9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – July 24th, 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


GS Paper 1

Population populism: UP draft population bill fails tests of necessity, intrusiveness

Source: Down To Earth (Article 1, Article 2)

Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated issues

Relevance: It is a critical analysis of the UP’s new proposed population policy.

Synopsis:

UP’s new population policy and draft law try to use punishment as a tool to control fertility levels. However, evidence shows that focusing on the education and empowerment of women can yield better results.

Read More: Family mis-planning

Challenges with the Draft:

  • The UP Law Commission drafted the bill without being asked either by the state government or constitutional courts.
  • Against women rights: UP has already undermined their agency by denying them the right to choose their spouses through love jihad laws, and this bill now tries to control even their reproductive choices. Further, the reference in Section 8 of the bill to ‘whoever procreates’ clearly applies only to women.
  • Against international commitment: The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has categorically mandated that state parties to ICCPR cannot adopt policies that are compulsory, coercive or discriminatory.
    • Being a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), India has to abide by the international norms on population control.
  • A five-state study by a former senior Indian Administrative Service officer showed that coercive policies are ineffective in reducing fertility. The study, instead, revealed the following results.
    • There was a rise in sex-selective and unsafe abortions in states that adopted the two-child policy;
    • Men divorced their wives to run for local body elections and families gave up children for adoption to avoid disqualification.
  • Against well known internal and external examples to reduce population. Such as,
    • Sri Lanka brought down its fertility rate via greater investments in girl-child education and a robust family planning programme.
    • Bangladesh did so by expanding the basket of contraceptive choices available to men and women.
    • In Kerala, the state was able to bring total fertility rate (TFR) down to 1.6 by investing in girl-child education, employment opportunities, women’s empowerment and a strong healthcare system.
Read More: Population control measures in India – Explained, pointwise

So, the focus should be on increasing socio-economic benefits and addressing the unmet need for contraception. This will contribute towards population stabilisation.


GS Paper 2

‘Gatekeeper Model’ mooted to prevent suicides in prisons

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions, and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of the Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance – Proper human treatment of prisoners is one of the aspects of ensuring human rights in India.

Synopsis

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) issues guidelines for dealing with mental health challenges. It proposes a ‘Gatekeeper Model’, where selected inmates would be trained to identify prisoners at risk of suicide and subsequently refer them to treatment or supportive services.

Background:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) observed that the COVID-19 virus had posed unique challenges to the world. It has also affected the prisons and correctional facilities.
  • Acting on the request of the MHA, NIMHANS has issued a set of guidelines on the management of mental health issues of the prisoners and prison staff.

Guidelines by NIMHANS:

  • Prisoners with mental disorders had to be regularly assessed for the severity of the suicidal risk and also put on regular and supervised medication. 
  • It proposes a ‘Gatekeeper Model’ where selected inmates would be trained to identify prisoners at risk of suicide and subsequently refer them to treatment or supportive services.
  • To address the prisoner’s mental health needs, the correctional facility should have links to community-based initiatives like the District Mental Health Program.
  • It proposes the introduction of a buddy system in prisons. Under this, social support through trained prisoners called “buddies” or “listeners” is provided to the prisoners.
  • Periodic telephone conversations with friends and family should be conducted at regular intervals.
    • For instance, 58 mobile phones were purchased for prisoners in Tamil Nadu. It enabled them to make video calls to their family members in lieu of the physical interviews that were temporarily suspended in view of the pandemic.

Need of Guidelines:

  • There is a prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorder in about 80% of the prison population as per a Bangalore Prison Mental Health Study.
  • Further, incarcerated people are facing many vulnerabilities during the pandemic, which might impact their mental wellbeing.
  • The prison staff is also working under tremendous pressure. It is facing challenges in performing their duty while safeguarding themselves from contracting the infection.

MGNREGA was safety net for workers during first wave, but there are holes in it now

Source: Indian Express

Gs2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Relevance – MGNREGA is one of the most famous and biggest employment programs. Any issue in this program can affect millions of lives.

Synopsis: There are issues in the disbursement of MGNREGA wages.

Background

  • The MGNREGA, among other social security programmes, can be a powerful safety net for the poor. For instance, it acted as a shock absorber during the first wave of the pandemic.
  • The effective functioning of MGNREGA depends upon sufficient budget allocation, reliable payment systems, and ease of access to wages.
  • Yet, the Government reduced the MGNREGA budget this year and neglected it in subsequent relief measures post the second wave.

Issues in the disbursement of MGNREGA wages

First, delays in the disbursement of Wages: As per the Act, workers should get wages within 15 days of completion of work failing which they are entitled to compensation for delays. The MGNREGA payment process consists of two stages.

  • First Stage: After work is completed, a Funds’ Transfer Order (FTO) with worker details is digitally sent to the GoI by the panchayat/block.
  • Second Stage: The GoI then processes the FTOs and transfers wages directly to the workers’ accounts.
    • The Act’s guidelines say that the first stage must be completed in eight days, and the second within seven days after Stage 1.
    • However, as per official data, only 26 percent of the transactions of the first quarter of this financial year were credited within the stipulated seven-day period.
    • In 2018, the Supreme Court gave strong orders reprimanding the GoI for not paying compensation for the delay it was causing.
    • Three years hence, the GoI continues to violate the Act and court orders.

Second, MGNREGA has been a laboratory of many experiments since 2012.

  • Until recently, every MGNREGA FTO consisted of multiple transactions of workers across caste categories.
  • On March 2, the GoI issued a circular to change the payment system so that payments can be made separately based on the caste of workers (SC, ST, and “Others”). Its purpose was to assess, how much the SC/ST communities benefited from MGNREGA.
  • While affirmative action is important, experimenting with the payment architecture without transparent discussions or a justified rationale is uncalled-for.
  • While the purpose of knowing the amount of money accrued to SC/ST households is useful, it can easily be calculated after the wage payments are completed.

Way forward

A robust mechanism is required for feedback from workers to evaluate the robustness of these systems. Further, India boasts 4,355 crore digital retail transactions in 2020-21 as per RBI data. These transactions usually take minutes to complete or a day in normal circumstances. In comparison, MGNREGA transactions, which are only 1.6 percent of the volume of these, get routinely delayed. These issues can only be addressed with strong political will.


A Bill to stop strikes at ordnance factories

Source: Indian Express

GS2 + GS3: pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity + Security Challenges and their Management

Relevance: This is an example of government powers to restrict the function of pressure groups for the same of national security.

Synopsis: The Minister of State for Defence introduced the Essential Defence Services Bill in the Lok Sabha.

Background:

  • Indian Ordnance Factories is the oldest and largest industrial setup. It functions under the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence. These factories form an integrated base for the indigenous production of defense hardware and equipment.
  • Its primary objective is self-reliance and equipping the armed forces with state-of-the-art battlefield equipment.
  • In June, the government announced corporatization of the Ordnance Factory Board.
    • Under this, the 41 factories of ammunition, and other equipment to the armed forces will become part of seven government-owned corporate entities.
    • The Defence Minister had assured that the interests of the OFB employees will be safeguarded.

Need of reforms:

  1. First, it is essential that an uninterrupted supply of ordnance items to the armed forces be maintained for the defence preparedness of the country. Also, it is necessary that ordnance factories continue to function without any disruptions. The Government should have the power to meet the emergency.
  2. Second, the move is aimed at improving the efficiency and accountability of these factories.
  3. Third, the Bill mentioned that there is a threat that the employees of these factories can go on a strike against the decision of corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board.
    • The recognized federations of the employees gave a notice for an indefinite strike. Following this, the conciliation proceedings initiated by the Government at the level of the Chief Labour Commissioner failed.
    • Now, the recognised federations of the employees have reiterated their intention to go on indefinite strike from July 26.
    • For the same purposes, the government had promulgated the Essential Defence Services Ordinance on June 30.

What is the Essential Defence Services Bill?

  • Aims and objective: it is aimed at preventing the staff of the government-owned ordnance factories from going on a strike. It is meant to provide for the maintenance of essential defense services to secure the security of the nation and the life and property of the public at large.
  • Power and functions of the government: The Bill empowers the government to declare services mentioned in it as essential defence services. It also prohibits strikes and lockouts in any industrial establishment or unit engaged in essential defence services.
  • Who will it affect? It has a direct bearing on around 70,000 employees of the 41 ordnance factories around the country, who are unhappy with the corporatization of OFB.

However, even the Cabinet note mentioned that there should be no change in the service condition of the employees of the OFB.


Countering China means more role for Navy and Airforce

Source: Indian Express 

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations

Relevance: Countering China’s border aggression against India

Synopsis: We can face China by giving bigger roles to the navy and air force and downsizing the army by 200,000 men.

China: An aspiring world power
  • Huge defence budget: China is an aspiring world power that spends $252 billion on its defence budget, as compared to the $72.9 billion that India spends. Both countries limit their budget to around 2% of their GDP, which in China’s case is five times our size.
  • Formidable navy: They have downsized their army and built a navy, which is growing faster than the US navy.
Strategic weakness of China
Countering China at choke points
Choke points in the Indian Ocean

Their only strategic weakness is 70% of their imported oil. Hence, the only guarantee of Chinese non-aggression and good behavior is a well-crafted threat to their oil tankers and a complete naval mastery of the escalation that will follow.

Strategy to counter China

Leveraging QUAD & Indian naval and Airforce capabilities: India can start by dividing the Indo-Pacific, including the South China seas and the Eastern Indian Ocean, into areas of maritime search responsibility between the QUAD. All nations operate on a common reporting communication net, centered either in Port Blair or Visakhapatnam.

The QUAD aircraft can gain information dominance over the Indo-Pacific to monitor all PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) movements in Malacca Straits. This dominance can be used during the confrontation, to funnel PLAN units through the geographically constrained straits (like the Strait of Malacca, see the map above) into a killing ground. However, for this strategy to work, some changes are required:

  1. Turn Car Nicobar into an airbase: Hence, it would be really beneficial to build up the Car Nicobar airfield into a full-fledged airbase and permanently station a squadron of suitable aircraft.
  2. Collaborating with Oman: India can negotiate with Oman for the use of the old RAF airbase at Masirah to dominate the Gulf of Hormuz and threaten the Chinese base at Djibouti.

As it is evident, countering China with this strategy requires co-operation b/w QUAD members and is more reliant on India’s naval & Airforce power instead of being military-dominant.

Why Navy & Airforce should be given bigger roles?
  • Unfavorable geography: Relying on maritime and Airforce power offers a better alternative to militarily reinforcing the unfavorable geography of the Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas.
  • Expensive manpower: In the future, manpower is going to get increasingly expensive. At present, our strategic options are constrained because the army gets 61% of the defence budget and 81% of it goes into manpower and maintenance.
  • Better conventional deterrence: We can achieve better conventional deterrence against China by giving bigger roles to the navy and air force and downsizing the army by 2,00,000 men over five years through retirement and reduced recruitment.
    • The reduction in manpower will save approximately Rs 30,000 crore, which can be utilized equally by the three services.
Way forward

Countering China cannot be done by throwing expensive manpower at the problem. It is only possible by shifting the battlespace to advantageous geography, by a united navy and air force effort, while a technically advanced army holds the Himalayan border.

Also Read: India-China relationship demands a minimalist approach

Afghanistan without Pak & Islam

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations

Relevance: India’s future course of action in Afghanistan

Synopsis: India’s future afghan policy should stop viewing the Taliban as a hostile force. It should give a serious thought on the fact that despite having a different ideology, it might not be the enemy.

India’s future dynamics with Taliban

Few things to consider:

  • Taliban’s future interests might diverge from Pak: Is there a piece of evidence that the Taliban, out of dependence or gratitude, will remain a subordinate of the Pakistanis forever? Considering their past this seems a possibility but not a surety.
  • Is Taliban our enemy?: Taliban’s ideology might be different, but does that necessarily make them enemies of India? Are they likely to launch a war on India or join Pakistan in its war against us? What will there be in it for them?
  • Taliban is smarter than Pak thinks it to be: Pakistan has always fantasized about using the Taliban for strategic depth, but all these years they’ve used Pakistan for their own strategic depth.
Future outcomes in Afghanistan
  • Pakistan: If the fighting rages on for long, Pak’s hopes of quick benefits will disappear. The wounded, the homeless, the refugees, will all walk across the Durand Line.
  • Afghan government: Chances that the Ghani government will decisively defeat the Taliban militarily are near-zero. The most it can ensure is a violent stalemate around key cities.
  • India: The best outcome for India might still be a realistic negotiated settlement that brings peace and a sharing of power with minimal bloodshed. India has some leverage there, but very little to influence the course of the military confrontation. Both geography and geopolitics come in the way.
    • Strategically, that is the most prudent way forward. The Taliban have no need or compulsion to fight India. They’d definitely not be fighting Pakistan’s war against us. They neither want nor have the resources to radicalize India’s Muslims. Plus, they will continue to have problems of their own in a broken, unstable country seeing a massive flight of talent and capital.
Way forward

Indian government should stop seeing the Taliban as hostile just because it is conservatively Islamic.


GS Paper 3

Haunting Our Seas: How ‘ghost nets’ threaten marine life and human beings

Source: Times of India

Syllabus: GS 3 – Environment

Relevance – Marine life is facing threats from human-induced pollutants. Ghost nets are one of the threats that require urgent attention.

Synopsis:

Ghost nets put severe stress on marine species, which threaten their survival. A reduction in marine species is in turn worrisome for humans as it would reduce the oxygen level in oceans which currently holds 70% of the world’s oxygen. 

Background:

  • The presence of plastic in the world’s seas is growing exponentially. The IUCN estimates that at least 8 million tons of plastic are discarded in our oceans each year.
  • The impact of such debris on marine life, which ingests it or gets caught in it, is enormous. Ghost nets increase this problem even more. These are discarded fishing nets cluttering up land and sea. 

Menace of Ghost Nets:

  • The waters around India are characterized by the presence of trawl nets from big fishing vessels, gill nets, and purse seine nets which are entire walls of netting.
  • They entangle marine life from small crabs and little starfish to turtles and even whales in their mesh. This creates a significant stress on marine creatures, who are unable to escape from their grip.
  • Furthermore, these are made of non-biodegradable materials like nylon due to which they stay for 500-1000 years in the ocean and enhance pollution levels. For instance, 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is composed of fishing nets.
  • The ghost nets are also impacting the long-term health of marine ecosystems.
    • For instance, species like sharks take 25 years to gain maturity and reproduce. They can have as few as one to three offspring in a breeding cycle. 
    • By catching such slow-breeding marine beings in ghost nets, we are wiping out their juveniles and pushing the species closer to extinction. 
  • The death of marine species coupled with deep-sea mining, and the ever-growing extraction of seafood is putting significant stress on oceans
    • Over 70% of the oxygen we humans breathe arises from plankton in the sea. These micro-organisms are dependent on a marine structure where multiple species are dependent upon each other. As we disturb this structure, we are ending our oxygen supply.

Initiatives taken to solve the problem of ghost net:

  • Committed divers frequently explore marine zones to rescue animals trapped in ghost nets. Some states offer fishermen a reward if they let these species go. 
  • There are diving companies that collaborate with the Dive Against Debris movement to clean up local waters. 
  • Some fishing communities in Goa and Maharashtra worship turtles and whales with great sincerity and want them to live free in their marine homes.
  • On ground-level, nature lovers routinely report ghost net sightings and help the authorities free animals stuck in these. 
  • Many environmental NGOs and conservationists organize regular beach clean-ups to reduce plastic waste entering the ocean. 

However, we need far more stringent regulation to prevent the expansion of this menace, which has the potential of creating havoc in the lives of marine species and humans.


Polluted river stretches in India: A list across states

Source: Down to Earth

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Understanding reasons behind polluted river stretches in India

Synopsis: Various Indian states have a large number of polluted river stretches. What are the reasons behind it and steps taken by the government to address the problem?

Background

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2018 identified 351 polluted river stretches in India. The assessment of water quality for identification of polluted river stretches found that 31 states and Union territories (UT) had rivers and streams that did not meet the water quality criteria. These states / UTs have to submit their action plans for the same.

Performance of states
  • Maharashtra has the highest number of polluted river stretches (53), followed by Assam (44), Madhya Pradesh (22), Kerala (21), Gujarat (20), Odisha (19), and West Bengal and Karnataka (17).
  • The other less river polluted states are Delhi (1); Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1); Puducherry (2); Haryana (2); Rajasthan (2)
Reasons behind polluted river stretches

Rivers in the country are polluted, mainly due to

  • Discharge of untreated or partially treated sewage from cities / towns and industrial effluents in their respective catchments
  • Problems in operation and maintenance of sewage / effluent treatment plants
  • Lack of dilution
  • Dumping of solid waste on river banks
  • Other non-point sources of pollution: Discharge of pollutants from diffuse sources or from a larger area such as runoff from agricultural fields (agricultural runoff), grazing lands, construction sites, abandoned mines and pits, roads and streets.
  • Gap between sewage generation and treatment: This gap between sewage generation and treatment remains a major point source for the increase in pollution of rivers.
    • According to the report published by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) sewage generation from urban areas in the country is estimated at 72,368 million litres per day (MLD), against the sewage treatment capacity of 31,841 MLD.
  • Rapid urbanisation and industrialisation have compounded the problem of polluted river stretches.
Steps taken by the govt
  • National Water Quality Monitoring Programme (NWMP): CPCB, in association with State pollution Control Boards / committees in different states / Union territories, have been monitoring the water quality of rivers and other water bodies across the country through a network of monitoring stations under the National Water Quality Monitoring Programme.
  • Cleaning / rejuvenation of rivers is an ongoing process. It is the responsibility of the states / UTs and local bodies to ensure the treatment of sewage and industrial effluents to the prescribed norms before discharging into water bodies, coastal waters, or land.
  • Namami Gange & NRCP: The Union ministry supplements efforts of states / UTs. It provides financial and technical assistance for abatement of pollution in identified stretches of rivers in the country through the Central Sector Scheme of Namami Gange for rivers in the Ganga basin, as well as through the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) for other rivers.
    • NRCP: The river cleaning programme in the country initiated with the launching of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) in 1985. The Ganga Action Plan was expanded to cover other rivers under National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) in the year 1995.
    • The objective of NRCP is to improve the water quality of the rivers, which are the major water sources in the country, through the implementation of pollution abatement works.

The Ganga’s message

SourceThe Hindu

Syllabus: GS 3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation.

Relevance: India must take its laws on waste seriously to stop microplastics pollution.

Synopsis: Microplastic pollution around the world demands the proper implementation of existing laws and global collaboration.

Introduction:

The Ganga might have stood witness to many stages of India’s civilisation. But in recent decades it has become a conduit for sewage, solid waste, industrial effluents, and other pollutants.

But the recent study by a Delhi-based environment NGO highlighted heavy microplastic pollution in Ganga at Haridwar, Kanpur, and Varanasi. These range from tyres, clothing, food packaging, cosmetics with microbeads, garland covers, and other municipal waste.

The study also finds that there are significant levels of microscopic particles invisible to the naked eye at below 300 micrometers to 5 millimeters.

Read more: Analysis by NGO reveals microplastics in Ganga

Other challenges with the Ganga:

Official data indicates that 97 Ganga towns may be discharging about 750 million litres of untreated sewage a day into the river.

This questions the progress of two high-priority, well-funded missions (Swachh Bharat (to deal with solid waste) and Namami Gange (to rid the river of its pollution)).

Reason for microplastic increase in Ganga:

The Centre recently issued a draft to tighten the Plastic Waste Management Rules, but cities have failed to implement existing rules.

Similarly, the Solid Waste Management Rules, on ending single-use plastics, waste segregation, recycling labels on packaging, extended producer responsibility for manufacturers, and recovery of materials were not implemented properly.

The threat of Microplastics:

Microplastics, recorded in recent times in the remotest of places — Mount Everest, Arctic snow, and the depths of the Mariana Trench, etc. Microplastics pose a hazard as plastics production outpaces the ability of governments to collect and manage waste.

Suggestions:

Plastic wastes around the world are threatening the food web, and the crisis demands a new global treaty modeled on the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

Terms to know:


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Meat ban is a matter of fundamental rights, not of majority vs minority

Source: Times of India  

What is the news?

The Uttarakhand HC observed that the matter of banning meat concerns the fundamental rights of citizens. India is a country where 70% of the population eats non-vegetarian food, and hence meat ban is not a majority versus minority issue.

Background:

In March, Uttarakhand had declared all areas in Haridwar “slaughterhouse-free” and cancelled no objection certificates issued to slaughterhouses.

  • Section 237A was inserted into the UP Municipalities Act. It enables the government to declare an area under a municipal corporation, council or nagar panchayat a “slaughter-free” zone.

This order was challenged in the Uttarakhand High Court on the following grounds:

  • A ban on slaughterhouses in Haridwar discriminated against minorities, as many areas in the district had a substantial Muslim population.
  • A blanket ban on the meat of any type is unconstitutional.

What did the court say?

  1. The issue is not a minority versus majority debate, rather one concerning fundamental rights of citizensThe bench cited surveys on the food habits of Indians from 2018 and 2019. It found out that 72.6% of the population in Uttarakhand and 70% population in India is non-vegetarian. This busts the myth that the majority of the population is vegetarian.
  2. A ban like the one in Haridwar calls into question the extent to which the state can determine a citizen’s choices. The issue is whether a citizen has the right to decide his own diet, or will that be decided by the state.
  3. The court had also said that a civilization is judged only by how it treats its minorities. “Democracy does not only mean rule by the majority but, most importantly, democracy means the protection of the minority.

Way Ahead:

  • The court has now asked the petitioners to amend their pleas in a week as none of them pleaded that such a ban violates the right to privacy of a citizen. 
  • As per the court, the petitions were not drafted with “whole-heartedness” that is required in challenging “seminal constitutional issues”.

AGR Case: SC dismisses plea for recomputation of dues

Source:   Live Mint

What is the news?

SC dismisses plea by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea seeking direction for correction of errors in Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) calculation.

What is the issue?
  • In 2005, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) challenged the government’s definition for AGR calculation. The Supreme Court in 2019 upheld the definition of AGR as stipulated by the DoT.
  • Further, The Supreme Court insisted that telecom operators could pay their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) over the next 10 years starting April 1,2021.
  • Consequently, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd had moved the apex court seeking directions to the DoT to recalculate AGR dues, citing “mathematical errors” in the calculation of the outstanding amount by the department.
  • However, recently, the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the applications of the two telecom companies.
What is AGR?

Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the annual license fee (LF) and spectrum usage charges (SUC) that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

How is it calculated, and what’s the contention?

As per DoT, the charges are calculated based on all revenues earned by a telco – including non-telecom-related sources such as deposit interests and asset sales. On the other hand, telecoms insist that AGR should comprise only the revenues generated from telecom services.


Rare Diseases Policy

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare has informed Lok Sabha that the National Policy for Rare Diseases,2021 has been finalized and put in the public domain.

About National Policy for Rare Diseases,2021: The policy aims at lowering the incidence and prevalence of rare diseases based on an integrated and comprehensive preventive strategy comprising:

  • awareness generation
  • premarital, post-marital, pre-conception, and post-conception screening
  • counseling programmes to prevent births of children with rare diseases
  • enable access to affordable health care to patients of rare diseases.

Categorisation: The policy divides Rare Diseases into three groups, namely:

  • Group 1: Disorders amenable to one-time curative treatment.
  • Group 2: Diseases requiring long-term / lifelong treatment with a relatively lower cost of treatment.
  • Group 3: Diseases for which definitive treatment is available, but challenges are to make optimal patient selection for benefit, very high cost, and lifelong therapy.

Initiatives for treatment support for patients of rare diseases under the Policy are as follows: –

  • Financial support up to Rs. 20 lakhs under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme shall be provided by the Central Government for the treatment of those rare diseases that require a one-time treatment (diseases listed under Group 1).
    • Beneficiaries for such financial assistance would not be limited to BPL families. It will be extended to 40% of the population who are eligible as per the norms of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
  • State Governments can consider supporting patients of such rare diseases that can be managed with special diets or hormonal supplements or other relatively low-cost interventions (Diseases listed under Group 2).
  • Alternate Funding Mechanism: The government will create an alternate funding mechanism by setting up a digital platform for voluntary individual and corporate donors to contribute to the treatment cost of patients with rare diseases.
    • The fund will be utilized for the treatment of patients suffering from rare diseases, especially those under Group 3.
    • The treatment cost of the patient will be the first charge on this fund. Any leftover fund after meeting treatment costs can be utilized for research purposes also.
  • Consortium of Centres of Excellence: It will synchronize prevention and treatment efforts. AIIMS, Delhi will be the nodal hospital to coordinate with other Centres of Excellence for various activities relating to the prevention and treatment of rare diseases.
  • National Consortium for R&D on therapeutics for Rare Diseases: It will be provided with the mandate to do R&D, technology transfer, and indigenization of therapeutics for rare diseases. It will be convened by the Department of Health Research(DHR) with ICMR as a member.

Maharashtra Govt to join Climate Group’s EV100 drive

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

Maharashtra government has announced its decision to become the first state in the country to join hands with Climate Group’s EV100 campaign.

About EV100 campaign:

  • The EV100 campaign is an initiative of Climate Group, an international non-profit organization.
  • The campaign aims to make electric transport the new normal by 2030. For that, it will encourage companies to switch from vehicles running on fossil fuels to EVs and install charging infrastructure.

How will the EV100 campaign help the Maharashtra Government?

  • Maharashtra’s Electric Vehicles(EV) policy aims to achieve 25% electrification of last-mile delivery vehicles by 2025.
  • Climate Group through its EV100 campaign will act as a bridge between private companies and the State government to ease the process of shifting their fleets to Electric Vehicles(EVs).

Centre to set up/upgrade 2 lakh micro food processing enterprises from 2020-21 to 2024-25

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Ministry of Food Processing and Industries is implementing several schemes in the Food Processing sector as part of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Initiative.

Schemes Mentioned in the Article:

About PM Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises Scheme (PMFME):

  • PM-FME is a centrally sponsored scheme launched by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOFPI).
  • Aim: To modernize and enhance the competitiveness of the existing individual micro-enterprises and ensure their transition to the formal sector.
  • Duration: The scheme will be implemented over a period of five years from 2020-21 to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 10,000 crore.
  • Coverage: Under the scheme, 2,00,000 micro food processing units will be directly assisted with credit-linked subsidies.

About Pradhan MantriKisan SAMPADA Yojana(PMKSY):

  • PMKSY is a Central Sector Scheme launched by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries in 2016-17.
  • Aim: To grow and develop the food processing sector including the processing of agro-products and thus increasing the income of the farmers.
  • Components: The component schemes of PMKSY are –
    • Mega Food Park
    • Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure
    • Creation /Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities
    • Infrastructure for Agro-Processing Clusters
    • Creation of Backward & Forward linkages
    • Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure
    • Human Resource and Institutions
    • Operation Greens.
  • Financial Assistance: Under component schemes of PMKSY, MoFPI provides mostly credit-linked financial assistance (capital subsidy) in the form of grants-in-aid to entrepreneurs for setting up of food processing/preservation industries.

Defence Minister flags-in Indian Army Skiing Expedition, ARMEX-21

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Union Defence Minister has flagged-in the Indian Army Skiing Expedition (ARMEX-21) in New Delhi.

About ARMEX-21:
  • ARMEX-21 is an Army Skilling Expedition conducted by the Indian Army.
  • Purpose: It was conducted in the mountain ranges of the Himalayan region to promote the adventure activity in the country and the Indian Army.
  • During the expedition, the team covered 1,660 kms from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Malari in Uttarakhand. They also gathered information about several hitherto uncharted areas along the international boundary.
About Karakoram Pass:
  • Karakoram Pass is a mountain pass between India and China in the Karakoram Range.
  • The mountain pass is located on the boundary between the Indian Union Territory of Ladakh and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, and connects Leh with Yarkand.
  • The pass has no vegetation nor snow because of the high-speed wind, which constantly blows in the region. Animal life is also non-existent in the area. However, temperatures are low and blizzards are common.
  • The pass also plays a major geographic role in the dispute between Pakistan and India over control of the Siachen Glacier area immediately to the southwest of the pass.

SERB and GE India announce collaboration for promoting advanced technology research

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Science and Engineering Research Board(SERB) and GE’s John F Welch Technology Centre(JFWTC), Bengaluru are partnering to promote advanced Technology Research.

About the Partnership:
  • The Partnership has been set up as part of the Fund for Industrial Research Engagement(SERB-FIRE).
  • Purpose: The Partnership aims to promote innovation and solve specific challenges in areas that are directly relevant to the industry.
About Fund for Industrial Research Engagement(FIRE):
  • FIRE has been set up by SERB with support from industry members under the Industry Relevant R&D(IRRD) scheme.
  • Purpose: It aims to address the challenges in the research and innovation space in India by creating an ecosystem that would accelerate the growth in research work with national impact and drive the R&D landscape efficiently and effectively.
  • It will also create a pool of funding, resources, and network that would enable strong research projects with a breakthrough impact in India on some major issues relevant to the Industry.
About The Industry Relevant R&D (IRRD) scheme:
  • Purpose: It has been set up by SERB with an aim to utilize the expertise available in academic institutions and national laboratories to solve industry-specific problems for the larger benefit of society.
Science and Engineering Research Board(SERB):

It was created by an act of Parliament, viz. the Science and Engineering Research Board Act, 2008.

SERB aims to build up the best management systems that would match the best global practices in the area of promotion and funding of basic research.


NITI Aayog and IEA launch ‘Renewables Integration in India 2021’

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The International Energy Agency(IEA) in association with NITI Aayog has released a report titled “Renewables Integration in India 2021”.

About Renewables Integration in India 2021 Report:

India’s Demand For Energy:

  • India is the third largest energy-consuming country in the world.
  • Also, India has made significant progress towards its universal electrification target for residential users.  100 million people gained electricity access in 2018 alone.
  • Per capita electricity consumption across the 28 Indian states and eight union territories is still around a third of the world average and is expected to continue increasing.

Renewable Energy Penetration in India:

  • Renewable energy penetration is highly variable by the state in India.
  • The share of solar and wind in India’s ten renewables-rich states (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, and Kerala) is significantly higher than the national average of 8.2%.
  • Solar and wind account for around 29% of annual electricity generation in Karnataka, 20% in Rajasthan, 18% in Tamil Nadu, and 14% in Gujarat.

Future Prospects of Renewable Energy:

  • The report highlights that India’s power system can efficiently integrate renewables (175 GW by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030).
  • But this would require identification of resources, proper planning, policy and institutional support, energy storage, and advanced technology initiatives.

What the Indian States should do?

Indian states need to employ a wide range of flexible options, such as:

  • Demand response
  • More flexible operation of coal-based power plants
  • Grid improvements to transition to cleaner electricity systems.
  • Larger shares of renewables can be better managed by shifting the time of use in agriculture.
  • Time of Use(ToU) tariffs will be an effective tool to incentivise demand-side management and encourage flexible consumption.

What is a dying declaration, and when can it be set aside?

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

A special CBI court convicted two policemen and awarded them life sentences for the custodial death of a murder accused who was burnt alive inside a police station. The judgment relied heavily on the ‘dying declaration’ made by the victim prior to his death.

What is the Dying Declaration?

  • The Dying Declaration is the statement of a person who had died explaining the circumstances of his death.
  • A dying declaration is considered credible and trustworthy evidence, based upon the general belief that most people who know that they are about to die, do not lie.
  • Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act deals with the cases related to that person who is dead or who cannot be found.

Who can record dying declarations?

  • Anyone can record the dying declaration of the deceased as per law. The law does not compulsorily require the presence of a Judicial or Executive Magistrate to record a dying declaration.

Do dying declarations always need corroboration?

  • A dying declaration can form the sole basis of conviction. The rule requiring corroboration is merely a rule of prudence.
  • Several judgments have noted that it is neither rule of law nor prudence that a dying declaration cannot be acted upon without corroboration.
  • If the court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true and voluntary, it can base conviction on it, without corroboration.
  • But the court has to scrutinise the dying declaration carefully and must ensure that the declaration is not the result of tutoring, prompting, or imagination.

Gig economy can boost jobs for women

Source: Livemint

What is the News?

According to a study by UNDP and FICCI, the rise of the gig economy has the potential to boost women’s employment in formal jobs.

Key Findings of the Study:

  • The rise of the gig economy following the coronavirus outbreak has the potential to boost women’s employment in formal jobs.
  • However, re-skilling will be crucial to expand opportunities for women in the formal sector.
  • Sectors such as health and pharmaceuticals, electrical and electronics, and fast-moving consumer goods are likely to see more female employment.
  • But the women’s employment in the finance and accounting divisions may moderately change because of the adoption of new technology.

What is the Gig Economy?

  • The Gig Economy is characterized by short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. It often involves connecting with customers through an online platform. Example: Delivery boys of app-based food, consultants, bloggers.
  • According to the World Bank, around 6% of the world’s labor force is part of the gig economy.
  • Globally, more than half of gig jobs are driven by demand for low-skilled, low-wage work. Only around 30% of them require specialized skills and expertise.

Terms to know:


Why has the US changed its mind on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline?

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

The United States has now signaled its approval for the completion of a Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.

About Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Project:

  • Nord Stream 2 Pipeline is a 1,200 km-long offshore natural gas pipeline being constructed from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea.
  • Route: The pipeline will run along with the already completed Nord Stream 1 system, and the two together will supply an aggregate of 110 billion cubic meters of gas to Germany per year.
  • Benefits: The pipeline is intended to provide Europe with a sustainable gas supply while providing Russia with more direct access to the European gas market.

Why has the US opposed the Pipeline Project?

  • The US had criticized the project as it believes that the project would increase Europe’s dependence on Russia for natural gas. Currently, EU countries already rely on Russia for 40% of their gas needs.
  • Moreover, the project was also opposed by Ukraine as it believes that once the pipeline is completed, Russia could bypass the existing land pipeline between Russia and Europe that runs through Ukraine and deprive the country of lucrative transit fees.

Why has the US now approved the Project?

  • The United States has approved the Project after it has signed a deal with Germany.
  • The deal lays out that if Russia attempts to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine. Germany will take steps on its own and push for actions at the EU, including sanctions to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector.
  • The deal also requires Germany to “utilise all available leverage” to extend by 10 years the current Russia-Ukraine gas transit agreement, which expires in 2024.

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