9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 24th, 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

False dichotomy: On merit versus reservation

Source: This post is based on the article “False dichotomy: On merit versus reservation” published in The Hindu on 24th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Relevance: Understanding debate of merit versus reservation.

News: Recently, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of extending reservation to OBCs in All India quota (AIQ) of seats in admission to undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses.

What is All India Quota?

It is a quota that has been implemented since 1986. It is envisaged as a domicile-free quota to access medical education in all colleges in the country. It consists of 15% of undergraduate medical seats and dental seats, and 50% of postgraduate seats.

These seats were surrendered by states for admission through a central pool. In 2007, courts allowed the introduction of 15% reservation for SC’s and 7.5% reservation for STs.

Why is reservation important?

Reservation ensures that backward classes can avail opportunities that typically evade them because of structural barriers.

What are the arguments in favor of the ruling?

Now, a 27% quota for other backward classes has been introduced in all India quota. Courts argued that affirmative action is vital for substantive equality.

Formal equality, the principle that everyone competes on equal footing, is inadequate to address social inequalities and inherent disadvantages faced by less privileged sections. It does not enable equal opportunity for those competing without the aid of social and cultural capital, inherited skills, and early access to quality schooling.

Also, Good performance in examination is not the sole criteria of merit.

Also read: Supreme Court upholds validity of OBC quota in NEET admissions
ForumIAS is now in Hyderabad. Click here to know more

Budgeting for the education emergency

Source: This post is based on the article “Budgeting for the education emergency” published in The Hindu on 24th January 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the importance of bringing more allocation in the education sector.

News: Less resource allocation is seen in the education sector.

What is the public resource allocation in the education sector?

In the 2021-22 Budget, it was seen that the Centre’s allocation for the Education Department was slashed compared to the previous year. Delhi and eight major states reduced or just about maintained their budget allocation for education departments in 2021-22 compared to 2020-21. Only six States increased their allocation by more than 5%.

Even before the pandemic, public spending on education in most States was below than that of other middle-income countries. According to the Ministry of Education’s Analysis of Budgeted Expenditure on Education, most major States spent 2.5% to 3.1% of State income on education compared to 4.3% of GDP that lower-middle-income countries spent on their education between 2010-11 and 2018-19. Low-income countries increased their spending from 3.2% to 3.5% of GDP in the same period (World Bank, Education Finance Watch, 2021).

World Bank study also states that India spent 14.1 % of its budget on education, compared to 18.5% in Vietnam and 20.6% in Indonesia, countries with similar levels of GDP.

What is the difference in data observed from various surveys?

According to the Economic Survey of 2020-21, the combined central and State government spending on education was estimated to be 2.8% of GDP in 2018-19. This figure had remained at the same level since 2014-15. While, data from the Ministry of Education indicate that public spending on education had reached 4.3% of GDP in the same year, rising from 3.8% of GDP in 2011-12.

The difference is due to the inclusion of expenditure on education by departments other than the Education Department like the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment etc. These departments constitute one-quarter of the education expenditure by the States in 2018-19, and half of the Centre’s expenditure on education. However, the composition of these expenditures is done by rough estimates.

Read moreASER Survey and issues in school education – Explained, pointwise
What is the impact of the pandemic on children?
Must read: Long term Impacts of School Closure – Explained, pointwise
What methods can be adopted to increase access to education?

1) Increase resource allocation especially in technology, 2) Back-to-school campaigns and re-enrollment drives, 3) Expanded nutrition programmes to address malnutrition, 4) Reorganisation of the curriculum to help children learn language and mathematics, 5) Support socio-emotional development, especially in early grades, 6) Teacher training and ongoing support; additional education programmes, 7) Increased instructional time during vacations and weekends, 8) Additional teachers and teaching aids, to cope with the transfer of students from private schools, 9) Collection and analysis of data.

Read moreThe decline of the Budget school

Side by Side

SourceThis post is based on the article “Side by Side” published in Indian express on 24th Jan 2022.  

Syllabus– GS2-Government policies and interventions. 

Relevance– Indian army, National war memorial. 

News 

Indian government’s recent move to shift the Amar Jawan Jyoti from its location under India Gate to the National War Memorial (NWM) faced some protest. 

Why some people are regarding the current place as inappropriate? 

Read here. 

What are these arguments in favor of moving the flame to National war memorial? 

NWM houses the names of all the soldiers who died in wars that took place after independence in 1947. While, the Amar Jawan Jyoti set up in 1972 seeks to commemorate those who laid down their lives in the 1971 war, but their names are not inscribed on the monument itself. It will be a practical move to have both at the same place. 

NWM is where all the official functions are now held to honour the country’s soldiers, and having a flame there would be more apt. 

What are the arguments against this move? 

India should not also forget the sacrifice of 15,000 men who laid down their lives as part of the British Army in the two world wars, and whose names are inscribed on the arch, but not at the NWM.  

The present day Indian Army is a legatee of the British Indian Army, organised much along the same lines as it was 75 years ago, and cannot turn its back on its own heroes. 

What is the way forward? 

The best way out of the present controversy would be to leave the Amar Jawan Jyoti burning at India Gate, along with the one at the NWM. Keeping the flame alive there will ensure that none of India’s war heroes is forgotten.   


GS Paper 3

A chance to support growth, fiscal consolidation

Source: This post is based on the article “A chance to support growth, fiscal consolidation” published in The Hindu on 24th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning

Relevance: Factors to be considered to achieve higher growth

News: Recently, the National Statistical Office (NSO) released the first advance national accounts estimates for 2021-22.

 What are the growth prospects for India?

IMF and OECD forecasts have indicated growth rates at 8.5% and 8.1%, respectively, for 2022-23. However, these are optimistic as the base effects characterizing 2021-22 are limited.

However, India may expect real GDP growth in the range of 6%-7% only. The implicit price deflator (IPD) based inflation may come down to about 5%-6%.

What are the factors responsible for constraining the growth rate?

First, the basic determinants are the saving and investment rates in the economy. As per NSO, the gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) stands at 29.6% in 2021-22.

Second, there is inefficient capacity utilisation in India. NSO’s data indicate a capacity utilisation ratio of 61.7% on an average in the preceding four quarters. This delays recovery in private investment.

Third, there is a low growth of 6.9% in private final consumption expenditure (PFCE). Hence, high growth would be required for the sectors which are characterised by a high marginal propensity to consume (MPC). For example, trade, transport, and the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME).

Fourth, other issues are supply-side bottlenecks, high prices of global crude oil, and primary products.

What is the way forward?

First, the Government may consider extending the time limit for availing benefits. For example, extending concessional corporate income tax (CIT) rate of 15% for fresh investment and the extension of compensation arrangement under GST by two years.

Second, India needs to prioritize expenditure and should focus on reviving both consumption and investment demand. The National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) should be reassessed to make up for existing deficiencies. For example, the health sector.

Third, the scope of the National Monetization Pipeline (NMP) should be extended, and disinvestment initiatives should be accelerated to increase non-tax receipts.

Fourth, a high-powered inter-governmental group suggested by Fifteenth Finance Commission should be constituted to re-examine the sustainability parameters of debt and fiscal deficit of the central and State governments in the light of new realities.

Fifth, to improve consumption demand, urban counterpart to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) can be considered.


Climate change for practical people

Source: This post is based on the article “Climate change for practical people” published in Business Standard on 24th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Conservation, Disaster and Disaster Management

Relevance: Climate change and its significant impact

News: Due to lack of availability of data there is a reasonable chance that impact of climate change is not measured accurately and to confront the climate problem we need to think more strategically.

What is current scenario of climate change?

Climate scientists warn that an increase in the global average temperature of more than 1.5 degrees will trigger catastrophic events. The baseline is from 1850-1900. The rise in temperature for the world has been about 1 degree and for India it has been 0.7 degrees. But many practical people think that a change of about 1 degree is not that bad.

Why should India worry about climate change?

First, small rise in temperature cause disastrous changes. For example, long breaks in the monsoon and unseasonal rain. For example, July 2021 rainfall in Maharashtra killed over 100 people.

The frequency of cyclones in the Arabian Sea has gone up by about 50 per cent. In Kerala, there was no significant flood from 1924 till 2004. In the recent period, floods have been increased.

Second, knowledge of climate change is limited due to limited data and there may be mistakes in analysis. Even with the most powerful computers work on rough approximation.

Third, Climate models predict that the rise in temperature will have least impact in south India and more as we go north.

The aggregate amount of rain will go up by about 7 per cent for each 1 degree increase in temperature. This rain will come down to the earth on a smaller number of days, and there will be increase in dry spells within the monsoon months.

What are the challenges present in front of India?

One, there is need to think about the present variation of population density in India across locations with respect to climate change.

When climate change takes place, people will have to migrate. For example, coastal areas will experience rising sea levels and changing patterns of cyclones. Interior areas will suffer heat waves and altered rainfall patterns. These may result in economic slowdown worse than the Indian Covid lockdown of 2020.

Two, there will be challenges for human institutions. In India state capability are poor and perform poorly during pressures. For example, the Dutch dealt with the rising seas by building dykes and protecting their way of life.

What is the way forward?

First, the need is to focus on disaster relief and disaster risk resilience.

Second, volatile agricultural incomes call for financial sector development. For example, crop insurance and commodity derivatives trading.

Third, households which are over-weighted with immobile assets in the wrong places will experience destruction of wealth. It demands relocation. However, the problem is illiquid Indian land market. There are large transaction costs and delays.


Can inequality be solved or is it a natural human state?

Source: This post is based on the article “Can inequality be solved or is it a natural human state?” published in Live Mint on 24th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Inclusive Growth and issues arising from it.

Relevance: Inequality as a natural consequence of human nature

News: Recently, Oxfam revealed that India’s richest 10% had 45% of Indian wealth, while the bottom half had only 6%.

This article says, even if inequality is a natural consequence, it is evil. There is no need to declare it as sacred. Also, money can never be the correct measure of inequality.

Is inequality a natural consequence of human nature?

There are different arguments given for the reason behind inequality:

First, some experts argue that social inequality began with the invention of mass production i.e. rise of capitalism.

Second, others argue that social inequality is not caused by capitalism, and it is fundamental to human nature, even before the Industrial Revolution.

What should be the criterion to measure poverty and inequality?

Some experts argue that poor of today have much better living standards, compared to the Mughal era. But it is not a correct perception of poverty. Deprivation today must be measured by the availability of wealth and facilities to rich people of present.

Thus, the Indian policy makers’ notion of ‘basic necessities’ is false. The fact is that people don’t live to just eat starch and sugar. Humans invented so many things for fun and comfort and whenever something improves lives, its denial to the majority becomes one of the new meanings of poverty.

What is the way forward?

First, we need to stop using money as a measure. Money is so easy to measure that many get conditioned to consider themselves lesser people than some.

Second, we also need to persuade people to see the truth that money is just one of the many things that matter. For example, happiness indices.


Poverty, Wellbeing, Hunger: Where Do We Stand?

Source: This post is based on the article “Poverty, Wellbeing, Hunger: Where Do We Stand?” published in ToI on 24th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Issues related to Poverty

Relevance:  Poverty Estimation

News: Recently, there have been comments that hunger in India has increased, based on the GHI 2021 report that showed a decline in India’s ranking to 101 from 95 in 2020.

This article examines the question – how best to measure poverty? It also stresses that poverty based on consumption is still important and there is a need for strengthening the quality of consumer expenditure data.

What are the different methods used for Poverty estimation?

Consumption method: Any household failing to meet the minimum level of consumption expenditure or poverty line can be treated as a poor household. This minimum level of consumption expenditure can be derived from minimum expenditure on food and non-food items.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI):  It was developed in 2010 by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI). It is based on 10 indicators related to health, education, and standard of living.

A person is MPI poor if they are deprived of at least one-third of the weighted MPI indicators. Recently, NITI Aayog, using the same methodology, released the report ‘India: National Multidimensional Poverty Index, Baseline Report’.

The Human Development Index (HDI): It is a summary measure of achievements in three key dimensions of human development (a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living).

Global Hunger Index (GHI): it is based on four indicators (undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality). The scores are aggregated to calculate the GHI score for each country. Countries are ranked based on the GHI score.

Why Consumption method is best?

Issues with other Indexes

The Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index arbitrarily sets a cut-off of one-third of weighted indicators. The same criticism applies to Niti Aayog’s MPI for India.

HDI only shows country rankings. And GHI is a partial index, not related to entire household poverty.

Whereas, the Consumption method can determine the poverty line and poverty ratio as well.

What are the trends in poverty-estimation methods?

Estimates of poverty based on consumer expenditure, using the Tendulkar Committee methodology, show the poverty ratio came down from 37. 2% to 21. 9% and the number of poor came down by137 million (between 2004-05 and 2011-12).

MPI was almost halved between 2005/6 and 2015/16.

HDI values for India increased significantly from 0. 536 in 2005 to 0. 624 in 2015 and to 0. 645 in 2019.

What are the issues in consumption-based estimates?

Presently, there are no officially released estimates after 2011-12.

There is an alarming difference between aggregate private consumption expenditure in the National Sample Survey and the figure provided by the National Accounts Statistics. From a difference of less than 10% in the late1970s, it has widened to 53. 1% in 2011-12.

What is the way forward?

The NSSO Advisory Group or the National Statistical Commission must study the problem and come out with possible suggestions for improving the collection of data through both routes and narrowing their differences.

The National Statistical Office can collect the consumer expenditure data for a normal year after analyzing the reasons for the difference between NSS and NAS estimates.


A combative federalism

Source: This post is based on the articleA combative federalism” published in Indian Express on 24th January 2022.

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

Relevance: Understanding the problems under GST.

News: There has been friction between center and state over the lack of compensation cess.

What is GST?

It is a “consumption-based destination tax”, which means that the revenue will go to the state in which the goods/services are consumed.

What are the steps that can be initiated by the state to cover the financial loss?

The state governments are short of funds, so the industry may face financial issues as the state may aggressively use its power to augment its finances. Attachment of bank account, blocking of the input tax credit, arrests are likely to rise to increase tax collections. Information under RTI revealed that ITC of about Rs 210 crore of businesses assessed by Central tax officers in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir has been blocked.

The GST regime has over four tax slabs and offers many exemptions.  Industries that enjoy exemptions will first come under increased tax scrutiny. Since service tax was administered only by the Center, state officers are not experienced in tax services. So, issues that have been settled for the service industry could be reopened to increase revenue.

Why did the issue between the center-state arise over GST?

It is because of the lack of trust of states on center over administering GST fairly.

Read here: Goods and services tax as an unfinished agenda

Also, there is a lack of consensus over the decision-making. Even the proposals are not best suited to the interest of each state. The delay in the release of compensation- cess, further increases friction between center-state relations.

Read here: Extending GST compensation as a reforming catalyst

How the distorted center-state relations can affect federalism?

Fiscal desperation could lead to the emergence of various issues. Under the GST, States could refuse to adopt the administrative orders issued by the central government, leading to different interpretations and implementation. As the state can make changes in the GST law applicable in the state (including change in tax rate) to suit its finances.

This would lead to a constitutional crisis, where the Supreme Court will be forced to address the question of; whether a state legislature, comprising democratically-elected members, is sovereign or is it submissive to an executive body with recommendatory powers — the GST Council.

Read here: Problems with “one state one vote” structure of GST Council

Stemming water insecurity

Source: This post is based on the articleStemming water insecurity” published in Business Standard on 24th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 Environment: Conservation of water.

Relevance: Understanding the major source for water exploitation and the need to conserve water.

News: Although water is a renewable source of energy, its scarcity is visible in many places owing to the mismanagement of water resources.

What is the present status of water availability in India?

NITI Aayog, states that nearly 600 million people are facing “high to extreme water stress“. The yearly per capita availability of water has dipped from 5,178 cubic metres at the beginning of the 1950s to merely 1,441 cubic metres now. This is below the water-stress threshold of 1,700 cubic metres. Economic Survey of 2019 also states that India could be a global hotspot of water insecurity by 2050.

Read here: India faces worst water crisis: NITI Aayog

What are the reasons behind water scarcity in India?

India receives average annual precipitation (rainfall plus snowfall) of around 120 cm, which is far higher than the global average of about 100 cm. Still, the country faces an acute shortage of water owing to not carefully managing the water resources.

– Most of the water flows down wastefully to the seas

– Only a small fraction of the rainwater is actually conserved in surface water bodies or underground aquifers.

– Even the accessible water is not used judiciously.

Underpricing of water is a major cause. India was earning revenue from canal irrigation before independence, However, now, it has become a liability.

Read here: Not many lessons learnt from water planning failures

What are the major sources of water exploitation in India?

Agriculture: It uses more than 80% of the water and most of it is used inefficiently because of the over-irrigation of farmlands. According to various estimates, only 30 to 40% of the applied water is actually utilized by crops. The rest either percolates down to deeper layers or evaporates.

Also, there are cases of groundwater depletion in states like Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh etc. Liberal subsidies, free supply of power for operating water pumps, are largely responsible for the indiscriminate use of groundwater in these areas.

What reforms should initiate by the government to preserve water?

Revision of water rates: The main objectives of charging an appropriate price for irrigation water are to incentivise its economic use, promote its conservation, and facilitate its equitable distribution. According to studies, even a 10% increase in water-use efficiency in agriculture can save enough water to irrigate an additional 14 million hectares of cropland.

Read here: National Water Policy

Adoption of micro-irrigation systems: This will help to save water around 60 to 70%. Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) has found that drip irrigation elevates the water-use efficiency to as high as 85 to 90%. Also, it helps reduce power and fuel consumption and the wastage of applied fertilizers.

Government efforts to promote the concept of “more crop per drop” through the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana is a welcome step for the efficient use of water resources.

Read here: How Punjab and Haryana are switching to sustainable cropping techniques to preserve groundwater?

Why the Personal Data Protection Bill is bad news for business

Source: This post is based on the article “Why the Personal Data Protection Bill is bad news for business” published in the Indian Express on 24th January 2022.Syllabus: GS 3 – Role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges.

Relevance: Understanding Personal Data Protection Bill.

News: Personal Data Protection Bill seeks to regulate the use of data and to foster a privacy protection framework in the country. However, it fails to strike the balance between privacy rights and ease of doing business.

Read here: Union Cabinet approves introduction of Personal Data Protection Bill in Parliament
What are the areas of concern with the Data Protection Bill?
Read here: Issue of privacy and Personal Data Protection Bill 2019
How the Personal Data Protection bill is bad for business?

First, It imposes several regulatory burdens on businesses. The burden of these regulations can be fatal to new entrants/startups.

Second, Some portions of the bill are out of sync with international data protection practices. This could hamper India’s competitive advantage as a digital market and can stunt the growth of our digital economy.

Third, The bill entirely prohibits the transfer of ‘critical data’ to move outside India. The definition of this critical data is entirely decided by the authorities and not defined in the bill. These requirements can destroy the basic value of the digital economy and can place India in the same category as protectionist China.

Fourth, The bill requires companies to have data protection officers physically located within India. This step can be seen as less about protection and more about protectionism by the outside world.

Fifth, JPC has recommended monitoring, testing and certification of all hardware to ensure its integrity and trustworthiness. This is to ensure that no malicious software may cause a data breach.

However, this may contradict the goal of electronics manufacturing as such wide requirement is unheard of even in the EU’s GDPR. This also ignores existing requirements under the bureau of Indian standards.

Sixth, Extensive compliance requirements like conducting audits, impact assessments are not known in any data Protection regime. This may deter wholesome participation by businesses in the Indian market. Also, technology companies that thrive on competitive advantage will be reluctant to share information.

What should be the way forward?

Search regulatory mechanism is more likely to be interventionist than facilitative.
This will negatively impact innovation and ease of doing business. The government should consider its provisions and the unintended consequences of such a rigid regulatory regime.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

BRO conducts final blast concluding all excavation on Sela Tunnel Project

Source: This post is based on the article BRO conducts final blast concluding all excavation on Sela Tunnel Project published in PIB on 23rdJanuary 2022.

What is the News?

Border Roads Organization(BRO) has conducted the final blast for the 980-meter-long Sela Tunnel (Tunnel 1). This marks the culmination of the excavation works on the complete Sela Tunnel Project.

What is the Sela Tunnel Project?

Sela Tunnel Project is located in the West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh. 

The tunnel is a part of the Balipara-Chariduar-Tawang(BCT) road, one of the key strategic projects near the Chinese border.

The project comprises two tunnels: a) Tunnel 1 which is a 980 m long single tube tunnel and b) Tunnel 2, which is a 1555 m long twin-tube tunnel. Tunnel 2 has one bi-lane tube for traffic and one escape tube for emergencies. 

The project also includes the construction of an approach road of seven kilometres to Tunnel 1, which takes off from BCT Road and a link road of 1.3 kilometres, which connects Tunnel 1 to Tunnel 2.

Read more: Kerala’s first road tunnel “Kuthiran Tunnel” opens on one side
What is the significance of the Sela Tunnel Project?

Once completed, the tunnel will be the longest twin-lane tunnel above 13,000 feet in the world and will provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang.

Moreover, the project will also allow faster deployment of weapons and soldiers to forward areas in the Tawang sector.


YEAR END REVIEW 2021: Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

Source:  This post is based on the article YEAR END REVIEW 2021: Ministry of Road Transport and Highwayspublished in PIB on 22nd January 2022.

What is the News?

A number of major initiatives were undertaken by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways during the year 2021. 

Several of them are

PM Gati Shakti – National Master Plan (NMP)

Vehicle Scrappage Policy

National Highways: The pace of construction has increased from 12 km per day in 2014-15 to 37 km per day in 2020-21 (by more than 3 times).

LIDAR technology 

Bharat series (BH-series)

E20 Fuel

Scheme for Compensation of Hit & Run Accident Victims: Ministry has come up with a draft Scheme for Compensation to Victims of Hit & Run Accidents, 2021. The scheme has proposed compensation to be paid in case of death of a person in a hit-and-run accident to ₹2 lakh, from ₹25,000. Compensation of ₹50,000 from ₹12,500 has been proposed in case such an accident causes “grievous hurt”.

The Government of India inaugurated the country’s first Private LNG Facility plant at Nagpur.

FASTag

Reward Scheme for Good Samaritan

Electronic Monitoring and Enforcement of Road Safety

Vintage Cars Policy

National Road Safety Board: The Board shall be responsible for promoting road safety, innovation and adoption of new technology and for regulating traffic and motor vehicles. The Board’s Head Office shall be in Delhi, and the Board may establish offices at other places in India. The Board shall consist of a Chairman and up to 7 Members to be appointed by the Central Government.


Buoyant exports but unfavorable trade balance: Why there is a dichotomy

Source: This post is based on the article Buoyant exports but unfavorable trade balance: Why there is a dichotomy’ published in Indian Express on 24th January 2022.

What is the News?

India’s exports have risen sharply in this fiscal year. However, India’s imports have also risen sharply during the same period, leading to a sharp uptick in India’s fiscal deficit. 

How have Indian Exports and Imports performed in the Fiscal Year 2021-22?
Exports

India’s exports between April and December 2021 has reached $301.4 billion. This is an increase of 49.7% year-on-year period. This has also put the country on track to hit a target of $400 billion in merchandise exports. 

Exports of two traditional sectors — petroleum products and gems and jewellery — have been key contributors to the export growth.

The export demand has risen due to: a) worldwide increase in trade and b) Outbreaks of Covid-19 infections in key competitors such as Vietnam, leading to disruptions in supply.

Imports

India’s merchandise imports have grown even faster than exports. It has reached $443.8 billion, a 68.9% year-on-year increase.

Key imports for India during this fiscal include petroleum and petroleum products, gold and electronic goods.

But the higher imports of machinery, electronic goods, vegetable oil, coal, and chemicals were key contributors to the sharp uptick in imports.

Trade Deficit

The rise in imports has led to an increase in the trade deficit to $142.4 billion in the April-December period.

India’s services sector has a trade surplus which is estimated to be about $74.4 billion.

How is India planning to overcome the trade deficit?

India is currently in the process of negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with the UK, UAE, Australia, Israel and the EU.

But India is no longer signing free trade agreements (FTAs) just to join a group. Instead, India is looking for reciprocal access, good market conditions, and fair play in trade in both goods and services.


Union Minister of Home and Cooperation releases India’s First “District Good Governance Index” in Jammu

Source: This post is based on the article Union Minister of Home and Cooperation releases India’s First “District Good Governance Index” in Jammupublished in PIB on 23rd January 2022.

What is the News?

The Union Home Minister has released India’s First “District Good Governance Index” for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Why was the District Good Governance Index prepared for J&K?

The Government of India had recently released the National Good Governance Index. The Index indicated that Jammu and Kashmir had registered an increase of 3.7% in Good Governance Indicators over the 2019 to 2021 period. 

In the backdrop of this, the District Good Governance Index is prepared for J&K. The index will help identify the impact of various governance interventions at the district level and provide a futuristic roadmap for improving district-level governance with targeted interventions.

What is the District Good Governance Index for J&K?

Click Here to read about it

What are the key findings of the District Good Governance Index?

Topped by: Jammu district has managed to top the index, followed by districts of Doda, Samba, Pulwama and Srinagar in the UT.

Other key findings: a) Universal coverage has been achieved in Kisan Credit Card scheme, Soil Health Card Scheme and Animal Vaccination b) Achieved 80% Aadhaar seeding of ration cards c) Financial inclusion under Jan Dhan Yojana has achieved universal coverage and d) Disposal of court cases has gone up significantly.


Sri Ramanujacharya: 216-feet ‘Statue of Equality’ in Hyderabad to be unveiled by PM

Source: This post is based on the article 216-feet ‘Statue of Equality’ in Hyderabad to be unveiled by PMpublished in Indian Express on 24th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Prime Minister is all set to unveil the statue of Equality in Hyderabad, Telangana.

What is the Statue of Equality?

Statue of Equality is a 216-foot-tall statue dedicated to 11th-century social reformer and saint, Ramanujacharya. The statue will be in a sitting position.

It is composed of ‘panchaloha’, a combination of five metals comprising gold, silver, copper, brass, and zinc. The statue will be the second-highest sitting statue in the world [the tallest is the Great Buddha in Thailand at 302 ft].

Read more: The nature Of the Bhakti literature and its contribution to Indian culture.
Who was Ramanujacharya?

Sri Ramanujacharya was born in 1017 in SriPerumbudur, Tamil Nadu. He was one of the most important exponents of the Sri Vaishnavism tradition within Hinduism.

He is famous as the chief proponent of Vishishtadvaita subschool of Vedānta. He was also referred to as Ilaya Perumal, which means the radiant one. 

He worked tirelessly against casteism and social hierarchies, proclaiming that all living beings had the right to Realization.

He also enacted several reforms in temple administration. For instance, at one time the entire administration in the Srirangam Temple in Tiruchirappalli was controlled by a specific caste. He included persons from different castes in the Temple administration. A number of responsibilities were given to women also.

He wrote nine works that came to be known as the Navratnas including three major commentaries, the Vedartha-Sangraha, the Sribhasya and the Bhagavadgita-bhasya aimed at providing a philosophical foundation for devotional worship. 

What is Vishistadvaita?

Vishishtadvaita is a non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy. It is non-dualism of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone is seen as the Supreme Reality, but is characterized by multiplicity. 

It can be described as qualified monism or qualified non-dualism or attributive monism. It is a school of Vedanta philosophy that believes in all diversity subsuming to an underlying unity.


Year End Review: Ministry of Labour and Employment

Source: This post is based on the article Year End Review: Ministry of Labour and Employmentpublished in PIB on 22nd January 2022.

What is the News?

A number of major initiatives were undertaken by the Ministry of Labour and Employment during the year 2021. 

Several of them are

e-Shram Portal

Atma Nirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana (ABRY)

Employees Deposit Linked Insurance (EDLI) Scheme: Under the scheme, assurance financial assistance is provided to eligible family members in the event of an employee’s unfortunate death while in service. The assurance benefit has been raised from earlier ₹6 Lakhs to ₹7 Lakhs.

Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 

Conduct of All-India Surveys

ESIC Covid-19 Relief Scheme: Under this scheme,  90% of the average wages of the deceased Insured Person shall be paid to the eligible dependents of the Insured Person who died due to COVID-19. The spouse of the deceased IP shall also be eligible for medical care on depositing Rs. 120/- every year.

National Career Service (NCS): NCS portal leverages information technology to bring together job seekers and employers on a common platform. 


Year End Review: Department Of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry Of Jal Shakti

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Year End Review: Department Of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry Of Jal Shaktipublished in PIB on 22nd January 2022.

What is the News?

Department Of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry Of Jal Shakti has taken several initiatives in the year 2021.

Several of them are 

Ken-Betwa River Interlinking Project

Dam Safety Bill (now Act), 2021

Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) 

Atal Bhujal Yojana

Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project(DRIP)

Central Water Commission: 

It is a technical organization that functions as part of the Ministry of Jal Shakti. They are entrusted with the responsibilities of providing consultation to various state governments on water bodies related issues, coordinating various government schemes for conservation, control, and utilization of water resources.

The Commission also helps state governments in devising and analyzing flood control measures. They undertake flash flood forecasts as well.

National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme

Central Ground Water Board (CGWB)

National Water Informatics Center(NWIC): It is created as a subordinate office under the Ministry of Jal Shakti in 2018. The center provides timely and reliable water resources data acquisition, storage, collation & management and provides tools for informed decision-making for the management of water resources of the country. 

Minor Irrigation Census: It is conducted under the centrally sponsored scheme “Irrigation Census” with 100% central funding. It is conducted once in five years. It aims to create a sound and reliable database on groundwater and surface water minor irrigation schemes in the country.

Currently, the sixth Minor Irrigation Census with the reference year 2017-18 is under implementation.

Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP)

National River Conservation Plan (NRCP)

National Hydrology Project (NHP)

Catch the Rain Campaign

National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG)


Government to Promote Drone use in Agriculture – Financial Support Being Extended Under ‘Sub-Mission on Agriculture Mechanization’

Source: This post is based on the article Government to Promote Drone use in Agriculture – Financial Support Being Extended Under ‘Sub-Mission on Agriculture Mechanizationpublished in PIB on 23rd January 2022.

What is the News?

The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has issued guidelines to make drone technology affordable to the stakeholders of the Agriculture Sector. These guidelines have been issued under the Sub-Mission on Agriculture Mechanization.

Note: The financial assistance and grants under these guidelines would be available until March 31, 2023.

What are the guidelines issued to promote the use of drones in agriculture?

Firstly, a grant of up to 100% of the cost of an agriculture drone or ₹10 lakhs whichever is less will be provided for the purchase of drones. But this grant will be limited to only Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and State Agriculture Universities.

Secondly, Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) would be eligible to receive grants up to 75% of the cost of agriculture drone for its demonstrations on the farmers’ fields.

Thirdly, a contingency expenditure of Rs.6000 per hectare would be provided to implementing agencies that do not want to purchase drones but will hire drones for demonstrations from Custom Hiring Centers, Hi-tech Hubs, Drone Manufacturers and Start-Ups. However, they would receive only Rs 3,000/hectare if they are purchasing the drones for demonstrations.

Fourthly, Agriculture graduates establishing Custom Hiring Centers (CHCs) will be eligible to receive 50% of the basic cost of a drone and its attachments or up to ₹5 lakh in grant for drone purchases.

Fifthly, existing Custom Hiring Centers which are set up by Cooperative Society of Farmers, FPOs and Rural entrepreneurs are entitled to receive 40% (maximum ₹4 lakh) as a grant on the basic cost of the drone.

Note: Rural entrepreneurs are defined as those who have passed the class tenth examination from a recognised Board and have a remote pilot licence from an institute recognized by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
What is the significance of these guidelines on Drones?

The subsidized purchase of agriculture drones for CHCs/Hi-tech Hubs will make the technology affordable, resulting in their widespread adoption. 

This would also make drones more accessible to the common man in India, and will also significantly encourage domestic drone production.

Read more: Threats Posed by UAVs – Explained, Pointwise

Cyberattacks surge amid accelerating pace of Covid-driven digitalisation: WEF study

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Cyberattacks surge amid accelerating pace of Covid-driven digitalisation: WEF study’ published in Economic Times on 22nd January 2022.

What is the News?

The World Economic Forum has released the report titled ‘Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022’.

What is the purpose of the Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022?

The report gives insights on near-term future cybersecurity challenges and develops actionable solutions to address them.

The report also highlights measures that need to be taken to enhance cyber resilience within organisations and the wider ecosystem.

What are the key findings of the Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022?

The accelerating pace of digitalisation fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a) 151% surge in Global ransomware attacks in 2021 and b) An average of 270 cyberattacks per organisation in 2021, a 31% increase over 2020. 

Cyber security leaders around the globe have listed ransomware, identity theft and critical infrastructure failure among their top personal cyber risk concerns. 

Cyber incidents are becoming costly and damaging, sometimes even paralysing critical services and infrastructure.

Companies need 280 days on average to identify and respond to a cyberattack. To put this into perspective, an incident that occurs on January 1, may not be fully contained until October 8. 

Read more: World Economic Forum launches “EDISON Alliance”
 What are solutions for cybersecurity suggested by the Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022?

-Prioritise cybersecurity in all domains of society and the economy.

-Anticipate, recover and adapt quickly to cyber incidents.

-Shift from a cyber-defensive posture to a stronger cyber-resilience position, i.e. to anticipate attacks and be prepared for likely digital shocks.

-Mobilise a global response to address systemic cybersecurity challenges and ensure no communication or coordination gaps between cybersecurity and business leaders.

Read more: World Economic Forum launches “Global artificial intelligence alliance”

Indian Tech Start-up Ecosystem: Start-ups raised a record $24.1 billion in 2021: study

Source: This post is based on the article Start-ups raised a record $24.1 billion in 2021: study published in The Hindu on 22nd January 2022.

What is the News?

NASSCOM in association with Consultancy Firm Zinnov has released a report titled ‘Indian Tech Start-up Ecosystem: Year of The Titans’.

What are the key findings of the Indian Tech Start-up Ecosystem report?
Source: Moneycontrol

More than 2,250 startups were added in the year 2021. This is 600 more than what was added in 2020.

Startups raised about USD 24.1 billion in 2021, a two-fold increase over pre-COVID levels.

Currently, India has about 70 active startups which have crossed the valuation of $1 billion or more.

Globally, India remained at the number three spot, behind the US and China, which had startups that had a valuation of $1 billion or more. 

The U.S. remains the leading source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in start-ups.

About 50% of deals involving startups had at least one investor domiciled in India.

Industries that saw the most net new job creation were BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance), ed-tech, retail and retail tech, food-tech, supply chain management, and logistics and mobility.

Read more: Centre to organize the first of its kind innovation week to encourage Startup ecosystem in India
What are the recommendations given by the Indian Tech Start-up Ecosystem report?

The report has suggested a few priority areas that can further fuel the growth of the startup ecosystem. These areas are a) encouraging tech startups to innovate for India b) retaining the best digital talent in the country c) procurement reforms to enable startups scale d) creating avenues for attracting foreign investments into Indian start-ups and e) growing global thought leadership for “world-class from India”.

Read more: Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme(SVEP)

“India emerges as largest exporters of cucumber and gherkins in the world”

Source- This post is based on the article “India emerges as largest exporters of cucumber and gherkins in the world” published in PIB on 23rd Jan 2022.   

What is the news? 

India has emerged as the largest exporter of gherkins in the world.  

What are gherkins? 

Pickling cucumber is globally referred as gherkins or cornichons. 

Gherkins are exported under two categories — cucumbers and gherkins, which are prepared and preserved by vinegar or acetic acid and cucumbers and gherkins, which are provisionally preserved. 

How was this achieved? 

Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) undertook a series of initiatives in infrastructure development, product promotion in the global market and adherence to food safety management system in processing units.  

It also provided financial assistance for development of infrastructure and enhancing quality of processed gherkins, promotion of products in the international market and implementation of food safety management systems in the processing units.  

Where are Gherkins grown in India? 

Gherkin cultivation, processing and exports started in India in Karnataka and later extended to the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.  

Nearly 15% production of the world’s gherkin requirement is grown in India. 

Gherkin industry plays a key role in the creation of rural employment. 


Mains Answer Writing

Must Read Current Affairs Articles – September 29, 2022

About Must Read News Articles: Must Read News Articles is an initiative by Team ForumIAS to provide links to the most important news articles of the day. It covers The Hindu newspaper. This saves the time and effort of students in identifying useful and important articles. With newspaper websites requiring a paid subscription beyond a… Continue reading Must Read Current Affairs Articles – September 29, 2022

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The future of farmer producer companies could be brightened

Source– The post is based on the article “The future of farmer producer companies could be brightened” published in the mint on 28th September 2022. Syllabus: GS3- Agriculture News– The article explains about Farmer Producer Companies (FPC) in India. It analyses the challenges faced by these FPCs and possible solutions to address these issues. What… Continue reading The future of farmer producer companies could be brightened

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Bringing BPCL sale back on the table

Source: The post is based on an article “Bringing BPCL sale back on the table” published in The Business Standard on 28th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 – Industries and industrial policies Relevance: problems associated the regulation of petroleum companies News: Recently the government has put aside the idea to privatize Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL). The reason behind it… Continue reading Bringing BPCL sale back on the table

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What is the solution to India’s garbage disposal problem?

Source: The post is based on an article “What is the solution to India’s garbage disposal problem?” published in The Indian Express on 28th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 – Environmental Pollution Relevance: problems associated with garbage Context: There is a garbage problem everywhere around the country. Companies make the product but they are unable to take this garbage back… Continue reading What is the solution to India’s garbage disposal problem?

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Logistics Sector in India and National Logistics Policy – Explained, pointwise

For 7PM Editorial Archives click HERE → Introduction The World Bank Logistics Performance Index 2018 (latest available) had ranked India 44th out of 160 nations. China and Vietnam did better than India with 26th and 39th ranks respectively. India’s Logistics Sector performed poorly on Customs (efficiency of clearing process/speed, simplicity etc.) and Infrastructure sub-indices of the Index. Poor… Continue reading Logistics Sector in India and National Logistics Policy – Explained, pointwise

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The Lalit Effect

Source– The post is based on the article “The Lalit Effect” published in The Times of India on 28th September 2022. Syllabus: GS2- Indian Judiciary Relevance– Challenges before judicial system News– The article explains the issues of frequent adjournment pleas and frivolous PILs in higher courts of the country. Chief Justice UU Lalit has increased… Continue reading The Lalit Effect

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Energising India-Nepal ties, the hydropower way

Source– The post is based on the article “Energising India-Nepal ties, the hydropower way” published in The Hindu on 28th September 2022. Syllabus: GS2- India and its neighborhood relations Relevance– India Nepal hydro diplomacy News– The article explains the potential of the West and East Seti River projects for India and Nepal. It also talks… Continue reading Energising India-Nepal ties, the hydropower way

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Permanent membership of the UNSC is another story

Source: The post is based on an article “Permanent membership of the UNSC is another story” published in The Hindu on 28th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 Relevance: issues and challenges associated with the permanent membership of UNSC. Context:  There are talks about the India becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). UNSC remains the only… Continue reading Permanent membership of the UNSC is another story

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On reservations for EWS: a test for law and justice

Source: The post is based on an article “On reservations for EWS: a test for law and justice” published in The Hindu on 28th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 2 – News:  The Supreme Court has reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the validity of the 103rd constitutional amendment. What is 103rd constitutional amendment act? However, this… Continue reading On reservations for EWS: a test for law and justice

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Symptoms of climate change are real

Source: The post is based on the article “Symptoms of climate change are real” published in the Business Standard on 28th September 2022. Syllabus: GS 3 – Climate Change. Relevance: About climate change. News: The resurgence of the monsoon at a time when it should normally have retreated from the northwest highlighted the impacts of climate change. The… Continue reading Symptoms of climate change are real

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