9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 23rd, 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

Trust and Loan – on Central loans to states

Source: This post is based on the article “Trust and Loan” published in Indian Express on 23rd Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

Relevance: Fiscal federalism

News: In the Union budget 2022-23, Finance Minister has provided for Rs. 1 lakh crore in loans to state governments to enable them to increase their capital expenditure. These loans will be interest free and repayable after 50 years.

Why such an arrangement raises questions regarding Centre-state fiscal relations?

One, the first and foremost issue is related to Article 293 (3) of the Constitution. According to it, states may not raise any loan without the consent of the government of India as long as there is still an outstanding loan. Thus, state borrowings are restricted by the Centre’s approval.

But, over the past decade, the Union government has done away with the loan component in the central plan assistance. States’ liabilities towards the Centre are declining as per the 15th Finance Commission. Thus, over time states will not have any obligations towards the Centre which should eventually increase their freedom.

However, loans from multilateral agencies to states are also routed through the Centre which is not going to end in the near future. Hence, the budgetary proposal along with the constitutional provision is giving the Centre greater say over the states’ fiscal management at a time when it had been decreasing.

Two, there is another concern over the possibility of conditions being attached to these loans. Also, the amount is not being transferred to the states in the form of a grant. A grant is shown as part of revenue expenditure, while loans have been shown as capital expenditure.

Three, the burden of execution will fall on the states. The states which are politically aligned with the Centre or those whose finances are uncertain may opt for this option. But others may not borrow, as they have rights to deny.

Four, the funds meant for capital expenditure may be shifted towards revenue expenditure due to a fall in capital spending being balanced by these loans.

What is the way forward?

There is a need to create an environment of trust between the center and states. Considering the fault lines in Centre-state relations, this arrangement can be seen as interference on states’ fiscal independence and become a political issue.

On legally enforcing Fundamental Duties: Wrong call

Source: This post is based on the article “Wrong call” published in Times of India on 23rd Feb 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2- Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary. 

Relevance: PIL, Fundamental duties 

News: Supreme court has been hearing a PIL that seeks to legally enforce fundamental duties. It has also issued notice to the centre and states for the same. 

Fundamental duties (Article 51A) are in the form of general directives to citizens to display some “ideal” conduct in their public lives. However, they are not justiciable and there have been some objections in making them legally enforceable. 

What are the concerns regarding legal enforcement of fundamental duties? 

Abuse and misuse: Fundamental duties deal with diverse areas such as environment, education, national security, heritage conservation, etc. Making them legally enforceable will make such a law prone to huge abuse and politicisation.  

Provisions already present: There are many laws like Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, IPC 124A, Contempt of Courts Act, Environmental Protection Act, Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Remains Act, Right to Education Act that already cover some fundamental duties.  

Law making is Parliament’s and the political executive’s arena and not that of the Courts, who mainly interpret such a law.  

PILs are a double-edged sword, so the Judiciary must entertain only those PILs where it fears immense harm to public interest owing to inaction by governments and institutions. 

New CSR disclosure framework for companies: Onerous disclosures

Source: This post is based on the article “Onerous disclosures” published in Business Standard on 23rd Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Important aspects of governance. 

Relevance: CSR, Ease of doing business, social development  

News: Government has brought out a new disclosure framework for companies that requires a detailed level of reporting from FY21 within a prescribed format of its Corporate social responsibilities (CSR) activities. 

Companies need to submit these details to the Registrar of Companies.  

What does the government directive say? 

The disclosure requires some granular details.  

– Companies will need to show how much they are spending on ongoing and new projects, how much fund has been left unspent, and whether capital assets have been created, in addition to impact assessment reports.  

– They will also need to submit information on the constitution of the company’s CSR committee, the details of the committee, and approved CSR projects on the company’s website.  

Although this will help government in analytical purposes as well as to inform stakeholders better on CSR obligations, but there are some apprehensions as well. 

What are the concerns that may arise due to this detailed reporting? 

Duplication of work: Companies have pointed out that much of this information is already available on corporate websites and in the directors’ report, which accompanies all annual reports. Submitting all of this information into a government-prescribed form will lead to duplication of work.  

Ease of doing business: Currently India urgently needs investment and the new disclosure requirements may hurt India’s reputation as an easy place to do business. 

There is also an apprehension that the political parties may use this to determine whether corporations are donating to causes that align with their political agendas. This may also affect their independence in terms of donating to causes of their choice. 

Although it is logical and morally right to encourage companies to spend their surpluses on social projects such as education and health instead of merely enhancing shareholder value, but it is not a panacea that can completely transform society. 

Regulation, not prohibition – on online skill gaming industry

Source: This post is based on the article “Regulation, not prohibition – on online skill gaming industry” published in The Hindu on 23rd February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors.

Relevance: Understanding why the ban on online goods by the state government is not a good decision.

News: The Karnataka High Court has delivered a judgment striking down major portions of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021. This law was introduced to ban online gambling and skill-based gaming platforms like rummy, poker, and fantasy sports that involved risking money on an uncertain event.

Apart from Karnataka, Madras and Kerala High Court also struck down the law on online gaming.

Read here: Delink the good, bad, and ugly of online gaming for apt regulation

Why the States are banning Online Gaming in India?

Read here: Questioning the ban on online gaming platforms

What is the court’s view of online gaming?

In the Chamarbaugwala case in the 1950s, SC held that in any game, if the element of skill is dominant over the element of chance, then it is a game of skill and cannot be construed as gambling. Several states argued that the case is outdated now, as technology has progressed significantly and most games are played online. But Karnataka High Court judgment negates the view that the judgment needs a relook, as it has been reaffirmed by a series of Supreme Court and High Court decisions since then.

The court held that games, where substantial effort, knowledge, and skills are required, are different from games of mere luck or chance.

Read here: Why the judiciary has struck down the amendments brought to the existing regulations on betting and gambling

What should be the way forward?

Gaming is the sunrise sector that has immense investment and revenue-generating potential. The sector currently employs 40,000 people. It also received massive foreign investment. In the last five years, the online gaming sector has received around $1,700 million in venture capital and private equity.

So, instead of banning the games, State governments should introduce a reform-oriented policy structure based on checks and balances.

Read here: What can be done by the government to regulate online gaming?

Data openness is good but its safe use is a must

Source: This post is based on the article “Data openness is good but its safe use is a must” published in the Live mint on 23rd February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Important aspects of governance, transparency, and accountability.

Relevance: Understanding Draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy, 2022.

News: The Government of India has released a  policy document called “Draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy 2022”.

About the Draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy, 2022

Read here: Draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy, 2022: India’s draft data policy unlocks govt data for all, mulls monetization

What are the challenges in allowing public access to data?

India’s new open data proposition is, although comprehensive, will have exceptions. But it will still be safe, as safety caveats will prevent misuse or illegal use of data. However, It still needs many precautions to prevent misuse:

First, All possible eventualities, that could expose the personal lives of people through data, should be taken into account. For example, the details of vehicle ownership are available online, which have led to cases of women being stalked, should be checked.

Third, Even though tagged data is supposed to be aggregated and anonymized into metadata, it should not compromise individual privacy. It is important because software tools for disaggregation exist in the market.

Fourth, A law to keep personal data safe from disclosure should be made.

Lastly, while classifying data as sensitive, one must take a maximalist approach. Laws leave scope for unmasking of data. Laws do not grant ownership of data to users that belongs to them.

Kyiv, The World & US – On Ukraine crisis

Source: This post is based on the article “Kyiv, The World & Us” published in The Times of India on 23rd February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the geo-political changes because of the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

News: Russia deployed its troops near Ukraine’s borders. This has raised several concerns about what steps will the world countries adapt if the situation gets worse.

Read here: Russia – Ukraine crisis | Timeline

What will be the consequences if Russia invades Ukraine territory?

On Russia: US can impose CAATSA sanctions on Russia and put Russia out of the global SWIFT payments system. This move can have a great impact on the already declining Russian economy.

On the world:  Russia can do damage on a large scale even without invasion. It took out Ukraine’s power grid in 2015, and a massive cyberattack recently. These attacks could also spread to other countries. Russia can cut off submarine internet cables, which can disturb global communication. There’s also the impact of a slowdown in wheat and other grain exports from Ukraine, Russia.

What will be the impact on other countries

US: By imposing sanctions on Russis, the USA is using Ukraine as an example to warn China against playing games in Taiwan. It also wants to remain Europe’s premier security guarantor. But, the US should also be cautious of sanctions so that it will not raise oil prices.

India: If Russia attacks Ukraine, India will be in a tough spot. Its energy investments in Russia can suffer, and it will become hard for India to make a case for a CAATSA waiver.

Read here: Explained: What are India’s stakes in its ties with Ukraine and Russia?

India risks being left out of TRIPS waiver

Source: This post is based on the article “India risks being left out of TRIPS waiver” published in the Indian Express on 23rd February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Relevance: Understanding the changes required in our domestic policies to strengthen India’s demand for a TRIP waiver.

News: India, with South Africa, proposed to waive key provisions of the TRIPS agreement on Covid-19 vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, and related technologies. Developed countries attempt at limiting the waiver to vaccines alone, leaving out diagnostics and therapeutics and excluding India.

Read here: US Support to TRIPS Waiver – Challenges Ahead

What are Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)? 

Read here: TRIPS and the waiver on IP Rights

What are the shortcomings that impacted India’s global campaign?

First, during the pandemic, India rarely made use of the existing flexibilities under the Indian Patent Act, such as compulsory licenses (CL). These flexibilities are consistent with the TRIPS agreement, to increase the supply of Covid-19 medical products, despite being pushed by the judiciary.

On the contrary, during the second Covid wave, the government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the main constraint in boosting the production of key drugs is the unavailability of raw materials, not IP-related legal hurdles. This stand completely contradicted India’s argument internationally that views IP as an obstacle to augmenting the supply of Covid-19 medical products.

Second, TRIPS waiver at the WTO is only an enabling framework. Member countries need to amend their domestic IP laws to implement the waiver. Although, India leads the TRIPS waiver battle internationally, it did not develop a national strategy to implement the TRIPS waiver as and when it is adopted.

Third, the government failed to get the Indian pharmaceutical industry on board. Many Indian pharmaceutical bodies are not in the favor of the waiver, thus denting India’s global campaign.

Fourth, India has successfully developed a fully indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin. Although India signed the technology transfer agreements with domestic companies, it should make the vaccine technology available to anyone interested globally, at a minimal price. This would strengthen India’s position on the TRIPS waiver and also inspire develop countries to do the same.

Barring students from studying Indian history or culture in foreign universities speaks of prickliness and prejudice

Source: This post is based on the article “Barring students from studying Indian history or culture in foreign universities speaks of prickliness and prejudice” published in the Indian Express on 23rd February 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

Relevance: Understanding the new government guidelines.

News: Under the new government guidelines, courses concerning Indian Culture, History, and Social Studies in foreign universities shall not be covered under National Overseas Scholarship (NOS).

What the new guidelines are not justified?

– It will shrink the student opportunities, and put a ceiling on their academic ambitions.

– Government should not decide on what students can or cannot study. The academic autonomy of scholars should be respected.

– Additional conditions will make it more difficult for people from marginalized communities to gain from scholarships. At present, only a tiny number of students from underprivileged communities manage to make that leap.

What is the government’s justification for the new guidelines?

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has given the argument that Indian culture can be better studied in Indian institutions and that foreign universities are better suited for more technical expertise.

The government view is wrong as some of the most interesting work on India has been carried out by foreign scholars like Paul Brass, Lloyd, Susane Rudolph, Stephen Cohen, Amartya Sen, etc.

GS Paper 3

Amending the FRBM Act

Source: This post is based on the article “Amending the FRBM Act” published in the Business Standard on 23rd Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Issues related to governments fiscal policy

Relevance:  Fiscal consolidation, FRBM Act, Medium-term Expenditure Framework Statement

News: The finance ministry has excused itself from providing a projection of its fiscal consolidation plan.

What is the issue?

In the recent budget, the Union finance ministry committed to reducing the government’s fiscal deficit from 6.9 percent of gross domestic product or GDP in 2021-22 to 6.4 percent in 2022-23. Further, the deficit is set to decline to 4.5 percent by 2025-26.

However, the issue is, the government has not set a medium-term target for lowering the deficit. Just setting a target of 4.5 percent three-four years later is not the same as providing a glide path of fiscal consolidation, to which the government should stand committed.

Moreover, the government has ignored the need for amending the FRBM Act that was promised during the 2021-22 Budget.

Hence, no fiscal projections for the years 2022-23 and 2023-24 were presented along with that Statement.

Why there is a need to set a medium-term target for lowering the deficit and amend the FRBM Act?

First, the Budget does mention that the fiscal deficit target of 4.5 percent should be achieved in 2025-26. But there is silence on how the government intends to meet its debt reduction targets.

However, an amended FRBM Act or the medium-term fiscal consolidation plan would have been useful also for getting a sense of how the government planned to reduce its debt over the next few years.

Second, the Medium-term Expenditure Framework Statement is mandated under the FRBM Act.

Thirdly, The FRBM Act had earlier mandated that the Centre should try to limit the general government debt to 60 per cent of GDP and the Central government debt to 40 per cent of GDP, by March 31, 2025.

The Centre’s debt was estimated at 59.9 per cent of GDP in 2021-22 and will go up to 60.2 per cent in 2022-23. Reducing it by 20 percentage points in two years is going to be a huge task.

The reforms that farming really needs

Source: This post is based on the article “The reforms that farming really needs” published in Indian express on 23rd Feb 2022. 

Syllabus: GS3- transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints. 

Relevance: APMCs, Model APMC act, e-NAM 

News: Central government repealed three farm laws that it introduced in the year 2020. This has again brought the focus to the APMCs (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) where the majority of the first time sale of farmer’s produce takes place.

It has been widely acknowledged that APMC markets across the country suffer from various irregularities and are in need of reforms. 

What have been previous initiatives to improve the working of APMCs? 

Model APMC Act of 2003 and APLM (Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing) Act of 2017 have been some major efforts by the successive governments to improve functioning of the APMCs.

Although they have partially resulted in the opening of alternative marketing channels for farmers, several shortcomings still exist. 

What are the reforms required in APMCs? 

Number of Markets: Currently the country has about 2,477 principal regulated markets while according to a 2004 recommendation of National Commission on Farmers there is need for approximately 41,000 markets to enhance market access to farmers.  

This will also help in maintaining density of regulated markets in the country. The commission recommends that a regulated market should be available to farmers within a radius of 5 km. Currently, farmers travel on an average of 50-100 km to sell their produce.  

Infrastructure facilities: Although there are provisions for quality testing of produce in laboratories, however, only a very small fraction of the total produce is assessed in labs . 

The rest of the quality testing takes place through traditional methods of examining the produce by hand. To overcome this, APMCs can adopt artificial intelligence machines for quality testing in order to hasten the testing process. 

e-NAM: Although the majority of the country is integrated to the e-NAM, but the market integration to it is limited, with no benefits accruing to farmers. A significantly lower share of trade in APMCs takes place on e-NAM and here too it is the traders who benefit from it and not the farmers. Farmers do not have any knowledge of digital media to benefit from the perks of online trading, and in this case benefit goes to the traders who trade in both online and offline platforms. 

There is need for Digital interventions and training services to increase farmers’ integration into e-NAM-enabled markets. 

MSP as the starting bidding price: Ideally, bidding in APMCs is supposed to start at the MSP for products that are covered under the MSP programme, but traders manipulate and exhibit a tendency to fix a price below the MSP, citing poor quality. 

To ensure that the minimum support price (MSP) is the starting price for bidding, there is need for some mechanisms to ensure that the prices do not fall below MSP by a certain percentage, or strict adherence to quality checks need to be implemented. 

Traders paying fee: In many APMCs it is the traders who have to pay commission agents and not the farmers. However it is the farmer who has to ultimately bear the loss as traders can further depress the price margin received by farmers to cover for the fee they paid. 

Direct selling provision: There is a need to facilitate farmers so that they are able to take the benefit of the direct selling provision of the model APMC act. Apart from this, the existing APMC infrastructure should be effectively regulated. This will provide an edge to farmers, and they can also use APMC as a mode for bargaining. 

The Tobin funnel and post-covid stimulus withdrawal dilemmas

Source: This post is based on the article “The Tobin funnel and post-covid stimulus withdrawal dilemmas” published in Livemint on 23rd Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3-Government Budgeting

Relevance: Tobin Funnel Model

News: The Government has recently signaled that India will exit its extraordinary fiscal and monetary policies of pandemic times, gradually.

Why there is a need to exit the pandemic-induced extraordinary policy?

The pandemic has affected all the economies and made the governments spend more. The central banks also injected extra liquidity into financial systems. Such coordinated action was necessary during a crisis. But now, since normal life is returning and the economic impact of the pandemic is receding, policymakers have to figure out how to reverse the decisions taken.

India decided to exit gradually because the economy needs policy support till private-sector demand becomes stronger, but it has disturbed the local bond market.

What are the policy challenges existing for India?

First challenge is to withdraw the macroeconomic stimulus before economic imbalances build up. Because if the economy failed to get out in time, it can lead to excess inflation or balance-of-payments pressures (or both). But it is tricky because the recovery is uneven across various sectors.

Second challenge is to figure out the different speeds at which the monetary and fiscal stimuli are withdrawn. James Tobin, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1981 has provided a model for such coordination.

What is Tobin Funnel model?

As per this model, a nation-state has control over two taps; one for net government spending and another for money supply. The water rushes through a common funnel into a tank below. The moment the tank below the funnel gets full, it overflows in the form of inflation. The volume of the tank depends on the supply side of the economy.

So, the underlying assumption in the Tobin funnel is that fiscal and monetary policy can sometimes be used alone and sometimes in combination for policy coordination.

But the issue is that it assumes that fiscal and monetary policies have the same effect. Hence, the question arises whether it is applicable in case of supply shock like pandemic. Also, another question is whether the law has created separate zones of intervention for the government and the central bank, then how the interventions can be made.

How Tobin model creates policy dilemma?

The extra government borrowing creates huge public debt. For example, in the case of India, the bond market believes that the Centre’s borrowing program in the next fiscal year is too high. Along with this, there is inflation and RBI is the inflation manager of the economy as well as debt manager.

Now the dilemma is whether RBI should raise interest rates to tackle inflation or keep them low to support the government budget.

What is the way forward?

The economic scenario depends on the pace at which the stimulus is withdrawn and on the relative role played by fiscal and monetary policies. The finance ministry has laid out a clear path of fiscal consolidation, but the monetary policy signals have been confusing. That is why there is a need for clear signals which are important as the actual actions.

A new measure of inflation is brewing on the horizon

Source: This post is based on the article “A new measure of inflation is brewing on the horizon” published in The Hindu on 23rd Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Issues related to Inflation

Relevance:  Consumer price index, Vimes Boots Index

News: A radical shift in paradigm with respect to the calculation of the Consumer price index has recently been initiated in the United Kingdom, by the British journalist, cookbook author, and anti-poverty campaigner, Jack Monroe. The “Vimes Boots Index” as the name of a price index, she planned to document inflation in prices of basic necessities.

What are the concerns with Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculation methodology?

First, the methodology used for selecting the ‘basket’ of commodities and their weights is not reflective of the different socio-economic conditions.

Second, while the CPI corresponds to a “common man”, nobody knows who that common man is and what is his consumption pattern. Consumption pattern widely varies across different economic classes.

Thirdly, India has no income survey and the last publicly available Household Consumer Expenditure Surveys’ data is a decade old. Hence, the choice of the ‘basket’ and fixing weights of its commodities are always tricky tasks.

What are Some of the important facts regarding the Consumer price index?

Consumer Price Index (CPI) — that reflects changes in the retail prices of selected goods and services on which a homogeneous group of consumers spends a major part of their income.

The National Statistical Office (NSO) periodically releases the All India CPI and corresponding Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) for Rural, Urban, and Combined.

There are three distinct series of CPIs – for industrial workers (IW), for agricultural labourers (AL), for urban non-manual employees (UNME).

The CPI (IW), certainly, is the most popular one as the dearness allowance of Central government employees is calculated based on this index.

What is Sir Pratchett’s ‘boots theory’ is about?

Sir Terry Pratchett had crisply explained the “Sam Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socio-economic unfairness” in his book series ‘Discworld’. The theory basically explains how the working classes are robbed.

It illustrates that everybody knows that good clothes, boots or furniture are really the cheapest in the end, although they cost more money at first. But the working classes can never afford to buy good things and they are forced to buy cheap rubbish things which are dear at any price. As a result, the poor would spend more on the same good over a period of time than the rich.

He gave the following illustration. For example, a really good pair of leather boots cost $50. But an affordable pair of boots, which is of poor-quality, cost about $10. Good boots, however, last for years and years.

Thus, a man who could afford $50 had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in 10 years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Munich Security Conference boosts trans-Atlantic ties for Germany in a crisis

Source: This post is based on the article “Munich Security Conference boosts trans-Atlantic ties for Germany in a crisis” published in DW on 23rd February 2022.

What is the News?

India’s External Affairs Minister has addressed the Munich Security Conference, 2022.

What is the Munich Security Conference?

It is an annual conference on international security that takes place in Munich, Germany.

Started byIt was started in 1963 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin.

Motto: Peace through dialogue.

Significance: It is the world’s largest gathering of its kind.

The conference also publishes the Munich Security Report, an annual report of relevant figures, maps, and research on crucial security challenges.

Note: This year’s conference is happening at a time when Russia appears to be preparing for a military incursion into Ukraine, a nation on Europe’s eastern edge.

What are the key highlights from India’s External Affairs Minister address at Munich Security Conference?

The External Affairs Minister(EAM) said that countries seeking loans should worry about unsustainable infrastructure projects such as airports and ports that are empty. The comment hinted at China’s debt-trap diplomacy.

What is Debt Trap Diplomacy?

This type of diplomacy refers to offering projects/loans on terms that end up being too difficult for countries to repay, eventually compelling them to accept political or economic concessions. 

For example, Sri Lanka took loans from China to build the Hambantota Port and the Mattala airport, which the island nation struggled to pay back. Sri Lanka was eventually forced to hand over the port on a 99-year lease to a Chinese company.

What Industrial Outlook Survey findings show

Source: This post is based on the article “What Industrial Outlook Survey findings show” published in Livemint on 23rd February 2022.

What is the News?

The 96th round of the Industrial Outlook Survey of the Manufacturing Sector for Q3 2021-22.

What is the Industrial Outlook Survey of the Manufacturing Sector?

Released by: Reserve Bank of India(RBI)

Purpose:  To ​​capture a qualitative assessment of the business climate and expectations for the ensuing quarter.

What does the 96th round of the Industrial Outlook Survey show?

The business  confidence  among Indian  manufacturers  is weakening  amid  the  Omicron outbreak. 

However, there is also demand for improvement in terms of production, new orders, capacity utilization, and jobs. But firms are still wary of high costs and prices.

What are the challenges the investors face?

Firstly, the share of private final consumption expenditure has declined to 57.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in FY22 as against 60.5% in FY20. This has impacted demand and slowed down manufacturing.

Secondly,  Global supply chain disruptions, high freight costs and rising crude prices have also led to continued pressure on input costs. 

Lastly, prevailing geopolitical tensions over Ukraine could result in continued pressure on oil prices, thereby increasing production costs.

What are the positive signals for investors?

There is an increase in mobility trend for retail and recreation—places such as restaurants, cafes, shopping centres. This means more people may be venturing out to markets and malls, which in turn could result in fuelling domestic demand. 

Jaladhara skittering frog: Researchers discover new frog species

Source: This post is based on the article “Researchers discover new frog species” published in The Hindu on 23rd February 2022.

What is the News?

Researchers have discovered a new frog species named “Jaladhara skittering frog” from the freshwater bodies of the western coastal plains of India.

What is Jaladhara skittering frog?

Scientific Name: Euphlyctis Jaladhara

Type: It is predominantly a freshwater frog

Found in: The frog was first spotted in freshwater bodies around the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary in Ernakulam and then multiple populations along the western coastal plains from Kerala to Gujarat. 

This frog species looks similar to the common skittering frog (Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis) which is predominantly distributed in the eastern coastal plains, Deccan Plateau and the Western Ghats. This species was discovered 220 years ago.

Significance: Amphibians like frogs are the living link between vertebrate life in water and land. Since this frog species was predominantly a freshwater frog, they were the first vertebrate organisms to get affected due to water pollution due to their primitive body plan.  

Is this the first species of skittering frog detected from this region?

This is the second new species of skittering frog detected from the locality.The earlier species, the Kerala pond frog (Phrynoderma Kerala) was also discovered in the same region by the same group of researchers in 2021.

Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope(GMRT) and FRBs: Pune telescope helps make major breakthrough

Source: This post is based on the article Pune telescope helps make major breakthroughpublished in The Hindu on 23rd February 2022.

What is the News?

Astronomers of the National Center of Radio Astrophysics(NCRA-TIFR) in Pune and the University of California in the US have used the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope(GMRT) to map the distribution of atomic hydrogen gas from the host galaxy of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) for the first time.

What are Fast Radio Bursts(FRB)?

FRBs are bright bursts of radio waves (radio waves can be produced by astronomical objects with changing magnetic fields) whose durations lie in the millisecond scale, because of which it is difficult to detect them and determine their position in the sky.

The first FRB was discovered in 2007, since then scientists have been working towards finding the source of their origin.

What did the astronomers find out?

Astronomers found that the FRB host galaxy has undergone a recent ‘merger’, and the FRB ‘progenitor’ is most likely a massive star formed due to this merger event. 

This is the first case of direct evidence for a recent merger in an FRB host, a major step towards understanding the origins of the FRBs.

The first surprise during this observation was the amount of atomic hydrogen in the FRB galaxy, which was around 10 times more than that found in similar nearby galaxies. 

What is the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope(GMRT)?

GMRT is an array of thirty fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes of 45-meter diameter, observing at meter wavelengths. 

Purpose: It is a very versatile instrument for investigating a variety of radio astrophysical problems ranging from the nearby Solar system to the edge of the observable Universe

Operated by: It is operated by the National Center for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.

Location: Pune

Union Ministers jointly inaugurate “Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate”

Source: This post is based on the article Union Ministers jointly inaugurate “Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate”published in PIB on 23rd February 2022.

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Science & Technology has inaugurated “Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate”

What is Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate?

Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate is a week-long science festival. It aims to celebrate the essence and magnificence of our scientific achievements.

Aim: To incorporate India’s science and scientific achievements in our cultural ethos and to take the science and scientific thinking to the common man.

Coordinated by: The program is being coordinated by Vigyan Prasar.

Note: ​​Vigyan Prasar(VP) is an autonomous organization under the Department of Science and Technology(DST).

What are the other programmes to popularize science?

Project Vigyan Basha: It is an ambitious programme of Vigyan Prasar to communicate science in various Indian languages. 

Unified Science Media Centre: It has been set up under Vigyan Prasar. It will cut across all the departments to present the recent developments on science and technology to the common masses, with a major focus on the research and innovation happening in our own scientific laboratories and research institutions.

PM CARES for Children Scheme Extended up to 28th February, 2022

What is the News?

Government of India has extended the PM Cares for Children Scheme till 28th February, 2022.

What is the PM Cares for Children Scheme?

Implementing Ministry: Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2021

Objective: To ensure comprehensive care and protection of children who have lost their parent(s) to the COVID pandemic in a sustained manner.

Eligibility for the Scheme: All children who have lost Both parents or surviving parents or legal guardian/adoptive parents/single adoptive parent due to COVID 19 pandemic starting from March 2020 shall be entitled to benefits under this scheme.

Note: Child should not have completed 18 years of age on the date of death of parents.

Entitlements under the scheme:

Click Here to read about it

Source: This post is based on the article PM CARES for Children Scheme Extended up to 28th February, 2022published in PIB on 23rd February 2022.

Government approves the continuation of National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship (NMMSS) for a period of five years

What is the News?

The government has approved the continuation of the National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship (NMMSS) for a period of five years i.e. from 2021-22 to 2025-26.

What is the National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme(NMMSS)?

Nodal Ministry: Launched in 2008-09 by Ministry of Education

Type: Central Sector Scheme

Aim: To award scholarships to meritorious students of economically weaker sections to deter them from dropping out at class VIII and encourage them to continue their education at the secondary stage.

Intended Beneficiaries: The scheme envisages the award of one lakh fresh scholarships every year to selected students of class IX and their continuation/renewal in classes X to XII for study in a State Government, Government-aided and Local body schools.

Scholarship Amount: An amount of Rs. 12000 (Rs.1000/- per month) per student per annum. 

Selection of Students: Students are selected for award of scholarships through an examination conducted by the State/ UT Governments. Scholarships are disbursed directly into the bank accounts of students by electronic transfer through Public Financial Management System(PFMS) following DBT mode.

Eligibility criteria to appear in selection test:

– Students whose parental income from all sources is not more than Rs.3.5 lakh per annum are eligible to avail of the scholarships.

– The student must have a minimum of 55 % marks or equivalent grade in the Class VII examination for appearing in the selection test for award of scholarship (relaxable by 5% for SC and ST students).

– The student should be studying as a regular student in Government, Government-aided and local body schools. Students of NVS, KVS and residential schools are not entitled to the scholarships.

Source:  This post is based on the article Government approves the continuation of National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship (NMMSS) for a period of five yearspublished in PIB on 23rd February 2022.

Green Financing Critical to Decarbonizing the Indian Transport Sector

What is the News?

NITI Aayog and World Resources Institute(WRI), India has conducted a virtual consultation workshop on ‘Financing for Decarbonization of Transport’.

What was the purpose of the workshop?

Aim: To identify actionable strategies and bring together financing institutions and transport organizations to collectively work towards furthering innovative financing policies for the decarbonization of transport.

The workshop was conducted as part of the NDC-Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA) project.

Why does India need to decarbonize the Indian Transport Sector?

The transport sector is the third-most greenhouse-gas-emitting sector in India. It accounts for 14% of our energy-related CO2 emissions. It is also the most rapidly growing sector in the country.

Hence, India needs to move towards a low carbon future that would necessarily include accelerated decarbonizing of the transport sector.

But for this, India need: a) Green Financing to provide a further impetus to clean mobility in India, b) Promote shared mobility by leveraging private sector investments and unlocking financing for e-buses, c) Improve liveability and productivity by improving connectivity and d) Bring down the cost of logistics.

Source:  This post is based on the article Green Financing Critical to Decarbonizing the Indian Transport Sectorpublished in PIB on 23rd February 2022.

25th Meeting of Financial Stability and Development Council held in Mumbai

What is the News?

The 25th meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) was held under the Chairpersonship of the Union Finance Minister.

The Council noted that the Government and all regulators need to maintain a constant vigil on the financial conditions and functioning of important financial institutions, especially considering that it could expose financial vulnerabilities in the medium and long term.

What is the Financial Stability and Development Council(FSDC)?

FSDC is a non-statutory apex level body under the Ministry of Finance constituted by the Executive Order in 2010.

The Raghuram Rajan Committee(2008) on financial sector reforms first proposed the creation of FSDC.

Composition of FSDC

Chaired by: Union Finance Minister

Members: It includes the heads of all Financial Sector Regulators (RBI, SEBI, PFRDA & IRDA), Finance Secretary, Secretary of Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Secretary of Department of Financial Services (DFS), and Chief Economic Adviser.

– In 2018, the government reconstituted FSDC to include the Minister of State responsible for the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Secretary of Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Chairperson of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) and the Revenue Secretary as members.

The Council can also invite experts to its meeting if required.

FSDC Sub-Committee: It is headed by the Governor of RBI.

The mandate of FSDC:

– To strengthen and institutionalize the mechanism for maintaining financial stability and enhance inter-regulatory coordination and promote financial sector development.

– To monitor macro-prudential supervision of the economy, including the functioning of large financial conglomerates, and address inter-regulatory coordination and financial sector development issues. 

– To focus on financial literacy and financial inclusion.

Source: This post is based on the article 25th Meeting of Financial Stability and Development Council held in Mumbaipublished in PIB on 23rd February 2022.

Mains Answer Writing

Convergent growth

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

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Chief of Defence Staff

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

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Rupee trade settlement offers India structural benefits

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

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How much should India prop up the rupee?

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

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

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

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After the floods, Bengaluru needs to clean up its act

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

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

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

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Saving the world – DART can reduce risks from meteors

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

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The right corporate culture would end moonlighting

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

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A costly decision – Extension of PMGKAY should have been avoided

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

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