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.
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
GS Paper 2
- Abolish the law
- B3W – An alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative
- India needs a renewed health-care system
GS Paper 3
- Fuel price surge: What India can learn from Biden and Sunak’s tax policies
- Curbs on foreign card firms
- Why the Amazon forests are no longer acting as a carbon sink
- Can state immunity be invoked in Cairn Energy case?
- Do Tigers Have a Right to Privacy? Yes: Uttarakhand keeping wildlife reserves always open is problematic at many levels
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Bail orders will be sent instantly to jail authorities: SC
- Don’t seek surrender of those on interim bail: SC
- Union Agriculture Minister launched Kisan Sarathi to Support Farmers At Local Level
- Ministry clears rules for vintage cars
- Explained: India’s Afghanistan investment
- Explained: The ‘re-wilding’ of wild animals, and the challenges it involves
- Union Power Minister releases 9th Integrated Ratings of State Power Distribution utilities and Rankings
- Prehistoric site in Faridabad could be a lakh year old, say archeologists
- IHC: Changes mooted in NCERT textbooks biased
- Union Power Minister inaugurates “Aiming for Sustainable Habitat: New Initiatives in Building Energy Efficiency 2021”
- Astronomers from VASCO detect nine star-like objects
- E-classes leading to learning gaps in higher education: Survey
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
Source: Times of India
Gs1:Culture and Heritage in India
Relevance: Culture and heritage should be given importance in government policies. Presently, it is being neglected.
Synopsis: India is a great civilization. But no government makes institutional investments for protecting its heritage.
Status of priority to culture and Heritage in India
- Successive governments in India have given neglected culture
- One, Cabinet does not involve a full-time minister of culture.
- Two, persons that do not have any specialized knowledge of culture are being posted as ministers.
- Three, governments have also invariably clubbed culture with another portfolio. More preferably, with the Tourism ministry.
- Four, it is overrun by bureaucrats who rarely know anything about culture, and most consider it a punishment posting.
- Inadequate Budget
- One, the ministry of culture (MoC) is inadequately budgeted, and even the meager amount allocated is not fully spent.
- For instance, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Culture pointed out that in 2010-11, the actual expenditure by the MoC as a percentage of the GDP was as low as 0.017%.
- Institutions like the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, which are meant to propagate Indian culture abroad, have little or no money beyond what is required for fixed costs.
- Vacancies: As of March 31, last year, 262 out of 878 posts in the Akademies were lying vacant.
Consequences of ignoring Culture
When culture is not institutionally invested in, it has two unfortunate consequences.
- The first is cultural indifference, leading to a lack of interest in our own heritage.
- One manifestation of this is the loss of balance between popular and classical culture.
- For instance, in our country, even the finest classical dancers, who represent a tradition refined over thousands of years, find it difficult to fill an auditorium, even when the performance is free.
- The second consequence is cultural xenophobia based on cultural illiteracy. When people don’t know enough about their own culture, they are easily swayed towards unwarranted cultural militancy to compensate for their lack of knowledge.
- There are other indirect consequences.
- Today, the land of the Natyashastra, Ajanta, and the ateliers of the Mughals, has no world-class galleries.
- There are only a few curators, shabby art auditoriums, neglected museums, crumbling monuments,
- Further, there are almost no serious discussion on art and culture, and worst of all, no committed audiences.
- Artists of great talent languish in neglect, deprivation, or even penury.
How other countries are investing in Culture?
- China has built over 150 modern galleries in Beijing, along with an art district. Additionally, the Chinese have invested in over 100 museums created to world standards.
- Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines are investing in a dozen state-of-the-art museums each.
- Hong Kong has devised a new cultural plan worth several billion dollars.
- The UAE has earmarked over $30 billion for museums and art programs
GS Paper 2
Syllabus: GS 2 – Structure, Organization, and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
The recent petitions in SC may set the tone for what would be a comprehensive reconsideration of a section that has been frequently and wrongfully used.
- Four petitions are currently in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the sedition law; the latest was filed by the PUCL on July 16.
- In wake of this, the Supreme Court has questioned the government, ‘Why does Section 124A continue in the statute book even after 75 years of independence?’
Why should it be abolished?
- It is misused for settling political scores, curbing free speech (article 19), and press freedom. It is a convenient tool for under-performing governments to use against critics.
- The Uttar Pradesh government filed sedition cases against journalists for merely tweeting that a farm protestor had died in police firing, while the autopsy later indicated he had likely died in an accident.
- In Haryana, a hundred agitating farmers have been charged with sedition for attacking and vandalising government vehicles, particularly the one carrying Assembly Deputy Speaker Ranbir Singh Gangwa in Sirsa.
- It is driven by colonial tendencies, which were useful for Britishers to curb the freedom movement. However, such laws have no place in a democracy where citizens are the real sovereign.
- The recent reports show that the number of cases of sedition under Section 124A increased by 160%. Whereas the rate of conviction dropped to 3.3% in 2019 from 33.3% in 2016.
- The Kedarnath Judgment laid down an ambiguous test, where the speech is measured on the parameter of its “tendency” to result in public disorder. However, it does not clarify how the tendency of a speech was to be gauged. This leads to even higher misuse.
- The U.K. abolished the offense of sedition in 2010. Whereas, India is still retaining the law given by the British Empire.
- Similarly, in Australia also, following the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) the term sedition was removed and replaced with references to ‘urging violence offenses’.
- In 2018, the Law Commission of India questioned how far it is justified to retain Section 124A. It suggested a cautious reconsideration of the section or complete repeal.
- The recent petitions in SC may set the tone for what would be a comprehensive reconsideration of a section that has been frequently and wrongfully used.
- For instance, subjecting sedition to the Brandenburg standard would answer the problems emanating from the 1962 test.
- It calls for expressions to be penalised only where there is incitement to “imminent lawless action”.
- It is the ultimate standard to protect speech and has already been adopted as the threshold for upholding the right to free expression by the SC in Indra Das (2011) and Shreya Singhal (2015).
- Similarly, the government can use tough IPC sections against rioting, obstructing public servants on duty, etc. instead of sedition.
- While issuing fresh guidelines and safeguards is one way of quelling the potential for its misuse, it will be more helpful if Section 124A is struck down altogether.
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations (IR)
Relevance: Countering China’s growing influence in developing and low income countries.
Synopsis: It is an analysis of G7’s counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
G-7 leaders have proposed Build Back Better World (B3W) to counter China’s rising influence across 100-plus countries through Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. BRI projects are perceived as debt traps laid by China for its strategic dominance in trade, foreign policy and geopolitics in the world.
What is B3W?
The proposal, though at an early stage, aims to address the infrastructure investment deficit in developing and lower income countries. China has capitalized on this gap through its 2,600 BRI projects with trillions of dollars of investment.
Why countering BRI is necessary?
- The BRI projects broadly aim to facilitate cross-border transportation of goods, access to energy, creating demand for existing excess capacity in Chinese industries.
- The overall focus is on developing transportation, logistics, and communications, which would reduce trade and transaction costs for China’s trade. It gives more market access to Chinese markets and ensures a stable supply of energy and other resources.
- China has also tried to rope in more countries and raised the acceptance level of BRI over time through the BRI summit, Boao Forum for Asia, China-Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), Belt and Road Forum, etc
Many countries, including India, would see an adverse trade impact on their products’ competitiveness, market access, resource extraction etc. due to Chinese competition.
Hence, countering China’s BRI via international projects like B3W is a necessity.
Major projects under BRI
China’s true motives behind investment in BRI projects are a China-centric international economic integration, production networks, hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region, and, eventually, the global economy. It is clear from the pattern and the amount of investment in BRI projects.
Aggressive FDI by China: Since the inception of the BRI in 2013, there was a sudden rise in infrastructure investment in BRI projects compared to investment in non-BRI projects.
- Investment in Africa: China is investing in Africa to lay a comprehensive transportation network. It has strategically made Kenya the African hub and plans to connect it with other land-locked countries in the region, including Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, etc.
- Central, South and West Asia is China’s second preferred region under the BRI. 80% contracts are concentrated in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Iran and Kazakhstan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Bangladesh-China, India, the Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM) and the Colombo Port City Project in Sri Lanka, amongst others, are important BRI projects.
- BCIM is one of the corridors of the Belt and Road project. It aims to connect China’s eastern city of Kunming with India’s Kolkata through Dhaka in Bangladesh and Mandalay in Myanmar.
- Central Asia: China has a plan to complete 4,000 km of railways and 10,000 km of highways within the Central Asian region as part of BRI.
- East Asia: Since the launch of BRI, China has signed various contacts worth $90 billion with the East Asian region. The biggest contracts have been with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Laos.
- Europe: Major projects include a freight train project from Ukraine to Kazakhstan through Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and, eventually, China, covering a distance of 5,475 km. The Greek port Pireaus, the China-Belarus Industrial Park, and the Green Ecological Silk Road Investment Fund are other major projects.
B3W lacks coherent thoughts and proper planning at this stage. Nevertheless, it is better late than never. Moreover, it remains to be seen what role India will play in B3W since it has been a strong opponent of China’s BRI.
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Relevance: Public health must be reformed to meet the post-pandemic medical needs.
India needs to focus on the core lessons from the pandemic and rebuild trust in public health.
The pandemic and the vulnerability of the public health system:
For any population, the availability of functional public health systems is literally a question of life and death. This is evident by comparing two States which currently have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in India — Maharashtra and Kerala.
- Their per capita gross state domestic product (GSDP), reflecting the overall economic situation in each State, is similar.
- However, their COVID-19 case fatality rates are hugely different — this being 0.48% for Kerala and 2.04% for Maharashtra. This simply means that a COVID-19 patient in Maharashtra has been over four times more likely to die when compared to one in Kerala.
How public health system fared against the Pandemic?
- A major reason for such critical divergence between states is likely to be the huge differences in the effectiveness of public health systems.
- Despite Maharashtra having a large private healthcare sector, its weak public health system has proved to be a critical deficiency.
- In contrast, robust government healthcare services in Kerala have translated into: a more effective outreach, timely testing, early case detection and more rational treatment for COVID patients, which all together reduce fatality rates.
- Large scale misuse in the private sector: Massive hospital bills have caused untold distress even among the middle class; COVID-19 care often costs ₹1 lakh to ₹3 lakh per week in large private hospitals. The ‘Remdesivir panic’ was significantly linked with major overuse of this medicine by unregulated private hospitals, despite the drug lacking efficacy to reduce COVID-19 mortality.
- The central government is yet to take necessary steps to promote the implementation of the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act (CEA).
- The Act was passed in 2010 and presently applicable to 11 States across India. But this Act is not effectively implemented due to a major delay in notification of central minimum standards, and failure to develop the central framework for the regulation of rates.
Lesson learnt during the pandemic:
- Neglect of public health systems can mean large-scale, avoidable losses of lives; hence, public health services must be upgraded rapidly and massively as a topmost priority.
- The government need to regulate rates and standards of care in the private sector and implement the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act (CEA) in letter and spirit.
- A logical corollary of the first two lessons is that health services should not be further privatised.
- Parliamentary Standing Committee recommended that for reaching National Health Policy targets, the Government must allocate ₹1.6-lakh crore for public health during the current year. This is double the amount of the present central health Budget.
- A logical corollary of the lessons is that health services should not be further privatised. But the NITI Aayog’s recently published document, ‘Investment Opportunities in India’s Healthcare Sector’ advocate further privatisation.
- It is critical to rebuild people’s trust in public health systems. This would help in overcoming COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy while strengthening the promotion of healthy behaviours necessary to deal with the current wave of COVID-19 and prevent a third wave.
Terms to know:
GS Paper 3
Source: Business Standard
GS-3:Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development, and Employment.
Relevance – The article highlights the options that government can use instead of increasing oil prices.
Synopsis: Government should tax the rich to find alternate avenues to raise public resources. When the times change, the policy has to adapt
- Even when the second OPEC-driven oil shock sent international oil prices past $30 per barrel in 1980, India’s petrol price was raised by Rs 5.10 per liter.
- It was no different in 2014. International oil prices had crossed $100, but India’s petrol price was a little over Rs 70.
- It is the opposite today, only because excise on petrol has been trebled per liter, and that on diesel multiplied six-fold.
- Central revenue from taxing petroleum products has multiplied more than five-fold in these last seven years. But there is a danger to such single-source revenue dependency.
Why India should find other avenues to raise revenue resources?
- First, the tax to GDP ratio is decreasing. This year’s central tax revenues were 9.9 percent of GDP. Before 2014, it was 10.1 percent.
- Second, by 2022, the states will run out of their five years of guaranteed 14 percent annual GST revenue increase. Rates have to be rationalized, and the average GST rate has to be raised closer to the originally intended level as soon as the current slump is over. This will result in decreased revenue resources in the near future.
What needs to be done?
- India can learn from the experience of Joe Biden in the US and Rishi Sunak, Britain’s finance minister. Both have taxes that are progressive in that they hit the rich, not the poor
- For instance, Biden has proposed to double the tax rate on capital gains, increase the income tax rate for the top tier, and raise corporate taxes.
- Sunak too has said he will raise corporate tax rates after the immediate economic slump is dealt with.
- Both Mr. Biden and Mr. Sunak have reversed the trend in their countries of steadily lowering rates.
It is the logical and indeed the obvious thing to do in India. There is no other way to address the tax-GDP ratio and find the money needed urgently for defense, health, education, and infrastructure. Even more, borrowing would push up interest rates and will take the level of public debt to dangerous levels.
Source: Indian Express
GS 3: Money and Banking in India.
Relevance – Data localization is being taken seriously in India. Aspirants must have knowledge of all aspects linked to it.
Synopsis: Recently, the Reserve Bank of India has barred three foreign card payment network companies (Mastercard, American Express, and Diners Club) from taking new customers on board over the issue of storing data in India.
- The RBI has stated that the payment systems need closer monitoring in the wake of the rising use of digital transactions.
- According to RBI data, there were 90.23 crore debit cards and 6.23 crore credit cards in India as of May 2021.
- As per the RBI circular on Storage of Payment System Data 2018, all system providers were directed to ensure that within six months the entire data relating to payment systems operated by them is stored in a system only in India.
- They were also required to report compliance to the RBI.
Meaning and Implication of this move of RBI:
- Non-compliance behind barring these companies from enrolling new customers:
- On July 14, the RBI imposed restrictions on Mastercard Asia Pacific from onboarding new domestic customers in India from July 22.
- It cited non-compliance with guidelines for the storage of data in India.
- The RBI said it had given almost three years for Mastercard to comply with the regulatory directions.
- Stakeholders affected by this move:
- Existing customers will not be affected, and they can continue using these cards.
- However, banks and non-banking finance companies that were planning to use these payment networks won’t be able to use these platforms to enroll new customers until the RBI lifts the ban.
- This leaves only Visa Inc and homegrown NPCI’s RuPay as payment providers under no restrictions.
- In the near term, there will be no impact on card issuers, but there could be a medium-term impact if this situation persists.
- Banks that were planning for new customers through Mastercard will have to look at Visa for enrollment.
Source – The Indian Express
Syllabus – GS 3 – Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Relevance – It can be major development because Amazon is the biggest rainforest and should have been the biggest source of oxygen as well.
Synopsis – The Amazon forest goes from absorbing carbon dioxide to emitting it. The emissions are produced by fires, higher temperatures, and climate change, resulting in the south-eastern Amazon becoming a source of CO2, rather than a sink.
- According to a recent study, portions of the Amazon rainforest are now emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb, a troubling sign for the fight against climate change.
- The Amazon region, has served as an important absorber of carbon dioxide. The changing weather patterns have reduced its effectiveness as a climate change buffer, and the conditions are pushed even more by deforestation, burning and global warming.
The Amazon basin-
- The basin covers over 6 million square km, nearly twice the size of India.
- The Amazon rainforests occupy over 80% of the basin and are home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and about 30 million people including hundreds of indigenous groups and many isolated tribes.
- The basin produces about 20% of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans
What are the reasons for Amazon region for not being able to absorb as much CO2 as it did?
According to a study published in the journal Nature, substantial deforestation in the eastern and southeastern regions has turned the forest into a source of CO2 that has the ability to warm the planet.
- First, Deforestation and rapid warming trend have contributed to change in the carbon balance. It is most severe in the southeastern region of the Amazon, where there are both rising temperatures and reduced rainfall in the dry season.
- Scientist have observed the following changes-
- 25 percent reduction in precipitation.
- The southeastern regions have warmed by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit during the dry season.
- Scientist have observed the following changes-
- Second, Conversion of forests into agricultural land –
- This has caused a 17 per cent decrease in the forest cover, an area that is almost the size of continental US.
- Third, Forest fires – In the region, the farmers burn their field to clear it for the next crop. Since 2013, the number of fires has doubled [In 2019, fires in the Amazon regions were visible from space].
- The Amazon is on the verge of functional destruction; not just the Amazon rainforests, but other Southeast Asian forests have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of formation of plantations and fires.
- If tropical forests’ potential to operate as carbon sinks is to be preserved, fossil fuel emissions must be controlled, and temperature rises must be restricted
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy
Relevance: This article highlights options before India in the Cairn energy case.
Synopsis: State immunity can be invoked to resist the seizure of sovereign assets, but not commercial properties. Besides, fighting the case will consume an enormous amount of resources and attract bad press.
A French court recently authorized Cairn Energy to attach Indian assets in France. Cairn Energy has been attempting to seize Indian assets in several jurisdictions to recover $1.7 billion due from India.
|Also Read: Cairns energy issue and other such disputes – Explained, pointwise|
- The attaching of Indian assets in France is a terrible advertisement for India at a time when it wishes to project itself as a prime destination for foreign investment.
- This episode puts India in the league of countries like Pakistan, Congo, Venezuela, Russia, and Argentina. These countries have been part of attachment proceedings overseas due to their failure to comply with international arbitral awards.
State immunity – a possible solution?
State immunity is a well-recognized doctrine in international law which safeguards a state and its property against the jurisdiction of another country’s domestic courts.
- This covers immunity from both jurisdiction and execution.
- Despite the universal acceptance of this doctrine, there is no international legal instrument in force administering its implementation in municipal legal systems of different countries.
- Attempts are underway to create binding international law on the application of the rules of state immunity, such as the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property (UNSCI). However, this convention is yet to be ratified by 30 countries — the minimum number required to bring it in force, as per Article 30 (1) of UNSCI.
- India has signed the convention, but not ratified it.
Absolute immunity & Restrictive immunity
Over the years, the doctrine of state immunity has progressed from absolute immunity (immunity from any foreign proceedings unless the state gives its consent) to restrictive immunity (immunity only for the sovereign functions of the state).
- By and large, most prominent jurisdictions follow the concept of restrictive immunity. In the context of the execution of the investment treaty arbitration awards, it implies that state property that serves sovereign functions — such as property of the diplomatic missions, central bank assets, etc. — cannot be attached.
- However, properties serving commercial functions are available for seizure.
- But, in practice, it is not always easy to draw an exact line dividing the two types of property.
The absence of an international legal instrument results in countries dealing with questions of immunity through national legislations and domestic judicial practices. In many countries, the judiciary deals with issues of state immunity. This means that certain jurisdictions are perceived as favorable over others when it comes to the execution of investment treaty arbitration awards. This encourages “forum shopping”, where foreign investors approach countries where the possibility of executing the award is higher.
Air India – a potential target
In the case of India, the most popular commercial property that foreign investors would target for attachment are the global assets of India’s public sector undertakings such as Air India.
- To attach the assets of these PSUs, it would have to be shown that these companies are nothing but the “alter ego” of the Indian state.
India needs to carefully study the laws on state immunity in different jurisdictions where attachment proceedings are likely to come up. However, in the absence of state immunity for commercial properties, a better option would be to admit that amending the tax law retrospectively was a mistake that resulted in the international ruling and international embarrassment.
Do Tigers Have a Right to Privacy? Yes: Uttarakhand keeping wildlife reserves always open is problematic at many levels
Source: Times of India
Syllabus: GS 3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Relevance: The time has come to grant the right to privacy to animals.
The Uttarakhand government has decided to keep the Jim Corbett National Park and the Rajaji Tiger Reserve open all year round to boost tourism. This raises an important question, has the time come to grant the right to privacy to animals.
About the Right to privacy for animals:
This right has not been recognised anywhere in any Constitution or any law in the world. Further, there isn’t even an international agreement or convention that ensures the welfare and protection of animals.
- In India, humans’ right to privacy was famously recognised in the case of Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union Of India in 2018.
- But in the case of Animal Welfare Board of India vs A Nagaraja & Ors, the court held that animals too have the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The issue is whether by recognising the existence of a right to life for animals under Article 21, it implicitly held that this includes the right to privacy as well.
Constitutional provisions that might lead to right to privacy for animals:
- Article 48A directs the State to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife of the country.
- Article 51(g) casts a fundamental duty on every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
- Similarly, Article 51-A(h) says that it shall be the duty of every citizen to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
These articles read with the principles developed in Animal Welfare Board of India vs A Nagaraja & Ors, lead to the inference that animal species too have the right to privacy.
Why does India need the right to privacy for animals?
The right to privacy for animals is vital to the central purpose of a national park or forest reserve.
- Constant intrusion, as legal scholar Ewa Haratym rightly observed, can create suicidal behaviour in animals or even make them kill their partners or offspring so as to create new private spheres. This defeats the purpose of saving animals.
- Animals perform some functions alone and some functions within their community. For some functions like procreation, delivering an offspring or dying, animals need absolute privacy.
- Wildlife is more vigilant near human disturbance. That results in decreased forage intake and reduced reproductive success. So, filming animals or human presence erodes their privacy.
- For instance, studies have shown when cows showed greater fear of humans, milk yield was low. Similarly, in poultry, high fear of humans was associated with reduced egg production, growth and product quality.
So, year-long tourism will therefore likely have a substantial negative impact on wildlife in Corbett and Rajaji reserves. It is time for the government to partly respect animals’ right to privacy.
Terms to know:
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Source: The Hindu
What is the news?
The Chief Justice of India (CJI) announced the rollout of a new scheme called FASTER. It will ensure the timely release of prisoners from jail and uphold their dignity.
- The Chief Justice of India announced the rollout of a new scheme called FASTER to cut delay in the release of convicts after the grant of bail in a case.
- It stands for ‘Fast and Secure Transmission of Electronic Records’.
- It would enable the Supreme Court (SC) to instantly, directly, securely, and electronically transmit bail and other orders to jail authorities, district courts, and High Courts.
Need for the FASTER scheme:
- People given bail have to wait for days before prison authorities release them.
- Recently, 13 prisoners in Agra Jail were granted bail by the Supreme Court on July 8 but were released by the prison authorities after a delay of four days.
- Similarly, Pinjra Tod activists walked out of Tihar Jail nearly two days after the Delhi High Court granted them bail.
- The prison authorities insist on receiving the “authentic” hard copy of the bail order, regardless of the fact that personal liberty and dignity are jeopardized due to delays.
- The Bench asked State governments to file their reports about the Internet connectivity in their jails to prevent technical glitches in the future.
- The Secretary-General of the Supreme Court was directed to submit a comprehensive report formulating the scheme within two weeks.
Source: The Hindu
What is the news?
The Supreme Court directed the states to not ask for the surrender of prisoners released on interim bail during the second wave. The order aims to keep prisons decongested during the pandemic, thereby upholding the right to life of prisoners and police personnel working in them.
- A special bench of the SC ordered the States to not ask for the surrender of prisoners released on interim bail during the second wave of the pandemic. They shouldn’t be released until further orders.
- The order would help in keeping prisons decongested and augment health conditions of prisoners and police personnel working in them. This would also uphold their right to life granted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- The Supreme Court has played a proactive role in protecting the rights of prisoners during the second wave, as evident from its May 2021 directives.
May 2021 directives by Supreme Court:
- In early May, the court turned a humanitarian eye to the over four lakh prison population trapped inside overcrowded jails. It observed that some prisons in India are overburdened and were housing inmates beyond optimal capacity.
- The ‘High-Powered Committees’ constituted in most States and Union Territories were ordered to screen prisoners and release them on interim bail.
- The SC directed the police to limit arrests during the pandemic to prevent overcrowding of jails.
- It also urged magistrates to not order detention in a mechanical manner in cases involving the punishment of less or up to seven years’ imprisonment.
- The order had also taken into consideration those released on interim bail in the first wave of the pandemic in 2020.
- The court had ordered them to be freed immediately, as 90% of inmates released last year had returned to their prisons in February and March 2021.
- The court had also taken into consideration the plight of prisoners too scared to return home, though eligible for release on interim bail or parole. They didn’t want to return owing to their social circumstances or simply because they were afraid to get infected with COVID-19 in the outside world.
- In such cases, the court ordered proper medical facilities, immediate treatment and regular tests for both inmates and jail staff. It said maintenance of daily hygiene in prisons should be put at a premium.
The recent order is a testimony to the fact that the judiciary is prudently playing its role of being the guardian and protector of the fundamental rights of every citizen.
What is the News?
The Union Agriculture Minister along with the Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology has launched Kisan Sarathi App.
Note: The app was launched on the occasion of 93rd Foundation Day of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research(ICAR).
About Kisan Sarathi App:
- Kisan Sarathi is a digital platform launched in order to facilitate farmers to get ‘right information at right time’ in their desired language.
- The app will facilitate officials to monitor daily activities like farmer registration, live calls, messages, advisories given and pending.
- Moreover, the app is also supposed to let farmers interact with personalised advisors directly from the scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs).
- ICAR is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
- Mandate: The Council is the apex body for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country.
- President: Union Minister of Agriculture serves as its president.
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
The Ministry of Law has approved the Draft Vintage Cars Policy. The policy seeks to amend the Central Motor Vehicle Rules,1989. The rules will soon be notified by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Key Features of the Policy:
Definition of Vintage Cars:
- The policy defined Vintage Motor Vehicles as all those vehicles that are two-wheelers and four-wheelers and are more than 50 years old from the date of their first registration. Further, the Vehicle should not have undergone any substantial overhaul.
Registration of Vintage Cars:
- Vehicles that already carry a registration number would be allowed to retain it.
- However, vintage cars that are registered afresh, such as those that are imported into the country, would be assigned an identifier “VA” in the registration number.
- The fees for a new registration would be ₹20,000 and subsequent re-registration would cost ₹5,000.
- Moreover, all vintage vehicles would also be exempted from the provisions of the High-Security Registration Plate recently made mandatory by the government.
Use of Vintage Cars:
- Vintage vehicles would neither be permitted on the road for regular purposes nor would they be used for commercial purposes. They would be allowed only during exhibitions.
Sale of Vintage Cars:
- The sale and purchase of registered vintage vehicles are permissible, provided the buyer and seller inform respective State Transport Authorities.
Source: Indian Express
What is the News?
Taliban’s possible takeover in Afghanistan threatens not just India’s diplomatic stakes in Afghanistan, but also 20 years and $3 billion worth of Indian investment in various projects — dams, roads, trade infrastructure.
India’s Investment in Afghanistan:
- India has built vital roads, dams, electricity transmission lines and substations, schools, and hospitals among others in Afghanistan.
- India’s development assistance is now estimated to be worth well over $3 billion.
- The 2011 India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement recommitted Indian assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions.
- India-Afghanistan Bilateral trade has grown with the establishment in 2017 of an air freight corridor. In 2019-20, bilateral trade crossed $1.3 billion.
- The balance of trade is heavily tilted towards India, as exports from India are worth approximately $900 million, while Afghanistan’s exports to India are about $500 million.
- Afghan exports are mainly fresh and dried fruit. Some of this comes overland through the Wagah border and through two air corridors — Kabul-Delhi and Herat-Delhi.
- However, trade through Chabahar which was started in 2017 is restricted now due to absence of connectivity from the port to the Afghan border.
India’s Projects in Afghanistan:
- Salma Dam: It is a dam located on the Hari River in Herat Province in Afghanistan. Since this dam was constructed by the Government of India, the Afghan cabinet has renamed the Salma Dam as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam.
- Zaranj-Delaram highway: It is a 218 km Highway built by India’s Border Roads Organisation. Zaranj is located close to Afghanistan’s border with Iran.
- Parliament: The Afghan Parliament in Kabul was built by India at $90 million. It was opened in 2015.
- Stor Palace: In 2016, Afghan President and Indian Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the restored Stor Palace in Kabul, originally built in the late 19th century. The palace was the setting for the 1919 Rawalpindi Agreement by which Afghanistan became an independent country.
- Shahtoot Dam: It is a proposed dam to be built by India in the Kabul river basin in Afghanistan. The dam would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents of Kabul.
- India also pledged $1 million for the Aga Khan heritage project and for the restoration of the Bala Hisar Fort in south Kabul.
- Bala Hisar Fort’s origin goes back to the 6th century. The fort was a significant Mughal fort, parts of it were rebuilt by Jahangir, and it was used as a residence by Shah Jahan.
Source: Indian Express
What is the News?
The Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) is trying to reintroduce an abandoned nine-month-old cub into the wild, after rearing it in ‘captivity’ for two years. This issue has once again brought the controversial concept of ‘re-wilding’ of abandoned or injured animals under the lens.
What is ‘Re-wilding’?
- The Standard Operating Guidelines laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) under Section 38(O) of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 provide three ways to deal with orphaned or abandoned tiger cubs:
- The first is to make an effort to reunite the abandoned cubs with their mother.
- Second, if a reunion of the cub with its mother is not possible, then shift the cub to a suitable zoo.
- Third, reintroduction of the cub into the wild after a certain time when it appears that the cub is capable of surviving in the wild independently. This is what is known as ‘Re-wilding’.
Challenges with re-wilding:
- The process of re-wilding of a wild animal after rearing it in captivity is very complicated and fraught with risks.
- For example, there have been cases of captivity-reared animals, especially carnivores, attacking human beings after being introduced in the wild.
- Huge funds are needed for constructing large, well-fenced enclosures, for the equipment required for technical surveillance of the animal.
- The authorities have to keep tabs on the overall movement of a released animal till the end, which needs a lot of resources and manpower.
Is the concept of re-wilding limited to big cats like tigers and leopards?
- Rewilding is not limited to cats. There have been efforts to reintroduce other endangered species into the wild after rearing them in captivity.
- For Example: Bombay Natural History Society(BNHS) in collaboration with the Haryana Forest and Wildlife Department has been running a vulture conservation centre named ‘Jatayu’.
- Under this, several pairs of endangered gyps species, including the white-backed, the long-billed, and the slender-billed have been successfully introduced into the wild.
Union Power Minister releases 9th Integrated Ratings of State Power Distribution utilities and Rankings
What is the News?
The Union Minister of Power has released 9th Integrated Ratings for State Power Distribution Utilities.
About Integrated Ratings for State Power Distribution Utilities:
- The Ministry of Power had formulated an Integrated Rating exercise in 2012. It evaluates the performance of State Power Distribution utilities on a range of parameters covering operational, financial, regulatory and reform parameters.
- The rating exercise is carried out on an annual basis and presently covers 41 state distribution utilities spread across 22 states.
- State Power/ Energy Departments and private sector distribution utilities are however not covered under the integrated rating exercise
- Nodal Agencies: ICRA and CARE are the designated credit rating agencies that carry out this exercise.
- Co-ordinations agency: Power Finance Corporation(PFC) has been mandated to coordinate with the utilities, rating agencies & Ministry of Power(MoP) during the rating exercise.
- The five state distribution utilities of Gujarat and Haryana have topped the Integrated Ratings for State Power Distribution Utilities.
- The losses of state-owned electricity distribution companies (discoms) have dropped by more than a third to ₹38,000 crores in FY20 from ₹61,360 crores in FY19.
- The gap between the cost of electricity bought (ACS, or average cost of supply) and supplied (ARR, or average realizable revenue) has also come down.
Scheme Mentioned in the Article:
- The scheme aims to improve the operational efficiencies and financial sustainability of all State DISCOMs/ Power Department in this regard.
- The Scheme envisages providing financial assistance to DISCOMs for strengthening and modernizing the supply infrastructure.
- States may also access funds under the scheme for strengthening their Distribution systems.
Source: Indian Express
What is the News?
Archaeologists in Haryana have estimated that cave paintings discovered at a prehistoric site in Faridabad’s Mangar Bani hill forest may be up to lakh years old.
What did the Archeologists discover?
- Archaeologists have discovered cave paintings at a prehistoric site in Faridabad’s Mangar Bani hill forest.
- They believe that these paintings belong to the Upper Palaeolithic age, which could potentially make them one of the oldest cave arts in the country.
Significance of this discovery:
- This is the first time that a prehistoric site with cave paintings and rock art of a large magnitude has been found in Haryana.
- However, tools from the Palaeolithic age have been identified earlier in parts of the Aravallis.
- Moreover, the latest discovery will take the history of Haryana further back in time.
Facts Mentioned in the Article:
About Palaeolithic Age:
- Palaeolithic is derived from the Greek word ‘palaeo’, which means old and ‘lithic’ meaning stone.Therefore, the term Palaeolithic age refers to the old Stone Age.
- Palaeolithic age in India is divided into three phases: Early or Lower Palaeolithic (50,0000 – 100,000 BC), Middle Palaeolithic(100,000 – 40,000 BC) and Upper Palaeolithic (40,000 – 10,000 BC).
About Radiocarbon Dating:
- Radiocarbon dating is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon.
- The basis of radiocarbon dating is simple: all living things absorb carbon from the atmosphere and food sources around them, including a certain amount of natural, radioactive carbon-14.
- When the plant or animal dies, they stop absorbing, but the radioactive carbon that they’ve accumulated continues to decay.
- Hence, measuring the amount leftover gives an estimate as to how long something has been dead.
What is the News?
Indian History Congress(IHC) has objected to rewriting the history textbooks in the National Council of Educational Research and Training(NCERT) school textbooks.
What is the issue?
- The Rajya Sabha secretariat had released a circular saying that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on education would discuss changes in the NCERT’s textbooks and curriculum and consider reforms with a focus on:
- removing references to “un-historical facts and distortions about national heroes;
- ensuring equal or proportionate references to all periods of Indian history and
- highlight the role of great historic women heroes.
What has the IHC said?
- Indian History Congress(IHC) has said that the reasons cited for the proposed change in NCERTs are unfounded.
- The claim that there are ‘unhistorical facts and distortions’ with regard to national heroes is completely false.
- Further, the claim regarding the lack of equal space accorded to various periods of Indian history is not true.
- Hence, these changes are not being done for ‘academic’ reasons. But instead, the changes are being made for ‘political reasons.
Indian History Congress(IHC):
- IHC was founded in 1935. It is the largest association of professional historians in South Asia.
- Origin: The lead to establish IHC was taken by Poona historians during the period of British colonial rule. The first session took place in Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal, Poona in 1935.
- Mandate: Its main objective is to promote secular and scientific writing of history. It also has been holding its sessions very regularly.
Union Power Minister inaugurates “Aiming for Sustainable Habitat: New Initiatives in Building Energy Efficiency 2021”
What is the News?
The Union Minister of Power inaugurates “Aiming for Sustainable Habitat: New Initiatives in Building Energy Efficiency 2021” as part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav’.
Note: Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav is the Government’s endeavour to commemorate India’s 75th anniversary of Independence. The commemorations will include 75 events for 75 weeks by the Ministry of Power.
About Aiming for Sustainable Habitat: New Initiatives in Building Energy Efficiency 2021:
- New Initiatives in the Building Sector have been launched by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency(BEE).
- This is because the building sector is the second-largest consumer of electricity after industry. It is expected to become the largest energy consuming sector by 2030.
- Hence, for realizing its importance, the Government is focusing on improving energy efficiency across the building sector.
What are the initiatives launched? The initiatives which were launched includes:
- Eco Niwas Samhita 2021: It specifies code compliance approaches and minimum energy performance requirements for building services.
- Handbook of Replicable Designs for Energy Efficient Residential Buildings: It is a web-based learning tool that can be used to create a pool of ready-to-use resources of replicable designs to construct energy-efficient homes in India.
- Online Directory of Building Materials: It would envisage the process of establishing standards for energy-efficient building materials.
- NEERMAN (National Energy Efficiency Roadmap for Movement towards Affordable & Natural Habitat) Awards: It was launched with the goal of encouraging exceptionally efficient building designs complying with BEE’s Energy Conservation Building Codes.
- Online Star Rating tool for Energy Efficient Homes: It was created to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption in individual homes.
- Training of over 15,000 Architects, Engineers, and Government officials on Energy Conservation Building Code(ECBC) 2017 and Eco Niwas Samhita(ENS) 2021.
What is the news?
A study by an international collaboration of astronomers (VASCO project) has identified an occurrence of nine stars like objects that appeared and vanished in a small region within half an hour in an old photographic plate.
- Astronomers collaborating across countries track vanishing and appearing celestial objects by comparing old images of the night sky with new, register unnatural phenomena. It facilitates a probe into such phenomena to record changes in the universe.
- Such a group of objects appearing and disappearing at the same time has been detected for the first time in the history of astronomy.
- The astronomers have not found any explanation in well-established astrophysical phenomena like gravitational lensing, fast radio bursts, or any variable star that could be responsible for this cluster of fast changes in the sky.
- The astronomers who belong to the collaboration Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations (VASCO) have still not sorted out the root cause of the “nine simultaneous transients”.
- The study used Gran Telescopio Canarias (the largest optical telescope around the world) at Canary Islands, Spain,
The primary goal of the “Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations” (VASCO) project is to search for vanishing and appearing sources using existing survey data to find examples of exceptional astrophysical transients.
- The implications of finding such objects extend from traditional astrophysics fields to the more exotic searches for evidence of technologically advanced civilizations.
- The project aims at finding astrophysically interesting mismatches between historical sky surveys.
Note: The term ‘transients’ is used to refer to events that last for a limited amount of time e.g., compared to a human lifetime, such a change in the appearance of an object, perhaps temporary. Some are over in seconds, some produce results lasting weeks, months, or years, and some repeat. Supernova, Fast Radio Bursts, Gamma Ray Bursts are some examples.
Source: Times of India
The gap in learning outcomes has been acknowledged across the world. World Bank data indicate nearly 220 million students have faced the brunt of the pandemic’s impact on education.
Education technology solution provider TeamLease Edtech surveyed over 700 students and officials from 75 Indian universities to assess the learning gap in higher education during the pandemic.
Key findings of the survey on learning gap:
- Nearly 85% of Indian students in higher education institutions feel they have learnt only half of what they are supposed to since teaching went online with the onset of the pandemic.
- Similarly, about 88% of university officials believe it could take up to three years to bridge the gap in learning, says a recent survey.
- They believe that grades didn’t reflect learning loss since exams were being conducted online.
- Further, Sixty percent of the students who would not have been promoted are currently getting promoted with good marks
- The perceived learning gap among students in advanced nations and India is stark.
- There has also been a decline in the participation of women students due to their inability to access digital platforms
- The survey blamed five factors for the gap in learning:
- A digital divide,
- Slow governance in government institutions,
- Pre-existing capacity deficits,
- Longer lockdowns in India than in other countries
- Weak online learning content and educational ecosystem was not digitised in time