9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 31st, 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:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- Down To Earth
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
- It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- J&K delimitation exercise sets a dangerous precedent
- On FCRA & NGOs: Killing the license
- Asia faces many regional security threats
- Judges & journos: CJI is partly right on the media mixing news and views. But judges should be less prickly too
GS Paper 3
- Legal MSP: A right and a necessity
- Disinvestment needs a different approach
- On James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): A new universe
- Debt-for-climate swaps an effective means for relief
- Should vaccination be made mandatory?
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- What does NFHS-5 data tell us about state of women empowerment in India
- Scientists develop high-performance transistor models and circuits useful for space and defense applications
- Year End Review – 2021 – Ministry of Coal
- Year End Review – 2021 – Ministry of Mines
- Long lived correlations between waves in atomic systems at ultralow temperatures can be exploited for efficient quantum computing
- Explained: Two new vaccines, an oral pill against Covid-19, and how they work
- IIT Madras tops in Atal innovation rankings
- Draft rules for GM Foods: FSSAI draft norms on GM food unacceptable: Activists
- Konark Sun Temple: Added by British for stability, sand inside Konark Sun Temple may be cleared
- India Semiconductor Mission(ISM): Semiconductor mission launched by IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw
- Making solar cells efficient, cheaper, recyclable: IIT-Guwahati finds a way
- Drugs-Free India Campaign and SMILE scheme: New scheme to support the marginalised
- Year-End- Review-2021- Ministry of Science and Technology
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Source: This post is based on the article “J&K delimitation exercise sets a dangerous precedent” published in The Indian express on 31st Dec 2021
Syllabus: GS2- Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive
Relevance: Issues related to Delimitation of J&K
News: Delimitation Commission headed by Justice Ranjana Desai has completed the task of delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir, but there have been some concerns regarding its mandate.
What are the issues associated with the recently concluded delimitation of J&K?
Population base: This delimitation commission has taken the 2011 Census as the basis for delimitation for J&K, however, in all other states, delimitation has been done on the basis of the 2001 census in accordance with the Delimitation Act of 2002.
Increase in the number of seats: Circumventing the Delimitation Act of 2002, the Union government increased the number of seats in the legislative assembly of J&K from 107 to 114 through the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019.
Problem is that only the Delimitation Commission has the sole prerogative to decide on both these matters.
|Note-Clause 8(b) of the Delimitation Act of 2002, mandates and empowers the Delimitation Commission to decide on the “the total number of seats to be assigned to the Legislative Assembly of each State and determine on the basis of the census figures”.|
According to some, the commission has introduced an imbalance in the regional representation by increasing the assembly constituencies in Jammu. In the allocation proposed by the Commission, it gives 47% of the seats to Jammu which accounts for 44% of the population and 56% of the population living in Kashmir will have only a 52% share in the assembly.
Considerations given primacy than criterion: In all the four previous delimitation commissions, the basis for the creation of constituencies was the criteria of population. In addition to this, some considerations, such as topography, geographical continuity and physical features were used for drawing the constituency boundaries.
But commission this time seems to have given primacy to “considerations” over the “criteria.
Source: This post is based on the article “Killing the license” published in The Hindu on 31st Dec 2021.
Syllabus: GS2- Development processes and the development industry-the role of NGOs
Relevance: NGOs, foreign funding, FCRA.
News: After 2020 amendment to the FCRA act 2010, NGOs are required to renew their FCRA (Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act) license in order to be able to receive foreign funding.
Ministry of home affairs (MHA), which looks into these renewals recently denied Missionaries of Charity group (an NGO founded by Mother Teresa) renewal of its FCRA license.
It has also not yet scrutinised more than four-fifths of the applications of the 22,000-plus NGOs that have sought renewal of their FCRA license.
What are the issues associated with this present situation?
If government does not extend deadline by midnight ,all NGOs whose application is yet to be scrutinised stand to lose their ability to access international funding in the coming year.
NGOs have to prove that their work does not qualify as harmful to “public interest” or “national security”. The 2020 amendment of FCRA act of 2010 has left these terms undefined and ambiguous. This may lead to subjective interpretations on the part of MHA officials.
Many prominent NGOs like Amnesty International, Greenpeace India, etc. have lost their FCRA licenses in the past few years.
Many of these NGOs work in very critical fields and most often where state helps fails to reach, like pollution and climate change issues, human rights, child labour and human slavery. They, therefore, have a strong impact on the progress of the nation and welfare of the poor.
Political parties are able to access foreign funds for their campaigns under FCRA while NGOs are denied the same.
Source: This post is based on the article “Asia faces many regional security threats” published in Livemint on 31st Dec 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 – Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests
Relevance: To understand the regional security threats in Asia.
News: In Asia today, the economy is global, politics are local, and security is local, regional and transnational. Asia is now the epicentre of security risks. More worrying is the international and regional system’s inability to address these issues.
What are the present regional security threats in Asia?
The region is facing
1. Intensified Sino-American tensions,
2. Standoff on the India-China border,
3. The tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea, the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands,
4. The uncertain trajectory of Iran’s nuclear programme,
6. Offensive arms acquisitions: Asia now has a belt of nuclear-weapon states stretching from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, from Israel to North Korea.
7. Many members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations seek security from the US while relying economically on China. They are forming local coalitions wherever it is possible, but they avoid choosing between China and the US,
8. Newer transnational risks like cyberattacks, climate change, energy crises and pandemics.
What are the initiatives taken to address the regional security threats in Asia?
China, Pakistan, Russia and the Central Asian countries all expect that home-grown separatists and extremists will find safe haven, weapons and support in the new Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. They collectively reinvigorate counterterrorism cooperation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Response to China’s rise and the shifting balance of power in the Indo-Pacific: To counter China, the Asian countries engage in regional and maritime security, bilateral, trilateral and plurilateral cooperation arrangements and interoperability exercises such as the Malabar naval war games.
What should be done to avert the regional security threats in Asia?
1. Nuclear deterrence should be promoted and keep the peace between the major powers, 2. Strengthen the global governance institutions, 3. Try to establish an effective regional security institution.
The countries in Asia should address regional security issues or pursue multilateral solutions without relying more on nationalism and populism.
Judges & journos: CJI is partly right on the media mixing news and views. But judges should be less prickly too
Source: This post is based on the article “Judges & journos: CJI is partly right on the media mixing news and views. But judges should be less prickly too” published Times of India on 31st Dec 2021.
Syllabus: GS2- Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
Relevance: Judiciary, Independence
News: Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, in a recent event, expressed worry about how news and views are being mixed together in today’s time. He also talked about the “recent trend to sermonise about judgments, and villainise judges”
The article urges the judiciary to be less prickly (irritable) about criticism, including when not just judgments but judges too are criticised.
Why the judiciary should take constructive criticism sportingly?
Separation of news and views is very essential for effective functioning of a democracy, but constructive criticism is also equally important.
Part of the media’s job is to report on and analyse and, in its opinion columns, criticise not just political leaders but all powerful players in the system – from the police to armed forces and judges to corporates.
As these institutes take decisions of great public significance, they should be encouraging of these criticisms which also reflect the plurality of voices in a democracy.
In the same spirit, the Supreme court can also give a thought to decriminalise what is termed as ‘scandalising the court’. This provision doesn’t sit well in a democracy.
GS Paper 3
Source: This post is based on the article “Legal MSP: A right and a necessity” published in The Indian Express on 31st Dec 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to MSP
Relevance: Legalisation of Minimum Support Price (MSP)
News: The demand for legal guarantee for the MSP has become the subject of much debate since the start of the farmer agitation. Many arguments have been given centred around its economic and legal feasibility. But, most are not supported by data or sound economic logic.
|Must Read: Legalising MSP: Challenges and way forward – Explained, pointwise|
What are the farmers’ actual demands wrt MSP?
Farmers are not demanding that the government or a trader be forced to buy all the market surplus at MSP. Irrespective of the quantity of a crop they are willing to buy, they must not buy it below the declared MSP.
For more: Read here
What is the economics behind the MSP demand?
The total value of the output of the 23 crops at MSP prices for 2020-21 was about Rs 12 lakh crore. This total produce is not sold or marketed.
Farmers retain a big part of their produce for self-consumption, animal feed, and seeds. Some of it is also exchanged within the village and a part is also eaten by rodents or perishes during harvesting, transportation and storage.
Thus, amount of produce consumed = Rs 4 lakh crore
Only about Rs 8 lakh crore worth of MSP crops is actually marketed.
– Out of this, amount purchased by the Govt = Rs 4 lakh Crore
– Amount purchased by pvt sector = Rs 4 lakh Crore (Farmers are seeking the legal enforcement of MSP on this portion as well). Pvt sector purchases this amount at 25% below the MSP, thereby paying Rs 3 lakh crore. Thus, if there was legal status for MSP, the private sector would have paid a maximum of Rs 1 lakh crore more to the farmers for the same quantities in 2020-21.
Thus, the Govt would not be under any added financial burden.
What are the benefits of legalisation of MSP?
By giving legal status to MSP, the extra Rs 1 lakh crore would flow from the private sector to the farmers, who will spend it and create more demand in the economy.
– This will lead to an increase in employment, investment and eventually, government taxes.
A legal backing for MSP is a great instrument to control the production quantities of various crops to match demand.
The country could also become self-sufficient in edible oils and pulses by ensuring remunerative MSPs for these crops. This has been proven in the case of pulses where production has increased substantially, reducing import dependence over the last four years.
Ensuring remunerative prices for our farmers is also essential for food security. And food security is tied to national security and sovereignty.
Why concerns against legalisation of MSP are flawed?
– Some economists argue that if the MSP is legally enforced, the private sector won’t purchase the crops and all the quantities would have to be purchased by the government. Sugarcane prices are prescribed by the government, but private mills have not stopped their procurement.
– Industries have not closed due to the Minimum Wages Act.
– Purchasing of petrol, diesel has not stopped because the government is charging exorbitant taxes.
Source: This post is based on the article “Disinvestment needs a different approach” published in Business Standard on 30th Dec 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.
Relevance: Formulating a strategy for boosting the disinvestment programme
News: The overall performance on the disinvestment front in 2021 is particularly disappointing. The government has raised only about Rs 9,300 crore compared to the target of Rs 1.75 trillion.
This needs to be changed because, India’s post-pandemic medium-term growth, to a large extent, will depend on how government finances are managed, and the disinvestment programme will be critical in this context.
|Must Read: Privatization of Air India – Explained, pointwise|
Why a better disinvestment performance was needed?
This is because of the following two reasons:
Firstly, despite higher tax collection, higher receipts from disinvestment would have helped push up capital expenditure, enabling faster and more durable economic recovery.
Secondly, market conditions were extremely favourable. The private sector has raised record sums, and the momentum is likely to continue in the near term.
What are the issues wrt disinvestment policy of the Government?
Despite being on the agenda for decades, disinvestment has not been approached more systematically over the years.
For instance: The government has made one public sector enterprise (PSE) buy another to meet disinvestment targets in the past. In a recent report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) objected to such an exercise and noted that it defeats the spirit of disinvestment.
Further, the gains from disinvestment have been used to lower the fiscal deficit.
Why Govt should not run a large number of enterprises?
Many of the enterprises are a burden on government finances and impose high costs.
Only few contribute to the overall profits: As per a 2019 CAG report, which reviewed over 600 central government PSEs for the financial year ending 2018, over 70% of profits earned by state-owned firms were contributed by 52 companies in sectors such as petroleum, coal and lignite.
Accumulation of losses: PSEs tend to do well in areas where competition is limited, as adapting to a rapidly changing business environment and handling competition is inherently difficult in the public sector with all its constraints.
This is one of the main reasons why public sector firms lost in sectors such as telecom and aviation despite massive financial and other support from the government. For instance: In the CAG’s sample, 184 companies had accumulated losses of over Rs 1.42 trillion.
What is the way forward?
First, Govt should announce a medium-term target for attaining the stated policy objective of reducing its presence, except in a select few firms in strategic areas. This selected list should also be made public to provide more certainty.
Second, the government should have a rolling list of PSEs to be disinvested/privatised, at least over the next three years. Finding firms/shares to sell depending on budgetary needs will not help. Every company/sector has its own set of issues that will need to be addressed—and the process will take time.
Third, the government should declare the yearly fiscal deficit number, both with and without accounting for disinvestment proceeds. This will be important because proceeds in some years could be much higher. Thus, the focus of should be on managing the deficit without disinvestment receipts.
The government should identify large projects that can be financed with disinvestment funds. It can clearly show in the budget documents where the proceeds are going. This would send a signal that Govt is not only selling assets but also building new ones while improving the growth potential of the economy.
Source: This post is based on the article “A new universe” published in Business Standard on 30th Dec 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology
Relevance: Importance of the James Webb Space Telescope
News: The 25-year saga of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) illustrates the difficulties in doing pure science, and the way international cooperation can overcome such difficulties.
The JWST was conceptualised in 1996 when development began with an initial R&D budget of $500 million.
It took a combined effort from America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to launch the JWST. The lifetime mission cost will be over $10 billion.
The technical difficulties were considerable. It took thousands of scientists and engineers to iron out the problems, and create the JWST. A total of 258 companies, government agencies, and academic institutions have contributed, over the past 25 years.
– Apart from distant galaxies, it would also analyse exoplanets (planets orbiting other star systems) in great detail.
– One of the wonderful features of this project is that anybody can submit a proposal for JWST observations, and the data gathered and transmitted back to Earth will all eventually be publicly available.
Read more about JWST:
Source: This post is based on the article “Debt-for-climate swaps an effective means for relief” published in Livemint on 30th Dec 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Relevance: Understanding importance of Debt-for-climate swaps
News: A global transition to a net-zero economy requires huge amounts of annual financing by vulnerable and low income countries.
Moreover, the pandemic has induced a debt distress around the world. This debt pressure and the climate crisis can be addressed jointly via Debt-for-climate swaps.
|International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that “it makes sense” to seek to address debt pressures and the climate crisis jointly. The idea is to arrange “green debt swaps”|
How the problem of debt distress risen in the pandemic and what are the implications?
Debt distress is at historic levels.
– During the pandemic, low-income countries’ overall debt burden increased 12%, reaching $860 billion in 2020.
– Debt Service Suspension Initiative: When the pandemic struck, there was a visible threat of a sudden stop to capital flows and an emerging-markets financial crisis. The G20 responded by adopting the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, which was used by more than 40 countries to postpone repayment.
– Still, an IMF analysis of 70 low-income countries finds that seven are already in debt distress, and that 63 are at high or moderate risk of debt distress.
Implications of debt distress:
– Future borrowing becomes more expensive, resulting in less access to funds. This means many countries start relying more on exporting natural resources to pay back what they owe.
|Must Read: What are Green Debt Swaps?|
Is the idea of green debt swaps new?
No. The idea is something similar to the Brady bonds that have been tested since the 1980s. Debtors used official loans from the IMF and the World Bank to acquire US Treasury bonds as collateral. This allowed them to exchange existing bank loans at a heavy discount for tradable, guaranteed Brady bonds.
For instance: In 1987, Conservation International used donor funds to acquire $650,000 of Bolivian external debt at the heavily discounted price of $100,000. In return, Bolivia undertook to protect the Beni Biosphere Reserve, furnishing $250,000 (in local currency) for its management.
There were doubts about the effectiveness and durability of green debt swaps, so the amounts involved remained small.
What is the issue with addressing climate crisis and debt distress jointly?
Climate-mitigation financing is needed most in high-income countries, which are not facing any debt distress at all.
On the other hand, even in many low-income countries that are highly exposed to climate change, only few are facing both problems together.
Hence, the match between financing needs and addressing the environmental externality is imperfect at best.
What is the way forward?
Bilateral debt-relief can be granted to low income countries in the form of conditional fiscal transfers and grants to incentivise climate-adaptation spending.
Mobilizing both private and public funding will also be essential. It will require the creation of liquid markets for climate bonds and probably some credit enhancements in a tripartite Brady arrangement.
The IMF could use recycled special drawing rights to lend to low-income countries the resources they need to acquire collateral for green Brady bonds.
Management and monitoring of abatement and climate investments could be carried out using the model of the trust funds.
Source: This post is based on the article “Should vaccination be made mandatory?” published in The Hindu on 31st Dec 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Relevance: Vaccination, Pandemic, Public health
News: It has been approximately one year since the introduction of vaccines. Despite many achievements there are still numerous challenges to be tackled like vaccine hesitancy and shortage in supplies.
In this light, calls are being made to make vaccination mandatory.
We need to understand that in public health, the education and service approach works much more than the legal approach.
At the same time, legal measures could be used appropriately — by restricting entry, incentives or disincentives — to convince people to get vaccinated.
What have been the positives in the Indian vaccination program?
There is reasonable vaccination coverage across the country and many issues in vaccine supplies and logistics have been rectified now.
Transparency in reporting adverse events: Reporting of adverse events is systematically done at the primary, sub-centre, block and district levels. There are various committees that include specialists who go through the reports.
What are the challenges that still remain?
Vaccine coverage: Although many eligible people are getting vaccinated. But the last mile reach has become a challenge, particularly among, the 50-plus population who have either received the first dose but are reluctant to get their second dose or have not received even their first dose yet.
– Many countries are moving towards booster doses, but we have not completed vaccination of all the eligible persons with even the first dose of the vaccine.
– Almost 23% of healthcare and frontline workers are yet to get their second dose in India.
Rumours being spread against vaccines: Anti-vaxxers are actively spreading a lot of rumours, pseudoscience and unscientific information. Rumours are spread on social media and through WhatsApp.
Although vaccines have reached the remotest corners but there is challenge is to reach the population reluctant to get vaccinated.
What is the way forward?
Reach out to people who are still reluctant to get vaccinated and educate them about the importance of getting vaccinated. Involve doctors, community influencers such as religious leaders, political leaders, panchayat leaders and other influential groups, frontline and healthcare workers.
Govt can promote awareness through using example of previous successful vaccination campaigns. Example – How vaccination has eradicated smallpox and Polio is on verge of eradication.
Governments can focus on particular population subgroups where vaccination is low and take targeted efforts to create awareness.
Incentives for people who get vaccinated.
Rumour-mongering groups and anti-vaccine lobbies must be dealt seriously, and legal action should be taken against them. Governments can come up with advertisements on television or newspapers.
Children should be vaccinated, while booster doses should be administered to the eligible population.
Developed countries should understand the problems faced by developing and low-economic countries. The huge vaccine inequity present in the world should be resolved.
Some cities have already achieved 100% coverage (first dose). There is need to study such models.
Is it possible to make vaccination mandatory?
Although some states have made vaccination mandatory for entry into public places and workplaces while the Central Govt has maintained that vaccination is voluntary.
Govt can introduce mandatory vaccination by giving more importance to the community health vis a vis Individual’s right for denying vaccination.
For Example – Smallpox was eradicated by making vaccination compulsory from 1965 to 1975.
Local health authorities have the power to make vaccination mandatory as COVID has been declared a notifiable disease under different Acts of the States or the Epidemic Diseases Act. If anyone seeks exemption, they will have to approach the Judicial Magistrate.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Source: This post is based on the article “What does NFHS-5 data tell us about state of women empowerment in India” published in Down To Earth on 31st December 2021.
What is the News?
India aims to achieve United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal-5, which focuses on women empowerment and gender equality, by 2030. To measure the progress of women’s rights in the country, National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 provides data regarding the position of women for 2019-21 on a few key indicators.
|Must read: NFHS-5 and its findings – Explained, pointwise|
What are the findings of NFHS-5 on women empowerment?
Participation in household decision-making: Nearly 88.7% of currently married Indian women tend to participate in the key household decision about healthcare for themselves, make major household purchases and visit family or relatives.
At least 16 out of 28 states and 6 out of 8 Union territories have more than 90% women participating in household decision-making, a significant jump from 11 states and 2 UTs in the NFHS-4 survey.
|Read more: Reading sex ratio trends in NFHS-5 data|
Participation in paid works: Only 25.4% of women aged 15-49 years who worked in the last 12 months were paid in cash. This figure is abysmally low with almost negligible improvement from the last survey (2015-16). None of the states crossed the 50 per cent mark in this category.
Owning a bank or savings account: Among all selected indicators, the percentage of women having a savings/bank account that they themselves use has made the most significant improvement.
At the national level, India has seen a 35.6 percentage point jump within a matter of five years. This progress could be credited to schemes like Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and the increasing microfinance initiatives over the past five years.
Owning a mobile phone: There has been a small increase in women’s access to mobile phones over the last half-a-decade. The figure has gone up from 45.9 per cent to 54 per cent between the two surveys. Except for Haryana and Chandigarh, all states have shown a positive trend in this category.
|Read more: Don’t ignore context of NFHS data|
The Gender Development Index had mentioned India’s position at 140th among 156 countries, thus there is always room for improvement and greater efforts need to be made for rapid transformation of women’s position in our society.
Scientists develop high-performance transistor models and circuits useful for space and defense applications
Source:This post is based on the article ‘Scientists develop high-performance transistor models and circuits useful for space and defense applications’ published in PIB on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the news?
Indian researchers have developed a high performance industry-standard model for Aluminium gallium nitride (AlGaN/GaN) High Electron Mobility Transistors (HEMTs).
What is a High Electron Mobility Transistors (HEMTs)?
HEMT or High Electron Mobility Transistor is a type of field effect transistor (FET) which is used to produce high performance at microwave frequencies.
In March 2021, scientists from Bangalore has developed a first-ever indigenous HEMT device made from gallium nitride (GaN).
What has the researchers developed now?
Researchers have now developed a high performance industry-standard model for HEMT device made from Aluminium gallium nitride (AlGaN/GaN).
Properties: The device has two excellent properties – high mobility and high-power performance. These properties reduce the noise figure and complexity while designing Low Noise Amplifiers (LNAs) (used in wireless transmission like mobile phones, base stations) while increasing the achievable bandwidth.
This device can also be used to make high-power Radio Frequency (RF) circuits. (Radio Frequency circuits include amplifiers and switches, which are used in wireless transmission and are useful for space and defence applications)
It has also become technology of choice for high-frequency and high-power applications like 5G, radars, base stations, satellite communications.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Year End Review – 2021 – Ministry of Coal’ published in PIB on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the news?
The Ministry of Coal has launched several initiatives in the year 2021.
Some of these initiatives are:
Coal Import Monitoring System: It requires importers to submit advance information in an online system for import of Steam Coal. On submission of online data/information, the system will generate an automatic unique Registration Number. No manual documents are to be submitted to any public authority for this purpose.
Commercial Coal Mining: The auction-based regime introduced in 2014 allowed private sector participation.However, it was limited to captive usage in own end use plants.The sector has been opened up for commercial coal mining by private players in 2020.
Setting up of Coking Coal Washeries: Metallurgical coal or coking coal is a grade of coal that can be used to produce good-quality coke. Coke is an essential fuel and reactant in the blast furnace process for primary steelmaking.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Year End Review – 2021 – Ministry of Mines’ published in PIB on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the news?
The Ministry of Mines has launched several initiatives in the year 2021.
Some of these initiatives are:
National Institute of Rock Mechanics (NIRM): It is an autonomous Research Institute under Ministry of Mines.The Institute deals with field and laboratory investigations, basic and applied research, and solving complex problems in almost the entire spectrum of Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering related to Mining and Civil Engineering activities.
Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL): It was established as an autonomous Public Sector Company in 1972 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Mines for systematic exploration of minerals to bridge the gap between the initial discovery of a prospect and its eventual exploitation.
Mining Surveillance System(MSS): It is a satellite-based monitoring system. It aims to establish a regime of responsive mineral administration by curbing instances of illegal mining activity through automatic remote sensing detection technology.
Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojna (PMKKKY): It was launched in 2015 and implemented by the District Mineral Foundations(DMF) for taking up development and welfare projects/programs in mining affected areas and other directions from time to time.
Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM): It was established in 1948. It is a multidisciplinary government organisation under the Ministry of Mines. It is engaged in conservation, scientific development of mineral resources and protection of environment in mines other than coal, petroleum & natural gas, atomic minerals and minor minerals.
Long lived correlations between waves in atomic systems at ultralow temperatures can be exploited for efficient quantum computing
Source:This post is based on the article ‘Long lived correlations between waves in atomic systems at ultralow temperatures can be exploited for efficient quantum computing’ published in PIB on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the news?
According to a study, Correlations between waves in atomic systems or spin coherences are long-lived at ultralow temperatures.
Spin is a fundamental quantum property of atoms and elementary particles such as electrons and protons.
As atoms are cooled to lower temperatures, their quantum nature is manifested more prominently. However, the measurements on spins at ultralow temperatures were not available.
This is because most of the detection techniques in cold atom experiments are destructive and disturbs the atomic sample during detection.
About the study
The study was done to measure spin properties of atoms at ultralow temperatures.The scientists have found that the correlations between waves in atomic systems or spin coherences are long-lived at ultralow temperatures.
What is the significance of this study?
Firstly, system with long-lived spin coherences is a better resource as a quantum computer. It allows quantum operations and logic gates to be more efficiently implemented so that the system becomes a better quantum sensor compared to systems where coherence is short-lived.
Secondly, this newly explored property of atomic systems at low temperature can be exploited for efficient quantum sensing and quantum information processing for application in quantum computation and secure communication.
Thirdly, this technique can also help us study the real-time dynamics of quantum phenomena such as quantum phase transitions in a non-invasive manner.
Source:This post is based on the article ‘Explained: Two new vaccines, an oral pill against Covid-19, and how they work’ published in Indian Express on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the news?
India has approved two more Covid-19 vaccines, Corbevax and Covovax under emergency use authorization.It has also approved an antiviral drug, Molnupiravir to fight against COVID-19.
What is Covovax Vaccine?
Covavax is manufactured by Serum Institute of India(SII) and has been developed by US-based Novavax.
How does it work? It is a protein subunit vaccine that uses Recombinant Nanoparticle Technology (RNT).In this, harmless copies of the spike protein are grown in insect cells; the protein is then extracted and assembled into virus-like nanoparticles.
Novavax has also used an immune-boosting compound (adjuvant).The same technology is used in HPV and the Hepatitis B vaccine.
Efficacy: Based on phase trials, it has an efficacy of 96.4% against the original virus strain, 86.3% against Alpha and 89.7% efficacy overall.
|Must Read: DGCI approved Corbevax Vaccine|
What is Protein Sub-unit Vaccine and what are its drawbacks?
Protein subunit vaccines are made by isolating a piece of the actual virus. As fragments are used, there is no danger that these will multiply within the body. These pieces are expected to trigger an immune response that will hopefully prevent future infection.
A downside to subunits is that because they contain only a part of the virus, they may miss certain characteristic signatures of the virus and the immune system may fail to recognise them. This problem is overcome by using adjuvant or booster shots.
Another weakness is that these vaccines don’t infect the cells (like inactivated DNA or mRNA vaccines) and therefore doesn’t elicit the long-lasting immunity conferred by cells (or the T-cell response).
Source:This post is based on the article ‘IIT Madras tops in Atal innovation rankings’ published in The Hindu on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the news?
The Ministry of Education’s innovation cell released the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 2021.
What is ARIIA 2021?
Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements(ARIIA) is a policy initiative of the Ministry of Education (MoE) implemented through AICTE and Innovation Cell.
Aim: To systematically rank all major higher educational institutions and universities in India.
Parameters: The various parameters considered in ARIIA for ranking are:
– Budget & Funding Support
– Infrastructure & Facilities
– Awareness, Promotions & support for Idea Generation & Innovation
– Promotion & Support for Entrepreneurship Development
– Innovative Learning Methods & Courses
– Intellectual Property Generation, Technology Transfer & Commercialization
– Innovation in Governance of the Institution.
Categories: The rankings were made under two categories: Technical and Non-Technical.
The technical category included 5 sub-categories-
– Central Funded Technical Institutes (CFTIs), Central University, & Institute of National Importance
– State University & Deemed University (Govt. & Govt. Aided)
– Govt. College/Institution (Govt. & Govt. Aided)
– University & Deemed University (Self-Finance/Private)
– Private College/Institute (Self-Finance/Private)
The non technical category included two sub-categories-
– Central Funded Institutes (CFIs)/Central University/Institute of National Importance (Non-Technical)
– General (Non-Technical)
What are the key rankings of ARIIA 2021?
Institute of National Importance, Central Universities & CFTIs: IIT Madras has secured the first rank. IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi were placed at the second and third ranks respectively.
Institute of National Importance, Central Universities & CFTIs (non-technical): Indira Gandhi National Open University
Source: This post is based on the article ‘FSSAI draft norms on GM food unacceptable: Activists’ published in Economic Times on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the News?
Social activists working among farmers have come out against the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) draft regulations on genetically modified (GM) food, terming it “unacceptable”.
FSSAI has released draft regulations for GM foods. The rules will apply to Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs) or Genetically Engineered Organism (GEOs) or Living Modified Organism (LMOs) intended for direct use as food or for processing.
The regulations will cover food products that may have been made using food ingredients or processing aid derived from GMO, even if GM content is not present in the end-product.
|Read more: What are GM Crops?|
What are the key provisions of the Draft rules for GM Foods?
No one can manufacture or sell any food products or food ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without prior approval.
Specify norms that labs will need to adhere to for testing GM foods.
Genetically Modified Organisms or Genetically Engineered Organisms “shall not be used as an ingredient” in infant food products.
Labelling norms for food products that contain 1% or more than one percent of GMO content.
|Must Read: GM Crops in India: Issues and Challenges|
What are the objections to these rules by Activists?
The rules have proposed that all food products having individual genetically engineered ingredients of 1% or more will be labelled as “Contains GMO/Ingredients derived from GMO”. Activists claimed this as silent approval to import GM food instead of prohibiting them.
|Read more: Govt. allows GM soy meal import to support poultry industry|
Source:This post is based on the article ‘Added by British for stability, sand inside Konark Sun Temple may be cleared’ published in Indian Express on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the News?
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has revealed it is working on a preliminary roadmap to safely remove sand from the interiors of Konark Sun Temple.
Why ASI is removing sand from the interiors of Konark Sun Temple?
The British administration in 1903 had filled the Jaga Mohan (assembly hall) of the Sun Temple with sand and sealed it in order to maintain the stability of the temple. They had made a hole on the top portion of the Jaga Mohan and poured the sand through that.
However, the need to remove the sand was felt after a study warned of possible damage caused by the sand settling down — resulting in a gap of 17 feet between the sand layer and the structure.
To carry out the sand-removing process, ASI is going to be assisted by the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) at Roorkee.
About Konark Sun Temple
It was built in the 13th century by King Narasimhadeva I (AD 1238-1264) of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty and is located near Puri, Odisha. The temple is a classic example of the Odisha style of Architecture or Kalinga Architecture.
The temple forms part of the golden triangle of Odisha, along with Puri and Bhubaneswar. It was given the status of a World Heritage Site in 1984 by UNESCO.
The temple is carefully oriented towards the east so that the first rays of sunrise strikes the principal entrance. Sailors once called this Sun Temple of Konark, the Black Pagoda because it was supposed to draw ships into the shore and cause shipwrecks.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Semiconductor mission launched by IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw’ published in Business Standard on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the News?
The Information Technology Minister has launched the India Semiconductor Mission.
|Must Read: Need of Indigenous Semiconductor Manufacturing Facilities in India – Explained Pointwise|
What is the India Semiconductor Mission?
India Semiconductor Mission(ISM) is a specialised and independent business division within the Digital India Corporation (a not for profit company set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology).
Aim: To build a vibrant semiconductor and display ecosystem to enable India’s emergence as a global hub for electronics manufacturing and design.
The mission is authorised to negotiate with the applicants under the semiconductor fab scheme and the display fab scheme.
|Must read: Semiconductor manufacturing in India – Explained, pointwise|
This mission has been given the autonomy to decide the appropriate technology mix, applications, node generation, capacity and propose the structure and quantum of fiscal support for the selected applicants.
|Note: A fab is short for a fabrication plant where raw silicon wafers are processed and turned into integrated circuits.|
What are the other schemes launched with this mission?
Scheme for setting up Semiconductor Fabs in India: The scheme aims to attract large investments for setting up semiconductor wafer fabrication facilities. Under the scheme, fiscal support of up to 50% of the project cost has been approved for setting up certain variants of silicon-based semiconductor fab in India. The financial support is for six years from the date of approval.
|Must Read: The dreams of being a chip hub|
Scheme for setting up Display Fabs in India: The scheme aims to attract large investments in manufacturing TFT LCD or AMOLED-based display panels. Under the scheme, fiscal support of up to 50% of the project cost will be provided.
Design Linked Incentive(DLI) Scheme: The scheme aims to offer financial incentives as well as design infrastructure support across various stages of development and deployment of semiconductor design for Integrated Circuits (ICs), Chipsets among others. Under the scheme, the Government offers an incentive of up to 50% of eligible expenditure and a product deployment linked incentive of 4-6% on net sales for five years.
|Must Read: Semiconductors: Why India should not make chips – Instead, the focus should be on other parts of the global value chain|
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Making solar cells efficient, cheaper, recyclable: IIT-Guwahati finds a way’ published in Down To Earth on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the News?
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, have developed Hybrid Perovskite-based Devices that can generate electricity through solar energy at a power conversion efficiency of more than 21%.
What is the current method to produce electricity through solar energy?
Among all the renewable energy sources, the energy from the sun is considered to be the most sustainable due to its ample availability on the surface of the earth.
Currently, silicon-based inorganic solar cells are a major player in the market. However, this technology requires high-temperature processing that results in the high price of solar panels. Further, the recycling of solar panels is perilous and complicated.
|Must read: [Yojana December Summary] Self-reliance in Energy Sector – Explained, pointwise|
What is an alternative to silicon-based inorganic solar cells?
The perovskite-based devices also called photovoltaic devices are considered as an alternative.
These devices are affordable, easy to manufacture, eco-friendly and can be recycled easily. However, perovskite materials are unstable towards humidity and oxygen, which restricts their commercialisation.
What have the researchers done to overcome this drawback of perovskite-based devices?
Researchers have used a coating of appropriate material on perovskite-based devices so that it becomes ‘stable’ or less readily affected by the environment, in this case, humidity and oxygen.
|Read more: Govt aims to tap solar energy to power cold chain facilities|
Source: This post is based on the article ‘New scheme to support the marginalised’ published in The Hindu on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the News?
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has informed about the new schemes to support the marginalised.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated an umbrella scheme “SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”.
|Read here: SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise formulated|
Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyan
‘Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan’ or a ‘Drugs-Free India Campaign’ was launched in 2020 by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
The campaign was launched across 272 districts of the country found to be most vulnerable in terms of usage of drugs in the country.
The focal points of the Campaign are preventive, mass education and sensitization, capacity building of service providers, positive partnership with educational institutions, and augmentation of treatment, rehabilitation and counselling facilities.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Year-End- Review-2021- Ministry of Science and Technology’ published in PIB on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the News?
The Ministry of Science and Technology has launched several initiatives in 2021.
Some of them are:
India’s ranking in global S&T indices continues to rise
India has risen to the 46th position, featuring within the top 50 innovative economies globally as per Global Innovation Index(GII).
India remains among the top 3 countries in scientific publication as per the NSF database.
India has also reached 3rd Position in terms of no of PhDs, in size of Higher Education System; as well as in terms of number of Startups.
Saffron Cultivation in the Northeast: Saffron Cultivation was so far confined to parts of Kashmir. The Northeast saw the successful cultivation of saffron for the first time in the Yangang village of South Sikkim. It is now being expanded to Twang, Arunachal Pradesh and Barapani, Meghalaya.
Mission Innovation: As a part of Mission Innovation 2.0, India is co-leading the Innovation Community on low carbon affordable heating and cooling of buildings along with the European Commission and the UK.
About Must Read News Articles: Must Read News Articles is an initiative by Team ForumIAS to provide links to the most important news articles of the day. It covers several newspapers such as The Hindu, Indian Express, Livemint, etc. This saves the time and effort of students in identifying useful and important articles. With newspaper websites… Continue reading Must Read Current Affairs Articles – January 17th, 2022
What is the News? The Department of Pension and Pensioners Welfare, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions has taken several initiatives in the year 2021. Several of them are Jeevan Pramaan: It was launched in 2014. It is an online system for submission of life certificate “Jeevan Pramaan”. Through this platform, a pensioner can… Continue reading Year-End- Review-2021- Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare
What is the News? The Reserve Bank of India proposed a new investment category for banks—fair value through profit and loss(FVTPL) account. This is a part of its initiatives to align lenders investment portfolio regulations with the global accounting standards. What is the Investment Portfolio of Banks currently? Currently, the Investment Portfolios of Banks at… Continue reading FVTPL Account: Banks may get a new investment category
GIS-based automated water connection and online booking of community halls in full swing under e-Chhawani in cantonments
What is the News? The Union Defence Minister has launched a GIS-based automated water connection and online booking of community halls under e-Chhawani Portal. What is a GIS-based automated water connection? The Geographical Information Systems(GIS) based automatic water supply system is the first of its kind in the country to automate the granting of the… Continue reading GIS-based automated water connection and online booking of community halls in full swing under e-Chhawani in cantonments
What is the News? The government has said that a small-scale implementation of the Open Network for Digital Commerce(ONDC) will be rolled out across two cities to see how the technology-enabled infrastructure works before it is officially launched. What is ONDC? ONDC is basically a Unified Payments Interface(UPI) equivalent but for the e-commerce space. It… Continue reading ONDC: Govt’s e-comm net in talks with companies
What is the News? The World Health Organisation(WH0) has recommended two drugs, baricitinib and sotrovimab, for treatment of Covid-19. What is Baricitinib? It is part of a class of drugs called Janus kinase(JAK) inhibitors that suppress the overstimulation of the immune system. It is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Now, it has been strongly recommended… Continue reading Baricitinib and Sotrovimab: Explained: How two drugs newly recommended by WHO work against Covid
Unnat Bharat Abhiyan: UGC launches Training of Master Trainers in Community Based Participatory Research
What is the News? University Grants Commission (UGC) has launched the Training of Master’s Trainers program in Community-based Participatory Research under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0. What is Unnat Bharat Abhiyan? It was launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Education. Mission: To enable higher educational institutions to work with the people of rural India in… Continue reading Unnat Bharat Abhiyan: UGC launches Training of Master Trainers in Community Based Participatory Research
What is the News? The Central Board of School Education(CBSE) has announced the holding of the 27th edition of the National Conference of Sahodaya School Complex. What is the Sahodaya School Complex Concept? Sahodaya School Complex is a concept literally meaning ‘rising together’. This concept was first mooted by the Education Commission,1966. The National Policy… Continue reading CBSE announces holding of 27th edition of National Conference of Sahodaya School Complexes
What is the News? The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has suggested a five-point reform agenda for the Food Corporation of India(FCI) on the occasion of the 58th Foundation Day of the FCI. What is the five-point reform agenda suggested by the Food Minister for FCI? – Change the public perception… Continue reading Consumer Affairs Minister suggests 5-point reform agenda for FCI
Union Minister says India has taken a lead in Asian Continent to provide Weather and Climate services to South Asian, South-East Asian and Middle East countries
What is the News? Union Minister of State for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences has said that India has taken a lead in Asian Continent to provide Weather and Climate services to South Asian, South-East Asian and Middle East countries. What were the initiatives launched by the Minister? Four Doppler Weather Radars launched Four Doppler… Continue reading Union Minister says India has taken a lead in Asian Continent to provide Weather and Climate services to South Asian, South-East Asian and Middle East countries