9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 3rd, 2022
Dear Friends We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- 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:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- Down To Earth
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
- 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.
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
- Remembering Anil Agarwal — Forget Malthus: upside of population growth
- Problem, solution, problem: India’s population will start to collapse in two decades. It’s a matter of celebration – and concern
GS Paper 2
- State schemes can cast a lifeline to this welfare plan – On Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
- Why’s pandemic policymaking still short of science?
- Unravelling what awaits us in 2022- On Network-Based Economy
- India’s foreign policy in 2021: From selective to universal engagement
- Recognize kids as Individuals and not just as learners
- Picture of health
GS Paper 3
- The crypto assets conundrum
- Don’t support minimum support prices
- Preparing for green energy shift in 2022
- It’s in India’s national interest to promote open-source software
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Draft national air sports policy pushes for safety standards
- India welcomes Egypt as member of New Development Bank of BRICS
- Two plant species discovered in Kerala
- Carbon-rich stars steal heavy elements from their low mass companions
- Year-End- Review-2021 Ministry of Steel
- Half of global cropland expansion replaced natural vegetation and tree cover: Study
- Explained: China’s border law and India
- Retain Rs 8 lakh EWS cap for admissions, recommends panel
- Padhe Bharat: Union Minister launches ‘Padhe Bharat’, a 100 days reading campaign, calls on “young friends” to share their reading list
- POWERGRID celebrates anniversary of One Nation-One Grid-One Frequency
- Scientists identify first ‘quantum entangled’ animal in history
- District Good Governance Index: Union Minister says, J&K to have district level Governance Index
- Developing Trincomalee oil tank farm: What the deal means for India, Lanka
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
Source: This post is based on the article “Remembering Anil Agarwal — Forget Malthus: upside of population growth” published in Down to Earth on 2nd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS1 – Population and Associated Issues.
Relevance: Population growth and natural resources
News: Views of Anil Aggarwal, Down To Earth founder editor, on population density and community resource management.
As per him, it’s not always necessary to mock an increasing population. It can be seen as an opportunity for moving towards real solutions, including an end to excessive population growth.
What are the conditions in which natural resource management by villagers is most likely to succeed?
a) Where common resources are substantial and, therefore, the benefits of ecological regeneration can be substantial as compared to existing needs;
b) Where commons can regenerate rapidly; and
c) Where communities are more homogeneous and not highly stratified.
How the increase in population density can impact common resources?
Humid plains and irrigated arid and semi-arid plains: Most of the land tends to be privatised. In such areas, the land is taken over by the rich and powerful, and settlements tend to be larger, and relatively inequitous.
– Increasing population density in such areas will lead to a steady disappearance of common resources, including wetlands, which will be brought under agriculture. The poor will depend heavily on the rich for their survival, and their desperate social and economic conditions can force them to suffer considerable violence and oppression.
Hill and mountain regions, and unirrigated arid and semi-arid areas: These are the areas with substantial common resources. In such areas the settlements tend to be small and less stratified. Moreover, these regions are also more ecologically fragile and relatively poverty-stricken.
– In these areas natural resources are relatively less privatised, and increasing population density can lead to overuse of common resources, especially if community rights are not properly defined.
How granting definitive legal rights over areas help in community management of natural resources?
With definitive rights over a certain area, each community will take care of its own commons. It will, first, keep people of other settlements out of its own commons, and then, because of internal needs, it will begin to set appropriate rules for caring for and sharing those commons.
This can also become an important way of making people accept the fact that population growth cannot be unlimited. As long as there are open, free-access commons (that is, government land), people will prefer big families to exploit these resources.
Community-managed commons will push people towards better management and increased productivity on a sustained basis.
Of course, if population growth increases without any check and local biomass demand goes beyond the capacity of the environment to meet it, community management systems will again begin to break down.
Problem, solution, problem: India’s population will start to collapse in two decades. It’s a matter of celebration – and concern
Source: This post is based on the article “Problem solution problem: India’s population will start to collapse in two decades. It’s a matter of celebration – and concern” published in Times of India on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS1-Population and associated issues.
Relevance: Declining population trends in India.
News: Population growth is a function of fertility and life expectancy. India had about 1.38 billion (138 crore) people in 2020. Two recent studies estimate the country’s population to peak at 1. 5-1. 6 billion somewhere between 2040 and 2048.
India’s population has been on a decline, and several figures point in this direction.
Every year since 2003 the number of live births has been falling consistently.
Fertility rate (average number of children born to a woman) came down to 2 – well below the world average in 2019.
It took only 14 years for the fertility rate to fall by 50% (from 3 to 2) in India, whereas in Bangladesh – globally acclaimed for birth control – a similar fall took 17 years.
What are the reason for these?
Percentage of women marrying before the age of 18 has fallen by half in the past 15 years.
Women participation in key family decisions have shot up from 37% to 89% in the past decade and a half.
Urbanisation is another family size suppressor. In rural areas a child is a resource, a free labour to work on farms and tend to livestock. But in a city a child is a liability till adulthood.
The higher cost of raising children also prevents middle and upper middle classes from having a big family.
What can be the new set of challenges that can emerge due to this declining population trend?
Compared to other countries with the same fertility rate, India’s infant mortality rate is higher and life expectancy is lower. That means the coming fall in population could turn into a collapse.
India is also home to the highest number of underweight and stunted children.
The peak of India’s demographic dividend is already behind it. The prospect of India ageing before prospering to the levels of Western countries is real.
It’s this fear that has caused China to abandon its draconian single child policy and encourage its youth to have more kids. India could be in a much worse situation than China as the productivity level in China are much higher than India.
Can this trend be reversed?
Policy persuasion does not help in convincing people to go for smaller or no families.
The immediate task for India is to save more children at birth and ensure that they grow into healthy and educated adults.
GS Paper 2
Source: This post is based on the article “State schemes can cast a lifeline to this welfare plan” published in The Hindu on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 2 – Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
Relevance: Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY).
News: There is vast scope for improvement in the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY).
POSHAN Abhiyan and PMMVY are India’s initiatives to fulfill its commitment towards the Sustainable Development Goal of improving maternal health.
However, targets can be achieved only if we revisit the design and implementation of this scheme.
Read about PMMVY here: Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
What are the issues?
Unchanged targets: The target of the scheme has remained unchanged over the years.
The estimated eligible population of pregnant and lactating mothers in India was 128.7 lakh for 2017-18 according to the Centre for Policy Research 2019-20). The target set by the Government was 51.70 lakh beneficiaries. This is only 40% of the eligible population.
Fall in enrollment and disbursements: In 2020-21, more than 50% of registered beneficiaries did not receive all three installments and there was a 9% drop in enrollment under the scheme.
This is according to the data provided by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) in response to a parliamentary question.
Reduced Budget allocation: Budget allocation for the PMMVY has also been reduced as it has been clubbed under SAMARTHYA along with multiple other schemes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.
The overall budget of SAMARTHYA is ₹2,522 crore, which is nearly equivalent to the budget of PMMVY alone in the previous financial years.
State-level schemes: States such as Odisha, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, respectively, implemented State-specific schemes for maternity benefits.
For example, MAMATA (2011) in Odisha, the KCR Kit (2017) in Telangana, and the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme (MRMBS) in Tamil Nadu.
States’ schemes had relatively increased coverage and higher maternity benefits. For instance, Odisha’s MAMATA, has been offering a conditional cash transfer of ₹5,000 as maternity benefit for up to two live births for more than a decade now. It has led to better performance of this scheme, in comparison to PMMVY Scheme.
What are the suggestions for improvements in PMMVY?
Extend the maternity benefit under the PMMVY to the second live birth, similar to its predecessor, the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana. This would be more imperative for women in the unorganized sector, who are more vulnerable to economic shocks and nutrition loss for all childbirths.
Increase the maternity benefit amount: The current entitlement of ₹5,000 provided over one-year amounts to one month’s wage loss (as per the MGNREGA wage rate of ₹202).
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 mandates 12 weeks of maternity leave for women with two or more children. Thus, pregnant and lactating mothers should receive 12 weeks of wage compensation amounting to ₹15,000.
Address the implementation gaps that lead to reduced coverage. These gaps stem from a lack of awareness within targeted beneficiaries and process level challenges.
A simplification of the process can result in increased registration of beneficiaries. Further, the current registration form requires a mother and child protection (MPC) card, husband’s Aadhaar card, bank passbook, and registration form for each of the three installments. This results in delayed, rejected or pending applications.
Source: This post is based on the article “Why’s pandemic policymaking still short of science?” published in TOI on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 2 – Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
Relevance: Effective governance
News: Though science & technology has definitely played an important role in many decisions related to the containment of the pandemic, it has been ignored in many as well.
Instances where science & technology has been ignored in policy making w.r.t the containment of the pandemic?
Scrubbing of home furniture and doors was advised by governments in early 2020.
The need for a test report before entering one state from another is completely meaningless. It places an unnecessary burden on travelers as we have porous interstate borders.
All airports are crowded with absolutely no possibility of social distancing, yet one continuously hears announcements asking people to maintain social distancing.
The imposition of a night curfew for Omicron, curtailing public transport, while political rallies continue. It looks unsupported by science.
According to the author’s thesis, these are the outcomes due to the inclusion of false design in policymaking.
What are the flaws observed in policy-making?
Increasing nationalism and the rise of the ‘exceptionalism’ principle: It results in the enactment of multiple local level rules, while science generally believes in universal rules.
Unquestioned promotion of ‘ancient science’: Pleas by scientists to make practices based on ancient knowledge systems, subject to the requirements of modern science, are discarded.
Increase in competitive populism and dirty politics: it is leading to silly interstate and inter-country travel rules. Each leader wants to be seen as more ‘tough and decisive’ than the other, and this leads to diversion from rationality.
Apart from this, there are also some concerns related to the scientist and business/private sector.
Lack of consensus among Scientists: On many occasions, scientists were seen arguing rather than providing a clear consensus decision to policymakers. This was worsened by TV and social media.
How scientists, institutions, the public can lead change?
Improving scientific temper among both the population and policymakers: This is necessary to improve compliance with science-based decisions and, more importantly, for the public to question policymakers’ unscientific decisions.
Independent body to scrutinize every policy decision: It allows public scrutiny before and after a decision and its evidence base and put this in the public domain.
Scientists should ensure that they have no vested interest. They need to generate consensus statements rather than individual opinions. They need to be aware of external influences in policy development and careful in their communication with the public and policymakers. These principles should be included as a course in science curriculums.
Source: This post is based on the article “Unravelling what awaits us in 2022” published in Business Standard on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 2 – Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors.
Relevance: Governance reforms
News: India needs to update many of its governance laws so that India does not miss this epochal shift to a network economy.
Contrary to what many believe, Industry’s success is not dependent on economies of scale. Rather, the most important factor in the industry’s success in the network age is connectedness.
What matters in the network age is whether the “node” of your activity is “linked” to other nodes that matter in the space of your activity. For example; there can be nodes who are securities traders, their major links will be with fellow securities traders, which may be innocent. However, there can be links with nodes who are powerful corporate executives who then pass on insider information for trading.
Thus, network analysis becomes significant for the Securities and Exchange Board of India to spot insider trading.
Why the government should update many of its governance laws?
In the era of the network economy, the power of technology can be leveraged to affect competition between industries. For Instance,
Currently, large US and Chinese tech companies in e-commerce, social media, and fintech are reporting enormous losses in their Indian operations. However, they are applauded for their large-heartedness and for the foreign exchange they bring into India.
But a network-era-based analysis will reveal the true nature of these actions. They are “subsidising” one side of the network (it could be customers or suppliers) to gain market share, and thus abusing the system.
Source: This post is based on the following articles“From selective to universal engagement” published in The Hindu on 3rd Jan 2022.
“The China hand” published in Indian Express on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 2 – Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests
Relevance: To understand India’s foreign policy in 2021.
News: India’s foreign policy in 2021 followed a style of openness and readiness to deal with friends and foes alike. From selective alignment, India moved to universal engagement, even to the extent of convening meetings with antagonists.
About India’s foreign policy in 2021
Relations with the US and its allies: India took active engagements with the U.S. and went beyond familiarisation with the new government to increased commitment to Quad and acceptance of AUKUS and formation of the ‘western Quad’, with the U.S., Israel and the UAE.
Relations with China: The relations with China met with limited success. China is confident that the growing hard power — economic and military — gives it the luxury to dispense with diplomatic niceties. Hence,
1. China has not shown willingness to disengage in Ladakh and withdraw to the previous positions behind the Line of Actual Control, 2. Recently, changed the names of various places in Arunachal Pradesh, 3. Building villages on the unpopulated border with India, 4. Trying to create a wedge between India and its close Himalayan neighbours — Nepal and Bhutan, 5. Seeking to undermine Indian influence in the Maldives and Sri Lanka and, more broadly, in the Indian Ocean.
Taliban in Afghanistan: American notion of bringing in some civility to the Taliban in Kabul has failed. Now it is a high priority for India to face a Pakistan-China-Taliban axis with some support from Russia and Iran.
Relations with Myanmar: In 2021, the Foreign Secretary visited Myanmar to engage the military junta at a time when Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders are in prison.
United Nations: India took the presidency of the UN Security Council in August 2021 and provided significant contributions. But, India showed less interest in the demand for United Nations reform in 2021.
Other issues: India has been charged as “India only a part-democracy” received less Indian interest. As for Indian democracy, the Prime Minister’s assertion that India is the “mother of democracy” went uncontested at the political level.
How to address the challenges in India’s foreign policy in 2021?
The extraordinary efforts made by India have not been fruitful in Afghanistan and China. Among them, China remains the most important national security task for India in 2022 and beyond. To redress the power imbalance with China, India has to
1. Along with diplomatic relations, India has to rush the military modernisation and strategic coordination with its Quad partners, 2. At the economic level, India will need to move rapidly to end its isolation in the global trade domain, 3. India has to stay out of a China-dominated Asia-wide free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), 4. Negotiate bilateral free trade agreements with strategic partners like the United Kingdom, Australia, UAE, and Israel.
Source: This post is based on the article “Recognize kids as Individuals and not just as learners” published in The Indian express on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS2- Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education.
Relevance: Changing nature of classes in the pandemic.
News: Pandemic has brought a lot of problems for the education sector although students, teachers have tried to adapt to these ever-occurring disturbances, but challenges still remain.
1) Issue of diversity and inequality– While some students campaign to bring their various gadgets to the classroom for more integrated learning, plenty more continue to struggle for even a smartphone in working condition.
2) Vaccinations, logistics, social distancing protocols and the burdens of an ever-changing curriculum weigh down students and teachers alike.
3)Recurrent opening and shutdowns between schools has caused psychological stress among the students and teachers.
4)Advent of hybrid learning and its challenges: Teachers struggle to maintain the interaction between the two halves of their classroom.
5)Logistics and technical difficulties impede the flow of classes, and the students who are online are often relegated to the position of passive spectators to an ongoing class.
The focus should be on the social-emotional challenges that children face at the moment and strategies should be devised on how to help them overcome these.
Source: This post is based on the article “Picture of health” published in Business standard on 2nd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS2- Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.
Relevance: Status of health in India
News: NITI Aayog has recently released its fourth Health Index report for the year 2019-20, which was published in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
It ranked states on a weighted composite score based on 24 indicators, and offers a useful picture of the state of Indian health care.
What are the components of this index?
It is a very comprehensive index based on three broad domains —health outcomes, governance and information,
For more: Read here
What are the findings of the report and what are the issues related to them?
The comparison of states on the basis of the ranking can be misleading due to the categorisation of states.
Example: It shows that UP has registered first ranking in incremental performance despite the fact that many smaller states have performed better than UP.
UP’s performance is not because of any drastic changes in the health infrastructure improvement but due to the fact that UP started from a very low base. Hence, any improvement will show up in terms of a disproportionate bump in the incremental score.
Proper analysis of the Index shows that nearly half of the states and Union Territories did not pass the halfway mark in the composite overall index score (the “frontier” in this case). Kerala, the top performer registered an overall index score of 82.2 only. This suggests that there is considerable room for improvement even in India’s best state.
It is important that this ranking is just not limited as a tool for competitive federalism and comparing states but can be used as a meaningful tool for health policy and resource allocation.
GS Paper 3
Source: This post is based on the article “The crypto assets conundrum” published in The Hindu on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 – Information Technology
Relevance: Understanding issues with regulation of Crypto assets
News: Arguments for legalising crypto assets in India are weak, and in fact dangerous.
What is the case for Crypto regulation?
– Cryptocurrency enables relatively invisible transactions, with serious implications for crime, terrorism, money laundering, tax evasion, etc.
– Another worry is that the crypto mania is getting built of purely speculative investments. The eventual bursting of such bubbles will badly hurt people.
– Further, crypto threatens the state’s macro-economic role.
– Also, Govt wants to avoid any tech-unfriendly image.
|Read more – The monetary, fiscal challenges of Cyptocurrency|
Why legalising Crypto assets is dangerous?
Firstly, Crypto is more divisible and portable than land, gold, stocks and even physical currency. Hence, once legalised, crypto asset’s advance towards becoming a medium of exchange would be unstoppable.
Secondly, Crypto is mostly a speculative asset: The 2008 financial crash happened largely because some ‘assets’ lost all connection to any kind of underlying value. When this happens to Crypto, the bubble will burst, gravely hurting people. If the Govt legalises a purely speculative asset, it provides a green signal to investors to invest in it and blow into the bubble. When the bubble bursts, there may be a heavy political price to pay for the ruling dispensation.
Thirdly, any underlying value of Crypto is only in terms of an expectation of it’s widespread acceptance as a medium of exchange in the future. By legalising Crypto assets, Govt will inadvertently be promoting this expectation.
Fourthly, legalising cryto assets primarily to support blockchain technology is also not tangible. It’s like signing on to the use of space as a new frontier of war just because it would promote India’s space industry. Blockchain has thousands of applications other than crypto. Various innovations and services, including using blockchains are indeed possible over the top of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), as an alternative to private cryptocurrencies.
Fifthly, the argument to let both public and private currencies co-exist, leaving it to ‘people’s choice’, is also deceptive. The powerful feel the distributive potential contained in public currency systems is unfair. Hence, they will all push private currencies. Their combined economic power itself would ensure an overwhelming dominance of private currencies over the public currency.
More articles on Crypto:
Source: This post is based on the article “Don’t support minimum support prices” published in The Indian Express on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to MSP
Relevance: Issues associated with legalising MSP
News: Legal MSP is an illogical, expensive and inefficient policy instrument.
Unless farmers move rapidly towards high-value agriculture, there is not much scope to achieve better incomes for smallholders in an economically efficient and sustainable way.
What is the actual reach of MSP regime?
If one uses the Census and National Accounts data,
– The percentage of farmers benefiting from MSP comes around to be 5.6%
– The value of agri-produce benefiting from the MSP regime comes down to just 2.2%.
The reach of MSP, both in terms of agri-Households or the value of agri-produce, is not more than 9%.
Why legalising MSP is economically illogical?
MSP distorts the basic logic of the supply-demand mechanism, slows down the process of diversification, and is economically a very expensive and inefficient policy instrument.
For instance: Procurement at MSP has spread to many other states, most notably in Chhattisgarh and Telangana for paddy, and Madhya Pradesh for wheat. This is taken as a success story. However, the point which is missed here is that most of these farmers also benefit from highly subsidised PDS. This is irrational and economically inefficient. Paddy is first bought from small and marginal subsistence farmers at MSP, and then same is given back to them after incurring 40% higher costs on top of MSP during the process of procurement, stocking and distribution.
What is the way forward?
Providing direct income support: It is much better to directly support small and marginal farmers with an income policy or through a diversification package towards high-value agriculture. This support can be on a per hectare basis, tilted towards small and marginal holders, which can be directly transferred to farmers’ accounts without distorting markets or cropping patterns.
For instance, the PM-KISAN policy of giving Rs 6,000 into the accounts of agri-HHs can be refined and scaled up, by linking it with adopting farming practices that are environmentally sustainable.
The government’s focus needs to be directed towards
– the development of efficient value chains
– forming of commodity-specific Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs)
– equipping them to assay, grade, and package their products
– incentivise the private sector to invest in logistics, storage, cold chain, processing.
Source: This post is based on the article “Preparing for green energy shift in 2022” published in The Indian Express on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS3- Infrastructure: Energy.
Relevance: Green energy transition and future policy making.
News: The world is preparing itself for an energy transition from fossil fuel to green energy.
Around 133 countries have pledged to a “net-zero carbon emissions date. Most govts, corporates and civic entities have also shown determination to “phase down” and eventually phase out fossil fuels from their energy basket.
However, world is still highly dependent on fossil fuels. The natural gas and oil prices have also been turbulent in the past year due to demand supply mismatches and geopolitics.
What should be the factors that need to be considered while designing policies for green transition?
Any future energy policy would have to overcome a paradox b/w the aim for a clean energy system and the wide availability of fossil fuel resource.
1) Long and expensive: Fossil fuel-based economic system will have to be redesigned and, in parts, rebuilt for clean energy to achieve scale.
This will take decades and also require massive capital infusion.
No country or multilateral institution can finance this transition individually. The world will have to collaborate otherwise the financing deficit will push back the transition even further.
2) Fossil fuels will dominate the energy basket during this transition phase and their prices will be determined by the factors of demand, supply and geopolitics.
3) “OPEC plus” will have a huge influence in the market. Countries which have huge resources of petroleum like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf nations, Iraq, Russia, etc will gain greater control over the petroleum market as private companies move beyond fossils under pressure from shareholders and regulators.
4) Geology of the minerals and metals required for clean energy is skewed towards the geology of petroleum reserves: The Democratic Republic of Congo controls, for instance, more than 50% of the global supply of cobalt; Australia holds a comparably large share of the lithium market; and China bestrides the mining, processing and refining of rare earth minerals.
This inequity in terms of resource availability will create new centres of energy power.
5) National self-interest and short-term political ambition will be the defining determinant of future energy supply relations: Though US and China are into a Cold War and may even fall into the “Thucydides trap”. However, they are still coordinating on the energy front.
Example: A few weeks ago, the two countries decided to coordinate the release of oil stocks from their strategic reserves to cool off the oil market.
|Note– Thucydides trap is the idea that the rise of a new power, as a competitor to an existing superpower, likely leads to political escalation and war.|
What is the way forward?
– India must maintain and nurture its relations with its traditional suppliers of oil and gas. It must not assume that their role in the energy market will diminish.
– It should accelerate the build-up of the storage capacity for oil and gas; the former to hold strategic oil reserves, the latter to store gas for conversion to blue hydrogen.
– It must create a facilitative ecosystem for the search and development of the minerals and metals required for clean energy.
– A single point executive should be appointed which would act as a point of coordination for multiple stakeholders (governments, regulators, farmers) involved in this process and to develop common rules and standards.
– India should create a “clean energy Aatmanirbhar supply chain”
– It should also ensure that green transition must not lead to import dependency on raw minerals and manufactured inputs, especially from China.
Source: This post is based on the article “It’s in India’s national interest to promote open-source software” published in Live Mint on 3rd Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 3 – Awareness in the fields of IT, Computers.
Relevance: Open source software
News: Many volunteers around the world are resolving vulnerabilities in open-source Log4j software.
Open-source software is in India’s national interest, given the unfolding economics and politics of the technology space. The promotion of Open Source software can be a source of competitive advantage for India in high-technology geopolitics.
What is Log4j & Why it is significant?
It is an open-source software found in millions of computer servers, from those owned by giants like Apple and Twitter to ‘smart’ televisions, security cameras, and other appliances in people’s homes. It is maintained by the dedicated communities of volunteers.
Significance: It is very significant to the multi-trillion-dollar information economy. Because the Information Age rests on such foundations namely, Log4j, Apache, Kubernetes, and Linux.
How India is positioned w.r.t the development of open-source software?
Indian developers are major players in this ecosystem. According to GitHub, a leading platform for open-source software development, more than 7.2 million of its 73 million users in 2021 were from India. India ranks third after China and the US.
The fact that millions of Indian developers are plugged into the global open-source ecosystem is a good sign. It can be a source of competitive advantage for India in high-technology geopolitics.
What approach would suit India’s interest w.r.t the development of open-source software?
India should not aim at technological sovereignty by reinventing everything and insisting on localization. It would be counter-productive.
A far more effective approach is to focus on open-source projects, build for the whole planet, and derive a strategic advantage. This is the only reliable way to reduce dependence on transnational technology companies.
What are the steps taken by India in this regard?
The earliest attempts by governments to promote open source have mostly involved adopting Linux-based operating systems and open document formats. But it failed.
More recent attempts involved building stacks, infrastructure, and platforms that allow varying degrees of source-code visibility and access. These are mostly targeted at delivering digital public services.
How India can facilitate the creation of Open-source software?
Promote an open-source economy: Because governments can’t build better consumer products than corporations or open-source communities. This is one reason why an earlier government attempt failed.
Public policy: Public policy should create incentives for developers and firms to invest more in building open-source software. The goal should be to create globally-competitive developers and firms that become important nodes in the tech ecosystem.
Higher education: Engineering colleges could be encouraged to get their students to participate in open-source projects.
Corporate social responsibility: India, with a big IT industry, should start recognizing the support for open-source projects under corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Source: This post is based on the following articles
– ‘Draft national air sports policy pushes for safety standards’ published in The Hindu on 3rd Jan 2021.
– ‘Ministry of Civil Aviation releases draft ‘National Air Sports Policy’ for public feedback’ published in PIB on 2nd Jan 2021.
What is the news?
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has released a draft National Air Sports Policy (NASP) for public feedback.
What is the purpose of the Draft National Air Sports Policy(NASP)?
– Aim: To make India one of the top air sports nations by 2030 by providing a safe, affordable, accessible, enjoyable and sustainable air sports ecosystem in India.
– Objectives: a) Promote an air sports culture in the country b) Adopt international best practices in air sports c) Develop India as a preferred global hub for air sports d) Develop effective governance structure e) Enhance participation of Indian sportspersons in global air sports events and f) Promote design, development and manufacturing of air sports equipment in India.
– Coverage: The policy will cover activities like aerobatics, aeromodelling, amateur-built and experimental aircraft, ballooning, drones, etc.
What are the key features of the Draft National Air Sports Policy (NASP)?
The policy proposes a two-tier governance structure for air sports in the country which will include an apex governing body called the Air Sports Federation of India (ASFI) and associations for each air sport.
– ASFI: It will be an autonomous body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation. It will represent India at the Fédération Aéronaautique Internationale (FAI) and at other events. It will provide governance over various aspects of air sports including regulation, certification, competitions, awards and penalties.
|Note: FAI headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland is the world governing body for air sports.|
– Associations for each air sport: It will handle day-to-day activities. It will lay down its safety standards for equipment, infrastructure, personnel and training, and specify the disciplinary actions to be taken in case of non-compliance. Inability to do so may lead to penal action by the ASFI.
– Registration: All persons and entities providing air sports services will be required to register as members of the respective air sports associations. Key equipment used will also have to be registered.
– Control Zones: The popular air sports attractions in the country such as Bir Billing in Himachal Pradesh, Gangtok in Sikkim, Hadapsar in Maharashtra and Vagamon in Kerala can be declared as a “control zone” for air sports in order to ensure the safety of other manned aircraft.
– Schools and colleges will be encouraged to include air sports in their curriculum and their students will have the opportunity to participate in the FAI’s international competitions.
Government will a) consider allowing import of air sports equipment without any levies for a specified number of years and b) request the GST Council to consider rationalising the GST rate on air sports equipment to 5% or less.
– India aims to attract aerosport enthusiasts from Europe and North America during peak winter as these activities shift to mild climate zones. ASFI and air sports associations will work towards developing a hassle-free process to enable their movement to India. This will enable Indian air sports enthusiasts to learn from the experience of the visiting professionals, get exposed to global best practices and create opportunities to host global competitions in India.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘India welcomes Egypt as member of New Development Bank of BRICS’ published in The Hindu on 1st Jan 2021.
What is the news?
India has welcomed Egypt as the fourth new member of the New Development Bank (NDB).
|Note: In September 2021, NDB admitted Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Uruguay as its new members.|
What is the New Development Bank (NDB)?
It is a multilateral development bank jointly founded by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) at the 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014. The Bank formally came into existence in 2015.
Purpose: To mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging economies.
Projects: Projects in areas such as transport, water and sanitation, clean energy, digital infrastructure, social infrastructure and urban development are within the scope of the bank.
Members: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Uruguay and Egypt.
UN Observer Status: In 2018, the NDB received observer status in the UN General Assembly, establishing a firm basis for active and fruitful cooperation with the United Nations.
The Bank’s Articles of Agreement specify that all members of the United Nations could be members of the bank.However, the share of the BRICS nations can never be less than 55% of voting power.
Headquarters: Shanghai, China.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Two plant species discovered in Kerala’ published in The Hindu on 3rd Jan 2021.
What is the news?
Researchers have discovered two new plant species from the Western Ghats regions in Thiruvananthapuram and Wayanad districts of Kerala.
These two plant species have been named as Fimbristylis sunilii and Neanotis prabhuii.
What is Fimbristylis sunilii?
It is a perennial plant of the Cyperaceae family.
It stands 20-59 cm tall and was collected from an elevation of 1,100 metres in Western Ghats region.
It has been provisionally assessed as data deficient (DD) under the IUCN Red List categories.
What is Neanotis prabhuii?
It is a prostrate perennial herb named after K.M. Prabhukumar in recognition of his research on flowering plants of the Western Ghats.
It was discovered in the Chembra Peak grasslands of Wayanad. It hails from the family Rubiaceae and grows on high-altitude grasslands.
It grows up to 70 cm in length and is many-flowered with the petals pale pink in colour.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Carbon-rich stars steal heavy elements from their low mass companions’ published in PIB on 2nd Jan 2021.
What is the news?
A team of Indian scientists has achieved significant advancement in revealing the mystery behind the presence of a much higher fraction of elements heavier than iron in Carbon Enhanced Metal-Poor (CEMP) stars.
What are Carbon Enhanced Metal-Poor (CEMP) Stars?
CEMP Stars are primarily characterized by diverse heavy elements and abundance patterns.They were formed from the ejected material of the first stars that formed after the Big Bang.
These stars are primarily classified into four groups, based on which groups of heavy elements are more abundant. These are mostly dwarf stars, subgiant stars or giant stars.
At the evolutionary stages, these Stars cannot produce elements heavier than iron. However, the surface chemical composition of these stars exhibit abundances of heavy elements which are about 100 to 1000 times higher than that of the Sun.
What is the study conducted by Indian Scientists?
The study was conducted to understand the presence of these much higher fraction of elements heavier than iron in carbon-rich stars.
The team analyzed the stars using Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) at Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle and SUBARU Telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
Findings: The team have traced the presence of heavier elements to the origin of the low mass companions of these stars from which the materials have been stolen.
What is the significance of this study?
Probing into the formation of these Carbon Enhanced Metal-Poor (CEMP) Stars can help trace the origin and evolution of the elements in the Universe.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Year-End- Review-2021 Ministry of Steel’ published in PIB on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the news?
The Ministry of Steel has launched several initiatives to develop a vibrant domestic steel industry.
What are the steps and initiatives launched in the Steel Sector?
Production of Steel: The production performance of Steel sector has improved in the current fiscal.This improved performance was achieved despite the adverse effect of second wave of COVID-19 and concomitant localised lockdowns.
Key Initiatives in Steel Sector
Domestic Manufacturing: Ministry of Steel had notified the Policy for Providing Preference to Domestically Manufactured Iron and Steel Products (DMI and SP Policy) in 2017.It provides preference to domestically produced iron and steel material in Government procurement.
Steel Scrap Recycling Policy,2019: It envisages to set up environmentally sound management system to encourage processing and recycling of ferrous scraps through organised and scientific metal scrapping centres across India. Recycling would be done with an aim to promote 6Rs principles of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Redesign and Re-manufacture.
Steel Import Monitoring System (SIMS): It is an online platform for advance registration of intended imports of steel. It requires importers to submit advance information for intended imports and help the industry to plan domestic manufacturing.
Project Development Cell in the Ministry of Steel to attract and facilitate investment in the steel sector.
MoU with Russia: An MoU has been signed between the Ministry of Steel and the Russian Federation for cooperation in the field of coking coal, used for steel making.
Steel Usage: To promote steel usages in various sectors, the Ministry of Steel has been jointly organising workshops/ Webinars to spread the awareness for benefits of enhanced steel usage in various sectors.
MSME Payments :The status of pending payments to MSMEs by CPSEs of the Steel Ministry is being monitored on weekly basis to ensure that the same is credited timely and well within the 45 days’ time limit.
Source:This post is based on the article ‘Half of global cropland expansion replaced natural vegetation and tree cover: Study’ published in Down To Earth on 3rd Jan 2021.
What is the news?
According to a study, Cropland area across the world has increased by 9% between 2003-2019.
About the study
The study was conducted between the period 2003-2019.
It defines cropland as land used for annual and perennial herbaceous crops for human consumption, forage (including hay) and biofuel.
Perennial woody crops, permanent pastures and shifting cultivation are excluded from the definition.
What are the key findings of the study?
Cropland area across the world: Cropland area has increased by 9% between 2003-2019.The cropland growth was primarily due to agricultural expansion in Africa and South America. However, 49% of the new cropland area replaced natural vegetation and tree covers indicating a conflict with the sustainability goal of protecting terrestrial ecosystems.
|Note: Cropland expansion is a major factor in forest loss. It comes in conflict with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15 (SDG 15) that aims to stop deforestation and degradation of natural habitats.|
Global per capita cropland area: This has decreased by 10% during 2003-2019 due to population growth (global population increased by 21% from 2003-2019).But the per capita annual cropland net primary production (NPP) has increased by 3.5% as a result of intensified agricultural land use.
What is the significance of this study?
The changes in total and per capita mapped cropland area demonstrate the variability of national responses to the need for increased food production to feed a growing population.
Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: China’s border law and India” published in The Indian Express on 3rd Jan 2022.
What is the news?
China’s new law on land borders, passed on October 23, has come into effect from 1st Jan 2022.
This has happened at a time when,
– The border standoff in eastern Ladakh remains unresolved
– China has renamed several places in Arunachal Pradesh as part of its claim on the Indian state, and
– The Chinese Embassy in Delhi has written to Indian MPs, including a minister, who had attended a dinner reception hosted by the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.
|Must Read: China’s border law: The Why, what & what next|
What is the new law?
The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress passed the law for the protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas.
It is encouraging the development of villages for civilians in the border areas by mandating the state to take measures to
– strengthen border defence
– support economic and social development
– open-up border areas
– improve public services and infrastructure in such areas
– encourage and support people’s life and work there
– promote coordination between border defence and social, economic development in border areas.
It asks the state to resolve land border related-affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations.
The law lays conditions under which the state can impose emergency measures, including border shutdown.
Why this law has been brought?
– It reflects Beijing’s renewed concerns over the security of its land border while it confronts a range of unsettled disputes on its maritime front.
– The Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need for Beijing to exert greater control over its somewhat porous land border.
What are its implications for India?
Although the law is not meant specifically for India, it is bound to have some impact.
|China and India share a disputed 3,488-km boundary, the third longest among China’s 22,457-km land boundaries with 14 countries. Besides India, Bhutan (477 km) is the only other country with which China has a disputed land border.|
India-China relations: Beijing appears to be signaling determination to resolve the border disputes on its preferred terms.
Some experts feel the new law will make China stick to its position, in the ongoing standoff as well as in the resolution of the larger boundary issue. Others feel the new law is only a tool China government will use if it wants, as its actions have been aggressive even before this law.
As per Gautam Bambawale, who was India’s ambassador to China in 2017-18 “the Chinese are clearly indicating that they are tired of trying to resolve the boundary or the LAC through negotiations; they’re indicating they’ll do it through use of force.
As per Retired Army Major General Ashok Kumar the new law is the “latest attempt by China to unilaterally delineate and demarcate territorial boundaries with India and Bhutan”.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Retain Rs 8 lakh EWS cap for admissions, recommends panel’ published in TOI on 3rd Jan 2021.
What is the News?
A three-member panel set up by the Government of India to review the eligibility criteria of Economically Weaker Sections(EWS) has submitted its report.
The panel has suggested that its recommendations be implemented only from the next admission cycle and not the ongoing one as any sudden change will cause major disruption across educational institutes and create complications for both beneficiaries and the authorities.
|Must Read: Explained: Revisiting definition of EWS|
What are the recommendations given by the panel on the eligibility criteria of EWS?
Firstly, drop the existing criteria on residential asset size. This is because mere possession of a residential house may not correctly reflect the economic condition of the candidate or his family, especially if it is used only as a dwelling unit and not for generating any income.
– However, the panel has backed excluding all candidates with agricultural land over 5 acres. It said that removing this limit could result in big landowners being included in EWS as currently there is no income tax on agricultural income and this may escape being included in the gross annual income.
Secondly, it has suggested retaining the existing gross family annual income limit of Rs 8 lakh as it is ‘just and fair in the present circumstances. Moreover, income criteria of EWS and OBC cannot be compared as EWS criteria is more stringent than the one for the OBC creamy layer because:
– EWS’s criteria relates to the financial year prior to the year of application, whereas the income criterion for the creamy layer in the OBC category is applicable to gross annual income for three consecutive years.
– In the case of the OBC creamy layer, income from salaries, agriculture and traditional artisanal professions are excluded from the consideration whereas the ₹8 lakh criteria for EWS includes all sources, including farming.
Thirdly, a three-year feedback loop cycle may be used to monitor the actual outcomes of these criteria and then be used to adjust them in future.
Fourthly, data exchange and information technology can be used actively to verify income and assets and improve targeting for EWS reservations.
|Read more: Questionable criterion: On EWS quota income limit|
Padhe Bharat: Union Minister launches ‘Padhe Bharat’, a 100 days reading campaign, calls on “young friends” to share their reading list
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Union Minister launches ‘Padhe Bharat’, a 100 days reading campaign, calls on “young friends” to share their reading list’ published in PIB on 31st Dec 2021.
What is the News?
The Union Education Minister has launched the ‘Padhe Bharat’ campaign.
What is the Padhe Bharat Campaign?
Padhe Bharat is a 100-day reading campaign starting from January 1,2022 to April 10, 2022.
Aim: To improve the learning levels of students as it develops creativity, critical thinking, vocabulary and the ability to express both verbally and in writing.It also helps children to relate to their surroundings and real-life situations.
The campaign will focus on children studying in Balvatika to Grade 8. It expects the participation of all stakeholders at the national and state level including children, teachers, parents, community, educational administrators among others.
Under the campaign, one activity per week per group will be taken up with the focus on making reading enjoyable and building a lifelong association with the joy of reading.
The campaign will also focus on Indian languages, including mother tongue/local/regional languages.
In this regard, 21st February which is celebrated as International Mother Tongue Day has also been integrated with this campaign. The day will be celebrated with the activity of KahaniPadhoApniBhasa Main (Reading story in own language) across the country by encouraging children to read in their mother tongue/local language. This will help in promoting the local language and culture of our society.
|Read more: Union Education Minister launches Bhasha Sangam initiative for schools, Bhasha Sangam Mobile App and Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat Mobile Quiz|
What is the significance of the Padhe Bharat campaign?
Firstly, the campaign is in alignment with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 which emphasises the promotion of joyful reading culture for children by ensuring the availability of age-appropriate reading books for children in local/mother tongue/regional/tribal Language.
Secondly, it has also been aligned with the vision and goals of the foundational Literacy and Numeracy mission.
|Must Read: A language ladder for an education roadblock|
Source: This post is based on the article ‘POWERGRID celebrates anniversary of One Nation-One Grid-One Frequency’ published in PIB on 2nd Jan 2021.
What is the News?
As part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, POWERGRID is commemorating the landmark achievement of the completion of One Nation-One Grid-One Frequency.
Evolution of One Nation-One Grid-One Frequency
Grid management on a regional basis started in the 1960’s. State grids were interconnected to form a regional grid and India was demarcated into 5 regions namely Northern, Eastern, Western, North Eastern and Southern regions.
Then the integration of these regional grids and thereby establishment of a National Grid was conceptualised in the early 1990’s.
Initially, in 1991 North Eastern and Eastern grids were connected. In 2003, the Western region grid was connected with it.
In 2006, North and East grids were interconnected and then in 2013, the Southern Region was connected to the Central Grid. This helped in achieving ‘One Nation, One Grid, One Frequency’.
|Read more: Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021 – Explained, pointwise|
What are the benefits of One Nation-One Grid-One Frequency?
Firstly, synchronisation of all regional grids will help in optimal utilisation of scarce natural resources by transfer of Power from Resource centric regions to load centric regions.
Secondly, this shall also help in the establishment of a vibrant Electricity market, facilitating trading of power across regions.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Scientists identify first ‘quantum entangled’ animal in history’ published in Wion on 2nd Jan 2021.
What is the News?
In a recent study, scientists have claimed that Frozen tardigrade became the first ‘quantum entangled’ animal in history.
What are Tardigrades?
Tardigrades are also called water bears or moss piglets. They are near-microscopic multicellular organisms.
They were discovered in 1773 by the German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze who dubbed them “little water bear.
Tardigrades are found everywhere in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater environments from the Arctic to the Antarctic, including great depths and altitudes.
They are known to survive extreme conditions — such as exposure to extreme temperatures, extreme pressures (both high and low), air deprivation through a latent state of life known as cryptobiosis. Tardigrades have also survived exposure to outer space.
Note: Cryptobiosis or anabiosis is a metabolic state of life entered by an organism in response to adverse environmental conditions such as desiccation, freezing, and oxygen deficiency.
|Read more: Certifying Quantum Entanglement: A step towards Quantum Security|
What is Quantum Entanglement?
Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when a group of particles are generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, including when the particles are separated by a large distance.
What have the scientists done?
Scientists have placed a tardigrade in a state of quantum entanglement.
In other words: the researchers managed to put a tardigrade in a state where it was directly connected to the qubits in such a way that anything that happens to the water bear or the qubits would simultaneously affect all three.
What is the significance of this study?
This study is perhaps the closest realization combining biological matter and quantum matter available with present-day technology. Moreover, this work is a new record for the conditions that a complex form of life can survive.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Union Minister says, J&K to have district level Governance Index’ published in PIB on 1st Jan 2021.
What is the News?
Jammu & Kashmir will soon become the first Union Territory in the country to have a District Good Governance Index (DGGI).
What is the District Good Governance Index(DGGI) for Jammu & Kashmir?
Conducted by: The index will be carried out by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) in collaboration with the Jammu & Kashmir Administration.
The framework of the proposed Index has been finalised with technical support from the Centre for Good Governance(CGG) Hyderabad.
The index is modelled on the Good Governance Index 2021.
Sectors: The index has 58 Indicators across 10 sectors such as 1) Agriculture & allied sector, 2) Commerce & Industry, 3) Human Resource Development, 4) Public Health, 5) Public Infrastructure & Utilities, 6) Economic Governance, 7) Welfare & Development, 8) Public Safety & Judiciary, 9) Environment and 10) Citizen-Centric Governance.
Based on these indicators, districts will be ranked on composite 10 Sectors. The index will also offer an indicator-wise performance of the Districts.
Significance of this index: The index will enable each of the 20 districts of Jammu & Kashmir to rise to the level of some of the best-administered districts of the country with time-bound disposal of office files and other matters, increased transparency, increased accountability and increased citizen participation.
Source: This post is based on the article “Developing Trincomalee oil tank farm: What the deal means for India, Lanka” published in The Indian express on 3rd Jan 2022.
What is the news?
Recently it was announced, that Indian Oil Subsidiary Lanka IOC would be given 49% stake in the joint development of the Trincomalee Oil Tank farm with Ceylon Petroleum Corporation keeping 51%.
This arrangement is for the next 50 years.
The next step is three formal agreements: two between CPC and LIOC — one for the joint development and the other for the 24 tanks to CPC — and the third between the Sri Lankan government and LIOC.
|Must Read: Sri Lanka to sign Trincomalee oil tank farm deal with India in a month, says Minister|
The idea of the agreement is 35 years old but has come into shape now.
India focussed its attention over the matter after China got control over the Hambantota port in 2010.
|Must Read: India finalises cooperation plan to revive COVID-hit Sri Lankan economy|
Why Trincomalee matters?
It is a pre-WWII era oil storage facility has a capacity of nearly 1 million tonnes, which far outstrips the demand in Sri Lanka.
It is the nearest port to Chennai.
|Must Read: Sri Lanka’s economic crisis: Challenges for India – Explained, pointwise|
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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… Continue reading India & Denmark agree to work together on green fuels including green hydrogen
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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
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Experts from India and Israel suggested expanding scope of India-Israel Industrial R&D & Technological Innovation Fund(I4F)
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Cabinet approves extension of tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis for three years
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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… Continue reading Explained: Houthis and the war in Yemen, in which Indian lives have now been lost