9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 20th, 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

Envisioning Governance 4.0 for a world that must not fail its kids

Source: This post is based on the article “Envisioning Governance 4.0 for a world that must not fail its kids” published in Livemint on 20th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – Governance related issues

Relevance: Need of Governance 4.0

News: India requires governance 4.0 in the second half of the 20th century to enable income growth and social peace.

In 2022, new challenges, for instance, climate action failure and erosion of social inter-relatedness are present before the government to deal with. But the issue is that today many people have lost faith in their leaders.

But, the main problem is that global governance is facing a gradual erosion. The re-emergence of infectious diseases, debt crises, and inadequate tech regulation are the unresolved problems of global governance which were ignored by the leadership.

How Global Governance system has evolved?

Governance 1.0– after World War II, both public and corporate governance were marked by the rule of a “strong leader”. This type of leadership worked well in a society, where hierarchy functioned smoothly, and tech and economic advances benefited almost everyone.

Governance 2.0: it emerged in the 1960s. It prioritized material wealth, which led to the rise of “shareholder capitalism”. However, its narrowness further led to the 2008 crisis.

Governance 3.0: it started after the COVID-19 shock. The decision-making is dominated by crisis management, and leaders are focusing more on operational issues. This trial-and-error approach has led to unintended consequences.

What is the need of Governance 4.0?

One, the world has changed and public and corporate governance must change with it. The fourth Industrial Revolution and climate change are disrupting every industry.

For example, technologies such as blockchain are helping in decentralization and on the other hand, inequities are increasing.

Two, many business executives and political leaders are advocating environmental, social and governance metrics to develop a new age of governance.

Three, young people are demanding a better future.

How Governance 4.0 would differ from its predecessors?

 First, it should focus on long-term strategic thinking. Dealing with pandemic, socioeconomic crises and people’s mental health need to be complemented with action taken to fight climate change.

Second, there is a need for a holistic approach to reverse biodiversity loss, environmental damage, and involuntary migration.

Third, it will replace the top-down approach with a stakeholder approach. Since the society is complex and interconnected, the roles of each stakeholder in society must change.

Fourth, a new governance system should be society and nature rather than short-term financial interests. Finance and business must serve society and nature, not the other way around.

ForumIAS is now in Hyderabad. Click here to know more

Reforms in the multilateral institutions: A gathering storm over multilateral institutions

Source: This post is based on the article “A gathering storm over multilateral institutions” published in the Livemint on 20th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Important International institutions, agencies, their structure and mandates.

Relevance: Understanding the reasons required for reforms in multilateral institutions.

News: Indian Prime Minister, while addressing the World Economic Forum annual conference, talks about required reforms in the multilateral institutions to deal with the new world order. Chinese President also talks about the need for reforms to uphold true multilateralism, fairness and justice.

Why are the reforms in the multilateral institutions are necessary?

1) Dysfunctional system of economic governance 2) Anachronistic structure in multilateral financial institutions like World Bank and IMF 3) Multilateral institutions are mostly designed to privilege rich countries like WEF itself showcasing the worst kind of capitalism, the monopolistic one, 4) Many countries have recently spoken about the outdated multilateral system,

Read here: India seeks to push reforms,development agenda at WTO

The 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic have exposed flaws in the dominant model and capitalism.

Read more: A crisis of multilateralism and Asia’s rising stake in it

Global institutions need a greater diversity of perspective and a better-balanced approach if they are to retain relevance this century. India and China spoke on behalf of the developing world. With 40% of the global population, a convergence of Indian and Chinese views is welcome news.

Read more: Let us revitalize multilateralism: The future of the world is at stake

Urban governance: Democratise and empower city governments

Source: This post is based on the article “How to avert a demographic disaster” published in the Indian Express on 20th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

Relevance: Understanding empowerment of local governance.

News: Recently, the Reserve Bank of India released a report titled “state finances, study of budgets of 2021-22 “.

What does the report talk about?

RBI report, on the lines of 15th finance commission report, mentioned that:

local governments played a great role in combating the pandemic, but this has now worsened their economic situation.

Functional autonomy of civic bodies must increase and governance structures should be strengthened.

What steps have been taken for urban governance empowerment in the past?

First intervention took place in the 1980s and the formation of the national commission on urbanisation with Charles Correa as its chairperson.

Second important intervention was in the 1990s with the 73rd and 74th amendment act and empowering urban local bodies to perform 18 functions listed in the 12th schedule.

Some states like Kerala adopted a people’s plan model where 40% of the state’s budget was for local bodies.

What are the challenges in urban governance?

Cities are treated as an extension of State governments, with very limited freedom is given to cities. Also, 73rd and 74th amendment act gave no mention of financial empowerment.

Read here: Local governments still remain hamstrung and ineffective after decades of 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments

Octroi was a significant means of city finances. But this was taken away by the state and central governments and instead, the Finance commission recommended grants to local bodies based on the formula of demographic profile. While earlier 55% of revenue was met by octroi, now grants cover only 15% of the expenditure.

Goods and services tax now have completely reduced the city’s capacity to tax and finance themselves.

What measures should be adopted to address urban governance?

A committee under the ministry of housing and urban development had earlier recommended 10% of income tax flows should be directed to cities. But this was not implemented. The government should implement the recommendation.

Apart from that,

– City should be treated as the centre of governance with a focus on transparency and participation of the people.

– Cities should not be considered only as business centres, but as spaces for plant development.

– Cities should be made climate-resilient by incorporating climate change into the development plan.

– Focus should be on enabling residents to drop plans and make them part of decision-making.

– Leadership in the cities must be elected for five-year terms.

This will enable India to go the Scandinavian Way, where cities are self-reliant centres of Governance. Empowering the three F’s – functions functionaries and finances should be the way forward.


Data on sanitation: NFHS data offers a reality check for claims of Swachh Bharat success

Source: This post is based on the article “The many problems of online anonymity” published in Indian Express on 20th January 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding data on sanitation.

News: Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation released the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) Round-3 (2019-20). But NARSS data shows some discrepancies with the NFHS 5 data.

What are the findings of NARSS data on sanitation?

NARSS is aligned with the SBM and is implemented through private agencies. It measures the performance of each state with respect to the DLIs (Disbursement Linked Indicators). The survey components include a household sample survey and a village survey.

DLI 1: It focuses on the reduction in the prevalence of open defecation. The indicator is based on the rural population having access to sanitation facilities, the functionality of the toilet, safe disposal mechanism of human excreta etc.

DLI 2: It measures the rural population of ODF villages showing a sustained ODF status. This is calculated based on households having access and use of a toilet, and the absence of visible faeces in village surroundings and places historically used for open defecation.

What is the difference between various data on sanitation?

The NSSO had conducted a survey during July-December 2018 covering drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, etc. It had reported 71.3% of households have access to a latrine, far lower than the NARSS 2018-19 figure of 93.3%. Also, only a few detailed state reports are available from NFHS.

Why stakeholders should rely on NFHS data on sanitation?

Although NFHS data is available partially, it clearly indicates the need for reinforcing the behavioural change the government plans to sustain during Phase II of SBM.


“Broken houses-MP, MLAs suspensions have become cross party blunt instrument of maximalist power politics ”

Source– This post is based on the article “Broken houses-MP, MLAs suspensions have become cross party blunt  instrument of maximalist power politics ” published in Times of India on 19th Jan 2022.  

Syllabus– GS2- Parliament and State Legislatures. 

Relevance– Suspension of MPs/MLAs. 

News 

Supreme Court has raised concern over frequent suspension of MPs/MLAs and also stated that if this trend is a “danger to democracy”. 

Why have been some recent instances of suspension of MP/MLAs have come under criticism? 

12 Rajya Sabha members were suspended in the winter session-Since the allegation of misbehaviour were from the time of monsoon session, the opposition complained that the action contravened House business rules. 

It said that rules allowed suspension only for the remainder of the session, not for the next session. 

Maharashtra assembly’s suspension of 12 BJP MLAs-SC  noted that since suspensions are aimed at ensuring smooth conduct of House business, extending them beyond the ongoing session would be “irrational”.  

What is the way forward?  

Presiding officers are responsible for ensuring government’s legislative business is transacted smoothly with keen House participation. They should have a non-partisan conduct. 

According to SC suspensions must be kept short and preferably for only the ongoing session. 

If Legislative conduct turns unconstitutional or illegal it can also turn into a threat to separation of power. 


GS Paper 3

Centre to rank states on faster green nods, fewer details sought

Source: This post is based on the article “Centre to rank states on faster green nods, fewer details sought” published in The Indian Express on 20th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Relevance: Ranking system for SEIAAs

News: In a controversial move, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has decided to incentivise states by ranking them on the basis of efficiency and timelines in grant of environmental clearances.

It is to be noted that the time period for providing environmental clearance to a project has already been reduced from 105 days to 75 days in order to streamline clearance processes.

What are the key points of the order?

As per Ministry’s order:

The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) which clears projects in the shortest period of time, has a high rate of clearance, and seeks fewer “essential details” will be ranked the highest.

States will be incentivised through a star-rating system, based on efficiency and timelines in grant of EC (environmental clearance).

This is intended as a mode of recognition and encouragement, as well as for prompting improvements where needed.

What is the rationale behind this move?

The decision comes in the backdrop of a meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary in November 2021. It had raised the issue of action taken to enable “ease of doing business’’, especially in the context of “ranking of states based on the time taken in according clearances’’.

What are the parameters for the rating system?

Following parameters are listed:

Marking system for the days taken for clearance is as follows –

MarksDays taken for clearance by the SEIAA
2< 80 days
1< 105 days
0.5105 – 120 days
0> 120 days

– Rating on the basis of disposal of fresh TOR: The state authorities will also be rated on the percentage of disposal of fresh Terms of Reference (TOR) or TOR amendment proposals pending for over 30 days.

After a project is screened, the authority provides the client a Terms of Reference (TOR) document which defines the purpose and structures of the project, committee, meeting, negotiation etc.

Marks% of disposal of TORs% of EDS sought
% of complaints redressed
1> 90%<10%All
0.580-90%= 20%50%
0<80%>30%< 50%

Similarly, SEIAAs will be ranked for disposal of fresh environmental clearances as well as pending environmental amendment proposals

The state authorities will also be rewarded for seeking fewer environmental details. (Environmental Details Sought)

The rating system also takes into account disposal of complaints.

Based on these parameters, if an SEIAA gets more than 7 marks, it will be ranked as 5-star (the highest ranking). Any SEIAA which gets a total of less than 3 marks will get no star.

What has been the reaction to this move?

Environmentalists have criticised this move. They’ve said that the state authorities, whose mandate is to ensure protection of the environment, will now “compete’’ to clear projects swiftly, to increase state rankings.

Moreover, the World Bank itself has discounted the principle of ease of doing business, admitting that it does not work.

Must Read: End of Ease of Doing Business rankings: Reasons and implications – Explained, pointwise
What are SEIAAs?

The SEIAAs are responsible for providing environmental clearance for a bulk of the infrastructure, developmental and industrial projects.

They are set up under the Environment Protection Act 1986.

Objective: Their main purpose is to assess the impact of the proposed project on the environment and people, and to try and minimise this impact.

In India, the biggest projects are given environmental clearances by the Environment Ministry under Category A. The SEIAAs give over 90% clearances across the country (Category B projects), primarily for construction projects.


Why 5G roll-outs are disrupting flights to the US

Source: This post is based on the article “Technology tangle: On 5G services and flight disruptions”, “Why 5G roll-outs are disrupting flights to the US” published in The Hindu and Livemint on 20th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3- Issues related to implementation of 5G technology.

Relevance:  5G technology

News: Air India and several other airlines have cancelled flights to the US. They are worried that the 5G roll-out there may affect aircraft and passenger safety, a concern raised by Boeing and Airbus in the past.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aircraft makers warned that accurate functioning of radar altimeters in some aircraft may be affected by the 5G radio frequencies.

How 5G installation near airports impacts airplane services?

Airlines take off and land using autopilot systems, which use data from radar altimeters to determine the altitude of the aircraft. Hence, they are a crucial part of flight operations for pilots, particularly while seeking to make low-visibility landings in poor weather conditions.

Altimeters emit radio waves at 4.2-4.3 Gigahertz (GHz) frequency, which could interfere with a 5G band called C-Band, which lies between 3.7-4.4 GHz.

Whereas, not using auto-pilot would lead to more fuel consumption and higher costs for airlines.

What are the steps taken by US regulators?

US regulators left about a 200 MHz buffer between the altimeters’ frequency and the 5G C-Band frequency. However, some airplanes like the Boeing 777 are using some older radio altimeters, which are finding it difficult to function in this buffer. So some US telcos have temporarily deferred the 5G roll-out.

Can this impact India’s 5G roll-out?

India’s 5G auctions are expected to include spectrum bands of 3.3GHz -3.6GHz, which means the C-Band may not be operational, at least in the near future.

Additionally, aircraft equipment is manufactured globally, with certain standards. The FAA tests will likely lead to standards for altimeters and applied internationally. Once a standard is known, it can be implemented in all aircraft.


The mobile phone sector has lessons for India’s economy

Source: This post is based on the article “The mobile phone sector has lessons for India’s economy” published in Indian Express on 20th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth.

Relevance: Lessons learnt from mobile and RAC sector, Export led growth

News: India needs to apply the lessons learnt from mobile and room AC(RAC) sector on other sectors to reduce dependency on import and increase manufacturing.

 How mobile and RAC sector helped China in transforming its economy?

India and China had similar per capita GDP in 1983 but now Chinese per capita GDP will be five times that of India’s in 2022. China exports $200 billion worth of mobile phones.

However, India imported RACs worth Rs 41 billion in 2017-18. In 2014-15 mobile phone imports exceeded and threatened to exceed oil imports.

How mobile phones manufacturing grew in India?

One, various steps taken by the government. For example, 100 per cent automatic FDI, import duties, the Phased Manufacturing Plan (PMP), manufacturing clusters (EMC 2.0) and the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme.

They have attracted investments, created lakhs of jobs and now India is a net exporter.

Two, mobile phone manufacturing value has jumped more than eight times between 2013- 2021. For instance, Samsung runs the world’s single-largest location mobile handset manufacturing plant in Uttar Pradesh.

Three, the PLI scheme allocates incentives for the mobile phone category. Global giants like Foxconn, Samsung, and domestic companies like Dixon are committing investments for this.

What India can do next to boost exports and increase value addition?

First, in India, mobile phone exports are limited to feature phones and low-value smartphones. We need to focus on value addition, which is currently limited to 15-20 percent.

The scheme for promoting the manufacturing of electronic components and semiconductors (SPECS) is a step in the right direction.

Second, there is a need to focus on setting up a fabrication plant to manufacture semiconductor chips to facilitate supply chain integration.

Third, leverage common interests with Taiwan, a global leader in chip manufacturing.

What are the measures taken by India to reduce import dependence on China for AC (RAC)?

The government initiated multiple measures such as the PMP scheme, banning the import of refrigerant-filled ACs, increasing the import duty on RACs and critical components, and the PLI scheme. This led to a decline in imports by 56 percent in 2020-21.

Also, India’s import of RACs has shifted from China to an FTA country like Thailand, where import duty isn’t applicable.

What are the lessons learnt?

 One, a judicious mix of protection and incentives has developed local manufacturing, created jobs, and increased exports.

Two, we need to replicate this success across sectors like specialty steel, automobiles, auto components, toys, bulk drugs, technical textiles, food products, solar PV modules, and medical devices.

What is the way forward?

First, with China+1 becoming essential, it is the right time for India to expand the manufacturing sector and improve export market share.

Second, India has a large domestic market, and the automobile, generic pharma sector, and the mobile phone/RAC sectors have shown that we know the formulae.

Third, India needs close coordination between central, state, and local governments.

Fourth, the rule of law, improvements in infrastructure and logistics, and flexible labour laws can play a significant role.


Anonymous on social media: The many problems of online anonymity

Source: This post is based on the article “The many problems of online anonymity” published in The Hindu on 20th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3  role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges.

Relevance: Understanding the problems related to online anonymity.

News: Social media handles and platforms encourage the use of anonymity which amplify various issues like fake news, online abuse etc.

How can one be anonymous on social media?

Social media defines anonymity as “Unidentifiable within a set of subjects” but that identity is not linear. The most common type of anonymity involves the use of a pseudonym, a fake or no photo, and nothing specific in the bio.

Why do people want to be anonymous on social media?

– To be able to speak the truth against vindictive forces.

– To participate in online conversations without being judged from past experiences

– For choosing non-hetero normative identities or for documenting deeply personal experiences that could be subject to sweeping judgments by others.

–  To not let the views be tagged to the real person being spoken about, in the offline world.

Why do platforms encourage users to go anonymous on social media?

There are some of the platforms where giving reviews anonymous are the norms like Glassdoor, Reddit, Fishbowl etc. These platforms believe that people can be more authentic and true to themselves when they detach from real-world identities.

What are the problems with being anonymous on social media?

1) Extreme opinions  2) Spreading fake information

Read here: Centre plans law on online hate speech

Unemployment and joblessness: How to avert a demographic disaster

Source: This post is based on the article “How to avert a demographic disaster” published in the Indian Express on  20th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development and employment.

Relevance: Understanding demographic dividend.

News: Utilization of demographic dividends depends on the ability of the economy to generate gainful employment. But India is witnessing unemployment and joblessness.

What is the current scenario of unemployment and joblessness?

India’s joblessness rate is at 7.9%, in December 2021 with urban unemployment rising to 9.3%. In Uttar Pradesh, the Labour force has risen from 150 to 170 million in the past five years. But the percentage of those employed has fallen from 38.5% to 32.8% (CMIE data).

For youth, the unemployment rate has risen from 15.66% in 2016-17 to 28.26% in 2020-21. 9 million out of 55 million graduate degree holders were unemployed in 2019.

Also read: Creating jobs for young India

The labour force participation rate has dropped from 47.26% to 40–42% since August 2016. This has increased demand for state assured labour jobs under the national employment guarantee scheme, with 85.6 million individuals utilising this between April and October 2021.

Start-ups, 53,000 in number, have only created 5.7 lakh jobs.

Public sector jobs are on a decline, with numbers dropping from 11.3 lakh to 10.3 lakh Between 2017 and 2019.

Considering these, India needs to create 90 million non-farm jobs between 2023 and 2030.

Read here: To tackle the Indian economy’s woes, create more jobs
What should be done to avert unemployment and joblessness?

The state could expand basic public services. As of 2019, there were 2 million health workers vacancies, 1 million teacher vacancies and 1.17 million Anganwadi worker vacancies. Also, there is a need to expand capacity in healthcare by 2.9 to 4.2 lakh health workers.  These activities could create 5.2 million jobs.

There is a need to upscale the existing labour force, particularly in urban India. A national urban employment guarantee scheme focused on creating public assets could generate infrastructure and employment. It could cover 20 million urban casual workers for a hundred days, with an overall annual cost of 1 lakh crore.

The state could focus on creating green jobs. Municipal council-based towns could create an estimated 650 green jobs. A full-fledged municipal corporation could create up to 9085 jobs.

Thus, Indian cities could act as engines of growth and job creation if the right policies are implemented.


Increase the green cover

Source– This post is based on the article “Increase the green cover” published in Business standard on 19th Jan 2022.  

Syllabus– GS3- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation. 

Relevance– Forest loss , conservation, policy suggestions 

News 

Although the recently released India State of Forests report, 2021 has shown an expansion in the forest cover but there are some apprehensions regarding these estimates. 

Why there are apprehensions regarding findings of the report? 

Majority of this increase in vegetation has occurred in the “open forests” category where a tree canopy of just above 10 per cent in over a hectare of land is deemed as forest. Many commercial plantations, such as coconut farms or fruit orchards, are also counted as forests under this category. 

The Moderately dense forests (tree canopy of 40 to 70 per cent) which are actually rich in biodiversity have shrunk. 

The loss of these forests has grave ecological and geological implications 

The report also highlights that indiscriminate anthropogenic activity, including shifting cultivation and timber poaching is still practised on a large scale. 

Although there has been a marginal improvement in the presence of dense forests, this has happened largely in reserved forests— sanctuaries and national parks.  

What are the reasons behind degradation of forests? 

Absence of a well-defined forest conservation policy– There are no defined rules for diverting forest land to non-forest uses. Also, there are no specified norms for demarcating restricted areas that may need special conservation efforts. 

These gap in statute lead to easy clearances for commercial and other projects to be taken up in the designated forest areas.  

Although efforts were made to bring a new forest policy in mid-2000s and to amend the Forest Conservation Act but there has been little progress on both the fronts. 

Absence of a nationally accepted definition of forests -States have their own definition for labelling a piece of land as forest.  

Also, if any land parcel is once listed in revenue records as forest, it remains so even if it turns barren.  

Improper execution of the scheme for compensatory afforestation- 

This has resulted in poor private sector participation in the expansion and conservation of the forests. The funds collected for this purpose also remain underutilized. 


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Miss Kerala not endangered: aquarists

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Miss Kerala not endangered: aquarists published in The Hindu on 20th January 2022.

What is the News?

Denison barb (Miss Kerala), a fish species, has been included in Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021.

However, aquarists and ornamental fish breeders have issues with this inclusion.

What is Denison barb (Miss Kerala)?

Denison barb (Miss Kerala) is also known as red-line torpedo barb, or roseline shark.

It is a native freshwater fish species, commonly found in parts of Karnataka and Kerala.

The fish is featured with red and black stripes on its body.

IUCN Status: Endangered

Threats: The fish species is being exploited for the aquarium trade.

What are the issues with the inclusion of Denison barb under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021?

Firstly, the scientific name given to the Denison barb is Puntius denisonii. This is wrong. It should have been named Sahyadria denisonii.

Secondly, the inclusion of Denison barb in Schedule I is literally a ban. This is wrong because:

– This fish species is found in almost 11 rivers of Kerala and Karnataka with some of the highest endemic aquatic fauna in the country.

– The income from the collection of Denison barb for the fish trade acts as an incentive for fishermen to protect habitats.

Hence, it would have been preferable to better regulate the trade by including the species in Schedule IV instead of Schedule I.


Explained: Houthis and the war in Yemen, in which Indian lives have now been lost

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Explained: Houthis and the war in Yemen, in which Indian lives have now been lost’ published in Indian Express on 20th January 2022.

What is the news?

A suspected drone attack in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates(UAE) has caused multiple explosions in which three people were killed — two Indians and one Pakistani. The attack was claimed by the Houthi rebels of Yemen.

Note: Yemen is located at the junction of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and its coastline commands the strategic strait of Bab al-Mandab. The country has been under civil war for more than seven years now and the Houthis control the western part of Yemen including capital Sana’a.
Who are Houthis, and why is there a war in Yemen?

Houthis are a large clan belonging to the Zaidi Shia sect. Zaidis make up around 35% of Yemen’s population.

The Zaidis ruled over Yemen for over a thousand years until 1962 when they were overthrown. In 2004, the Houthis began an insurgent movement against the Yemeni government.

In 2012, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been Yemen’s president, was forced to step down in the wake of the Arab Spring protests. He was succeeded by his vice-president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

In 2015, Saleh aligned himself with the Houthis against Hadi, and they captured Sana’a. Due to this, the president fled to Aden and subsequently to Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, Saleh broke his alliance with the Houthis, and crossed over to the side of the Saudis, the UAE, and President Hadi. After this, Saleh was assassinated.

Why are Saudi and UAE involved in the Yemen Civil war?

In 2015, ​​nine-nation coalition led by Saudi Arabia with the support of the United States began a bombing campaign against the Houthis. The air attacks were in support of Hadi’s forces.

The intervention was due to a fundamental power struggle — between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Western Countries believe that the Houthis are backed militarily and financially by the regime in Iran.

However, the coalition has made only limited progress since then as the Houthis remain in power in Sana’a and a humanitarian catastrophe has unfolded in Yemen.


‘Superbugs claim 1.3m lives a year, 3.9L in S Asia alone’

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Superbugs claim 1.3m lives a year, 3.9L in S Asia alonepublished in TOI on 20th January 2022.

What is the news?

According to a study published in The Lancet,  Superbugs kill around 1.27 million people globally every year.

What are Superbugs?

Superbugs are pathogens which are resistant to multiple antimicrobial drugs, thus making it harder to treat. 

Patients infected with any of these bugs often have to be treated with last line drugs, which are both expensive and toxic. And many of them succumb.

What are the findings of this study on Superbugs?

Superbugs kill around 1.27 million people globally every year. Almost 30% or 3.89 lakh of these deaths occurred in South Asia in 2019.

The high levels of hospitalisations from Covid-19 have possibly accelerated the burden of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as most patients were prescribed antibiotics. (In India, a five-day course of common antibiotics such as doxycycline or amoxicillin was given to several Covid patients.)

The study has also highlighted three concerns going forward:

– growing drug resistance in children

– tepid response by governments and

– lack of research for new antibiotics.

Note: In 2019, one in five global deaths attributable to AMR occurred in kids under five—often from previously treatable infections.

 Moreover, the study has also found that AMR disproportionately affects poor individuals who have little access to second-line, more expensive antibiotics that could work when first-line drugs fail.


Cabinet approves extension of tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis for three years

Source: This post is based on the articleCabinet approves extension of tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis for three yearspublished in PIB on 19th January 2022.

What is the news?

The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) for three years.

What is the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK)?

National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) was constituted in 1994 as a statutory body as per the provisions of the NCSK Act, 1993.

It was initially set up for three years, i.e up to 1997. Later the validity of the Act was initially extended up to 2002 and thereafter up to 2004. However, the NCSK Act ceased to have effect from 2004.

After that, the tenure of the NCSK has been extended as a non-statutory body from time to time through resolutions. The tenure of the present Commission is up to 31st March 2022.

What is the mandate of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK)?

Recommend to the Government regarding specific programmes for welfare of Safai Karamcharis

Study and evaluate the existing welfare programmes for Safai Karamcharis

Investigate cases of specific grievance of Safai Karamcharis

To study and monitor the working conditions of Safai Karamcharis 

Make reports to the Central or State Governments on any matter concerning Safai Karamcharis.

Moreover, as per the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the NCSK has been assigned the following work:

To monitor the implementation of the Act

Tender advice for its effective implementation to the Centre and State Governments, and enquire into complaints regarding contravention/non-implementation of the provisions of the Act.  

Must Read: Manual Scavenging in India
What is the significance of the extension of NCSK?

The major beneficiaries of the extension would be the Safai Karamcharis and identified manual scavengers in the country. The number of Manual Scavengers identified as of 2021 is around 58,000.


BiodiverCities by 2030: Transforming cities relationship with nature

Source: This post is based on the article ‘BiodiverCities by 2030: Transforming cities relationship with nature’ published in World Economic Forum on 19th January 2022.

What is the news?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has released a report titled “BiodiverCities by 2030: Transforming cities’ relationship with nature”.

What is the “BiodiverCities by 2030: Transforming cities relationship with nature” Report?

The report is a key output of the BiodiverCities by 2030 initiative

Note: BiodiverCities by 2030 initiative is led jointly by the World Economic Forum and the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute and championed by the Government of Colombia. The initiative aims to support city governments, businesses and citizens, to make choices that enable cities to live in harmony with nature by 2030.
What are the key findings of the report?

Cities contribute nearly 80% to the global economy, but they also account for nearly three-fourths of greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact of Nature Loss: Around 44% of global GDP in cities ($31 trillion) is estimated to be at risk of disruption from nature loss. More than 1.4 billion people living in the world’s largest urban centres are threatened by natural hazards.

Solution to overcome from Nature Loss: Investing in ‘Nature-positive’ investments – such as Nature-based Solutions for infrastructure or returning land to nature can enhance nature. It can also secure significant economic benefits as cities become more resilient, liveable and competitive. 

What are the three steps that will enable cities to live in harmony with nature?

Firstly, cities must embrace a ‘systems approach’ to urban governance that considers the needs of all stakeholders and accounts for the value of natural ecosystems.

Secondly, cities must reintegrate nature into their planning decisions. This means preserving natural habitats within and around cities, renaturing degraded land (through, for example, community-based tree planting) and ‘growing smart’ by embedding nature in new or upgraded infrastructure such as green corridors along high streets and green roofs on new buildings.

Thirdly, action is needed to make nature an attractive investment to financial markets and drive private funding into cities’ natural capital.


Experts from India and Israel suggested expanding scope of India-Israel Industrial R&D &amp; Technological Innovation Fund(I4F)

Source: This post is based on the article Experts from India and Israel suggested expanding scope of India-Israel Industrial R&D & Technological Innovation Fund(I4F)published in PIB on 20th January 2022.

What is the News?

At the 8th Governing body meeting of the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund(I4F), India and Israel approved three joint R&D projects and deliberated on widening the scope of the I4F programme.

What are three joint projects approved under the I4F Programme

The three projects are:

 ‘Centrally Monitored IoT Nanosensors for Molecular Diagnostics in Healthcare and Screening Applications’

‘NoMoreMos- a mosquito control biological solution’ and 

‘IoT enabled satellite communication for real-time collection of agriculture and environment data across India’

What is India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund(I4F)?

I4F is a cooperation between the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Government of India, and the Israel Innovation Authority, the Government of Israel.

Aim: To promote, facilitate and support joint industrial R&D projects between companies from India and Israel, which would address the challenges in the agreed ‘Focus Sectors’ and lead to successful commercialization and benefit for both countries.

Focus Sectors: The programme is open to applied R&D projects in all areas. But it will prioritize the areas of Agriculture, Energy, Healthcare, Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) and Water.

Implementing Agency: Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) is appointed to implement the I4F program in India, while Israel Innovation Authority is the implementing agency in Israel.


Antimicrobial resistance in aquaculture can hit exports, Centre warns states

Source: This post is based on the article Antimicrobial resistance in aquaculture can hit exports, Centre warns statespublished in Down To Earth on 20th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying have written to the chief secretaries of all states and Union territories regarding the threat posed by antibiotic use in the aquaculture sector.

Antimicrobial resistance in Aquaculture Sector

Antimicrobial resistance is being seen in the aquaculture sector, particularly shrimp aquaculture. This is due to antibiotic misuse and overuse in aquaculture.

Impact: In addition to health risks posed by antibiotic-laden food, there have been instances of rejection of shrimp consignments from India due to antibiotic detection. 

Hence, there is an urgent need for measures such as monitoring and regulating the sale and distribution of antibiotics for veterinary use and ensuring that antibiotics are only sold on the prescription of registered veterinary practitioners. 

Antimicrobial resistance in Cattle Sector

The Cattle Sector is also impacted by the overuse of antibiotics. The major reason is that the majority of India’s 537 million cattle are in rural areas and so, access to veterinary services is limited.

This gap in service delivery is mostly filled by quacks who charge less and are easily accessible. Treatment by people with little or no formal training frequently results in misuse of antibiotics, seen most commonly in the treatment of Mastitis Disease.

What are the steps the Government is taking to overcome limited veterinary services?

The government is introducing mobile veterinary units(MVUs) as part of the Livestock Health and Disease Control Programme.

An MVU is a GPS-tracked four-wheeler van with working space for one veterinarian, one para veterinarian and a driver/attendant as well as space for diagnostic equipment, treatment, minor surgery and other basic requirements, as well as audiovisual aids to raise awareness.

The MVUs will be providing treatment at the farmer’s doorsteps. This will help address concerns around dairy farmers in rural areas being frequently compelled to travel far from their homes to seek treatment for their animals.


Cabinet approves Scheme for grant of ex-gratia payment of difference between compound interest and simple interest for six months to borrowers in specified loan accounts

Source: This post is based on the article Cabinet approves Scheme for grant of ex-gratia payment of difference between compound interest and simple interest for six months to borrowers in specified loan accountspublished in PIB on 19th January 2022

What is the News?

The Union Cabinet has approved the payment of ex-gratia amount pertaining to claims submitted by Lending Institutions (LIs) under “Scheme for grant of ex-gratia payment of difference between compound interest and simple interest for six months to borrowers in specified loan accounts”.

What is the “Scheme for grant of ex-gratia payment of difference between compound interest and simple interest for six months to borrowers in specified loan accounts”?

Borrowers who take loans from any financial institution are charged compounded interest. As a relief for people affected by COVID-19 induced lockdown, the Central government and RBI gave a loan moratorium for a period of six months — from March 1 to August 31, 2020. 

The borrowers who availed of the moratorium would have to pay interest during this period, which would be added to the total loan amount. But following the Supreme Court’s direction, the government came up with this scheme in a bid to provide relief to small borrowers. 

As per the scheme, the difference between the compound interest and simple interest will be reimbursed to the eligible borrowers irrespective of whether he/she availed of the moratorium or not.

Note: Calculation of simple interest is on the principal or the original amount of a loan. On the other hand, compound interest is calculated on the principal amount plus accumulated interest of previous periods. Thus, it can be regarded as “interest on interest”.
How was the interest differential calculated?

The interest differential was calculated based on the interest rate as of February 29, 2020. For credit card holders, the amount will be calculated based on the rate charged by the bank for breaking outstandings down into EMIs.

For example, one has a loan with an outstanding of ₹10 lakh and the bank charges 8% interest. For the period of six months, his/her interest component would be ₹40,672. For the same period, the simple interest would be ₹40,000. The difference of ₹672 would be a relief.

The relief amount will be credited to the borrower’s loan account. After crediting, lending institutions would claim reimbursement from the central government.

Who was eligible for the scheme?

As per the guidelines, the scheme can be availed by borrowers who have taken loans not exceeding ₹2 crores. The RBI has included the following loans under the scheme: MSME loans, Education loans, housing loans, Consumer durable loans, credit card dues, Auto loans, Personal loans to professionals and Consumption loans.

 


Explained: The debate over marital rape

Source: This post is based on the article Explained: The debate over marital rapepublished in Indian Express on 20th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Delhi High Court is hearing a challenge to the constitutional validity of the ‘marital rape immunity’ provided for in the Indian Penal Code.

What is Marital Rape?

Click Here to Read about it 

What is the case about?

A petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court challenging the constitutionality of the exception to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with rape.

Why is there an exception to marital rape under Section 375?

Marital rape immunity is known to several post-colonial common law countries. It is premised on broadly two assumptions:

Consent in perpetuity: This is the assumption that on marriage a woman gives consent held by her husband in perpetuity, which she cannot retract. This concept in colonial-era law has roots in the antiquated idea that a woman is the property of her man.

The expectation of sex: This is the assumption that a woman is duty-bound or is obligated to fulfil sexual responsibilities in a marriage since the aim of marriage is procreation. Since the husband has a reasonable expectation of sex in a marriage, the provision implies that a woman cannot deny it.

Does the law exist in the UK and other post-colonial common law countries?

The marital rape exception was overturned by the House of Lords in 1991. Canada (1983), South Africa (1993), Australia (1981 onwards) enacted laws that criminalise marital rape.

What are the arguments before the court?

Firstly, the challenge to marital rape has been possible because of a number of Supreme Court rulings: a) 2017 Aadhaar ruling that cemented the right to privacy b) 2017 ruling that struck down the practice of instant triple talaq as unconstitutional c) 2018 ruling that held IPC Section 377 unconstitutional to the extent that it criminalised homosexuality among others.

Secondly, the Marital rape immunity stands against the right to equality, the right to life with dignity, personhood, sexual, and personal autonomy– all fundamental rights protected under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution respectively. 

Thirdly, the marital rape exemption creates an unreasonable classification between married and unmarried women and, by corollary, takes away the right of a married woman to give consent to sexual activity.

Fourthly, the petitioners have argued that since courts have recognised that consent can be withdrawn even during/in-between a sexual act, the assumption of “consent in perpetuity” cannot be legally valid. 

Fifthly, the petitioners have also argued that since the provision was inserted before the Constitution came into force, the provision cannot be presumed to be constitutional.

Lastly, the court also needs to consider whether the protection of marriage and family can be a compelling or even legitimate interest for the state to the extent that it can make laws that violate fundamental rights. 

What is the government’s stand on Marital Rape? 

The Center has defended marital rape immunity. Its arguments spanned from protecting men from possible misuse of the law by wives, to protecting the institution of marriage. 

The Delhi government too has defended the law on the ground that married women who might be subjected to rape by their husbands have other legal recourses such as filing for divorce or a case of domestic violence. 


India & Denmark agree to work together on green fuels including green hydrogen

Source: This post is based on the article India & Denmark agree to work together on green fuels including green hydrogenpublished in PIB on 20th January 2022.

What is the News?

India and Denmark have agreed to initiate joint research and development on green fuels, including green hydrogen.

This joint research is a part of the already adopted Green Strategic Partnership – Action Plan 2020-2025.

What is the India-Denmark Green Strategic Partnership?

India-Denmark had launched the Green Strategic Partnership during the virtual summit between the two PMs in September 2020.

The partnership is a mutually beneficial arrangement to advance political cooperation, expand economic relations promote green growth, create jobs and strengthen cooperation on addressing global challenges and opportunities.  

Focus sectors identified under the partnership include water, urban development, renewable energy and intellectual property rights and working groups for each have been instituted in both countries.  

Under the partnership, a joint action plan has also been prepared. As per the plan, Danish companies with the pertinent technologies and expertise will help India in meeting its air pollution control targets, specifically the key problem of burning crop stubble.

The plan also includes cooperative efforts in water efficiency, construction of India-Denmark energy parks and an India-Denmark skill institute to train Indian manpower. 

What is the significance of this Green Strategic Partnership(GSP)?

This partnership signifies the two countries’ commitment to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and contribute to the mitigation of the global climate crisis. 


“Indonesia passes law to relocate capital to remote Borneo”

Source- This post is based on the article “Indonesia passes law to relocate capital to remote Borneo” published in The Hindu on 18th Jan 2022. 

What is the news? 

Indonesian parliament has approved a bill to relocate the Nation’s capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan area on Borneo Island. The new centre will be called “Nusantara”. It is a Javanese name for the Indonesian archipelago chosen by the president.  

What is the reason for this relocation? 

Jakarta suffers from issues like Chronic congestion, floods and air pollution. 


Mains Answer Writing

MoEF proposes amendments in Environment Protection Act, to decriminalize provision

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India home to largest number of opiate users: UN report on drugs

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NITI Aayog and World Food Program Releases Report – Take Home Ration: Good Practices across the State/Union Territories

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DRDO carries out test flight of autonomous UAV

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‘Polar bears face climate change — they have less food as Arctic sea ice declines’

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Delhi HC recently struck down powers of Banks Board Bureau; new body to select chiefs of PSU banks, insurance firms

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First copy of Tamil Bible stolen from Saraswathi Mahal Library traced to London

What is the News? The first Tamil translation of the Bible which was reportedly stolen from Saraswathi Mahal Library, Thanjavur, has been traced by Idol Wing CID Police to London. First Tamil Translation of Bible The first Tamil translation of the Bible was printed in 1715 by Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, a missionary.  It was presented to… Continue reading First copy of Tamil Bible stolen from Saraswathi Mahal Library traced to London

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Union Health Minister chairs Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission conference 2022 and releases 9th edition of Indian Pharmacopoeia

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India’s ban on select single-use plastic items: A start but still a long way from blanket ban

News: India’s ban on select single-use plastic(SUPs) items comes into effect from July 1, 2022. Does India impose a blanket ban on all single-use plastic items? No, the Indian market will continue to sell a gamut of single-use plastic items like soft drinks and mineral water bottles, all products sold in multi-layered packaging, among others.… Continue reading India’s ban on select single-use plastic items: A start but still a long way from blanket ban

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The rupee’s ‘new lows’: Why it’s not necessarily a cause for concern

News: The currency’s fall gets more attention than its rise. At present, the Indian rupee is falling against the US dollar. What is the status of the Rupee fall vis a vis other currencies? The Finance Minister has recently pointed out that almost all currencies are falling against the dollar, and the rupee has fallen… Continue reading The rupee’s ‘new lows’: Why it’s not necessarily a cause for concern

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