9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – July 22nd, 2021

Dear Friends,

We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do: 

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:  
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.  

  • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
  • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Mains Oriented Articles


Getting all Indian tap water may be desirable. But what’s really needed is safe drinking water

Source – The Indian Express

Syllabus – GS 1-  Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent)

Relevance – Clean drinking water is a basic human necessity. It must be ensured by resolving all the challenges.

Synopsis – Clean and safe drinking water situation in India and possible solutions to improve water stressed situation.

About Jal Jeevan Mission [National Rural Drinking Water Mission]

  • Announced on August 15, 2019.
  • Aim
    • To supply 55 litres of water per person per day to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) by 2024.
    • The objective is also part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The actual goal, however, should be to provide clean and safe drinking water, which can be obtained through taps, wells, or other sources.

  • In Kerala– people get safe drinking water through wells.
  • In Meghalaya – People get safe drinking water through streams.

Is India facing a water-stressed situation?

  • Yes, India is facing a water emergency, it has 16% of the world population, but only 4% of freshwater resources.
  • Water availability in the country was about 5,000 cubic metres per capita per year at the time of independence. It was greater than what was necessary. India has failed to generate such additional availability over time.
    • The global norm for a water-stress situation is 1700 cubic meters of water available per person.
    • In India, The Central Water Commission estimates 1,486 cubic metres for 2021, while the World Bank estimates 1,100 cubic metres, both of which are below the world average.

Reasons behind the water-stressed situation in India-

  • Population explosion
  • Inefficient collection of water and its inefficient use (such as in agriculture).

Possible solutions to overcome water stress situation-

  • Need to sort inter-state issues and required well define water rights (contrast surface water rights with groundwater rights).
  • Water conservation is absolutely necessary to reduce extreme pressure from groundwater and to supply water for consumption.
  • Rework irrigation and cropping patterns – there is a need to employ agricultural practices such as planting crops that require less water, setting up better irrigation systems, and developing farm-based water conservation structures.
  • Water can be correctly priced, environmental regulations can be revamped, local capacity can be developed, and water user groups can be established.

GS Paper 2

A compromise amid uncertainty

Source: The Hindu

GS-2: Bilateral, Regional, and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: Developments of OPEC are important for India due to its dependency on oil.

Synopsis: The OPEC deal to step up crude production will ease rising prices and balance domestic and global priorities.

Background

  • OPEC+ will now step up crude production by 400,000 barrels a day starting in August. The deal will extend until the end of 2022.
  • Thus, while the internal rift has been resolved, for now, the danger cannot be ruled out in the future given the increasingly economically and politically assertive UAE.

Read moreHow OPEC+ deal to withdraw output cut impacts India

Significance of increasing oil production by OPEC+ countries

  • The latest OPEC compromise echoes growing recognition of the delicate balance between competing domestic and global priorities.
  • It will also help OPEC+ countries to maximize the returns on their substantial hydrocarbon resources, amid growing speculation of a peak in oil demand within sight.

Concerns for OPEC bloc

  • Strict implementation of the Paris climate accord could result in oil demand to peak by 2030, owing to the proliferation of alternative fuels and electric cars.
  • Diversification of economies in anticipation of the unfolding global energy transition.
  • OPEC’s other concerns are the stabilization of world oil prices without jeopardizing national expenditure programs.

Prosecutor, not persecutor

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Structure, Organisation and Functioning of the executive and the judiciary 

Relevance: This article highlights the role of public prosecutors in ensuring a fair justice system.

Synopsis:

The public prosecutor has an ethical obligation to balance the interests of the victims, the accused, and society. His/her conduct shouldn’t be of a persecutor aiming to persistently harass the accused.

Background:

  • Father Swamy’s arrest under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) has highlighted issues related to police power, pretrial detention, and draconian anti-terror legislation.
  • However, the role of prosecutors towards under-trial detentions has been largely ignored. 

Role of public prosecutor in criminal justice system:

  • Public prosecutors are influential at every stage of a trial and impact the degree of justice awarded to the accused.
  • They decide what offences the accused person should be charged with, whether to seek pretrial custody and what sentence to ask for. 
    • The prosecutor played a significant role in ensuring that the bail plea of Father swamy doesn’t get accepted by giving sufficient evidence against him.
    • Further, he argued that the court must give precedence to the interest of the community/society over Father Swamy’s right to liberty.
  • Public prosecutors also have a role in narrative building. Since they present the state’s case in criminal trials, they build narratives of criminality and criminalisation. They play a key role in translating criminal “law on the books” to criminal “law in action.
    • Such narratives are especially crucial in cases involving alleged terrorist activities and “anti-nationals”, where the issue of security of the state becomes important for an ordinary citizen.
    • Further, their opinions have built a culture supporting undertrail detentions. Currently, two third prisoners in Indian jails are undertrials.

Judgements on their conduct:

  • Sheo Nandan Paswan v. State of Bihar (1986): The SC said that they need not be extremely concerned about the outcome of the case. They act as officers of the court and are obliged to ensure that the accused person is not unfairly treated.
  • Jitendra Kumar v. State (1999): The Delhi HC said that the prosecutor cannot assume the role of a persecutor. It is no part of his duty to secure conviction at all costs.
    • The Public Prosecutor should act fairly and impartially and must be conscious of the rights of the accused.

Way Ahead:

The public prosecutors represent the public and are not mere mouthpieces for law enforcement agencies. They have an ethical obligation to seek justice balancing the interests of the victims of crime, society, and those accused of crimes. 

Thus, public prosecutors who support criminal justice reform can be a powerful force for altering the culture of undertrial detention.


Why the Supreme Court order on registration of migrant workers is welcome

SourceThe Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance

Relevance: The problems of Migrant workers and lack of social protection needs urgent reforms

Synopsis:  Recently, the Supreme Court mandated a portal for the registration of all informal/migrant workers. This is one of the radical judgments aimed to reduce human suffering in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Important observations by the court:

  • The court explicitly recognizes the critical contribution of migrant workers to the economy. It reminds us that workers in the unorganized sector (around 93 percent) need to be able to access numerous welfare schemes in existence.
  • The court also pointed out that the main barrier preventing access is the delay in registering workers on the national database of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
  • The court also stated that “tall claims” made by various states about the schemes introduced to help migrant workers are ineffective without registration.
  • Further, the court called for taking all measures to register migrant workers under the three laws that are in place to protect labour and migrant workers. Namely,
    • 1979 Interstate Migrant Workmen Act
    • The 1996 Building and Other Construction Workers Act
    • The 2008 Unorganised Sector Social Security Act
  • Furthermore, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution has been ordered to allocate additional food grains to the states. It will be used for the disbursement of dry food grains to migrant workers under the One Nation One Ration Card scheme under the National Food Security Act.
Read MoreMigrants Workers, Who Returned to Cities Earned five-fold : Study

Other Supreme court interventions on Migrant workers:

  • Earlier in May, the court declared that authorities shall not insist on an ID card and accept “self-declaration” from workers to access welfare programs.
  • Similarly, in June, the court held that the lack of documentation cannot be used as an excuse by the state to abdicate its responsibility, especially during the pandemic.
Read more: Migrant workers and their Social protection in India – Explained, pointwise

Challenges with the migrant workers:

  • Employers and contractors collude to keep workers in perpetual precarity to protect themselves against losses caused by shocks such as Covid.
  • Challenges in registration: Migrants experience a variety of problems with registration, ranging from digital illiteracy, corruption, and the requirement of multiple documents. The exclusion was markedly worse among the lower castes, who were not treated with dignity.
  • Labour departments are also facing serious manpower and capacity shortage to carry out the Supreme Court order.

A cardinal omission in the COVID-19 package

SourceThe Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Relevance: India needs to focus on Healthcare human resources for improving healthcare.

Synopsis: 

The Government’s COVID-19 health package II again overlooks the need for and availability of healthcare human resources.

Why healthcare human resources are essential?

In the mid-1980s, there were a number of government healthcare facilities across the country, with newly constructed buildings, imported state-of-the-art medical equipment such as infant radiant warmers, etc.

These were developed with financial and commodity assistance as part of the overseas development assistance (ODA) from many well-intentioned international donors.

But in the following years, these equipments were packed and stacked in storerooms. A key reason was that while infrastructure was upgraded, there was a perennial shortage of health staff, i.e., doctors, nurses and others

About recent initiatives:

Recently, Union government announced the “India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Package: Phase II“. The package aims to boost health infrastructure and prepare India for a possible third wave of COVID-19.

But the Package barely has any attention on improving the availability of health human resources.

How intense is the shortage of healthcare human resources?

Even before the novel coronavirus pandemic, as reported in rural health statistics and the national health profile, there are vacancies for staff in government health facilities, which range from 30% to 80%.

In addition to the overall shortage, there are also wider inter-State variations. Compounding the issues, states that have poor health indicators also have the highest healthcare human resource vacancies.

The Government seems to have recognised the gaps in health infrastructure; however, the shortage in the health workforce is barely being discussed.

Read More: Brain drain in the health sector – Explained, Pointwise

Suggestions to improve Healthcare human resources:

India’s health system will not benefit from ad hoc and a patchwork of one or other small packages. It essentially needs some transformational changes.

  • The COVID-19 package II needs to be urgently supplemented by another plan and a similar financial package to fill the existing vacancies of health staff at all levels.
  • India needs to assess the mid-term healthcare human resource needs and formulate the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS). IPHS can prescribe the required human resources and infrastructure to make various types of government health facilities functional.
  • The pandemic should be used as an opportunity to prepare India’s health system for the future. So, the government should also take a review of actions taken on the key decisions and Government promises made (to strengthen health services) since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

How lack of proper identification of arrested persons slows down legal process?

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS2 – Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

Relevance: Remedies to make our legal system much more efficient

Synopsis: Pan-India guidelines for service of summons, warrants, grant of bail can help make the system quicker and more efficient

Background:
  • A recent judgment of the Delhi High Court in Sunil Tyagi vs Government of NCT has highlighted the deficiency in criminal law and the criminal justice system with respect to proclaimed offenders.
  • Further, the judgment has provided guidelines with respect to the process of service of summons, grant of warrants, grant of bail, and the process of the proclamation of an offender.
Major issues identified by the court

In this case, the Court identified two major issues.

First, that the process under sections 82 and 83 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Code) was being issued routinely.

  • It was found that the State was unable to furnish the complete address of the accused and the notices weren’t sent to the correct address.

The second issue identified by the Court was that once a person is proclaimed as an offender, the case is usually confined to the record room attached with the Court and forgotten.

  • On this point, the Court was of the view that the State must make all reasonable efforts to arrest the proclaimed offender, attach his properties and open a prosecution under section 174A of the Indian Penal Code.
  • There is an urgent need to bring proclaimed offenders to book and to ensure that the processes of law are not abused by the accused as a loophole to delay criminal trials indefinitely.
  • As per the figures submitted by the Delhi Police to the Court, there were approximately 18,541 proclaimed offenders in Delhi alone, of which nearly 6,000 had been accused of heinous offences.
  • It can be safely assumed that the number would increase incrementally if such data is collated for the entire country.
  • These figures translates into a backlog and contribute significantly to the number of pending cases.
  • The issue leads to a violation of the right to speedy trial which has been read into the right to life by the Supreme Court in a plethora of cases.
Suggestions
  • Trial-in-absentia provision: Section 299 of the Code does permit the recording of evidence in the absence of the accused to a limited extent. So, there is a need to reconsider our legal position regarding the insertion of trial-in-absentia provisions in the Code. Any such legislative exercise must be balanced with the rights of the accused.
    • The insertion of the trial-in-absentia provisions can significantly deter the accused from abusing the processes of law as tactics to delay the trial.
  • Addressing issues wrt attachment of properties: There are many issues pertaining to the attachment of property under section 83, like lack of manpower to physical verification of residential addresses, inadequate witness protection, difficulty in the attachment of movable property, etc. Addressing these issues requires addressing broader institutional issues pertaining to the functioning of our criminal justice system.

India must directly engage with Taliban 2.0

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations (IR)

Relevance: India’s future Afghan policy in the light of American exit from Afghanistan.

Synopsis: India must reset its Afghan policy. Engagement with Taliban is a reality which cannot be ignored.

Background

With the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan in process, New Delhi has decided to ramp down its civilian presence in the war-torn country, bracing for a full-blown civil war.

  • India has ‘temporarily’ closed its consulate in Kandahar and evacuated its diplomats and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel stationed there.
  • This follows the decision to suspend operations in the Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Herat.
  • As a result, India today is left with its Embassy in Kabul and the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif.
What should India do?

Open talks with Taliban: India must, in its own national interest, begin ‘open talks’ with Taliban. However, this doesn’t mean that India should give recognition to the Taliban.

Evolution India’s Taliban policy

India’s Taliban policy has witnessed a gradual change over the past few years.

  • In late 2018, when Moscow organised a conference which had the Taliban, members of the Afghan High Peace Council, and other countries from the region in attendance, India sent a ‘non-official delegation’ of two retired diplomats to Moscow.
  • In September 2020, India’s External Affairs Minister joined the inaugural session of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha.
  • Indirect talks with Taliban: Reports have indicated that India has started reaching out to the Taliban which was indirectly confirmed by the Ministry of External Affairs when it said “we are in touch with various stakeholders in pursuance of our long-term commitment towards development and reconstruction in Afghanistan”.
Rationale behind indirect talks

There are at least five possible reasons why New Delhi appears to want to keep the Taliban engagement slow and behind closed doors.

  1. Could push Afghan President towards China: If New Delhi chooses to engage the Taliban directly, it could potentially push Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani towards China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for national security and personal political survival.
  2. With whom to talk within Taliban: Decision makers in New Delhi are also faced with the dilemma of whom to talk to within the Taliban. New Delhi may have little access to the members of the Quetta Shura or the fighters on the ground in Afghanistan.
  3. Poor global image of Taliban: Given the global criticism that the Taliban faced earlier and the lack of evidence about whether the outfit is a changed lot today, New Delhi might not want to open direct talks with the Taliban so soon.
  4. Retaliation by Pakistan:  Finally, it would not be totally unreasonable to consider the possibility of Pakistan acting out against India in Kashmir if India were to establish deeper links with the Taliban.
Why India should engage the Taliban directly?
  • Other countries will engage with the Taliban: Taliban is going to be part of the political scheme of things in Afghanistan, and unlike in 1996. A large number of players in the international community are going to recognise/negotiate/do business with the Taliban. So, basic statecraft requires that we follow that route as well.
  • Countering Pakistan-Taliban relations: The Taliban today is looking for regional and global partners for recognition and legitimacy, especially in the neighborhood. So the less proactive the Indian engagement with the Taliban, the stronger Pakistan-Taliban relations would become.
  • Withdrawal shows a weak strategic resolve: India needs to court all parties in Afghanistan, including the Taliban if it wants to ensure the security of its civilian assets there. Withdrawing from Afghanistan now because the Taliban is on the rise (and we do not want to have relations with them) will go on to highlight how weak our strategic resolve is.
  • Opportunity for other countries:  if India is not proactive in Afghanistan at least now, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and China will emerge as the shapers of Afghanistan’s political and geopolitical destiny. This will be detrimental to Indian interests.
Way forward

India as of now is strategically limited to Indo-pacific arena. Afghanistan could provide, if not immediately, India with a way out.

Also Read: India’s future Afghan policy – Explained

Terms to know:


GS Paper 3

Water as woe

Source: The Hindu

GS-3: Disaster and Disaster Management.

Relevance: Urban flooding is a recurring event. This article highlights the reasons behind it.

Synopsis: Mumbai cannot manage its flooding without a new deal for drainage and housing

Background

  • Due to global warming, the volume and duration of monsoonal rain are becoming unpredictable, and its catastrophic impacts on cities will become more frequent.
  • The revival of the monsoon has affected Mumbai and its suburbs once again. It has disrupted drinking water supplies and had exposed the ill state of its infrastructure.
  • The limitations of Mumbai’s infrastructure to accommodate intense monsoons, and its inability to provide affordable inner-city housing to the less affluent, are making other cities look more attractive.

Steps taken

The aftermath of catastrophic floods in Mumbai and Chennai in 2005 and 2015 led to the following initiatives.

  • The management plan was drawn up by the National Disaster Management Authority
  • The first dedicated stormwater drainage manual has been brought out by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  • Further, a fact-finding committee appointed by the Maharashtra government in 2005 has given the following recommendation to mitigate the crisis.
    • Liberate the city’s rivers and lakes from various impediments,
    • Enable perennial flow in the mithi river,
    • Create fresh holding lakes for excess waters,
    • Rehabilitate those who live in risky locations.

But such initiatives can do little if States, do not address the challenges posed by urbanization.

Conclusion

  • Mumbai’s neglect is not unique, most big cities are unsustainably expanding to the suburbs where even basic infrastructure is absent. Lakes and river areas are heavily encroached in these cities.
  • Such unplanned growth, with no defenses against weather disasters, is leaving cities a lot poorer.

The creeping concerns over India’s debt

Source: Live mint 

 GS3: Government Budgeting

Synopsis: Recently, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to formulate guidelines for providing compensation under the Disaster Management Act.

Background

In response to SC directions, the Solicitor general made an argument, which underlines the government’s inability to comply due to the tight revenue situation amid the growing demand for resources.

Why the fear of downgrading credit rating is overrated?

Former chief statistician Pronab Sen said the government’s plan to have a medium-term fiscal consolidation roadmap as recommended by the 15th Finance Commission should be junked until covid is no longer a threat.

  • A rating downgrade will impact mostly the small foreign investors who may withdraw their money.
  • Large investors depend on their own research and don’t rely only on input from credit rating agencies.
  • Any effort to make that correction when GDP growth is low would mean the brunt of the adjustment will be on expenditure.
  • It will lead to an unstable situation.

Why the government did not choose to provide compensation to COVID victims?

  • Economic contraction: 3% contraction in the nominal gross domestic product (GDP) and 7.7% decline in revenue receipts in 2020-21.
  • Increase in debt and fiscal deficit: The Union government’s debt soared to 58.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020-21, a 14-year-high.
  • Ensuring credit availability: the government has primarily focused liquidity support to distressed sectors, apart from free food grains.
  • Fears around a ratings downgrade: It has both direct and indirect effects on the economy.
    • S&P, on 14 July, reaffirmed India’s sovereign rating at the lowest investment grade (BBB-) with a stable outlook.
    • The other two key rating agencies, Fitch and Moody’s, have the lowest investment-grade sovereign rating for India with a negative outlook.
    • The latest Economic Survey admitted that ratings not reflecting fundamentals.
    • But pro-cyclical action by rating agencies can affect equity and debt foreign portfolio investor (FPI) outflows from developing countries.
  • Fiscal conservatism: The government chose more supply-side interventions instead of providing a strong fiscal stimulus to revive consumer sentiment and demand.
  • No multiplier effect: As per CEA, the problem with the unconditional transfer is evident in the “disastrous” farm loan waivers of 2009. Whereas, there was very little impact on consumption wasted taxpayers’ money.
  • Rising cost of debt financing: high public debt can entail higher debt servicing requirements, which undermines the proportion of revenue that the government can allocate to social spending.

Way forward:

  • India needs consistent strong nominal GDP growth with smaller fiscal deficits.
  • Improve the efficiency of public spending.
  • Strengthening domestic revenue mobilization to help widen fiscal space and bolster policy credibility.

Power hurdles: Consumers need to wait before they can choose supplier

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy

Relevance: Challenges ahead of draft Electricity Bill, 2021.

SynopsisThe latest amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003 seek to abolish the power distribution license. Further, it will allow any company to supply electricity in an area. However, these amendments might not be enough to remove existing obstacles in the power sector.

Background:

  • The amended Electricity Bill, 2021 will be tabled in the current monsoon session of the Parliament. 
  • With this, the centre plans to end the monopoly of existing discoms, which are mostly state-owned entities, by amending the Electricity Act, 2003.

About Electricity Bill, 2021:

  • Section 24 (A) states that any company may supply electricity to consumers in its area of supply. It can do so using its own distribution system or using the distribution system of another distribution company. 
    • However, the company should fulfil the prescribed qualifications and must register itself with the Appropriate Commission.
  • The Bill has replaced the term ‘distribution licensee’, and replaced it with ‘distribution company’. 
  • It has also allowed two or more discoms to register and distribute electricity in the same areas. 
  • Existing power purchase agreements would be shared by all discoms in an area. Companies could also sign additional power purchase agreements.

Providing consumers the right to choose their preferred power supplier would be challenging even after the amendments to the Electricity Act.

Challenges

  • First, there is a scarcity of multiple power distribution companies (discoms) in several states. Currently, it is only in Delhi and Mumbai that there are more than one discom. 
  • Second, there is little interest in the privatisation of discoms in several states. In Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, etc., there are more than one state-owned discom, but their area of supply is exclusive to them. 
    • None of these states have awarded private distribution licenses. It is only in Odisha that a private distribution licence award has been a success after a mega failure.
  • Third, there are no overarching regulations to support the proliferation of a dynamic electricity retail market.
    • For instance, when consumers switched to Tata from Reliance in Mumbai, the company paid wheeling charges to Reliance infra.
    • The consumers were directed to pay cross-subsidy charges and regulatory assets charges under a 2014 order of the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity. 
    • This became a disincentive for residential consumers to change their discom, however, industrial consumers continued to change over to Tata.
  • Fourth, in many cases, protests and complex litigation are causing a delay in privatising the discoms.
    • The finance minister last year in her Covid relief package announced that discoms of all union territories would be privatised.
    • Chandigarh and Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu since then floated tenders for discom privatisation but it has not met with success. 
    • All the tenders are facing legal petitions by either employees or individuals protesting against the privatisation bid. In the case of Chandigarh, the bidders have challenged the terms of bidding.

India’s renewable energy plan of 175 GW by FY22-end faces multiple risks

SourceThe Business Standard

Syllabus: GS 3 – Energy

Relevance: There are certain problems associated with the renewable energy sector which is hurting India’s renewable energy targets.

Synopsis: 

India is now chasing its target of 450 GW of renewable power by 2030. However, several issues, including delays in the signing of power sales agreement (PSAs) stand in the way of realising the immediate target of 175 GW by the financial year 2021-22 (FY22) end.

According to a 2020 report of the Central Electricity Authority, around 16 GW of solar and wind energy capacity awarded across the country, do not have power purchase agreements (PPAs) or PSAs. It is because states are reluctant to buy renewable energy.

Reason for delay in renewable energy projects:

According to industry data, 20 GW of solar and wind power projects have been auctioned in the past three years, but barely 20 percent have been commissioned. The reasons for delay are,

  • Three major issues that converge and hamper large renewable projects are land acquisition, transmission system, and regulatory delays.
  • The cost of renewable energy projects is also a cause of concern. For instance, the Andhra Pradesh government in 2019, canceled all renewable energy projects, citing high rates.
  • The financial distress of power distribution firms: It is a major reason for the delay in confirming contracts and the release of payments to operating units. For instance, Discoms’ overdue amounts towards renewable projects stand at Rs 11,368 crore as of May.
  • The disconnect between Center and State: The Centre awards mega-project capacities, but state governments do not have a land allotment/approval process. For example,
    • In 2018, Gujarat refused to allot land to solar and wind projects that central agencies had awarded to private companies. It also said the land would only be allotted to those projects that would sell power to Gujarat
  • The pandemic-induced lockdowns have delayed the projects further.

Indian solar industry is ready to balance biodiversity and ecology while achieving RE targets. But it is the challenges that are hurting India’s improvements.


The many paths to a greener future

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Different strategies to lower India’s carbon emissions

Synopsis: Peaking of carbon emissions and the time when de-carbonsation begins are important considerations on road to a greener economy.

Background

Researchers and policymakers are exploring various pathways for Indian carbon emissions over time. These pathways range from Business-As-Usual (BAU) to Low-Carbon to Net-Zero. In each pathway, it is becoming increasingly important to establish when carbon emissions for India will peak and then start to decline.

How peaking of CO2 is related to eco dev of a country?

Peaking concept is linked to the theory that a country’s economic development is closely linked to fossil fuel consumption. According to this theory,

  • In its initial development stages, a country grows by using cheap fossil fuels, which then also leads to a rapid increase in its global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • As the country’s economy becomes more developed, emissions peak, and the country’s carbon requirement for each unit of GDP begins to decline rapidly.

This model has been followed by all industrialized countries, including China.

Global peaking levels
  • US peaked at 15 tonnes per capita
  • Japan at 10 tonnes
  • China at 7 tonnes per capita.
  • In comparison, India’s present GHG emissions are about 3.5 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent, which translates to just 2.5 tonnes per capita
  • Global GHG emissions are about 55 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent
By when India’s total GHG emissions should reach zero?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that global emissions must reach close to zero by 2050 to have a reasonable probability of restricting warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. This implies that India’s total GHG emissions should also reach zero by mid-century.

In order to achieve this target, India has following pathways available.

Business As Usual scenario – peak around 2070
  • In the BAU pathway, our emissions continue to grow with increasing usage of fossil fuels till we reach middle income status of about $8,000 to $10,000 in GDP per capita.
  • Several studies have indicated that on this BAU pathway, even by 2050, India will still only reach about 5 tonnes per capita. So, if we want to achieve per capita emission standards close to those of industrialized countries (or even China), then our BAU emissions will continue to increase and peak around 2070.
  • Subsequently, carbon emissions will begin declining and reach zero by the end of the century.
  • On the BAU pathway, India will be emitting about 15 to 20 billion tonnes in 2070. This pathway will likely aggravate global warming and will not be acceptable at the global level. Ironically, India will end up facing some of the harshest consequences of global warming.
Low-carbon pathway – peak around 2050 

What if we peak around 2050 at 5 tonnes per capita, as suggested by some studies? On this Low-Carbon pathway, India would be still emitting about 8 billion tonnes of GHG when the rest of the world will be close to net-zero. This too may not be acceptable to the global community and will seriously jeopardize the 1.5 °C goal.

Net-Zero pathway – peak before 2050 

The Net-Zero pathway would require that our emissions peak before 2050 and reach zero thereafter — maybe 10 to 20 years later. The exact time frames should come from careful modelling and analyses. This would roughly parallel what China is promising to do.

Analysis of pathways

Two points emerge from the above analysis

  • Our peak will be well below global peaks: One, it is possible that our emissions will peak at about 3 to 5 tonnes per capita. This is well below the peaks reached by developed countries. In fact, we may not even peak and then rapidly decline, rather we may reach a plateau and then slowly decline from there on.
  • Impact on jobs and overall prosperity: It raises the fundamental question: Does this lower per capita level imply that we have compromised on job creation and economic prosperity? Will we not be able to take advantage of cheap fossil fuels?
Conclusion

While we do have ample time to make the necessary changes to our economy, we must begin now to decide which pathway we would like to pursue. Each pathway requires different policy packages and sets up different investment and consumption incentives

Terms to know:


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Judges must put themselves in the shoes of Parliament: SC

Source: Times of India 

What is the news?
  • The Supreme Court has recently quashed a Madras High Court verdict on the court’s power to set aside an arbitration award under Section 34 of the Arbitration act. 
  • The High Court had held that the court’s powers to “set aside” an arbitral award also included the power to modify.
About the Case:
  • The court passed the order on an appeal filed by the Centre against the HC order.
  • The solicitor general said that the Arbitration Act, 1996 was based on the UN Commission on International Trade Law’s Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, 1985. 
    • It has specifically restricted the grounds of challenge and the consequent remedy, which is only to set aside or remit in limited circumstances. 
Why did the SC quash HC’s verdict?
  • As per SC, including the power to modify an award in section 34 would be an encroachment in the domain of the legislature, thereby violating the separation of powers.
  • In interpreting a statutory provision, a judge must put himself in the shoes of the Parliament and then ask whether Parliament intended this result. 
    • The Parliament had very clearly intended that no power of modification of an award existed in section 34 of the Arbitration Act. 
  • The bench said it is only for the Parliament to amend the provision in the light of the experience of courts in the working of the Arbitration Act, 1996.

1.2 lakh Indian children lost caregivers: study

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

A Global Study has been published in Lancet estimating the number of children who lost one or both parents or caregiver during Covid-19.

About the study:

  • The study was conducted by researchers from the CDC Covid-19 Response Team, University of Oxford, WHO and others.
  • Coverage: It covered 21 countries that accounted for nearly 77% of global Covid-19 deaths as of April 30, 2021.
  • Method: Researchers estimated deaths of parents or caregivers based on Covid-19 mortality data from March 2020 through April 2021 and national fertility statistics.

Key Findings:

Globally:

  • Globally, around 11.34 lakh children lost a primary caregiver (at least one parent or custodial grandparent).
  • The children who lost only either a mother or a father totalled over 1 million (10.42 lakhs).
  • If we include other co-residing grandparents (or other older relatives), the total is 15.62 lakh children.
  • Moreover, there were up to five times more children who lost a father than who lost a mother.

India:

  • In India, an estimated 1.19 lakh children lost a primary caregiver — one or both parents, or one or both custodial grandparents. Among them, 1.16 lakh lost one or both parents.
  • India is placed third after Mexico (1.41 lakh) and Brazil (1.30 lakh) that have the highest number of children who have lost a primary caregiver.
  • Although India ranks third in absolute numbers, its figure of 0.3 per 1,000 children was much lower than those of countries such as South Africa(5.1), Mexico(3.5), Brazil(2.4), the US(1.5), and others countries.

DRDO successfully flight-tests surface-to-air missile Akash-NG

Source: PIB 

What is the News?

Defence Research & Development Organisation(DRDO) has successfully flight-tested the New Generation Akash Missile(Akash-NG).

About Akash-NG:
  • Akash-NG is a New Generation Surface-to-Air Missile. It is developed by Defence Research & Development Laboratory(DRDL), Hyderabad in collaboration with other DRDO laboratories.
  • Purpose: The Missile is capable of intercepting high manoeuvring low radar cross-section aerial targets.
Key Features of Akash NG Missile:
  • Rocket Motor: Akash-NG uses a two-pulse solid rocket motor that replaces the old ramjet on the legacy Akash missile.
    • The new motor not just reaches out to 30 kilometres (km), but also generates a high terminal velocity to strike even the fastest and most agile enemy fighters.
  • Lighter Weight: The weight of the rocket has been brought down from 700 kg to 350 kg. This not just increases range, but also lets the vehicle carry more missiles.
  • New Seeker Head: Akash-NG has a new seeker head. The seeker locks onto the enemy aircraft and continuously guides the missile to impact the target.
    • Akash-NG detects enemy fighters at ranges out to 80 km and initiates the launch sequ­ence.
    • By the time the enemy aircraft is 50 km away, the Akash-NG’s computers have calculated the launch trajectory and impact point and launched the missile.
    • In just over a minute, the missile blazes its way to the impact point 30 km away and destroys the target.

Stand Up India Scheme extended up to the year 2025

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Ministry of Finance has informed Lok Sabha that the Stand Up India Scheme has been extended up to the year 2025.

About Stand Up India Scheme:
  • The Stand Up India Scheme was launched in 2016 by the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance.
  • Objective: The scheme facilitates bank loans for setting up a new enterprise in manufacturing, services, agri-allied activities, or the trading sector by SC/ST/Women entrepreneurs.
  • Bank Loan: It provides bank loans between Rs 10 lakh and up to 1 crore.
    • The government does not allocate funds for loans under the Scheme. They are extended by Scheduled Commercial Banks(SCBs).
  • Repayable of Loan: The loan is repayable in 7 years, with a maximum moratorium period of 18 months.
Eligibility Condition for Loans under Stand Up India Scheme:
  • Beneficiaries should be SC/ST and/or woman entrepreneurs above 18 years of age.
  • Loans under the scheme are available only for greenfield projects. Greenfield signifies the first-time venture of the beneficiary in the manufacturing, services, agri-allied activities, or the trading sector.
  • In the case of non-individual enterprises, 51% of the shareholding and controlling stake should be held by either SC/ST and/or Women Entrepreneur.
  • Borrowers should not be in default to any bank/financial institution.
Changes made in the Scheme:
  • Margin money requirement for loans under the Scheme has been reduced from ‘upto 25%’ to `upto 15%’.
  • Activities allied to agriculture have been included in the Scheme.

Performance of the Scheme:

  • Banks have sanctioned Rs 26,204 crore to about 1,16,266 beneficiaries under the Scheme in the last five years.
  • The scheme has benefited more than 93,094 women entrepreneurs.

UNESCO strips Liverpool of its world heritage status

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The English city of Liverpool has been removed from UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

When was Liverpool added to UNESCO World Heritage Site?
  • Liverpool was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, joining cultural landmarks such as the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Why has it been removed from the World Heritage Site list ?
  • Liverpool has been removed from UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites because of developments in the city center and on its historic River Mersey waterfront.
  • These developments have caused irreversible damage to Liverpool’s authenticity.
Impact of this move on Liverpool:
  • The World Heritage Site label gives historic sites access to UN conservation funding, as well as featuring in tourist guidebooks across the world. This will not be available for Liverpool now.
Significance of this move:
  • Liverpool city is only the third place to be removed from the UNESCO World Heritage list.
  • The only other sites stripped previously of the title are a wildlife sanctuary in Oman in 2007 after poaching and habitat loss. Another one is the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany in 2009 when a four-lane motorway bridge was built over the river.

India signed 26 pacts to fight drug menace

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) has informed the Lok Sabha about the steps taken by the Government to combat illicit trafficking of narcotics, drugs, and psychotropic substances.

Steps taken by the Government to combat Illicit Trafficking of drugs:

Pacts and Agreements:

  • India has signed 26 bilateral pacts, 15 MoUs, and two agreements on security cooperation with different countries for combating illicit trafficking of narcotic, drugs and psychotropic substances.
Coordination with International Organizations:
  • The Narcotics Control Bureau(NCB) has coordinated with various international organisations for sharing information and intelligence to combat transnational drug trafficking.
Narco Coordination Centre(NCORD):
  • For coordination among various Central and State agencies, the Narco Coordination Centre (NCORD) mechanism was set up by the MHA in 2016 for effective drug law enforcement.
  • This NCORD system has been restructured into a four-tier scheme up to district level in 2019 for better coordination.
SIMS Portal:
  • Government of India has launched an e-portal called ‘SIMS’ (Seizure Information Management System) in 2019 for digitisation of pan-India drug seizure data.

Centre plans big boost for MSMEs with an inter-ministry data bank

Source: Business Standard

What is the News?

The Central Government is working towards building a robust data bank for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises(MSMEs) by integrating information across various ministries and government data.

What is the Government trying to do for MSMEs?
  • The Ministry of MSME is in talks with government departments so that more businesses are registered as MSME.
  • For this, it has requested ministries to accept Udyam registration as the formal identity for their schemes.
  • This will allow Udyam registration number to act as a common business number. This number can be used across ministries.
  • For instance, there are schemes that aim to support enterprises in rural areas that fall under the ambit of the ministry of rural development.
  • Linking an enterprise’s Udyam registration number can help the government analyse the kind of business and its need.
  • As of now, the ministries of rural development and tourism have accepted the Ministry of MSME proposal.
What was the need for this step?
  • MSMEs are considered to be the backbone of the economy, accounting for 30% of the country’s gross domestic product(GDP).
  • However, the lack of adequate statistics on MSMEs has been one of the key challenges for the government.
  • Experts believe it is important to identify who the real MSMEs are, as there is no reliable data available for small businesses.
  • Hence, integrating data with other ministries will help the government frame stronger schemes to come up with a better methodology. They will be able to reach out and support businesses and bring more MSMEs under the formal sector.
Udyam Portal:
  • Udyam registration portal was launched in 2020. It is an online self-declaration process for MSMEs.
  • It simplifies the process of registering for any enterprise under the MSME category for them to avail benefits under various government schemes.
  • Also, it is already integrated with the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Goods and Services Tax Network(GSTN) as well as the government e-marketplace(GeM).
  • As of July 2021, over 3.8 million MSMEs have registered on the Udyam portal.

———————–

Print Friendly and PDF