9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 7th, 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 2
- Extinguishing the tobacco industry’s main narrative
- Japan-Australia defence agreement signals that middle powers are willing to play a more active role in the Indo-Pacific
- What the pandemic has revealed about the arts in India
- Write laws for Bharat
- Infrastructure power play at the India China border
- Muslim personal laws: Is it right to increase the age of marriage of women to 21?
- Liberalize the funding of non-profit ventures
- Worrying trends in nutrition indicators in NFHS-5 data
GS Paper 3
- It’s the year to turbocharge our renewable-energy drive
- Defence Ministry’s year-end review: Looking ahead to 2022
- Why India’s policy to produce ethanol-blended petrol is short-sighted
- Electric vehicles, hydrogen and climate
- Reformist laws for trading in farm output are best enacted by states
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Anti-Covid pill Molnupiravir: Approved, not recommended
- Year End Review: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
- 601 PERSONS SAVED BY RPF PERSONNEL UNDER “MISSION JEEWAN RAKSHA”, DURING 2021
- Reovirus wreaks havoc on wild crab cultivation in Andhra Pradesh
- Explained: Amendment to the Jagannath Temple Act
- India sees sharpest drop in polio vaccination since 1990s, shows data
- Open rock museum: Union Minister inaugurates India’s first Open Rock Museum on NGRI campus
- Applications of drones: Use Drones more effectively: Civil Aviation Ministry
- Year-End Review-2021: M/o Earth Sciences
- Cabinet approves Intra-State Transmission System – Green Energy Corridor Phase-II
- Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT): HAL jet trainer demonstrates its prowess
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Source: This post is based on the article “Extinguishing the tobacco industry’s main narrative” published in The Hindu on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS2-Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.
Relevance: Public health, Taxes on tobacco.
News: Tobacco’s detrimental impact on public health is well documented. It kills more than 13 lakh Indians every year, while casting an annual economic burden of more than 1% of GDP.
Yet there’s been no significant tax increases on any of the tobacco products for the past four years since the introduction of GST in 2017. This has made these products affordable.
Meanwhile, the tobacco industry falsely claims that illicit trade in tobacco increases with an increase in the taxes on tobacco products.
Why tax tobacco products?
As per research, price and tax measures are one of the most cost-effective steps to reduce the demand for tobacco products.
Tobacco products become expensive and people either quit using them or use them less.
Do tax increments lead to growth in illicit trade of tobacco?
Tobacco industry estimates show that illegal cigarette trade accounts for as much as 25% of the cigarette market in India, and this will only increase with more taxation.
However, these estimates and conclusions are not based on any transparent studies.
Two studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in recent years have estimated that the percentage of illicit cigarette trade falls in the range of 2.7%-6.6% of the total market. This is very less than compared to claims of tobacco industry.
Any increase in taxes on tobacco products will hurt both revenue and profits of the tobacco industry, so it has always tried to resist any attempt of increase in taxes on tobacco products.
What are the factors that actually affect illicit trade?
Taxes and prices are not the key determinants of illicit trade There are several countries where tobacco taxes are quite high and yet have low levels of illicit trade and vice versa.
Numerous factors are known to play a larger role in determining the scale and the extent of an illicit market, like
– the quality of tax administration
– Strength of the regulatory framework
– Govt commitment to control illicit trade, etc
How has the WHO responded to this public health issue?
WHO had introduced Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products that has eliminating all forms of illicit trade in tobacco as one of its principal goals. India has ratified the protocol.
The protocol provides the tools and the measures to eliminate or minimise illicit trade, including strong governance, establishing an international track and trace system, and securing supply chains.
What is the way forward?
Although estimated percentage of the illicit market for cigarettes in India is far lower than world average, but it has to find ways to eliminate even this small percentage.
Government should :
– to increase tax on tobacco products.
– implement other measures as suggested in WHO’s protocol.
Japan-Australia defence agreement signals that middle powers are willing to play a more active role in the Indo-Pacific
Source: This post is based on the article “Japan-Australia defence agreement signals that middle powers are willing to play a more active role in the Indo-Pacific” published in The Indian Express on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS2- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
News: Australia and Japan recently signed a defence treaty called the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) which has a great strategic significance for Asia and the Indo-Pacific.
What is the significance of the recently signed RAA?
It marks the move away from a US-centric outlook towards a greater focus on bilateral ties and regional groupings.
It is also a sign that Japan is willing to play a more proactive role in the region. Tokyo is trying to seek RAA-like agreements with the UK and France as well.
It provides the middle powers like Japan, Australia, India to expand their cooperation and build on the momentum created by the Quad.
It has generated some predictable negative reaction from China.
The agreement further cements the trends that are part of the changing security architecture in the region.
How is the security architecture changing in the Indo-Pacific?
After the Second World War, security order in Asia and the Indo-Pacific was marked by the US’s bilateral ties with various players, while in Europe, regional groupings like NATO played a key role.
However, this has been changing recently due to the rise of an assertive China.
The following positive developments are leading to a more empowered and committed regional strategic network –
– The region has seen the formation of many regional groupings and bilateral initiatives like Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or the Quad, with India, Japan, Australia and the US), the AUKUS, and now the RAA.
– Also, recently there has been a greater acceptance of Japan’s role as a strategic player in the region, as countries like Vietnam and the Philippines have started looking towards it for support against Beijing.
These positive developments will lead to a more empowered and committed regional strategic network.
What are the reasons for these changes?
This has been enabled, among other factors, by Australia’s willingness to stand up to China on the question of a free and open Indo-Pacific and rules-based global order, despite their deep economic ties.
What is the way forward for India?
India already has “2+2” ministerial dialogues with both Japan and Australia and has done much to expand bilateral, trilateral and regional cooperation in the security domain.
It must also reach out to other players in the region.
Source: This post is based on the article “What the pandemic has revealed about the arts in India” published in The Indian express on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,
Relevance: Art in Post pandemic World.
News: Pandemic has effected probably every sector of the world, but Art is one area where its impact and its effect doesn’t get the required attention.
How has the pandemic affected art and the artists?
Pandemic has brought the digital medium at the core of every sector and has made the content creation a more powerful and impactful genre than the local art.
It has brought about the dangers of allowing social media to dictate art-making, while the local artists struggle to keep their artistry alive.
With the onset of pandemic, they have encountered several problems like public spaces becoming “no-entry” zones, tackling the unpredictability of the pandemic.
This has caused emotional distress and economic ruin to the small artists who do not have the resources to bridge the digital divide.
Artists who have been unable to work on the digital space have been left behind.
What is the way forward?
The pandemic has forced the art fraternity to face tough questions like what it means to be an artist, the role of technology, the lack of any economic fallback and the relationship of the artist with the audience.
Concrete steps are needed to plan for those who are on the margins or have been pushed to the margins. We as a society need to ensure that the art and the artists do not disappear.
It is society’s responsibility to take care of its artists and ensure that tenets of social justice are followed.
Source: This post is based on the article “Write laws for Bharat” published in Times of India on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS2- Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary.
Relevance: Laws, judgements, public policy.
News: In the year 2021 Indian Parliament passed laws that had themes ranging from surrogacy to transportation of cargo via rivers. Supreme court also passed around 866 judgements.
These affect almost every aspect of a citizen’s existence, but despite affecting our life so deeply, they are hardly publicly discussed.
Why are laws not a part of public debates?
Long judgements & usage of Latin words: Laws in India are still drafted in the same pattern as was done in the colonial era. They still involve over usage of Latin words and very long sentences.
– This makes them understandable only by lawyers and experts, and ordinary citizens are unable to even comprehend them.
– They are inaccessible. One of the reasons which also makes laws inaccessible is the long judgements.
For instance: The judgement of seven judges of the Supreme Court in Champakam Dorairajan’s case (the first judgment on the constitutionality of reservation in medical and engineering colleges) was of mere 4 pages.
In comparison, the judgement of nine judges of the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney’s case in 1992 on the constitutionality of OBC reservation was of 556 pages.
This is not because the issue was significantly more complex than in Champakam. It is primarily because, over the decades, little to no efforts were made to keep judgements shorter.
How should the laws be instead drafted?
Laws should be SARAL- simple, actionable, reasoned and accessible.
Law should be simple that is in very simple language, capable of easy, automated translation and summary into any language spoken in India.
Making laws actionable means that they should have necessary teeth to make them meaningful.
Reasoned laws mean that they are based on evidence and data rather than guesswork
Laws should be accessible. For example: They should be machine-readable and visually impaired friendly.
What is the way forward?
Judgements over the years have become long due to unedited quoting of case law, quoting foreign law unnecessarily, copy-pasted reproduction of arguments made by lawyers. This should be discouraged.
Laws should be drafted in plain English. Long judgement with wide use of Latin words is an approach derived from the United Kingdom, which has itself switched to drafting laws in plain English so that its citizens understand them.
Pendency of cases: In 2021, the number of pending cases is around 69,855. Amongst these pending cases are matters of grave constitutional significance – the nullification of Article 370 and the Pegasus spyware case.
The Supreme Court should bring in reforms to clear backlog, as justice delayed is justice denied.
Source: This post is based on the article “Infrastructure power play at the India China border” published in Times of India on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS2- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Relevance: Border Infrastructure, Indo- China relation.
News: Recently, Satellite images have revealed that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is constructing a bridge in eastern Ladakh connecting the north and south banks of Pangong Tso.
This area has been one of the five stand-off points in the tussle between India and China, and would reduce the distance for Chinese forces by 140 km.
What have been the Chinese efforts at developing formidable border infrastructure?
Since 1999, China has constructed dual-use infrastructure in Tibet under its western development strategy.
Also, after 2015 the speed of development has increased many folds due to introduction of military reforms in China.
China has initiated many projects for border infrastructure like construction of feeder roads on the border, railway lines, airports, helipads and border villages across India-China and Bhutan-China borders.
It has built 628 border villages in the areas bordering India and Bhutan.
China is developing these infra for dual purpose and thus plans to strategically connect these border points to the nearest border defensive unit regiment HQs .
How will these projects be advantageous to China?
On completing these projects, China would be able to assert its sovereignty on the disputed territories with India.
It would reduce the turn-around time for mobilisation and deployment of forces from the interior.
It would help support the forward-deployed border forces for a longer duration through improved logistics capabilities.
This border infrastructure construction along with renaming 15 places in Arunachal, which it calls ‘south Tibet’, and the implementation of the land border law will help China to consolidate its claims on Indian territories.
|Must Read: The Chinese challenge uncovers India’s fragilities|
What steps have been taken by India?
India has taken the following initiatives:
– Construction of long-pending border roads and bridges for swift troop movement.
– Raising a strike corps for emergency action.
– Attempts to modernise armed forces.
– Raising the strike and surveillance capabilities.
– Building capacity to expand the theatre of conflict to the high seas.
What are the challenges that India needs to overcome?
India needs to ensure that following challenges are overcome
– Bureaucratic inertia
– Lack of coordination between civilian and military establishments.
– Budgetary limitations
– Reactionary nature of weapons acquisition policy and streamline it so that the demand and supply gap is plugged.
What is the way forward?
India needs to plug loopholes fast in its administrative structure so that it doesn’t have to face severe consequences in terms of National security.
Source: This post is based on the article “Is it right to increase the age of marriage of women to 21? ” published in The Hindu on 7th 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 Muslim personal laws.
News: Recently, the government introduced the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, to raise the age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years. Some Muslim MPs in Parliament have called the Bill an attack on personal laws because it proposes that it will override the personal laws of Muslims, Parsis, Hindus and Christians.
|Must read: Raising the legal age of marriage for women – Explained, pointwise|
What are the previous instances of corrections in Muslim personal laws?
The British government brought the Shariat Application Act way back in 1937. Two years later, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act codified the divorce law and gave the right to Muslim women for divorce.
In the Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum case, 1986, the SC favoured giving maintenance to an aggrieved divorced Muslim woman as envisaged under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
|Note: Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that any person who has sufficient means to maintain himself cannot deny the maintenance to the wife, children, and parents if they are not able to maintain themselves.|
In 1986, the government passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act to dilute the Shah Bano case judgement. But later in the Danial Latifi judgment the court reinforced the protection.
More recently, the triple talaq legislation came after Muslim women demanded intervention by the state to end this practice.
Overall, the Muslim personal law does not have fully codified laws, instead, they have only piecemeal legislation.
|Read more: Explained: Personal laws in marriage|
Does the state codify laws for religious minorities?
The Hindu Marriage Act was codified in 1955. It includes the Sikhs and the Buddhists, who are religious minorities. There are laws for the Hindu community, which includes Sikhs, Buddhists and the Jains, who are a religious minority. So, the state recognises that each community is to be governed by their personal laws and if there are problems with the personal laws, then it steps in.
What are the reasons for not codifying Muslim Personal Laws?
Muslim laws are not codified because of the kind of politics that played out at the time of Partition. The communalisation and the violence that Muslims faced during partition delayed the codification, and the issue of family law reform always took a back seat for that community.
For instance, the process of codification of laws began in 1937 for Muslims. If Partition had not happened, then Muslims would have had a codified law probably earlier than the Hindu community.
What are the drawbacks of non-codifying Muslim personal laws?
Muslims comprise 15% of the population of this country. But, Progressive laws were deprived to the Muslim community. For instance, 1. prior to Shah Bano Begum case, Muslim women were deprived of Section 125 of CrPC, 2. 18 years as the year of marriage for girls is not fully implemented in the Muslim community.
What should be done?
The state has to play its role whether you are a majority or a minority. Even if 21 years is not implemented and then the law as it exists today(18 years), should be made applicable to Muslims. To that extent, an amendment is necessary.
Source: This post is based on the article “Liberalize the funding of non-profit ventures” published in Live Mint on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 2- Development Processes and the Development Industry
Relevance: NGO’s and FCRA regulations.
News: Non-profit Organisations are subjected to strict norms in India.
How strict regulations for NGOs is affecting their survivability?
In 2015, The Centre amended the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, to require the renewal of non-profit funding permits every five years. This led to delicensing of many NGO’s. For instance, in 2015 and 2017, over 15,000 entities had lost their FCRA registration.
In 2020, the revised FCRA norms altered the functioning of NGOs further. The following conditions are enforced upon the NGOs:
– Overseas funds to NGOs should be deposited only into accounts held with the State Bank of India’s main branch in Delhi.
– No subcontract jobs can be farmed out.
– Expense sheets should be submitted four times a year to show administrative costs no higher than 20% of their foreign intake.
1. The reduction of this cap from 50% earlier has impacted the financial capacities of many NGOs.
2. Further, 6,000 privately-run non-profit organizations across India lost their licenses for foreign funding.
3. Moreover, Strict norms have resulted in delicensing of many NGOs. For instance, Recently, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, Oxfam, and Indian Medical Association lost their permit for an alleged failure to meet renewal conditions.
Source: This post is developed based on the article “Worrying trends in nutrition indicators in NFHS-5 data” published in Indian Express on 7th January 2022. Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Social Issues – Issues related to health
News: The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 data provides certain key data regarding the level of nutrition in the country.
What are the findings of NFHS on nutrition?
|Must read: NFHS-5 and its findings – Explained, pointwise|
What are the challenges associated with the NFHS data?
|Read here: The nine lives of India’s National Family Health Survey|
What are suggestions to improve the situation?
One of the reasons behind slow progress on nutritional indicators is the foundational nutritional deficit. The percentage of children below two years receiving an adequate diet is very low. Thus, for a rapid improvement in nutritional indicators, foundational nutrition must be improved.
India’s nutrition programmes must undergo a periodic review. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which is perceived as the guardian of the nation’s nutritional well-being must reassess itself and address critical intervention gaps.
The fertility divide can have several socio-economic and political repercussions. Thus, adequate attention must be given in the policymaking and social levels to this issue.
|Read more: Don’t ignore context of NFHS data|
GS Paper 3
Source: This post is based on the article “It’s the year to turbocharge our renewable-energy drive” published in Livemint on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Relevance: Tackling climate change, attaining new climate targets set by India
News: 2021 saw the world joining hands to mitigate climate risks. 2022 will need a doubling down of efforts to achieve the renewable energy targets that were recently reset by India.
|Must Read: A must-surge year for climate goals|
What is the way forward?
Govt needs to take the following key measures in 2022 to enable the Renewable Energy (RE) sector to accelerate its capacity expansion and innovate rapidly.
– Protect Contracts: Ensuring contractual sanctity is critical to ensure certain states don’t question signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) or inordinately delay payments to RE players. If PPA contracts are not honoured, it impacts the business climate in any sector. While substantive legal precedents exist in the power sector for enforcement of contracts, the Centre can work more closely with states to ensure greater adherence to contracts.
– Battery storage systems: These will go a long way in addressing the challenge of intermittency of RE sources and improve the generation profile of renewable energy projects.
– Moreover, as the share of renewables in the country’s energy mix increases, there will be a need to improve grid flexibility and enhance transmission networks.
Source: This post is based on the article “Looking ahead to 2022” published in Business Standard on 6th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 – Various Security Forces and Agencies and their Mandate
Relevance: Regarding Defence Ministry’s Year-end review
News: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released its traditional year-end review. The review focuses almost exclusively on the military’s successes and achievements during the year gone by, while playing down its shortcomings.
What are some of the key achievements mentioned in the report?
Defence management reform:
– Appointment of a tri-service chief of defence staff (CDS) and the creation of a department of military affairs – Report calls it the most significant and transformative defence reform undertaken by any government since independence.
– A comprehensive agenda for the “optimum utilisation of scarce national resources, enhancing synergy and jointness between the three services.” This was set forth by the first CDS, General Bipin Rawat.
– Towards revamping the logistics structure, three Joint Services Study Groups are developing common logistics policies.
– A pilot project has kicked off, based on establishing Joint Logistics Nodes at Mumbai, Guwahati and Port Blair.
– Three “joint doctrines” were formulated in 2021, while four new joint doctrines — namely capstone, space, cyber and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance— are at an advanced stage.
– Closing or scaling down of logistic installation of the Indian Army to enhance combat capability and balance defence expenditure. This has resulted in substantial savings to the exchequer, besides increasing the “teeth to tail” ratio.
Atmanirbhar Bharat: Under this slogan, the report talks about boosting indigenous equipment development.
– induction of the Tejas light combat aircraft into the Indian Air Force (IAF)
Strengthening border infrastructure: Since the Chinese intrusions into Ladakh in April-May 2020, the MoD has focused on developing border roads and transport infrastructure. This boosts defence preparedness while also supporting local economic development in the border regions. For instance: Inauguration of a road over Umling La Pass in Eastern Ladakh, which, at 19,024 feet above sea level, is now the world’s highest motorable road.
Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has been converted into seven new Defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs). This has been done to provide autonomy and enhance efficiency.
The new Defence PSUs will become operational from 1st Oct, 2021.
Theatre commands: A “Tri–services Joint working Group” has been established to work out the details of integrating communications networks between the services. Besides, a review is being carried out to right size/reshape army units.
Indian Air Force: During the face-off with the Chinese in Eastern Ladakh, the IAF moved its sensors, aerial platforms and associate equipment to the region to deal with any contingency.
– The Tejas fighter, Arudhra and Aslesha radars, Astra air-to-air missiles, Akash surface-to-air missile system, Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter and Light Combat Helicopter were added to IAF’s inventory.
– The first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, successfully accomplished its maiden sea voyage in August 2021.
– The first destroyer of Project 15B, INS Visakhapatnam, was commissioned in 2021.
– Two Scorpene submarines, INS Karanj and INS Vela, were commissioned, with over 75 per cent indigenous content.
– Meanwhile, five naval vessels were decommissioned, including the destroyer INS Rajput, a survey vessel, INS Sandhayak, and a missile corvette, INS Khukri.
What are some issues mentioned in the report?
– Army’s resistance to indigenous Arjun tanks: The Army operates about 4,000 tanks. After accounting for the recently placed orders for Arjun Mark 1A tanks by the MoD, Army’s Modern Battle Tank fleet will have just 6% Arjun Tanks. This is despite the fact that the tank proved itself a match to the Russian T-90 in a comparative trial conducted in the Rajasthan desert in March 2010.
An ingrained prejudice against indigenous tanks has been cited as a reason for this.
But it was officially stated that the Arjun tank was too heavy for roads and bridges along the Pakistan border, and too wide to be transported by train.
Source: This post is based on the article “Why India’s policy to produce ethanol-blended petrol is short-sighted” published in Business Standard on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 3 – issues related to India’s Energy & Food security.
Relevance: Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP)
News: Recently, the government revised the EBP program by advancing a 20 percent blend target (E20) to 2025 from 2030.
The ambitious policy to promote ethanol-blended petrol will be bad for India’s food and water security.
Because, in a world moving towards electric vehicles (EVs), batteries and hydrogen, ethanol is less suited for India amid scarce land and water. We may end up compromising food security in the longer term.
In this context, this article illustrates the Ideological flaws/concerns with respect to the EBP program and the future challenges posed by it to India’s economic and food security.
Reasons why Ethanol was seen as a national imperative and an important strategic requirement?
Niti Aayog’s “Roadmap for Ethanol Blending’” report was prepared primarily on the following Premises.
Savings on crude imports from ethanol substitution: shifting to Biofuels will help India to save on its import bill. For instance, a successful E20 program can save the country $4 billion/year, or, Rs30,000 crores.
Decarbonization: Ethanol is a less polluting fuel.
Price support system and income generation for sugarcane farmers: blending was seen as a solution to the nation’s growing sugarcane and grain surpluses
What are the issues/concerns associated with NITI Aayog’s report?
First, the damage to the water table from an overproduction of sugarcane, one of the most water-intensive crops, or from that of other food grains is never accounted for.
Second, the report did not adequately address the possibility of substitutes such as an EV environment.
As a result, implementing an Ethanol blending program based on NITI’s Strategic vision will have implications on India’s economic and food security
What are the issues in India’s EBP program?
First, the issue of water scarcity.
India has to produce much sugarcane (It takes 2,500 liters of water to produce one kg of sugarcane.) and then convert surplus molasses into ethanol.
A task force on sugarcane and the sugar industry, under Ramesh Chand (Niti Aayog), estimated that sugarcane and paddy combined are using 70 percent of the country’s irrigation water.
On the other hand, India ranks 13th for overall water stress globally according to the World Resources Institute (WRI) data in 2019
Moreover, Groundwater resources are severely overdrawn in India for irrigation purposes. For instance, water tables declining at a rate of more than 8 cm per year over the 1990-2014 period.
Additionally, the government is promising thousands of crores in incentives for new distilleries and an administered price mechanism for the produce. Pricing guarantees may lead to excess sugarcane cultivation in the coming decade, sending underground water tables lower.
Secondly, issues in the timing of the EBP Policy.
The U.S decided to promote biofuels over two decades ago, when fossil fuels were critical and the US depended on West Asia for crude.
Moreover, The US was the world’s biggest producer of corn and Brazil of sugarcane, and it made sense for both nations to divert a portion of the output to ethanol.
The ecosystem suited traders, farmers, and politicians. Ethanol also helped stabilize corn prices.
But in India’s case, India is 20 years late to the ethanol party, when petrol is losing ground to EVs.
Thirdly, savings on crude imports from ethanol substitution is insignificant. Given India’s impressive revenues from in taxes on petrol and diesel alone in the last three fiscals (Rs8 trillion) and bulging forex reserve ($650 billion).
Fourthly, it is also unclear where the excess ethanol will go if EVs gain traction, or how viable will ethanol be if crude prices fall down in the future on the account of a shift towards renewable energy sources.
Fifthly, recent protests against farm laws and minimum support prices show how difficult it is for any government to take back government support given to support higher crop production.
Source: This post is based on the article “Electric vehicles, hydrogen and climate” published in Business Standard on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 3: Issues related to Energy, Transport, Climate change
Relevance: E-vehicles, Decarbonisation, climate change mitigation
News: The rising temperatures across the globe have forced the global countries to shift towards low carbon transport technologies (e-vehicles).
The financially devastating climate events of 2021 have forced global countries to search for low carbon technologies. For instance, hurricanes in the US, China, and India, floods in Australia, Europe, and Canada, cost $170 billion in damages, according to a study by Christian Aid, a UK charity.
Currently, e-vehicles are being projected as one of the most prospective solutions for achieving decarbonization.
How the adoption of E vehicles has progressed so far globally?
Globally, 2021 for EVs has panned out far better than expected at the beginning of the year. For instance,
Sales of electric two-wheelers in India have jumped in 2021, and it is set for new records this year, as charging becomes easier and petrol becomes dearer.
Tata Motors announced the incorporation of a wholly-owned subsidiary for electric vehicles last month. The company’s EV sales (Nexon, Tigor) reached a new quarterly peak.
Tesla managed to deliver a record 308,600 cars in the last quarter of the year.
In Norway, 65 per cent of all vehicle sales last year are estimated to have been electric
Bloomberg NEF estimates total passenger car sales last year more than doubled to 6.3 million vehicles.
What are the policy measures adopted to boost E- vehicles in India?
As many as 15 states in India have dedicated EV policies, against only four in 2019. Many states offer upfront subsidies for EVs and provide support for charging-infrastructure deployment.
In Norway, only electric vehicles will be sold from 2025.
In the U.S, The Joe Biden administration’s big boost for electric vehicles is underway.
What are the other measures taken to drive the global economy towards a low carbon economy?
The US Department of Energy has revived its loan-guarantee program, unlocking more dollars for innovative decarbonization technologies. For instance, it offered a conditional commitment to guarantee a loan to Monolith Nebraska for a project to convert natural gas into hydrogen (via methane pyrolysis) to be used in the agriculture sector.
Why Methane pyrolysis?
Current processes for making carbon black and ammonia emit greenhouse gases. Whereas, the methane pyrolysis process gives off no carbon dioxide.
Source: This post is based on the article “Reformist laws for trading in farm output are best enacted by states” published in Livemint on 7th Jan 2022.
Syllabus: GS 3 – issues related to agriculture reforms.
Relevance: Model APLM act 2017.
News: The Model Agriculture Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017, or model APLM act is a better option compared to the central farm law. It is also more comprehensive than the recently repealed farm laws.
A model APLM act for doing away with the APMC-controlled regime was drafted for states in 2017 by the Centre.
In December 2019, the 15th Finance Commission, in its interim report, incentivized states to enact legislation based on the 2017 template
The 2017 model is a very comprehensive and carefully-worded legal provision for protecting farmers’ interests.
How many states had already gone with the 2017 template by 2019?
The Union ministry of agriculture, at a conference of state agriculture ministers in July 2019, revealed that 22 states had provided freedom for farmers to sell their produce to private traders.
Further, Kerala and Manipur had never enacted an APMC law, and Bihar repealed its APMC law in 2005. That left, only three states of the present Indian total of 28 which did not give farmers the freedom to sell to private traders. (Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu).
However, in the same July 2019 it was noted that, only four states have fully followed the 2017 template. So farmers are not completely free as per the 2017 model act. Thus, The issue remains struck in confusion.
Why the model act 2017 is said to be very comprehensive and effective?
The 2017 template has detailed procedures on rules: For instance, procedures for setting market fees and how the revenue should be used are provided. This leaves no room for modification by the states.
It is voluntary: There was no compulsion on states to enact their own legislation based on the 2017 template. There are many successful instances of states having voluntarily followed a standard template on which to base their own legislation. For instance, The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) acts, the model VAT law, etc.
Why 2017 model act is better than the recently repealed farm laws?
First, the central law of 2020 is much shorter than the 2017 model, because it does not go into the kind of painstaking detail as the 2017 template does in order to secure the rights of farmers.
Second, there are two significant issues in farm laws.
1. One was that it explicitly ruled out the levy of market fees. It is important because a lot of initial investment and maintenance are needed for agricultural market yards. If no market fees are levied, investment and maintenance have to be fully borne by either government or private traders.
2. The second was that the central law required all traders in farm produce, barring farmer organizations, to have a permanent account number (PAN) for income taxation. This requirement should have been in a finance bill rather than a farm bill.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Anti-Covid pill Molnupiravir: Approved, not recommended’ published in Indian Express on 7th Jan 2022.
What is the news?
Molnupiravir drug which was recently approved for early-stage Covid-19 patients has been kept out of the treatment protocol recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
This is because the drug has serious safety concerns.
|Must Read: What is Molnupiravir?|
What are the safety concerns associated with Molnupiravir drug?
Low Effectiveness: The drug was found to be only 30% effective in trials, much lower than earlier indications.
Worries over Mechanism of the Drug: The drug works by incorporating itself into the RNA of the virus, inducing mutations with the objective of hampering replication.
But this carries the risk of introducing mutations that can make the virus stronger and more dangerous. A bigger risk of the drug is of creating mutations in the human DNA itself.
Side Effects: The drug can cause teratogenicity (is the ability to cause defects in a developing foetus), cartilage damage and can also be damaging to muscles.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Year End Review: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’ published in PIB on 7th Jan 2022.
What is the news?
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has taken several initiatives in the year 2021.
Initiatives taken by the Environment Ministry
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The UN General Assembly in its 70th Session adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and associated 169 targets for the next 15 years. The 17 SDGs came into force in 2016. These goals are not legally binding.
SDG 13 (Urgent action to protect against Climate Change and its impact): Under this, 24% reduction in emission intensity of GDP against 2005 levels has been achieved in 2016 itself.
SDG 15 (Sustainable use of terrestrial Ecosystems and prevention of Biodiversity Loss): Land degradation neutrality and intense afforestation are helping the country move towards this goal.
SDG12 (ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns): Implementation of Extended Producer responsibility in plastics and ratification of Basel Convention to monitor hazardous substances is a remarkable step in moving towards this goal.
PARIVESH (Proactive and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single Window Hub): It is a single window online, expeditious and transparent system for environment, forest, wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances in the country.
School Nursery Yojana: It aims to associate students in the process of raising plantations as part of their learning and by providing an environment for the students to understand and appreciate the significance of plants in maintaining and sustaining the natural ecosystem. The scheme is proposed to be implemented for the period of five years.
Protected Areas: The Protected Area coverage in the country has been steadily increasing. The coverage of Protected Areas which was 4.90% of the country’s geographical area in 2014 has now increased to 5.03%.
Wetland: The number of Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance) in India have increased to 47 which include 21 new sites designated during 2019-2021. India has the largest number of Ramsar sites in South Asia.
Combating the Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought: India has committed to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality and restoration of 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 which includes 21 million hectares of Bonn Challenge and additional commitment of 5 million hectares as voluntary commitment. India presently holds the Presidency of UNCCD (UN Convention to Combat Desertification) COP for 2 years till April 2022.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘601 PERSONS SAVED BY RPF PERSONNEL UNDER “MISSION JEEWAN RAKSHA”, DURING 2021’ published in PIB on 7th Jan 2022.
What is the news?
Railway Protection Force (RPF) tasked has been working round the clock for security of railway property, passenger area and passengers.
What are the steps taken by the Railway Protection Force(RPF)?
Mission Jeewan Raksha: Under this, RPF personnel have saved 1650 lives from the wheels of the running trains at railway stations in the last four years.
Meri Saheli Initiative: It was launched by RPF to provide security to lady passengers in long distance trains particularly travelling alone or those who are vulnerable to crime.
Operation Amanat: Under this, RPF retrieved left behind luggage having value of more than 23 Crores belonging to 12377 passengers and returned to them after due verification.
Toll Free Helpline Number 139 (24 X 7): It is a single helpline number launched by Indian Railways for quick grievance redressal and enquiries by passengers during their train journeys.
Operation Number Plate: It was launched by the RPF to identify and verify all vehicles parked in Railway premises, circulating areas, parking lots and even in the ‘No Parking’ areas for a longer duration.
Operation Thirst: It was launched by the RPF to stop selling of unauthorised Packaged Drinking Water (PDW) in railway premises.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Reovirus wreaks havoc on wild crab cultivation in Andhra Pradesh’ published in The Hindu on 7th Jan 2022.
What is the News?
Mud Crab Reovirus (MCRV) has been found to be the reason for the mass mortality of wild crab in Andhra Pradesh State.
What is Mud Crab Reovirus (MCRV)?
Mud Crab Reovirus (MCRV) is also known as Sleeping Disease. The virus belongs to the “Reoviridae” family.
|Note: Reoviridae is a family of double-stranded RNA viruses. This virus has a wide host range including vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, protists and fungi.|
The virus mainly infects connective tissue cells of the hepatopancreas, gills and intestine in mud crabs.
What is Mud Crab?
Scylla serrata commonly known as the Mud crab, Green crab or Mangrove Crab is an economically important species of crab found in the estuaries and mangroves of India.
There has been a huge interest in the aquaculture of this species due to their high demand/ price, high flesh content and rapid growth rates in captivity.
In India, crab culture is developing very fast in the states of AP, Kerala, West Bengal and Odisha.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Explained: Amendment to the Jagannath Temple Act’ published in Indian Express on 6th Jan 2022.
What is the News?
In a historic decision, the Odisha state cabinet has approved amendments to the Sri Jagannath Temple Act of 1954.
|Click Here to read about Lord Jagannath Temple|
About Regulations on Jagannath Temple
In the year 1806, the then British government had issued regulations for management of the Jagannath temple, which was referred to as the Juggernaut temple by the colonial rulers.
Under these regulations, pilgrims who visited the temple were expected to pay taxes. The British government was entrusted with appointing senior priests at the temple.
The powers of management of the temple were passed on to the King of Khordha after three years, while the colonial government continued to retain some control.
After India gained Independence, the Jagannath Temple Act was introduced in the year 1952, which came into effect in 1954.
The Act contains provision regarding a) land rights of the temple, b) duties of the sevayat (priests), c) administrative powers of the Shri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee, d) rights and privileges of the Raja of Puri and other persons connected with the management and administration of the temple.
What are the recent amendments to the Sri Jagannath Temple Act of 1954?
The amendment has delegated power to temple administration and concerned officials for sale and lease of land in name of Jagannath temple.
Unlike earlier, no approval will be required from the state government for this process.
Moreover, through the sale of land, used and unused, the temple can also generate additional corpus funds.
Source: This post is based on the article “India sees sharpest drop in polio vaccination since 1990s, shows data” published in Business Standard on 7th Jan 2022.
What is the news?
Most immunisation programmes witnessed a decline in 2020. India was worst among South Asia and, in some cases, one of the worst significant economies in the world.
Data released by UNICEF shows that the immunisation programme in India suffered its worst hit in 2020, as coverage declined across all major vaccination programmes, including the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
What does the UNICEF data show?
– The administration of the third dose of polio vaccine for children aged 12-23 months declined five percentage points in 2020, compared to 2019 — the worst drop since 1991.
– In terms of overall coverage, at 85%, India’s polio vaccination levels went back to those witnessed in 2014.
DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus)
In the case of DPT, the first dose for children aged 12-23 months fell by seven percentage points — the worst fall since 1991.
The last time DPT shots had registered a decline (of one percentage point) was in 2006.
Administration of the tuberculosis (TB) vaccine was also down seven percentage points compared to last year.
The last time the country witnessed a decline was in 2007.
Rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccine
Only these two vaccines witnessed an increase in coverage among children compared to last year.
– The rotavirus vaccine coverage for children aged 12-23 months went up from 53% to 82%, whereas pneumococcal uptake increased from 15% to 21% between 2019 and 2020.
How does India fare as compared to other nations?
India’s performance in some cases was one of the worst among the world’s major economies.
– In terms of the drop in TB vaccine, among the major economies, India was behind Mexico, Brazil and the UAE. It also fared worse than all South Asia nations, with even Pakistan and Afghanistan increasing coverage during the pandemic year.
– With respect to hepatitis B, India was behind Brazil and Indonesia.
– In the DPT vaccination, only Pakistan and Nepal fared worse than India in the South Asian region.
What are the reasons behind this decline?
One of the primary reasons for this seems to be setbacks to rural health manpower and its crippling impact on rural health programmes, including the government’s vaccination drives.
– Acc to the National Health Mission, there has been a drastic decline in the total number of health and nutrition days (HNDs) held in thousands of villages in 2020 as compared to the previous year.
Also, there was a fall in the number of ASHA (accredited social health activist) workers recruited by the government in Indian villages. It is at these village health and nutrition days that ASHA workers compile a list of infants who require immunisation or have been left out.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Union Minister inaugurates India’s first Open Rock Museum on NGRI campus’ published in PIB on 7th Jan 2022.
What is the News?
Union Minister of State for Science & Technology has inaugurated India’s first open rock museum on the campus of the CSIR-National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) in Hyderabad.
|Read more: Union Minister of Home Affairs performed Bhoomi Pujan of Rani Gaidinliu Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum in Manipur|
About India’s First open Rock Museum
The Museum has been set up with an aim to educate and enlighten the masses about several lesser-known facts about rocks.
The museum displays around 35 different types of rocks from different parts of India with ages ranging from 3.3 Billion years to around 55 Million years of the Earth’s history.
These rocks represent the deepest part of the earth up to 175 km of distance from the surface of the earth.
The rocks have been sourced from Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and others.
|Read more: Research centre for Indian art set up in Zurich museum|
Earthquake risk maps of Lucknow and Dehradun cities
The Minister also released the earthquake risk maps of Lucknow and Dehradun cities. These maps would serve as inputs for risk assessment in homes, multi-storeyed buildings and infrastructure such as bridges or dams.
|Read more: Nebra Sky Disc: The oldest map of stars that will be displayed at British Museum|
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Use Drones more effectively: Civil Aviation Ministry’ published in The Hindu on 7th Jan 2022.
What is the News?
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has called on other ministries to utilise the use of drones more effectively in their specific domains.
Note: The government of India has recently released the Drone Rules,2021 to make India a global hub for drones.
What are the applications of drones in different domains?
Ministry of Home Affairs: Surveillance, situational analysis, crime control, VVIP security and disaster management.
Ministry of Defence: Combat operations, communication in remote areas and counter-drone solutions.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: Delivery of medicines, collection of samples from remote or epidemic/pandemic-affected areas.
Ministry of Railways: Disaster management, incidence response, inspection/maintenance works and project monitoring.
Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Ministry of Power: Real-time surveillance of assets and transmission lines, theft prevention, visual inspection/maintenance, construction planning and management.
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change: Anti-poaching actions, monitoring of forests and wildlife, pollution assessment, and evidence gathering.
Ministry of Agriculture: Crop and soil health monitoring, anti-locust work, insurance claim survey.
Ministry of Panchayati Raj: Land Records and property rights.
|Read more: Threats Posed by UAVs – Explained, Pointwise|
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Year-End Review-2021: M/o Earth Sciences’ published in PIB on 29th Dec 2022.
What is the News?
The Ministry of Earth Sciences has taken various initiatives in the year 2021.
Several of the initiatives are:
Earth System Science Data Portal (ESSDP): It was launched by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). It is an integrated digital web portal of MoES institutes that makes available data on various themes of earth system science for public use.
Atmospheric Research Testbed: It is an open field observatory located in Madhya Pradesh, It helps in better understanding the processes governing monsoon convection and land-atmosphere interactions over the core monsoon region using state-of-the-art observational systems such as Radars, Wind Profilers, UAVs.
Indigenous Decision Support System: It has been developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) for advanced air quality management for the Delhi NCR region.
High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model: It is a high frequency, hourly updating atmospheric forecasts model for the next 12 hours. It covers the entire mainland of India to provide weather forecasts for every two kilometres in all the regions.
Water Quality Buoy: It is deployed by National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) in the coastal water off Puducherry. This is an automated water quality buoy fitted with sensors to monitor the variations in the water quality and productivity of the coastal waters.
Indian Ocean Data Portal: It has been developed by INCOIS jointly with NIOT and PMEL-NOAA. It will showcase the large inventory of meteorological and oceanographic data sets with direct access for data display and delivery.
Scientific deep drilling in the Koyna intraplate seismic zone in Maharashtra: This project was approved in 2013. It will provide a unique opportunity to better understand the mechanism of reservoir-triggered earthquakes.
International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography (ITCOocean): It has been established at INCOIS, Hyderabad. It is aimed at promoting the development and optimization of scientific base, technology and information system for operational oceanography at national, regional and global scales.
Source: This post is based on the article ‘Cabinet approves Intra-State Transmission System – Green Energy Corridor Phase-II’ published in PIB on 6th Jan 2022.
What is the News?
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the scheme on Green Energy Corridor (GEC) Phase-II for Intra-State Transmission System (InSTS).
What is the Green Energy Corridor Project for Intra-State Transmission System (InSTS)?
The Green Energy Corridor(GEC) Project aims at synchronizing electricity produced from renewable sources such as solar and wind with conventional power stations in the grid.
The GEC-Intra State Transmission System(InSTS) project was sanctioned in 2015-16, for evacuation and integration of the renewable energy capacity through setting up of transmission lines and increasing transformation capacity of substations.
Phase I of the Project
It is being implemented by eight renewable-rich states of Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.
Under this phase, the target is to install 9700 circuit km of transmission lines and 22,600 MegaVolt-Amperes(MVA) transformation capacity of substations by 2022.
This will help in facilitating grid integration and power evacuation of approximately 24 GW of Renewable Energy(RE). The funding mechanism consists of a 40% Government of India Grant, 20% state equity and a 40% loan from KfW Bank, Germany.
|Read more: [Yojana October Summary] Energy Security: Nuclear Power – Explained, pointwise|
Phase II of the Project
It is being implemented in seven States namely, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Under this phase, the target is to install 10,750 circuit km of transmission lines and 27,500 MegaVolt-Amperes(MVA) transformation capacity of substations by 2025-26.
This will help in facilitating grid integration and power evacuation of approximately 20GW of Renewable Energy(RE). The Centre will provide assistance at 33% of the cost of the project.
|Read more: [Yojana December Summary] Self-reliance in Energy Sector – Explained, pointwise|
What is the significance of this project?
Firstly, it will help to achieve the target of 450 GW installed renewable energy capacity by 2030.
Secondly, it will contribute to the long-term energy security of the country and promote ecologically sustainable growth by reducing carbon footprint.
Thirdly, the project will generate direct and indirect employment.
|Read more: Green Energy Initiatives in Budget 2021- Explained|
Source: This post is based on the article ‘HAL jet trainer demonstrates its prowess’ published in The Hindu on 7th Jan 2022.
What is the News?
The Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) has successfully demonstrated the ability to perform six turn spins on both the left hand and right-hand sides.
Note: The capability to enter and recover from spin is important for a trainer aircraft, to enable the trainee pilot to recognise departure from controlled flight and the actions required to correct such situations.
|Read more: What are “Overture supersonic aircraft” and what are its challenges?|
What is Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT)?
Intermediate Jet Trainer is an aircraft designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru.
The aircraft is being brought as a replacement to the ageing Kirans of the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet
The primary role of the aircraft includes pilot training; general flying; navigation formation flying; instrument and cloud flying; basic air to ground and air-to-air weapon aiming; tactical flying and night flying.
|Read more: Hansa New Generation (NG) aircraft, designed and developed by CSIR-NAL, successfully make its maiden flight|
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