9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 3rd, 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

Ink India-Britain free trade, unlock new opportunity

Source: This post is based on the article “ Ink India-Britain free trade, unlock new opportunity” published in The Hindu on 3rd February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the developments in India- UK relationship.

News: Both India and UK are working together to build a strong relationship and to harness new opportunities.

Read here: India UK Relations and its challenges – Explained, Pointwise

What are the new developments in the India UK relationship?

–  India and the UK also declared their ambition to more than double bilateral trade by 2030, which totalled over £23 billion in 2019.

–  UK enables a greater number of Indian fisheries to export shrimp to the U.K.

– Unlocking the export of British apples to India

– Both countries aim to finish negotiations on a comprehensive and balanced FTA by the end of 2022.

Read here: Things to watch for as India, UK launch FTA talks
What is the present status of the business in both countries?

Companies: Nearly 600 U.K. companies in India employed more than 3,20,000 people. Eg: Barclays has its biggest office outside of London in Pune, JCB’s products manufactured in India are exported to over 110 countries across the globe, etc

Investment: India is a big investor in the U.K. especially in sectors like fintech, electric vehicles, and batteries. In 2020-21, India was the U.K.’s second-largest source of investment in terms of several projects. Recently, both Essar Group and Ola Electric announced investments into the U.K.

How the FTA will help India-UK to grow business further?

According to U.K. government analysis, an Free Trade Agreement would add around £14.8 billion to India and the UK GDP collectively by 2035. Trade deals can help diversify supply chains by making it easier and cheaper for more businesses to do business across borders. Lower barriers would also incentivize new small and medium-sized enterprises to export their goods and services.


An exploration of why children are learning little in classrooms

Source: This post is based on the article “An exploration of why children are learning little in classrooms” published in Livemint on 3rd February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the reasons behind the ineffectiveness of children’s education.

News: It has been observed that a massive proportion of children are lacking in basic language and mathematics. The same thing has also been noticed by National Education Policy.

Why do children between 0-6 yrs are lacking in basic language and maths?

Capacity to learn: All children have the capacity to learn. Some disabled children may not have this capacity.

More children in class: Perhaps children are distracted from learning and do things that interest them more, like social interactions with their friends.

Financial condition: There can even be external distractions like hunger, disturbed home environment, and other obstacles created by poverty. For instance, a lack of basic learning is often found in children from poor families.

Read more: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE): Anganwadis should provide early childhood care and education
What should be the way forward?

First, The perception that “children of the poor are dull and never learn’ should be changed. Teachers should understand that all the children have the capacity to learn

Second, Curriculum should be updated according to the interests of the children. Teachers should also make the curriculum more excited and interesting

Third, Teachers should understand the obstacles which children are facing and should be sensitive towards that specific obstacle that each child faces.

Fourth, the Stakeholders approach should be adopted where the schools will be equipped with adequate resources and hunger should not be a problem in education.

Read more: School education: Children and schooling in the post covid 19 era

Explained: The India-Israel relationship

Source: This post is based on the article ” Explained: The India-Israel relationship” published in Indian Express on 3rd February 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding India- Israel relationship.

News: Recently India and Israel had marked 30 years of full diplomatic relations. Despite the ongoing Pegasus controversy, leaders of both countries congratulate each other on this occasion.

Read here: India and Israel relationship: Namaste, Shalom to friendship
About India- Israel relations

1990: Though India recognized Israel in 1950, normalization took another 4 decades. This was aided by the weakening of Arab support to Palestine. This improved further after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

1992: While there were defense deals and cooperation in S&T and agriculture, India balanced its ties with its historical support for the Palestinian cause, its dependence on the Arab world for oil, and the pro-Palestinian sentiments of the country’s Muslim citizens.

2000: L K Advani became the first Indian minister to visit Israel. The same year, Foreign Minister also visited Israel. The two countries also set up a joint anti-terror commission in that year.

2003: Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India.

2017: The year marks the first visit of the Indian Prime minister to Israel. With Abrahamic accords in 2020, UAE, Sudan, Bahrain, and Morocco normalized relations with Israel. This has made India more confident of its relations with Israel.

Read here: India – Israel relationship at a glance
About India – Palestine relations

Despite Indo-Israel ties, India is walking the tightrope between Palestinian and Israel cause. This was evident in India’s statement in UN Security Council where India held Israel responsible for violence and explicit strong support to just Palestinian calls and a two-state solution. Earlier, India went to the extent of backing Palestinian self-determination and even rallied behind the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) and its leader Yasir Arafat.

Read here: Indian Model presents a viable solution to Israel-Palestine Conflict

India also voted for Palestine to become a full member of UNESCO in 2011. In 2012, it co-sponsored the UN General Assembly resolution that enabled Palestine to become a “non-member” observer state at the UN without voting rights. India also supported the installation of the Palestinian flag on the UN premises in September 2015.

Read here: India’s Palestine policy
How there is a shift in India’s policy towards Israel and Palestine?

The first big shift came in 2017 when India dropped the customary line in support of East Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. Indian PM visit to Israel did not include Ramallah, which was the customary practice.

But the balancing act has continued. Indian PM made a separate visit to Ramallah in 2018. He calls for an independent Palestinian state. India abstained at UNESCO in December 2017 and voted against the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

At UNHRC’s 46th session in Geneva in 2021, India voted against Israel in three resolutions – the right of self-determination of Palestinian people, Israeli settlement policy and on human rights situation on Golan Heights. India abstained on fourth resolution which asked for UNHRC report on the human rights situation in Palestine.

In 2021, International Criminal Court claimed jurisdiction to investigate human rights abuses in Palestinian and blamed the Israeli security forces and Hamas for the same, India refused to take any stand on the same.

Read here: India’s Stand on Palestine and Israel Conflict

GS Paper 3


Creating jobs by increasing Capex

Source: This post is based on the article “Creating jobs by increasing Capex” published in The Hindu on 3rd Feb 2022.    

Syllabus: GS3- Government Budgeting. 

Relevance: Budget, Capital expenditure, employment scenario.  

News: Recent budget has put a lot of attention into enhancing capital expenditure. It is due to the huge potential of capex to generate employment.  

What is the employment scenario in India? 

Employment to population ratio: According to data from ILO, India’s employment to population (over the age of 15) ratio has steadily dropped from 55% in 2005 to 43% in 2020. This was much lower than in other neighbouring countries like 52% in Bangladesh, 63% in China and 73% in Vietnam. 

Female labour force participation: Women form just 20% of India’s workforce, while they comprise between 30% and 70% of the workforce in the other three countries. 

What is capex and its multiplier effect? 

Read here. 

What are the provisions in recent budget regarding capital expenditure? 

Read here. 

What are other positive trends in the budget which can help in generating employment? 

Centre’s revenue receipts of the current fiscal year 2021-22 (FY22) are going to reach the full year target in just nine months.  

This has been possible due to higher income tax and Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections, increased formalisation of the economy, conservative Budget projections of last year. 

A sustained momentum in tax collections will provide an additional degree of fiscal policy freedom to the government to foster domestic jobs and output.   

What are the challenges that can arise? 

Not all the headline capital expenditure is indicative of fresh greenfield investments. Some of it comes from the disinvestment. 

Higher fiscal deficit: Thrust on capital expenditure has resulted in notably higher fiscal deficit numbers than expected, which can raise the risk of inflation, higher current account deficits, and also be a threat to financial stability.  

What is the way forward?

There is a visible thrust on hard capital expenditure. However, spending towards critical areas such as education, healthcare and urban infrastructure is equally important.   

Execution risks: Although the budget has provided ample funds for the infrastructure thrust. It is up to the entire administration – Central, State, and local – to ensure that the funds are utilised in a timely fashion, and result in delivery of world-class infrastructure. 

For this it is significant to maintain ease of doing business, especially around key areas such as land acquisition, contract enforcement, and policy stability.  

For more about challenges, read here. 


Artificial intelligence technologies have a climate cost

Source: This post is based on the article “Artificial intelligence technologies have a climate cost” published in The Indian express on 3rd Feb 2022.    

Syllabus: GS3- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights. 

Relevance: Artificial intelligence, climate change, sustainable solutions.  

News: Recent budget has described AI as a sunrise technology that has the potential to assist sustainable development at scale and modernise the country.  

While a large amount of focus is on achieving economic prosperity and global competitiveness with AI, there is hardly any acknowledgement of the environmental cost associated with it. 

What is the climate impact associated with increased use of AI? 

There will be a lot of energy use in training and operating large AI models. 

This with increased demand of AI from developing countries to solve various socio-economic issues will only lead to growing share of AI in technology-linked emissions in the coming decades.  

In 2020, digital technologies accounted for between 1.8% and 6.3% of global emissions.  

What are the challenges in mitigating the environmental impact of AI? 

Although international organisations like UNESCO and Big tech companies like Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, etc have taken steps to overcome this issue, but they are not sufficient.

Apart from this, the major challenge is inequity in the AI space. That is, few developed economies possess certain material advantages right from the start, and they also set the global rules. They have an advantage in research and development, and possess a skilled workforce as well as wealth to invest in. 

This inequity is visible in the difference in the tech adaptability of government in developing and developed nations, and also under-representation of developing countries on international platforms discussing AI.  

At the same time, the emerging challenge at the nexus of AI and climate change could deepen this inequity.  

What is the way forward? 

Developing countries like India should assess their technology-led growth priorities in the context of AI’s climate costs. India should analyse how it can use AI sustainably in its unique social and economic contexts. 


Show Me the Money – On Fugitive Economic Offenders

Source: This post is based on the article “Show Me the Money” published in Times of India on 3rd Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Money-Laundering and its prevention

Relevance: Fugitive economic offenders and financial frauds

News: Recently, Supreme Court suggested halting criminal proceedings against economic fugitives, who are  willing to repay the money they owe to lenders and others they defrauded.

This article discusses that government should revisit its current stance on fugitive economic offenders.

What is the case?

The co-accused in the Sterling Biotech fraud case has claimed that he had repaid a portion of the money and would repay the remaining amount. But he is looking for protection from prosecution and harassment by investigating agencies. But the CBI isn’t willing to leave him because the law doesn’t allow it to use discretion.

Why SC’s suggestions should be taken seriously?

One, this will save resources like time, money, and effort of investigating agencies like ED and CBI who are trying to bring fugitives back from foreign jurisdictions. Also, the legal process on extradition is lengthy.

Two, the government has allowed investigating agencies to go after high-value offenders via the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018. The act allows quick seizure and sale of their assets. But such fugitives have assets in foreign countries, or they have Benami assets that are away from the eyes of agencies.

Three, the legal processes, paperwork, and evidence required in each country are different. However, the end goal of banks and investigating agencies is to recover the money, criminalization will make the process more complex.

What is the way forward?

 First, the government can explore option of imposing monetary penalties. For example, SEBI imposes a monetary penalty on insider trading. It helps in avoiding costly litigation and also penalizes violators.

Second, adopt US’s plea-bargaining method. It is also known as a deferred prosecution agreement. This helps in avoiding criminal prosecution of company executives in place of fines and compliance monitoring in a court-approved deal.


Fiscal constraints – On Capital Expenditure of Government

Source: This post is based on the article “Fiscal constraints” published in Business Standard on 3rd Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development

Relevance: Fiscal challenges for Indian economy

News: Recently released Union Budget 2022-23 has increased capital expenditure.

Why increasing CAPEX is a significant step?

The economy is recovering from a pandemic-induced disruption, and the private sector is not investing because of weak demand. Hence, increased capital expenditure will help in increasing growth and crowd in private investment. It will also increase medium-term potential growth.

What are the fiscal constraints in front of the government?

First, the fiscal situation may not allow the government to spend consistently. Also, the government has the intention of increasing capital expenditure in the next fiscal year as well, but reducing revenue expenditure for this is not a viable solution.

Two, another issue is that the government has not made adequate allocations for subsidies and the rural job scheme.

Three, the government has budgeted for less than 1 percent increase in revenue, but the total government expenditure is budgeted to increase by only about 4.6 per. On the other hand, the government expects the economy to grow by 11.1 percent in nominal terms. Hence, it is an underestimation which says that government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) will decline next year.

Four, the government has increased allocation for capital expenditure, but it has to pay interest payments on the accumulated debt. It will grow up by 15 percent compared to the current year, which will account for over 48 percent of the Union government’s net tax revenue. Further borrowing will add to the interest burden.

Five, the center’s debt is also rising. For instance, it will increase to 60.2 per cent of GDP by the next fiscal year, which is higher than the medium-term target of 40 per cent of GDP. Hence, to sustain the expenditure and bring down the debt-to-GDP ratio, the government will have to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio, but non-tax revenues can only help to some extent.

What is the way forward?

First, the central government’s gross tax-to-GDP ratio is expected to decline to 10.7 percent in the next fiscal year. Hence, the government should increase tax on capital gains along with rationalization of exemptions and deductions in the area of personal income tax to improve the tax to GDP ratio.

Second, address the issue of tax rate rationalization to improve the tax collections under GST.

Third, the government needs to review both the direct and indirect tax systems to improve compliance and increase fiscal space.


The Budget has ignored the poor

Source: This post is based on the article “The Budget has ignored the poor” published in The Indian express on 3rd Feb 2022.    

Syllabus: GS3-Government Budgeting 

Relevance: Poverty, Budget,  

News: The 2022-23 Union Budget was presented in the backdrop of acute unemployment, growing poverty, burgeoning wealth and income inequalities, and accelerating inflation which affect the poor disproportionately.

However the recent budget falls short of addressing these concerns. 

Where is the current budget lacking in addressing the problems of the poor?  

Not enough government expenditure: Although the budget shows a rise in capital expenditure, but the rise is just 4.6 per cent which is even lower than the inflation rate. This means that the government expenditure as a proportion of GDP will decline, and this will have a dampening effect on the economy. 

Decline in allocation of MGNREGA: As expansion of increased allocation takes time, and delayed wage payment can discourage demand. It is essential that any increase in allocation in such a demand-driven scheme takes place in the budget itself. 

Fuel prices: Oil price is set to increase for consumers because of the additional excise duty. 

Why the current fiscal policy strategy may not serve the needs of the poor? 

The government has reduced corporate tax and is also not introducing wealth tax, which is sharp contrast to fiscal policy followed in other countries.

For example, USA is spending more on welfare schemes, by resorting to heavier corporate taxation. For this, it has even negotiated an internationally-agreed minimum corporate tax rate to prevent corporates from parking profits in tax havens. 

This policy may lead to recession. As raising fuel taxes raises prices in general and since the money incomes of the working people do not increase in parallel to it, there is a reduction in real demand, and hence a recession. 

Due to this recession, private corporate investment that was supposed to increase in lieu of decreased corporate taxation, actually will decrease.  

What conditions demand a change in fiscal policy? 

Internal scenario: Although there was some recovery that had occurred in 2021-22 relative to 2019-20, but it did not affect real consumption expenditure, which continues to be below its 2019-20 level.  

Unutilised capacity in the consumer goods sector has increased, which means that investment will come down, and its multiplier effects on consumption will make it shrink further. 

External scenario: The oil price is on the rise and this will prompt the government to pass on the higher import price to the consumers for fear of losing revenue, which will only exacerbate domestic inflation. 

The near-zero interest rate policy pursued in the US is coming to an end because of the acceleration of inflation there. This threatens a depreciation in the external value of the rupee. It will further add to the rate of inflation in the Indian economy and higher rupee prices of imported oil. 


INDIA’S Quest to Decarbonize Transport

Source: This post is based on the article “INSIDE INDIA’S QUEST TO DECARBONIZE TRANSPORT” published in Live Mint on 3rd Feb 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Energy – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Relevance: Decarbonization of public transport

News: India has recently committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2070 and public transport is one of the largest emitters.

This article discusses the Opex model of Ahmedabad and the challenges that exist while modernizing urban transport.

How did Ahmedabad modernize its transport system?

Ahmedabad introduced an operational expenditure (opex) model in 2007. The municipality purchased bus services for an annual fee from private contractors and linked it to per kilometer run per bus per day. It improved frequency and reduced fares.

Also, in 2019, Ahmedabad Janmarg Ltd, started an experiment to make it the first Indian city that will electrify its entire bus fleet.

Why opex model is beneficial?

Offering public transit with electric buses under the opex model is cheaper than owning a fleet that uses internal combustion engines. Gujarat is now replicating this model in Surat and Rajkot by offering viability gap funding to its municipalities.

What is the issue with other cities?

Other city corporations have not modernized due to inadequate policy, lack of innovative vehicle models and deficiencies in financing.

Also, the rate of private ownership is low and over 90% of Indians rely on state-run vehicles, private vehicles, and shared mobility like scooters, taxi cabs, and rickshaws, to commute.

Why public transit needs to be modernized?

First, the transport sector is the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in India and has tripled its carbon emissions over the three decades.

Second, India’s urban population is expected to double by 2050. Hence, public transport has to improve its efficiency to reduce its emissions.

Third, India has also pledged to cut total carbon emission by 1 billion tonnes and reduce the carbon intensity by less than 45% by 2030 at the COP26 summit. Hence, it needs to promote electric vehicles (EV) quickly.

Four, current EV penetration is less than 1% and the government’s EV 30@30 campaign aims to achieve the target of 30% electric vehicle auto sales by 2030. Hence, the focus should be on expanding existing capacity.

What are the existing challenges?

One, only about half of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) subsidies were used in three years. In April 2019, FAME II was launched, but only 215,000 vehicles have been approved under both schemes so far.

Two, the current policy is designed to primarily benefit two-wheeler sales and the public transport segment (three-wheelers and buses).

Three, the FAME subsidy is similar to opex model and only applies under a gross cost contract basis. But most municipal-run transport services are unfamiliar with it. Also, there is a delay for states in issuing tenders for e-buses.

Furthermore, due to the lack of standardized concession agreements, the private sectors are reluctant to sign as counterparties. For instance, Delhi had issued a tender for 1,000 buses, which was later canceled.

Four, another major challenge is demand aggregation. Bus companies want to be promised at least 70,000 km per year. But in congested cities, it’s hard to offer such long routes. The maximum that’s possible is 160-170 km a day, but in that case, the bid prices go up and municipalities can’t afford it.

Five, India’s EV policy is scattered across different programs with no set annual targets. It allows the stock of new combustion engine vehicles to grow till 2029. Hence, Automakers aren’t motivated to set up new production lines.

For instance, Clean Energy Ministerial 30@30 initiative lacks concrete sales targets. Also, FAME II ends in 2024 and after that, there is no clear roadmap.

Six, tenders move slowly due to the lack of manufacturing capacity and that is why charging depots aren’t set up fast enough.

What is the way forward?

First, State and city transport should replace ageing bus fleets with buses that run on clean energy.

Second, the Niti Aayog has recommended creating escrow accounts to prioritize payment of services from fares collected to the private contractor to make tenders pick up faster.

Three, the easy way out is low-carbon shared mobility. For instance, Delhi’s battery-powered rickshaws are offering last-mile mobility. Another example is BluSmart Mobility, which started in 2019 and has about 40,000 unique users on a monthly basis today. There is no surge pricing with a zero-cancellation policy.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

World Wetlands Day: Sanctuaries in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh listed as Ramsar sites

Source: This post is based on the articles:

“World Wetlands Day: Sanctuaries in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh listed as Ramsar sites” published in Indian Express on 3rd Feb 2022.

“World Wetlands Day celebrated at Sultanpur National Park ” published in PIB on 3rd Feb 2022.

What is the News?

On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh have been included as Ramsar Site from India.

With this, India now has 49 Ramsar sites which is the highest in South Asia. 

Moreover, the National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas was also launched.

What is Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary?

Khijadiya sanctuary is located in Gujarat.It is a freshwater wetland located near the coast of the Gulf of Kutch.

It was formed following the creation of a bund (dike) in 1920 by the then ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Nawanagar to protect farmlands from saltwater ingress. 

The sanctuary is now part of Marine National Park, Jamnagar, the first marine national park in the country.The sanctuary is also part of the Central Asian Flyway.

The site provides habitat to endangered Pallas’s fish-eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) and Indian skimmer (Rynchops albicollis), and the vulnerable common pochard (Aythya ferina). 

The site also regularly supports more than 1% of the south and south-west Asian population of Dalmatian pelicans, more than 2% of greylag goose and more than 20% of common crane. 

Significance: Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary has become the fourth wetland of Gujarat to get the Ramsar tag. Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, Thol Wildlife Sanctuary and Wadhwana wetland are the other Ramsar sites in the state.

What is Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary?

Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Uttar Pradesh.It is a freshwater marsh and is the largest natural floodplain wetland of eastern Uttar Pradesh. 

Note: A freshwater marsh is a non-tidal, non-forested marsh wetland that contains fresh water and is continuously or frequently flooded.

The Sanctuary was established in 1980 and is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972). It is declared as an “eco-sensitive zone” which extends up to a kilometre around its boundary.

The sanctuary serves as a natural habitat for the state bird, Sarus.It also provides a wintering ground for over 25 species that migrate on the Central Asian Flyway, some of which are endangered Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), the vulnerable greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga) among others.

The sanctuary also supports 45 species of fish such as vulnerable European carp (Cyprinus carpio) and the catfish Wallago attu, and the near-threatened Gangetic ailia (Ailia coila) and silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix).

What is the National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas?

It has been prepared by the Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad.The original Atlas was released by SAC in 2011.

The Atlas highlights the changes which have happened in Wetlands across the country in the past decade. 

The Atlas has been used extensively by all the State Governments in their planning processes


Saffron Bowl Project

Source: This post is based on the article “Saffron Bowl Project” published in PIB on 3rd Feb 2022.

What is the news?

North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR) under Saffron Bowl project has identified few locations in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya for saffron cultivation.

Saffron Cultivation in North East

Saffron production has long been restricted to a limited geographical area in the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir.

Pampore region, commonly known as Saffron bowl of Kashmir, is the main contributor to saffron production. Other districts producing saffron are Budgam, Srinagar, and Kishtwar districts.

In 2020, the Kashmir saffron got Geographical Indication (GI) tag status.

However, the saffron bowl which was so far confined to Kashmir is being expanded to the Northeast as the North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR) has launched the Saffron Bowl Project to explore the feasibility of growing saffron in the region with the same quality.

NECTAR has identified few locations in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya for saffron cultivation.

– In Arunachal Pradesh, there is a good growth of organic saffron with flowers.

– In Meghalaya, sample plantations were grown at Cherrapunji, Mawsmai and Lalingtop sites.

What is North East Centre For Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR)?

NECTAR is an autonomous society set up under the Department of Science & Technology.

The Centre looks at harnessing and leveraging niche frontier technologies available with central scientific departments and institutions. 

In order to assist the northeastern region, NECTAR ensures applications of appropriate technologies for development in the areas of biodiversity concerns, watershed management, telemedicine, horticulture, etc.

Headquarters: Shillong, Meghalaya


Government approves continuation of Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations with an outlay of Rs. 1575 crore

Source: This post is based on the articleGovernment approves continuation of Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations with an outlay of Rs. 1575 crorepublished in PIB on 3rd Feb 2022.

What is the news?

The Union Government has approved continuation of Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations (NSFs) from 2021-22 to 2025-26. 

What is the Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations (NSFs)?

It is the flagship Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

The scheme is the main source of funding for preparation of national teams for all major national and international competitions, including the Olympic Games, Paralympics, Asian Games, Para Asian Games, Commonwealth Games (CWG) and other major international tournaments.

Besides providing support to elite athletes through the NSFs, the scheme also aims to improve the bench strength of Indian athletes through a strong talent identification and development system.


India ranks third globally in forest area gain: Survey

Source: This post is based on the article “India ranks third globally in forest area gain: Survey” published in The Hindu on 3rd Feb 2022.

What is the news?

The Economic Survey 2022 has provided data regarding forest area in India.

What are the key highlights from the survey?

India has increased its forest area in the past decade and ranks third globally in average annual net gain in forest area from 2010-2020.

Forests covered 24% of India’s total geographical area, accounting for 2% of the world’s total forest area in 2020.

Globally, the top 10 countries account for 66% of the world’s forest area. Of these, Brazil (59%), Peru (57%), Democratic Republic of Congo (56%) and Russia (50%) have half or more of their total geographical area under forests.

Among Indian States, Madhya Pradesh with 11% of India’s total forest cover had the largest area under forests in 2021, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (9%), Chhattisgarh (8%), Odisha (7%) and Maharashtra (7%).

Mizoram (85%), Arunachal Pradesh (79%), Meghalaya (76%), Manipur (74%) and Nagaland (74%) were the top five States in terms of the highest proportion of forest cover to the geographical area of the State in 2021.

Much of India’s increase in forest cover from 2011-21 is attributed to enhancement in very dense forest cover, which rose by approximately 20% during the period. 


UGC releases draft National Higher Educational Qualification Framework

Source: This post is based on the article “UGC releases draft National Higher Educational Qualification Framework” published in Indian Express on 3rd Feb 2022.

What is the news?

University Grants Commission(UGC) has released a Draft National Higher Educational Qualification Framework (NHEQF).

What is the Draft National Higher Educational Qualification Framework (NHEQF)?

It has been released as part of a set of reforms that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 envisages.

This draft framework is not intended to promote a uniform curriculum or national common syllabus.

Its purpose is to bring up/elevate all HEIs to a common level of benchmarking to ensure that all institutions are providing quality education.

What are the key features of the Draft National Higher Educational Qualification Framework?

Awarding of Degrees: The framework envisages the award of certificates, diplomas and degrees based on what students completing a particular programme of study are expected to know, understand and be able to do at the end of their programme of study.

Parameters for Assessments: It has set up certain parameters of assessments for students in higher education institutions and divided it in levels 5 to 10 (Levels 1 to 4 cover the school education).

– Level 5 represents learning outcomes appropriate to the first year of the undergraduate programme of study.

– Level 10 represents learning outcomes with greater complexity appropriate to the doctoral-level programmes of study.

– At every level, the students will be assessed based on parameters, including knowledge and understanding of theory; cognitive and technical skills; application of knowledge and skills; decision-making abilities etc.

Number of Credits required to clear different levels of Degrees: The framework fixes the number of credits required to clear the different levels of the four-year undergraduate programme, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees.

Those looking to exit the undergraduate programme with a certificate will require 40 credits; with a diploma after two years will need 80 credits; degree after three years will have a requirement of 120 credits; degree with honours/research after four years with 160 credits.

One credit is equivalent to one hour of teaching (lecture or tutorial) or two hours of practical work/fieldwork per week.


Explained: At the root of Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border dispute, a committee report from 1951

Source: This post is based on the article “ Explained: At the root of Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border dispute, a committee report from 1951” published in Indian Express on 3rd February 2022.

What is the News?

Recently, Assam Chief Minister met his Arunachal counterpart to discuss decades-old boundary dispute between the two states.

What is the historical background of the boundary dispute between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh?

The dispute dates back to the British era when in 1873 British announced inner line regulation. British demarcated planes and frontier Hills, which were later designated as North-East frontier tracts in 1915. These Northeast frontier tracts make up today’s Arunachal Pradesh.

The administrative jurisdiction was passed over to Assam, with frontier tracts renamed as Northeast Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1954. Later in 1972, Arunachal Pradesh was declared as a union territory, and it gained statehood in 1987.

However, in 1951, a subcommittee headed by Assam Chief Minister made some recommendations about the administration of NEFA. Based on the committee report, 3648 sq. km of the plain area was transferred from Arunachal Pradesh to Assam’s then Darrang and Lakhimpur districts. Arunachal Pradesh refuses to accept this notification, and this has become a bone of contention.

Why did the demarcation become a bone of contention?

Assam feels that the demarcation as per 1951 notification is constitutional and legal.

But, Arunachal Pradesh holds that the transfer was done without consultation of its people. It was arbitrary, defective and no tribal leader from Arunachal Pradesh was consulted. Also, AP had customary rights over these lands and the tribes paid taxes to Ahom rulers.

What steps were taken to handle the boundary dispute between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh?

In 1983-84, out of 800 km, 489 km was demarcated. Further demarcation could not take place, as Arunachal Pradesh did not accept the recommendations.

Assam filed a case in Supreme Court in 1989, highlighting encroachment made by Arunachal Pradesh. The Court constituted a commission in 2006. The commission submitted its report in 2014 and called for resolution through consensus and discussions.

What should be the way forward?

The Chief Ministers of the two states aims to resolve the dispute. Assam is working to resolve its border disputes with all its neighbouring states including Meghalaya. However, there is a need for a long-term plan which includes all stakeholders.

Mains Answer Writing

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