9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 11th, 2022

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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Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

The many layers of an unemployment problem

Source: This post is based on the article “The many layers of an unemployment problem” published in Live mint on 11th Feb 2022.        

Syllabus: GS2- Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. 

Relevance: PLFS Survey, unemployment  

News: Recently, protests were held in several parts of north India by students who had appeared for the Non-Technical Popular Categories exam conducted by the Railway Recruitment Board. This has once again brought the issue of prevailing unemployment into the limelight.  

What is the unemployment situation in the country? 

According to Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) in the 18-25 age group, unemployment rate is 24.5% for 2019-20, which is among the highest in the world.

India has a labour force participation rate of around 40% which means that every tenth young person in the country is unemployed by the official definition. 

How even these figures are an underestimation? 

While these figures may appear too high, even this is a gross underestimate of joblessness in the country.  For instance, in the recent incident of protests against the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB), those protesting are unlikely to be captured as unemployed by our official statistics as they would be counted as students rather than as unemployed.  

Some fraction of those employed may be working for private establishment that hardly have any security of tenure, good wages and social protection. For instance: according to PLFS estimates, two-thirds of regular salaried workers in 2019-20 did not have a written job contract and most had no social security. 

According to official estimates, a third of our population is categorised as poor. For these households, It is a necessity to work whatever wages they can get.  

There is also a social stigma attached to being unemployed, which means that many would prefer the disguise of employment in agriculture and other enterprises, even though they might not be contributing to production.  

Are unemployment allowances a viable solution? 

India undergoes elections occasionally, and this leads to politicisation of the issue of unemployment. In this, many political parties promise unemployment allowances to woo the electorate.  

However, ideas like an unemployment allowance or an urban employment guarantee are unlikely to solve the problem in its entirety. Even as a temporary reprieve from the crisis, these are insufficient 

What is the way forward?  

There should not be just creation of additional employment, but it is to be ensured that the jobs so created provide decent wages, security of tenure and social protection.  

Indian Economy is currently struggling with low demand and a crisis of income in the rural economy.  

Government may revive rural demand through public expenditure. This will also lead to an increase in employment.  

Local job laws that raise constitutional questions

Source: This post is based on the article” Local job laws that raise constitutional questions ” published in the Indian Express on 11th February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Relevance: Understanding the controversies surrounding the local job laws.

News: Supreme court is soon to hear the petition on removing the stay on the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act. Punjab and Haryana High Court have stayed the Haryana government’s law guaranteeing 75% reservation to locals in private sector jobs.

What is the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act?

Read more:  Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act of 2020

How the reservation job for locals is against the constitutional norms?

Read here: Constitution and judgments concerning reservation for locals

The act breaches the notion of equality of all citizens of India. States have enacted laws that limit employment for citizens from outside the State. Over the last three years, three states have enacted laws that limit employment for citizens from outside the State. These laws raise questions on the conception of India as a nation.

The Constitution conceptualises India as one nation with all citizens having equal rights in the country. These State laws go against this vision by restricting the right of out-of-State citizens to find employment in the State.

Read here: Challenges associated with the policy of job quota for locals in the private sector
What are the court cases related to public employment?

Indra Sawhney case in 1992: Supreme Court capped reservations in public services at 50%. It however said that there may be extraordinary situations which may need relaxation in this rule like people of far-flung and remote areas.

In 1995, Rules in Andhra Pradesh that gave preference to candidates who had studied in the Telugu medium were struck down on grounds that they discriminated against more meritorious candidates.

Supreme Court, in 2002, ruled that preference given to applicants from a particular region of Rajasthan for appointment as government teachers was unconstitutional. It said that reservations can be made for backward classes of citizens, but this cannot be solely on account of residence or domicile.

Supreme Court in 2021: Struck down the Maharashtra Act on grounds of breaching the 50% limit, which provided reservations for Marathas.

Is the institution of Governor subverting federal structure?

Source: This post is based on the article “Is the institution of Governor subverting federal structure?” published in The Hindu on 11th February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2  issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.

Relevance: Understanding why there is conflict between governor and state governments.

News: With the TN governor returning the NEET bill and running a battle between the West Bengal governor and CM highlights the inherent tension between the post of governor and elected chief minister.

Read here: Explained: Governor’s powers, friction with states, and why this happens often

What are the issues between the governor and chief minister?

Article 163 is clear that Governor is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers. The role of the governor, like that of the president, is only nominal. In case the governor finds legislation objectionable to Constitution, he can hold the bill for the consent of the president.

The nature of the presidential election allows him to look beyond public opinion with the constitution in mind. Yet, the role of the governor, like that of the president is only nominal.

Read here: Governance and Governor

How to handle the difference of opinion between the chief minister and governor?

The two heads can have different perspectives but should maintain the dignity of their constitutional positions. It has been seen the governor and chief ministers on social media openly expressing disagreement with each other. The consultations between the governor and CM’s should be serious and in case of conflict, the elected government should prevail.

Sometimes it may be possible that the governor and people are on the same view – as expressed by former President K R Narayanan. But even in these matters governor should not talk over the head of government or behind the government to the people.

What should be done going forward?

Talks: The best way to resolve differences is through a discussion. The differences between the two heads should be resolved privately.

Quick resolution by courts: The courts have displayed a tendency to keep the issue pending like Article 370. So, the courts should quickly resolve such constitutional matters.

Colombo and Delhi get closer, but failure to move on the Tamil question will dampen the enthusiasm

Source: This post is based on the article “Is the institution of Governor subverting federal structure?” published in The Hindu on 11th February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Relevance: Understanding Sri-Lanka-India relations.

News: Sri Lanka foreign minister in his visit to Delhi talks of reaching a “high point”.

What are the recent developments in India-Sri Lanka relations?

India helped Sri Lanka overcome an unprecedented economic crisis. India had earlier given offshore patrol vessels to the Sri Lankan coast guards. India has also agreed to help Sri Lanka to launch a digital identity project along the lines of Aadhaar.

Sri Lanka is ready to have more Indian investment in several sectors including ports, power, energy, tourism, Etc.

What are the issues in India Sri Lanka relations?

1) Fisherman issue, 2) Pending political settlement of the Tamil question, 3) Concerns associated with new draft Constitution.

Read here: Issues in India-Sri Lanka relations

Appeal for change: SC’s suggestion on reducing jail time for those appealing convictions is worth serious thought

Source: This post is based on the article “Appeal for change: SC’s suggestion on reducing jail time for those appealing convictions is worth serious thought” published in Times of India on 11th February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Structure, organisation and functioning of the Judiciary.

Relevance: Understanding the reasons to bring changes in the appeal process.

News: Supreme Court is going to examine whether those who have already served long imprisonments and are appealing their convictions should be given other options or not.

Why there is a need to make changes in the appeal process?

Long waiting periods to hear appeals: Many trial court convictions are pending before High Courts. For instance, waiting periods for hearing an appeal could be as long as 35 years.

Better chance to get acquitted: Convicts have a chance of getting acquitted by higher codes in appeals. For example, the Bombay High Court declared 2 persons innocent in two different murder convictions after 22 and 24 years.

Supreme Court has suggested plea-bargaining, which is used regularly in the USA, to speed up the judicial process.

What further can be done?

Speedy judicial appointments: 411 of 1,098 sanctioned judicial posts at HCs lie vacant. For instance, Allahabad HC, flooded by appeals, has 67 vacancies. This needs to be filled quickly.

Increase the retirement age of HC judges: HC judges retire at 62 while SC judges continue till 65. There is no rationale behind this difference. When the retirement date of every judge is known in advance, the replacement lists should be ready beforehand. Article 224A provides for retired judges to be reappointed to HCs.

GS Paper 3

A change of course on privatisation

Source: This post is based on the article “A change of course on privatisation” published in Business Standard on 11th Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Mobilization of resources

Relevance: Issues with Privatisation

News: Recently released India’s Budget 22-23 has signalled that the government will proceed cautiously on privatisation.

The article says that the retreat on privatisation is a pragmatic economic policy.

Why the Budget has changed the course of privatisation?

The Budget has set a modest target for privatisation of Rs 65,000 crore. Also, much of the receipts for FY 21-22 will be accounted by disinvestment in LIC, not from privatisation.

Though the privatization of Air India is successful, but the fact is that the Air India’s privatisation took four years to conclude.

Also, to privatize it, the government took various measures such as taking over nearly 75 per cent of Air India’s debt, employees are guaranteed jobs for one year, and then it was sold to a trusted business group.

Taking so many measures for other public sector undertakings (PSUs) is time-consuming and impossible as well.

What does the government’s decision to de-emphasise privatisation reflect?

One, the Indian state lacks the capacity to execute privatisation on a large scale.

Two, carrying out the sale of public assets carelessly can prove costly in both political and economic terms.

Three, it is not helpful to turn privatisation into a benchmark of overall economic performance. It overshadows all other reforms and initiatives of the government.

Why executing privatisation is a challenge?

First, the objective is to bring more efficient utilisation of assets and fetch revenues. But for this to happen, the government must get the valuation right. For instance, in a depressed market, the chances of the asset being under-valued are higher.

Second, the firm needs to undergo a certain amount of restructuring before it is offered for sale so that it attracts the right suitors. To attract a better price, there must be multiple bidders. Ensuring these conditions is not a simple matter.

Third, rushing for privatization by setting targets with no proper valuation becomes controversial. For example, in the Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL) sale, the Supreme Court has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct an enquiry into the transaction.

Fourth, for the sale of public sector banks (PSBs), there is a need to be clear as to who the potential buyers might be. The larger private banks of India are not interested due to legacy issues with a PSB.

Foreign banks are also not ready to come into India by setting up a wholly-owned subsidiary, as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wants.

Also, selling to a scattered group of foreign institutional investors creates a governance vacuum. For instance, public sector entities had a significant stake in the UTI Bank and a large stake was sold to FIIs. Now, they continue to hold a significant stake in Axis Bank.

Fifth, bank failure has numerous negative economic and political consequences such as disruptions in Parliament, paralysis of the administrative machinery and negative media coverage. For example, Yes Bank.

What is the way forward?

First, government should set a modest target for privatisation, or it should avoid setting the targets and use the disinvestment and privatisation receipts as a balancing item in the Budget.

Second, government should consult the RBI on “fit and proper” criteria for potential buyers.

A growth focused monetary policy

Source: This post is based on the article “A growth focused monetary policy” published in The Indian express on 11th Feb 2022.        

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

Relevance: Accommodative stance, Fuel price rise, fiscal consolidation 

News: To maintain a desired growth rate, Reserve Bank has kept an accommodative policy stance despite the new risks from elevated crude oil prices and the possibility of aggressive policy measures by the US Federal Reserve.  

What is accommodative policy stance and its impact? 

An accommodative stance means the central bank is prepared to expand the money supply to boost economic growth. The central bank, during an accommodative policy period, is willing to cut the interest rates. 

The accommodative stance has surprised markets due to which the benchmark 10-year yield which had got a rise due to government’s borrowing programme has softened a bit.  

However even with an accommodative stance, RBI continues maintaining liquidity according to a calibrated policy stance. 

What is the policy adopted by other central banks globally? 

The global situation, however, is different. With rising inflation being viewed as a potent threat, many central banks are tilting towards faster tightening. 

Several emerging market economies, especially those following inflation targeting, had started raising interest rates last year in response to inflationary pressures from food and energy prices.  

This has been happening in the backdrop of rising geopolitical tensions in Central Asia and Ukraine, which is leading to a spike in energy prices. 

However it is the actions of the US Fed that matter most to India. Faced with rising inflation, the Fed has been maintaining a hawkish stance. 

Although India’s monetary policy is primarily governed by domestic factors, the effect of US Fed cannot completely be ignored. Abrupt policy changes create volatility in capital flows and currency markets, as was witnessed during the taper tantrum of August 2013. 

What are the potential risk factors that may affect Indian economy? 

While India’s external accounts are healthy (higher foreign exchange reserves, and lower current account deficits and short-term foreign debt), its vulnerability arises from high domestic debt and deficit.  

Although the rupee has remained resilient despite tightening global financial conditions. However, rising crude oil prices and current account deficits can increase India’s vulnerability. 

Rising crude oil prices remain an inflation threat, as it can also have a cascading effect on other prices. Fiscal policy (tax cuts) is perhaps the best way to deal with the pressures from commodity prices.

But given the already-stretched fiscal consolidation path, a further cut in excise duty on oil was not envisaged in the budget. 

What are RBI’s projections for the future growth trajectory? 

It has projected the economy to grow at 7.8% next year. However, Due to heightened uncertainty, the monetary policy will largely remain data-driven. 

Consolidate clearances-4 steps for effective green clearances

Source: This post is based on the article “Consolidate clearances-4 steps for effective green clearances” published in Down to earth on 11th Feb 2022.        

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

Relevance: Environment impact assessment, balancing developmental and environmental needs

News: Environmental Clearance to various developmental projects has been at the core of Environment- development debate.

However both Environment and development are not the two different ends of a spectrum and can definitely coexist if some changes are made to our green clearance policy.  

What will make the system more effective? 

There is a need to consolidate all clearances — environment, forests, wildlife and coastal — so that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) is comprehensive. 

The process of public assessment must be deepened. Going forward, the mandatory videography of the public hearing should be livestreamed. The committee assessing the project must be held to account that it has taken these concerns on board. 

It is also necessary to review the role of the environmental assessment committees — at the Centre and at the state. These committees are the weakest link in this process, as they are faceless and are not responsible for the compliance or monitoring of the project.

An alternative to these committees is that the process of assessment and monitoring be done by the central and state environment departments, comprising experts. 

The most important step would be to greatly strengthen the process of monitoring the project after the clearance has been given. For this, there is a need to integrate the functioning of all agencies — from state pollution control boards to the coastal- and forest-related institutions. Currently, there are many agencies and yet enforcement is weak. 

Also, it is to be ensured that the baseline data about the project is credible and publicly available. For this, the process of collecting updated information on different environmental parameters and on the ecological importance of the project site must be strengthened. 

What is the way forward? 

There is a need for a robust and credible system of environmental scrutiny to find the balance between environment and development.

An effective system, working for environmental integrity, would ensure these happen, both in design and in implementation. 

An MSP scheme to transform Indian agriculture

Source: This post is based on the article “An MSP scheme to transform Indian agriculture” published in The Hindu on 11th Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Issues related to Direct and Indirect Farm Subsidies and Minimum Support Prices

Relevance: Reforms in MSP and procurement mechanism

News: The article suggests a different way of designing a minimum support price (MSP) to transform Indian agriculture.

How the current price stabilization policy for food grains has evolved?

The Essential Commodities Act in 1955 was passed to counter price rise due to speculative private trading, and then MSP came in the 1960s.

Then, a buffer stock policy for market intervention was developed

– to set cost-based minimum procurement price, to pay the difference between procurement price and market price, store the procured surplus for sale through the Public Distribution System (PDS) and for market intervention to stabilize price.

What are the consequences of this price stabilization policy?

The current price stabilization policy has resulted into centralized procurement, storage and distribution mechanism which has increased procurement cost.

Also, the partial MSP coverage skewed the cropping pattern against several coarse grains and millets, particularly in rain-fed areas. The area under cultivation of rice and wheat increased, while that of coarse cereals reduced.

It also changed the dietary pattern.

How MSP should be redesigned?

One, price should be charged in a range according to harvest conditions. For instance, each crop within a band of maximum and a minimum price depending on harvest conditions will have its price set in the band.

The price of some selected coarse grains can be fixed at the upper end to encourage production in rain fed areas. This will fulfil objective of income support to farmers, price stabilisation and food security and induce more climate-friendly cropping patterns.

Two, there is need of wider MSP coverage with decentralized procurement mechanism. For instance, if we calculate economic cost, some 45%-50% of production is for farmers’ self-consumption and the rest is marketed surplus. From the total procurement cost of this surplus, the net revenue recovered through the PDS must be deducted.

It will be the same as DA to public sector employees, less than the total tax break given to a handful of industrial houses.

This expenditure will benefit more than half the population directly and another 20%-25% of the population indirectly in the unorganized sector. It will raise industrial demand for the unorganized sector.

Why India needs a decentralized mechanism of procurement?

The centralized mechanism of procurement at MSP requires bringing the procured grains to centralized Food Corporation warehouses. From here they are sent back to each district/province and from there to villages/slums/wards for distribution through fair price shops at an issue price fixed by the government. It is below the market price to make it affordable for poor households.

Hence, the total economic cost is rising which include subsidy for selling below market price, procurement costs, distribution costs of freight, handling, storage, interest and administrative charges along with costs of transit and storage losses.

What is the way forward?

First, agricultural debt can be linked with selling of grains under MSP to provision of bank credit particularly for small farmers.

The farmer can get a certificate for selling grains at MSP which would be credit points proportional to the amount sold. This will entitle them to a bank loan as their right and protect them from bad harvest years by storing the certificates for later use.

Second, decentralize the implementing agencies for MSP under the constitutionally mandated supervision of panchayats.

Time to end employer criminalisation

Source: This post is based on the article Time to end employer criminalisationpublished in Indian Express on 11th Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Changes in Industrial Policy

Relevance: Promoting Ease of doing Business

News: The recent budget has prioritized Ease of Doing Business (EODB) 2.0.

The article says that criminalization of employers has affected productivity of Indian economy, hence there is need to relook the jail provisions and simplify the laws.

Why there is need to reconsider employer criminalization?

One, the excessive criminalisation of employers has painful consequences for corruption, formal jobs, and justice.

For instance, excessive and arbitrary power combined with the power of putting people in jail, breeds corruption.

Unreasonable or unfair policies combine with discretionary and weakly checked power to impose huge financial, social, or bodily damage increases corruption.

Two, the PM’s in his last Independence Day speech has emphasized upon lower regulatory cholesterol which means less state interference.

What is the situation wrt penal provisions against employers in India?

Employers and entrepreneurs face imprisonment risks across 1,536 laws in seven categories — labour, secretarial, environment health and safety, finance and taxation, industry-specific, commercial, and general.

Eight hundred and forty-three laws have 26,134 criminal provisions, 67% have more than five jail provisions and one law has 700 ways to end up in jail.

On what grounds, criminalization of employers can be removed?

FirstIndia is poor not because of shortage of land, labour, or capital. It is because there is no effective employer rule of law regime which tackles information asymmetry, market power, negative externalities and creates public good.

Jail threats discourage entrepreneurship, and that’s why firms prefer to remain small. Hence, Government must support the entrepreneurship that creates formal jobs.

Second, there should be a smaller number of laws which are tightly enforced rather than a greater number of laws with poor enforcement.

It does not empower the powerless. For instance, adding 300 plus jail provisions every year for 70 years in labour laws has not protected workers.

John Ruskin has also suggested punishment is the last and least effective instrument for the prevention of crime.

Third, excessive criminalization increased in the mid-1960s due to weak state capacity. But it proved counterproductive.

State capacity diminished faster because jail provisions lack transparent enforcement and conviction rates declined because of higher usage of “beyond reasonable doubt” thresholds.

Thus, voluntary quashing became a weapon for corruption.

What is the way forward?

First, the central government is reducing compliances and has asked state governments to rationalize them. Also, parliament must demand higher conviction rates from economic investigative agencies, so the law can move from anticipating future criminals to actually putting real criminals in jail.

Second, there is need to reduce employer jail provisions to expand good job creation. The jail provisions affect negative liberty of employers that breed corruption, sabotage formal job creation, and poison justice.

How to expand India’s forest cover

Source: This post is based on the article “How to expand India’s forest cover” published in Indian Express on 11th February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation.

Relevance: Understanding the way ISFR is conducted.

News:  India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 recently released its report, which attracts many questions about the definition of forests and plantation. This article gives answers to all that queries.

Read here: India State of Forest Report 2021 – Explained, pointwise
About definition of forest

India’s definition of forest cover is in sync with that of the Kyoto Protocol. According to the protocol,  a forest is a land area of more than 0.5 hectares, with a tree canopy cover of more than 10% and a Minimum height of trees at maturity in situ of 2 to 5 m.

Indian definition of the forest includes ‘all land, more than 1 hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10%  irrespective of ownership and legal status. Such land may not necessarily be a recorded forest area. It also includes orchards, bamboo, and palm.

How the forest cover is calculated?

The assessment of forest cover is done based on the interpretation of satellite data. It identifies umbrella-shaped canopies from the sky. The accuracy of classification for forest and non-forest is 95.79% and the accuracy of classification in different density classes is as high as 92.99%.

The forest data from satellites is corroborated from field inventory data. The interpreted maps are then made publicly available. The environment ministry is even considering providing forest cover Maps through a web map service.

What are India’s commitments to restoring the ecological balance of the planet?

On land degradation neutrality: In UN High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought 2021, PM said that India is on track to achieve its national commitment to land degradation neutrality. He reiterated that India is working towards restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. This would help India to achieve an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Also read: Despite PM Modi’s assurance, land degradation, desertification increasing

On wildlife conservation: With the launch of Project Tiger in 1973, India now has 51 tiger reserves. This helps preserve natural ecosystems that support ecological processes responsible for providing various goods and services vital for human well-being.

Similar steps are being taken for the conservation of lions, elephants, and other animals whose existence is threatened by poaching or the shrinking of natural habitat.

Read here: Wildlife conservation efforts in India

Forest and tree cover: The national Forest policy (1988) goal of 33% forest cover remains to be achieved. At present, it is limited by the inelasticity of forest land. However, the balance can be achieved by taking up plantations outside the forests and restocking in degraded and scrub forests.

This is because the plantations act as the first line of defence against cyclones. Apart from it, they are also capable of meeting all the ecological functions of natural forests and supporting the wildlife there.

According to ISFR 2021, trees outside Forrest (TOF) comprises 36.18% of the total forest entry cover of the country.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Ban on drone import to boost manufacturing

Source: This post is based on the article Ban on drone import to boost manufacturingpublished in  Livemint on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the news?

The Government of India has banned the import of drones, with some exceptions, in India.

What imports of drones are being banned?

The import of any drones either in completely built up (CBU), completely knocked down(CKD) /semi knocked down (SKD) forms have been banned.

Exceptions: Import of drones for Research and Development (R&D), defence and security purposes have been exempted from the ban, but such imports will require due clearances.

This means that Government entities, educational institutions and government recognised R&D entities will be allowed to import drones in CBU, SKD and CKD form after they acquire import authorisation from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade which would be provided after consultation with the relevant ministry.

Moreover, the Government has also clarified that this drone ban does not apply to the import of drone components

Why was the import of drones banned?

The move is aimed at giving a boost to domestic manufacturing of drones, which is seen as a sector that is set to witness rapid growth this decade. 

However, this ban on import of drones would be bad news for drone enthusiasts, who import them for photography, video and other leisurely activities.

Government of India sets policy for Electric Vehicle charging stations

Source: This post is based on the article Government of India sets policy for Electric Vehicle charging stationspublished in PIB on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the news?

The Ministry of Power has issued the revised consolidated Guidelines & Standards for charging infrastructure for Electric Vehicles.

What is the objective of these guidelines?

To enable a faster adoption of electric vehicles in India by ensuring safe, reliable, accessible and affordable Charging Infrastructure and ecosystem. 

To promote energy security and reduction of emission intensity of the country by promotion of the entire EV ecosystem.

What are the key features of the guidelines?

Firstly, any individual/entity is free to set up Public Charging Stations (PCS) without the requirement of a licence provided that such stations meet the technical, safety as well as performance standards.

Secondly, electric vehicle owners can charge their vehicles at their residence or offices using their existing electricity connections.

Thirdly, housing Societies, Malls, Office Complexes, Restaurants, Hotels are allowed to install PCS for charging of vehicles including charging of visitor’s vehicles permitted to come in its premises.

Fourthly, land available with the Govt shall be provided for installation of Public Charging Stations to a Govt on a revenue sharing basis at a fixed rate of ₹ 1 / kWh (used for charging) initially for a period of 10 years.

Fifthly, the tariff for supply of electricity to Public EV Charging Stations shall be a single part tariff and shall not exceed the “Average Cost of Supply” till 31st March 2025.

Sixthly, any Public Charging Station may obtain electricity from any generation company through open access. Open Access shall be provided for this purpose within 15 days of receipt of the application complete in all respects.

Lastly, Public Charging Station will be required to tie up with at least one online Network Service Provider (NSPs) to enable advanced remote/online booking of charging slots by EV owners.

New study suggests increase in warming in high altitude Himalayas due to water vapour

Source:  This post is based on the article New study suggests increase in warming in high altitude Himalayas due to water vapourpublished in PIB on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the news?

According to a recent study, Water Vapour radiation over the Himalayas has been mainly responsible for the rise in temperature in the High Altitude Himalayas region.


P​​recipitable Water Vapour (PWV) is one of the most rapidly varying components in the atmosphere and is mainly accumulated in the lower troposphere. 

Due to the large variability in space and time, especially in the Himalayan region, it is difficult to accurately quantify the climatic impact of PWV.

Note: Precipitable water is the amount of water potentially available in the atmosphere for precipitation. It is usually measured in a vertical column that extends from the Earth’s surface to the upper edge of the troposphere.

What did this study find out about the climatic impact of PWV?

P​​recipitable water vapour(PWV) has a positive radiative effect at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) suggesting an increase in overall warming in the High Altitude Himalayas due to it.

Note: Positive radiative forcing means Earth receives more incoming energy from sunlight than it radiates to space. This net gain of energy will cause warming. Conversely, negative radiative forcing means that Earth loses more energy to space than it receives from the sun, which produces cooling.

Judges mustn’t be swayed in favour of death penalty: Supreme Court

Source: This post is based on the article “Judges mustn’t be swayed in favour of death penalty: Supreme Court” published in The Hindu on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the news?

In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court (SC) has commuted the death sentence of a man to life imprisonment. The man was convicted in the rape and murder of a seven-year-old.

This judgement may become a significant precedent to the anti-death penalty cause.

What are the key highlights of the SC’s judgement?

Firstly, the judges should not be swayed in favour of death penalty merely because of the dreadful nature of the crime and its harmful impact on the society. They should equally consider the mitigating factors in favour of life imprisonment.

Secondly, the court referred to the “evolution of the principles of penology” which had grown to accommodate the philosophy of “preservation of human life”.

– The judge said that though capital punishment serves as a deterrent and is sometimes handed out as a “response to the society’s call for appropriate punishment in appropriate cases”.

– But the principles of penology have evolved to balance the other obligations of the society, i.e., of preserving human life unless termination thereof is inevitable and is to serve the other societal causes and collective conscience of society.

Note: Penology is a subcomponent of criminology that deals with the philosophy and practice of various societies in their attempts to repress criminal activities and satisfy public opinion via an appropriate treatment regime for persons convicted of criminal offences.

What is data on Prisoners on Death Row?

A recent report by Project 39A, a research and advocacy group at National Law University, found that the number of prisoners on death row at the end of 2021 was the highest in India since 2004.

As of December 2021, as many as 488 prisoners in India were facing death sentences, an increase of nearly 21% from 2020 figure of 404. 

This was because the number of death sentences imposed by trial courts increased sharply in 2021 while High Courts and the Supreme Court decided on fewer appeals of prisoners sentenced to capital punishment.

Why does the capital gains tax regime need a relook?

Source:  This post is based on the article Why does the capital gains tax regime need a relook?published in Livemint on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the news?

The Revenue Secretary has said that the capital gains tax structure in India is complicated, and it is time for a relook.

What is Capital Gains Tax?

Capital Gains Tax is levied on the profits made on investments.It covers real estate, gold, stocks, mutual funds and various other financial and non-financial assets. 

It is divided into long-term capital gains tax(LTCG) and short-term capital gains tax (STCG) depending on how long you have held the investment in question. 

How is Capital Gains Tax different from Income Tax?

Unlike income tax, the percentage of Capital Gains Tax does not change on the basis of your overall tax slab.For example, the LTCG tax excluding surcharge on equity is the same for gains of ₹10 lakh or ₹10 crore. 

Moreover, there is also a separate set of deductions that apply to LTCG which do not apply to ordinary income.

Why is Capital Gains Tax so complicated?

Capital gains tax is complicated for a few primary reasons. 

First, the rate changes from asset to asset. LTCG tax on stocks and equity mutual funds is 10% but on debt mutual funds is 20% with indexation. 

Second, the holding period changes from asset to asset. The holding period for LTCG tax is two years in real estate, one year for stocks and three years for debt mutual funds and gold. 

Third, exemptions available against it come with their own complex conditions. For instance, buying a house after selling one can get you an exemption, but the new house must be bought in two years or built in three years of the sale.

What can the Govt do to fix these complications?

It can bring about uniformity in rates and holding periods for various assets. This will ensure that the tax for one asset is not more attractive than another. 

A uniform and long holding period to qualify for LTCG can also discourage short-term trading and speculative  behaviour  in  assets  such as  stocks. 

The  exemptions  for  LTCG such as reinvestment in another house property or capital gains bonds can also be made simpler with fewer conditions. 

Small investors can also be given relief by reducing rates of capital gains.

Is cryptocurrency taxed as capital gains?

The 2022 budget has proposed a 30% tax on cryptocurrency, which is higher than capital gains tax in many cases. 

Besides, under capital gains tax, investors can adjust profits and losses on different investments against each other or against profits/losses in the future. However, this cannot be done with cryptocurrency.

2 years on, all railway cadre services merged into one

Source: This post is based on the article “2 years on, all railway cadre services merged into one” published in Times of India on 11th Feb 2022. 

What is the news? 

All Railway services have been merged under one category called the Indian Railways Management Services (IRMS) under Group A central services.  

What is the significance of the move? 

The move will help to fasten decision-making and also bring an end to departmentalism and culture of silos. 

It will also wave the way for recruitment of new officers that has been on hold since the past two years. 

India, Australia set to finalise mini FTA

Source: This post is based on the article India, Australia set to finalise mini FTApublished in Livemint on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the News?

India and Australia will be finalising a mini Free Trade Agreement(FTA) called the Early Harvest Agreement.

Note: An Early Harvest deal is a precursor to an FTA in which the trading partners reduce tariff barriers on limited goods to promote trade.

What will be covered in the Early Harvest Agreement?

The agreement is expected to cover a wide range of sectors including textiles, pharma, health, education, renewables, and gems and jewellery.

However, the remaining issues would get covered in the final FTA agreement.

What do Australia and India want in the FTA?

Australia wants a phased tariff reduction for its wines.

On the other hand, India is seeking greater market access for its textiles, footwear, leather, and pharmaceuticals and easier entry for its professionals.

What is the significance of these negotiations on FTA between India and Australia?

The FTA negotiations between India and Australia come against the backdrop of bilateral trade growing by 120% in April-December 2021.

The growth was in line with the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative launched in 2021 to counter China’s dominance in the supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Moreover, the sharp increase in trade is due to industry awareness and interest in anticipation of a trade pact, especially for Indian textiles, leather, footwear, gems and jewellery.

Explained: What RBI’s status quo means for stock investors and borrowers

Source: This post is based on the article Explained: What RBI’s status quo means for stock investors and borrowerspublished in Indian Express on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the News?

The six-member Monetary Policy Committee(MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has kept key policy rates – Repo rate, Reverse repo rate and the Bank rate – unchanged for the 10th time in a row and retained the accommodative policy stance.

Why has RBI kept the interest rates unchanged?

RBI has said that a status quo on interest rates and an accommodative policy stance – is needed for a durable and broad-based recovery. It took into consideration the outlook for inflation and growth and uncertainties related to Omicron and global spillovers.

What does the status quo mean for the economy?

There were concerns in the market that rising inflation may push the RBI to turn hawkish and even take steps to withdraw liquidity from the economy. But the RBI kept the rates unchanged.

This policy is in line with the government’s push for capital investment this year. It may also support borrowing by corporates.

What does this mean for borrowers and savers?

Borrowers, especially home buyers will benefit as lending rates are unlikely to go up in the near future. On the other hand, Savers and depositors will find their interest income unchanged.

What about equity investors?

For equity investors, the continuing low-interest rate and accommodative stance of the monetary policy mean a further rise in equity valuations for now. 

Moreover, RBI’s focus on growth will likely push up equity markets further. However, challenges will come from global interest rate increases and the outflow of funds from Indian equities.

New artificial Intelligence-based tools can help finding habitable planets

Source: This post is based on the article New artificial Intelligence-based tools can help finding habitable planetspublished in PIB on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the News?

Using Artificial Intelligence, Indian Astronomers have devised a new method to identify potentially habitable planets with a high probability.

What is the method adopted by Indian Astronomers to identify potentially habitable planets?

The method is named as Anomaly Detection Method.

This method is based on the postulate that Earth is an anomaly with the possibility of the existence of a few other anomalies among thousands of data points.

Note: Earth being the only habitable planet among thousands of planets is defined as an anomaly. This method explored whether similar ‘anomaly’ candidates can be found.

What are the key findings using this method?

Based on this method, astronomers have found that there are 60 potentially habitable planets out of about 5000 confirmed and nearly 8000 candidate planets proposed. The assessment is based on their close similarity to Earth. 

These planets can be viewed as candidates for anomalous instances in a huge pool of `non-habitable’ exoplanets.

Police – Training, Modernisation and Reforms Report: 648 police stations lack phone connection: Parliamentary Panel

Source:  This post is based on the article 648 police stations lack phone connection: Parliamentary Panelpublished in The Hindu on 11th Feb 2022.

What is the News?

The Parliamentary Panel on Home Affairs has submitted a report in Rajya Sabha titled  ‘Police – Training, Modernisation and Reforms’.

What are the key findings of the report?

As many as 648 police stations in the country do not have telephones. The largest shortfall was found in the North-East States.

Around 257 police stations did not have vehicles and 143 did not have wireless sets. 

Only 17 states have either enacted the Model Police Act, 2006 or amended their existing Act.

Women account for only 10.3% of police.

What are the suggestions given by the report?

Firstly, the Centre may advise states to immediately equip their police stations with adequate vehicles and communication devices, else it may lead to disincentivization of modernisation grants from the centre.

Secondly, the Centre should also advise states and Union Territories to create a road map for ensuring 33% representation of women in police.

Thirdly, there is stress and pressure on police personnel. Hence, it recommended offline and online modules to help them de-stress through yoga, exercises and counselling.

Fourthly, clusters of police stations in a state should be linked to a particular university or college, as it is important for the police to understand the social, cultural, legal, political, economic and technological changes happening in the society. 

Fifthly, separation of investigation from law and order to maintain accountability and increase police autonomy in probing crimes. 

Lastly, virtual trials should be held, particularly for those involving high-risk groups via video conferencing.

Women execs earn Rs 85 for every Rs 100 earned by men: IIMA study

What is the News?

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) has released a study titled “The Glass Ceiling: Research Report on Leadership Gender Balance in NSE 200 Companies”. This study was conducted to understand the gender balance in top organizations.

What are the key findings of the study?

Gender Pay Gap: Senior women executives earn an average of Rs 85 for every Rs 100 earned by their male counterparts.

The pay gap widened as women advanced in their careers. While the women at an individual contributor level earned 2.2% less than the men, the pay gap inc­reased to minus 3.1% for manager/supervisor, minus 4.9% for director and minus 6.1% for executive.

Women in Top Positions:  The number of women directors has inc­reased from 4.5% in 2014 to around 16% in 2020 due to regulatory requirements.

But the number of Women in Top Management(WTM) (5%) and Women Senior Executives (WSE) (7%) was found to be significantly lower than the percentage of women on the board of directors(16%).

Note: The study defined Women Directors(WD) as those included in the board of directors, Women in Top Management(WTM) as those among the top 10 individuals in a company based on salary drawn and Women Senior Executives (WSE) as those earning more than Rs 1.02 crore per annum including top management.

Source: This post is based on the article Women execs earn Rs 85 for every Rs 100 earned by men: IIMA studypublished in Business Standard on 11th Feb 2022.

Mains Answer Writing

Convergent growth

Source– The post is based on the article “Convergent growth” published in the Business Standard on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy Relevance– Challenges to growth of Indian economy News– The article explains the historical reason for disparity in growth and development performance between Indian states. It also tells about the steps needed to… Continue reading Convergent growth

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Chief of Defence Staff

Source– The post is based on the articles “Evolving Chair” published in The Hindu and the “The Chief task” published in The Indian Express on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS3- Security challenges Relevance– Reformation of armed forces News– The article explains the new vision of the Indian government for transformation of armed focus and bringing… Continue reading Chief of Defence Staff

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Rupee trade settlement offers India structural benefits

Source: The post is based on an article “Rupee trade settlement offers India structural benefits” published in Live Mint on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 Relevance: measures taken by the RBI to tackle falling rupee News: RBI has taken a decision recently to let domestic exim traders facilitate and settle invoicing and payments for international trade in rupees.… Continue reading Rupee trade settlement offers India structural benefits

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How much should India prop up the rupee?

Source: The post is based on an article “How much should India prop up the rupee?” published in The Hindu on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy – Growth and development Relevance: concerns associated with declining rupee and widening CAD. News:  The rupee weakened against the dollar recording a low at Rs 81 per dollar in the… Continue reading How much should India prop up the rupee?

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How dreams of freedom are shattered for working women in small-town India

Source: The post is based on an article “How dreams of freedom are shattered for working women in small-town India” published in The Indian Express on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 Relevance: problems associated with the employment of women News: Urban cities are the hope of social and economic independence for young girls. However, the murder of 19-year-old Ankita Bhandari… Continue reading How dreams of freedom are shattered for working women in small-town India

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After the floods, Bengaluru needs to clean up its act

Source: The post is based on an article “After the floods, Bengaluru needs to clean up its act” published in The Hindu on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 Relevance: concerns associated with corruption and measures to tackle them News:  Bengaluru’s floods have gone but they have left difficulties for the people. Difficulties such as flying of the dust in… Continue reading After the floods, Bengaluru needs to clean up its act

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Keep up pressure: India-US teaming up on Pacific Islands will trouble China. That’s welcome

Source: The post is based on the article “Keep up pressure: India-US teaming up on Pacific Islands will trouble China. That’s welcome” published in The Times of India on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2: India and its neighbourhood- relations. Relevance: About India-China relations. News: The troop disengagement process in eastern Ladakh remains incomplete and China continues to… Continue reading Keep up pressure: India-US teaming up on Pacific Islands will trouble China. That’s welcome

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Saving the world – DART can reduce risks from meteors

Source: The post is based on the article “Saving the world – DART can reduce risks from meteors” published in the Business Standard on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3: Awareness in the fields of Space. Relevance: About DART Mission. News: NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft has collided with the asteroid Dimorphous. What is the DART… Continue reading Saving the world – DART can reduce risks from meteors

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The right corporate culture would end moonlighting

Source: The post is based on the article “The right corporate culture would end moonlighting” published in the Livemint on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3: Indian economy and employment. Relevance: About Moonlighting. News: Wipro has sacked 300 employees it found guilty of working for its competitors. This triggered the ‘moonlighting’ debate. What is moonlighting? Read here: What is moonlighting… Continue reading The right corporate culture would end moonlighting

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A costly decision – Extension of PMGKAY should have been avoided

Source: The post is based on the article “A costly decision – Extension of PMGKAY should have been avoided” published in the Business Standard on 30th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3: Indian economy. Relevance: About extending PMGKAY. News: Recently, the government has extended the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY-Phase VII) for a further period of 3… Continue reading A costly decision – Extension of PMGKAY should have been avoided

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