9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – July 27th, 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

Uttar Pradesh’s draft population bill has an ableism problem

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated issues

Relevance: Population control measures have to be rational and focus on the welfare-based approach

Synopsis: 

Apart from UP’s population policy’s coercive approach to population control, it plays into the widely prevalent notion of the disabled as a burden.

Introduction:

new draft Bill prepared by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Law Commission seeks to control the population by introducing a two-child policy.

Read moreSudden interest in ‘population control’ in Assam and UP points to political bad faith 

Provision of Disability in the draft bill:

Section 15 of the draft Bill grants exemption to certain classes of individuals from the two-child norm.

Section 15 lays down that, “… an action of an individual shall not be deemed to be in contravention of the two-child norm under this Act if either, or both, of his children born out of the earlier pregnancy, suffers from a disability and the couple conceives a third child subsequently”.

The Bill draws from the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 to define disability. There are 21 conditions listed in the Act. These include impairments like visual, hearing and speech, locomotor, intellectual disabilities as also blood disorders and learning disabilities like dyslexia.

Read more: Why UP’s proposed population control bill is bad as policy and politics

How the bill views disability?

  • The bill invokes an ableist mindset and tends to view the disabled as non-existent and equivalent to being dead. It reinforces the belief of disability being a curse.
  • The bill also infuses the notion of incapability or incapacity of all persons with disabilities while underlining that having a disabled child is as good as not having one at all.
  • It is no coincidence that Section 15 of the draft Bill is titled, “Of Death or Disability of Child”. It equates the two.

The way disability is dealt with in the draft Bill shows a complete lack of understanding of what constitutes a disability, as also its heterogeneous status. It reflects sadly on how the state views persons with disabilities.

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

How the bill stack up against the UN Convetion?

  • The UP draft Bill is in complete contravention of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
    • The UNCRPD in its preamble emphasises mainstreaming disability and “respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity”.

Among the few other states that have legislated a two-child norm, Rajasthan adopts an approach similar to the UP draft Bill. The 2017 Assam population policy also advocates a similar position.

The UP draft Bill and other such approaches seek to codify and institutionalise an ableist mindset. It stigmatises and devalues the disabled as lesser beings.

Read more: Population control measures in India – Explained, pointwise 

GS Paper 2

The great convergence and a lag

Source: Indian Express 

Syllabus: GS 2 – International Relations

Synopsis:

India and the US have an expansive new agenda for discussion. This includes not only democracy and human rights, but also Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific region, reform of global economic institutions, climate change and vaccine diplomacy.

Background:

  • The Indian leadership will review US ties this week with the visiting Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden have already agreed on an ambitious agenda for bilateral, regional, and global cooperation between India and the US. 
  • That ambition, in turn, is based on the unprecedented convergence of Indian and American national interests. 
  • However, the discourse within India’s strategic community continues to be anxious.

India’s Anxiety:

  • First, the country is unsure about the US’s approach towards the Kashmir issue. It fears that the US president wants to mediate on Kashmir or the American talk of democracy and human rights may derail Delhi’s relationship with the US.
  • Second, there is a contradictory fear over the China issue. On one hand, India is not able to trust the US for extending full support to contain China. On the other hand, the country also worries that the US may be trying to “entrap” India into an alliance.
  • Third, as India’s relative weight in the international system continues to grow, it creates much room for giving and taking between India and the US. Yet, a small state syndrome continues to grip the foreign policy elite.
    • For instance, on the economic front, India is now the sixth-largest economy in the world, but there is unending concern about Washington imposing globalisation on Delhi. 
    • Similarly, even as India’s salience for solutions to climate change has increased, Delhi’s debate remains deeply defensive.  

While the government seems quite self-assured in dealing with differences that were traditionally seen as irreconcilable, the gap between Indian policy and discourse still continues.

Reasons behind this gap:

  • First, the Indian elite’s entrenched ideological suspicion of the US has been continuing since independence.
    • Successive prime ministers in the last few decades (from Rajiv Gandhi to Narendra Modi) have invested political capital in improving ties with the US. But the suspicion continues in sections of the elite.
  • Second, the public debate in India narrowly focuses on bilateral relations. This prevents an assessment of the larger forces shaping American domestic and international politics. That, in turn, limits the new possibilities for the bilateral relationship.
  • Third, the problem is reinforced by Delhi’s under-investment in public understanding of American society. Unlike India, Russia and China have put large resources in American studies at their universities and think tanks.

Through the last six months of the Biden presidency, there has been little informed debate in India on the extraordinary policy shifts that are unfolding in Washington.

Policy Shifts in Washington:

  • Biden has also joined Trump in questioning America’s uncritical economic globalisation of the past
  • Trump talked of putting America First, Biden wants to make sure that America’s foreign and economic policies serve the US middle class. As a result, he does not plan to sign any free trade treaties in the near term.
  • On the democratic front, Biden recognises that renewing American democracy is the most powerful way of supporting democracies around the world. For this, he has underlined the importance of –
    • Confronting institutional racism within America, 
    • Reducing the mindless gun violence by limiting the constitutional right to bear arms, and 
    • Preventing discrimination on voting rights for minorities. 
  • Washington is also witnessing big changes in US foreign policy. The emphasis on rebooting the American economy is driven in part by the perceived need to vigorously compete with China
  • Biden is also focused on renewing the traditional US alliances to present a united front against China. He is also seeking to overcome Washington’s hostility to Russia by resetting ties with Moscow.

Way Ahead:

A comprehensive discussion and deliberation should take place on an expansive new agenda. It would cover the issue of Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific region, reform of global economic institutions, climate change and vaccine diplomacy.


Opposing Sedition Law is Good Optics and Politics

Source: Times of India 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Structure, Organisation, and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

Synopsis:

With Section 66A and Article 35A ended, the government should do the same for Section 124A. It would prevent harassment of dissent and uphold the right to free speech under Article 19 of the constitution.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court (SC) had recently asked the Centre the rationale behind not scrapping the sedition law (S-124A of Indian Penal Code).
  • The time given for providing rationale has now expired, and the center should now take a call on its scrapping.

Opinion of Court on Sedition:

  • The SC believes that the sedition law has had a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech.
  • Further S-124A is a colonial vestige of a repugnant design to silence advocates of India’s right to self-determination.
  • A concerned SC judge recently held law enforcement agencies guilty of hounding ‘dissidents’ using 124A in violation of guidelines set in legal stone to limit the potential for its misuse. 
  • Lower courts have also wagged a censorious finger at state-level authorities for the same reason.

Why should the government abolish it?

  • The recent Pegasus attack has put fresh allegations on it for assaulting civil liberties using insidious spyware.
  • It will result in upholding the right of free speech under Article 19 of the constitution.
  • It will showcase a progressive attitude of the government towards citizens and the constitution.
    • Acknowledgment of the overbearing nature of Section 66A and its decision to scrap the discriminatory Article 35A are some progressive steps taken in the past.
    • Section 66A of the IT Act was struck down by SC in 2015, calling it “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague” as it muzzled free speech on the internet.
    • Article 35A of the Indian Constitution was an article that empowered the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them.
  • It will prevent harassment of opposition members in the future. The current government should understand that eventually, after some years, they would take the opposition seat and wouldn’t want to get harassed under sedition laws.

Guardrails of Privacy

Source: Indian Express

GS2: Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability

Synopsis: The allegations of targeted surveillance have a chilling effect on personal and civil liberties that are crucial for a democracy to function.

Introduction:

  • The recent allegations and reports by Arsenal Consulting and Amnesty International on targeted electronic surveillance of selected activists, politicians, journalists, businessmen, and even scientists are worrying.
  • The sophistication of the attacks engenders a sense of resigned helplessness.

How the recent reports reveal the vulnerabilities?

  1. First, as per Arsenal reports, in Bhima koregaon case there is clear evidence that the incriminating files were planted in the hard disks by unknown entities.
    • This was done even before the disks were seized.
    • The offending files were apparently injected by planting a Trojan malware called NetWire by orchestrating some kind of phishing attacks.
    • The presence of NetWire can apparently even be detected by some of the commonly available virus and malware scanners.
    • Given that such attacks are a reality today, governments and legal authorities need to ensure that digital evidence arising out of such forensic analysis is admissible in courts.
  2. Second, the Pegasus attacks described in the Amnesty International report are significantly more sophisticated.
    • They are “zero-click” attacks that do not even require a mistake by a victim to be successful.
    • It is difficult to detect attacks like Pegasus because they frequently change methods and signatures.
    • Pegasus was apparently also designed to self-destruct on detection attempts.
    • But according to the Amnesty report, it did not entirely succeed and left traces.
  3. Third, data protection law is not sufficient to help victims seek redressal and hold the perpetrators accountable, as suggested by Justice BN Srikrishna.
    • Stealth attacks are not only difficult to detect but are also difficult to prove and easy to deny, so ex-post redressal will always be uncertain.

Way forward:

  • Data protection law is still required.
    • A framework is essential for defining the contours of lawful surveillance and data processing.
  • Need surveillance reforms and data protection standards.
    • To analyze the proportionality of the surveillance requirements.
    • To address the operational aspects of the legal and technical standards necessary for an effective privacy protection architecture.
    • Clear standards for defining authorisation chains.
    • Maintaining tamper-proof logs, regulatory oversight, and audit.
    • Ensure ex-ante prevention rather than ex-post detection of violations.
  • Opposition from within the organisations as well as strong public outrage and disapproval can be effective deterrents for misadventures like Pegasus.

Neither law nor technology can be of much help. However, the society has to repose faith in constitutional morality.


Healthcare privatization has not served India well

Source: live Mint

Syllabus: GS 2 – health-related issues

Synopsis: Our failure to invest in public health facilities has resulted in a disproportionately large role for private services in this industry. 

Introduction 

India opened its markets to private participation 30 years ago.  Overall, sectors dominated by private players boast of a reasonable degree of competitive intensity. The value delivered for prices charged or value for money has increased.

However, two crucial sectors are the cause of concern: education and healthcare. They require oversight because neither can operate on a relaxed model and provide us with the human capital base required for long-term economic success.

What is the state of India’s healthcare?

The current Oxfam Inequality Report 2021 indicated India’s sad state of healthcare. It draws on data from the National Family Health Survey and the National Sample Survey to show large differences in health and healthcare access.

  1. Firstly, these discrepancies occur along with parameters that are not surprising. The wealthy are healthier than the poor, just as the general population outperforms Scheduled Castes and Tribes, etc. Nearly two-thirds of our health infrastructure is located in Indian towns and cities, which serve just approximately a third of our population.
  2. Secondly, one major disadvantage is a socially perceived aversion among chief household decision-makers to seek medical help for women. Our poor data on maternal mortality and female life expectancy at birth, unequal sex ratio, indicate the inadequacy of women’s care.
  3. Thirdly, some of these issues are beyond the scope of fiscal allocations. However, greater utilization of public funds can make a significant effect. 

What should be done?

States that spend more money on healthcare appear to have less inequitable outcomes. These states have a greater recovery rate from covid, according to Oxfam research.

  • The Indian government has adopted the 15th Finance Commission’s recommendation to roughly double public investment to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2025 in order to attain universal health care by 2030. It should be implemented in letter and spirit.
  • While health may be the province of state governments, it is up to the federal government to lay forth a comprehensive plan that moves the focus from insurance coverage to actual service delivery.

Conclusion 

  • For millions of people, it’s still partly a nutrition issue. Recent studies, however, imply that prior advances in human development indexes have been lost. A major overhaul of public healthcare is required. Covid should have an electoral appeal now that it has alerted voters to this neglected area.

An emigration Bill that does not go far enough

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations (IR)- Indian diaspora

Relevance: The emigration bill and other reforms are essential to protect Indian workers abroad.

Synopsis:

The new emigration bill is better than the Emigration Act 1983, but more reforms are needed to protect Indian workers.

Introduction:

In early June 2021, the Ministry of External Affairs invited public inputs to the Emigration Bill 2021. The Bill could be introduced in Parliament soon and presents a long-overdue opportunity to reform the recruitment process for nationals seeking employment abroad.

How Emigration is governed at present?

Labour migration is governed by the Emigration Act, 1983.

  • The Act sets up a mechanism for hiring through government-certified recruiting agents – individuals or public or private agencies.
  • The Act outlines obligations for agents to conduct due diligence of prospective employers.
  • It also sets up a cap on service fees and establishes a government review of worker travel and employment documents (known as emigration clearances) to 18 countries. These include mainly in West Asian states and South-East Asian countries.
Why does India need the Emigration bill?
  • Serious exploitative practices: For years, independent investigations into migrant worker conditions have underlined serious exploitative practices. Such as large recruitment charges, contract substitution, retention of passports, non-payment or underpayment of wages, poor living conditions and ill-treatment, etc.
  • In recent months, media reports have highlighted how the majority of migrant worker deaths in the Arab Gulf States/West Asia are attributed to heart attacks and respiratory failures, whose causes are unexplained and poorly understood.
  • The Emigration Bill 2021 is an improvement over the 1983 Act. This is due to the following reasons.
    • The bill launches a new emigration policy division
    • It also establishes help desks and welfare committees
    • The bill requires manpower agencies to conduct pre-departure briefings for migrants
    • It also increases the accountability of brokers and other intermediaries who are also involved in labour hiring.
What are the challenges with the emigration bill?
  • The bill lacks a human rights framework aimed at securing the rights of migrants and their families. Progressive labour regimes do so. For example, the Philippines explicitly recognises “the dignity and fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Filipino citizens”.
  • Against ILO Convention: International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Private Employment Agencies Convention No. 181 mentions that the employers, not workers, should bear recruitment payments. This includes the costs of their visas, air travel, medical exams, and service charges to recruiters. The bill, on the other hand, permits manpower agencies to charge workers’ service fees, and even allows agents to set their own limits.
    • Large-scale surveys by the ILO and the World Bank show that Indian workers pay exorbitant charges for their jobs. For instance, Indians in Saudi Arabia paid on average $1,507 in recruitment charges.
  • The Bill permits government authorities to punish workers by canceling or suspending their passports and imposing fines up to ₹50,000 for violating any of Bill’s provisions.
    • This can be used as a tool to crack down on workers who migrate through unregistered brokers or via irregular arrangements, such as on tourist visas.
    • But it runs contradictory to the purpose of protecting migrants and their families and violates international human rights standards. As migrant workers, in general, are unaware of the law and recruiters influence them.
    • Recruiters and public officials could misuse the law to instil fear among workers and report or threaten to report them.
  • This Bill does not also adequately reflect the gender dimensions of labour migration. Women having limited agency in recruitment but are more likely to be employed in marginalised and informal sectors and/or isolated occupations in which labour, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse are common.
  • The Bill also provides limited space for worker representation or civil society engagement in the policy and welfare bodies that it sets up.

Suggestions:

The Ministry of External Affairs must start at the top, and draft a clearer purpose which explicitly recognizes

  • The contributions of Indian workers
  • The unique challenges they face
  • Uphold the dignity and human rights of migrants and their families.

GS Paper 3

Moon-forming region seen around exoplanet for the first time

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Science and Technology

Synopsis:

Scientists for the first time have spotted a Moon-forming region around a planet beyond our solar system. The research offers a deeper understanding of the formation of planets and moons.

Background:

  • A study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters has for the first time spotted a Moon-forming region around a planet beyond our solar system.
  • More than 4,400 planets have been discovered outside our solar system, called exoplanets. 
  • However, no circumplanetary discs had been found until now as all known exoplanets resided in “mature” (fully developed) solar systems, except the two infant gas planets orbiting PDS 70.

Findings of the study:

  • The researchers used the ALMA observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert to detect the disc of swirling material accumulating around one of two infant planets seen orbiting a young star called PDS 70.
  • The disc around PDS 70c possesses enough mass to produce up to three moons, of the size of Earth’s moon.
  • It is called a circumplanetary disc, and it is from these that moons are born. The discovery offers a deeper understanding of the formation of planets and moons.

About PDS 70:

  • The orange-coloured star PDS 70, roughly the same mass as our Sun, is about 5 million years old.  The star is approximately 370 light-years from Earth. 
    • A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 9.5 trillion km.
  • The system has two planets (PDS 70b and PDS 70c) around it which are even younger. Both planets are similar (although larger) to Jupiter, a gas giant. 
  • It was around one of the two planets, called PDS 70c, that a Moon-forming disc was observed.

Birth of a moon:

  • Stars burst to life within clouds of interstellar gas and dust scattered throughout galaxies. Leftover material spinning around a new star then combines to form planets and circumplanetary discs surrounding some planets similarly yield moons.
  • The dominant mechanism thought to underpin planet formation is called “core accretion”.
  • In this scenario, small dust grains, coated in ice, gradually grow to larger and larger sizes through successive collisions with other grains. 
  • This continues until the grains have grown to the size of a planetary core. Once the core is formed, the young planet develops a strong enough gravitational potential to accrete gas which will form its atmosphere.
  • Some nascent planets attract a disc of material around them and the process of core accretion begins which eventually leads to the formation of moons around planets.

Wounded mountains

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Disaster and Disaster Management.

Synopsis: Tourist tragedy in Himachal Pradesh points to the importance of preserving ecology

Background

  • The tragic death of nine tourists in a landslip in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh is another example highlighting the fragility of the ecology of the Himalayan States.
  • Encouraging an incompatible model of development in the hills, represented by big hydroelectric projects and large-scale destruction of forests and damming of rivers, will erode its ecology.
  • Sooner, the Himalayan States may be entering a phase of irreversible decline because of losses to their ecology and frequent landslides may become inevitable.

Impacts of Hydropower Projects

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy during 2018-19 noted that the State could more than double its existing harnessed hydropower potential of 10,547 MW.
  • But one scientific estimate warns that predatory tapping of the river through all planned projects would result in nearly a quarter of its waters in dams and a staggering 72% through tunnels.
  • Other researchers, studying the 2015 Nepal earthquake, point to high seismicity causing fatal landslides and severe damage to hydropower structures in the Himalayas.
  • It is clear that the cost of power produced was underestimated, while the potential was overestimated.
  • Also, the costs to people and communities, together with the loss of pristine forests that weak afforestation programmes cannot replace, are not taken care of.

Mega hydropower projects could alter several aspects of ecology, rendering it vulnerable to the effects of extreme events such as cloudbursts, flash floods, landslides, and earthquakes


Introducing Gross Environment Product in Uttarakhand: A jargon or reality?

Source: Down to Earth

Gs3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Synopsis: The Uttarakhand government may introduce a well-defined concept of ecosystem services Gross Environment Product’ (GEP) its objectives.

Background

  • Degradation of ecosystems had led to adverse impacts on more than 60 per cent of services we get from the ecosystems.
  • The idea of valuation of the components of environment got impetus following rapid degradation of ecosystems.
  • Recently, the Uttarakhand government has announced that it will initiate valuation of its natural resources in the form of ‘Gross Environment Product’ (GEP), along the lines of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Ecosystem Services

  • The term “ecosystem services” was coined in 1981.
  • According to Costanza, ecosystem services are the benefits human populations derive, directly or indirectly, from ecosystem functions.
  • Ecosystem services represent the benefits humans get: Forests, lakes and grasslands; timber and dyed; carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling; soil formation and productivity; and tourism.
  • Degradation of ecosystem services, increased risks, and the exacerbation of poverty for some groups of people.
  • These problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.
  • Ecosystem services are now the well-defined field of research worldwide.

Ecosystem Services provided by Uttarakhand

  • Uttarakhand holds a distinct position historically on social awareness towards the importance of ecosystems
  • It may be emphasised that because of the river connection, Uttarakhand has a special place in providing soil and water to the Gangetic plains.
  • Harnessing hydropower potentials is an aspect that demands wider scope of ecosystem services.
  • Further, Himalayan rivers not only drain down water but also carry millions of tonnes of sediments.
  • However, the ecological regime of the hills of Uttarakhand and other Himalayan states is being destroyed with little or no benefit to regions from where they are being harnessed.

Concept to measure Ecosystem Services

  • According to the recommendation of the 12th and 13th Finance Commissions, grants were transferred to forest-rich states in amounts corresponding to their forest covers.
  • However, considering only the forest cover in transferring funds to states is inadequate.
  • If the payments are to reflect the true value of the services provided, then Ecosystem services need to be measured and assigned unit values.
  • Singh introduced the concept of service providing (example, the Himalayas) and receiving zones (example, the Gangetic Plains).
  • It should be understood that while valuing ecosystem services, the population size served is important.
  • That is why Uttarakhand, which substantially serves Gangetic Plains, is far more important than Sikkim, which has only a small population to serve in plains.
  • Singh and his team suggested a system to valorize ecosystem services in the Himalayan states of India, in a way that is consistent with the national mission on Himalayan ecosystems.
  • According to them, ecosystem services of a state benefiting the rest of the country and world should be valued, and these values should be incorporated into national accounting.
  • The main argument is that since the market does not perform money transfers from regions that benefit from ecosystem services to regions that produce them, the central government should perform this transfer.

Way forward

  • The decision of Uttarakhand government to incorporate GEP appears to be a welcome step. But the purpose of introducing GEP is not transparent.
    • Is it a process of simple valuation of state’s ecological wealth? or
    • It is an attempt to claim budget from the centre against ecosystem services the state provides to the rest of the country? or
    • it is a process of providing benefits to its own residents is not clear
  • Introducing a new term  Gross Environment Product’ (GEP), with no clear-cut narrative invites serious doubts on the intention of the government.
  • So, it is important that the state should be steady in approach, focussing on Ecosystem Services, which have global acceptance and a strong knowledge base.

A framework for microfinance regulation that would suit India

Source: Live Mint

Gs3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Synopsis:  The proposed framework for microfinance regulation by RBI is a great leap forward and reflects bold thinking. Yet, expanding it to cover other elements can usher in responsible retail lending that includes but transcends microfinance.

Background

  • The Malegam Committee Report of 2011 helped establish micro- finance as a legitimate asset class,
  • After 10 years then, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had released its Consultative Document on Regulation of Microfinance in June 2021. This has several bold and fresh elements.
  • Public policy would take a huge leap forward if other policy institutions adopt a similar approach on archaic laws and rules.

Evaluation of RBI’s major proposals?

  • First, RBI is considering to remove the following
    • Limits on loan amounts, tenures
    • Limits on the number of non-bank finance company-microfinance institutions (NBFC-MFIs) lending to a borrower,
    • Its minimum 50% income-generation requirement,
    • its pricing cap for NBFC-MFI loans.
  • These are welcome, given the maturing nature of the sector.
  • Second, RBI is considering a common definition for ‘microfinance’ to mean ‘collateral-free’ loans to households with annual household incomes of ₹125,000 and ₹200,000 for rural and other areas, respectively.
    • The feature of equal monthly repayments seems to have been left out.
    • However, it’s not clear whether all other loans to these households, such as agriculture, Agri-equipment and gold loans, housing and two-wheeler loans, will fall outside this definition.
  • Third, the idea of assessing household income and formal debt and not lending beyond a debt-to-income cut-off needs more deliberation.
    • According to Dvara Research study of Indian household income, Expenditure as a proportion of income is quite high for the bottom three quintiles.
    • So, providing consumption credit may be unsuitable for a household with, say, 30% debt as a proportion of income.
    • Additionally, factors such as high informal debt, or a high likelihood of health or weather shocks, can render debt unsustainable for households that lack insurance, liquidity buffers, etc.
    • In such a scenario, the 50% cut-off might be too low and push such borrowers towards expensive informal debt.
    • One idea is to define a ‘debt-to-disposable income’ cut-off, lending beyond which will need to be substantiated by lenders.
    • Determining income ranges for various customer segments with the support of industry bodies and using combined bureau reports for loan pricing can lend momentum to sector-wide solutions by the private sector.
  • Finally, an overarching set of principles to prevent mis-selling by retail lenders is missing in our regulatory lexicon.
    • The European Banking Authority’s Guidelines on Loan Origination and Monitoring, 2020, have clear lender obligations for consumer credit and prohibitions on unsuitable outcomes. These are worth considering for India.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


National web portal for sharing R&D facilities I-STEM enters Phase-II

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map (I-STEM) Portal has been accorded an extension for five years until 2026 and enters its second phase with added features.

About I-STEM Portal:

  • I-STEM was launched in 2020. It is a National Web portal for sharing R&D (Research and Development) facilities.
  • Purpose: The portal is the gateway for researchers to locate the specific facility(ies) they need for their R&D work and identify the one that is either located closest to them or available the soonest.
  • Initiatives: The Portal Is an initiative of the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India under the aegis of Prime Minister Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council(PM-STIAC) mission.

Goals of I-STEM Portal:

  • The goal of I-STEM is to strengthen the R&D ecosystem of the country by connecting researchers with resources.
  • This will be done by promoting technologies and scientific equipment development indigenous and providing necessary supplies and support to researchers by enabling them access to existing publicly funded R&D facilities in the country through the I-STEM web portal.

Phase-I of I-STEM Portal:

  • In the first phase, the portal is listed with more than 20,000 pieces of equipment from 1050 institutions across the country and has more than 20,000 Indian researchers.

Phase-II of I-STEM Portal:

  • Firstly, the portal will host indigenous technology products listed through a digital catalog.
  • Secondly, it will also host and provide access to selected R&D (Research and Development) software required to undertake research projects by students and scientists.
  • Thirdly, the portal will also provide a platform for the various City Knowledge and Innovation Clusters to enhance the effective use of R&D infrastructure.
  • Lastly, it will be designed as a dynamic digital platform that will provide a boost to research and innovation, especially for 2 tier and 3 tier cities and also for the emerging start-up ecosystem.

A Telangana temple and its UNESCO tag

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

UNESCO has inscribed the 13th-century Ramappa temple in Palampet, Telangana as a World Heritage Site.

Click Here to Know about Ramappa Temple

What is a World Heritage Site tag?

  • A World Heritage Site is an area or object inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • The sites are included for their outstanding universal value. This signifies cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional that it surpasses national boundaries and becomes a site of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.

Selection Criteria: To be included, sites must meet at least one of the ten selection criteria. This includes:

  1. site representing a masterpiece of human creative genius or
  2. exhibiting an important interchange of human values over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world or
  3. to be an outstanding example of a type of building that illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history or
  4. bearing unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or
  5. to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement or
  6. to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions with ideas, or with beliefs with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance or
  7. to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance or
  8. to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history or
  9. to be outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution or
  10. to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity.

How are sites recognized?

  • The World Heritage Convention’s operational guidelines say that a tentative list is like an inventory of properties a country thinks should be on the World Heritage Site.
  • After UNESCO includes the property in the Tentative List, the country prepares a nomination document that will be considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Indian Naval Ship Talwar in Mombasa to Participate in Exercise Cutlass Express 2021

Source: PIB

 What is the News?

Indian Naval Ship Talwar is participating in a multinational training Exercise named “Cutlass Express 2021”. It is being conducted along the East Coast of Africa.

About Exercise Cutlass Express:

  • Exercise Cutlass Express is an annual maritime exercise, conducted to promote national and regional maritime security in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean.
  • The exercise is designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security and increase interoperability between the regional navies.

Participation:

Note: Indian Navy is participating in the exercise in a ‘trainer role’.

Significance of India’s Participation:

About INS Talwar:

  • INS Talwar is the lead ship of the Talwar-class frigates of the Indian Navy.
  • The ship was built in Russia and commissioned into the Indian Navy in 2003.

About Critical Maritime Routes Indian Ocean(CRIMARIO):

  • The CRIMARIO Project was launched by the European Union(EU) in 2015.
  • The project aims to improve maritime security and safety in the wider Indian Ocean, with a particular focus on selected countries and archipelagos in East Africa.

Insolvency: Bill on pre-pack resolution of MSMEs tabled

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

The Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister has introduced the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment Bill), 2021 in the Lok Sabha.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment Bill),2021:

Key Provisions of the Bill:

Pre-Pack Insolvency Resolution Process(PIRP):

  • The bill introduces pre-packs as an insolvency resolution mechanism for micro, small and medium enterprises(MSMEs) with defaults up to Rs 1 crore.
    • A pre-pack is an agreement for the resolution of the debt of a distressed company through an agreement between secured creditors and investors, instead of a public bidding process.
    • Unlike in the case of the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP), debtors remain in control of their distressed firm during the Pre-Pack Resolution Process(PIRP).
  • Distressed corporate debtors(CDs) are permitted to initiate a pre-pack insolvency resolution process(PIRP) with the approval of two-thirds of their creditors.
  • Moreover, the CDs are also required to submit a base resolution plan at the time of the initiation of the PIRP.

Swiss Challenge Method:

  • The pre-pack insolvency resolution process(PIRP) also allows for a Swiss challenge to the resolution plan submitted by a CD, in case operational creditors are not paid 100% of their outstanding dues.
  • Under the Swiss challenge mechanism, any third party would be permitted to submit a resolution plan for the distressed company. Then, the original applicant would have to either match the improved resolution plan or forgo the investment.

Factoring regulation bill gets the go-ahead

Source: Livemint

What is the News?

Lok Sabha has passed the Factoring Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2020.

About Factoring Regulation (Amendment) Bill,2020:

  • The Factoring Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 amends the Factoring Regulation Act, 2011 to widen the scope of entities that can engage in factoring business.

Note: Factoring is a business where an entity(factor) acquires the receivables of a company at a discount and realizes it from entities that owe the money. This helps the company to monetize its receivables quickly and tackle cash-flow problems.

Key Provisions of the Bill:

Participation of NBFCs:

  • The bill seeks to liberalize the participation of non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) in the factoring business.
  • It also removes the requirement of an entity, in the factoring business, to report every transaction within 30 days. The bill proposes that such finer details will be specified in regulations.

Removes RBI Authorization:

  • The existing law on factoring business enacted in 2011 allows the RBI authorization for NBFCs to remain in factoring business only if it was their principal business: with more than half of their assets deployed and income earned from factoring business.
  • The amendment bill removes this threshold. This is expected to open up the opportunity in this business to more non-bank lenders at a time small businesses are facing the financial stress of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government launched NISHTHA for continuous professional development of the teachers during Covid

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Education has informed the Lok Sabha about the NISHTHA Programme.

About NISHTHA Programme:

  • NISHTHA stands for National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement.
  • It is a capacity building programme for Improving Quality of School Education through Integrated Teacher Training.
  • Aim: It aims to build competencies among all the teachers and school principals at the elementary stage.
  • The functionaries (at the state, district, block, cluster level) shall be trained in an integrated manner on learning outcomes, school based assessment, learner – centred pedagogy, new initiatives in education, among others.
  • This training is being organized by constituting National Resource Groups (NRGs) and State Resource Groups (SRGs) at the National and the State level who will be training 42 lakhs teachers subsequently.
  • Moreover, a portal/Management Information System (MIS) for delivery of the training, monitoring and support mechanism has been infused with this capacity building initiative.
  • However, due to COVID-19 and to provide continuous development opportunities to the teachers at the elementary level, this Department has launched NISHTHA online using DIKSHA platform in October 2020.

About DIKSHA:

  • DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for School Education) is an initiative of the National Council of Educational Research and Training(NCERT), Ministry of Education.
  • Purpose: The platform offers engaging learning material, relevant to the prescribed school curriculum, to teachers, students and parents.

Kandla becomes first Green SEZ

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Kandla Special Economic Zone(KASEZ) has become the first Green SEZ after it received the IGBC Green Cities Platinum Rating for Existing Cities.

About Kandla Special Economic Zone(KASEZ) as First Green SEZ:

  • Kandla has become the first green industrial city in India. It has received a platinum rating after a rigorous audit and inspections conducted by Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).
  • This has been possible because KASEZ has managed to grow 68 species of trees and attract 28 varieties of birds on a piece of land that was once a salt pan with almost no vegetation.

Initiatives taken by Kandla SEZ to become First Green SEZ:

  • Firstly, Kandla has halted the growth of salt pan beyond Kandla. This was done by planting trees, which helped reduce salinity and improved the quality of topsoil.
  • Secondly, it has built water harvesting systems. Due to this, the water became less saline and the growth of the trees improved.
  • Thirdly, KASEZ is a hub of the used clothing recycling industry. There is a lot of cloth waste which is generated by this industry. The industry was finding it difficult to dispose of them in landfill sites. So, they took this cloth waste and used it for mulching during tree plantation.
    • Mulching is the process of covering the open surface of the ground by a layer of some external material.
  • Lastly, KASEZ also used plastic waste to line the artificial water bodies created inside the area to prevent water seepage and mix with the saline water.

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC):

  • IGBC is a part of the Confederation of Indian Industry(CII). It was formed in the year 2001.
  • The vision of the council is to enable a sustainable built environment for all and facilitate India to be one of the global leaders in the sustainable built environment by 2025.

Parliament passes National Institutes of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2021

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Parliament has passed the National Institutes of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2021.

Key Provisions of the Bill:

  • Institutes of National Importance(INI): The Bill declares certain institutes of food technology, entrepreneurship, and management as institutions of national importance. These institutes are:
    • National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management, Kundli
    • Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology, Thanjavur.
  • Greater Autonomy: These above institutes will be provided Greater Autonomy so that they can start new and innovative courses as well as help them to attract excellent faculty and students.
  • New Curriculum: These institutes will also have curricular provisions related to food processing areas e.g. cold chain technology, food bio nanotechnology which can help in filling the technological gap.
  • New Centres: They can also now open new centers anywhere in the country and abroad.

Institute of National Importance(INI):

  • Institute of National Importance(INI) is a status that may be conferred on a premier public higher education institution in India by an act of Parliament of India.
  • It is an institution that serves as a pivotal player in developing highly skilled personnel within the specified region of the country/state.
  • These institutes also receive special recognition and funding from the Government of India.

Compendiums on hydrogen and fuel cell, materials for energy storage, conservation launched

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Department of Science and Technology has launched three documents namely: Hydrogen and Fuel Cell(HFC) 2018, Material for Energy Storage (MES) 2018, and Material for Energy Conservation and Storage Platform (MECSP) 2017. These documents contain information on ongoing research activities in their fields.

Key Initiatives Mentioned in the Article:

About Clean Energy Material Initiative(CEMI):

  • Clean Energy Materials Initiative(CEMI) aims to accelerate the innovation process for high-performance, low-cost clean energy materials and automate the processes needed to integrate these materials into new technologies.

Key Components of the Initiative:

  • Materials for Energy Storage(MES): The program was launched in 2016 to support research and development for the entire spectrum of energy storage technologies.
  • Materials for Energy Conservation and Storage Platform(MECSP): This initiative supports research and development of energy conservation and storage technologies from early-stage research to technology breakthroughs in materials, systems, and scalable technologies to maximize resource use efficiency.
  • Integrated Clean Energy Material Acceleration Platform(IC MAP): The initiative aims to accelerate the discovery of high-performance low-cost clean energy materials for energy harnessing, energy storage, and energy efficiency. It will be useful for diverse sectors such as power, buildings, transportation, storage, construction among others.
  • National Innovation Challenge Awards for Designing and Developing Energy Storage Devices: The objective of this challenge is to develop cost-effective, viable and reliable solutions that can address the challenge of energy access through an energy storage system integrated with appropriate renewable energy source(s).

About Hydrogen Fuel Cell(HFC) Technology:

  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell(HFC) Technology uses chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen (from air) to generate electrical energy, eliminating the use of fossil fuels.
  • Further, the fuel cell technology emits only water, thus cutting down the emission of harmful greenhouse gases along with other air pollutants.
  • The technology with further adoption and use is poised to make the world a cleaner place with reduced air pollution levels.

Significant improvement in India’s score in United Nation’s Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation

Source- PIb

What is the news?

India has made substantial progress in UNESCAP’s Global Survey on Digital & Sustainable Trade Facilitation with a 90.32 percent score.

Introduction

  • India has made significant progress in the ease of cross-border trade as per the latest UN Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation.
  • As per the Survey, India’s ranking has improved from 78.49 percent in 2019 to 90.32 percent in 2021.
    • India is the best-performing country in the South and southwest Asia region and in the Asia Pacific region.
    • Moreover, India’s overall score is greater than the EU average score and some OCED countries.

India’ performance 

MeasuresIn 2021 [in percentage]In 2019 [in percentage]
Transparency10093.33
Formalities95.8387.5
Institutional arrangement and cooperation88.8966.67
Paperless trade96.381.48
Cross-border paperless trade66.6755.56

About the UN survey-

  • The Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation is conducted every two years by UNESCAP.
  • The 2021 Survey includes an assessment of 58 trade facilitation measures covered by the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Steps taken by India to improve cross border trade

The Government has implemented a number of measures to speed up processes for customs clearance, such as-

  • Turant Customs [Faster customs] – The flagship ‘Turant Customs’ program of the CBIC [Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs] brings faceless, paperless, and contactless customs. This has had a direct impact in terms of the improvement in the ranking of India.
  • Facilitate trade in times of emergencies – During the pandemic, Customs formations have made all efforts to expedite COVID-19 related imports. A single dedicated window COVID-19, a 24*7 helpdesk for EXIM TRADE, has been established on the CBIC website to assist importers in quickly resolving issues.

Way forward

The improvement in cross-border trade facilitation is a promising sign of post-pandemic economic recovery since the higher score for a country aids businesses in their investment decisions.

Print Friendly and PDF