9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 6th, 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

The Chinese challenge uncovers India’s fragilities

Source: This post is based on the article “The Chinese challenge uncovers India’s fragilities” published in The Hindu on 6th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – India and its neighbourhood

Relevance: Indo-China relations

News: The Indo-China border crisis has brought out the political, economic and diplomatic problems between the two countries, which have been the result of choices made after 2014.

With the loss in the 1962 war against China, India lost its pre-eminent position in Asia. With the present display of weakness six decades later, India is in danger of losing its dominant influence even in South Asia.

It’s time for the Indian PM to step up and personally resolve the crisis.

How has China pushed on with its aggressive gestures against India?

After border crisis, China has taken various aggressive military and diplomatic steps like:

Renaming of places in Arunachal Pradesh: Beijing recently renamed 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh, following the six it had done in 2017, weeks after the Dalai Lama visited Tawang. China justifies the renaming as being done on the basis of its historical, cultural and administrative jurisdiction over the area. It said that ancient names of these areas were changed by India after “illegal occupation”.

New land border law: On January 1, 2022, it’s new land border law came into force. This law supports, and mutually reinforces — the construction of Xiaokang border villages by China along its disputed border with India.

As per satellite images, at least two of these villages have been constructed on the Indian side of the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh. These villages will come in handy for Beijing when the principle of ‘settled areas’ is invoked to resolve the border dispute in the future.

Emboldened Chinese diplomats: Even the diplomats, posted at the Chinese Embassy in Delhi, have been emboldened by India’s cautious response to Chinese Govt’s gestures. Recently, Political Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy, Zhou Yongsheng wrote an angry letter to Indian Members of Parliament, including two Union Ministers, for attending a meet organised by the Tibetan government-in-exile. This angry missive (long official letter) from an Embassy official to two Ministers has earned no reaction or condemnation from the Government for the Chinese Ambassador.

What are the challenges before India?

Firstly, India has run out of proactive options against Beijing that will force its leadership to change course on its India policy. Tibet and the Dalai Lama are no longer effective deterrents.

Secondly, Beijing does not care for its declining popularity among the Indian populace.

Thirdly, there is a huge trade deficit b/w India and China, which is driven by Indian dependency on Chinese manufacturing. This situation has further worsened by the Government’s mishandling of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

What is the way forward?

The Quad has remained a non-military grouping. Moreover, the signing of the AUKUS and the humiliating American exit from Afghanistan proves that India will have to deal with the Chinese challenge on the border on its own.

India can prevent any further loss of territory to China with extensive military deployment on the LAC, while hoping that the crisis is resolved with Moscow’s help. Russia has offered a Foreign Ministers meeting Russia-India-China grouping, but India has stressed on China to take some steps first to resolve the border crisis.

Government should adopt a collegial and deliberative model of decision-making, which requires cooperation and consensus among different stakeholders.
ForumIAS is now in Hyderabad. Click here to know more

Supreme court must ensure hate speech guilty are punished

Source: This post is based on the article Supreme court must ensure hate speech guilty are punished” published in The Indian express on 6th Jan 2022 

Syllabus: GS2-Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure. 

Relevance: Hate speech. Constitutional right. 

News: Recently, some hate speech incidents have taken place in Uttarakhand and Delhi. 

Here the speakers have given Speakers made statements about killing Muslims to make a Hindu Rashtra, shooting a former prime minister and calling upon the police, leaders and the army to take up arms to indulge in ethnic cleansing.  

Although the government has constituted an SIT to look into the matter, there is need for more concrete actions in such which atters of this grave importance. 

These can have serious implications for peace and stability in the country. 

What has been the Supreme Court’s views on hate speech? 

Incidents like these involving the question of the rule of law, which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution.  

SC in Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India had defined “hate speech” as “an effort to marginalise individuals based on their membership in a group.” 

It further said, “Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on the vulnerable that can range from discrimination to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide.  

The court observed that: “The root of the problem is not the absence of laws but rather a lack of their effective execution.” 

How is Article 21 relevant to the current issue? 

All citizens in India are guaranteed their right to life and personal liberty. Issuing threatening statements against anyone or any specific community is a clear violation of this right enshrined under Article 21. 

Right to life and personal liberty (Article 21): Constitution of India affords all citizens equal rights.  

SC has held that Article 21 must be interpreted in conformity with international law, as India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.

The state therefore has an absolute obligation to ensure that this right is not just preserved but protected. 

What are different views on the values of fraternity and equal rights? 

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had stated in 1949 that It would be in the interest of all to forget that there is anything like majority or minority in this country and that in India there is only one community. 

Constitutional framers had advisedly incorporated “fraternity” as one of the goals in the Preamble.  

B R Ambedkar, had stated in the Constituent Assembly that: “Fraternity is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life.” “If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril.” 

In I R Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu the Supreme Court itself held that “Over the years, the jurisprudence and development around fundamental rights have made it clear that they are not limited, narrow rights but provide a broad check against the violations or excesses by the State authorities”. 

What is the way forward? 

Whenever there is an indication that rights of citizens or any section of it are compromised then Supreme court must step in as it is the real custodian of the fundamental rights of citizens and their ultimate protector.  


On UGC’s letter to Central Universities: Wrong answer

Source: This post is based on the article “Wrong answer” published in The Indian express on 6th Jan 2022 

Syllabus: GS2 – Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education. 

Relevance: Higher education in India, UGC 

News: University Grants Commission (UGC)’s letter has asked central universities to offer/teach courses based on student demand that is on the basis of number of enrolled students. 

Why it can be a problematic move? 

Students often enrol for a course depending upon whether the course boosts their chances of employment or not. 

For a University, this should not be the sole criterion in determining the span of its academic ambition. 

Universities should not only provide a gateway to the job market but also focus on producing knowledge, training students in critical thinking and pushing ideas towards new frontiers. 

What will be the implications of the move? 

This can have grim consequences for social science and language departments as they are given less value in the society as compared to science field. 

It can also lead to job losses for those who teach in them. 

What are the challenges that Indian higher education system faces? 

Although universities need to ensure the employability metric, but there are some other challenges also that Indian higher education needs to overcome. 

Degree of autonomy: There is a need to give universities the freedom to design courses, and draw up syllabi. This is a basic demand, but only few public universities have this autonomy. 

Lack of funds and inequality between institutes: There is huge gap in terms of funding requirement for research, availability of resources in different institutes, etc. 

National Education Policy (NEP)’s emphasises for greater autonomy to higher, interdisciplinary learning, will be affected by the reduction in the number of courses. 

What is the way forward? 

Each university is unique and should find the answer for its requirements on its own terms.  

UGC must not impose a top-down criterion that can further shrink the space for experimentation and innovation in higher education. 

Higher education needs a comprehensive reform, not a lopsided one. 


These islands of excellence must not be marooned

Source: This post is based on the article “These islands of excellence must not be marooned  Published in The Hindu on 6th   Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – issues related to Higher education in  India.

Relevance:   Reforms in National Law universities.

News: National law universities have been celebrated as ‘islands of excellence’ in a ‘sea of mediocrity’. However, the comments of CJI N.V. Ramana suggest otherwise.

HE made the following comments concerning legal education through his addresses in various universities

The national law universities were being perceived as ‘elitist and detached from social realities’ because not enough students were joining the bar.

Even among those who joined the bar, the trend was to practise at the levels of the Supreme Court of India and High Courts while ignoring trial advocacy.

Law graduates were ill-equipped to handle the profession, and that sub-standard legal educational institutions in the country were a worrying trend.

The focus on legal education should be on the practice and not theory.

Apart from the above-stated issues, there are other concerns related to the functioning of national law universities.

What are the problem areas w.r.t the national law universities that require rectification?

Pedagogy: National law universities are criticised for imparting pedagogy focused on securing placements in corporates and corporate firms.

State funding: Even though they are referred to as ‘National’ Law Universities, they are established and partially funded by State governments. With state funding shrinking, most national law universities are facing a serious crisis.

The ‘national’ character of these universities is being diluted due to state’s interference: However, many States are able to exert influence on several key issues such as domicile-based reservations and pay scale choices as they are the primary funding agencies.

Student protests in several universities for better curriculum and faculties: The national law universities face stiff competition from upcoming private universities vis-à-vis quality faculties owing to many factors including rigid pay scales. The same results in a demand from students for better faculty, pedagogies and curricula.

Another reason for student protests in national law universities has been the inability of the leadership to respond to the needs of the students, faculty, and staff in an adequate manner.

What are the suggestions for improvement?

Need to focus on the promotion of research-driven academics: to bridge the disconnect between social realities and legal education.  To improve research, nation law universities need to do the following,

-Need to move beyond the rigid framework created by the Bar Council of India and the University Grants Commission, which, for example, requires the faculty to undertake a  minimum number of lecture hours per week, etc.

-Need to have separate faculties for teaching and research.

-Research should also be promoted through institutional arrangements and incentive schemes.

The pedagogy must be focused on practical aspects of law, rather than just the theory: It can be done in the following ways,

-Judges and advocates must be obligated to contribute to the classrooms.

-They must be encouraged to offer paid internships to students to incentivize their learning experiences.

Need to have different approaches towards imparting education at graduate and postgraduate levels: The focus of education at a graduate level must be practice-oriented, with a focus on imparting students with the ability to learn and understand. On the other hand, the focus of pedagogy at the post-graduate level should be academic, with stress on imparting students with the ability to not only critically evaluate but also to apply the knowledge.

Need to establish an independent regulator for legal education in India.


Don’t raise legal age of girls’ marriage to 21: Odisha body to parliamentary panel

Source: This post is based on the article “Don’t raise legal age of girls’ marriage to 21: Odisha body to parliamentary panel” published in Down to Earth on 5th Jan 2022.

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

Relevance: To understand the issues in raising the legal age for marriage.

News: The Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) has urged the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Youth and Sports to consider not raising the legal age of marriage of girls to 21. It instead urged the Committee to keep 18 as the minimum legal age for both boys and girls.

Must read: Raising the legal age of marriage for women – Explained, pointwise
What are the concerns raised by OSCPCR regarding raising the legal age of marriage of girls?

First, the proposed amendment would redefine the word ‘child’ to bring the age of marriage for both men and women at par, i.e. 21 for both boys and girls. This will have an overriding effect over every other law, custom, usage or practice.

Second, Legislation in isolation would never be able to stop child marriage unless there is a socio-behavioural change among the parents and community.

Third, factors like poverty and distress, patriarchal norms and practices, lack of opportunity for schooling and employment were still contributing to the prevalence of child marriage in a major way.

Fourth, If legislated, there would be no space to provide support to a child bride/groom between the ages of 19 and 21, if rescued from child marriage.

Fifth, Acts like POCSO have restricted consensual sex up to the age of 18. This implies that someone may engage in sexual activity after 18 but won’t be able to marry till 21. (That) will create new sets of issues like increasing numbers of unwed mothers and foeticide thereafter.

What are the suggestions provided by OSCPCR?

There was a need to strengthen families by providing appropriate livelihood opportunities. Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act and the Integrated Child Protection Scheme could be extended to such vulnerable children only up to the age of 18.

Note: Currently the beneficiaries under the ICDS Scheme are children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

GS Paper 3

Can people’s behaviour change for better?

Source: This post is based on the article “Can people’s behaviour change for better?” published in Times of India on 6th Jan 2022.

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

Relevance: Effecting behavioural change in people for pushing them towards an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

News: Indian PM gave the idea of LIFE (Lifestyle for Environment) at COP26 climate summit at Glasgow.

But, in order to create a mass movement of an environmentally conscious lifestyle we need to bring changes in people’s beliefs, habits and behaviours.

Must Read: Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP) – Explained, pointwise
How can we address the complex issue of behavioural change?

– Behaviour change starts with the individuals. Making small changes in individual habits, by spreading awareness and modifying existing beliefs and perceptions, can significantly impact the environment.

– Making people think: Often, there is a disconnect between people’s values and actions. Being creatures of habit, people engage in activities either unconsciously or subconsciously. In such cases, mere issuing of rules, directives and memos may not be as effective. Research suggests these do not work, as people feel that someone else is attempting to control their lives and behaviour. Creating awareness and involving citizens is key to bridging the gap.

For example, instead of asking people not to waste water, questions like “Do you think you are wasting water?” can be asked. These questions ask people about their opinions, thereby forcing them to pause, reflect upon them, and appropriately behave as it will be harder for them to justify their wrong behaviour.

– Not just data, but stories: Focus must be on sharing stories, not just plain statistics. Data can only inform. Stories and personalised messages can connect by evoking emotion in the people. For instance:

“Raising the AC setting by1°C can save you 6% power, and such an energy conservation measure has the potential to save crores annually. – This statement doesn’t elicit any emotion.

“If we raise the AC temp by 1°C in 100 urban homes, we can help 10 rural children to study under an electric light bulb in place of kerosene oil.” – This statement connects and inspires people to take action, effecting a behavioural change.

– Making interventions rewarding: Interventions are usually in the form of rules, mandates or penalties. Instead, they could also take the form of nudges. A nudge costs much less and steers people in a particular direction while also allowing them to choose their path. Research on behaviour change suggests the need for accessible, automatic and rewarding interventions.

For instance: An example of a nudge gaining popularity is providing nutrition facts of different foods on restaurants’ menus. It is effortless and compelling for consumers to choose what they want while nudging them towards a healthier option

– Using digital technologies: Digitally enabled tailored recommendations on healthy food, engaging in exercise and other interventions can also help in changing people’s eating habits and behaviours in the long run.


A must-surge year for climate goals

Source: This post is based on the article “A must-surge year for climate goals” published in Business Standard on 6th Jan 2022.

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

Relevance: Tackling climate change, renewable energy initiatives in India, Shift towards clean energy.

News: The year 2022 will be critical for India’s renewable energy industry if it is to hit the country’s ambitious 2030 and 2070 climate goals. If we don’t speed up the pace in 2022, it will make the targets more difficult to reach in each succeeding year.

Must Read: Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP) – Explained, pointwise
What is the present situation wrt renewable energy in India?

India recently crossed 100 GW of renewable capacity, leaving around 350 GW to install to hit 450 GW (excluding nuclear and hydro). This means adding 30-40 GW installed capacity annually for nine years straight.

The target is achievable, but not easy. For example, in 2021, India added 14 GW through solar and wind capacity, of which ReNew contributed 1.72 GW.

Why India is optimistic to achieve its renewable energy climate goals on time?

The base prepared in the preceding years gives India a good shot in 2022 and beyond at hitting its climate goals.

Enabling policy environment: Govt’s focus on public private partnerships and a conducive policymaking environment have created a strong base for RE that can be ramped up. For instance,

it allowed up to 100% FDI in renewables via the automatic route

it announced a productivity-linked scheme to boost manufacturing in the sector.

Friendly finance: With climate change becoming a huge focus internationally among political and business circles, as well as concerned citizens, climate finance has attracted very serious funding. By the end of COP26, 450 financial firms have vowed to put green investments at the heart of finance.

Renewable rush: Another factor enabling the renewable sector to grow fast is the sharp increase in the number of participants, attracted by a generally enabling policy environment and massive scope for long-term growth.

What is the way forward?

SECI and a demand boost: Given that the country would need to conduct 20-30 auctions for a total of 30-40 GW a year, it would be important to expand and strengthen SECI (Solar Energy Coporation of India) in 2022 to ensure enhanced auction activity.

For this we need more electricity demand. In this context, both the Govt and industry can take measures to boost demand, which, in turn, will lead to expansion of renewable capacity. The increased requirement can then be harnessed by SECI to undertake more auctions.

Ease taxes: India’s renewable push over the next few years will require strong local manufacturing to de-risk supply chains, especially amid Covid-linked economic uncertainty. It is essential that taxes and duties on RE equipment such as turbines, modules, and electrolysers (including for battery storage) are lowered and rationalised.

– For instance, the GST on renewable equipment should be capped at a maximum of 5% for viability of manufacturing, and electricity should be included under GST to reduce prices for end consumers.

Pass the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2021: The Bill needs to be urgently passed and implemented effectively, putting the 4 Cs —customer, competition, compliance, and climate—at the centre of the sector. Passing the Bill will allow the delicensing of distribution, letting private firms enter distribution and compete with discoms. This’ll give more choice to consumers via lower tariffs and better service. This will attract fresh capital and new technologies, resulting in lesser losses for the sector overall.

Green hydrogen: India needs to push for green hydrogen to help meet its climate goals, especially in addressing the emissions from sectors responsible for significant carbon emissions, like such as chemicals, industrial, fertiliser and heavy transport.


Gains from trade

Source: This post is based on the article “Gains from trade” published in The Indian express on 6th Jan 2022 

Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning. 

Relevance: Exports, Imports, Global trade.  

News: Preliminary data from Ministry of commerce and Industry shows an increase in exports and imports over the pre-pandemic level. 

What are the indications of a positive momentum in India’s export and imports? 

Exports:  

Merchandise exports rose to $37.3 billion in December 2021, recording a growth of 37% over last year, and a similar increase over the pre-pandemic levels 

The mark of exports worth $300 billion has been achieved in the first nine months alone, which was the amount of exports trade for the whole year in 2019 (Pre pandemic). 

Increase of almost 25% over the pre-pandemic levels in exports. This growth is observed across product categories from engineering and electronic goods to textiles. 

Imports: 

Imports have risen by almost 22% over the 2019 levels, leading to a widening of the trade deficit. The surge in imports was led by electronic goods, machinery and chemicals, which suggests a broad-basing of demand. 

How is the global trade scenario currently like? 

According to a report by UNCTAD, the value of global trade in goods is about 15% higher than before Covid struck,  

Trade in services is yet to recover to earlier levels.  

This means that the global trade has surpassed its pre-pandemic levels.   

What are the current government policies to promote India’s share in global trade? 

– Trade agreements with the EU, Australia, UK and UAE, among others, are being worked upon with greater urgency. 

Government is also focussing on gaining access to markets for textile products through free trade agreements. 

The upcoming Union budget is also expected to focus more heavily on trade-related packages.  

What is the way forward? 

Govt should try to build on this momentum, which will help India to increase its share in global trade. This can be done if it reorients its broader trade policy. 

Govt should further seek greater integration with global supply chains. This can be done by forging FTAs, moving away from protectionism, bringing down tariffs, and pushing for reforms that boost export competitiveness. 


Protect the Aravalli Range

Source: This post is based on the article Protect the Aravalli Range” published in Business standard on 6th Jan 2022. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation. 

Relevance: Degradation of the Aravalli. 

News: Forest Survey of India has found that more than 30 hills in the Rajasthan segment of Aravalli range have vanished due to the flattening of land by the mining mafia.  

In recent years, Aravalli has seen a lot of destruction and this is impacting not just the area around it but also the surrounding areas up to NCR. 

According to a desertification-related study undertaken by the Central University of Rajasthan this menace is only going to exacerbate due to climate change. 

About Aravalli

It has characteristically served as the green wall, or a natural fence, between the desert and adjoining fertile plains.  

Read more here

What is causing degradation of Aravalli? 

Increasing population pressure

Changes in rainfall pattern 

Spreading of sand dunes 

Flawed plantation drives. 

– Unchecked quarrying and illegal felling of trees  

– Clearing of land for the construction of farm houses and residential colonies 

– Over-exploitation of resources and reckless urbanisation. 

What are the implications of this damage? 

Compromised capacity of the Aravalli to control the spread of the desert. Due to this, desert would spread towards the east, causing aridity in the fertile plains. 

Thinning of the vegetative cover creates large openings for the sand-loaded winds to cross over to Delhi and nearby areas, aggravating urban pollution in the region 

Dusty winds from the desert are already raising the PM10 content of the NCR’s air, worsening pollution in Delhi. It is also posing a grave threat to the ecology of the agriculturally vital north-western states. 

Impact on the rich biodiversity of the Aravallis comprising a large variety of plants, animals, and birds.  

What is the issue with the Draft NCR Regional Plan 2041? 

Governments of the four north-western states are aware of the danger from the unrestrained denudation of the Aravallis, but little substantive work has been done to improve the situation. 

The draft NCR Regional Plan 2041 also does not deal with this issue with required urgency. 

On the contrary, It redefines the natural conservation zone, keeping most part of the Aravallis out of it.  

Curbs regarding construction activity will virtually be lifted if the Regional Plan 2041 is adopted and enforced in its present shape. 

What is the way forward? 

Draft NCR Regional Plan 2041, therefore, needs to be revisited and suitably modified to include the entire Aravalli range in the natural conservation zone. 

Although ideally, the govt should prepare a separate plan for rejuvenating the Aravallis to allow it to play its inherent role as the Thar Desert’s outer barrier.  


WHY DIVESTMENT IS AN ELUSIVE TARGET

Source: This post is based on the article “WHY DIVESTMENT IS AN ELUSIVE TARGET” & “Let’s exorcise the ghost of stalled asset sell-offs” published in Livemint on 6th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Issues related to resource mobilisation.

Relevance:  Disinvestment

News: In the Air India case, one of the prominent politicians(MP) is demanding a court-monitored or CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry.

He had petitioned the Delhi high court alleging that Air India’s disinvestment process was “arbitrary, unconstitutional, unfair, discriminatory and, therefore, shouldn’t be allowed to go through.

The government regularly faces multiple headwinds in the sale of its holding in the public sector companies.

As a result, the overall performance of the government on the disinvestment front in 2021 is particularly disappointing.

Last year, it fell short of its ₹2.1 trillion aim by ₹1.78 trillion. Even pre-covid, it met its goal only twice in the six years starting 2014-15.

For 2021-22, the government had set a target of ₹1.75 trillion from strategic as well as non-strategic stake sales in public sector enterprises (PSEs). It also wanted to privatize two public sector banks and one national insurer.

In this context, the various challenges posed to the Disinvestment process are analysed in this article.

What are the various challenges/issues posed to the Disinvestment process in India?

Firstly, there are regular protests from unions and requests for reconsideration from state governments.

Secondly, rising uncertainty in the global markets due to the pandemic, divestment plans seem to have fallen short of their fiscal targets in the past two years.

Thirdly, litigation issues. For instance, as mentioned above, a court-monitored or CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry in the Air India case is demanded.

Fourth, potential investors backing out at the last minute. For instance, the BPCL disinvestment program where the ISquared Capital opted out of the race.

Fifth, the lack of political will to back divestment is the biggest issue. The problem is that due to politics, selling at a lower price can create a problem for the government.

Sixth, the issue of bureaucratic risk aversion. No government official would want to be caught post-retirement, just in case, there is an investigation on selling at a lower price.

Seventhly, there are other internal factors that are stumbling blocks. These include certain preparatory activities at the level of the PSU such as addressing any special dispensation available to these entities, issues around the land title, identifying and carving out non-core assets.

Eighthly, one of the key issues stems from the value that the government aims to get from the stake sales. The value may be more than the actual value or real value of the asset on the block, more so in the case of loss-making units.

So, what could be done?

First, the government should find ways of redeploying people, given that employment is a big issue today. It may help close down loss-making units.

Second, merging with other PSUs where possible if the product is the same (as has been done for banking) is another option.

Third, in order to address the concerns of the bureaucracy, more assurances need to be given through the disinvestment ministry, which takes ownership of the decision, also backed by the prime minister’s office. Bureaucratic reforms may also be the need of the hour.

Fourth, decisions ought to be taken quickly. Else, the value of the unit (like plant and equipment) depreciates to a large extent. Timely divestment can increase the sale value and stakeholder returns.

Fifth, not all PSEs should be disinvested. Many of them are high performers in core economic sectors. Good units should not be sold, like NTPC or oil companies, which have either monopoly power or have sector benefits, as this becomes useful for the government to garner resources.

A new PSE policy: Read here: https://blog.forumias.com/govt-releases-new-public-sector-enterprise-policy/


The infrastructure push

Source: This post is based on the article “The infrastructure push” published in Business Standard on 6th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3: Issues related to Infrastructure development.

Relevance: Capital Expenditure/ Investments in infrastructural development

News: The Gati Shakti panel, led by the cabinet secretary, has asked the DPIIT (the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) to identify high-impact projects that can be included in the Budget.

Projects related to rail, roads, and airports may be included. The department has also been asked to make sure that projects are completed on time. Besides, it is expected to review the infrastructure gap for long-term needs.

Since, Covid-related uncertainty would continue to affect output and growth, it is encouraging to see that the government is pushing infrastructure projects.

Why Infrastructure investments/capital expenditure push is important?

Firstly, Infrastructure investment with better planning and focus would yield higher returns and make Indian businesses more efficient.

Secondly, private investment, which has been weak for quite some time, is unlikely to pick up. For instance, the Reserve Bank of India’s recent “Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India” noted, non-financial companies in the private sector have been net savers for the past three years. They are unlikely to make large investments in the near term because of existing capacity and weak demand.

Thirdly, it would not only help sustain the recovery, but also make it more durable by crowding in private investment over time.

What are the concerns that need to be addressed by the government?

First, though the government had increased the allocation for capital expenditure by over 30 percent in the current fiscal year, the actual spending has been lagging.

Second, the government has increased expenditure in other areas. It will be critical to ensure that it doesn’t affect capital expenditure. Since the government has to progressively reduce the fiscal deficit.

Finally, the government must make sure projects are not delayed. The latest report of the Infrastructure and Project Monitoring Division showed that delays in projects costing over Rs 150 crores had resulted in a cost overrun of more than Rs 4 trillion.

The Gati Shakti platform, hopefully, would be able to minimize delays. Cost overruns and delays will undermine the benefits of these projects and affect India’s growth over the medium term.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Launch of Smart cities and Academia Towards Action & Research (SAAR)

Source: This post is based on the articleLaunch of Smart cities and Academia Towards Action & Research (SAAR)’ published in PIB on 5th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs(MoHUA) has launched the “Smart Cities and Academia Towards Action & Research (SAAR)” Program.

Read more: Govt extends Smart Cities Mission timeline to 2023
What is the Smart Cities and Academia Towards Action & Research(SAAR) Program?

Launched by: It is a joint initiative of MoHUA, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and leading Indian academic institutions of the country. 

Under the program, 15 premier architecture & planning institutes of the country will be working with Smart Cities to document landmark projects undertaken by the Smart Cities Mission. 

The documents will capture the learnings from best practices, provide opportunities for engagement on urban development projects to students, and enable real-time information flow between urban practitioners and academia.

What is the first activity under the SAAR Program?

The first activity envisaged under SAAR is to prepare a compendium of 75 landmark urban projects in India under the Smart City Mission. 

The compendium will act as the first point of reference for future research in the field and will help disseminate learnings from projects under the Mission. It will also act as a repository for Urban Projects and contribute to the dissemination of best practices and peer-to-peer learning.

Read more: Envisioning the post-pandemic smart city

Prime Minister inaugurates newly integrated terminal building of the Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) Airport at Agartala

Source: This post is based on the articlePrime Minister inaugurates newly integrated terminal building of the Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) Airport at Agartala’ published in PIB on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has inaugurated the New Integrated Terminal Building of Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) Airport.

About Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport

Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport was originally built by the US Air Force during the Second World War in collaboration with King Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Debbarman of the erstwhile princely State.

It was formerly known as the Agartala Airport.

Who was Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Debbarman?

Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Debbarman (1908-1947) was the king of Tripura State. He was the king of Tripura State till 1947.

He played an important role in the development of Tripura and is known as Father of modern architecture in Tripura. During his rule, the entire planning of present-day Tripura was initiated.

He was also a pioneer in land reforms. In 1939, he reserved land for the local Tripura tribals. Later, this step was instrumental in the creation of the Tripura autonomous district council.


Telecommunication Engineering Centre (TEC) releases ‘Code of Practice for securing consumer Internet of Things (IoT)’

Source: This post is based on the articleTelecommunication Engineering Centre(TEC) releases ‘Code of Practice for securing consumer Internet of Things (IoT)’ ’ published in PIB on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the news?

The Telecommunication Engineering Centre(TEC) under the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications has released a report titled “Code of Practice for Securing Consumer Internet of Things(IoT)”.

This report is intended for use by IoT device manufacturers, Service providers/ system integrators and application developers.

What is the need of Code of Practice for Consumer Internet of Things (IoT) devices?

According to NITI Aayog IoT is a seamless and connected network of embedded objects/ devices, with identifiers, in which Machine to machine (M2M) communication without any human intervention is possible using standard and interoperable communication protocols”.

Phones, Tablets and PCs are not included as part of IoT. 

As per the projections, there may be 26 billion IoT devices in service globally by 2026. Out of this approximately 20% will be on cellular technologies.

Moreover, as per the National Digital Communication Policy (NDCP) 2018 released by Department of Telecommunications (DoT), an ecosystem is to be created for 5 billion connected devices by 2022 in India.

In view of the anticipated growth of IoT devices, it is important to ensure that the IoT endpoints comply with the safety and security standards and guidelines in order to protect the users and the networks that connect these IoT devices. That’s why these guidelines have been issued.

What are the key guidelines issued under Code of Practice for Securing Consumer Internet of Things(IoT)?

1) No universal default passwords, 2) Implement a means to manage reports of vulnerabilities, 3) Keep software updated, 4) Securely store sensitive security parameters, 5) Communicate securely, 6) Ensure Software Integrity, 7) Ensure that Personal Data is secure, 8) Make system resilient to outages, 9) Make it easy for users to delete data, and 10) Make installations and maintenance of devices easy.


‘IHU’ variant of Covid-19: few cases, limited spread

Source: This post is based on the article ‘‘IHU’ variant of Covid-19: few cases, limited spread published in Indian Express on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

Scientists in France have identified a new strain of coronavirus named IHU Variant.

What is the IHU Variant?

IHU is another variant of COVID-19 inducing coronavirus. The variant is a sub-lineage of the B.1.640. Hence, that’s why, it has been classified as B.1.640.2.

The variant was reported to have 46 mutations, which is more than Omicron. Many of these mutations affect the spike protein.

It has been named IHU in reference to the institute to which the researchers belong.

Where was the IHU Variant first detected?

The variant was found in a man from France who had returned from Cameroon in Africa (the continent where Omicron was also discovered.

How is the IHU Variant spreading?

Till now, only France has reported a dozen cases. No other country has detected any new cases of the new variant. That is why, WHO has not yet called this IHU variant a variant of interest, a variant of concern or even a variant under investigation.

What is B.1.640 variant? 

B.1.640 is a variant of Covid-19. It was first detected in January 2021.

The highest number of cases of the B.1.640 variant has been reported from France, followed by Congo, Germany and the United Kingdom.

WHO had designated this variant as a variant under monitoring (VUM) meaning that it has potential to pose a future risk, but more monitoring, evidence and studies are needed.


UJALA completes 7 years of energy-efficient and affordable LED distribution

Source: This post is based on the articleUJALA completes 7 years of energy-efficient and affordable LED distribution ’ published in PIB on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Power has successfully completed seven years of distributing and selling LED lights under its flagship UJALA programme.

What is UJALA Scheme?

Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LED for All (UJALA) Scheme was launched in 2015.

Under the scheme, LED bulbs, LED tube lights and energy efficient fans are being provided to domestic consumers for replacement of the conventional and inefficient variants.

Implementing Agency: Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a government company under the administrative control of Ministry of Power has been designated as the implementing agency for this programme. 

Advantages of LED Bulb over CFL and ICL: A 7W LED bulb provides same amount of light as a 14W Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and a 60W Incandescent Lamp (ICL). It thereby saves almost 90% energy as compared to ICLs and 50 per cent in case of CFLs.

What has the UJALA Scheme achieved in the last 7 years?

Firstly, the programme has evolved to be the world’s largest zero subsidy domestic lighting programme that addresses concerns like high electrification cost and high emissions that result from inefficient lighting. 

Secondly, the scheme has been successful in a) bringing down the retail price of LED bulbs, b) massive energy savings and c) reduced annual household electricity bills.

Thirdly, it has provided support to the domestic lighting industry and Make in India, as domestic manufacturing of LED bulbs has increased from 1 lakh per month to 40 million per month.

Fourthly, the programme has also garnered attention from top management schools of India. It is now a part of Leadership case study in Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. Furthermore, it is also under consideration for being included in the curriculum of Harvard Business School.


19th Meeting of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

Source: This post is based on the articles:

19th Meeting of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)’ published in PIB on 6th Jan 2022.

Cheetahs will be reintroduced by the end of the year: Environment minister published in TOI on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

The 19th Meeting of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was held under the chairmanship of Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change.

What are the key highlights of the meeting?

Tiger Reserves and their Conservation

Currently, India has  51 Tiger Reserves and efforts are being made to bring  more areas under the Tiger Reserve network.

14 Tiger Reserves have been accredited under CA|TS and NTCA is working on getting other Tiger Reserves evaluated for CA|TS accreditation.

Tiger reserves are not just for tigers because more than 35 rivers originate from these areas, which are crucial for water security.

In North Eastern States, there is a problem of use of air guns for indiscriminate killing of birds and animals. For this, the Ministry has advised states to organise awareness programs so that people can surrender their airguns.

On regulation of tourism activity in the Tiger Reserves, the ministry said that there should be one core area which should be sacrosanct and vehicular movement in the reserve should be one way.

Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India

The cheetah became extinct in independent India in 1952. Now it is all set to return.

As part of the plan, the ministry will be translocating around 8-12 cheetahs from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana to Kuno Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

This could be the world’s first intercontinental cheetah translocation project.

Release of Water Atlas 

The Ministry of  Environment, Forest & Climate Change has released a Water Atlas. The atlas maps all the water bodies in the tiger-bearing areas of India.

The atlas contains information about presence of such bodies in several areas including the Shivalik Hills and Gangetic plain landscape, Central Indian Landscape and Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats landscape etc.

The atlas has been put together using remote-sensing data and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping.


Water Bird Status Survey-2022: 10.74 lakh birds flock to Chilika, largest wintering ground in Indian subcontinent

Source: This post is based on the article10.74 lakh birds flock to Chilika, largest wintering ground in Indian subcontinent published in The Hindu on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

According to the Water Bird Status Survey-2022, Chilika Lake saw a million birds including an uncommon Mongolian gull visiting the waterbody this year.

Note: Chilika lake hosts birds migrating from thousands of miles away from the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and South-East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas. 

What is the Water Bird Status Survey-2022?

The Survey was conducted in Chilika Lake. It was undertaken jointly by the Odisha State Wildlife Organization, the Chilika Development Authority(CDA) and the Bombay Natural History Society.

Read more: Fishing cat to be the ambassador of Chilika Lake
What are the key findings of the Water Bird Status Survey-2022?

Around 10.7 lakh birds belonging to the 107 bird species were counted in Chilika Lake. (Last year, the number of birds counted was over 12 lakh).

The lake reported a rare sighting of the uncommon Mongolian gull.

Birds at Nalabana Bird Sanctuary: A total of 3.5 lakh birds were counted in Nalabana Bird Sanctuary inside Chilika. This is a decrease of 65,000 from the previous year. 

The decrease is attributed to high water levels and the presence of water in cultivated fields in adjoining areas. Waterbirds love to flock on large mudflats.

There was also an increase in numbers for the greater flamingo at Nalabana mudflat. This indicates that the restoration at Nalabana is effective. This year’s greater flamingo count was the highest in the last decade.

However, there was also a marginal decrease in the number of species such as the gadwall, Eurasian wigeon, northern shoveler, tufted duck and red-crested pochard. 

Read more: “Chilika Lake” was a part of the Bay of Bengal: Study

Explained: How the Prime Minister’s security is planned

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Explained: How the Prime Minister’s security is planned published in Indian Express on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Home Affairs has sought a report after the Prime Minister was trapped on a flyover for 20 minutes by protesters in Punjab in what is being reported as a serious security lapse.

Who is responsible for the security of the Prime Minister?

The Special Protection Group(SPG) is responsible for the safety and security of the Prime Minister. 

But for visits to the states,  the SPG follows the instructions as stated in the ‘Blue Book’. The instructions in the ‘Blue Book‘ are issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs

The Blue Book mandates that three days before any visit by the prime minister, the SPG holds an Advance Security meeting with everyone involved in securing the event, including Intelligence Bureau officials in the concerned state, state police officials and the concerned district magistrate.

What is discussed at the advance security meeting?

At this meeting, everything, including the smallest of details, is discussed. The meeting discusses the PM’s travel, how he will be escorted and decisions are taken along with the inputs of the central and local intelligence.

Central intelligence agencies are responsible for providing inputs about any threat. However, it is the SPG that takes the final call on how the security is to be arranged. The SPG never allows the PM’s movement until the local police give the go-ahead. State police are also supposed to conduct anti-sabotage checks and secure the route.

However, contingency plans are also made by the agencies at all levels for any emergency situation.


Indian Army’s uniform over the years as its new one debuts on January 15

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Indian Army’s uniform over the years as its new one debuts on January 15 published in Business Standard on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

The Indian Army is all set to get a new combat uniform featuring digital disruptive patterns.

About the New Combat Uniform

The New Combat Uniform has been designed by the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in close coordination with the Army.

Purpose: The uniform has been designed to serve two requirements: a) protection against harsh climatic conditions, including extreme heat and cold b) To provide soldiers’ outfits with field camouflage, so as to increase battlefield survivability.

Read more: Indian Army initiates “Ladakh Ignited Minds project”
What is the uniform evolution of the Indian Army?

The tradition of military field uniforms was brought to India through the British East India Company, which carved up the country into three separate Presidencies – the Bengal Presidency, Bombay Presidency and Madras Presidency.

The British East India Company instituted separate dress uniforms and combat uniforms for each of the three presidencies.

The sepoy served the British were put into uniforms that were partly red. However, their uniforms were also embroidered with coloured trimmings of red (Bengal Presidency), grey (Bombay Presidency) and yellow (Madras Presidency).

After 1857, armies of the three Presidencies devolved to the British Crown and were eventually allotted formal uniforms

In 1947, with the division of the Indian Army into Indian and Pakistani armies, Indian Army’s uniforms retained olive green as the basic colour, while the basic colour of the Pakistan Army uniform was changed to khaki.

Read more: Indian Army Establishes Quantum Laboratory at Mhow (MP)

After the 1962 war, Indian soldiers cotton uniforms and cotton fibre jerseys were replaced by clothing that was better equipped for high Himalayan altitudes

In 1980, the Indian Army replaced the old cotton olive green combat dress with a “disruptive pattern” battle dress that provided an inbuilt element of camouflage to the soldier.

After the Siachen Glacier face-off in 1984, Indian units in the glacier were introduced to Austrian alpine clothing and climbing equipment.

Read more: ASIGMA: Indian Army Launches in-House Messaging Solution

Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA)sets a new record of 19000 flying hours in 2021

Source:This post is based on the articleIndira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA)sets a new record of 19000 flying hours in 2021’ published in PIB on 6th Jan 2022.

What is the News?

Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) has set a new record of 19000 flying hours in 2021 as against an average yearly flying output of 15000 per year during the previous five years.

What is Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA)?

IGRUA is a flying training school. It was established by the Government of India in the year 1986 as an Autonomous Body under the Societies Registration Act 1860.

Administered by: It is administered by a Governing Council under the Ex-officio Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation. 

Location: Fursatganj Airfield, Amethi (Uttar Pradesh)

Read more: DRDO & Indian Air Force successfully flight-test indigenous Stand-Off Anti-Tank Missile
What is the significance of IGRUA?

The foreign nationals from Afghanistan, Royal Nepal Airlines, Mauritius, Zambia and  Seychelles have undergone Pilot Training at IGRUA.

Moreover, pilot training to candidates of Indian Airlines, BSF, Coast Guard candidates, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy is also provided by IGRUA as and when required.

Read more: Union Minister inaugurates Emergency Landing Facility for Indian Air Force in Barmer, Rajasthan
Mains Answer Writing

Must Read Current Affairs Articles – January 24th, 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 several newspapers such as The Hindu, Indian Express, Livemint, etc. This saves the time and effort of students in identifying useful and important articles. With newspaper websites… Continue reading Must Read Current Affairs Articles – January 24th, 2022

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Rainfall changes could impact global manufacturing, services sectors

What is the News? According to a study, an increase in the number of rainy days leads to a downfall in economic output.  What is the study about? The study was conducted to look at how rainfall patterns hurt the economy. The group compared daily rainfall data with subnational economic output from 77 countries between… Continue reading Rainfall changes could impact global manufacturing, services sectors

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Centre’s move to rank states on pace of green clearances will spark unhealthy competition, dilute regulation

News  Central government has recently put forth a proposal to rank state environment impact assessment authorities (SEIAA) according to the speed at which they issue environmental clearances.  What are the concerns regarding the recent step?  It undermines the role of regulatory oversight in environmental protection, which is recognised in several Supreme Court verdicts as one of the key… Continue reading Centre’s move to rank states on pace of green clearances will spark unhealthy competition, dilute regulation

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New Model for Asset Monetisation: People can soon invest in infra projects: Gadkari

What is the News? The Union government is awaiting approval of the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for the New Model for Asset Monetisation. What is the New Model for Asset Monetisation planned by the Government? Currently, most of the pension funds and foreign investors are investing in infrastructure projects.  But under this new… Continue reading New Model for Asset Monetisation: People can soon invest in infra projects: Gadkari

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Why India is unwilling to discuss forests at the international fora” published in Down to earth

News  India at UNFCCC(COP 26) declined to join Deforestation declaration, this has been followed by India declining joining several such international platforms related to climate change.  Apprehensions have been raised that the official reasons given for not joining these initiatives are not justified.    Why India has not joined the Deforestation declaration?  Read here.  Consecutive Indian state… Continue reading Why India is unwilling to discuss forests at the international fora” published in Down to earth

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Relocating the Amar Jawan Jyoti to National war memorial is logical, and beyond approach

News  Indian government’s recent move to shift the Amar Jawan Jyoti from its location under India Gate to the National War Memorial (NWM) has been seeing some protest.  Some sections of the society are apprehensive that this may have some political aims.  Why is the current place inappropriate?  India Gate is a war memorial erected by the British, in 1921… Continue reading Relocating the Amar Jawan Jyoti to National war memorial is logical, and beyond approach

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Negotiating pitfalls: Are there basic lacunae in India’s practices?

News: India’s tactics of negotiations has not worked the way China’s tactics have worked. Hence, India needs to prepare ground by negotiating better deals.  What is China’s tactic in negotiations?  First, it accepts some principle but do nothing in practice or make a commitment with no intention of honoring. Second, it tries to provoke a… Continue reading Negotiating pitfalls: Are there basic lacunae in India’s practices?

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Why India needs a single agency to guard its borders

News: The unending threats to Indian borders and recent developments call for a comprehensive review of border management to ensure the all-weather security. What are the current developments in border areas? One, China is trying to take over territory. For example, Doklam and Galwan crisis. The recent China’s Land Border Law (LBL) will enhance its… Continue reading Why India needs a single agency to guard its borders

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Setting sail for a powerful India-German partnership

News: German navy frigate Bayern recently arrived in Mumbai after visiting Japan, Australia and other countries. This move is for strengthening the relationships between India and Germany. Bayern has also participated in NATO missions and operation Atlanta in the past. Read here: India-Germany relations: After 16 years About Indo-Pacific region It is home to around 65% of… Continue reading Setting sail for a powerful India-German partnership

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How the Quad can help climate action

News: After the pandemic world is cautiously opening up with increasing vaccination and businesses getting back on track. The QUAD is harnessing its energy to addressing the pandemic. Significance of QUAD The Quad was born in response to a natural calamity, the tsunami of 2004. It is unified in saving the planet from environmental degradation with… Continue reading How the Quad can help climate action

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