9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 3rd, 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 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 1

Should the state stop focusing on population control?

Source: This post is based on the article “Should the state stop focusing on population control?” published in The Hindu on 3rd December 2021.

Syllabus: GS 1 Population and associated issues.

Relevance: Understanding family planning

News: Recent NFHS-5 data revealed that India’s Total Fertility Rate has declined to 2 from 2.2 of NFHS-4.

Read here: NFHS-5 and its findings – Explained, pointwise
What factors have helped India bring down the Total Fertility Rate?

Women and their aspirations to plan and manage families have helped reduce the TFR. NFHS-4 pointed that women, on average, wanted 1.8 children. This shows the huge unmet need for contraception – `3% in NFHS-4.

There are about 16.4 mn abortions every year. This shows that people are taking family planning seriously. Education, particularly women’s education, has helped delay marriage and also imparted knowledge of family planning to women.

The efforts put by the government in educating administrators, policymakers in
controlling all 3 components of population growth – fertility, mortality and migration has helped bring down the TFR.

Why the decline in TFR does not signal population stabilization?

Kerala has had low TFR for decades, but it still has a growing population. It is because of population momentum and a large young population. Population momentum is when the population continues to grow and there is no negative growth rate. Moreover, data shows that 23% of women are married before the age of 18.

Should India adopt coercive population control measures?

India should continue with the current policy design. Data from Kerala, TN shows that TFR was controlled without coercive measures.

Even if certain states attain a negative growth rate, the migration will still balance the population.

What measures should be taken to balance the population?

– Focus on providing spacing between children.
-Focus on girl education and increase the age of marriage.
-Invest in ageing and improving the health of people.
-Adopting coercive measures might target one particular community and create disharmony.
-Propagate and promote temporary sterilization measures.
-Spread awareness about sterilization measures so that women don’t end up taking all the burden of sterilization.

What should be the way forward?

Formulate a comprehensive policy that also covers the estimated 600 mn migrants. This should be backed by increased budgetary allocations and take it beyond the current levels, which are 6% of the health budget. All these should be matched by awareness and behavioral change.

ForumIAS is now in Hyderabad. Click here to know more

GS Paper 2

What the latest NFHS data says about the New Welfarism

Source: This post is based on the article ”What the latest NFHS data says about the New Welfarism” published in Indian Express on 3rd December 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections.

Relevance: To understand the performance of New Welfarism based on the findings of NFHS-5.

News: Recently released National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) shows remarkable improvement in New Welfarism.

Must readNFHS-5 and its findings – Explained, pointwise
What is New Welfarism?

According to the authors, New Welfarism does not prioritise the supply of public goods such as basic health and primary education as governments have done around the world historically.

Instead, New Welfarism has entailed the subsidised public provision of essential goods and services, normally provided by the private sector. Such as bank accounts, cooking gas, toilets, electricity, housing, etc.

How do NFHS-5 data show the success of New Welfarism?
Source: Indian Express

Firstly, striking improvements in household access to improved sanitation, cooking gas and bank accounts used by women.

Secondly, Improvement in case of stunting and diarrhoea on child-related outcomes.

The interesting pattern is that nearly all the phase 2 states show large improvements, whereas most of the phase 1 states exhibited a deterioration in performance.

Note: The survey for the latest data was conducted in two waves, the first before the pandemic and the second during the peak of the second wave.
Source: Indian Express

On child stunting, the old BIMARU states (except Bihar) are no longer the laggards.

If true, then India is seeing not catch-up but the great switch between some of the BIMARU states and the mid-peninsular/western states.

Thirdly, India witnesses a non-monopoly of any political party in regional performance. For instance, The improvements in Rajasthan have happened under the Congress, in MP and Haryana under the BJP, in Odisha under the BJD, and in UP under both Samajwadi Party and BJP. On the other hand, stagnation has occurred in Gujarat (BJP), West Bengal (Trinamool), and Telangana (TRS).

There’s a clear-eyed vision behind China’s maritime build-up

Source: This post is based on the article “There’s a clear-eyed vision behind China’s maritime build-up” published in the Indian Express on 3rd December 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: Understanding the China maritime rise.

News: American surprise over a secret Chinese military base in the UAE port of Khalifa is unwarranted.

About China’s maritime plan

China in 2019 released Defence White Paper (DWP), declares overseas interests as a crucial part of China’s national interests. To address deficiencies in overseas operations and support, China builds far seas forces, develops overseas logistical facilities, and enhances capabilities in accomplishing diversified military tasks.

According to the Pentagon’s 2021 China Military Power Report, the PLA Navy (PLAN) has “a battle force of approximately 355 platforms, including major surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, ocean-going amphibious ships, mine warfare ships, and fleet auxiliaries.” This force already outstrips the US Navy and is expected to grow to 460 ships by 2030.

About China’s maritime developments

Maritime: PLA Navy (PLAN) was initially equipped by the Soviets and even their strategy which included guarding the seaward flank of armies and guerilla warfare had Soviet influence. Later, the 2006 DWP expanded PLAN’s responsibilities, China started working on increasing its maritime capabilities with integrated offshore operations, strategic deterrence, and developing its capabilities of conducting cooperation in far seas. Later on, it declared, China aims to not become just a maritime power, but “a maritime great power”.

Shipbuilding: Chinese socialist-style shipbuilding industry remained behind Japanese or Koreans. China then rapidly modernized and corporatized its shipbuilding industry. China designated shipbuilding as a strategic industry. Its civil-military integration ensured a boom in merchant shipping. By 2010 China had become one of the largest shipbuilders.

Examples of China commissioned its first homebuilt aircraft carrier, the Shandong, in four years. In comparison, India’s indigenous aircraft carrier took 12 years.

What should India do to safeguard its interests?

As China strengthens its navy, India needs to develop its naval strategy. Though India can’t directly compete with China, yet it has to safeguard its vital interests – seaborne trade and energy traffic. India’s security interest also includes its maritime neighbours. To this effect, India needs to fasten its projects like Chabaahar (Iran), Agalega (Mauritius) and extend its reach further to places like Madagascar, Comoros and Socotra.

Also, the government should formulate a national strategy for maritime security which will comprehensively include shipbuilding, ports, seabed exploration etc. It should increase the navy’s share of the defence budget from 12 to 18-20%.

Human trafficking survivors identify gaps in draft Bill, seek community-based rehab

Source: This post is based on the article “Human trafficking survivors identify gaps in draft Bill, seek community-based rehab” published in the Indian Express on 3rd December 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: Understanding the changes demanded by survivors in the draft trafficking bill.

News: Indian Leadership Forum Against Trafficking (ILFAT), a forum set up in 2019 by trafficking survivors, has written to the Ministry of Women and Child Development to identify gaps in the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) draft Bill 2021, which is about to table in the Parliament.

What are the changes demanded by the survivors?

Extend the rehabilitation beyond shelter homes: The survivors demand a community-based rehabilitation model that provides health services, legal aid, income opportunities and other facilities crucial for ensuring “all-round reintegration of victims’’ back into their community and family.

Extended stay: As the victims got often abused when they go back to their homes, survivors themselves want to decide the duration of their stay in protection and rehabilitation homes.

Financially independent:  Survivors wants the government to allocate funds for their education and vocational training so that they can become financially independent.

Investigation: The investigation process took a long time to conclude, and survivors who are the prime witness cannot go home before the proceedings are over. They want their greater say in the rehabilitation process as it was seen often NGOs are reluctant to send survivors back to their communities as they need to show occupancy to be able to get funds.

Draft Data Protection Law: Privacy must be held as a fundamental right

Source: This post is based on the article “Privacy must be held as a fundamental right” published in the Livemint on 3rd December 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Relevance: Understanding the importance of data protection.

News: Supreme Court declared the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21. Considering this, Indian data protection law must be based on the principle that we own our personal data and only specified legal processes can deprive us of it.

What are the recommendations by Joint Parliamentary Committee?
Read here: What are the key recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill?
What advantages does Individual ownership of data offer?

India has 820 million active internet users. So, the enactment of Data protection law will provide the following advantages.

1) Private data collection entities will have to seek individuals’ consent, including the state. 2) Any misuse of data will be penalized as per law. 3) It would offer protection from data violations by the state.

How to ensure data protection from state encroachment?

Pegasus episode has exposed the tendency of some states to spy on their citizens. So, a strong and autonomous Data Protection Agency (DPA) is needed. Court warrants can be obtained for access to data. A proper trail of data access should be maintained for audit purposes.

GS Paper 3

On indigenisation of defence products: Adding economy to defence

Source: This post is based on the article “Adding economy to defence” published in Business standard on 3rd Dec 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – issues related to Defence sector

Relevance:  Indigenisation of Defence products

News: On Independence Day, Prime Minister handed the indigenously designed & developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), over to the Indian Air Force (IAF). It has been manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

The issue here is, it’s confusing how the PM chose the LCH as an indigenous product, even while the cabinet has not given manufacturing clearance for 15 LCHs till now.

Despite the LCH qualifying under,

– The Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016, that mandates a minimum indigenous content of 40%, and

– The Defence Acquisition Policy of 2020, which requires the indigenous content to be above 50%.

The Cabinet Committee on Security, has been objecting to the LCH on the grounds that its indigenous content is too low for it to qualify as a “Made in India” product.

Why genuinely Indian-developed products fail to qualify for indigenous status?

The central reason for this, is the tendency of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to place such small orders (for example, 15 LCHs) that it remains uneconomical to manufacture many components in the country to carry out import-substitution.

For example, Indigenisation costs for components that are not used in large numbers will be very higher than buying from a global original equipment manufacturer.

What needs to be done to increase the indigenisation of Defence equipments?

India needs to create more demand, such that it remains economical to manufacture many components.

For instance, instead of building just a few dozen LCHs, a manufacturing of several hundred would genuinely lower costs.

Hence, more and more indigenisation of components, sub-systems and systems needs to be done.

How the demand can be increased?

Firstly, there should be a large-scale employment of the LCH in the defence services. This creates demand and an economic feasibility for manufacturers for indigenising more and more components.

Secondly, there is a need to boost export orders. It can be done via:

– combination of a low prices, and a maintenance and overhaul package.

– providing prospective customers with lines of credit that would incentivise purchase.

– Organising exporters into trade bodies that can lobby in prospective buyer countries

Finally, need to focus on areas of technology and equipment that presents the maximum opportunities for indigenisation. For India, the answer is Aero engines. Because, aero engines account for one-third the cost of a new military aircraft.

What is the way forward?

– Development of Aero engines: India is going to buy foreign military aero engines worth Rs 3.5-4 trillion over the next two decades. Yet, successive governments have neglected the development and manufacture of aero engines. Also, DRDO has been less successful in developing highly efficient aero engines with limited resources. For instance, the Kaveri engine for the Tejas fighter.

The need of the hour is, India needs to replicate its successful missile development program.

By clearly identifying an aim, allocating technological manpower and leadership, and spending about enough can make the aero engine project successful.

India’s repeal of farm laws won’t resolve our real crisis of farming

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s repeal of farm laws won’t resolve our real crisis of farming” published in Livemint on 3rd Dec 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – issues related to Agriculture

Relevance: Agricultural reforms

News: The repeal of Farm laws is unlikely to end farmer worries. The need of the hour is to reform agriculture.

What are the issues being faced by the agricultural sector?

Farming in India is faced with many problems that makes farmers livelihood unsustainable. For example, the sector is faced with rising input costs and low-price realizations, with demand in decline across our economy since 2016-17.

These concerns have got aggravated over the past year, with input expenses on diesel, electricity and fertilizers rising faster than output prices.

Recent rural-wage data of farmers confirm declining rural wages and income from crop cultivation.

In this context, farmers’ demand for a guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) is in line with commitments by successive governments to fair remuneration for farmers, and the Swaminathan panel recommendation

What are the areas that need to be reformed?

There is a need to reform our MSP system. The problems that need to be addressed include,

– Political interference in MSP-setting

– Crop-wise and regional imbalances in MSP-led procurement operations,

– Inefficient distributional and stocking policies,

– Undue and ad-hoc interference in tariffs and trade restrictions.

– Similarly, reforms are needed in case- research priorities, extension services and investment priorities. Most of these have seen drops in public expenditure and support, with little institutional reform of regulation.

Global corporate taxation: The new bare minimum

Source: This post is based on the article “Global corporate taxation: The new bare minimum” published in DTE on 3rd Dec 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – issues related to taxation of MNC’s

Relevance: Global minimum corporate tax, tax evasion, OECD

News: Recently, the G20 nations approved a new global minimum corporate tax. The new taxation regime covers 90% of the global economy.

While OECD countries see this as a significant reform in a digitalised and globalised world economy, many sees this deal as not inclusive of the developing countries.

What are the important provisions under the deal?

Under this deal, there are two “pillars” of taxation on corporations.

Pillar-1: The tax provision empowers countries to tax companies where they earn their revenue. Under this, companies’ excess profit–defined as in excess of 10% of total revenue–will be taxed at 25%. It is estimated to affect the world’s top 100 companies.

Pillar-2: It will be applicable to overseas profits of multinational firms with €750 million (about 6,400 crore) in sales globally. If a company pays less than the 15% tax, the government of its home country would have the power to levy a tax to bring it to the minimum.

– For more: Read here

What is the reason for bringing in a new global minimum corporate tax?

Want for more resources by states: Countries, rich and poor, needed more resources to fight the pandemic and the consequent economic fallouts.

OECD estimates that with the new minimum rate, countries will have $150 billion annually in additional revenues. This money they could use to fund critical development requirements.

International demand: India and other countries in G24 (a sub-group of G77) pushed for a nation’s right to tax based on location of a company’s employment and sales.

– For more: Read here

What are the issues/challenges in the new deal?

Firstly, according to experts, the rate will hardly help meet the main objective of stopping profit-shifting and evasion. Though Pillar 2 sets a global minimum rate, with very low tax rates at 15%, the incentives to shift profit will remain substantial.

Secondly, the deal applies to a very small part of the corporate profits and is also limited to a few companies.

Thirdly, Experts say the 15% tax rate is not ambitious enough. Earlier this year, UN Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) recommended 20-30 per cent global corporate tax.

Finally, many developing countries, though signatory to the deal, have expressed concerns about the implementation of these new taxing rules. Condition on countries to remove all unilateral taxes on technology companies will significantly impact their revenues. Because, many countries earn a significant revenue by levying tax on digital services. This tax covers a larger number of companies for tax revenue and in many cases, they earn more than the expected tax under the new regime.

– For more: Read here

What is the way forward?

Only a UN tax convention, where global rules are determined by democracy not plutocracy, can make tax havens a thing of the past

The recent initiative by heads of states to agree on a UN-led tax global convention based on the tax reform blueprint prepared by FACTI is a step in the right direction.

Assessing the case for a legal MSP

Source: This post is based on the article “Assessing the case for a legal MSP” published in Business Standard on 2nd Dec 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to Minimum Support Prices

Relevance: Demand for legalisation of MSP

News: After getting the three farm laws repealed, the farm unions are now demanding a legalisation of MSP.

But legalising MSP must be backed by a programme with requisite resources (like MGNREGA) and a time-frame within which governments would expand and diversify their procurement portfolios, in line with agro-ecology.

Why the state continues to intervene in agricultural markets?

In India, for almost 50 years, the state has intervened in agricultural markets to protect both farmers and consumers.

Protecting farmers: During bumper harvests, farm revenues decline for the vast majority of India’s small and marginal farmers. This happens as farmers lack storage facilities, so they have to come to the market at the same time, resulting in an increased supply. And an increased supply with almost no increase in demand causes the prices to fall.

Protecting poor consumers: The market for foodgrains is unregulated. So during a drought, the poor consumers either starve or are further made poor by being forced to buy very expensive commodities, conveniently hoarded by traders.

Thus, the government brought in the MSP regime to procure crops from the farmers and then distribute these crops at subsidised rates via Public Distribution System (PDS).

This intervention protected farmers during bumper crops and protect poor consumers during droughts by having adequate buffer stocks.

What is the rationale behind the demand for legalisation of MSP?

– Read here: Legalising MSP: Challenges and way forward – Explained, pointwise

Why MSP-based procurement needs to be expanded to include other crops?

– Diversified cropping pattern: Govt should expand and diversify its MSP-based procurement operations to include climate resilient crops like millets (nutri-cereals), pulses and oilseeds, which are better suited to the agro-ecology of each region. This will incentivise farmers to shift to a diversified cropping pattern.

– Include locally procured crops into anganwadi supplementary nutrition and school mid-day meal programmes. This would ensure a large and steady market for farmers. This will also make a huge contribution to tackling India’s twin syndemic of malnutrition and diabetes as these crops have a lower glycemic index, & higher content of dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants.

Hence, India’s MSP regime needs to be expanded, but what is the best way of doing it? Should MSP be legalised or is there any better alternative available?

What is the way forward?

The MGNREGA example: The scheme does not guarantee 365 days of work to every person who seeks work. The legal guarantee is for 100 days per family per year, around 1/10th of the former. But even such a small intervention has resulted in the tightening of the labour market, with rural wages and livelihood security improving. Something very similar can be done through the 2018 PM-AASHA scheme, wherein 25% of the production for the season is to be procured by the government (to be expanded up to 40%, if the commodity is part of the PDS).

– For more: Read here

But, merely reforming MSP regime is not going to end the farm crisis.

How to resolve the farm crisis?

In a forthcoming paper in the journal Ecology, Economy and Society, Mihir Shah has outlined multiple issues that need to be addressed:

– correcting uneven regional distribution of investments, which has led to the neglect of India’s drylands

– moving away from commodity-centric R&D towards a whole systems understanding of farming

– Altering the pattern of subsidies that is overwhelmingly biased in favour of chemical inputs

– Taking the understanding of soils beyond narrow GR thinking

– Strengthening the legal and regulatory framework governing chemical inputs

– Making massive investments in post-harvest infrastructure to support safe and nutritious food; and

– bringing agriculture education out of the 50-year-old Green Revolution paradigm.

A white touch to a refreshed green revolution

Source: This post is based on the article “A white touch to a refreshed green revolution” published in The Hindu on 3rd Dec 2021.

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

Relevance: To understand the different models used in White and Green revolution.

News: 26th Nov, 2021 was celebrated in Anand, Gujarat as the 100th birth anniversary of Verghese Kurien, the leader of India’s ‘white revolution’. The white revolution resulted in increased incomes and the wealth of millions of cattle-owning small farmers in India, many of them women.

The Amul model, of a socio-economic enterprise, also has an immense potential to aid India’s crop-growing farmers.

Must Read: Indian Agriculture needs a Verghese Kurien
What are difference b/w Green and White revolutions?

Objective-The purpose of the green revolution was to increase the output of agriculture to prevent shortages of food. However, white revolution focussed on increased incomes of small farmers in Gujarat, not the output of milk.

Method used– The green revolution was largely a technological exercise, driven by science and the principles of efficiency. It required inputs, like chemical fertilizers, to be produced on scale and at low cost. Therefore, large fertilizer factories were set up. Large dams, irrigation systems and Monocropping were also required to make use of the inputs like water and fertiliser at scale. Thus, farms became like large, dedicated engineering factories designed to produce large volumes efficiently

Whereas, the white revolution was a socio-economic exercise driven by political leaders and principles of equity.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Tribhuvandas Kishibhai Patel had a vision of a cooperative movement of Gujarati farmers for increasing their incomes.

Meanwhile, IRMA, or the Institute of Rural Management Anand, which Kurien had founded, convened a workshop to celebrate his 100th birth anniversary to discover what can be learned from the white revolution to increase the farmer incomes in India.

What are the insights provided by IRMA workshop?

i). Inclusion and equity in governance must be integral to the design of the enterprise. Increase in the incomes and wealth of the workers and small asset owners in the enterprise must be the purpose of the enterprise, rather than going for just the firm’s profit.

ii). The ‘social’ side of the enterprise is as important as its ‘business’ side. Therefore, the social fabric of the enterprise must be strengthened via learning and application of non-corporate methods of management.

iii). The solutions must be local, rather than global. Enterprise derives input resources from local community, and therefore its output must take care of locals. The resources in the local environment (including local workers) must be the principal resources of the enterprise.

iv). The science used in process must be practical and useable by the people on the ground. The scientists can also learn practical and useful science from people on the ground.

v). Sustainable transformations are brought about by a gradual evolution, and not by a drastic revolution.

-Large-scale farming using modern scientific methods, in USSR and USA, though achieved spectacular results but wiped out peasants and small farmers.

The top-down ownership of enterprises, whether by the state (in the Soviet model), or by remote investors (in the capitalist model) is a wrong solution.

Breathing fresh air into the NCR’s pollution control

Source: This post is based on the article “Breathing fresh air into the NCR’s pollution control” published in The Hindu on 3rd Dec 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Relevance: To understand the problem of air-pollution in NCR, our approach and global examples.

News: Supreme Court questioned government and role of Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) for the lack of actual ground results in the fight against air-pollution in Delhi.

At a hearing, the Court gave the Centre and Delhi government 24 hours to come out with suggestions to control air pollution.

What is the problem with CAQM’s approach to tackling NCR’s air pollution?

The performance of CAQM is not up to the mark. It has been unable to tackle the interdependent causes behind air pollution, driven by complex urban issues.

For instance: Urban transformation is a social process (people, services, lifestyles) of how cities evolve over time, rather than a physical problem (congestion, technology, regulation).

Therefore, CAQM should focus on cities’ organisation, that requires collaboration between multiple stakeholders.

What lessons can India learn from Beijing in controlling air pollution?

Similarities b/w Bejing and Delhi’s approach to tackle air pollution:

Both Delhi and Beijing, share a 3-stage approach to tackle air pollution and both have comparable size of population.

The 3 stage approach starts with addressing air pollution at source, gradually moving to tackle primary pollutants (SO2, NO2, PM10, and CO). Later, secondary pollutants (PMx) leading to smog, primarily PM2.5 becomes the main focus for control with a regional coordination mechanism.

Differences b/w Delhi and Beijing’s approach:

The UNEP’s review of Beijing’s strategy, points to a system characterised by:

systematic planning, strong monitoring capacity, local standards, specific enforcement mechanisms and public awareness

A network for early warning: The combined high-resolution satellite remote sensing and laser radar and over 1,000 PM2.5 sensors throughout the city gives accurate data to identify high-emission areas and periods. In case of forecasted heavy pollution, warnings are issued at least 24 hours in advance through the media, in addition to daily air quality reports and forecasts.

Approach to urbanisation: Major cities including Beijing, rather than shutting down industries or restricting personal car and travel, have taken a different approach to urbanisation. It includes:

– Mixed Land use planning in cities like New York and Beijing provides more space for public transport and minimises the need for travel. In China, 72% of travel is completed by public transport, compared with 37% in Japan, 17% in Europe and 10% in the U.S.

Source apportionment studies: When it comes to air pollution, particulate matter is the most difficult to control, leads to smog and serious health issues. A systematic study on PM2.5 source apportionment in Beijing found that on-road diesel vehicles formed the largest part of pollution sources. The policy focus, hence, gradually changed from gasoline vehicle emissions to heavy-duty diesel vehicle emissions.

Phasing out older vehicles made the most significant contribution. In Delhi, source apportionment is still being debated.

Source Apportionment (SA) is the identification of ambient air pollution sources and the quantification of their contribution to pollution levels.

Innovative implementation steps were instituted in Beijing. Economic incentives designed were specifically tailored to a problem. For instance: A differentiated fee was charged, according to the concentration of waste gas emissions, from those who chose to remain in production. Also, an attractive level of subsidy was given to high-polluting enterprises to close their production.

– Enforcement at the municipal and State levels is coordinated, with each level having different responsibilities and mechanisms for cooperation.

Lastly, independent evaluations review the air quality management system, assessing the pollution reduction effects in selected areas, and provide recommendations for enabling further improvement in air quality and building public support.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Annual Report on State Finances: The vital third tier

Source: This post is based on the article “The vital third tier” published in the Business Standard on 2nd December 2021.

News: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released its annual study of state finances.

What are the findings of the report?

-States’ gross fiscal deficit breached the 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) mark.

-Combined revenue deficit of the state governments rose from 0.1% of GDP in 2018-19 to 2% of GDP in 2020-21 because of the pandemic. This was in spite of a sharp squeeze in expenditure during the pandemic, especially on services, development, and welfare.

-It talks about the concerns raised by state governments about their fiscal position and disagreements about goods and services tax compensation in the light of this severe fiscal stress on state capitals.

-The report demands a special focus is on local body finances, and particularly urban local bodies and municipal corporations.

What does the RBI report say about local bodies?

The reports surveyed 141 municipal corporations and analyzed the budgets of the 20 largest ones. It was found that almost a quarter of municipalities have their revenue shrank by more than half. The RBI estimates that about a third of municipal corporations are “severely fiscally stressed.

Read here: Avenues of Resource Mobilization for Local Bodies to Combat COVID 19

This all will have a major impact on the development and welfare activities performed by the local bodies. The report demonstrates that the more fiscally stressed an urban area is, the worse it is performing in terms of the vaccination rollout.

What should be the way forward?

State-issued grants: Transfers from the upper tiers of government should be quicker and easier to access.

Institutional reforms: The municipal bond market should be a major focus for future financial sector reform.

Did poor government handling in Kerala cause 2018 floods? Yes, says CAG

Source: This post is based on the article “Did poor government handling in Kerala cause 2018 floods? Yes, says CAG” published in Down To Earth on 2nd Dec 2021.

What is the news?

A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has pointed out at the lapses in Kerala governments planning, capacity building, flood forecasting and dam management during 2018 state floods.

What are the key findings of the report?

Bureaucratic issues– The flood plains of Kerala had not been identified and restricted, and no large-scale flood hazard map was available in Kerala.

-The susceptibility map developed by the Kerala Disaster Management Authority did not conform to Central Water Commission (CWC) criteria for flood-prone areas.

-The continuing encroachments on river beds obstructed water flow during floods.

Policy issues- Kerala State Water Policy 2008 was not as per the National Water Policy. It lacked provisions for effective flood control and flood management.

Kerala govt had also not submitted the list of reservoirs or areas where the CWC had to establish inflow forecasting stations.

Structural issues- Disaster Management Plan of 2016 has provisions for a “State Emergency Operations Centre“. This centre is to predict and issue early warnings on hazards. However, the system failed in 2019 to do so.

This was because it was dependent on the receipt of externally sourced real-time data, which is yet to be made available.

The airport authorities failed to construct a diversion canal to carry the ‘Chengalthodu waters’ into the Periyar river to avoid riverine flooding the resident population.

Issues with Dams- No dam in Kerala had an EAP (Emergency Action Plan) despite the direction from the NDMA to have it by 2009. Siltation in major dams was another matter of concern.

The dam managers should not have solely relied on the India Meteorological Department (IMD) prediction for dam management.

Human resource related issues– A full-time residential training institute for civil defence was established at Thrissur 5 years ago, but it had not served the intended purpose.

-Ineffectiveness of Aapda Mitra was seen due to the procedural delays that resulted in emergency   responder kits being handed out by December 2019.

What other reports says about Kerala floods?

IISc Bengaluru released a study that finds faults in managing the water levels in the Kerala dams, as the main reason that aggravated 2018 floods. Also, there were no warnings about the amount of water reaching the dams.

About Aapda Mitra scheme– It is a central sector scheme for training the volunteers in disaster response. NDMA is the implementing agency for this scheme.

About Emergency Action Plan(EAP)– It is a written document prepared by each dam operator. It contains plans to prevent or lessen the impact of the dam’s failure or apparent structure.

‘Top 1% captured over a third of wealth growth’: World Inequality Report

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Top 1% captured over a third of wealth growth’: World Inequality Reportpublished in Indian Express on 2nd December 2021.

What is the News?

The World Inequality Report 2022 has been released.

About World Inequality Report 2022 

The report has been produced by a team of world-leading economists. One of the co-authors is economist Thomas Piketty.

Purpose: The report is the most authoritative and comprehensive account available of global trends in inequality.

What are the key findings of the report?

Firstly, since the mid-1990s, the richest 1% captured 38% of wealth growth at the global level.

Secondly, the richest 10% own around 60-80% of wealth and the poorest half systematically own less than 5% of the wealth.

Thirdly, women, today, earn just one-third of all labour income in the world. This situation has increased since the 1990s but at a very slow rate. If we continue at this rate, the world needs to wait at least a century to reach gender parity.

What is the recommendation given by the report?

Governments should intervene to tackle inequality with social and tax policies.

Countries should introduce a progressive rate of wealth tax, with tax rates according to the value of the total amount of wealth owned.

Rajya Sabha Passes The Landmark ‘Dam Safety Bill (2019)’

Source:  This post is based on the article Rajya Sabha Passes The Landmark ‘Dam Safety Bill (2019)published in PIB on 2nd December 2021.

What is the News?

Rajya Sabha has passed the landmark Dam Safety Bill (2019) paving the way for the enactment of the Dam Safety Act in the country.

What is the need for the Dam Safety Bill?

India is the 3rd largest dam-owning nation in the world after China and USA.

There are around 5,700 large dams in the country, of which about 80% are already over 25 years old. Nearly 227 dams that are over 100 years old are still functional. 

Although India’s track record of dam safety is at par with that of the developed nations, there have been instances of unwarranted dam failures and of poor maintenance issues.

Hence, the Dam Safety Bill has been brought by the Government.

What is the objective of the Dam Safety Bill,2019?

To provide for adequate surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of all the large dams in the country to prevent dam failure related disasters.

To provide for an institutional mechanism at both Central and State levels to address structural and non-structural measures required for ensuring the safe functioning of dams.

What are the key provisions of the Bill?

National Committee on Dam Safety(NCDS): It will be constituted to help evolve uniform dam safety policies, protocols, and procedures

National Dam Safety Authority(NDSA): It will be a regulatory body for ensuring the nationwide implementation of dam safety policies and standards. 

State Committees on Dams: At the State level, the Bill prescribes for the constitution of State Committees on Dam Safety (SCDS) and State Dam Safety Organizations(SDSO). These bodies will be responsible for the surveillance, inspection and monitoring of the operation and maintenance of dams within their jurisdiction.

Safety of Dams: The Bill provides for regular inspection and hazards classification of dams. It also provides for drawing up emergency action plans and comprehensive dam safety reviews by an independent panel of experts. There is provision for an emergency flood warning system to address the safety concerns of downstream inhabitants.

The obligation of Dam Owners: Dam owners are required to provide resources for timely repair and maintenance of the dam structure along with related machinery.

Penal Provisions: The Bill has penal provisions involving offences and penalties, for ensuring compliance with the provisions.

What is the significance of the Bill?

The bill looks at Dam Safety holistically and provides for not only structural aspects but also operational and maintenance efficacy through the prescription of strict Operation and Maintenance(O & M) protocols.

“Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India” (SPPEL) to promote all Indian Languages including endangered languages

Source: This post is based on the article“Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India” (SPPEL)  to promote all Indian Languages including endangered languagespublished in PIB on 2nd December 2021.

What is the News?

The Union Minister has informed Rajya Sabha about the Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India(SPPEL).

What is the Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages (SPPEL)?

SPPEL Scheme was initiated by the Government of India in 2013. 

Objective: To document and archive the country’s languages that have become endangered or likely to be endangered in the near future.

The scheme is monitored by the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) located in Mysuru, Karnataka. 

Under the Scheme, the CIIL works on the protection, preservation and documentation of all the mother tongues/languages of India spoken by less than 10,000 speakers which are called endangered languages. 

In the first phase of the scheme, 117 endangered languages/mother tongues have been chosen from all over India for study and documentation on a priority basis.

What are the other schemes for the preservation of Endangered Languages?

University Grants Commission(UGC) has launched two schemes for the protection of endangered languages namely ‘Funding Support to the State Universities for Study and Research in Indigenous and Endangered Languages in India’ and ‘Establishment of Centres for Endangered Languages in Central Universities’. 

Govt extends Smart Cities Mission timeline to 2023

Source: This post is based on the article Govt extends Smart Cities Mission timeline to 2023published in Indian Express on 2nd December 2021.
What is the News?

The Centre has extended the timeline for the implementation of the Smart Cities Mission to June 2023.

What is the Smart Cities Mission?

The Smart Cities Mission was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2015.

Type: Centrally Sponsored Scheme.

Click here to read more about Smart Cities Mission

What is a Smart City?

There is no standard definition or template of a smart city.  In the context of our country, the six fundamental principles on which the concept of Smart Cities is based are:

Source: Smartcities.gov
Read more: Smart Cities Mission that aimed at providing better cities and infrastructure has failed to do so


EU plans €300 billion infrastructure fund to counter China’s BRI

Source: This post is based on the articleEU plans €300 billion infrastructure fund to counter China’s BRIpublished in The Hindu on 2nd December 2021.

What is the News?

The European Commission has announced an international infrastructure plan called the “Global Gateway Plan”. 

What is the Global Gateway Plan?

The plan aims to invest €300 billion ($340 billion) globally in infrastructure, digital and climate projects by 2027. This will help strengthen health, education and research systems across the world. 

The investment will be made in projects that can be delivered with high standards, good governance, transparency while ensuring financial sustainability at the same time. 

How will the Global Gateway Plan be implemented?

The Plan will be implemented in a Team Europe approach that brings together funding by the EU, its Member States and European financial institutions.

The plan will also require buy-ins from international institutions and the private sector as well. 

What is the significance of the Global Gateway Plan?

Firstly, the Plan is considered as an offshoot of the Build Back Better World(B3W) Initiative.

Secondly, the plan is being seen as a European effort to challenge China’s Belt and Road Initiative which was launched in 2013 and funds infrastructure projects in the developing world.


Source: This post is based on the articleUN REPORT ON MULLAPERIYAR DAMpublished in PIB on 2nd December 2021.
What is the News?

United Nations University-Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) has released a report titled “Ageing Water Storage Infrastructure: An Emerging Global Risk”. The report provides an overview of the current state of knowledge on the ageing of large dams.

According to the report, four Asian countries – China, Japan, India and South Korea – contribute to 55% of dams across the world and the majority of these dams are approaching the 50-year limit.

What does the report say on Mullaperiyar Dam?

The Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala was built on the Periyar river in 1895. 

The dam is located in a seismically active area, making it prone to earthquakes. The intended lifespan of the dam is 50 years.

A minor earthquake caused cracks in the dam in 1979, and in 2011, more cracks appeared in the dam due to seismic activity. It warns that in case of a catastrophe, 3.5 million people would be in danger.

What are the steps taken by the Indian Government to protect Mullaperiyar Dam?

In 1979, Central Water Commission(CWC) had reported some distress conditions in the Mullaperiyar dam. Thereafter, some emergency and short term measures were completed by the Government of Tamil Nadu.

In 2014, the Empowered Committee set up by the Supreme Court concluded that the Mullaperiyar dam was safe in all respects, viz., hydrologically, structurally and seismically.

In 2021, the World Bank-funded Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP), carried out dam safety inspections for 28 dam projects of Kerala.

Note: Commissioning or decommissioning of dams owned by State Governments is exclusively within the purview of the dam owning State.

KVIC Rolls Out Unique Business Model to Handhold 70 Women Agarbatti Artisans in Assam

Source: This post is based on the articleKVIC Rolls Out Unique Business Model to Handhold 70 Women Agarbatti Artisans in Assampublished in PIB on 2nd December 2021.
What is the News?

Khadi and Village Industries Commission(KVIC) has created a unique business model to empower women Agarbatti artisans in Assam and strengthen the local Agarbatti industry.

What is the model adopted by KVIC?

KVIC has engaged 70 tribal women belonging to 7 self-help groups (SHGs) under the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Program(PMEGP).

These tribal women were supported to set up their own Agarbatti manufacturing units in Assam. 

KVIC has also roped in a business partner that will provide raw material and take back all the Agarbatti produced by these 70 women entrepreneurs by paying labour charges. 

Why is this business model unique?

This Agarbatti business model is unique in the sense that these women entrepreneurs will be free from the hassle of selling or marketing their finished goods. 

On the other hand, the business partner will enhance his production of Agarbatti without incurring any capital cost on purchasing new machines. 

Why was this business model designed?

The model has been designed in wake of the two major decisions – import restriction on Raw Agarbatti and increase in import duty on Bamboo sticks – taken by the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Finance respectively to support the local agarbatti industry. 

IFSC Authority invites comments on consultation paper on proposed IFSCA (Insurance Web Aggregator) Regulations, 2021

Source: This post is based on the article IFSC Authority invites comments on consultation paper on proposed IFSCA (Insurance Web Aggregator) Regulations, 2021published in Indian Express on 2nd December 2021.
What is the News?

International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) has released the draft IFSCA (Insurance Web Aggregator) Regulations, 2021.

The regulations provide for eligibility criteria, registration process and permissible activities for Insurance Web Aggregator.

What is IFSCA?

IFSCA was established in 2020 under the International Financial Services Centres Authority Act, 2019.

Purpose: The IFSCA is a unified authority for the development and regulation of financial products, financial services and financial institutions in the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in India.

At present, the GIFT IFSC in Gandhinagar, Gujarat is the maiden international financial services centre in India.

What are Insurance Intermediaries?

Insurance intermediaries are one of the most important parts of IFSC for developing the essential ecosystem of a financial market and providing insurance solutions to global clients.

IFSC has already notified IFSCA (Insurance Intermediary) Regulations, 2021 for registration and operations of Insurance Intermediaries such as Insurance Brokers, Corporate Agents, Third Party Administrators and Surveyors and Loss Assessors. 

What is an Insurance Web Aggregator?

The insurance web aggregator is a business entity maintaining a website that provides information on insurance policies offered by different insurance companies available in the market. 

They basically act as intermediaries between the insurance companies (insurers) and people who want to take insurance policies. 

Centre set to rejig privatisation process for non-strategic sectors

Source: This post is based on the articleCentre set to rejig privatisation process for non-strategic sectorspublished in Business Standard on 3rd December 2021.

What is the News?

The government of India is set to approve several changes in the privatisation process for companies in non-strategic sectors.


Recently, the Government of India has released a new ‘Public Sector Enterprise Policy’. The policy classifies public sector commercial enterprises into strategic and non-strategic sectors.

In the strategic sectors, there would be a maximum of four public sector companies.

On the other hand, companies in non-strategic sectors such as steel, tourism, urban development, and healthcare would be considered for privatisation, wherever feasible or else they would be closed.

How will the privatization process for non-strategic sectors take place?

Firstly, the Department of Public Enterprises(DPE) would examine non-strategic sectors and identify PSEs in these areas for privatisation.

Secondly, after sectoral evaluation, the DPE would recommend names of PSUs in non-strategic sectors to the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management(DIPAM). 

Thirdly, following the identification of PSUs for privatisation or closure by the DPE, the names would be taken by DIPAM for Cabinet approval.

Mains Answer Writing

Let The Land Heal

Source– The post is based on the article “Let the Land Heal” published in The Indian Express on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS3- Agriculture and Environment Relevance– Unsustainable agriculture practices News– The article explains the issues related to excessive use of pesticides. It also suggests measures to reduce their use. What is the issue? There… Continue reading Let The Land Heal

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India-US ties: Depth & nuance

Source– The post is based on the article “India-US ties: Depth & nuance” published in the The Indian Express on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS3- International Relations Relevance– India and US relationship News– The article explains the relationship between India and the USA. How India-US relations have evolved historically? Following the nuclear tests of May… Continue reading India-US ties: Depth & nuance

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5G services to be rolled out today; how will your experience change?

Source: The post is based on an article “5G services to be rolled out today; how will your experience change?” published in The Indian Express on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 Relevance: benefits of 5G News: The Prime Minister of India will launch 5G on 1st October and the sixth edition of India Mobile Congress in New Delhi. What… Continue reading 5G services to be rolled out today; how will your experience change?

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Swachh Bharat 2.0: Moving forward together

Source: The post is based on an article “Swachh Bharat 2.0: Moving forward together” published in The Indian Express on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 Relevance: measures taken to improve sanitation News: The article highlights the importance of private sector in resolving the issue of Sanitation. The concept of sanitation in India has been around since the Indus Valley… Continue reading Swachh Bharat 2.0: Moving forward together

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Letting go of a chance to democratise telecom services

Source– The post is based on the article “Letting go of a chance to democratise telecom services” published in The Hindu on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS2- Indian Polity Relevance– Regulation of telecommunication services in India News-There is a need to resolve the issues with the new Telecommunication Bill, 2022. What are the issues with… Continue reading Letting go of a chance to democratise telecom services

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Vacation pe vacation: No major country has their top court going on long holidays. Neither should Supreme Court

Source: The post is based on an article “Vacation pe vacation: No major country has their top court going on long holidays. Neither should Supreme Court” published in The Times of India on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 – Functioning of Supreme Court Relevance: concerns associated with vacation of courts News: The article discusses the issue of too many… Continue reading Vacation pe vacation: No major country has their top court going on long holidays. Neither should Supreme Court

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No discrimination – ON Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights

Source– The post is based on the article “No discrimination” published in The Hindu on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS1- Social empowerment. GS2- Vulnerable sections Relevance– Abortion rights of women News– The article explains the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights of unmarried women. It also explains the ruling by Delhi High Court on… Continue reading No discrimination – ON Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights

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As India ages, keeping an eye on the elderly

Source: The post is based on an article “As India ages, keeping an eye on the elderly” published in The Hindu on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated Issues News: 1st October is celebrated as International Day for Older Persons by the United Nations. World Population Prospects 2022 report published by the UN Department of… Continue reading As India ages, keeping an eye on the elderly

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Punish vandals: Needed: smart law on property damaged in protests

Source: The post is based on the article “Punish vandals: Needed: smart law on property damaged in protests” published in The Times of India on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.. Relevance: About the damages to public and… Continue reading Punish vandals: Needed: smart law on property damaged in protests

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‘Lichens are a pioneer species which enable all life — conserving them is vital’

Source: The post is based on the article “‘Lichens are a pioneer species which enable all life — conserving them is vital’” published in The Times of India on 1st October 2022. Syllabus: GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation. Relevance: About Lichens. News: At present most conservation work is focused on charismatic species, like tigers… Continue reading ‘Lichens are a pioneer species which enable all life — conserving them is vital’

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