9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 17th, 2021

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

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

CEC’s, EC’s interaction with the PMO-Why this raises questions and breaches a red line

Source– This post is based on the article “CEC’s, EC’s interaction with the PMO-Why this raises questions and breaches a red line” published in Indian express on 17th Dec 2021. 

Syllabus: GS2 – Separation of powers between various organs

Relevance– Separation of power, Independence of Election commission  

News: Recently, a letter written by the Law Ministry to the Election Commission (EC) on November 15, has come under criticism.

The letter states that the Principal Secretary to PM ‘expects‘ the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) to be present during a discussion.  

Why this is a cause of concern?

Compromises the independent image of the EC: The Election Commission is a Constitutional authority whose functioning is insulated from the Executive. Attending meetings or discussions called by officers of the government compromises the independence of the commission in the public eye.

The tone of the letter also raises questions because as per protocol, an officer of the government, no matter how senior, cannot call the CEC for a discussion.

What are the Supreme Court’s views on Election Commission’s independence?

The independence of the Commission from the executive has been reiterated by the top court in its 1995 judgment in the TN Seshan v Union of India and Ors, wherein it observed that:

It is inherent in a democratic set-up that the agency which is entrusted the task of holding elections to the legislatures should be fully insulated from the party in power or executive of the day. This objective is achieved by the setting up of an Election Commission, a permanent body, under Article 324 (1) of the Constitution.

Must Read: Independence of EC is reducing – Explained, pointwise

Importance of data during pandemic: Reflections on flying blind into the storm

Source: This post is based on the article “Reflections on flying blind into the storm” published in The Hindu on 17th December 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Relevance: Understanding the importance of data in handling health pandemic.

News: Omicron cases are increasing in various countries like the UK, Denmark, etc. Concerns have been raised in India if it is prepared, for the third wave after the deadly 2nd one.

Read here: Pavlovian responses like travel restrictions won’t stop omicron
What is the present status of vaccination in India?

More than 50% of the adult population are vaccinated with both doses. Approximately 85% have received one or two doses. Discussions are going on for the booster shots for frontline healthcare workers and for vaccines of the 12-18-year population.

Read here: Should children be giving COVID 19 jabs
How the pandemic-related data can help to manage the spread of infection?

Let’s say there is test data spread across months, it can be used to infer about reinfection. It can also give the status of vaccine breakthrough.

South Africa presented a good response in wake of the Covid pandemic. A high-quality surveillance system and commitment towards transparency allowed South Africa to detect and rapidly share data with the world.

From the experience, it is clear that the presence of data can help in faster decision-making towards vaccination policies.

Also read: Covering the gaps in the game of data
How the void in data can affect the system?

Indian Council of Medical Research holds data on every COVID-19 test conducted in India. But, it is worrying that these data are not correlated to data in the Cowin platform. Even, Data on hospitalizations, etc. are apparently available at the State level but seem inaccessible. This void shows the poor functioning of the government in handling the data.

Only the data which is accessible now is data collected by voluntary organizations like Covid19India.org. Here data were collected from multiple sources like individual reports by States, informal sources, such as journalist groups or citizen science reports, etc.

What should be done?

There is a need to understand that data availability is a must for ensuring the public good. The more widely data are shared, the greater the likelihood of integration of the rapidly shifting scientific research with clinical practice.


Covid 21 months after it struck: Is it a replay of the Spanish Flu?

Source: This post is based on the article “Covid 21 months after it struck: Is it a replay of the Spanish Flu?” published in Livemint on 17th December 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Relevance: Understanding the spread of covid.

News: The current pandemic pattern shows the present situation of covid worldwide.

What are the official mortality data shows?

The data on mortality from Covid-19 shows that the pandemic seems to be reducing. Covid mortality has declined. There have been two distinct waves, and America and Europe are reeling under the third wave.

What are the challenges facing a virus pandemic?

Knowledge of viruses and their evolution is limited. Even classification of the virus as dead or alive is not clear. Viruses mutate rapidly, making vaccine development difficult.

Unusually, mortality is higher in developed countries like America. Some viruses can be infectious and some lethal. When a virus which is a combination of both emerges, that becomes a health challenge.

What can one learn from the experience of the Spanish flu?

The mortality was not high at the epicenter like in the case of Covid in China. There are multiple mutations that lead to multiple waves like Covid second wave. While the initial mutations are deadly, the later variants become less deadly.

Read here: Why did the people not take lessons from the past?

Though viruses remain mysterious, the healthcare systems have reduced mortality. The knowledge of the past shows that pandemics have been handled well and the rate of recovery has been good. So, rapid advances in technology are required to limit the transmission and spread of viruses.


Addressing cross border insolvency

Source: This post is based on the article “Addressing cross-border insolvency” published in Indian Express on 17th Dec 2021.Syllabus: GS 2- Important international institutions

News:  Recently, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has published a draft framework for cross-border insolvency proceedings based on the UNCITRAL Model Law.

Why there is a need for a separate law for cross-border insolvency?

Cross-border insolvency involves a situation where an insolvent debtor has assets or creditors in more than one country. Thereby, a single legal system will not be sufficient to address the issue of insolvency. So, there is a need for a separate law for cross-border insolvency.

What are the steps taken in this regard?

To handle such cases involving cross-border insolvency, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law proposed the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross Border Insolvency.

It has provisions allowing foreign insolvency courts, and officials access to domestic courts. It also provides for recognition of orders and judgments passed by insolvency courts located in foreign jurisdictions.

Countries can adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law with modifications, that suit their domestic context. The Model Law has to date been adopted by 49 countries.

What is the status in India?

The insolvency proceedings of Jet Airways and the Videocon Group that had assets and claims from outside India highlighted the need for enacting a law, harmonious with the international best practices.

Consequently, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has published a draft framework for cross-border insolvency proceedings based on the UNCITRAL Model Law.

Why it is considered a step in the right direction?

As of now, India enters into bilateral arrangements with countries for recognizing our insolvency proceedings on a reciprocal basis. This is not a permanent solution.

Entering into separate agreements with countries is time-consuming and involves multiple negotiations.

Moreover, as businesses expand beyond national borders, it is critical for countries to adhere to a common set of principles governing cross-border trade.

For example, take the case of the United Nations Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Awards, popularly known as the New York Convention.

It has been signed by 167 countries. Thereby, an arbitral award passed in any of the signatory countries will be readily enforceable in the other signatory country without having to initiate separate proceedings.

What are the key provisions in the draft framework for cross-border insolvency?

Firstly, it enables the assistance of foreign courts or representatives during insolvency proceedings pending in India and vice versa.

Secondly, it enables the central government to exclude a certain class of entities, such as those providing critical financial services (banks, insurance companies, etc.) from being subjected to cross-border scrutiny.

Thirdly, NCLT is vested with the power to recognize a foreign proceeding as either a “main proceeding” or a “non-main proceeding”

Main proceeding – a country where the debtor company has its center of interest

Non-main proceeding – a country where the debtor merely has an establishment.

Further, the NCLT has been vested with the power to impose moratoriums to preserve the assets of the foreign entity in India.

What are the concerns in the draft framework for cross-border insolvency?

First, there is no provision for enforcement of insolvency-related judgments.

Second, the term public policy that has been included as one of the major grounds to resist the recognition of foreign proceedings has not been defined.

What is the way forward?

First, need to include the provisions for the enforcement of insolvency-related judgments and orders as per the CBIRC’s recommendation.

Second, considering the wide ambit of the term “public policy”, the lawmakers should streamline its scope to lend clarity to the process.

GS Paper 3

Wrong forum: On climate change and the UNSC

Source: This post is based on the article “Wrong forum: On climate change and the UNSC” published in The Hindu on 17th December 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 Climate Change.

Relevance: Understanding the climate-related challenges.

News: India, voted against the draft resolution that linked climate change with global security challenges in the UN Security Council (UNSC).

What is the resolution all about?
Read more: Explained: Why India, Russia blocked move to take climate change to UNSC
What are the arguments related to the resolution?

Favour: Climate is creating security risks in the world, which will exacerbate in the future with water shortage, migration and destruction of livelihoods. With the support of the present US administration, the developed world is pushing to include “climate security” in the agenda of the UNSC.

Against: UNSC’s primary responsibility is “maintenance of international peace and security” and climate change-related issues are outside its ambit. Bringing the issue under the UNSC will also give more powers to the world’s industrialized countries, which hold veto power, to decide on future action on climate-related security issues. So, it was an attempt to shift climate talks from the UNFCCC to the UNSC.

What is India’s stand on it?

It is true that the pace of Climate talks is slow in UNFCC but outsourcing to UNSC is not the solution. It is wrong to look at climate change through the prism of security. Each nation faces different challenges in transitioning into a greener economy.

India pointed out that developed countries still do not reach the promises they made with regard to climate action. Also, the least developed and developing countries should be encouraged to keep the promises they made with financial assistance. It should be a collective task, where decisions should be made by consensus.

Read here: India votes against U.N. draft resolution on climate change

Instead of outsourcing it to UNSC, UNFCC should expand the scope of discussions to include climate-related security issues.


Bridging the financing gap in the clean energy transition

Source: This post is based on the article “Bridging the financial gap in the clean energy transition” published in The Indian Express on 17th Dec 2021. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

Relevance: Climate justice, financial help to developing countries, Phase down of fossil fuels.  

News: As per the IPCC report, the world is heading towards warmer climate and higher sea levels. 

To tackle this, government around the world are planning to either to phase out or phase down their fossil fuel consumption. 

Transition to an economy free from fossil fuels will require both private capital and public finance, esp for developing countries who are still dependent on them. A multilateral effort across nations, corporates and sectors will smoothen the process. 

Why India focusses on phase down rather than phase out?

Read the following articles:

– Why India’s coal habit won’t be easy to shake off

– India needs time and money before it can dump coal

How this transition is currently being undertaken?

Companies in high carbon value chains, automobiles, cement and steel, have committed to sustainable practices. This becomes possible as investors are now aware of the long ignored social costs of profits. 

There is increasing investment in green bonds and sustainable bonds and through funds that rely on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) disclosures for portfolio decisions. 

What will be the fiscal implications of coal phase down for India?

Decline in revenue: There is a risk to future revenues from the tapering of fossil fuel consumption, as they account for one-fifth of India’s tax revenues.

Risk to future revenues can also affect bank balance sheets that hold sovereign debt. This risk is particularly high for countries such as India, where around 10% of commercial bank loans are to carbon intensive sectors, half of which are in the power sector.

Risk of inflation: The OECD countries suggest that charging a price for emissions through a higher tax is a possible solution. But, as consumption of fossil fuel decreases, these revenues will decline and any increases in the rates to compensate for this decline can potentially spur inflation, leaving consumers to pay for the cost of transition.

Private debt extended to fossil fuel dependent sectors could also turn unviable.

What is the way forward?

As per an estimate by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the investment requirement for meeting the net-zero target will be $10.1 trillion. The promise of $100 billion from developed countries for climate mitigation is far less in comparison to the needs of developing countries such as India.  

Therefore, multilateral and private capital must enhance their commitments to invest in low-cost technology.  

A development finance institution dedicated to low carbon transition  should be created which can help accurately assess the finance required, and also streamline the spending taking place in transition. 


Delivering climate action: The road ahead for India after CoP26

Source: This post is based on the article “Delivering climate action: The road ahead for India after CoP26” published in DTE on 17th Dec 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3- Issues related to climate change.

Relevance:  Renewable energy, net zero’ carbon emission, Decarbonising emission.

News:  At CoP26, India pledged to become a ‘net zero’ carbon emitter by 2070. It announced enhanced targets for renewable energy deployment and reduction in carbon emissions.

Achieving these targets will require focusing on the three important areas. 1) Increasing renewable energy capacity, 2) Decarbonising emission-intensive sectors, 3) Creating more carbon sinks.

What needs to be done to make these targets feasible?

Firstly, to increase renewable energy capacity, the following efforts are needed:

Resource mobilisation: NITI Aayog report estimates that the sector requires $4.5 trillion to meet the infrastructure gap and increase the share of renewable energy to 50 percent by 2030.

Policy shift: India should plan to shift from the grey to green economy by giving up fossil fuel and making societies and people more resilient to climate shocks.

Creation of green jobs: It should be supplemented with a secure and just transition for workers currently engaged with fossil fuel-based industries.

Secondly, to Decarbonise emission-intensive sectors, the following efforts are needed.

Efforts are required to reduce emissions in heavy industries like iron and steel, chemicals, and cement: Because heavy industries are also some of the highest emitters, and demand for their products is also growing due to rapid urbanization and economic growth.

Ecosystem-based approach: That aims at greening both ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ should be followed.

Thirdly, to create more carbon sinks, the Involvement of local communities is vital owing to their commitment towards safeguarding it.

Fourthly, there is a need for a coordinated mechanism to fast-track action climate by engaging all stakeholders: The private sector that brings investments, innovation, and the ability to transform challenges into opportunities should be made part of the process.

What are the steps taken in this regard?

Steps taken to Increase renewable energy capacity

The share of renewable energy in India’s energy mix has more than doubled: from 11.8 percent in March 2015 to 25.2 percent in July 2021.

The Climate Finance Leadership Initiative: launched by India and the United Kingdom recently to generate more resources for climate and green energy projects.

India’s efforts in addressing the energy needs of neighboring countries: For instance, Indian Energy Exchange, a domestic power trading platform, started cross-border electricity trade aims to create an integrated regional power market in South Asia.

One Sun, One World, One Grid (OSOWOG): launched by India at CoP26. It plans to create a South Asian network for the energy exchange.

International Solar Alliance (ISA): India was a founder-member.

Steps taken to decarbonise emission-intensive sectors

Domestic achievements: India has successfully reduced its emission intensity of a gross domestic product by 24 per cent.

Adoption of Ecosystem-based’ approach in policy making: For example,

Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles scheme offers incentives to both the automotive sector and consumers to boost electric vehicle sales.

Developing domestic capacities for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries and creating charging infrastructure.


The WTO’s challenge to MSP is another frontier to cross

Source: This post is based on the article “The WTO’s challenge to MSP is another frontier to cross” published in The Hindu on 17th Dec 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Issues related to Direct and Indirect Farm Subsidies and Minimum Support Prices.

Relevance:  Issues related to MSP.

News: A legal guarantee for MSP will violate international law obligations enshrined in the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

What is Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO)?

Read more here: https://blog.forumias.com/wto-terminologies-aoa-blue-green-amber-box-peace-clause/

How a legal guarantee for MSP will violate WTO rules?

Firstly, the price support provided through MSP will be classified as a trade-distorting subsidy because India’s applied administered price for rice is much more than the 1986-88 External Reference Price(ERP). This overshoots India’s de minimis limit.

For instance, according to the Centre for WTO Studies, India’s fixed ERP for rice, in 1986-88, was $262.51/tonne and the MSP was less than this.

However, India’s applied administered price for rice in 2015-16 stood at $323.06/tonne, much more than the 1986-88 ERP.

Further, procuring all the 23 crops at MSP, as against the current practice of procuring largely rice and wheat, will result in India breaching the de minimis limit.

Even if the Government does not procure directly and mandates private parties to acquire at a price determined by the Government, as it happens in the case of sugarcane, the de minimis limit of 10% applies.

For example, Very recently, a WTO panel, concluded that India breached the de minimis limit in the case of sugarcane. Because India is offering guaranteed prices paid by sugar mills to sugarcane farmers.

Secondly, the Peace clause cannot be used to support India’s case if the MSP system is legalised for 23 crops because the peace clause is subject to several conditions.

The peace clause is applicable only for programs that were existing as of the date of the decision and are consistent with other requirements.

Peace clause can be availed by developing countries for the support provided to traditional staple food crops to pursue public stockholding programs for food security.

Hence, India will not be able to employ the peace clause because crops such as cotton, groundnut, sunflower seed are not part of the food security program.

Therefore, India needs to recalibrate its agricultural support programs to make use of the flexibility available in the AoA.

What can be done?

First, India can move away from price-based support in the form of MSP to income-based support, which will not be trade-distorting under the AoA. But the income support should not be linked to production.

Second, India can supplement price-based support with an income-based support policy without breaching the de minimis limit.

Finally, the Government needs to engage with the farmers and convince them of other effective policy interventions, beyond MSP, that are fiscally prudent and WTO compatible.


India seems likely to grow old before it can become wealthy

Source: This post is based on the article “India seems likely to grow old before it can become wealthy” published in Livemint on 17th Dec 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance:  Declining population, Demographic disaster, unemployment.

News: By the middle of this century, the country’s population will finally start to decline, ending up at perhaps a billion by 2100.

India is ageing faster than expected. The latest round of India’s massive National Family Health Survey (NFHS) highlights the point. For instance, in urban India, the fertility rate is now 1.6, according to the NFHS, equivalent to that of the US.

Though declining population is good news, The unexpected speed of the demographic transition has forced India to confront a new problem. The problem is whether India will grow old before it gets rich.

Will India grow old before it can become wealthy?

A comparison of India’s developmental parameters with that of China tell us that, India seems likely to grow old before it can become wealthy. The reasons are,

-Inadequate focus towards Malnutrition

Children born under China’s one-child policy received unprecedented attention from their families, and the quality of their nutrition increased.

In contrast, NFHS shows that Children in India are malnutrition high. In fact, in the five years after 2015-16, acute undernourishment actually worsened for children in most parts of India.

-Education system not aligned with Industrial requirement

Similarly, under China’s one-child policy, average education levels rose sharply. Whereas, In India, the education system is clearly failing. For instance,

Indian companies are already reporting a shortage of skilled manpower. This is because Universities just aren’t producing the kind of workers that companies feel they can employ.

The unemployment rate for college graduates is 19.3%, almost three times higher than the national average, as per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy reports.

Increasing Unemployment

According to the International Labour Organization, Two-thirds of working-age Chinese are currently either employed or looking for a job. China’s labour force participation rate is 80%.

In contrast, CMIE estimates that the country’s LPR stands at a mere 43% in India and that the pandemic has “lowered the LPR structurally” to 40%.


The hidden threat to our fledging economic recovery

Source– This post is based on the article “The hidden threat to our fledging economic recovery” published in Livemint on 17th Dec 2021. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth

Relevance: Rising Inequality and its implications 

News: World Inequality Report (WIR) by World Inequality Lab has found that India has high and rising inequality. 

What are the important findings of the report? 

The top 1% of Indians account for 22% of national income, while the bottom 50% account for only 13%.  

For more: Read here 

What government official statistics say about inequality in India? 

All-India Debt and Investment Survey of the National Statistical Office (NSO), found that the top 10% of urban India held 56% of all assets. In rural India, inequality in wealth was less stark, with the top 10% reported owning 51%. 

Official data like multi-dimensional poverty data from the NITI Aayog or the recently released National Family Health Survey data points towards widening gap across states as well as across gender, rural/urban and caste and religion classifications. 

Why even these estimates may also be an underestimation? 

Most of the survey fail to capture assets like jewellery, real estate and thus give an underestimation. The actual real figures may paint even a grimmer picture. 

What are the implications of growing inequality? 

Impact on India’s post-pandemic recovery: Currently, Investment demand is weak and though exports are doing better, but they are still not at a good level. In this scenario rising inequality will be harmful for India’s economic recovery. 

Disproportionate impact of the pandemic on poor: The Pandemic has devastated the lives and livelihoods of most Indians at the bottom end of the socio-economic pyramid. Large numbers, particularly those engaged in casual manual labour and in cultivation, have seen their real incomes fall. 

Private consumption has declined, causing an economic slowdown. Falling income, high inflation, high unemployment in pandemic have led India into a vicious cycle. 

It is a cycle of low incomes leading to low demand and low employment, resulting in even lower incomes. 

What is the way forward?

Increase in income required to fuel demand -The above-mentioned vicious cycle can only be broken if there is substantial increase in the incomes of India’s bottom 50%.  

This will require a big hike in government expenditure that can generate demand and thereby employment.  

India’s economic strategy needs to be inclusive, sustainable and equitable. 

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Data breach to be reported in 72 hours: House joint panel

Source: This post is based on the article Data breach to be reported in 72 hours: House joint panel published in Indian Express on 17th Dec 2021.

What is the news?

A report of the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Personal Data Protection Bill has been tabled in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The committee has recommended the formation of a Data Protection Authority (DPA).

What will be the purpose of the Data Protection Authority (DPA)?

The Data Protection Authority (DPA) will be dealing with privacy and personal data as well as non-personal data.

Composition of DPA

The Chairperson and the members of the DPA shall be appointed by the Union government based on the recommendation of a selection committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.

Other members of the committee would be the Attorney General of India, the IT and law secretaries.

Nominated members: An independent expert and a director each from the IIT and the IIM will be nominated by the Centre.

How will the DPA work?

In case of a data leak, the DPA should be notified within 72 hours of the company becoming aware of the breach. 

The DPA shall then take into account the personal data breach and the severity of harm that may be caused to the persons whose data has been leaked. Accordingly, it will ask the company to report it and take appropriate remedial measures.

What penalties and punishments have been recommended in the report?

If the company fails to take prompt and appropriate action following a breach, does not conduct a data audit or does not appoint a data protection officer,

it should attract a penalty of up to Rs 5 crore or 2% of the total worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.

Further, if a company violates the provisions of processing personal data or data of children, or transfers data outside India against the prescribed rules,

it shall be fined up to Rs 15 crore or 4% of its total worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.

For government departments, the liability in case of data breach will not be directly placed with the head of the departments.

The head of the government department will first conduct an in-house probe to determine the officer responsible for the violation, and only then will the liability be decided.

If a person intentionally and without the consent of data fiduciary or data processor re-identifies personal data which has been de-identified will face

a jail term of up to 3 years or a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh or both


Amendment of the Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Rules, 2015 and the Mineral (Auction) Rules, 2015 to facilitate identification of mineral blocks for auction for grant of Composite Licence

Source: This post is based on the article Amendment of the Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Rules, 2015 and the Mineral (Auction) Rules, 2015 to facilitate identification of mineral blocks for auction for grant of Composite Licencepublished in PIB on 16th Dec 2021.

What is the news?

The Ministry of Mines has notified the Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Second Amendment Rules, 2021 and the Mineral (Auction) Fourth Amendment Rules, 2021.

These rules amend the Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Rules, 2015 (MEMC Rules) and the Mineral (Auction) Rules, 2015 (Auction Rules) respectively.

Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Second Amendment Rules, 2021

Background: Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Rules, 2015 have been recently amended to provide for auction to grant a composite licence. The licence is granted in respect of areas where at least Reconnaissance Survey (G4) level has been completed or where mineral potentiality of the block has been identified based on the available geoscience data, but resources are yet to be established.

New 2021 Amendments:

It enables any person who is intending to participate in auction to propose suitable blocks for auction for composite licence where mineral potentiality of the blocks has been identified based on the available geoscience data.

–  After this, a committee constituted by the State Government shall assess the mineral potentiality of the blocks proposed and recommend the block for auction. 

Mineral (Auction) Fourth Amendment Rules, 2021

Background: Mineral (Auction) Rules, 2015 were amended to prescribe bid security, performance security and other eligibility conditions to enable auction of such blocks for composite licence.

New 2021 Amendments:

The rules provide that in case the blocks proposed by any person are notified for auction, the said person would be provided incentive of depositing only half of the bid security amount in auction of the blocks proposed by him.

What is the significance of these amendments?

These amendments would encourage more participation in auctions and promote competition. This will facilitate State Governments in identifying more blocks for auction of composite licence.


Union Minister inaugurates ‘Samajik Adhikarita Shivir’ for distribution of aids and assistive devices to ‘Divyangjan’ and Senior Citizens

Source:  This post is based on the articleUnion Minister inaugurates ‘Samajik Adhikarita Shivir’ for distribution of aids and assistive devices to ‘Divyangjan’ and Senior Citizenspublished in PIB on 16th Dec 2021.

What is the news?

The Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment has virtually inaugurated ‘Samajik Adhikarita Shivir’.

What is Samajik Adhikarita Shivir?

It is a camp organized for distribution of aids and assistive devices to ‘Divyangjan’ under the Assistance to Disabled Persons (ADIP) Scheme and to Senior Citizens under the Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana.

Organized by: Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) in association with Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO).

What are the other steps taken by the Government for Divyangjan (Persons with Disabilities)?

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act,2016 has been implemented in 2016. Under this, 

7 categories of disability have now increased to 21 categories

reservation in government employment has been increased from 3% to 4% and 

Reservation in government aided higher educational institutions has been made from 3% to 5%.

What is ALIMCO?

It is a Miniratna Category Central Public Sector Enterprises under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Objective: Profitability is not the motive of the operations of the Corporation and its main thrust is in providing better quality of Aids & Appliances to larger numbers of disabled persons at reasonable price. 


NASA’s Parker Solar Probe enters the Sun’s atmosphere for the first time

Source: This post is based on the articleNASA’s Parker Solar Probe enters the Sun’s atmosphere for the first timepublished in Indian Express on 15th Dec 2021.

What is the news?

For the first time in history, NASA’s “Parker Solar Probe” has officially touched the sun. It has flown through the Sun’s upper atmosphere – the corona – and sampled particles and magnetic fields there. 

What is the Parker Solar Probe?

Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018 by NASA.

Aim: Exploring the mysteries of the Sun by travelling closer to it than any spacecraft before.

The spacecraft has been designed to withstand any extreme condition and temperature on the mission. Additionally, the spacecraft’s custom heat shield will help and protect the mission from the Sun’s intense light emission. It will also not allow the coronal material to “touch” the spacecraft.

What has Parker Solar Probe achieved?

Parker Solar Probe has for the first time touched the sun. It is believed that it has crossed the Alfvén critical surface and finally entered the solar atmosphere.

What is Alfvén’s critical surface?

Unlike Earth, the Sun doesn’t have a solid surface. But it does have a superheated atmosphere, made of solar material bound to the Sun by gravity and magnetic forces. However, as rising heat and pressure push that material away from the Sun, it reaches a point where gravity and magnetic fields are too weak to contain it.

This point is known as the Alfvén critical surface. This point basically marks the end of the solar atmosphere and beginning of the solar wind.

Note: Solar wind is a stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, called the corona.
What is the significance of this achievement?

This is significant as touching the very stuff the Sun is made of will help scientists uncover critical information about the Sun and its influence on the solar system. 

Moreover, exploring the corona close up can help scientists better understand solar outbursts that can interfere with life here on Earth.


India registers highest-ever annual FDI inflow of 81.97 billion dollars in 2020-21

Source: This post is based on the articleIndia registers highest-ever annual FDI inflow of 81.97 billion dollars in 2020-21published in AIR on 17th Dec 2021.

What is the news?

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has released data regarding the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows in 2020-21.

FDI Inflows in 2020-21

India has registered the highest ever annual FDI inflow of $81.97 billion in 2020-21.

–  FDI inflows in the last seven financial years is over $440 billion which is nearly 58% of the total FDI inflow in the last 21 financial years.

The top five countries from where FDI Equity Inflows were received during 2014 to 2021 are Singapore, Mauritius, USA, Netherlands and Japan.

–  The Computer Software and Hardware sector attracted the largest share of FDI inflows followed by Service, Trading and Telecommunications.


High levels of uranium in groundwater of eastern Karnataka’s 57 villages: study

SourceThis post is based on the article “High levels of uranium in groundwater of eastern Karnataka’s 57 village-study” published in Down to earth on 16th Dec 2021. 

What is the news? 

A chemical analysis of groundwater in several villages of Karnataka has found high levels of uranium concentration. 

The study was conducted by the scientists from the Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science and Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Radioactivity, Mangalore University. 

What are the findings of the study? 

– High levels of uranium concentration in groundwater of at least 57 villages out of 73. Concentration ranges from 30 micrograms per litre (μg / l) to even up to 60 μg / l. In some villages it even goes up to 1000 μg / l. 

OrganizationsPermissible limit of Uranium
WHO
30 μg /l
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)60 μg /l

None of the bore wells from which water has been sampled is anywhere in the vicinity of nuclear facilities or urban waste disposal channels. 

Samples collected during January and February had much higher uranium content than those collected during July. Studies are underway to understand this change. 

Why high uranium concentration is harmful? 

Uranium has no known essential biological functionsIt is also a toxic chemical. 

Exposure to high levels of uranium can cause cancer, kidney disease. 

For more: Read here

What can be the probable reasons for such high level of uranium in groundwater of these areas?

1) Rock composition of the area– The chemical composition of water is affected by Soil-water and rock-water interactions. 

As per studies, Gneisses (a type of rock) and granitoids (category of rock) of Eastern Dharwar Craton have high uranium concentration as compared to those in Western Dharwar Craton. 

Cratons are a part of the crust which has attained stability and which has not been deformed for a long time.

2) High degree of Oxidation: The soils in the eastern part of Karnataka, being red loam with laterite at places, indicate a higher degree of oxidation during weathering. Oxidation of uranous to uranyl ion is promoted by such a weathering process. As uranyl phases are soluble in circulating groundwater, the process leads to a higher concentration of dissolved uranium in groundwater.  

3) Depleting water table: Evidence points towards depleting water table in many parts of eastern Karnataka. Oxidative weathering in the deeper levels is facilitated by this decline in groundwater level. 

It also provides for an extended time of soil / rock-water interactions that lead to the release of more uranium to the circulating water. 


WMO confirms 2020 heat record in Siberian town

SourceThis post is based on the article “WMO Confirms 2020 heat record in Siberian town” published in Down to earth on 16th Dec 2021. 

What is the news?

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that Verkhoyansk, a Siberian town experienced the highest temperature of 38oC, the highest ever recorded temperature in the Arctic region.  

This place falls in eastern Siberia, which has an extremely harsh dry continental climate (very cold winter and hot summer). 

On February 6th 2020, at the Esperanza station in Argentina considered to be a part of the Antarctic region, a temperature of 18.3°C was recorded.

These events indicate that the region in and around both Arctic and Antarctic is being warmed gradually.

Arctic records its hottest temperature EVER as mercury hits 100F in town of Verkhoyansk in Siberia | Daily Mail OnlineWhat is arctic circle?

All landmasses and seas north of 66.5° latitude are considered the Arctic region. The latitude itself is called the Arctic Circle. 

What is the significance of this news?

It indicates the gradual warming of the Arctic region due to the climate change induced global warming.

Further, it indicates how our climate’s most extreme extremes are changing.

Moreover, the impact of warming on the region is such that the WMO has added a new category — “highest recorded temperature at or north of 66.5⁰C, the Arctic Circle” — to its international Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes.

What are the causes?

Global warming– Arctic region is warming at twice the rate than the rest of the world, mainly because of human-made greenhouse gas emissions. The increased rate of warming is because of a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. 

Arctic amplification is the process in which the melting ice hastens the process of warming by exposing areas that are not good at reflecting back heat into the atmosphere. 

This creates a cycle between melting ice and rising temperatures, amplifying the impact of warming. 

How the climate of Arctic region is changing?

At the time the highest temperature was recorded, most of the Arctic region, especially Siberia, was experiencing an unprecedented heatwave, with temperatures in the Siberian Arctic rising up to 10°C above normal.

This has lead to forest fires and massive sea ice loss and was one of the reasons for 2020 becoming one of the three warmest years on record despite a cooling La Niña phenomenon towards the end of the year.


The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister releases the report on State of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in India

Source: This post is based on the articleThe Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister releases the report on State of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in Indiapublished in PIB on 16th Dec 2021.

What is the News?

The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister(EAC-PM) has released the report on the State of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in India.

About the Report on the State of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy(FLN) in India

Prepared by: Institute for Competitiveness

Purpose: To highlight the importance of early education years in the overall development of a child. 

As part of the report, Index on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy has also been released.

What is Foundational Literacy and Numeracy(FLN)?

FLN refers to basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills. Falling behind in the Foundational Learning years which encompass pre-school and elementary education makes children more vulnerable as it negatively impacts their learning outcomes.

About Index on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

Aim: To establish an understanding of the overall state of Foundational Learning across children aged below ten years in Indian States and Union territories.

Parameters: The Index includes five pillars comprising 41 indicators. The five pillars are Educational Infrastructure, Access to Education, Basic Health, Learning Outcomes and Governance.

Categories: The categories that were considered for rankings are- large states, small states, Union Territories and North East.

Key Findings of the Index

Large States: West Bengal has topped, while Bihar has finished at the bottom.

Small States: Kerala has bagged the top position, while Jharkhand has languished at the bottom.

UTs: Lakshadweep has topped, while Ladakh has featured at the bottom.

North East: Mizoram has topped, while Arunachal Pradesh came last.

Other key Observations of the report

Firstly, some states may serve as role models for others in certain aspects, but they too need to learn from other states while addressing their challenges. For instance, Kerala is the best small state, but it can also learn from Andhra Pradesh, which outperforms Kerala with respect to access to education.

Secondly, more than 50% of the states have performed particularly worse in the Governance pillar. 

Thirdly, the performance of the Large States such as Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bihar is noticeably below average in access to education. Whereas the North-eastern states have the highest scores in access to education.


Explained: Salar Masud-Raja Suhaldev battle and other historical episodes that PM Modi spoke about in Kashi

Source: This post is based on the articleExplained: Salar Masud-Raja Suhaldev battle and other historical episodes that PM Modi spoke about in Kashipublished in Indian Express on 17th Dec 2021.

What is the News?

Recently, the Prime Minister inaugurated the Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor in Varanasi. At this event, he referred to several historical episodes including the battle between Salar Masud and Raja Suhaldev, the conflict between governor-general Warren Hastings and Raja Chait Singh and contributions of historical figures like Rani Bhabani from Bengal.

About Maharaja Suheldev and Salar Masud
Who was Salar Masud? 

Salar Masud was also known as Ghazi Mian. He acquired popularity as a warrior in the 12th century. He was the nephew of the 11th-century Turkik invader, Mahmud of Ghazni.

His tomb at Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh stands as a place of pilgrimage for a large number of Muslims as well as Hindus.

The most comprehensive source of information about Ghazi Mian is the Mirat-e-Masaud (Mirror of Masaud), a 17th-century Persian hagiography written by Abdur Rahman Chisti, a Sufi saint of the Chisti order.

Abdur Rahman had also asserted that Masud was the disciple of Sheikh Moinuddin Chisti, the founder of the Chistiya order of Sunni mysticism.

Mughal emperor Akbar is known to have made a land grant in 1571 CE for maintaining Ghazi Miyan’s shrine.

What is the link between Maharaja Suheldev and Salar Masud?

Maharaja Suheldev was the erstwhile ruler of Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district who ruled in the 11th century. He is known to have defeated and killed Ghazi Salar Masud in battle in Bahraich in 1034 AD. 

Warren Hastings and Maharaja Chait Singh

Maharaja Chait Singh was a ruler of the Kingdom of Benaras. He acquired the throne of Banaras in 1771 with the help of British authorities. 

In 1773, the Maharaja transferred the domain to the East India Company, under the control of Warren Hastings.

Under British terms, the Maharaja was forced to contribute cavalry and maintenance grants for the company’s sepoy battalions. But he refused to comply with the British orders.

After this, British soldiers were deployed at the Raja’s fort at the Shivala Ghat. But the soldiers were killed in the conflict and the governor-general was forced to retreat.

Rani Bhabani

Rani Bhabani was from Bengal. She was married to Raja Ramkanta Ray, the zamindar of the Natore estate in Rajshahi (present-day Bangladesh). After the death of her husband in 1748, the zamindari passed on to the hands of Bhabani, making her one among the very few women zamindars of the time. 

Bhabani is remembered most for her philanthropic efforts. She is known to have built schools, roadways and water tanks across the Rajshahi district. She is believed to have built more than 350 temples.

She is also known to have built the Durga Kund Mandir in Varanasi. She also desired to build a Kashi in Bengal and, consequently, in 1755 a complex consisting of a dozen temples was built in Murshidabad.


Omicron slow to infect lungs, says Hong Kong study

Source: This post is based on the article Omicron slow to infect lungs, says Hong Kong studypublished in The Hindu on 17th Dec 2021.

What is the News?

Researchers from Hong Kong have released a study on why the Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading so fast.

About the study

The researchers used the lung tissue for investigating viral diseases of the respiratory tract. After isolating the Omicron variant, they used it to compare the infection with the original SARS-CoV-2 from 2020, the Delta variant and the Omicron variant. 

What are the key findings of the study?

Omicron multiplies 70 times faster than either the Delta variant or the original SARS-CoV-2 virus within the human bronchi — the two large tubes that carry air from the windpipe to the lungs.

This could explain why Omicron seems to transmit faster between humans than previous variants.

However, the study also found that the Omicron does not easily infect the lower lungs, and this could potentially explain why instances of severe disease are proportionally lower in cases involving Omicron.

Note: It is the lungs, not the bronchi, that are linked to potentially life-threatening COVID-19 complications such as pneumonia and, in severe cases, acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS.

But the study also cautioned that the severity of the disease is not determined only by virus replication but also by the host immune response, which may lead to cytokine storm.


The Chalcolithic cultures of Central India are adequately investigated and studied: Shri G.Kishan Reddy

Source: This post is based on the articleThe Chalcolithic cultures of Central India are adequately investigated and studied: Shri G.Kishan Reddypublished in PIB on 16th Dec 2021.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Culture has said that the Chalcolithic cultures of Central India are adequately investigated and studied. Archaeological Survey of India(ASI) has carried out excavations at two prominent sites of Chalcolithic affiliations in Central India in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Which are those two Chalcolithic sites in Central India where ASI carried out excavations?

Excavation at Eran during 2020-21

Eran (ancient Airikina) is located in Madhya Pradesh. It is situated on the left bank of the Bina (ancient Venva) river and surrounded by it on three sides. 

The recent excavation at this site has unearthed a variety of antiquities including a copper coin, an iron arrowhead, terracotta bead, animal figurines, copper coins among others. The occurrence of few specimens of plain, thin grey ware is noteworthy. The use of iron was evidenced by a few metallic objects at the site.

The excavation at this site also revealed the remains of Chalcolithic culture with four major periods.

Excavation at Tewar during 2020-21

Tewar (Tripuri) village is located in Madhya Pradesh. It is located 12 km west of Jabalpur district on Jabalpur – Bhopal highway.

ASI conducted an excavation of Tewar at two locations. The excavation revealed four folds of cultural sequences i.e. Kushana, Shunga, Satavahana, and Kalachuri. 

Several antiquities were also unearthed including remains of sculptures, terracotta balls, iron nails, copper coins, terracotta beads, implements of Iron and terracotta figurine, black ware, red slipped ware etc. The structural remains consisting of brick walls and the structure of sandstone columns were also found.

 

Mains Answer Writing

RBI, inflation targeting, and the limits of monetary policy

Source– The post is based on the article “RBI, inflation targeting, and the limits of monetary policy” published in The Indian Express on 26th September 2022. Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy Relevance– About inflation News– The article explains the new statutory framework for inflation targeting. It also explains the reason behind high levels of inflation in… Continue reading RBI, inflation targeting, and the limits of monetary policy

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Reformed multilateralism

Source– The post is based on the article “A ground plan for India’s reformed multilateralism” published in The Hindu and “A renewed multilateralism” in the Business Standard on 26th September 2022. Syllabus: GS2- International Relations Relevance– About multilateralism News– The article explains the need for “reformed multilateralism”. It tells the importance of having multilateral institutions.… Continue reading Reformed multilateralism

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Over the top – on Telecommunication Bill 2022

Source: The post is based on an article “Over the top” published in The Hindu on 26th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 – Fundamental Rights Relevance: Telecommunication Bill 2022 and problems associated with it. News: The draft telecommunication Bill provides for new definition for telecommunication. The new definition includes everything from broadcasting services to electronic mail, from voice mail to… Continue reading Over the top – on Telecommunication Bill 2022

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Soft power, the new race every country wants to win

Source: The post is based on an article “Soft power, the new race every country wants to win” published in The Hindu on 26th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 – Relevance: India’s performance in sports and challenges associated with it. News: Soft power is defined as power of attraction between the countries through culture, political ideas, and policies rather than… Continue reading Soft power, the new race every country wants to win

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How to fix India’s broken police forces, CBI and IB

Source: The post is based on an article “How to fix India’s broken police forces, CBI and IB” published in The Indian Express on 26th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 – Police Reforms News:  Supreme Court gave Prakash Singh judgment on 22nd September, 2006. This judgment was a landmark judgment that brought police reforms in the country. This judgment… Continue reading How to fix India’s broken police forces, CBI and IB

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What ails Indian higher education: Government’s licence-permit raj

Source: The post is based on an article “What ails Indian higher education: Government’s licence-permit raj” published in The Indian Express on 26th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to education News: The public institutions have managed to provide quality education to the growing nationals but there are many… Continue reading What ails Indian higher education: Government’s licence-permit raj

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Dispute Settlement System of the WTO: Challenges and Solutions – Explained, pointwise

For 7PM Editorial Archives click HERE → Introduction The Dispute Settlement System of the WTO (World Trade Organization) has been stalled for long. The US has not allowed the appointment of experts to the Appellate Board. The Mechanism has been rendered non-functional since 2019 due to lack of quorum of adjudicators needed to hear appeals. It has deep… Continue reading Dispute Settlement System of the WTO: Challenges and Solutions – Explained, pointwise

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Nutrition rating stars set to appear soon on food pack labels

Source: The post is based on the article “Nutrition rating stars set to appear soon on food pack labels” published in Indian Express on 26th September 2022 What is the News? The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) has issued a draft notification on front-of-package labelling which proposes “Indian Nutrition Rating”(INR) on food packets.… Continue reading Nutrition rating stars set to appear soon on food pack labels

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Explained | Shifting monsoon patterns

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained | Shifting monsoon patterns” published in The Hindu on 26th September 2022 What is the News? The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that the monsoon has begun to retreat from Rajasthan. What is the Monsoon withdrawal? The monsoon is a sea breeze that has consistently… Continue reading Explained | Shifting monsoon patterns

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Mid-day meal-related food poisoning cases at six-year peak

Source: The post is based on the article “Mid-day meal-related food poisoning cases at six-year peak” published in The Hindu on 26th September 2022 What is the News? The cases of food poisoning due to the consumption of mid-day meals in 2022 are the highest in the last six years. Food Poisoning due to Mid… Continue reading Mid-day meal-related food poisoning cases at six-year peak

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