9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 18th, 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

Appeal to the appeals system

Source: This post is based on the article “Appeal to the appeals system” published in the Times of India on 18th February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the reasons behind the delays in criminal cases.

News:  Recently the Allahabad High Court decided the criminal plea of Raj Kumar, which was filed approximately four decades ago. It acquitted the accused of all criminal charges after such a long time.

Read here: Undertrials comprise 75% of India’s prison population

The Supreme Court has frequently held that the right to speedy justice is a facet of the right to life of an individual, guaranteed by the Constitution. SC also acknowledged the injustice due to the system’s inability to provide timely justice.

How much pendency is there in respective state high courts?

1st Law Commission in 1958, had found that the Allahabad high court had 3,727 pending appeals. Now the pendency increased to 1,56,276 appeals. Similarly, other courts like Madhya Pradesh have 87,617 pending appeals, Punjab & Haryana have 68,956, Rajasthan has 49,264 and Patna has 36,818 pending appeals.

By clubbing all the appeals, more than 2. 5 lakh cases are pending for more than 10 years across all high courts in India.

Read here: Pendency of cases in Supreme Court: The supreme failure

What are the key causes for the delay in dealing with criminal appeals?

Judges: Expertise is required to effectively deal with the criminal appeal. So, while elevating candidates to the higher court bench, collegium should be cautious of prior experience of criminal court judges. Judges of the district court should be given more preference as they are experienced in handling criminal cases.

Currently, there is no such method to appoint high court judges that accounts for their subject matter specialization.

Read here: The role of the Judiciary in pendency problem

Counsel: A study by Vidhi on all cases in the Delhi high court found that in 70% of delayed cases, counsels had sought time more than thrice. Judges should take strict action on such advocates who intentionally use the system to delay the cases

Accused: It has been found on several occasions where the accused persons are completely unaware of the lawyer representing them. Effective legal representation is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Prison authorities should coordinate with legal services authorities to facilitate communication between the lawyers and the accused.

Also, legal services authorities should be questioned on the quality of advocates they admit, their remuneration, and the accountability mechanisms to ensure quality service.

Registry staff: One of the key causes for the delay is the lack of timely availability of lower court records while dealing with criminal appeals. This can be solved through digitization of records and easy transfer of case records across all tiers of the judiciary. Registry staff should be trained to handle such digitization.

Read here: Pendency In Indian Judiciary – Reasons and Solutions

Etching a trade line to bond beyond oil – On India UAE FTA

Source: This post is based on the article “Etching a trade line to bond beyond oil” published in The Hindu on 18th Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2- Bilateral and multilateral agreements

Relevance: Significance of FTA

News: Recently concluded India-UAE free trade agreement will enable two-way investment flows and help achieve ambitious export targets.

How the deal is significant for India?

First, the UAE has emerged as an important economic hub within the context of the Middle East/West Asia. It will help in sustaining the growth and promote manufacturing. The UAE would be an attractive export market for Indian electronics, automobiles, and other engineering products.

Second, it will increase investment flows because the UAE is the ninth biggest investor in India.

Third, both the UAE and India are aggressively pursuing FTAs with several important countries. Hence, companies from these two countries and multinational companies from other geographies too would find the UAE and India as an attractive market. For instance, GCC and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) Agreement.

Fourth, it will help in realizing the ambitious target of U.S.$1 trillion of merchandise exports and U.S.$1 trillion of services exports by the year 2030.

Fifth, it will pave the way for India to enter the UAE’s strategic location and have easy access to the African market also. It can help India to become a part of the global supply chain.

How the deal is significant for the UAE?

The UAE, through its ‘Vision 2021’, has sought to diversify its economy and reduce its dependency on oil. According to WTO, since 2012, growth has been led by the non-hydrocarbon sectors reflecting the successful diversification of the economy.

How the relation between India and the UAE has evolved?

One, India and the UAE established diplomatic relations in 1972. The visit of the Indian Prime Minister to the UAE in 2015 marked the beginning of a new strategic partnership between the two countries.

During the visit of the Crown Prince to India in January 2017 as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations, it was agreed that bilateral relations were to be upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership. This gave momentum to India-UAE comprehensive economic partnership agreement launched in September 2021.

Two, the India-UAE total trade merchandise has been valued at U.S.$52.76 billion for the first nine months of the fiscal year 2021-22, making the UAE India’s third largest trading partner.

What is the challenge?

The major challenge is compliance requirements for Indian exporters. The UAE tariff structure is bound with the GCC and the applied average tariff rate is 5%. Therefore, the scope of addressing Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) becomes very important. The UAE has 451 SPS notifications. The SPS notifications are mainly related to live poultry, meat, and processed food. Also, the UAE has 534 TBT notifications related to fish, food additives, meat, rubber, electrical machinery, etc.

How India has changed its approach towards FTA?

One, India is now focusing more on gaining meaningful market access and facilitating Indian industry’s integration into global value chains.

Two, the new approach of FTA negotiations would respond to the need of new emerging dynamics in international trade and the Indian economy.

Three, the Government of India has prioritized at least six countries or regions. For instance, United Arab Emirates (UAE) figures at the top of the list for an early harvest deal. The early harvest deal is to be enlarged into a comprehensive FTA in due course of time.


India has still to get a good grip on road safety

Source: This post is based on the article “India has still to get a good grip on road safety” published in The Hindu on 18th February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the government policies and commitments on road safety.

News: Government aims to reduce 50% of road accidents by 2025 and to achieve zero deaths due to road accidents by 2030.

Read here: 3rd High Level Global Conference on Road Safety

What is the present condition of road safety in India?

According to Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, number of deaths in road accidents increased from 1,42,485 in 2011 to 1,51,113 in 2019. The data for 2020 does not out yet, but the annual publication of the National Crime Records Bureau, titled Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (2020) shows that 1,33,201 deaths were recorded in 2020. The reduction was seen because of the curbs imposed due to the COVID 19.

Read here: India had most deaths in road accidents in 2019: Report

However, the fatality (that is a number of deaths per 100 accidents), continued to rise from 26.9 in 2001 to 28.63 in 2011 to 37.54 in 2020. Thus, it is evident that despite setting a target of a 50% reduction in accidental deaths, there is still increase in the fatalities from road accidents.

What are the court rulings regarding the road safety?

SC while hearing petition on road safety, ordered to constitute a ‘Committee on Road Safety’ under the chairmanship of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan. Court also issued several directives with regard to road safety like constitution of a State Road Safety Council, establishment of lead agency, the setting up of road safety fund, notification of a road safety action plan, the constitution of a district road safety committee, engineering improvements, etc

What are the lacunae present in system related to road safety?

Manpower: India do not have enough manpower comparing with increasing volume of traffic. The automation of processes is still in its infancy and limited to large cities.

Inadequate funds: There are not enough funds for the rectification of black spots and the undertaking of traffic calming measures. Also, when more than 60% of road accidents are because of over-speeding, ‘speed limit’ signboards are rarely seen or found even on State highways and major roads.

Work benefits: Drivers, conductors, and other staff in transport companies (except for government corporations) do not get benefits of the organised sector. They are paid less, do not get weekly off, and are most often forced to work overtime. Unless their service conditions are improved, their attitude towards road safety cannot be rectified.

No proper implementation of guidelines: In India, there is no focus on improve the driving skills of drivers. Even getting a driver’s license is a very easy process. There is no standard written and rigorous practical test. Many States do not have test-driving tracks. There are no institutes for refresher training if a driving licence of a person is suspended. Though the amended Motor Vehicles Act has certain provisions in this regard, they have yet to come into force.

Although government makes it mandatory to wear safety head gears, these rules are not enforced strictly in all States due to a lack of strong will. Even an amended provision that relates to ‘Offences by Juveniles’ is not enforced strictly.

Read here: The issue of Road Safety in India – Explained pointwise

What steps did government initiate to prevent road accidents?

Central Government has launched a central accident database called Integrated Road Accident Database(IRAD).

Read here: Road Safety: Importance, challenges and solutions

The case for clarity over India’s policy on online betting

Source: This post is based on the article “The case for clarity over India’s policy on online betting” published in the Livemint on 18th February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the controversies surrounding online gambling.

News: Karnataka had imposed a blanket prohibition on all online games. The order was stayed by the Madras High Court judgment. Similarly, some states have imposed a complete ban while others have made restrictive amendments to existing laws governing online gambling.

Read here: Gaming and banning: On ban on online games

What is the present legal framework with respect to online gaming in India?

It falls under the List II of the Seventh Schedule of the constitution. Online gaming policies fall under the legislative jurisdiction of the state. Several states like UP, MP and Delhi have adopted the colonial era Public Gambling Act 1867. While others enacted legislation to regulate gaming and gambling activities within their territories under the gaming law.

Read here: Online gaming and its regulations in India – Explained, pointwise

What are the court judgments on online batting?

Public Prosecutor vs Vraj Lal Sheth: Madras High Court ruled that whereas gaming involves skills, betting involve losing or winning solely depending on the occurrence of an uncertain event.

Shri Varun Gamber Vs Union Territory of Chandigarh: Court ruled that playing significant games like Dream 11 required a significant degree of skill and so not constitute gambling.

Junglee games vs State of Tamil Nadu: High Court ruled that games of skills can be played online for skates and cannot be categorized as betting or gambling.

Read here: Why are High Courts striking down the ban on Online Gaming?

What are the problems associated with online gaming?

World Health Organization, in its International Classification of diseases 2019 data, expressed that online games are behaviorally addictive. Habitual gamers may suffer from various issues like blurred vision, stereotypical mindset, lack of physical exercise, etc. It may also expose them to sexual stereotypes and inappropriate conditioning of males.

Read here: What are the issues associated with online gaming?

What should be the way forward?

India is lacking in the laws governing online games. There is need to adopt appropriate regulatory norms that involve age verification mechanisms, parental control and risk flagging system.

As the world is getting digitized, Law Commission of India advised government to adopt a comprehensive legislative framework which can satisfy the present demands of the society.

Read here: Watch for secretive behaviour, tendency to switch screens: govt advisory on online gaming among children

GS Paper 3


Moving on from India@75 dreams

Source: This post is based on the article “Moving on from India@75 dreams” published in Business Standard on 18th February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 Economic Growth.

Relevance: Understanding Indian economic performance.

News: NITI Aayog had released her ambitious report titled India@75 in 2017. It was a 200 page document which had a total of 1400 stakeholders.

What were the targets of the document?

It aimed to take GDP growth to 8% and to raise the taxes to GDP ratio to 22%. It also aimed to increase the female labor participation rate to 30% and to improve data collection on employment. Furthermore, it aims to double the rate of growth of the manufacturing sector to make in India

What has been the achievement of the targets identified in the report?

GDP growth rate:  dropped from January 2018. For 13 quarters before the pandemic, it reached as low as 3.1% in 2019–20.

Investment rates:  remain static at 30% or below. Center’s tax to GDP ratio fell from 11% in 2019 to about 10% in 2020.

Labor force participation has remained similar at 40%. Whereas, LFPR In China and Vietnam is as high as 70%.

Data collection: A consumer expenditure survey was not released. The unemployment rate is at 6%.

Manufacturing and its share in GDP have fallen from 16% to about 13% today. Jobs in manufacturing have fallen. For example, in automobile production, the production remained 3.4 million passenger vehicles in 2014-15 and is the same in 2019-20. The society of Indian automobile manufacturers commented that the slow-down is long-term, structural, and deep.

Farmers’ income did not double, reserve bank of India’s consumer confidence survey has been trending negative for 5 continuous years.

There is only one positive outcome, that there is a rise in exports after being flat for the last five years.

What did the government do?

The government constituted a committee under former chief statistician Pronab Sen. Agenda of this is to improve the quality of data amid criticism of the government over political interference, but there have been no further developments on this front.

What should be the way forward?

As India approaches 2022, the report needs deep introspection before new targets are set.


After the Budget’s ‘crypto signal’, India awaits reforms

Source: This post is based on the article “After the Budget’s ‘crypto signal’, India awaits reforms” published in The Hindu on 17th Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Money and Banking, Information Technology

Relevance: Regulation of Cryptocurrency

News: With the recent Budget announcement of a flat tax rate of 30% on Crypto assets, the Govt has set the ball rolling in the right direction. Although this is being seen as a move towards legalisation of Cryptocurrency, the Finance Min has made it clear in the Parliament that taxing Crypto assets is not equivalent to Govt legalising them.

As of now, further systemic changes are needed to carefully accelerate India’s progress in the underlying Blockchain technology and to ensure better handling of the demands of Crypto consumers.

What are the potential impacts & concerns of the Govt’s decision to tax Crypto?

Impact:

The flat tax rate is de facto affirmation of the role that cryptocurrency and related technologies could play in India’s financial-cum-economic system in the future.

It could also mean that down the road, the activities of Crypto startups might be legitimised and formally legalised. This would enable them to access the necessary support system, which might not have been available previously.

High tax rate might hamper the willingness of investors to convert cryptocurrencies into the national fiat, but it may also open up more doors for technologically savvy and innovation-minded investors.

The extremely high tax rate and the fact that the losses cannot be offset would motivate investors to look for alternative means of storing and undertaking transactions in cryptocurrencies. An inadvertent upside of this, then, is the prospective conversion and reallocation of crypto-funds from one form to another. For instance: Staking, lending and providing liquidity under DeFi (Decentralised Finance) activities.

This will help in the building up of India’s crypto-financial ecosystem in the long run.

Must Read: What is DeFi?

Concerns

The community of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and lower-end high net-worth individuals is going to find it most difficult to access the DeFi ecosystem given the substantial barriers posed by the tax rates.

What are some other issues with India’s Crypto policy?

When it comes to India’s crypto policy at large, there is a fundamental lack of clarity in aspects other than taxation.

A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) will definitely help in pushing for the adoption of digital currencies, but, equally, defeats the fundamental purpose of cryptocurrency, which is decentralisation.

What is the way forward?

Systemic reforms

Reduction of tax rates in the future, by weighing in considerations concerning government revenue and the need to curb speculative bubbles surfacing in relation to the currency.

Introducing more rigorous regulations where appropriate

Incorporation of insights from seasoned partners from international communities

Engaging these individuals for their insights and advice on the best practices associated with cryptocurrency policymaking.


Fixing farm insurance

Source: This post is based on the article “Fixing farm insurance” published in Business Standard on 18th Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Agricultural Produce, Issues and Related Constraints

Relevance: Significance of crop insurance

News: Recently, Maharashtra has indicated that it might exit PMFBY because the farmers are dissatisfied with it.

What are the issues existing with PMFBY?

First, it is the government’s flagship crop insurance scheme. But there are numerous issues even after modifications. Six states have exited from it, while Punjab, a leading agricultural state, never joined it.

The states Gujarat and Bihar which are run by NDA opted for it but later decided to quit along with states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.

Second, the financial burden of running the PMFBY is difficult to sustain, even though the Centre shares 50 per cent of it. A large part of agricultural budget goes into paying premium subsidies and meeting other administrative expenses.

Third, insurance companies find it unattractive because the risks involved are too high. For instance, risk of natural hazards and attacks by diseases, pests, and stray animals. Hence, claims are generally far higher than the premium collected.

Fourth, the compensation computed by insurers is often disputed. The farmers also do not find it financially rewarding because claims are most often rejected by the insurers, the payment is usually too small and there are long delays.

For instance, in a recent event, Madhya Pradesh’s chief minister held public function to disburse PMFBY claims worth over Rs 7,600 crore. In reality, the payment was actually due for over 16 months.

Fifth, Farm insurance is always associated with problems since first introduced in 1972 and the PMFBY is no exception. In 2020, it was made voluntary for the farmers, but the major issues are trust deficit and the credibility of insurance as a means of hedging production risks.

Sixth, other issues are lack of transparency, the time lag in undertaking crop-cutting experiments to assess crop damage, the inadequacy of site-specific past data on crop yields to serve as a benchmark for computing losses, delays in paying states’ share of premium subsidy to the insurance companies and procedural complications.

That is why the area covered under the PMFBY has not exceeded 30 per cent of the total cropland, against the government’s target of extending it to a 50 per cent area.

What is the way forward?

First, the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture probed the PMFBY and highlighted many issues in its report presented last year. Hence, the government should pay attention to those specific issues.

Second, the government has also set up a working group to revisit this scheme. There is a need to recast the scheme to ensure adequate compensation for the losses and timely payment to the farmers.


A Planetary adjustment

Source: This post is based on the article “A Planetary adjustment” published in The Hindu on 18th Feb 2022   

Syllabus: GS3- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation. 

Relevance: Climate justice, Environment versus development  

News: Over the years it has widely proposed and accepted proposition that humanity is in the Anthropocene era and are acting like a geological force that is shaping the planet’s destiny. 

However, this gives the distorted sense that it is the ‘planet’ that needs protection rather than the people. 

Why we need to save people and not planet? 

Climate change leads to earth rearranging itself, it does so in a manner that can be destructive and lethal to those least responsible for causing the disequilibrium. 

For example: Recently, Uttarakhand saw an avalanche of rock and ice destroy two hydropower projects and cause deaths.  

This is despite the fact that the geology of the Himalayas makes the region inhospitable to large mega-engineering projects and the several floods, landslides, and earthquakes over the years have underlined this time and again.  

What have been the causes behind these major changes in the climate of the earth? 

Atmospheric changes visible now are a result of the Industrial Age and the use of fossil fuels.

Although in both these eras it was the poor who have suffered the most. They are the ones with the least agency to shield themselves from these hostile changes. 

Why India’s stand on climate justice and its actions are paradoxical to each other? 

India’s position on climate justice is that it cannot be denied the right to rely on fossil fuel to enhance the living conditions of most Indians who have limited access to reliable energy.  

India’s commitment to net-zero is also very far into the future at 2070.  

We should be very cautious that our policies do not put the lives of millions people at risk in the pursuit of economic development. 


Stop the advance of killer robots

Source: This post is based on the article “Stop the advance of killer robots” published in Live Mint on 18th Feb 2022   

Syllabus: GS3- Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life. 

Relevance: Artificial intelligence, Lethal autonomous weapons.  

News: Thomas Edison once said that – Someday there can be a machine or force with so much potential that can cause destruction at such a scale that can persuade a man to abandon war forever.

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence-powered weapons point out that they can be this technology.  

What are Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs)? 

LAWs are AI-powered weapons. There have been reports that China has deployed machine-gun-wielding autonomous robots near the Indian border, as Himalayan heights were too cold for human soldiers to patrol 24×7. 

Houthi rebels used an autonomous armed drone to attack a Saudi Arabian target  

Why LAWs pose an existential risk to humankind? 

Experts point out that AI-powered quadcopters (commonly used drones) with explosive warheads are a possibility. Also, they could be used to attack cities and as weapons of mass destruction.  

They could be algorithmically directed to choose a certain race, gender, or particular face as their target and mount selective attacks on them.  

These technologies which are capable of doing this already exist, but had not been put together.  

Although these weapons are considered to be precise still there have been civilian causalities that occur with every ‘targeted’ drone or missile strike in Afghanistan or Iraq. 

If non-state actors and terrorist groups get hold of them, it can be catastrophic. 

What have been global regulations on LAWs? 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the most powerful technology created by humankind and like every technology, it has great benefits but also a dark side. 

Therefore, there has been a demand to persuade world powers to impose an international legally-binding prohibition on autonomous AI-powered weapons. 

A potentially catastrophic nuclear threat has so far been averted by global regulation. Global regulations have so far been successful in regulating dangerous explosives, bio, and chemical weapons, etc. 

However, there has been no big positive development as many World power fear that other countries would take a lead over them if they dropped development work on LAWs. 


On India’s first National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC): Coast to Coast

Source: This post is based on the article “Coast to Coast” published in Times of India on 18th Feb 2022   

Syllabus: GS3 – Internal Security, Security challenges

Relevance: NMSC, Chinese threats, Nonstate actors, trade by sea 

News: Government has given approval for the appointment of the Country’s first National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC). The responsibility of the NMSC will be to ensure effective coordination among multiple agencies dealing with threats from the high seas. 

When was the idea for the post of NMSC proposed? 

The establishment of a post of NMSC under the National security advisor was proposed after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. 

Back then the defense ministry had proposed the creation of a maritime security advisory board and the appointment of a maritime security adviser.  

What is the significance of NMSC’s appointment? 

The appointment comes at a critical point in India’s strategic security environment –

India has a 7,516-km coastline and 2 million sq km of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a single-point coordinator like the NMSC for all aspects of maritime security was much needed.  

It also faces a threat from the China-Pakistan axis, for this India not only needs to guard itself against sea-borne non-state actors but also keep an eye on Chinese threats emanating from the Indian Ocean Region. China today has the largest navy and a maritime militia force to carry out grey-zone tactics against adversaries.  

Global axis of power is shifting from the West to the East so the sea lanes around India are going to get busier. Countries have different interpretations of UNCLOS which may create situations like last year’s American freedom of navigation operation in India’s EEZ. 

Also, 90% of India’s trade by volume transits through the seas.  

Hence, there is a need for enhanced maritime domain awareness to protect both security and economic interests. The NMSC will help lay the blueprint for a truly modern maritime security system. 


Fading SEZ appeal

Source: This post is based on the article “Fading SEZ appeal” published in Business Standard on 18th Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Changes in Industrial Policy

Relevance: SEZ in India

News: Recently the government has started working on replacing the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act, 2005, with a new law.

Why such change?

The finance minister has indicated that the updated legislation would enable states to become “partners in the development of enterprise and service hubs”. It may also allow SEZ units to sell in domestic tariff areas and accept rupee payments. However, it dilutes the concept.

How SEZs have performed in India?

One, India was among the first Asian countries to experiment with this concept in the 1960s. Many export-processing zones and export-oriented units were created. However, it did not yield the expected boost in exports.

Two, China’s economic success built on its free trade zones motivated the United Progressive Alliance government to follow same path. SEZ developers and firms were given various tax exemptions such as Exim duties, excise, and a 15-year tax holiday on profits.

But these substantial benefits did not transform SEZs into engines of economic growth. The commerce ministry data shows that exports from SEZs have rarely crossed 20 per cent in the past five years.

What is the reason for under-performance of SEZ?

First, unlike China, the SEZ policy’s reliance on the private sector created several problems. Tax breaks for township development made SEZs a huge real estate play.

Second, huge SEZs were created in China under state support, which allowed for massive economies of scale. But the Indian law allowed for seven types of zones, such as for multi-product or a single sector.

Also, the most SEZs were small between 100 and 200 hectares and many as little as 10 hectares. These SEZs did not contribute to price competitiveness.

Third, 70 per cent of the SEZs were in the IT and ITeS sectors, which were already having enough competition and did not require extra benefits. Also, the share of job-creation in manufacturing has been consistently low due to poor transport and other linkages.

Fourth, there were serious flaws in land acquisition practices. Proposals for big single-product zones over 1,000 hectares were opposed by people. For example, farmers are mostly unwilling to sacrifice settled livelihoods for uncertain and sub-par compensation.

Also, protests affected both private-sector’s attempts to acquire land and state governments’ efforts to acquire it on their behalf.

Fifth, policy instability and gradual withdrawal of tax breaks reduced the attractiveness of SEZs. For instance, 101 applied for denotification between 2008 and 2020.

What is the way forward?

There is need to learn lessons from past failures. Creating investment hubs can work only if the whole country is geared to that end.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Drone mapping: One in six villages covered in India, shows data

What is the news?

The government has announced the SVAMITVA Scheme in 2020 to map land data, create maps and digitize land parcels across the country’s 660,000 villages. The government’s target is to complete the process by 2025. However, the progress on the scheme has been very slow.

What is the progress of the SWAMITVA Scheme?

One in six villages in the country had been mapped using drones. 

One in nine villages had a complete map prepared and was submitted to the state and only one in 25 had property cards ready.

Only a few states account for most progress under the scheme. For instance:

– Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra account for nearly 80% of the villages where drone surveys have been conducted.

– On the other hand, Telangana, West Bengal and Bihar are among the ones that are yet to start the process of drone mapping.

Source: This post is based on the article “Drone mapping: One in six villages covered in India, shows data” published in Business Standard on 18th Feb 2022


Unraveling tectonic evolution of Greater Maldive Ridge in western Indian Ocean can reconstruct Gondwanaland break up & dispersal

What is the news?

Researchers have traced the tectonic evolution of the Greater Maldive Ridge(GMR).

What is Greater Maldive Ridge (GMR)?

Greater Maldive Ridge (GMR) is located in the western Indian Ocean, southwest of India.

The ridge is aseismic which means that it is not associated with earthquake activities. 

The ridge largely remains uninvestigated but is of paramount importance to gain knowledge on the structure and geodynamics of aseismic ridges

What did the scientists find out about Greater Maldive Ridge (GMR)?

Maldive Ridge and Deep Sea Channel (DSC) region may probably be oceanic in nature with the presence of underplated materials associated with the Reunion hotspot volcanism

Maldive Ridge might have formed in the close vicinity of the Mid-Oceanic Ridge (where creation of a new ocean floor occurs due to divergent motion of lithospheric plates or spreading center). 

On the other hand, the DSC region was under a long transform fault (offset between the spreading centers, which neither create nor destroy lithosphere), which hindered melt production and gave rise to the gap between Chagos and Maldive Ridge.

What is the significance of this study?

The study can help reconstruct the original Gondwanaland break up and dispersal that led to the present-day configuration of continents, continental fragments, and formation of ocean basins in the Indian Ocean.

Source: This post is based on the article Unraveling tectonic evolution of Greater Maldive Ridge in western Indian Ocean can reconstruct Gondwanaland break up & dispersal published in PIB on 17th Feb 2022. 


Explained: Accrediting colleges, varsities

What is the news?

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body under the UGC has released new guidelines allowing colleges and universities that completed just one academic year to apply for provisional accreditation.

Earlier, only those higher education institutions with two batches of graduated students or which had completed six years of existence were eligible to apply for NAAC’s assessment and accreditation.

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is a quality check exercise.

NAAC conducts accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) such as colleges, universities, or other recognized institutions to derive an understanding of the ‘Quality Status’ of the institution.

The accreditation is done based on parameters such as curriculum, faculty, infrastructure, research, and financial well-being among others. 

Based on these parameters, the NAAC gives institutions grades ranging from A++ to C. If an institution is graded D, it means it is not accredited.

What are the benefits of accreditation?

a) helps institutions attract capital b) helps an institution know its strengths and weaknesses and c) helps students going for higher education abroad as many global higher education authorities insist on recognition and accreditation of the institution where the student has studied. 

How many universities and colleges have been NAAC accredited?

There are only 392 universities and 8,483 colleges that were NAAC-accredited. This is because fear of obtaining a poor grading or no accreditation at all holds back higher education institutes from voluntarily applying for evaluation.

To address this issue, UGC launched the Paramarsh scheme in 2019. Under the scheme, some of the best-performing institutes were identified to serve as mentors to at least five institutes aspiring to get accredited.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Accrediting colleges, varsitiespublished in Indian Express on 18th Feb 2022. 


Government approves implementation of Inter-Operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) project during the period 2022-23 to 2025-26

What is the news?

The government has approved the implementation of the Inter-Operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) project during the period 2022-23 to 2025-26.

What is the Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) Project?

Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Home Affairs

Type: Central Sector Scheme

Purpose: It is a national platform for enabling integration of the main IT system used for the delivery of Criminal Justice in the country.

Five Pillars of the Project: 1) Police (Crime and Criminal Tracking and Network Systems), 2) e-Forensics for Forensic Labs 3) e-Courts for Courts 4) e-Prosecution for Public Prosecutors and, 5) e-Prisons for Prisons. 

Implementing Agency: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be responsible for the implementation of the project in association with the National Informatics Center (NIC). 

Phases of the Project

Under Phase-I of the project, individual IT systems have been implemented and stabilized, and also search of records have been enabled on these systems.

Under Phase-II, the system is being built on the principle of ‘one data one entry’ whereby data is entered only once in one pillar and the same is then available in all other pillars without the need to re-enter the data in each pillar.

Source: This post is based on the article Government approves implementation of Inter-Operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) project during the period 2022-23 to 2025-26 published in PIB on 18th Feb 2022


Tamil Nadu says no to Indian Neutrino Observatory project in Theni

What is the news?

The Tamil Nadu government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that it would not permit the construction of the proposed Indian Neutrino Observatory at Bodi West Hills in Theni district.

What is India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO)?

The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) is a proposed Pure-Science underground laboratory. Its primary goal is to study the properties and interactions of neutrinos.

The observatory is jointly supported by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science & Technology (DST) with DAE acting as the nodal agency. 

The proposed site of the observatory is in Bodi West Hills, in Theni district. The site is spread across Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Why is the observatory being opposed by the Tamil Nadu Government?

Firstly, the observatory, if constructed, will affect the flora and fauna of the Periyar Tiger Reserve and Mathikettan Shola National Park in the Western Ghats.

Secondly, the tunneling works for the proposed project involve blasting hard and composite rock in the Western Ghats. This would impact the conservation efforts in the Western Ghats.

Thirdly, the proposed site harbors many endemic species of flowering plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and invertebrates other than large numbers of elephants and tigers. 

Fourthly, the project area links the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala with Srivilliputhur Meghamalai Tiger Reserve. Quarrying and construction activities will upset wild animals which use the corridor for seasonal migrations.

Source: This post is based on the article Tamil Nadu says no to Indian Neutrino Observatory project in Thenipublished in Indian Express on 18th Feb 2022. 


Supreme Court sets aside HC order staying 75% quota for Haryana locals in private jobs

What is the news?

The Supreme Court has set aside the Haryana High Court order staying the Haryana government’s law reserving 75% of private-sector jobs for residents of the state.

What is the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020?

Click Here to read about it 

What were the arguments against this law?

Firstly, reservation in the private sector has no basis in the Constitution. The law impacts not only employment but the very existence of livelihood.

Secondly, as per settled precedents, there has to be some empirical study showing backwardness of a particular class before providing them reservation. Such a study is totally absent in this case.

Thirdly, if this law is allowed, there would be a far-reaching impact not only in Haryana but across India as it would not stop other States from enacting similar laws which exclude jobs to residents of other States.

What has the Supreme Court said on the Haryana Local Reservation law?

The Supreme Court said that every law passed by the legislature is presumed to be legal. But an order of stay of their implementation by a court of law should be reasoned.

However, the Haryana High Court stayed the law without giving any sufficient reasons. Hence, that’s why the stay has been set aside.

Further, the court ordered the Haryana government to not take any coercive steps against employers for violating the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act.

The Court also requested the Punjab and Haryana High Court to decide this case within four weeks.

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

–  “Supreme Court sets aside HC order staying 75% quota for Haryana locals in private jobs” published in Indian Express on 18th Feb 2022. 

– “Supreme Court lifts stay on Haryana quota for private jobs” published in The Hindu on 18th Feb 2022


Vizag to come under security blanket for Fleet Review

What is the news?

Visakhapatnam will come under a heavy security cover as two major events of the Indian Navy- the Presidential Fleet Review (PFR) and Milan-2022 will be held at this place.

What is the President’s Fleet Review?

President’s Fleet Review is a long-standing tradition followed by navies all across the world.

It is an assembly of ships at a pre-designated place for the purpose of displaying loyalty and allegiance to the sovereign and the state.

A fleet review is usually conducted once during the tenure of the President.

The earliest recorded Indian Fleet Review was in the 18th Century by the powerful Maratha fleet consisting of ‘Ghurabs’ and ‘Gallivats’, under the renowned Sarkhel (Grand Admiral) Kanhoji Angre at the coastal fortress of Ratnagiri.

Till now, 11 Presidential Fleet Reviews have been conducted since Independence, of which two have been International Fleet Reviews in 2001 and 2016.

Moreover, in ​​terms of significance, the Navy’s Presidential review is considered second only to the Republic Day Parade.

How will be the Presidential Fleet Review (PFR) 2022?

The theme for PFR 2022 is ‘Indian Navy – 75 years in Service of the Nation’.

At this PFR, more than 60 ships and submarines and 50 aircraft will participate in the review. 

Vessels of the Coast Guard, the Shipping Corporation of India, and the National Institute of Ocean Technology, submarines will also participate in the review.

Source: This post is based on the article “Vizag to come under security blanket for Fleet Review” published in The Hindu on 18th Feb 2022


India’s first water taxi service inaugurated in Maharashtra

What is the news?

India’s First Water Taxi Service was inaugurated in Maharashtra.

What is the purpose of Water Taxi Service in Maharashtra?

The Water Taxi Service will connect the Navi Mumbai area to Mainland Mumbai.

It will operate on three routes:  Belapur to Ferry Wharf – the domestic cruise terminal, Belapur to Elephanta Caves and Belapur to Jawaharlal Nehru Port(JNPT).

This project has been developed under the Sagarmala Project and the expenditure cost has been shared by both Center and State.

Note: In 1853, India’s first passenger train ran between Bori Bunder (Bombay) and Thane, a distance of 34 km. 

Source: This post is based on the article India’s first water taxi service inaugurated in Maharashtra published in The Hindu on 18th Feb 2022


Conviction rate in human trafficking cases declining

What is the news?

According to Government data, the conviction rate in cases of human trafficking has been on the decline.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking also called trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery involving the illegal transport of individuals by force or deception for the purpose of labour, sexual exploitation, or activities in which others benefit financially.

What is the conviction rate in cases of Human Trafficking?

The conviction rate in Human Trafficking cases has been declining over the past four years. It has dropped from 27.8% in 2016 to 10.6% in 2020.

As ​​many as seven states — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab — did not see a single conviction in such cases

There is also a delay in awarding compensation to the victims by the district authorities despite orders from the Courts.

But the number of anti-human-trafficking units (AHTU) in the country has increased to 696.

Note: Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) is being established by the Ministry of Home Affairs in districts. Its primary role is law enforcement and liaising with other concerned agencies for care & rehabilitation of victims.

What are the reasons for the decline in conviction rate in cases of Human Trafficking?

Firstly, inadequate support for victims is the primary reason for this as more and more of them are turning hostile which is leading to a high number of acquittals in such cases.

Secondly, there is an absence of a strong and robust mechanism to investigate human trafficking cases that often span across State borders.

Source: This post is based on the article Conviction rate in human trafficking cases decliningpublished in The Hindu on 18th Feb 2022.


Ministry of Power notifies Green Hydrogen/ Green Ammonia Policy

What is the news?
The Ministry of Power has notified the Country’s first Green Hydrogen/ Green Ammonia Policy.
What is Green Hydrogen\Green Ammonia?

Green hydrogen is generated by breaking down water in an electrolyzer. The hydrogen produced can be combined with nitrogen to make ammonia, avoiding hydrocarbons in the production process. 

Green ammonia is used to store energy and in fertilizer manufacturing.India has set a target to produce 5 million tonnes (mt) of green hydrogen by 2030.

What is the aim of Green Hydrogen/ Green Ammonia Policy?

Aim: To reduce fossil fuel usage and increase penetration of Green Hydrogen/ Green Ammonia.

The policy follows the Prime Minister’s announcement about a National Hydrogen Mission.

What are the key features of the Green Hydrogen/ Green Ammonia Policy? 

The policy provides several incentives for manufacturers, consumers of green hydrogen and green ammonia. These include: 

Manufacturing zones to be set up for green hydrogen/ammonia 

– Demand for green hydrogen from key sectors such as fertilizers, steel and refineries would be aggregated and offered as a mega tender by MNRE.

– Inter-state transmission charges waived for 25 years 

Open access granted to source renewable energy from anywhere in the country

manufacturers of Green Hydrogen / Ammonia and the renewable energy plant shall be given connectivity to the grid on a priority basis.

– The benefit of Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) will be granted to the hydrogen/ammonia manufacturer 

Bunkers to be set up near ports for storage of green ammonia for export, use by the shipping industry

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

– “Ministry of Power notifies Green Hydrogen/ Green Ammonia Policy” published in PIB on 18th Feb 2022.

– “Govt unveils hydrogen policy as India takes aim at fossil fuel” published in Livemint on 18th Feb 2022.

– “First Green Hydrogen Policy offers sops to makers and users both” published in Business Standard on 18th Feb 2022.

Mains Answer Writing

A push for semiconductor industry

Source– The post is based on the article “A push for semiconductor industry” published in The Hindu on 27th September 2022. Syllabus: GS3- Indian economy Relevance– semiconductor manufacturing News– The article explains the size of the semiconductor industry. It also talks about the Indian government scheme to promote semiconductor manufacturing in India and the challenges… Continue reading A push for semiconductor industry

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NASA’s risk focus adds up and so does the US Fed’s

Source: The post is based on an article “Nasa’s risk focus adds up and so does the US Fed’s” published in The Live Mint on 27th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 – Science and technology development Relevance: problems associated with space weaponization. News: NASA is estimated to have invested above $320 million in Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test). It is… Continue reading NASA’s risk focus adds up and so does the US Fed’s

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Why PLI Is Worth Doing

Source: The post is based on an article “Why PLI Is Worth Doing” published in The Times of India on 27th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 – Industries and industrial policies Relevance: advantages and problems associated with Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme. News: Vedanta Foxconn semiconductor factory in Gujarat has received an investment of $20 billion through the government’s flagship… Continue reading Why PLI Is Worth Doing

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Pitching India as a signature destination

Source: The post is based on an article “Pitching India as a signature destination” published in The Hindu on 27th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 – Industries and industrial policies Relevance: tourism sector in India and problems associated with it. News:  World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27th September 2022 but tourism sector has been severely impacted by the pandemic… Continue reading Pitching India as a signature destination

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Death penalty: Deciding the rarest of the rare

Source– The post is based on the article “Death penalty: Deciding the rarest of the rare” published in The Indian Express on 27th September 2022. Syllabus: GS2- Fundamental rights provided by Indian constitution News– The article explains the current framework for providing capital punishment. It also explains the weakness of this framework. Recently Supreme Court… Continue reading Death penalty: Deciding the rarest of the rare

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Samarkand: a miniature of an emerging world

Source– The post is based on the article “Samarkand: a miniature of an emerging world ” published in The Hindu on 27th September 2022. Syllabus: GS2- International Relations Relevance– About Emerging world order News– The article explains the current global situation. It also tells about the new developments at the SCO summit in Samarkand and… Continue reading Samarkand: a miniature of an emerging world

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Could constitutional monarchy crack a democratic conundrum?

Source– The post is based on the article “Could constitutional monarchy crack a democratic conundrum?” published in the mint on 27th September 2022. Syllabus: GS2- Indian Polity Relevance– Threats to democracy News– The article explains the relevance of constitutional monarchy in context of emergence of demagogues across democracies in the world. It also explains the… Continue reading Could constitutional monarchy crack a democratic conundrum?

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Sittanavasal, a Jain heritage site in Tamil Nadu, battles the elements

Source: The post is based on the article “Sittanavasal, a Jain heritage site in Tamil Nadu, battles the elements” published in The Hindu on 25th September 2022. What is the News? At least three-fourths of the art in Sittanavasal is either damaged or vandalised. This is due to unrestricted public access and general exposure to the elements. About… Continue reading Sittanavasal, a Jain heritage site in Tamil Nadu, battles the elements

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Broad-billed sandpiper spotted for the first time at Nanjarayan tank bird sanctuary

Source: The post is based on the article “Broad-billed sandpiper spotted for the first time at Nanjarayan tank bird sanctuary” published in The Hindu on 25th September 2022. What is the News? Broad-billed sandpiper (Calidris falcinellus) has been spotted for the first time at Nanjarayan tank bird sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. What is a Broad-billed… Continue reading Broad-billed sandpiper spotted for the first time at Nanjarayan tank bird sanctuary

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1,464 books, 74 years and counting: How the world’s largest Encyclopaedic Sanskrit Dictionary is taking shape

Source: The post is based on the article “1,464 books, 74 years and counting: How the world’s largest Encyclopaedic Sanskrit Dictionary is taking shape” published in Indian Express on 26th September 2022 What is the News? Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute in Pune, Maharashtra is hosting an Open Day for the general public to… Continue reading 1,464 books, 74 years and counting: How the world’s largest Encyclopaedic Sanskrit Dictionary is taking shape

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