  4. To drive coordinated efforts IPCC is likely to integrate understanding of the situation, cross-link evidence and discuss trade-offs between different options or pathways

In the immediate future, the IPCC report could serve as the most important warning towards the rapidly closing window of opportunity to halt the rise in temperatures to unacceptable levels, and propel the governments to take more urgent actions.

Terms to Know


Biden govt. non-committal on support for India’s UNSC bid

Source: The Hindu

What is The News?

While the U.S. has in the past backed India’s bid for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the Biden administration has remained non-committal on the issue.

US opinion on the issue

U.S. has offered a qualified support for building a consensus for enlargement of the UNSC – in terms of permanent and non-permanent members. However, the U.S. is not supporting an expansion of the veto – given to the P-5, the current five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the U.K and the U.S.

In the past also, US has refrained from supporting India’s bid, citing regional disagreements on who should get the seat.

Regional disagreements

Regional disagreements here is most probably a reference to the UFC group – Pakistan, South Korea, Italy and Argentina – which opposes the G4 plan. China also opposes the bids of India and Japan.

  • Uniting for Consensus (UfC) is a movement, nicknamed the Coffee Club, that developed in the 1990s in opposition to the possible expansion of the United Nations Security Council.
Must Read: Why UNSC needs reforms?

Sunscreens damage corals; and this should bother India too

Source: Down to Earth

Context: Recently, Thailand banned the use of sunscreen to protect its corals from their adverse impacts. Palau and Hawaii have also imposed similar restrictions in the past.

This highlights the harmful impacts the chemicals in these creams have on the environment.

Why sunscreen is considered harmful for corals
  • It contains various ingredients like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Butylparaben and others which negatively affects the growth of corals, their reproduction, causes deformities and ultimately leads to coral bleaching
  • Sunscreen remains in the water for a long time. When released into water, it forms a layer on the surface of corals and impacts zooxanthellae & polyps movement. This directly impacts their growth and photosynthesis process.
Impact of corals
  • A study by scientists from Polytechnic University in Ancona, Italy discovered that sunscreen that washes off swimmers in reef waters threatens approximately 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs.
  • This impact can increase further if tourism activities increase in these tropical reef areas.
Protection of Corals in India
  • Corals in India can be found in the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.
  • It has been accorded the highest level of legal protection under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
  • But still, there is a need to adopt various measures like sensitization programmes, sustainable tourism etc to reduce the overall impact of tourism on them.

Terms to know:


Celebrations begin to mark 150 years of iconic artist Abanindranath Tagore

Source: The Hindu

What is the news?

Victoria Memorial Hall and DAG have collaborated to commemorate the 150th year birth anniversary of the prominent artist of Bengal school of Art – Abanindranath Tagore.

About Abanindranath Tagore:

  • Abanindranath Tagore, the nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, was one of the most prominent artists of the Bengal school of art in India.
  • He was the first major supporter of swadeshi values in Indian art.
    • He first created the ‘Indian Society of Oriental Art’ and later went on to establish the Bengal school of art.

Specialty of his paintings

  • To counter the western influence of art, he modernized Mughal & Rajput styles to give rise to modern Indian painting.
  • He shaped modern Indian art by giving a unique shape to Swadeshi themes and created a new awakening.
  • “Bharat Mata” painting was one of the most iconic works of Abanindranath Tagore.
  • His other famous paintings include The Passing of Shah Jahan (1900), My Mother (1912–13), Fairyland illustration (1913), Journey’s End (circa 1913).

Major Administrative Reforms by the govt

Source: PIB

What is the news?

In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions stated various administrative reforms brought by the government, to encourage greater efficiency, to transparency and create corruption free governance by increasing accountability and reduce scope for discretion.

Reforms Initiated
  1. Launch of Mission Karmayogi –  National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building (NPCSCB), a new national architecture for civil services capacity building has been launched which aims at capacity building apparatus at individual, institutional and process levels for efficient public service delivery.
  2. e-Samiksha – A real time online system for monitoring and follow-up action on the decisions taken by the Government at the Apex level in respect of implementation of important Government programmes / projects. It has been developed by Cabinet secretariat with the technical help from National Informatics Centre(NIC)
  3. e-Office- e-Office Mission Mode Project (MMP) has been strengthened for enabling Ministries/ Departments to switchover to paperless office and efficient decision-making
  4. Self-certification of documents for appointments- From June 2016, recruiting agencies issue provisional appointment letters based on submission of self-certified documents by the candidates.
  5. Discontinuation of interview in recruitment of junior level posts- From January 2016, interview has been dispensed with for recruitment to all Group ‘C’, Group ‘B’ (Non-Gazetted posts) and other equivalent posts.
  6. Citizen Charters-Government has mandated Citizen Charters for all Ministries/Departments which are updated and reviewed on a regular basis.  The Citizen Charters of Central Government Departments are available at the respective web-sites of Ministries/Departments
  7. Good Governance Index 2019– Index was launched, which assesses the Status of Governance and impact of various interventions taken up by the State Government and Union Territories (UTs)
  8. National Conference on e-Governance – provides a platform for government to engage with experts, intellectuals from industry and academic institutions to exchange experiences relating to e-Governance initiatives
  9. Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS)-The Government is undertaking CPGRAMS reforms in the top grievance receiving Ministries/ Departments by enabling questionnaire guided registration process and providing for automatic forwarding of grievances to field level functionaries thereby reducing the redress time

Emergency arbitration award is applicable: Amazon wins in Supreme Court

Source: Times of India, Indian Express and The Hindu

Introduction:

Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of e-commerce giant Amazon against the merger deal between Future Retail Limited (FRL) and Reliance Retail.

The Supreme Court also upheld the interim award of the Emergency Arbitrator of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

What is the issue?
Future retail [Future Retail Ltd (FRL) is the country’s second-largest retailer with 1500 stores. Future retail, in a 3.4 Bn deal, agreed to sell its retail business to Reliance retail. Amazon wanted to acquire stakes in Future retail.

What is the legal status?
Amazon argued that its partnership contract deal with Future retail in 2019 contained clauses Prohibiting Future retail from selling its units to “Restricted persons” which also includes Reliance.
So, Amazon filed a plea to Singapore’s Emergency Arbitrator, which ruled against the merger in favour of Amazon.

Significance of the SC order:

  • The SC dismissed FRL’s argument that the “Emergency Arbitrator is not an arbitral tribunal” under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996.
  • The Supreme court also held that the award falls within the ambit of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (Section 17) and is enforceable.
    • Section 17 of the Act prescribes the mechanism for parties to an arbitration to seek interim reliefs from the arbitral tribunal during the pendency of the arbitral proceedings.
  • The court also pointed out a recommendation that a High-Level Committee constituted by the Government of India under the chairmanship of Justice B N Srikrishna (retd) to review the institutionalisation of the arbitration mechanism in India.
    • The committee noted that international practice is in favour of enforcing emergency awards(Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom all permit enforcement of emergency awards). So the committee recommended India to enforce the emergency awards in all of its arbitral proceedings.

 

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