9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – July 2nd, 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

Envisioning the post-pandemic smart city

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 1 – Urbanization, their problems, and their remedies

Relevance: Smart cities project requires rethinking after the Covid pandemic.

Synopsis:

The pandemic has come as a remarkable opportunity to review the pathway for ‘smart cities’, and also other towns not on the map. Further, cities should avoid expensive technological solutions and frame their plans in an inclusive and sustainable manner.

Background:

  • The government started a journey of urban development in 2015. It was based on the belief that a select set of cities across the country could be ‘transformed’ and made smart.
  • After this, 100 smart cities were chosen through a competition among the States. The Centre would support the chosen projects and others would learn from them.

About the smart city:

  • Globally, there is no uniform definition of smart cities, and the most common features of such urban spaces are derived from concepts in the global north. 
  • They generally have a technocentric vision, with sensors everywhere, smart homes, and high levels of connectivity. 
  • There is massive and ubiquitous data collection by various agencies and a continuous flow of useful information to citizens.

Performance of Cities during the Pandemic:

  • The pandemic interrupted the lives of cities – confining people indoors for long periods. It disrupted economic processes and paralyzed vibrant urban life. 
  • As the pandemic peaked, thousands had to desperately look for emergency medical care in scarce health facilities. At the same time, the flashy smart developments built for leisure and shopping remained shuttered.
  • The Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) functioned as “war rooms” for COVID-19. They helped cities in fighting the pandemic through information dissemination, improving communication, predictive analysis, and supporting effective management.
    • However, people still struggled for information and access to medical care in several states and the national capital during the second wave of the pandemic. This shows the poor efficiency of these centers.

Building a post-pandemic smart city:

  • It should not solely focus on developing urban infrastructure. Over the years, Smart Cities Mission projects converged with other infrastructure programmes such as AMRUT and the PM Awas Yojana (Urban).
    • The latest official count shows that 5,924 Mission projects worth Rs. 1,78,500 crore have been tendered but still, robust resilience has not been developed.
  • It should be developed in consonance with the ecology and environment. This would mean a freeze on the diversion of wetlands and commons for infrastructure development. 
    • It would also involve the creation of new urban gardens and water bodies, and doing a climate change audit for every piece of infrastructure planned.
  • Cities should apportion the available road space for bicycles, which exemplifies safe travel. It would also complement expanded public transport when commuters return in big numbers to bus and urban rail. 
    • Further, focusing on Pedestrianization, biking, and building harmonious opportunities for street vending will address the criticism that smart city planning ignores the informality that marks India’s urban spaces.
  • There should be democratic planning to ensure every section of society has a voice in the process and not merely those who have digital access.
  • Cities should invest in essential modernization. This includes deployment of multiple sensors to gauge air, noise, and water pollution, provision of electronic delivery of citizen services, intelligent public transport, etc.
    • For citizens, real-time control rooms can be meaningful only if they can have a good public dashboard of information. 
    • In COVID-19 times, this means access to health alerts, vaccinations, hospital beds, and topical advice, rounded off with data on pollution, rainfall, congestion, and so on.

Why a grassroots mass movement is necessary to fight dowry

Source: Indian Express  

Syllabus: GS 1 – Indian Society

Relevance: Dowry practice is still prevalent in Indian Society, despite taking different measures.

Synopsis:

Country needs a multipronged approach to tackle the inhuman practice of dowry. Mere enactment of a legislative framework or enhancement of literacy levels is not enough to control this problem.

Background:

  • Last week, a young woman named Vismaya Nair was found dead in her house. It is alleged that excessive demand for dowry by her husband resulted in the death of the woman.
  • Vismaya is just one more in the endless statistics of horrifying dowry deaths in India. They are so common that if a young woman dies with burns or other injuries within seven years of marriage, it is deemed to be a dowry death. 

Challenges in Tackling Dowry:

  • First, the system of patriarchy is deeply entrenched in our homes. The bride is looked upon as a commodity and handed over as a package. She is bundled up with gold, a car, and other luxury items.
  • Second, the legislative framework i.e the Dowry Prohibition Act hasn’t been able to place an effective barrier on the practice of dowry.
  • Third, giving a sufficient degree of education is also not enough to control this menace.  For instance, Kerala has near-total literacy and yet weddings continue to be lavish, with brides’ parents often taking loans and nearly bankrupting themselves.
  • Fourth, the larger context for the practice of dowry is the poor presence of women in the workforce, and their consequent lack of financial independence.

Multipronged Approach to tackle dowry:

  • Accepting dowry should be made a social stigma. Superstars should be encouraged to endorse this along with their soap and soft drink endorsements. 
    • Women should flatly refuse to give dowry as part of marriage and men should refuse to take it in any form. People should go for simple, inexpensive, dowry-less marriages rather than Bollywood-style extravaganzas.
  • Women should be supported to take up jobs and have independent incomes. This means we should expand childcare and safe public transport, reduce discrimination in hiring, and create affirming workplace environments. At home, men should share domestic work and care responsibilities.
  • States should look at gender-disaggregated data across the life cycle – birth, early childhood, education, nutrition, livelihood, access to healthcare, etc. This will help in addressing gender inequality.
    • Further boys and girls should be systematically sensitized on the core value of gender equality by their teachers and mentors. 
  • As a larger initiative, laws, and regulations should be screened to remove gender bias, replacing words like “manpower” with gender-neutral equivalents.
  • Further, there should be zero tolerance towards domestic violence. Families should store evidence and report at once, instead of sending battered women back fearing “what society will say”.
    • Support systems must be expanded to help victims with shelter, counseling, legal follow up, and livelihood support when required.

Way Ahead:

  • To become a mass movement, this approach must start at the grassroots level.
  • The power of marriage registration should be decentralised to panchayat secretaries as we know that marriage registration protects women’s rights.
  • Further women’s self-help groups should be systematically oriented about violence against women and the existence of local support systems. 
    • By actively spreading awareness and displaying solidarity, women’s self-help groups can play a powerful role in building a more equal society.

Terms To Know: 

Dowry Prohibition Act


GS Paper 2

Delhi’s lame duck Assembly

Source: The Hindu>

Syllabus: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure

Relevance: The GNCTD Act impact the functions of the Delhi Legislative Assembly and Federalism.

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD)(Amendment) Act, 2021 is criticised as a retrograde law. The bulk of criticism has been focused on the reduced autonomy of the elected government and the consequent vesting of several crucial powers in the unelected Lieutenant Governor.

However, what deserves equal condemnation is the Act’s assault on the functioning of Delhi’s Legislative Assembly. It also has been sought to be reduced to a lame duck.

About the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Act:

The GNCTD Act was enacted in 1992, the Legislative Assembly was given the power to regulate its own procedure, as well as the conduct of its business. The Act provided a unique constitutional position to Delhi. It is neither a full state nor a centrally governed Union Territory.

Challenges with the recent amendment:

  • No more functional independence: The amendment made the standards of procedure and conduct of the business of Delhi Assembly firmly tethered to that of the Lok Sabha. Thus, depriving Delhi’s elected MLAs of power to conduct effective business in Assembly.
  • The Amendment prohibits the Assembly from making any rule. It enables either itself or its committees to consider any issue concerned with “the day-to-day administration of the capital” or “conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions”.
    • The most insidious impact of this shall be the exercise of free speech in the Assembly and its committees.
    • It prohibits the elected Assembly by law from discussing matters concerning the day-to-day administration of its own territory.
  • Impact on committees: 
    • In general, the committees perform away from the glare of cameras, conduct Inquiries, examine documents and evidence, report relevant issues. The deliberations and inputs of committees often pave the way for intelligent legislative action.
    • The Amendment made it impossible for committees to perform their functions. As the Act hamper the power to conduct inquiries in relation to the administrative decisions.
    • So, the critical legislative functions that have rendered the Delhi Assembly a ‘legislature’ will now remain in name only.

All WHO-approved jabs must be recognised for travel: UN

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS – 2 – Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Relevance: Vaccination is essential for global economic recovery.

The World Health Organization recently said that any COVID-19 vaccine it has authorised for emergency use should be recognised by countries as they open up their borders to inoculated travelers.

The move could force Western countries to broaden their acceptance of two apparently less effective Chinese vaccines. These vaccines are licensed by the UN health agency, but most European and North American countries have not.

About the European Union decision:

  • The European Union aims to restore travel across Europe. So, the EU earlier said that it would only recognise people as vaccinated if they had received shots licensed by the European Medicines Agency.
    • Although it is up to individual countries to let in travellers who have received other vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V.
    • The EU drug regulator is currently considering licensing China’s Sinovac vaccine, but there is no timeline on a decision.

What was the reason behind the recent WHO announcement?

The WHO has issued this statement due to the following problems in the decision of North America and the EU.

  • The decision by North America and the EU will undermine the confidence in life-saving vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective.
    • In addition to vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, the WHO has approved the two Chinese jabs, made by Sinovac and Sinopharm.
  • Create a two-tier system: The decision of the EU will only protect a section of people. Further, it will widen the global vaccine divide and exacerbate the inequities in vaccine distribution.
  • It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most due to COVID-19.

Few general differences between the Chinese and Western vaccines: 

  • The two Chinese shots are “inactivated” vaccines, made with killed coronavirus. Many developing countries have used Chinese-made vaccines.
  • The Western-made shots are made with newer technologies that instead target the “spike” protein that coats the surface of the coronavirus. Western countries have largely relied on vaccines made in the U.S. and Europe, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca

Terms to know:

  • mRNA vaccines: It is a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. It does not use the conventional model to produce an immune response. mRNA vaccine carries the molecular instructions to make the protein in the body through a synthetic RNA of the virus. The host body uses this to produce the viral protein that is recognized and thereby making the body mount an immune response against the disease.
  • Adeno Virus vaccines: In this type, a modified version of adenovirus is used. The virus can enter human cells but not replicate inside. A gene for the coronavirus vaccine was added into the adenovirus DNA, allowing the vaccine to target the spike proteins that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter human cells.
  • Inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine: In this type, an inactivated live virus is used to create an immune response against the disease.

Compassion & caution

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2 – Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

Relevance: Recently, SC directed the government to release compensation for victims of Covid-19.

Synopsis:  Why the Supreme Courts’ directive to provide Exgratia compensation to the families of those who have lost their lives during the Pandemic is not a rational idea.

Background

  • Recently, the Supreme Court directed the National Disaster Management Authority to frame guidelines for compensation to the next of kin of families of those who died during the Pandemic.

Why the Supreme Courts’ directive is not a rational one?

  • One, The SC’s directive of ex-gratia payment, though in sync with the Act, does not do justice to its own reading of the pandemic’s peculiarities.
    • The 2005 law’s definition of a disaster as “a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes” indicates that it was not framed to cater to the demands of a countrywide public health crisis.
  • Two, a Pandemic is not a one-time event, unlike other Disasters. The Pandemic is set to stay for a longer time. Learning to live with Covid-19 using vaccination and precaution is the key.
  • Three, the use of the disaster management law is an ill-advised move because it could set a precedent in a country beset with several other health crises in addition to Covid-19.
  • Fourth, such relief measures are best organized by local governments. For instance, some states have announced steps for those who have lost their sole breadwinner or children who have been orphaned. A one-check solution as directed by the court cannot be the most equitable one.

Rule of Law vs Rule by Law

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS2 – Indian Polity

Relevance: Points can be used in the essay paper and in your answers for GS Mains.

Synopsis: Chief Justice of India (CJI)’s views on what is meant by the term ‘law’ and how safeguarding constitutionalism is a shared responsibility.

What is meant by ‘law’?

  • Law, in most general sense, is a tool of social control that is backed by the sovereign. But such a definition of law makes it a double-edged sword. It can be used not only to render justice but it can also be used to justify oppression.
  • A law cannot really be classified as a “law” unless it imbibes within itself the ideals of justice and equity.
  • An “unjust law” might not have the same moral legitimacy as a “just law”. But it might still command the obedience of some sections of the society to the detriment of others.

Rule by law vs Rule of law

The British colonial power used the law as a tool of political repression, enforcing it unequally on the parties, with a different set of rules for the British and for the Indians. It was famous for “Rule by Law”, rather than “Rule of Law”, as it aimed at controlling the Indian subjects.

  • Thus, rule by law indicates that decisions are forced upon a citizenry while rule of law means a just application of the law for everybody, keeping in mind that the law doesn’t go against basic precepts of humanity.
Also Read: What is meant by Rule of law? – CJI’s views

Safeguarding constitutionalism – a shared burden

The importance of the judiciary shouldn’t blind us to the fact that the responsibility of safeguarding constitutionalism lies not just with the courts. All the three organs of the state, i.e., the executive, legislature, and the judiciary, are equal repositories of constitutional trust.

  • The role of the judiciary and scope of judicial action is limited, as it only pertains to facts placed before it.
  • This limitation calls for other organs to assume the responsibilities of upholding constitutional values and ensuring justice in the first place, with the judiciary acting as an important check.

What is Constitutionalism?

  • It is an idea that calls for limitations or restraints on the powers available to the government.
  • Constitutionalism recognizes the need for a government with powers but at the same time insists that limitations (checks and balances) be placed on those powers because unlimited power may lead to an authoritarian, oppressive, government i.e., arbitrary rule, which jeopardizes the freedoms of the people.
  • Only when the Constitution of a country seeks to decentralize power instead of concentrating it at one point, and also imposes other restraints and limitations thereon, does a country have not the only constitution but also constitutionalism.

The country needs a framework for a universal social security net

Source: Live Mint

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

Relevance: Social protection schemes protect the vulnerable sections of society. Exclusion from them increases the vulnerability.

Synopsis: Despite multiple laws and numerous judicial orders, a majority of unorganized-sector workers are excluded from schemes meant to protect them.

Background

  • Recently, India’s Supreme Court passed several orders on a suo moto writ petition on the misery of migrant labourers.
  • The Court ordered the time-bound implementation of the One Nation One Ration Card (ONOR) scheme by 31 July 2021.
  • The court had also ordered an update of the list of beneficiaries under the NFSA Act.
  • Further, it has highlighted in detail that the problem is not the absence of legislation, but the way our schemes are being implemented.

What are the challenges in the implementation of social protection schemes?

  • First, ONOR the flagship scheme of the government is faced with operationalization problems. For example, the failure of biometric identification, the absence of e-Point of Sale machines, and the ambiguity in entitlement across states.
    • This has resulted in the exclusion of beneficiaries and hardship for those exercising their entitlement under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
  • Second, exclusion errors under NFSA.
    • Currently, the beneficiaries are decided based on population estimates of 2011 and need to take into account India’s increase in population.
    • Based on Census 2011, the total number of eligible beneficiaries should be 813.5 million.
    • However, actual beneficiaries stood at 805.5 million in May 2017, hat is 20 million less than the eligible count even by the Census 2011 estimates.
    • Further, using population projections for 2021 suggests that around 100 million beneficiaries have been excluded.
  • Three, large number of people being denied NFSA rations as there’s no mechanism to identify beneficiaries.
    • The existing list has largely been derived from the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) survey conducted during 2011-12.
    • While this survey is a better source than the earlier Below Poverty Line (BPL) census of 2002, its quality varies across regions.
    • It is generally more robust in rural areas, but unreliable in urban areas.
    • For instance, its methodology of beneficiary identification in urban areas is ambiguous and has large errors of exclusion.
  • Fourth, exclusion errors due to the absence of updated survey data.
    • NFSA’s original design required the SECC to be updated at regular intervals with full-scale surveys every five years.
    • But given the government’s track record on statistical data and surveys, there is little likelihood of this happening.

Way forward: Universalize NFSA benefits for the next year.

  • The manner in which various legislated provisions and schemes are implemented tends to exclude a significant section of India’s population.
  • Hence, there is a need for laws on social protection that are universal and accessible to every worker, irrespective of place of residence or work.
  • Such a framework for universal social protection should not just comprise a set of legislations, but also have the requisite flexibility and political will to be of aid to every citizen of the country at all times.

Global Minimum Corporate Tax Rate framework deal

Source: TOI, The HinduBusinessline

Syllabus: Economy

What is the news?

In a historic agreement, announced in Paris under the aegis of OECD, 130 countries (out of the 139 involved in talks), including India, have endorsed the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework Tax Deal.

  • Once implemented, it is expected to prevent globally operating companies from shifting to low tax regions to secure extended profits.
  • The G7 had already agreed on a minimum tax rate of at least 15%, in June 2021. The present deal has both elements of the agreement forged by the G7 in June. However, there are some special rules for certain sectors and companies added to it.

Countries which didn’t sign the deal

A total of 130 countries have endorsed the deal. All major economies have signed up including many noted tax havens such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

  • The nine countries that did not sign were the low-tax EU members Ireland, Estonia and Hungary as well as Peru, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Kenya.
Key elements of the tax Deal

The proposed solution consists of two components:

  • Pillar one, which is about reallocation of an additional share of profit to the market jurisdictions
  • Pillar two consisting of minimum tax and subject to tax rules.
What are the new tax rules?
  • The new minimum tax rate of at least 15% would apply to companies with turnover above a 750-million-euro ($889-million) threshold, with only the shipping industry exempted.
  • Companies considered in scope would be multinationals with global turnover above 20 billion euros and a pre-tax profit margin above 10%, with the turnover threshold possibly coming down to 10 billion euros after seven years following a review.
  • The minimum corporate tax does not require countries to set their rates at the agreed floor, but gives other countries the right to apply a top-up levy to the minimum on companies’ income coming from a country that has a lower rate.
    • Illustration: Country A has a corporate tax rate (CTR) of 20%, Country B has a CTR of 11% and Global minimum corporate tax (GMCT) rate is 15%. There is a Company X that is headquartered in Country A, but reports its income in Country B in order to save tax. Now with GMCT in place, country A can legally impose an additional top-up levy of 4% on Company X.
  • Extractive industries and regulated financial services are to be excluded from the rules on where multinationals are taxed
  • The deal resolves another issue by ensuring that Amazon.com Inc. will be subject to tax in local jurisdictions,
Impact
  • Curb tax avoidance: Deal, after implementation, would curtail tax avoidance by making multinational companies pay an effective rate of “at least 15%” and give smaller countries more tax revenue from foreign firms.
  • Discourage profit shifting: With a global minimum tax in place, multinational corporations will no longer be able to avoid paying their fair share by hiding profits in lower-tax jurisdictions.
  • Prevent countries from becoming tax havens: This would also discourage countries from lowering tax rates to very low levels, in order to attract business. Now, they would have to compete on other factors like ease of doing business, regulatory system, etc.
What happens now?

The final deal is expected to be reached by October when the G20 leaders meet in Rome next week. Implementation of the deal is expected to start in 2023.

Also Read: Global Minimum Corporate Tax Rate – Explained
What is India’s position?

India is in favor of a solution based on a consensus. Also, the solution should be simple to implement and simple to comply with. At the same time, the solution should result in the allocation of meaningful and sustainable revenue to market jurisdictions, particularly for developing and emerging economies.

Terms to know:

OECD


GS Paper 3

A widening current account deficit is both good news and bad

Syllabus: GS 3 – issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development, and employment

Source: Live Mint

Relevance: Some signs like CAD signifies economic recovery

Synopsis: current account deficit (CAD) of India is widening. It is a piece of mixed news for India.

India’s current account deficit (CAD) has widened. As per the latest data, it is around 1% of gross domestic product (GDP). It is a relief for the Indian economy because 19% growth in imports is the main factor behind that.

Why increasing CAD is mixed news for the economy?

Positives: CAD has increased mainly due to an increase in imports, especially non-oil and non-gold. It indicates that economic recovery is picking up the pace. As per experts, faster vaccination would increase the growth rate that would reflect in the CAD by an increase in imports.

Negatives: However, this increase in imports is also accompanied by a surge in key global commodity prices. From crude oil to steel, prices of most commodities have galloped in the past few months.

It would result in an increase in domestic inflationary pressures. It would complicate the work of RBI because retail inflation surged to over 6% in April.

A faster rise in the consumer price index (CPI) inflation momentum compared to the wholesale price index (WPI) shows that producers have begun to pass on their costs to consumers.


What is a heat dome? – Explained

Source: Indian Express, Hindustantimes, Livemint

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Important weather phenomenon impacting the climate and the people.

Synopsis: Parts of Canada and USA are reeling under severe heatwave caused due to a heat dome. Possible causes and likely impact are discussed.

Why in news?

High temperatures are being reported from the Pacific northwest (in USA) and some parts of Canada. This is a part of a “historic” heat wave that lasted over a week, a result of a phenomenon referred to as a heat dome”.

  • On June 29, temperatures in Portland (USA) advanced to 46.7oC. For three consecutive days, the city saw record temperatures. Before this, the highest temperatures were in August 1981 and July 1965.
  • Canada too saw its highest temperature ever recorded in the country’s west. In Lytton in British Columbia, temperatures soared to over 46oC last week.
What is a heat dome?

According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a heat dome occurs when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid or cap.

  • Heat dome is more likely to form during La Niña years like 2021, when waters are cool in the eastern Pacific and warm in the western Pacific.
  • The phenomenon begins when there is a strong change (or difference) in ocean temperatures. In the process known as convection, the temp difference causes more warm air, heated by the ocean surface, to rise over the ocean surface.
  • That temperature difference creates winds that blow dense, tropical, western air eastward. Eventually that warm air gets trapped in the jet stream—a current of air spinning counterclockwise around the globe—and ends up on the U.S. West Coast, resulting in heatwaves.
    • A heat wave is a period of unusually hot weather that lasts for more than two days. Heat waves can occur with or without high humidity and have the potential to cover a large area exposing a high number of people to hazardous heat.
    • Impact of heat wave: So as long as the body is producing sweat, which is then able to evaporate quickly, the body will be able to remain cool even under high temperatures. But, there is a limit to this (a limit called the wet-bulb temperature) beyond which humans cannot tolerate high temperatures. Some heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, sunburn and heat rashes. Sometimes, heat-related illnesses can prove fatal.
    • Wet Bulb temperature: is the lowest possible temperature that a surface can reach by evaporative cooling (i.e. that a wetted surface can reach with air passing over it) in a given spot.
  • Example: To understand what causes a heat dome, one should liken the Pacific ocean to a large swimming pool in which the heater is turned on. Once the heater is on, the portions of the pool close to the heat source will warm up faster and therefore, the temperature in that area will be higher. In the same way, the western Pacific ocean’s temperatures have increased in the past few decades and are relatively more than the temperature in the eastern Pacific.

Heat dome Source: NOAA

Impact of a heat dome
  • Loss of life: Heat domes can lead to a sudden rise in fatalities due to extreme heat like those which are being reported in Canada and parts of the US. These fatalities happen especially amongst those living without an air conditioner.
  • Damage to crops: The trapping of heat can also damage crops, dry out vegetation and result in droughts.
  • Rise in energy consumption: The heat wave will also lead to rise in energy demand, especially electricity, leading to pushing up rates.
  • Increase in wildfires: The heat domes can also act as fuel to wildfires, which destroys a lot of land area in the US every year.
  • Heat dome also prevents clouds from forming, allowing for more radiation from the sun to hit the ground.
Are heat domes linked to climate change?

It’s challenging to link any one specific weather event with climate change, but over time the trend is showing longer-lasting, more intense heat.

  • Climate change certainly influences hot weather: It is making heat more extreme and such extreme heat will occur more frequently.
  • In Russia, cities as far north as the Arctic circle broke heat records this month.
Also Read: What are marine heatwaves?

‘GNPA ratio may rise up to 11.2% in FY22’

Sources: The Hindu, The Business Standard (Article 1, Article 2)

Syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Relevance: The problem of NPA is still impacting the Indian economy and the recent Financial Stability Report also highlights it.

About the news:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently launched its half-yearly Financial Stability Report. The report highlighted that the gross non-performing asset ratio (GNPA) of India’s scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) may climb by the end of the current fiscal year to as much as 11.2% under a severe stress scenario, from 7.48% in March 2021.

About the Financial Stability Report:

The half-yearly FSR report is a collective assessment of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) sub-committee. It assesses the economy on risks to financial stability and the resilience of the financial system. All regulators take part in making the report, and it is released by the RBI.

Key highlights of the Financial Stability Report:

Financial Stability Report

Source: Business Standard

  • The report mentions the “GNPA ratio of SCBs may increase by March 2022”. The report mentions that the banks have sufficient capital to take care of NPAs.
  • The capital to risk-weighted assets ratio of SCBs increased to 16.03%, and the provisioning coverage ratio stood at 68.86% in March 2021.
  • Policy support has helped in shoring up the financial positions of banks, containing non-performing loans, and maintaining solvency and liquidity globally.
  • On the domestic front, the ferocity of the second wave of COVID-19 has dented economic activity. But the monetary, regulatory, and fiscal policy measures have helped curtail the solvency risk of financial entities, stabilize markets. Further, these measures also help the financial entities to maintain their financial stability.
  • Large borrowers make up the lion’s share of a bank’s bad debt even now. The share of large borrowers in the aggregate loan portfolio of banks stood at 52.7 per cent in March 2021. But they accounted for 77.9 per cent of the total gross non-performing assets (NPA).
  • The pandemic has hit consumers and smaller businesses the hardest. Demand for consumer credit across banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) has dampened.
    • Public sector banks grew their credit book by only 3.2 percent. On the other hand, private counterparts expanded their credit book by 9.9 per cent year on year.
  • Precautionary savings resulted in a deposit increase of 11.9 per cent.
  • The report mentions new risks such as
    • Future waves of the pandemic;
    • Expansion of government market borrowing: The report has pointed out that banks are holding a high amount of government bonds. This is the highest since March 2010. This makes them sensitive to valuation changes.
    • International commodity prices and inflationary pressures;
    • Global spillovers amid high uncertainty;
    • Rising incidence of data breaches and cyberattacks
  • Improvement in health of banking sector: The RBI was expecting NPAs to climb to 12.5 per cent of advances under its baseline scenario a year ago. But under current projection’s it is what projected in a severe stress scenario also.

Suggestions mentioned in the report:

  1. The SCBs will need to reinforce their capital and liquidity positions to fortify themselves against potential balance sheet stress.
  2. The RBI also mentioned that the sustained policy support, benign financial conditions, and the gathering momentum of vaccinations were nurturing an uneven global recovery.

Explained: Facing up to the drone challenge

Source: Indian Express1 Indian Express1

Syllabus: GS3 – S&T, Security

Relevance: How is India placed in drone technology and offensive measures to counter-drone attacks in the future?

Synopsis: Recent attacks on air force base in Jammu should force the Indian security establishment to speed up its drone and anti-drone tech development. Challenges involved, and the current scenario.

Background

Last week, two drones dropped an IED each packed with high grade-explosives on an Indian Air Force base in Jammu. It was the first-ever attack in India where suspected terrorists had used drones.

Also read: What is a drone?
Usage of drones in India

In India, the most commonly known drones are quad- and hexacopters used for civil and commercial purposes, and Heron drones used for military surveillance

What has been the Indian experience?

In the last few years, India and its enemies have frequently used drone surveillance against each other. There have been an estimated 100-150 sightings of suspected drones near India’s western border annually. Most of these are suspected to be surveillance drones.

Also Read: Drone challenge for India
How to tackle drones?

Drones have control and delivery mechanisms, and to counter them either you can counter the control mechanism by jamming, or can control the delivery mechanism. It depends on what kind of radar is being used, which is critical for the size of the UAV that needs to be detected.

Any kind of counter-strategy should give enough warning to positively identify that it is not a bird. Also, if you are firing, you don’t know what it is carrying. I

  • Currently, border forces in India largely use eyesight to spot drones and then shoot them down. It is easier said than done, as most rogue drones are very small and operate at heights difficult to target.
  • India has been exploring technologies to detect and disable drones using electromagnetic charges or shoot them down using laser guns. Technology to disable their navigation, interfere with their radio frequency, or just fry their circuits using high energy beams have also been tested. None of these has, however, proven foolproof.
Challenges in tackling small drones

Conventional radar systems are not meant for detecting small flying objects, and, even if they are calibrated that way, they might confuse a bird for a drone and the system may get overwhelmed.

Global anti-drone systems
  • Drone Dome: Rafael, the defence company behind Israel’s famed Iron Dome missile system, has also developed something called the Drone Dome. Like the Iron Dome, which identifies and intercepts incoming missiles, Drone Dome detects and intercepts drones. Beside offering a 360-degree coverage”, the Drone Dome is also capable of jamming the commands being sent to a hostile drone and blocking visuals, if any, that are being transmitted back to the drone operator. Its highlight, however, is the precision with which it can shoot high-powered laser beams to bring down targets.
  • DroneHunter: US-based Fortem Technologies uses an interceptor drone called the ‘DroneHunter’ — to pursue and capture hostile drones. The DroneHunter fires from its ‘NetGun’ a spider web-shaped net to capture targets midair and tow them.
  • DroneGun: Besides the regular detection and surveillance, DroneShield, an Australian publicly listed company, also offers a portable solution in the form of a drone gun that can be used to point and ‘shoot’. The company’s DroneGun Tactical and DroneGun MKIII engage in radio frequency disruption that will disrupt the hostile drone’s video feed and force it to land on the spot or return to the operator.
Does India have an anti-drone technology?

Yes. The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has developed a detect-and-destroy technology for drones, but it is not yet into mass production.

  • The DRDO’s Counter-Drone System was deployed for VVIP protection at the Republic Day parades in 2020 and 2021, the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech last year, and former US President Donald Trump’s visit to Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad in 2020.
  • The DRDO system, developed in 2019, has capabilities for hardkill (destroying a drone with lasers) and softkill (jamming a drone’s signals). Its softkill range is 3 km and hardkill range between 150 m and 1 km.
  • It has a 360° radar that can detect micro drones up to 4 km, and other sensors to do so within 2 km.

Although challenges related to technology’s strategic deployment and the money the government is ready to spend, still remain.

What are India’s plans to use drones in warfare?

The armed forces have been slowly inducting capacity. In 2020, Navy got two unarmed Sea Guardian Predator drones on lease from the US. The three forces want 30 of these UAVs between them.

  • The military has been working towards using small drones for offensive capabilities as well. On January 15, during the Army Day parade, the Army showcased its swarm technology, with 75 drones swarming together to destroy simulated targets.

Military should fund its own modernisation

Source: Business Standard  

Syllabus: GS 3 – Security Challenges and Their Management in Border Areas

Relevance: The issue justifies a case of modernization of the military by itself.

Synopsis:

The threat of a two-front war creates an urgent situation to modernize the military which requires enhancement of the defence budget. The additional revenue can be generated by levying a military modernization cess, leasing military lands, or disinvesting some ordnance factories.

Background:

  • The intrusion of Chinese soldiers across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in 2020 brought the Indian military inched closer to its worst-case security contingency. It was on the verge of a two-front confrontation with both China and Pakistan.
  • There is a situation of peace after the renewal of the ceasefire agreement on the India-Pakistan Line of Control. Further, the PLA is also quiet after largely achieving its operational objectives in Ladakh.
  • Nonetheless, the threat of a two-front war is still looming, which creates an urgency to modernize the military. However, this can be done only with an enhanced defense budget.

Pattern in the allocation of defense budget:

  • There is a dire shortfall of funds for capital purchases. The government has been allocating fewer resources for capital expenditure than demanded by the military since 1992.
  • Each year, the military calculates its Capex requirements for the coming year and projects its requirement to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). 
  • The MoD projects this onwards to the Ministry of Finance (MoF). Then, without assigning reasons, the MoF slashes the military’s requirement and allocates a smaller capital budget instead.
    • The current defence budget was presented in the backdrop of an ongoing conflict between Indian troops and the PLA in Ladakh. 
    • The MoF still slashed the military’s Capex projection of Rs 199,553 crore by a whopping 38 percent (Rs 76,553 crore), allocating just Rs 123,000 crore.

Why is there a cut on defence expenditure every year?

  • First, governments have operated on the assumption that a full-scale war was highly unlikely and, therefore, equipment modernization was wasteful. 
  • Second, Border conflicts, such as the 1999 Kargil war, the 2017 Doklam confrontation, and the ongoing Ladakh intrusions are not serious enough to make equipment modernization an imperative
    • If things go wrong, such as in Kargil where the army was caught without 155-millimeter artillery ammunition for its Bofors guns, we rely on friends like Israel to bail us out. 
  • Third, the political-electoral calculus favors the spending of thousands of crores on vanity projects such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue in Gujarat and the redevelopment of the Central Vista in New Delhi. 

Need to increase defense expenditure:

  • First, the revenue heads, which include salaries, pensions, and the forces’ operating expenses, are already catered for before allocating money to the capital budget head. 
    • Therefore, any increase in the defence budget would be an increase in the capital budget
  • Second, making a capital purchase usually requires only 10-15 percent of the total cost to be paid up-front. The remaining amount is disbursed over a five to seven-year period, as the product is manufactured and delivered.
    • Therefore, the army, navy, and air force can fill critical deficiencies of fighter aircraft, artillery guns, and submarines with just 1/10th of the total amount.

Ways to generate revenue for incurring greater expenditure:

  • First,  Goods and services tax (GST) could be increased by 1 percent in all slabs as a military modernization cess
    • Further, much of the education cess on income tax remains unutilised. It can be reduced by a percentage point and a 2 percent cess for military modernization could be levied. 
  • Second, if increasing taxation is unacceptable, the defence services could monetise some of its 17 lakh acres (2,833 square kilometres) of defence land
    • However, real estate has created a chequered history of controversies involving senior generals. Such as scandal in Sukhna in 2008 and the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai in 2011.
  • Lastly,  MoD can do disinvestment in the 41 factories of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The factories produce arms, ammunition, and equipment for the military worth about Rs 12,000 crore annually.
    • In the UK, selective privatisation has transformed a moribund public defence sector into vibrant and productive private entities. London has conveyed its willingness to share its experience and expertise with India.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Education Minister releases Report on United District Information System for Education Plus(UDISE+) 2019-20

Source: PIB, The Hindu

What is the News?

The Union Education Minister has released the report on United Information System for Education Plus(UDISE+) 2019-20 for School Education in India.

About UDISE:

  • Unified District Information on School Education(UDISE) is one of the largest Management Information Systems on school education.
  • UDISE was initiated in 2012-13 by the Ministry of Education by integrating DISE for elementary education and SEMIS for secondary education.
  • Purpose: It helps measure the education parameters from classes 1 to 12 in government and private schools across India.
  • UDISE+ is an updated and improved version of UDISE. It was developed in the year 2018-19 to speed up data entry, reduce errors, improve data quality and ease its verification.
  • The present publication relates to the data for the reference year 2019-20.

Key Findings of the Report:

Enrollment in Schools:

  • Gross Enrolment Ratio at all levels of school education has improved in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19.
    • The GER is at 98% for students of Classes 1-8. For secondary and senior secondary students, GER stood at 78% and 51% respectively.
  • Pupil-Teacher Ratio(PTR) has also improved at all levels of school education.
  • The enrolment of girls increased at all levels of school education in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19. The increase was highest in the pre-primary level.
  • Between 2012-13 and 2019-20, the Gender Parity Index (GPI) at both Secondary and Higher Secondary levels have also improved.

Facilities in Schools:

  • More than 80% of schools in India in 2019-20 had functional electricity. This is an improvement of more than 6% over the previous year 2018-19.
  • The number of schools having functional computers increased to 5.2 lakh in 2019-20 from 4.7 lakh in 2018-19.
  • The number of schools having internet facilities increased to 3.36 lakh in 2019-20 from 2.9 lakh in 2018-19.
  • More than 90% of schools in India had hand wash facilities in 2019-20. This is a major improvement as this percentage was only 36.3% in 2012-13.
  • More than 83% of schools had electricity in 2019-20, an improvement of almost 7% over the previous year, 2018-19. In 2012-13, about 54.6% of schools had electricity.
  • More than 82% of schools conducted medical check-ups of students in 2019-20, an increase of more than 4% compared to the previous year 2018-19.

Covishield gets nod from nine European countries for travel

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

Around nine countries in Europe have given recognition to the Covishield vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India.

What was the issue?

  • A lot of Indian travelers who were vaccinated with Covishield were not eligible for the European Union’s ‘green pass’.
  • This was because the European Union had excluded Covishield from the list of approved vaccines for the EU’s Green Pass.

Indian Government’s Response:

  • The Government of India had requested the EU Member States to individually consider extending exemptions to those who have been administered Covishield or Covaxin.
  • The genuineness of such vaccination certification can be authenticated on the CoWIN portal.

Which countries have now included Covishield?

  • The list of the EU Member States that have recognized Covishield as a valid vaccine includes Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain.
  • Apart from that, Switzerland which is not an EU member has also included Covishield as a valid vaccine.
  • Further, Estonia has also recognised all vaccines authorised by the Indian government for travel to Estonia.

Terms to know 


Delhi HC issues directions on feeding, managing stray dogs

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

Delhi High Court in a recent judgment issued directions on feeding and managing stray dogs.

What was the case?

  • A petition was filed in the Delhi High Court asking the court to restrain the neighbor from feeding community dogs near the entrance or exit of his property.

What did the Delhi High Court say? The Delhi High Court has issued directions on feeding and managing stray dogs. These directions include:

  • Firstly, Stray or street dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed them. But in exercising this right, care and caution should be taken to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of others.
  • Secondly, every Resident Welfare Association(RWA) should form “Guard and Dog partnerships” in consultation with the Delhi Police Dog Squad. So that dogs can be trained and yet be friendly to residents of a colony.
  • Thirdly, the order places the onus on vaccinating and sterilizing the animals on the municipal corporation, the resident welfare association, and local dog groups. The order adds that sterilization of such animals is a must to check over-population.
  • Lastly, the local police and resident welfare associations should get involved in maintaining peace in the area between dog-lovers and other residents.

Protection of Stray Dogs:

  • Stray dogs are protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and Rules enacted under Section 38 of the Act, particularly the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001. That makes it illegal for an individual, RWA, or estate management to remove or relocate dogs.
  • A 2006 Office Memorandum of the Central government also carried specific rules against government servants who indulge in acts of cruelty to animals. The rules make the government servant liable for action under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

What is ZyCov-D, the world’s first DNA vaccine for Covid?

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

Zydus Cadila has applied to Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) seeking emergency use authorisation (EUA) for ZyCov-D, its Covid-19 vaccine. If approved by the regulator, ZyCov-D will be the world’s first DNA vaccine against infection with SARS-CoV-2. 

What is ZyCov-D Vaccine?

  • ZyCov-D is a plasmid DNA vaccine, which means it uses a genetically engineered, non-replicating version of a type of DNA molecule known as a ‘plasmid’.
  • Developed by: ZyCov-D has been developed by Zydus Cadila with the support of the Department of Biotechnology and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

How does the ZyCov-D vaccine work?

  • In this vaccine, the plasmids are coded with the instructions to make the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
  • Vaccination gives the code to cells in the recipient’s body, so they can begin making the spiky outer layer of the virus.
  • The immune system is expected to recognize this as a threat and develop antibodies in response.

How will the ZyCov-D be given?

  • Most Covid-19 vaccines currently are given in two doses. In contrast, ZyCov-D will be given in three doses, with an interval of 28 days between each dose.
  • Moreover, ZyCov-D is also an intradermal vaccine which means it is applied using a ‘needle-free injector’. Instead, a spring-powered device delivers the shot as a narrow, precise stream of fluid that penetrates the skin.

Sebi to review superior voting rights framework

Source: Livemint

What is the News?

Securities and Exchange Board of India(SEBI) has put out a consultation paper seeking comments on its superior voting rights(SR) framework.

What is the Superior Voting Rights(SR) Framework?

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India(SEBI) has introduced the Superior Voting Rights(SR) Framework in 2019.
  • Aim of the framework: to allow the founders of technology startups to retain control of their companies after they started trading publicly.
  • Need: Promoters or founders of tech companies who are instrumental in starting up a company often lose control of the firm when they dilute their stakes to raise multiple rounds of funding.

Why is this framework being reviewed?

  • The framework is being reviewed to give more flexibility to the founders of technology startups when it comes to raising capital and taking their company public.

Juvenile Justice Act inadequate in dealing with juveniles under-16

Source: TOI

What is the news?

The Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has observed that the present law (Juvenile Justice Act) dealing with children aged below 16 in heinous-crime cases as juvenile offenders is “totally inadequate and ill equipped”.

Background

Court made the observations on June 25 while dismissing a criminal revision petition regarding bail sought by a 15-year-old boy accused of raping a 10-year-old girl.

  • The boy’s bail plea was denied by the Juvenile Justice Board on February 2. He appealed in the sessions court, which upheld the Juvenile Justice Board’s decision on March 2, after which the boy’s counsel filed a criminal revision petition in the HC.
Also Read: Juvenile Justice Act 2015
What did the court say?

Court made some scathing observations regarding juvenile justice act and the role of the legislature.

  • It remarked that no lessons had been learned from the Nirbhaya case “as the age of a child is still kept below 16 years in heinous offences under Section 15 of the JJ Act. This gives a free hand to delinquents under the age of 16 to commit heinous offences”. It wondered “how many such sacrifices would be needed”. Thus, apparently, despite committing a heinous offence, the petitioner (15-year-old boy in this case) will be tried as a juvenile only because he is less than 16 years old.
  • Also, the present law is present law dealing with children aged below 16 in heinous-crime cases as juvenile offenders is “totally inadequate and ill equipped”.
Also read: Should age threshold under Juvenile Justice Act be lowered?

Adoption can’t be restricted to those in need of care: High Court

Source: TOI

What is the news?

In a landmark verdict, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court ruled that adoption can’t be restricted only to orphaned, abandoned, surrendered children or those in conflict with law or in need of care and protection.

Background

A Yavatmal district court had rejected a case of parents to hand over their girl.

View of the district court

The district court held that provisions of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, 2015, will not apply since the child is neither in conflict with law nor in need of care and protection and she wasn’t abandoned, orphaned or surrendered.

View of the HC

As per HC, JJ Act, 2015 not only intends to take care of children, who are in conflict with the law and those in need of care and protection but also to provide for and regulate the adoption of children from relatives and step-parents.

  • Initially, adoption was undertaken primarily to continue family lineage and ancestor worship, but with the passage of time, it has been undertaken for taking care of the needs of children in distress and those needing care and protection. Consequently, these changes have been codified via various statutes.
  • Hence, while partly allowing a revision application filed by the biological and adoptive parents of a girl, HC quashed the Yavatmal district court’s order which had rejected their adoption plea.

Indian Researchers develop OxyJani – Mobile Group Oxygen Concentrator

Source: PIB

What is the News?

A team from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, has developed a device named ‘OxyJani’.

About OxyJani:

  • OxyJani is a mobile group oxygen concentrator that can be used in rural settings and also be rapidly deployed in emergencies in any location.
  • Technology: It is based on the principles of Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology.
  • Significance: The team replaced lithium zeolites (LiX) which is usually used in oxygen concentrators with sodium zeolites which do not generate toxic solid waste and can be manufactured in India.

Advantages of OxyJani:

  • Firstly, It is modular and capable of delivering a range of solutions such as conversion of medical air to medical oxygen.
  • Secondly, It is an entirely off-grid solution including all modules that can facilitate deployment in rural areas.
  • Thirdly, it is portable just like personal oxygen concentrators and affordable too.
  • Lastly, the waste from the zeolite plant can be potentially a good agricultural input material.

7th edition of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium(IONS)

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The 7th edition of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium(IONS) was hosted by the French Navy at La Réunion.

About Indian Ocean Naval Symposium(IONS):

  • Indian Ocean Naval Symposium(IONS) is a biennial forum conceived by the Indian Navy in 2008.
  • Purpose: It is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region. It provides an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.
  • Chairmanship: The chairmanship of IONS has been held by India (2008-10), UAE (2010-12), South Africa (2012-14), Australia (2014-16), Bangladesh (2016-18), and the Islamic Republic of Iran (2018-21).
    • Currently, France has assumed Chairmanship for a two-year tenure.

Members of IONS: IONS includes 24 nations that hold territory within the Indian Ocean and 8 observer nations:

  • South Asian Littorals: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and United Kingdom (British Indian Ocean Territory)
  • West Asian Littorals: Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates
  • East African Littorals: France (Reunion), Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania.
  • southeast Asian and Australian Littorals: Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste.
  • Observers: China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, the Netherlands, Russia, and Spain.
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