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
- 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.
- For previous editions of 9 PM Brief – Click here
- For individual articles of 9 PM Brief– Click Here
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
GS Paper 2
GS Paper 3
- What is the ‘right to repair’ movement?
- Success of India’s dairy sector is not just thanks to private players
- Dispelling myths about capital dumping would serve India well
- The Centre should help RBI tame retail inflation
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- G-secs: RBI unveils Retail Direct Scheme
- UN: $200 billion increase in fund flow to developing countries for managing nature
- India Aims to target over 100 Billion “Blue Economy” Through Deep Ocean Mission and Ocean Resources
- Indian scientists discover new plant species in Antarctica
- Bihar’s Kesaria Buddha stupa waterlogged
- NASA’s VIPER Mission to Map Water, Other Resources on Moon in 2023
- Planetary conjunction of Mars, Venus
- Records of freedom fighters to be digitised
- Interest rates and asset prices
- Strengthening export linkage of Farmer Cooperatives & FPOs
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated issues
Relevance: It is a critical analysis of the UP’s new proposed population law.
UP’s new population policy and draft law try to use punishment as a tool to control fertility levels. However, evidence shows that focusing on education and empowerment of women can yield better results, as seen in southern states.
- A new population policy released by the U.P government aims to bring fertility levels down. It also aims to create a population balance among various communities.
- Similarly, a draft of the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation, and Welfare) Bill, 2021 was published a few days ago and is currently open for public feedback.
- It states that any citizen who “violates” a two-child policy would be barred from:
- contesting local bodies polls,
- applying for, or getting promotion in, government jobs, and
- even receiving government subsidies.
- It states that any citizen who “violates” a two-child policy would be barred from:
Problems associated with New population policy and Draft Law:
- First, the aim of establishing a population balance among communities might breed polarisation and communal disharmony in the state.
- Second, this policy is based on punitive theory, which disproportionately targets the poor vis-à-vis the rich population.
- Third, India is not being threatened by a “population explosion”. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and Census data show that in most states, and many urban areas, the total fertility rate (TFR) has already reached replacement levels (2.1).
- On a national level, TFR has declined from 3.4 in 1994 to 2.2 in 2015. Decadal growth rates have declined across all religious communities, with the fertility rate falling faster among Muslims than in Hindus.
- Fourth, China’s recent policy reversal of its restrictive child-bearing norms points to the limits of measures of state engineering of population.
- Fifth, it is an anti-democratic practice that impairs a citizen’s right to choice and his/her sexual and reproductive rights.
- The success of India’s southern states in containing population growth indicates that economic growth, as well as attention to education, health, and empowerment of women, work far better to disincentivize larger families than punitive measures.
- Hence, any government interested in supporting fertility decline must work on the education and empowerment of women and respect their choices.
GS Paper 2
Regional powers and the Afghanistan question
Source: Indian Express
GS2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests.
Relevance: This article explains the implications of US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Synopsis: Regional powers now have the burden of managing the military vacuum created by the US retreat in Afghanistan.
The two developments have moved Afghanistan into the court of regional powers. These are:
- The speedy withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has resulted in the swift advance of the Taliban across the nation.
- And the Taliban leadership has claimed that it is in control of 85 percent of Afghan territory.
Why regional powers should get involved for more sustainable peace?
- Firstly, the idea of a regional solution to Afghanistan has always had much political appeal.
- Secondly, Geography, membership, and capabilities make the SCO an important forum to address the post-American challenges in Afghanistan.
- Thirdly, Afghanistan is at the center stage of international politics and right at the top of the SCO agenda.
- The SCO was launched to promote inner Asia stability.
- A few months after the SCO was set up, the world saw the terror attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, by Al-Qaeda.
- The US marched in quickly to oust the Taliban from power and launched the Great War on Terror.
- Fourth, China and Russia were deeply apprehensive about the implications of extended American military presence in Afghanistan.
- However, Beijing and Moscow did not oppose US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001.
- Fifth, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan also reinforces the strongly held conviction in Beijing that the US is in terminal decline.
- Now, China is offering an alternative to the Western model of domestic and international governance.
- Lastly, there is quiet satisfaction in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and Rawalpindi at seeing American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- However, it is tinged by worries about the long-term implications.
- Now, they have to cope with the consequences of the US withdrawal and the resurgence of the Taliban.
Challenges lying ahead for regional powers and Afghanistan:
- Iran: It can’t ignore the Sunni extremism of the Taliban and its oppressive record in dealing with the Shia, and Persian-speaking minorities.
- Pakistan: Geography has given Pakistan the capability to destabilize any government in Afghanistan.
- There is a danger of the conflict spilling over to the east of the Durand Line, and hostile groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) gaining sanctuaries in Afghanistan.
- Many in Pakistan would like to turn Afghanistan into a protectorate, but Afghans deeply value their independence.
- China: potential Taliban support to the Xinjiang separatist groups is a major concern.
- Afghanistan: If the Taliban is unwilling to accommodate the interests of all Afghans, it simply sets the stage for the next round of the civil war in Afghanistan.
- All Afghan sovereigns, including the Taliban, will look for partners to balance Pakistan.
- India: There is a danger that Afghanistan under the Taliban could also begin to nurture anti-India terror groups.
- Since there is a lack of direct access, India needs to have effective regional partners to shape India’s Afghan policy.
India should focus on intensifying its engagement with various Afghan groups, including the Taliban, and find effective regional partners to secure its interests.
The power of scrutiny
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States
Relevance: This judgment clears an important issue related to the power of the state’s legislative assembly.
The recent verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) has enabled Delhi’s legislative assembly to scrutinise social media companies. This has opened the gates for scrutiny of social media platforms by other States as well.
- The SC in its latest verdict upheld the authority of a committee of the Delhi Assembly to summon a senior official of Facebook.
- The official was summoned by the Delhi Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony on the subject of the Delhi riots of 2020.
Why was Facebook confronting the summon?
- The company argued that this was a case of overreach, as Delhi’s law and order come under the central government.
- This was also the position taken by the central government, which argued that the Delhi Assembly had no jurisdiction in this matter.
- The social media platform also pointed out that it was governed by the IT Act of Parliament. This is not therefore something that any State government can be concerned with.
About the verdict:
- The Court, in upholding the summons, did not go merely by the legislative powers of a House.
- It said that the Assembly does not only perform the function of legislating. There are many other aspects of governance that can form part of the essential functions of the Legislative Assembly and consequently the committee.
- Its point was that the “interrogating” and “recommendatory” powers of a House can be used for better governance. But it also cautioned the committee from “transgressing into any fields reserved for the Union Government.
Significance of the Verdict:
- It is an extremely nuanced recognition of the extent of powers of State Assemblies in matters regulated by an Act of Parliament.
- The verdict will help in avoiding a power tussle between the center and Delhi government, thereby upholding federalism.
- It opens the gates for scrutiny of social media platforms by other States, which have more powers with respect to law and order than Delhi.
Prioritising school reopening on the road to recovery
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Relevance: This article justifies reopening the schools.
Children have long borne the costs of school closure, and evidence-based decisions toward reopening are a necessity.
- Most schools in India have been closed since the national lockdown started in March 2020.
- However, many experts are now demanding a reopening as the adverse impacts of closure are severely outweighing the risk of reopening. Further, the second wave of Covid-19 has begun to fall, across the country.
Adverse impacts of school closure:
- First, the bottom half of children passing Class 10 are about two years behind in terms of skills. Prolonged school closure has widened this gap, thereby pushing the next generation deeper into poverty.
- Second, the dropout rate in the country would be enhanced. A survey across 10 States in India in November 2020 estimated that nearly two-thirds of children in rural India may drop out of school. This figure would worsen this persistent closure.
- Third, prolonged school shutdown has severely pushed back India’s fight against ills such as child labour and child marriage.
- Fourth, it has restrained the effective implementation of crucial schemes like the mid-day meal. In June 2020, it was estimated that about 800,000 additional children would face underweight and wasting.
- Fifth, extended school closure has a severe impact on children’s mental health. In Las Vegas, the U.S., a surge of student suicides forced schools to reopen in January 2021. The United Kingdom reported a 40% rise in the number of children taking antidepressants.
What is the risk of school reopening?
- The risk of COVID-19 for children is much lower than for adults. Based on a study of 137 million school-age children in the U.S. and Europe, it was observed that COVID-19 is less than half as risky as seasonal influenza in children.
- Similarly, a study among the nearly two million children in Sweden (where schools have been open throughout), found that there was not a single child death due to COVID-19.
- As per Mumbai’s dashboard data, the COVID-19 IFR (Infection Fatality Rate) for under-19 is minuscule: about 0.003%
- Various regions around the world which have been worse hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic than India, have kept their schools mostly open.
- This includes various European countries such as Portugal, France, the Netherlands, etc.
- The State of Florida (United States) opened schools for in-person classes in late September 2020, and they stayed open through their second wave.
- There has been a concern that a possible third wave involving newer variants could affect children. But a careful look at the data tells that the age profiles of those affected in the second and first waves are similar. There is no scientific basis for this fear.
- Further, there have been several careful scientific studies across various regions in Europe/U.S., measuring the role of in-person classes in COVID-19 spread. The overwhelming conclusion is that the risk of COVID-19 spread in schools is minimal compared to other locations.
- Policymakers must make evidence-based decisions toward school reopening. This is the least the working class and the children of India deserve.
- To reduce the concern among teachers, the Government must treat them on a par with essential workers, and offer them prioritized vaccination.
- A differentiated approach of partial reopening can also be analyzed for children having sufficient access to digital tools. However, for children who lack the resources, whose parents have to go out to work every day, in-person schooling is paramount.
- Further, the vaccination drive for children must be based on a careful risk-benefit analysis.
- It is pertinent to note that there are growing concerns in the U.S. of a potential link between heart inflammation and the mRNA vaccine, among adolescents.
It may be safer for school kids to stay maskless in classrooms
Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education
About the CDC Guidelines:
US Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance to encourage reopening by giving schools more flexibility on classroom safety. So the question isn’t whether schools should open. It’s what mitigation measures they should take when they do.
The flashpoint of the guidelines is regarding masks. CDC guidelines continue to recommend masks for unvaccinated students and staff. But, critics respond that masks are harming children. So, the risk of carbon dioxide inhalation needs to be studied in depth.
Benefits of masks:
- At one time, the argument for masks was mainly that they kept the wearer from infecting others, but now evidence of their protective benefits is plentiful.
- Evidence suggests that indoors, particularly when ventilation is poor, masks help prevent viral spread.
- A literature review published last year in The Lancet found that wearing either surgical masks or similar cloth masks reduced exposure by around two-thirds.
New research regarding CO2 emission inside masks:
- Six European researchers, measured CO2 levels in the air inhaled and exhaled. They took readings without face masks, then with face masks of two different types: surgical masks and filtration masks.
- The carbon dioxide content of the air inside the masks—the air being inhaled—was about 13 times what previous research suggests is safe. The youngest children had the highest values of CO2, with one 7-year-old child’s carbon dioxide level measured at 25,000 ppm. Those figures are for three minutes.
- Criticism of study:
- The sample size is small. Moreover, the experiment was performed in a laboratory; it’s not a study of similar cohorts in the real world.
- At least a part of the CO2 buildup might be attributable to the nervousness of children who knew themselves to be experimental subjects.
Other research studies regarding CO2 emission inside masks:
- Similar studies published earlier in the pandemic already pointed to potentially higher CO2 levels among healthcare workers who wore protective equipment for long periods of time. Because the workers are re-breathing the same CO2 they’ve previously exhaled. The masks seem to be trapping what the lungs are trying to get rid of.
- Other studies have found similar problems in adults
If the average school day is six hours long, the children would be masked for close to 360 minutes. It’s odd that this issue has had so little public discussion. So before drawing dramatic conclusions and reopen schools, the CO2 emission inside masks needs a careful study.
GS Paper 3
Dispelling myths about capital dumping would serve India well
Source: Live Mint
Gs3: Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth.
Relevance: This article highlights the importance of big e-commerce companies for Indian economy.
Synopsis: Proponents of ‘capital dumping’ conveniently ignore the role that e-commerce plays in economic growth.
- Currently, foreign e-commerce marketplaces are allegedly indulging in ‘capital dumping’. Such allegations are leveled by some interest groups.
- However, the allegation will be detrimental to the interest of India. Because India needs more foreign capital to create jobs, strengthen infrastructure and empower Indian SMEs with tech innovation to accelerate economic growth.
Significance of Foreign Capital and e-commerce for India
- One, to achieve rapid economic growth
- India has set an ambitious target to grow GDP at 9% per annum and for this capital investment is needed to drive economic growth.
- The incremental capital-output ratio (ICOR) for an economy refers to the units of capital needed to drive one unit of growth.
- India’s ICOR is about 4.5, which translates to a capital investment requirement of 40% of GDP. Further, India’s domestic savings rate hovers at around 28% of GDP (World Bank).
- Domestic sources thus cannot fully supply the capital we need for growth. A large part of this deficit of 12% of GDP must be funded by foreign capital inflows.
- Two, to create jobs.
- In India, about 8-12 million youth enter the workforce every year.
- A NASSCOM study projects that e-commerce (including partnerships) will create 12 million new jobs between 2020 and 2030.
- Whereas even for small businesses to flourish, we need capital and technology to build physical warehousing and transport infrastructure, as also a robust digital payments set-up.
- Three, Further, contrary to the common man’s mindset that e-commerce will impact Kirana shops, e-commerce will complement the growth of Kirana shops.
- Nasscom-Technopak study shows that while e-commerce will grow from $34 billion to $208 billion, general trade will grow from $699 billion to $1,088 billion from 2020 to 2030.
- Moreover, with the size and diversity of India, e-commerce and kirana stores serve complementary needs and are hardly in conflict.
- Four, besides creating jobs, e-commerce companies help small businesses. It widens their customer base at low cost, boost tax collections, foster a technology economy, drive exports and fuel consumption.
- Notably, e-commerce promotes digitization that helps Kirana shops modernize and stay resilient.
Additional restrictions on foreign capital in e-commerce could retard the modernization of the Kirana shops and slow down offline-online partnerships, which are likely to account for the bulk of employment creation in the coming decade. Hence, Regulators must beware of the notion of ‘capital dumping’.
Terms to Know:
Govt may issue guidelines for ‘flex-fuel’ vehicles by October
Source: Business Standards
GS-3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution, and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Relevance: Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) can increase fuel efficiency and decrease pollution. This concept can be used in answer writing of both topics.
Synopsis: Some challenges should be addressed before the adoption of flexible fuel vehicles.
- The government is considering the use of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) to ensure increased use of bio-fuels for running vehicles. For that, it is also working on an incentive scheme to promote manufacture and use of flex engines in vehicles.
- Auto companies may soon be asked to manufacture passenger and commercial vehicles that run on multiple fuel configurations. It is aimed at reducing the use of polluting fossil fuels.
What are flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs)?
- An FFV is a modified version of vehicles that could run both on gasoline and doped petrol with different levels of ethanol blends.
- These are currently being used successfully in Brazil, giving people the option to switch fuel (gasoline and ethanol) depending on price and convenience.
- For India, FFVs will present a different advantage as they will allow vehicles to use different blends of ethanol mixed petrol available in different parts of the country.
- FFVs will allow vehicles to use all the blends and also run-on unblended fuel.
Challenges that need to be addressed before the adoption of flexible fuel vehicles policy
- Introduction of FFVs will require adoption of vehicle standards, technologies and retrofitting configurations.
- If standards on FFVs are made mandatory, it would require additional investment in production lines and technology transfers to change the character of the vehicles.
- Already the use of 10 per cent ethanol blended petrol and introduction of BS VI fuel have added to the cost of making a vehicle
- Most significantly, Ethanol production in India needs to be increased. Due to short supplies and transportation challenges, 10 per cent blended petrol is available only in 15 states while bio-fuel in other states varies between 0 and 5 percent.
What is the ‘right to repair’ movement?
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS 3 – Industries and industrial policies
Relevance: How the right to repair movement will be beneficial for consumer protection.
In recent years, countries around the world have been attempting to pass effective ‘right to repair’ laws. But the movement has faced tremendous resistance from tech giants such as Apple and Microsoft over the years.
- The right to repair movement is gaining traction in developed countries, including the US and U.K.
- On 9th July 2021, the US President signed an executive order. It has lifted restrictions imposed by manufacturers that limit consumers’ ability to repair their gadgets on their own terms.
- The UK, too, introduced right-to-repair rules that should make it much easier to buy and repair daily-use gadgets such as TVs and washing machines.
- European Union’s right to repair laws require manufacturers to ensure that electronic goods can be repaired for up to a decade.
About Right to Repair Movement:
- It is a movement to give every consumer the right to repair their own electronics and other products.
- The movement traces its roots back to the very dawn of the computer era in the 1950s.
- The supporters of the movement argue that electronic manufacturers are encouraging a culture of ‘planned obsolescence’.
- This means that devices are designed specifically to last a limited amount of time and to be replaced.
- This leads to immense pressure on the environment and wastage of natural resources, as manufacturing an electronic device is a highly polluting process.
- It makes use of polluting sources of energy, such as fossil fuel, which has an adverse impact on the environment.
- To prevent customer’s reliance on restricted and expensive authorized retailers for repairing their obsolete devices.
- To induce the manufacturers to make durable and long-lasting devices.
- Also, to prevent faster dumping of electronic devices into the landfill and encouraging judicious use of resources for environment protection.
- To boost business for small repair shops, which are an important part of local economies. If a manufacturer has a monopoly on repairs, then prices rise exponentially and quality tends to drop.
But why do electronic manufacturers oppose this movement?
- Large tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Tesla, have been lobbying against the right to repair.
- They argue that opening up their intellectual property to third-party repair services or amateur repairers could lead to exploitation. It will impact the safety and security of their devices.
- These companies are constantly claiming that they are working towards greater durability themselves.
- This year, Apple took more steps towards reducing its contribution to e-waste. It has expanded its free, independent repair provider program in 200 countries.
- Microsoft has pointed out how it improved the battery and hard drive of its third-generation Surface Laptop after it was criticised for making it next to impossible to replace the battery in older models.
Success of India’s dairy sector is not just thanks to private players
Source: Indian Express
Gs3: Food Processing and Related Industries in India- Scope’ and Significance
Relevance: This article explains the reasons behind the success of the cooperative model of the dairy sector
Synopsis: Micro-level production, processing and marketing, and change in perception played a critical role in increasing milk production.
- Some attribute the milk production growth in India to the capacity created by the new private sector dairies. But most of the private dairies have followed the template set by the co-operatives.
- However, major pillars like Micro-level production, processing and marketing, and change in perception played a critical role in increasing milk production.
What are the three pillars responsible for the growth of the Milk economy in India?
The first pillar of Success: How it happened
- In 1946, Tribhuvandas Patel, a Gandhian and a follower of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, led some Kheda district dairy farmers to strike against the Greater Bombay Milk Scheme (GBMS).
- According to the Greater Bombay Milk Scheme, companies used to refuse to take their milk in the winter, because there was a surplus.
- The farmers succeeded, with political backing, in getting GBMS to accept their milk year-round.
- They quickly formed a co-operative, the Anand Milk Union Ltd (Amul) with 246 members and recruited a US-trained dairy engineer, Verghese Kurien, to be their manager.
- Kurien realised that the solution to the natural periodicity of milk production lay in processing the excess milk in the flush (winter) season into milk powder and butter (milk fat).
- These could be recombined in the lean season to ensure a year-round even supply of milk.
- Kurien managed to get a UNICEF grant for a plant of economic size. The Amul dairy was established in 1956. Kurien also realised that more money could be made by selling some milk fat as table butter, and the recombined milk could be leaner.
- New co-operative dairies had come up in neighboring Mahesana and Banaskantha districts on the lines of Amul.
- Kurien roped them in a similar plan of activities. Voltas became the marketing agent for Amul butter.
- So, the first pillar of success is to tie together micro-level production, economic scale processing, and large-scale marketing with a brand.
The second Pillar of Success:
- Meanwhile, something quite revolutionary was happening in dairying households.
- Traditionally, women looked after the buffaloes and took the milk to the collecting station.
- They also started receiving weekly payments for the milk delivered.
- The economic rise of Women in the dairy sector yielded gender equality and encouraged the formation of self-groups in Gujarat’s dairying villages.
- This became the second pillar of the development of the milk economy.
The third pillar of Success:
- The most important effect was on the family decision-making.
- Since they had regular, dependable, and often sizeable cash income supplementing their periodic and uncertain crop incomes, they could see dairying as an enterprise, and not a subsistence or default occupation.
- The market power asymmetry was effectively countered by co-operatives, which were large enough to enjoy economies of scale through the use of technology.
- Their concern moved from remunerative prices to their stability, value-addition, and surplus generation for all.
- Administrative interventions such as support prices or monopoly procurement are not required, since farmers’ organisations can powerfully lobby to protect their interests.
- That is the most important third pillar.
To attribute the development of the milk economy of India to market forces and the entry of private entities mainly, would be superficial. It is these three major pillars that are responsible for the growth of the milk economy in India.
The Centre should help RBI tame retail inflation
Source- Live Mint
Synopsis – Food and fuel should be included in the GST rate to provide tax relief.
Syllabus – GS 3 – Indian Economy – Financial Market.
- Retail inflation slipped to 6.26 percent in June. It breached the upper tolerance limit of the inflation target range set by the RBI’s monetary policy committee for the second consecutive month in a row.
- According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Inflation was 6.3 percent in May 2021.
- Retail inflation, measured by the consumer price inflation index, is the main price gauge that the RBI tracks. It remained high due to rising fuel prices and costlier items in the food basket.
- Imported Crude oil impact– Crude oil prices on the global market are likely to drive up inflation in nations that import the commodity.
- This might be attributed to greater import costs and a depreciation of the native currency, resulting in higher import prices.
- Because India imports 82.8 percent of its crude oil, increasing oil prices have a negative influence on inflation.
- Consumer food price inflation– In May, consumer food price inflation hit a six-month-high.
- Falling rupee – A falling rupee increases import costs and raises retail prices, while an RBI prop for the currency’s external value in inflationary times would hamper exports.
- The increase in inflation is also due to weak demand, low production and supply disruption
What needs to be done to control the inflation-?
- RBI could tighten credit by raising its policy rate or reversing other liquidity measures. Stable prices of food and fuel would help to secure economic stability.
- Indian currency must retain its real value – As falling rupee would enlarge import bill and push up retail prices. The Center can take some steps to ease the pressure on our central bank to meet its promise of a trusty rupee.
- Put Food and Fuel into GST net-
- As the majority of what consumers pay for petrol and diesel is made up of taxes.
- The fuel cesses reductions would provide monetary policy more room to support a recovery in growth.
Space tourism spinoffs
Source: The Business Standard
Syllabus: GS paper 3 – Awareness in the field of Space
Relevance: Space tourism is gaining popularity in the field of Space.
The entry of the private sector into the space race brings new dimensions to the monetization of space technology.
Private space tourism projects:
Three important private organisations (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX) made huge investments in space projects.
- Recently VSS Unity spaceship, with six people on board, recently took off from New Mexico and reached an altitude of 85 km from Earth before returning.
- Amazon founder’s space company named Blue Origin has recently concluded the online auction for the first seat on the New Shephard rocket system.
- SpaceX even aims to go to Mars. SpaceX rockets already supply the International Space Station (ISS) and carry crew to and fro from that facility.
The future of space tourism:
Space tourism could soon be an option for the well-heeled adventure tourist. For instance, Virgin Galactic has received over 500 advance bookings at $250,000 per seat on the VSS Unity.
For comparison, people pay $50,000 to climb Everest in package tours, alongside trainers, and dedicated teams of Sherpa.
Preparation for space tourists:
- Passengers must be cushioned and protected from high acceleration during the travel period and during the landing.
- The cabin must be pressurized, and all furniture secured to handle weightlessness.
- Insulation is required to protect the craft from heat generated by friction.
Advantages of Space tourism missions:
- The materials used, and the design elements, could be incorporated in safety equipment in cars and bullet trains.
- Another set of positive consequences may be the clean-up of space debris. The Space Registration Convention of 1976 and the recent Artemis Accords suggest clearing up space debris. The presence of high net-worth tourists will add a sense of urgency.
Challenges with the entry of private players:
- Private entities tend to be focused on very specific technologies, which have visible payoffs within the foreseeable future.
- Development in many areas ranging from modern communications, and geo-location systems, to renewable energy usage, weather prediction, etc. are the result of publicly-funded national space agencies that did not look for immediate payoffs.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
G-secs: RBI unveils Retail Direct Scheme
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has announced the launch of the RBI Retail Direct scheme.
About RBI Retail Direct Scheme:
- RBI Retail Direct Scheme is a one-stop solution to facilitate investment in government securities (G-secs) by individual investors.
- Under the scheme, retail investors (individuals) will have the facility to open and maintain the ‘Retail Direct Gilt Account’ (RDG Account) with the RBI.
- A gilt Account means an account opened and maintained for holding Government securities.
- This RDG account can be opened through an online portal provided for the purpose of the scheme.
- The online portal will then allow the registered users access to primary issuance of G-secs and access to NDS-OM (Negotiated Dealing System — Order Matching (NDS-OM).
What are Government Securities (G-secs)?
- A Government Security(G-Sec) is a tradable instrument issued by the Central Government or the State Governments. It acknowledges the Government’s debt obligation.
- Such securities are short-term (usually called treasury bills, with original maturities of less than one year) or long-term (usually called Government bonds or dated securities with an original maturity of one year or more).
- In India, the Central Government issues both, treasury bills and bonds or dated securities. While the State Governments issue only bonds or dated securities which are called the State Development Loans (SDLs).
What are NDS(Negotiated Dealing System)?
- The Negotiated Dealing System or NDS is an electronic trading platform operated by the RBI to facilitate the issuing and exchange of government securities and other types of money market instruments.
- The goal was to reduce inefficiencies stemming from telephone orders and manual paperwork while increasing transparency for all market participants
UN: $200 billion increase in fund flow to developing countries for managing nature
Source: Down To Earth
What is the News?
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD) Secretariat has released the first official draft of a new Global Biodiversity Framework.
About Global Biodiversity Framework:
- The Global Biodiversity Framework will be the global guiding force to protect nature and to retain its essential services for humans from 2020 to 2030.
Goals of the Framework: The framework has four long-term goals for 2050 related to the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. Each 2050 goal has a number of corresponding milestones to be assessed in 2030:
- Goal 1: To halt the extinction and decline of biodiversity, with the rate of extinction to be reduced at least tenfold. Further the risk of species extinction to be halved and with at least 90% of genetic diversity within all species maintained.
- Goal 2: To enhance and retain nature’s services to humans by conserving.
- Goal 3: To ensure fair and equitable benefits to all from the use of genetic resources.
- Goal 4: To close the gap between available financial and other means of implementation and those necessary to achieve the 2050 Vision.
2030 action targets: The framework has 21 action-oriented targets for urgent action over the decade to 2030. Some important targets are:
- To ensure that all land and sea areas globally are under integrated biodiversity-inclusive planning.
- To ensure that at least 20% of degraded freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems are under restoration.
- To ensure that at least 30% of land areas and sea areas are effectively conserved and equitably managed.
- To ensure that the harvesting, trade, and use of wild species are sustainable, legal, and safe for human health.
- Financial commitment has to increase to at least $200 billion per year. This includes an additional $10 billion per year international financial flow to developing countries.
- To ensure a 50% or greater reduction in the rate of introduction of invasive alien species, and controls or eradication of such species to eliminate or reduce their impacts.
- Reducing nutrients lost to the environment by at least half, and pesticides by at least two-thirds, and eliminating the discharge of plastic waste.
India Aims to target over 100 Billion “Blue Economy” Through Deep Ocean Mission and Ocean Resources
What is the News?
The Union Minister of Earth Sciences has said that in the years to come, India aims to target over 100 billion “Blue Economy” through its Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) and ocean resources.
About Deep Ocean Mission:
- Deep Ocean Mission aims to explore the deep ocean for resources. Also, for sustainable use of ocean resources, it aims to develop deep-sea technologies.
- Nodal Ministry: The mission will be implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- Benefits: The mission will have far-reaching benefits for the common man. For example, it could help in providing clean drinking water and explore the avenues of desalination of water as well as extracting minerals from the ocean belt.
Research Activities of Ministry of Earth Sciences: The Ministry of Earth Sciences carries out its research & development activities under five major umbrella schemes.
- Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology (O-SMART): It was approved by the Government of India in 2018. It aims at stepping up ocean research and setting up early warning weather systems.
- The atmosphere and Climate Research – Modelling, Observing Systems and Services(ACROSS): It aims to provide reliable weather and climate forecast for the betterment of society. It also aims at improving the skill of weather and climate forecast through sustained observations, intensive R&D.
- Polar and Cryosphere Research(PACER): It aims to study various aspects relating to Polar and Cryosphere with special emphasis on the Antarctic, Arctic, Southern Ocean, and the Himalayas.
- Seismology and Geosciences(SAGE): It deals with sustaining and strengthening seismological observation systems to monitor and provide information on earthquakes and related issues.
- Research, Education, Outreach and Training(REACHOUT): It provides support to academic/research organizations in various sectors of Earth System Sciences including technology development.
Indian scientists discover new plant species in Antarctica
What is the News?
A team of Indian scientists has discovered a new plant species in Antarctica named Bryum Bharatiensis.
About Bryum Bharatiensis:
- Bryum bharatiensis is a species of moss. It was discovered by a team of researchers from the Central University of Punjab.
- Mosses are small, non-vascular flowerless plants in the taxonomic division Bryophyta. They are distributed throughout the world except in salt water and are commonly found in moist shady locations.
- Named after: The species has been named after Bharati, the Indian research station in Antarctica. The station itself was named after the Hindu goddess Bharati.
How does Moss survive in Antarctica?
- The moss predominantly grows in areas where penguins breed in large numbers.
- This is because Penguin poop has nitrogen and plants need nitrogen along with potassium, phosphorus, sunlight, and water to survive.
What about Sunlight for Mosses?
- In the six months of winter, when there is no sunlight and temperatures dip as low as -76°C, scientists still aren’t certain how mosses manage to survive under thick snow.
- They think that during the colder months, moss is likely to dry up to the point that it is almost dormant and then germinate again in September when sunlight returns. When the snow melts, the dried-up moss absorbs the water.
Significance of this discovery for India:
- In the four decades since India established its first research station in Antarctica, this is the first discovery of a plant species.
- Initially, the first station was set up in 1984, but it was abandoned in 1990 after being buried by ice. Two stations remain operational through the year – Maitri and Bharati established in 1989 and 2012 respectively.
Bihar’s Kesaria Buddha stupa waterlogged
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
Kesaria Buddha stupa in east Champaran district of Bihar is waterlogged following floods in some parts of the districts.
About Kesaria Buddha Stupa:
- Kesariya Stupa is a Buddhist stupa in Kesariya located at a distance of 110 kilometres from Patna, Bihar.
- It is regarded as the tallest and the largest Buddhist stupa in the world.
Origin of Kesariya Stupa:
- The original Kesariya stupa probably dates to the time of Ashoka (circa 250 BCE) as the remains of a capital of a Pillar of Ashoka were discovered there.
- The current stupa dates to the Gupta Dynasty between 200 AD and 750 AD and may have been associated with the 4th century ruler Raja Chakravarti.
- The local people call Kesariya stupa as “Devala”, meaning “house of god”.
- The Stupas exploration had started in the early 19th century after its discovery led by Colonel Mackenzie in 1814.
- Later, it was excavated by General Cunningham in 1861-62 and in 1998 an ASI team led by archaeologist K.K. Muhammad had excavated the site properly.
- Two great foreign travelers, Faxian (Fahien) and Xuan Zang (Hsuan Tsang) had visited this place in ancient times and have left interesting and informative accounts of their travels.
- The discovery of gold coins bearing the seal of the famous emperor Kanishka of the Kushan dynasty goes on to further establish the ancient heritage of Kesaria.
- Archeological Survey of India(ASI) has declared Kesariya Stupa as a protected monument of national importance.
NASA’s VIPER Mission to Map Water, Other Resources on Moon in 2023
What is the News?
NASA has announced the launch of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover(VIPER) Mission in 2023.
About VIPER Mission:
- VIPER Mission is a mobile robot to be launched by NASA in the year 2023.
- It will be the first resource mapping mission on any other celestial body.
- Celestial Body is any natural body outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Easy examples are the Moon, Sun, and the other planets of our solar system.
Objectives of the Mission:
- To get a closer view of the Moon’s South Pole
- To evaluate the concentration of water as well as other potential resources on its surface
- To understand if it is possible for human life to sustain there, by using locally available resources.
Significance of the Mission:
- VIPER will directly analyze water ice on the surface and subsurface of the Moon at varying depths and temperature conditions within four main soil environments.
- The data VIPER transmits back to Earth will be used to create resource maps helping scientists determine the location and concentration of water ice on the Moon.
- These findings will inform future landing sites under the Artemis Mission by helping to determine locations where water and other resources can be harvested to sustain humans over extended stays.
Planetary conjunction of Mars, Venus
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
Earth’s two immediate neighbors Mars and Venus will come closest to each other. This event is called planetary conjunction.
What is Conjunction?
- The conjunction is the name given to any event where planets or asteroids appear to be very close together in the sky when viewed from the Earth.
What is Planetary Conjunction?
- Planetary conjunction takes place when two planets appear to have come closer, while in reality, they remain far away.
What is Great Conjunction?
- Astronomers use the term great conjunction to describe meetings of the two biggest planets in the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn.
- The Great Conjunction happens once in about 20 years, because of the time each of the planets takes to orbit around the Sun.
- Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System. It is larger than only Mercury.
- In English, Mars carries the name of the Roman god of war and is often referred to as the “Red Planet”.
- It is also called the Red Planet because of the effect of the iron oxide prevalent on Mars’s surface which gives it a reddish appearance distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye.
- Venus is the second planet from the sun. It is similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth (Earth’s Twin).
- Venus has a thick and toxic atmosphere that consists primarily of carbon dioxide with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets.
Records of freedom fighters to be digitised
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
The Union Culture Minister has said that the National Archives records related to the life, struggle, and strife of our freedom fighters would be digitised within a year as a part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.
About Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav:
- Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of progressive India and the glorious history of its people, culture, and achievements.
About National Archives of India(NAI):
- National Archives of India(NAI) functions as an Attached Office of the Department of Culture under the Ministry of Culture.
- Established in: It was originally established as the Imperial Record Department in 1891 in Calcutta(Kolkata). This department was transferred to New Delhi in 1911. Later, it was shifted into the present building in 1926.
- Purpose: NAI is a custodian of the non-current records of the enduring value of the Indian Government. It holds them in trust for the use of administrators and scholars.
- Rules: NAI is the nodal agency for the implementation of the Public Records Act, 1993 and Public Record Rules,1997.
Interest rates and asset prices
Source: Business Standard
Synopsis: Relationship between interest rates and asset prices is discussed
What is an asset?
An asset is defined as follows,
- a useful thing or an item of property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value.
Interest rate is defined as
- the price one pays to borrow money or the payment one receives when one lends money.
For e.g.: When you take a loan from a bank, you are charged an interest rate that you have to pay to the bank. Similarly, if you deposit the money in a bank (or we can say, lend money to the bank), you are paid an interest rate.
Relationship b/w asset price & interest rate
Both are inversely related, i.e.
- When interest rate is low, asset prices are high, and;
- When the interest rate is high, asset prices are low.
Let us understand this with an example from bonds, as bonds also are a type of asset.
- Assume that you purchase a bond priced at 100 Rs @ 10% interest rate paid annually for 2 years, meaning the bond shall pay you a payment of 10 Rs every year for 2 years.
- Now, suppose the interest rates go up to 15% the very next day or after a few days.
- You have a friend who also purchased the bond when the interest rate was 10%. He is in need of money and offers you to buy his bond.
- Now, you’ll not buy your friend’s bond for 100 Rs. Why? because the same 100 Rs bond if bought from the open market is giving a 15% interest rate while your friend’s bond is still priced at 10% only. So, you make an offer to your friend that you’ll purchase his bond at 80 Rs.
- Though hesitant, your friend, who is in desperate need of money, accepts your offer.
- Hence, as you can see now, with an increase in interest rate, the bond price went down.
|Also Read: Monetary policy – Everything you need to know|
Strengthening export linkage of Farmer Cooperatives & FPOs
What is the news?
APEDA and NAFED have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for harnessing the export potential of agricultural and processed food products of cooperatives as well as Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs).
Key points of MoU
- The key areas of cooperation include facilitating APEDA registered exporters getting assistance under all the Govt. of India schemes implemented through NAFED.
- The MoU also envisages ensuring sustainability and growth of exports by Cooperatives by addressing issues such as technology, skill, quality products and market access.
- APEDA and NAFED will also facilitate participation of Farmers’ Cooperatives in global trade, including B2B & B2C fairs to be organized in India and abroad. It will also mutually cooperate in international business development & promotions.
- Providing assistance towards capacity building of Cooperative Societies, Self-Help Groups (SHGs) for their social & environmental compliance and skilling as per international standards.
- Both the organisations would organize awareness programs Skill Development Programmes and Workshops at Regional, State and National levels.
- Both organizations will work towards sustainable Cluster development of the clusters in various States notified under the Agri Export policy.
|Also Read: Agricultural Exports- India’s potential, initiatives, challenges and solutions|
Terms to know: