9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 21st, 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.
    • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
    • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

The significance of EU-India partnership in the Indo-Pacific

Source: This post s based on the article “The significance of EU-India partnership in the Indo-Pacific” published in the Indian Express on 21st February 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests.

Relevance: Understanding the significance of the EU-India partnership in the Indo Pacific.

News: Ministerial Forum is going to be held in Paris under France’s ongoing presidency of the EU. Foreign affairs ministers from EU member states and 30 Indo-Pacific countries, including India are going to join it.

What are the focus area of the meeting?

Security and defence : Indo – Pacific and related issues

Connectivity and infrastructure: EU’s Global Gateway initiative aims to address this by pooling the resources of the EU’s institutions and its 27 member states to raise 300 billion euros to build sustainable links

Strengthening relations: Forum will focus on strengthening connections between Europe and the Indo-Pacific, especially in the air and digital domains. The EU and India have already concluded a Connectivity Partnership to enhance the connectivity.

Collective Action: Forum will focus on tackling the global challenges like climate change, biodiversity protection and health resilience. It will provide support to the countries in terms of green finance, to achieve their ecological transitions in a just manner.

Health: Forum is going to discuss steps to strengthen health sovereignty and promote the “One Health” approach to the pandemic response. France will propose the creation of an Indo-Pacific health campus, to be established in India, to bring together India’s pharmaceutical prowess and Europe’s technological capacity for the benefit of the region.

Read here: EU, India and the Indo Pacific

What is Europe’s strategy for cooperation in Indo Pacific?

Read here: EU unveils Indo-Pacific strategy

What are the areas of cooperation between India and France?

– India joined the France-initiated international High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People to protect 30 per cent of the land and seas by 2030.

– Both countries are collaborated in protected areas and national parks.

Read here: India, France agree to expand partnership in defence, security

Tapping technology for multilingual learning

Source: This post s based on the article “Tapping technology for multilingual learning” published in The Hindu on 21st February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the need for multilingual learning.

News: Mother tongue represents an individual or a community’s cultural identity. Thousands of different languages are spoken in India, making India’s cultural diversity unique in the world. But this uniqueness is vanishing in present times.

What is the reason behind declaration of International Mother Language Day?

Languages are the key bridges that ensure cultural and civilizational continuity, Globalisation and Westernisation have impacted the growth and survival of many of these languages. According to the UN agency, at least 43% of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. To preserve the decline of many languages, UNESCO demarcated February 21 as International Mother Language Day in 1999.

How International Mother Language Day 2022 theme is of great significance?

The theme of 2022 is “Using Technology for Multilingual Learning: Challenges and Opportunities”. The central idea of the theme is to discuss the role of technology to support and enrich the teaching-learning experience on a multi-lingual level. It also aims at achieving a qualitative, equitable, and inclusive educational experience. Director-General of UNESCO also highlights the importance of technology as it can provide new tools for protecting linguistic diversity.

Importance of technology also came to light during the pandemic times when the education system switched its mode from physical to online.

Why multi-lingual approach is required in Indian classrooms?

The use of mother tongue in teaching is bound to create a positive impact on learning outcomes, and the development of the cognitive faculties of students. There is an urgent need to create and improve scientific and technical terminology in Indian languages. It would help transform the educational experience by making existing knowledge systems accessible to learners.

Renowned physicist, Sir C.V. Raman, also observed the need for teaching in our mother tongue. He observed that India has been able to create a large English-based education system in fields like medicine and engineering but excludes a vast majority of learners from accessing higher education.

In the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) survey 2020 which involves over 83,000 students, nearly 44% of students voted in favor of studying engineering in their mother tongue, highlighting a critical need in technical education. So, National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, is a step in this direction

Read here:  Mother tongue must be the medium of instruction to preserve India’s cultural diversity, heritage

What steps did the government introduce in promoting regional languages? 

– AICTE and IIT Madras collaborated in translating some courses on the central government’s e-learning platform SWAYAM into eight regional languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam, and Gujarati.

– AICTE also permitted B. Tech programmes in 11 native languages, in tune with the NEP.

What is the way forward?

India is home to 19,500 languages or dialects, of which 121 languages are spoken by 10,000 or more people in our country. Indians should collectively take the responsibility to revive and revitalize the 196 Indian languages which fall under the “endangered” category.

Government should also learn from EU countries and Asian powers and adopt policies to promote education in mother tongue and local languages.


No slacking: On action plans against antimicrobial resistance

Source: This post s based on the article “No slacking: On action plans against antimicrobial resistance ” published in The Hindu on 21st February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the reasons behind increase in AMR related deaths.

News: Lancet recently released its report on the Global Burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Also read: Living in a world of emerging antimicrobial resistance

What are the findings of the Lancet report?

Report states AMR deaths to be around 4.95 million in 2019. It identifies the main reason behind this resistance is pathogens and the pathogen–drug combinations

Bacterial AMR occurs when the drugs used to treat infections become less effective, as a result of the pathogens becoming resistant to the drugs. This is because of indiscriminate use of antibiotics, availability of antibiotics over the counter, poor hygiene and sanitation, use in livestock and agriculture, lack of vaccines and newer antibiotics, and poor infection control practices in hospitals.

Read here: AMR and health crisis

What steps did the government introduce to stop AMR-related deaths?

2008 strain of NDM1 enzyme and its backtracking to India served as an alarm bell.
India released its AMR action plan in 2017 and also announced a task force implementation. By 2019, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh had ruled out state action plans. In 2019 India banned the use of Colistin in poultry etc.

Read here: Controlling AMR

What are the problems in controlling AMR-related deaths?
-11 other states are yet to frame their action plants.

– The Chennai declaration, a consortium of doctors against AMR, was formed in 2012 but is yet to take concrete action.

– Scientific publications showed poor hygiene, lax administrative governance, and poor ratio of public-private expenditure as one of the root causes.

Read here: AMR and associated challenges

What is the way forward?

Government should work to raise the standard of living to provide them accessible and affordable quality health care, besides regulating the sale and use of antibiotics.


UAE treaty could give a fillip to Indian exports to the Gulf and Africa, benefit pharma and MSME sector

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

UAE treaty could give a fillip to Indian exports to the Gulf and Africa, benefit pharma and MSME sector” published in the Indian express on 21st February, 2022.

A good start” published in the Business Standard on 21st February, 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests.

Relevance: Understanding India-UAE trade treaty.

News: After its exit from RCEP, India and Mauritius signed a Comprehensive Economic Co-operation and Partnership Agreement. Interim trade agreements with the UK, Canada and Australia are in the pipeline. India recently announced trade deal with UAE also.

Read here: India, UAE sign comprehensive trade pact

What are the key outcomes of the India-UAE trade treaty?

The Free Trade agreement is expected to revive export-oriented industries in India, especially in the MSME sector because of a zero-tariff welcome by the UAE. The jewellery sector is also expected to receive a uplift with a concessional import duty. The agreement also speaks about speeding up work on a special investment zone for UAE companies and joint ventures, and a dedicated India Mart in the Jebel Ali free zone.

India and UAE are also now part of an economic relations, informally named “Middle East Quad”, in which the United States and Israel area also members.

Read here: India-UAE Bilateral Relationship – Explained, pointwise

GS Paper 3


The budget spells green-shoot for agri subsectors

Source: This post is based on the article “The budget spells green- shoot for agri subsectors” published in The Hindu on 21st Feb 2022.  

Syllabus: GS3- Government Budgeting. 

Relevance: Indian agriculture, government schemes, livestock and fisheries. 

News: Although the recently introduced Union Budget has had no big ticket announcements on agriculture and rural development, it tries to focus on sub-sectors that matter such as livestock, fisheries and food processing. 

Which sub-sectors in agriculture have seen an increase in allocation in the budget? 

Livestock and fisheries: These two subsectors roughly contribute about 33% of the gross value added in agriculture, and more than 15% of farmer’s income is derived from livestock subsector. Allocation for livestock health and disease control, National Livestock Mission ,Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana has increased. 

Value addition in agriculture: Allocation for the Production-linked incentive scheme for food processing has increased, which will help in value addition in agriculture. 

Allocation for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, or RKVY has been increased which is in line with this year’s budget’s emphasis on capital expenditure. 

Agri-infrastructure: Allocation for the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) and Formation and Promotion of Farmer Produce Organisations (FPOs) scheme has been increased. 

Technology: Apart from the increased allocations in above sub-sectors, Budget envisages to promote kisan drones and encourage start-ups to improve value chains of farm produce. The adoption of modern technology in agriculture should not only help the rural economy, but could also possibly encourage the younger generation to consider agriculture as a career option. 

Which sub-sectors have seen a decrease in allocation in the budget? 

Output price support: Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA), has received an allocation of just ₹1 crore. 

The allocation for the Price support programme of pulses and oilseeds (the Market Intervention Scheme and Price Support Scheme, or MIS-PSS) and Price stabilisation fund has declined. 

Subsidies: The budgeted estimate of fertilizer subsidy and food subsidy have shown a decline. 

Although most major rural development programmes such as the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (connectivity to unconnected habitations), the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (housing for all in urban areas) have received small increases in allocations but Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is an exception here. This flagship rural employment programme, which has been instrumental in reducing distress in the rural economy during the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, has received lower allocation. 


After the Harvest

Source: This post is based on the article “After the Harvest” published in Indian express on 21st Feb 2022 

Syllabus: GS3 – Major Crops and Cropping patterns in various parts of the country.

Relevance: Indian agriculture, major crops, farmer’s income. 

News: According to Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare’s Second Advance Estimates of Production of Foodgrains for 2021-22, India’s agriculture sector is all set to create an all-time high production record this year.  

What has been the Agriculture production trajectory in the last decade? 

Food grains production has gone up from 252 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 316 million tonnes now and has risen every single year.

Contrast this with the performance in the six years preceding 2016-17 — production fluctuated between 244 and 265 million tonnes. 

What are the crops that’ve seen an inc in production and those that’ve seen a decline? 

Coarse grains such as jowar, bajra and ragi are expected to see a decline in output while maize, rice, Wheat, Pulses are expected to see their output grow. 

Oilseeds are expected to see a production growth of 3.3 per cent, due to significant increases in mustard and soybean production. Among the key cash crops, sugarcane is expected to see an increase, while cotton production may decline.  

What are the implications of this? 

Effect on food inflation: Domestic production, the minimum support prices announced by the government as well as the international prices of these commodities influence the prices of these commodities. The effect of the combination of these factors will be seen in the year ahead. 

For example, lower production in cotton when prices are already high will raise the raw material costs of the domestic textile industry, weakening its competitiveness. 

Although there has been a sustained increase in farm production in India, but there is also a rise in farmers’ distress as the terms of trade have worsened. 


Corporate governance is a pot on high-heat again

Source: This post is based on the article “Corporate governance is a pot on high-heat again” published in Livemint on 21st Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Statutory, Regulatory, and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.

Relevance: Regulatory reforms

News: SEBI has recently announced that company boards need not compulsorily split the posts of chairperson and managing director between two individuals. This choice is “voluntary” now. This was a roll-back of a directive issued in 2018.

Why this decision of SEBI needs to be analyzed in the context of corporate governance?

One, in India corporate structures are family-owned, and they dominate the business arena. Hence, the ideas seem inappropriate in this context.

Two, the split idea was floating around for four years, and space was opened for political rent-seeking as corporate groups lobbied for relaxation. In this sense, it will worsen crony capitalism.

Three, the empirical evidence shows that offenses can still occur in companies where those posts had been separated. For example, NSE.

Four, there is another issue whether this rule now is reversed for banks, where role-separation has been in force for some time but failed to prevent scandals like those at Yes Bank and ICICI Bank.

For example, the case of BharatPe. The discomfort of its board with its founder and chief recently led to his temporary exit. Also, there were reports of toxic work culture, irregularities that were uncovered by a forensic audit, and internal talks over a possible equity-sale deal for his final departure.

Five, violation of laws at the NSE shows that board members were involved who had the fiduciary responsibility of monitoring, fixing, and reporting lapses and violations. Hence, the recent SEBI norms need to be analyzed in this context.

What is the way forward?

The BharatPe case will test how regulators, financiers, and the government tighten the frame of governance for startups. Regulators should seek to balance the need for startup flexibility with that for best practices and accountability.  It should become the normative regulatory approach for all companies in the country because investor trust is vital to India’s economic success.


India’s structural opportunity in a new age of financial repression

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s structural opportunity in a new age of financial repression” published in Live mint on 21st Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Effects of Liberalization on the Economy

Relevance: Monetary policy

News: This article discusses the changes going on in the global monetary system and how India can attract capital in this scenario.

How the global monetary system is changing?

To handle huge levels of debt, the developed world and China need to inflate away their debts. The developed world has discovered it’s new normal in inflating away debts, but India continues with its existing monetary system.

Also, the investors are realizing that inflating away debt is done to keep interest rates low while inflation is high. For investors, the only easy way to preserve the purchasing power of savings during repression is that capital should leave the repressive system.

How India can be a key investment destination?

First, due to changes in the global monetary system, low-risk investments are turned high-risk, and vice versa. Hence, capital is likely to flee due to growing risk of decline in the purchasing power of savings in both the developed world and China.

Second, advanced economies have a total non-financial debt-to-GDP ratio of 300%. However, for India, it’s just 176%. China stands at 285%. The Great Financial Crisis and the European Sovereign Debt Crisis pushed Germany’s total non-financial debt-to-GDP ratio from 193% in 2007 to 211% by June 2012.

But moderate economic growth with low inflation from 2012 onwards reduced Germany’s debt-to-GDP ratio to 185%. If Germany could reduce its debt-to-GDP levels, India, too, can without adopting a monetary policy aimed at inflating away its debts.

Third, during covid, banks in the developed world were encouraged to lend despite lockdown-led recessions. In India, broad money growth returned to its pre-covid level in February 2022, while in the developed world, it remains above its pre-covid levels. India’s low debt-to-GDP ratio suggests it has greater policy flexibility, and the trends in broad money growth suggest that local policymakers are taking advantage of this flexibility.

What is the challenge in front of India?

One, the new developed world monetary system would create new problems for India. For example, higher global inflation. There is a dilemma whether India should continue with its current monetary policy while there is too much capital inflow along with the import of inflation.

Two, Indian policymakers are not prepared to let the exchange rate be constrained from capital flows. It is evidenced by the rapid rise in India’s foreign exchange reserves since 2014. The intervention has kept the exchange rate weak at a time when it might naturally have appreciated. And, India now faces even larger capital inflows, hence the scale of intervention could rise.

Three, there is also an issue of capital allocation because history shows that investors place savings in a system where capital is efficiently allocated.

What is the way forward?

First, managing the scale of capital inflows through administrative restrictions is essential. Otherwise, it will risk market-determined interest rates being pushed too low relative to inflation.

Second, Indian policymakers should partially protect the economy from the pro-inflation policies of the developed world’s repressionary monetary system. It will enable to attract and allocate capital more efficiently.


On an equal footing

Source: This post is based on the article “On an equal footing” published in The Hindu on 21st Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Relevance: Power sector reforms

News: The growth potential of India cannot be achieved without giving equal opportunity to every State. This article discusses the deprivation faced by many states and suggests few power sector reforms.

How low-income States (LIS) are deprived on many fronts?

One, LIS have low accessibility to credit, low investments, low power availability and accessibility, and high energy costs. However, the high-income States (HIS) have a big share in industry and commerce. For instance, six HIS (Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) together account for 56.4% of factories and 54.3% of the net value added to the country, while their share in population is only 32.3%.

Two, 55% of total institutional credit and 56% of total industrial credit goes to five HIS. The six LIS (Bihar, Jharkhand, U.P., M.P., Odisha, and Rajasthan) access only 15% of total institutional credit and barely 5% of total industrial credit, while their share in population is 43%.

Three, the maximum benefit of the Atmanirbhar package also went to the HIS as they have a higher share in industry.

How energy sector/power play a role in increasing the disparity?

The availability of adequate quality power at the cheapest rate attracts investments. For example, of the total consumption of electricity, industry and commerce account for more than 50%. Also, Energy India Outlook 2021 concluded that Electricity prices vary between states due to different taxes and subsidy regimes which make consumers in some states pay five times more.

What changes are needed in power sector?

First, eliminate price discrimination in the power sector. The idea is of ‘One Nation, One Grid, One Frequency’ will help in enhancing the transfer of quality energy. It will also pave the way for establishing a vibrant electricity market and facilitate the trading of power across regions through the adoption of the ‘one tariff’ policy.

States with higher power purchasing costs face the difficulty of making energy traffic competitive and hence they are unable to attract investments.

Second, there is need of inclusion of electricity duty under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to bring uniformity in electricity duty. This decision will benefit the whole nation through rational tax devolution. According to the Central Electricity Authority, in 2020-21, six States consumed 50% of the total installed capacity of power. Thus, only 32% of the population used 50% of power. However, six backward States got only 25% of the power though their share of the population is 43%. It shows the direct association between income and electricity consumption.

Also, the major proportion of the power cost incurred in HIS is also borne by the LIS which buy those industrial products because the input cost of power has already been included in the product’s price.

What is the way forward?

The electricity duty should be redistributed among the States under the ambit of GST equally shared by the CGST and SGST. However, 100% CGST should be devolved among the States through the Fifteenth Finance Commission formula, without being shared with the Centre (as electricity duty is State subject).


The farm deal that needs to be reworked

Source: This post is based on the article “The farm deal that needs to be reworked” published in Business Standard on 21st Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Effects of Liberalization on the Economy

Relevance: Issues with WTO’s AoA

News: This article discusses the vital issues related to agriculture that the government needs to keep in view while formulating the country’s strategy for future negotiations on agriculture-related matters in various WTO forums.

Why AoA of WTO needs to be reviewed?

One, Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its amendments at the biennial ministerial meets has not been able to provide a level playing field for agricultural trade between developing and developed countries.

Two, the agreement has numerous asymmetries which adversely affect the interests of small-holder farmers of developing countries. They are not able to access broader market for their farm produce to realize better prices.

Three, other issues such as domestic support to farming, export facilitation subsidies, and grain stockholding for food security also remain unresolved. Hence, AoA needs to be reviewed to ensure a rule-based, fair and equitable trade regime.

Four, the AoA was crafted when negotiators from developing countries did not fully appreciate the needs of the farm sector. For instance, Indian officials were mostly from the commerce ministry and farm experts were not consulted. Also, the agriculture ministry was not kept in the loop.

Five, negotiators from developed countries dominated and hence they managed to safeguard their commercial interests. Developing countries were just viewed as the prospective markets for their industrial and agricultural goods.

Six, this accord also left enough space for the rich nations to raise their farm subsidies (aggregate measure of support, or AMS). 1986-88 was accepted as benchmark to measure this support which allowed rich nations to increase their financial assistance to their farmers.

The developing countries were only permitted to continue their ongoing support programmes for a limited period. This resulted in overproduction of many farm goods in developed countries and depressed the global prices.

For instance, flaws of AoA did not allow India to take up welfare measures for the growers and end-users. India is also dealing with many disputes at the WTO regarding its support programmes for agri-commodities.

What is the way forward?

First, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) has brought out a policy paper on WTO-related issues. It has suggested to develop a road map for negotiations to seek redress for the existing drawbacks in the AoA.

Second, there is need to revisit the aggregate measure of support entitlements which enable the developed countries to provide high trade-distorting benefits under the special provision called “Amber Box”.

Third, the period of “reference prices” that is 1986-88 also needs to be updated. It affects the minimum support prices a country like India can provide to its farmers.

Fourth, the developing countries should oppose any step that aims to dilute the special and differential treatment provisions. The advanced nations have been seeking to cap the support under the “Development Box” which would mean curtailing the minimal domestic support the developing countries can provide even if it distorts the trade.


The budget spells green- shoot for agri subsectors

Source– This post is based on the article “The budget spells green- shoot for agri subsectors” published in The Hindu on 21st Feb 2022.

Syllabus- GS3- Government Budgeting.

Relevance- Indian agriculture, government schemes, livestock and fisheries.

News

Although Budget has had no big ticket announcements on agriculture and rural development but it tries to focus on subsectors that matter such as livestock, fisheries and food processing.

Which sub-sectors in agriculture have seen an increase in allocation in the budget?

Livestock and fisheries- These two subsectors roughly contribute about 33% of the gross value added in agriculture and more than 15% of farmer’s income is derived from livestock subsector. Allocation for livestock health and disease control, National Livestock Mission , Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana has increased.

Value addition in agriculture-Allocation for the Production-linked incentive scheme for food processing has increased which will help in Value addition in agriculture.

Allocation for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, or RKVY has been increased which is line with this year’s budget’s emphasis on capital expenditure.

Agri-infrastructure- Allocation for the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) and Formation and Promotion of Farmer Produce Organisations (FPOs) scheme has been increased.

Technology– Apart from the increased allocations in above sub-sectors , Budget envisages to promote kisan drones and encourage start-ups to improve value chains of farm produce. The adoption of modern technology in agriculture should not only help the rural economy but could also possibly encourage the younger generation to consider agriculture as a career option.

Which sub-sectors have seen a decrease in allocation in the budget?

Output price supportPradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA), has received an allocation of just ₹1 crore.

The allocation for the Price support programme of pulses and oilseeds (the Market Intervention Scheme and Price Support Scheme, or MIS-PSS) and Price stabilisation fund has declined.

Subsidies– The budgeted estimate of fertilizer subsidy and food subsidy have shown a decline.

Although most major rural development programmes such as the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (connectivity to unconnected habitations), the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (housing for all in urban areas) have received small increases in allocations but Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is an exception here . This flagship rural employment programme, which has been instrumental in reducing distress in the rural economy during the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, has received lower allocation.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

UGC to let 900 autonomous colleges offer online degrees

What is the news?

University Grants Commission(UGC) will be releasing a framework that will allow 900 additional colleges to provide online degree courses to students.

Note: Presently, only Universities are allowed to offer remote degrees via online courses.

What will be the key features of this new framework by UGC?

Firstly, around 900 autonomous colleges securing top 100 ranks in their respective subject category twice in the preceding three rankings of National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) or having National Assessment and Accreditation Council(NAAC) grade of minimum 3.26 will be allowed to provide online degree courses.

Secondly, eligibility for admission to these online undergraduate degree programmes will be simply “senior secondary pass”.Similarly, for admission to online postgraduate degree programmes, the eligibility will be “pass” in the relevant undergraduate course.

Thirdly, these colleges will be allowed to teach courses in emerging areas that may not be possible in in-person mode. 

Fourthly, all online degrees will also have the flexibility of conventional programmes in accordance with National Education Policy(NEP) 2020 — such as the four-year undergraduate programme with multiple entry and exit facilities.

What is the significance of this new framework?

This framework will help the government achieve a 50% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) by 2035 in alignment with the National Education Policy(NEP) 2020. (In 2019-20, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) was at 27.1% for the 18-23 age group).

This will also enable all the autonomous colleges to offer online education because if we stick to only universities, it becomes limited

Source: This post is based on the article UGC to let 900 autonomous colleges offer online degreespublished in TOI on 21st February 2022.


‘Lavender Cultivation’ under CSIR-IIIM’s Aroma Mission to be started in Ramban as a part of Purple Revolution

What is the news?

The Union Minister of State has said that the government was planning to commence ‘Purple Revolution’ in Ramban district in Jammu and Kashmir.

What is the Purple Revolution?

Purple or Lavender Revolution was launched by the Union Ministry of Science & Technology through the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) Aroma Mission.

Aim: To increase lavender cultivation in Jammu and Kashmir. 

Objective: To empower domestic farmers and support India’s aromatic crop-based agro-economy by reducing imports of aromatic oils and increasing home-grown varieties.

Under the mission, first-time farmers were given free lavender saplings, while those who had cultivated lavender before were charged Rs. 5-6 per sapling.

What is an Aroma Mission?

The Aroma Mission was launched by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Aim: To bring transformative change in the aroma sector through desired interventions in the areas of agriculture, processing and product development for fuelling the growth of aroma industry and rural employment.

Objectives of the Mission: 

To promote the cultivation of aromatic crops for essential oils that are in great demand by the aroma industry.

– To enable Indian farmers and the aroma industry to become global leaders in the production and export of some other essential oils on the pattern of menthol mint.

– To provide substantial benefits to the farmers in achieving higher profits, utilization of wastelands and protection of their crops from wild and grazing animals.

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Lavender Cultivation’ under CSIR-IIIM’s Aroma Mission to be started in Ramban as a part of Purple Revolutionpublished in PIB on 21st February 2022.


Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate

What is the news?

The Government of India is organizing “Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate” as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. 

What is Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate?

Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate (science is revered all over) is a nationwide week-long programme of competitions and lectures for school students and collegians.

Aim: To attract students towards scientific knowledge of articles of daily use and propagating scientific theories.

Organized by: Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology, CSIR, DRDO and other ministries under the leadership of the office of the Principal Scientific Officer to the Government of India and the Ministry of Culture.

Coordinating Agency: Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organization of DST with a mandate to promote science communication in the country, is the coordinating agency.

Themes under the programme: The programme has been grouped under four themes:

The first theme is `from the annals of the history of S&T’. This section traces the contributions of founders of modern science and institutions of national importance to nation-building. 

The second theme is ‘Milestones of Modern S&T’. It will highlight critical discoveries, innovations, or inventions that made a mark in the global science or India’s development story.

The third theme is `Swadeshi Paramparik Inventions and Innovations’. It will showcase 75 inventions or technologies that made India self-reliant.

The fourth theme is `transforming India’. It will look at the road ahead for the next 25 years of Indian S&T. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate’’ published in PIB on 21st February 2022.


Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav: IHRS Indian organisation founded in London on 18 Feb, 1905

What is the news?

Under Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Government of India organised an event to recall the foundation of Indian Home Rule Society (IHRS).

What is Indian Home Rule Society (IHRS)?

Indian Home Rule Society (IHRS) was founded in 1905 in London.

Founded by: It was founded by Shyamji Krishna Varma with support from a number of prominent Indian nationalists in Britain at the time including Bhikaji Cama, Dadabhai Naoroji and Sardarsinh Ji Ravaji.

Aim: To promote the cause of self-rule in British India.

The organisation was intended to be a rival organisation to the British Committee of the Indian National Congress that was the main avenue of the loyalist opinion at the time.

The organisation was modelled after Victorian public institutions of the time. 

It had a written constitution and the stated aims to secure Home Rule for India and to carry on a genuine Indian propaganda in this country by all practicable means.

The membership to the organisation was open to Indians only and found significant support amongst Indian students and other Indian populations in Britain. It recruited young Indian activists and maintained close contact with revolutionary movements in India.

Source: This post is based on the article “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav: IHRS Indian organisation founded in London on 18 Feb, 1905” published in AIR on 21st February 2022.


Govt of India, World Bank sign loan agreement of $115 million for implementation of REWARD Project

What is the news?

The Government of India,  State Governments of Karnataka and Odisha and the World Bank have signed a $115 million REWARD Project.

What is a REWARD Project?

REWARD stands for Rejuvenating Watersheds for Agricultural Resilience through Innovative Development Programme.

Aim: To help national and state institutions adopt improved watershed management practices to help increase farmers’ resilience to climate change, promote higher productivity and better incomes.

The project is being implemented in states such as Odisha and Karnataka.

What is the significance of the REWARD Project?

The Government of India has committed to restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 and doubling farmers income by 2023. 

For this, effective watershed management can help enhance livelihoods in rainfed areas while building a more resilient food system. 

In this context, the new program will help the participating state governments in their efforts to transform watershed planning and execution and adopt science-based planning that could be replicated across the country.It will also help the participating states to adopt new approaches to watershed development.

Source: This post is based on the article Govt of India, World Bank sign loan agreement of $115 million for implementation of REWARD Projectpublished in PIB on 21st February 2022.


Presidential Fleet Review: what Navy displays, and its significance

What is the News?

The President will take part in the Indian Navy’s 12th Presidential Fleet Review.

What is the President’s Fleet Review?

President’s Fleet Review is the country’s President taking stock of the Navy’s capability. It showcases all types of ships and capabilities the Navy has.

The President is taken on one of the Naval ships which is called the President’s Yacht to look at all the ships docked on one of the Naval ports.

The President will be given a 21-gun salute before embarking on the yacht.

What is the significance of the President’s Fleet Review?

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

In terms of significance, the Navy’s Presidential review is second only to the Republic Day Parade.

So far, 11 Presidential Fleet Reviews have been conducted since Independence. The first was conducted in 1953 and the last two have been in 2001 and 2016. 

​​The reviews in 2001 and 2016 were International Fleet Reviews, in which some vessels from other countries also participated. 

The Indian Navy too has participated in international fleet reviews in other countries including Australia, America, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and the UK.

Source: This post is based on the article “Presidential Fleet Review: what Navy displays, and its significance” published in Indian Express on 21st February 2022.


What does record food production mean for India?

What is the News?

Food production in India is estimated to touch a record 316 million tonnes in 2021-22, 8%  more  than  the  five-year  average. 

How was the food production in India this year?

The production of food grains including rice, wheat, pulses, and coarse cereals is estimated at 316 million tonnes in FY22 which is 8%  more  than  the  five-year  average. 

In addition, oilseed production is estimated  at  over 37 million tonnes, 12% higher than the five-year average. 

Sugarcane production too is set to rise by 10% compared to the five-year average. 

What does this mean for retail food prices?

The higher production of pulses and oilseeds is a relief since India is dependent on imports to meet domestic consumption.

This is particularly true for oilseeds, where India is acutely dependent on imports to meet half of its domestic requirement.

What are the risks going ahead?

The foremost risk is rising crude oil prices, which crossed $95 a barrel, the highest since 2014, amid heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine. 

High oil prices lead to higher fertilizer and input costs for farming, diversion of food crops to produce biofuels and high shipping costs. Hence, it will likely impact food prices.

What steps the government should take?

Except for oilseeds and pulses, India is largely self-sufficient in food production. 

Massive public stocks of rice and wheat: This can be off-loaded via the public distribution system or through open market sales when prices rise. 

Rising crude and fertilizer prices may also force the Center to reduce the higher fertilizer subsidy bill to keep farming costs in check.

Source: This post is based on the article “What does record food production mean for India?” published in Livemint on 21st February 2022.


Biggest Tribal Fair Medaram Jatara celebrated with traditional fervour and zeal

What is the News?

Sammakka Saralamma Jatara has concluded after being celebrated with traditional fervour and zeal.

What is Sammakka Saralamma Jatara?

Sammakka Saralamma Jatara is also known as Medaram Jatara.

Reason for conducting: The festival honours the fight of a mother and daughter, Sammakka and Saralamma, with the reigning rulers against an unjust law.

Celebrated in: It is a tribal festival celebrated in the state of Telangana. 

Significance: The festival was declared as a State Festival in 1996. It is also Asia’s largest tribal festival.

Celebrated byKoya Tribe in collaboration with the Tribal Welfare Department, Government of Telangana. 

CelebrationsThe Jatra begins at Medaram in Tadvai Mandal in Warangal district. (Medaram is a remote place in the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of Dandakaranya, the largest surviving forest belt in the region).

During the festival, people offer bangaram/gold (jaggery) of a quantity equal to their weight to the goddesses and take a holy bath in Jampanna Vagu, a tributary to River Godavari.

Traditional music songs are played in the background while performing the rituals. The beats are played with cymbals, Doll, Akkum, bison horn blowing instruments called Thootha Kommu and others.

Source: This post is based on the article Biggest Tribal Fair Medaram Jatara celebrated with traditional fervour and zealpublished in PIB on 21st February 2022.


MNRE’s new policy framework recognises distributed renewable energy as solution for uplifting rural economy

What is the News?

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released a draft policy framework for Distributed Renewable Energy(DRE).

What is Distributed Renewable Energy(DRE)?

Distributed Renewable Energy(DRE) is the term used when electricity is generated from renewable energy sources near the point of use instead of centralized generation sources from power plants. 

What are the problems faced by Distributed Renewable Energy(DRE) in India?

Lack of proper financing channels, consumer awareness, consumer affordability and quality products/standards are some of the major challenges facing DRE in India.

What does the policy framework say on Distributed Renewable Energy(DRE)?

The main objectives outlined in the framework are:

– Increasing the adoption of DRE-based livelihood solutions by enabling easy finance for the end-user

– Developing effective DRE livelihood applications through innovation as well as research and development

– Forming a committee to monitor the progress of DRE projects, which will meet at least once every six months.

– Make available a digital catalogue of DRE-powered solutions to be used by various stakeholders to raise awareness. 

Source: This post is based on the article “MNRE’s new policy framework recognises distributed renewable energy as solution for uplifting rural economy’’ published in Down To Earth on 21st February 2022.


China’s answer to rising sea levels, food insecurity: ‘seawater rice’

What is the News?

Chinese Scientists have developed a variety of rice known as “Seawater Rice”.

What is Seawater Rice?

Seawater Rice is new salt-tolerant rice that can be grown in salty soil near the sea.

This rice was created by over-expressing a gene from selected wild rice that’s more resistant to saline and alkali.

What is the significance of Seawater Rice?

In China, 100 million hectares of land in the country, about the size of Egypt, is high in saline and alkaline.

To make use of this salty soil, farmers in China traditionally dilute their fields with large amounts of freshwater. But this method requires vast amounts of water and often doesn’t improve yields enough.

Hence, the development of “Seawater Rice” could help China withstand soil saltiness and also ensure food security that’s been threatened by rising sea levels, increasing grain demand and supply chain disruptions.

Note: According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels around the world could rise as much as 59 centimetres by the end of the century if the planet warms by 2 degrees Celsius. 

Source: This post is based on the article “China’s answer to rising sea levels, food insecurity: ‘seawater rice’” published in Business Standard on 21st February 2022.

Mains Answer Writing

Must Read Current Affairs Articles – October 1, 2022

About Must Read News Articles: Must Read News Articles is an initiative by Team ForumIAS to provide links to the most important news articles of the day. It covers The Hindu newspaper. This saves the time and effort of students in identifying useful and important articles. With newspaper websites requiring a paid subscription beyond a… Continue reading Must Read Current Affairs Articles – October 1, 2022

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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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