9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 4, 2021

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List of 9 PM Current Affairs Articles

  1. Smart walls’ for Indian borders
  2. Sri Lanka Writes Off Strategic Colombo Port Deal With India & Japan
  3. Protest in India and US: Similarities and differences
  4. A normal budget for abnormal times
  5. Vaccine battle among countries

‘Smart walls’ for Indian borders 

Synopsis: Concept of smart walls has been introduced in the US. India should also explore the possibilities of using smart walls to protect borders. 

Syllabus – GS- 3 – Internal Security – Border management


US president has stopped the construction of a “border wall” between the U.S. and Mexico. However, a new ‘smart’ wall will be placed on the borders, as an alternative. 

The concept of a smart wall is not new. It was proposed under Trump administration to complement the physical barriers on the border.  

What is a smart wall? 

A ‘smart’ wall would use advanced surveillance technology instead of the physical wall and armed patrols.  

It would make use of the following technologies to detect and stop border infiltration:  

  • For surveillance on the border, it would use radar satellites, computer-equipped border-control vehicles, control sensors, and underground sensors.
  • Thermal imaging would be added for detection.

This technology is so precise that it can distinguish between animals, humans, and vehicles. Then, it will send updates to the forces.  

Is this technology useful in India? 

  1. India is sharing a border with a difficult neighborhood. It is facing challenges of terrorists and smugglers infiltrating into the country. But due to the rugged topography on the borders, erection of fences or any physical structures have not been successful.  
  2. Smart walls can be useful as their systems can be easily used on rugged topographies. Moreover, these technologies are cost-effective, less harmful to the environment, and require a lesser amount of land.  
  3. Even if it is not feasible to cover all our borders under this technology, it can strengthen over existing border security infrastructure.  

Thus, with the increasing tensions on the border of India, exploring such technologies would strengthen India’s security on borders.  

Sri Lanka Writes Off Strategic Colombo Port Deal With India & Japan

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 2- India and its neighborhood- relations

Synopsis: Sri Lanka’s has pulled out of a 2019 Colombo Port deal with India and Japan. The agreement was for developing the strategic East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port.


India and Sri Lanka signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) for cooperation on economic projects in 2019. A container terminal at the Colombo Port was one of the projects under MoU.

However, Sri Lanka has pulled out from the deal after opposition from trade unions.

What was the agreement?

  • The ECT deal was important as between 60 and 70 percent of transshipment that takes place through it is India-linked.
  • As per the agreement, India and Japan would have 49 percent ownership of the ECT, Whereas Sri Lanka would have 51% stake.
  • A 40-year loan at an interest rate of 0.1% from Japan was expected to fund the development of the ECT.

What went wrong?

  1. India-Sri Lanka relations are cordial in general. But India’s involvement in the civil wars of Sri Lanka still affects India’s interest there.
  2. Colombo Port Trade Union has strongly opposed the 49% stake of India and Japan. They are demanding 100% ownership of Sri Lanka of the ports.
  3. Big projects by India have always faced opposition in Sri Lanka. Due to this, India brought Japan in at least two of the projects listed in the MoU.
  4. But the relationship between Japan and Sri Lanka has also changed over the years, because of Colombo’s closeness to China. Therefore, including Japan in the project didn’t prove to be fruitful.
  5. The protests ended after the announcement of the Sri Lanka government. Now, the ECT would be developed and operated as a “wholly-owned container terminal of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).

What happens now?

India has asked Colombo not to take a unilateral decision on an existing tripartite agreement. Japan has called the decision regrettable.

As a compensation offer, Sri Lanka has given a proposal to India and Japan for the development of the west terminal in partnership.

  • Sri Lanka assures that the West terminal is commercially better than the east terminal. The developers could hold up to 85 percent stake instead of 49 percent stake in the West terminal.
  • The unions agreed to this proposal to invite India and Japan to participate in the development and operation of the west terminal.
  • However, India has not yet responded to the offer.

Protest in India and US: Similarities and differences

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2: Indian Constitution-Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.

Synopsis: The violence that took place in the US and India has some similarities. It highlights the erosion of democratic values in the world’s oldest (US) and largest democracies (India).


  • Recently, In the US, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol building. This mob vandalized public property and threatened lawmakers in Congress.
  • Similarly, India witnessed violence on Republic Day. A rally planned to protest against three farm laws, broke off from the planned parade. Protesters entered the premises of the Red Fort by breaking the gates. It later led to a Police crackdown.
  • These two episodes witnessed in the world’s oldest (US) and largest democracies (India) have few similarities and differences.

What are the similarities between the two mas rallies?

First, in both countries, the aggrieved parties challenged the political developments.

In America,

  • Following the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Mr. Trump raised questions on the electoral process. It was despite having no proof for that.
  • He even spread misinformation on social media. This led to the incitement of violence in the US.

In India,

  • The anger was against the three laws passed by the Parliament to reform the mandi system. It was felt that the farm laws can endanger the minimum support price system that has been the economic backbone of small-scale farmers.
  • The farmers protested peacefully for months baring the cold winter. Yet, the lack of political will to negotiate with the protesting farmers triggered the violence on Republic day.

Second, social media played an important role to show the darker side of mass rallies, in both examples.

In America,

  • Social media telecasted an invading mob holding zip ties (zip ties imply a threat to the lives of lawmakers in the building).
  • A truck filled with guns and bombs near the site of the attack that was discovered by law enforcement agencies was also telecasted.

In India,

  • Social media was flooded with images of the religious flag of the Sikhs (Nishan Sahib) being hoisted at the Red Fort. This gave an impression that the protest was politically motivated.

What are the differences?

US mass rally was in support of Trump’s call for nativist populism and racist ethos i.e. in support of white supremacy. It created a sharp division among the US population and will have long-term impacts.

Whereas the farmer’s protest in India is against the law enacted by a powerful government. They are resisting the neoliberal economic policy of the government.

Issues with democratic models of Polity

  • The above incidents clearly give a picture that Democracy is a contested topic in the world. It favours a religious or social majority through democratic processes like elections.
  • Moreover, democracies are inherently capable of turning into a power structure that overtakes democratic processes. It is evident in the rise of fascism in the pre-World War Europe.
  • The ongoing events in the US and India clearly explain that Democracy has been wrongly understood as the rule of the majority leading to the undermining of Democracy.

A normal budget for abnormal times

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS-3- Government Budgeting

Synopsis: The recently released budget appears to be fairly normal. Normal is not sufficient for abnormal times like the present.


The economy contracted by 7.7% in India. The economic survey projects India’s real GDP growth to be 11% in 2021-22. However, this projection looks overestimated. India will have to surpass pre-covid-19 levels to achieve this growth; this will take at least two years.

  • The budget required non-standard policy responses given the abnormal times for the economy. However, no such major changes were made to the budget.
  • There is only a 1% increase in the overall expenditure of the government.

What are the issues in the budget?

First, the increase in capital expenditure is expected to be channelized through Investment in infrastructure, However, it is linked with 2 types of risks;

  • If there is a delay in the completion of projects, it will lead to more spending.
  • It will not provide instant multiplier effects to lift the demand. As the life cycle of these projects is very long.

Second, there are no drastic reforms for the agriculture sector. For example, no announcements of rationalizing of the Public Distribution System issue prices of food grains.

  • The cash transfers under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme (PM-KISAN) have not been increased.

Third, manufacturing growth would depend totally on private investments.

  • There is lack of concrete policies towards export promotion in the textile sector. This can undermine the competitiveness of manufacturing exports.

Fourth, infrastructure provisioning has unaddressed issues such as execution risk and regulatory issues. The introduction of a development finance institution addresses only one issue.

Fifth, there is no proper plan to tackle urban unemployment. Employment and demand generation will depend on the impulses of growth cycles.

The target of reducing the fiscal deficit from 9.5% to 6.8% of GDP depends upon hypothetical factors, such as:

    • Total revenue might get some boost from better tax revenue.
    • A renewed hope for better divestment revenues.

Although the Budget fixed some grand targets, it did not provide the precise mechanisms to achieve those.

Vaccine battle among countries

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS 2 – Health related issues

Synopsis: Countries should refrain from engaging in vaccine battles and focus on global cooperation.


Almost all countries across the globe are in need of access to vaccines. But the developed countries are mindlessly collecting approved vaccines.

Only the countries in the global south like China and India are helping out other countries.

How are rich countries engaging in vaccine battles?

As per few reports, the advance purchase contracts made by some countries for potential vaccine procurement are way above their need. It would vaccinate their population many times.

  • For example, the EU population can be vaccinated two times, the US and the UK four times, and Canada six times.
  • 82% of Pfizer’s production in 2021 and 78% of Moderna’s have already been advance purchased by leading countries. 

Advanced countries are engaged in vaccine battles as they believe that an early vaccination will bring back normalcy in their countries. Concepts of Public good and global cooperation are missing from the scene.

What is India’s stance?

On the other hand, India is exporting a major percentage of the approved doses. Its initial shipment to the least developed countries will be free of cost.

Exports from India are helping other nations, especially its neighbouring countries. For example, Brazil has received 2 million doses of vaccine from India.

India’s approach needs coordinated international efforts to bring COVID-19 under control.


The COVAX project is a program based on funding from high and middle-income countries. It is a global risk-sharing mechanism of fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. 

This project aimed to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. But it is facing challenges from rich countries due to their excessive vaccine procurement, directly from suppliers.

But now, as the U.S. President Joe Biden has decided to join the COVAX project,  expectations from the project are high. India, which is a hub of cost-effective vaccines, would be instrumental in its success.  For example, Covishield, the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India costs only $3 per dose; Covaxin is priced at $4.2. 

Way forward

The development of vaccines should have shown global cooperation between the North and the South. But the democratic world is suffering from increasing nationalist tendencies. 

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 4, 2021

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