9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – July 30th, 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 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Mains Oriented Articles


GS Paper 2

One nation, one police is a reform that is long overdue

Source: Indian express  

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

Relevance: Police reforms are necessary to ensure a just criminal justice system.

Synopsis:

Several state governments have passed Police Acts that are against the Supreme Court verdict on police reforms, and Centre too, has failed to legislate a model Act. Thus, there is a need to focus on the idea of one nation, one police.

Background:

  • The Government of India has been talking of “One Nation, One Ration Card”, “One Nation, One Registry”, “One Nation, One Gas Grid”, and even “One Nation, One Election”. These ideas are laudable and would contribute to an integrated scheme in different facilities and networks across the country. 
  • However, in Police related matters, we are confronted with a situation where states are legislating different Police Acts. Eighteen states have already passed Police Acts.

Need for One Nation, One Police:

  • First, many states have passed their respective acts to give legislative cover to the existing arrangement. This has allowed them to circumvent the implementation of judicial directions on police reforms given in the Prakash Singh case, 2006.
  • Second,  the archaic police structure continues is not able to meet the democratic aspirations of the people. In recent times, we saw the unseemly spectacle of the Mumbai police. The police commissioner accused the state home minister of using the police as an instrument for extortion
    • In West Bengal, the police have been a mute spectator to the state ruling party’s attack on those who voted against their party. The Centre, through a fiat, gave protection to all the MLAs of its party.
  • Third, a greater uniformity was observed in colonial times for better policing. The Police Act legislated in 1861 applied to almost the whole of India. 

Suggestions:

  • The attempt at uniformity, however, should consider local factors and special features. As long as the regional characteristics are retained and recognised, the same system in its broad outlines would be welcomed by states.
  • The central government is also delaying enacting a law based on the Model Police Act 2006. It could at least legislate for the UTs and then persuade the states to pass similar legislation where its party is in power. This way, we can achieve some uniformity in 10 to 12 states. 
  • Enacting a similar law in the other states could be incentivised by linking their passage with the modernisation grants made available to the states.
  • Until this happens, the best option would be for the central and state governments to respect each other’s turf in a spirit of cooperative federalism.

Corporate Management isn’t What Civil Service Needs

Source: Times of India 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Role of Civil Services in a Democracy

Relevance: The article is related to civil service reforms in India.

Synopsis:

Administrative reforms can only be delivered by a change in executive goals, not by a change in personnel.

Background:

  • There is a new attempt at administrative reform on the anvil. SD Shibulal has reportedly been appointed chairman of a three-member task force to bring about “major bureaucratic reforms through Mission Karmayogi”.
    • He is an Indian business executive. He was the chief executive officer and managing director of Infosys, and one of its seven founding members. 
  • Earlier, another HR consultant had been appointed chairman of a capacity-building mission under the Union personnel ministry.
  • However, many experts believe that the assumption, that corporate managers will dramatically transform the administration of India, is highly misplaced.

Why is corporate management not a panacea for the administration?

  1. The ultimate goal of every corporate manager is profit maximisation. However, the scope of government responsibilities is much wider.
  2. A civil servant has to produce outcomes that are equitable and not only efficient. For instance, the focus is on providing health services to all citizens and not merely selling medicines to only those who can pay the price.
  3. Further, civil servants need to have a touch with grassroots reality, which is not a necessary condition for a corporate manager.
  4. Civil Servants bring to the central government, knowledge about the social, political, economic, and cultural peculiarities of states and diverse ministries. This knowledge is far more valuable when it comes to successfully designing and implementation of schemes for public welfare. Rather than the domain expertise which a private sector individual brings to the table.

Way Ahead:

  • In the last seven decades, several governments have launched hundreds of programs and missions. Many of them had been successfully steered by a resilient and adaptable administration.
  • The Shibulal task force should understand that the problem lies not with individual players, but with the team and the management of the team. This includes the political, judicial, and investigative arms and the whole gamut of laws, rules, and jurisprudence.
    • Governance requires a system change, not really a change of personnel. It can improve if goals are clear and well-defined. For this to happen, a continuous engagement with the states and with political parties is desired.
    • Once there is consensus on goals, the administration can be channeled towards their achievement.
  • The task force should also suggest ways to bolster the sagging morale and pervasive fear that seem to haunt top-level administrators today. There has to be clarity of purpose, confidence in political support, and the return of professionalism in administration.
  • The task force should confine itself to overarching changes, not bits and pieces reforms, as many commissions and committees have attempted to do in the past.

In the interest of the public

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Synopsis:

Compulsory vaccination is legal and does not violate anyone’s fundamental rights.

Background:

  • In Registrar General v. State of Meghalaya, the Meghalaya High Court ruled that compulsory vaccination can’t be coerced by the state government. The government had ordered shopkeepers, local taxi drivers, and others to get the COVID-19 vaccines before they resume economic activities.
  • In response to the court’s order, the State government released a new order stating that the requirement of vaccination was merely a direction and not mandatory. 
  • The case raises important questions of how the government can overcome widespread vaccine hesitancy and bring the pandemic to an end.

Why did the Meghalaya High Court revoke compulsory vaccination?

  • It ruled that the government’s order intrudes upon one’s right to privacy and personal liberty, as it deprives the individual of their bodily autonomy and bodily integrity.
  • It found that the government’s order is not maintainable in law as there is no legal mandate for mandatory vaccination
  • It relied on the Central government’s frequently asked questions, which specify that COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary. 
  • The court concluded that the State, rather than adopting coercive steps, must persuade the people to get themselves inoculated. 

Compulsory Vaccination

  • It has often been deployed in India and abroad. The Vaccination Act, 1880, allowed the government to mandate smallpox vaccination among children in select areas.
  • Similarly, several State laws, which set up municipal corporations and councils, empower local authorities to enforce compulsory vaccination schemes. 
  • Contrary to the High Court’s opinion, compulsory vaccination has passed the muster of judicial review in several national and international courts abroad. 
  • In Vavřička and Others v. Czech Republic, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) said that the compulsory COVID-19 vaccination scheme is consistent with the right to privacy and religion
  • The ECtHR cites case laws in France, Hungary, Italy, the U.K., among others to show that several constitutional courts have validated compulsory vaccination and ruled that it has an overriding public interest.

Can India go for compulsory vaccination?

According to the order in Justice Puttaswamy v. Union of India, a restriction on privacy can be justified if it passes a three-prong test.

  • First, the restriction must be provided in the law. State governments have the authority to mandate vaccines under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. It allows them to prescribe regulations to prevent the spread of an epidemic disease. 
  • Second, the restriction must have a legitimate aim. Compulsory vaccination pursues the legitimate aim of protecting the public from COVID-19. 
  • Third, the restriction must be proportional to the object pursued. With more than four lakh reported deaths and a looming third wave, the current scenario counts as a pressing social need. 

Suggestions:

  • Violations of rights from mandatory administration of a vaccine cannot be termed so grave as to override the health rationale underlying the government’s order. 
  • Nevertheless, the government could provide appropriate accommodation for persons based on genuine medical reasons.

Indus Waters Treaty is worth preserving

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS2 – Bilateral agreements involving India

Relevance: Differences over water-sharing under Indus Water Treaty (IWT)

Synopsis: Indian experts need to clarify exactly to what extent India is not yet using its fair share of waters from the three Eastern rivers namely, the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej, and discuss it with Pakistani counterparts.

Background

On July 5, the Indian Jal Shakti Minister was reported to have stated India is working on exercising its rights to stop excess water flowing to Pakistan, under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) of 1960, to irrigate its own lands.

Indian government sources have made similar observations in the past, and Pakistan has often said that India has not acted fairly in sharing waters according to this Treaty.

Water sharing as per IWT

Water sharing arrangement as per Indus Water treaty is as follows:

  • To be used by India: Waters of the Eastern rivers, the Sutlej, Ravi, and Beas.
  • To be used by Pak: Waters of the Western rivers, the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum.

Thus, To sort out differences over water sharing for irrigation, the following suggestions can be implemented.

Suggestion

Experts in India and Pakistan should assess how much of the waters in the East and West rivers are snow or rain-fed within their respective territories. Such estimates would add to the accuracy of each side’s dependence on the other in sharing the waters of these rivers.

Way forward

IWT has stood the test of time. Given the flawless record of this treaty and being a responsible upper riparian state, India needs to be extremely careful. It should clarify exactly to what extent it is not yet using its fair share of waters from the three Eastern rivers namely, the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. If it is indeed the case, then Indian experts should discuss how they have arrived at this conclusion with their Pakistani counterparts.

Further, the Indian side should also make public its estimates of unutilized hydropower.

Conclusion

Both India and Pakistani sides should iron out their differences over water sharing and use the East and West rivers to their fullest potential.

Terms to know:


Shared values: On India and the U.S.

Source: The Hindu, TOI, Business Standard

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations (IR)

Relevance: Indo-US relationship post-US exit from Afghanistan

Synopsis: India and US have their differences when it comes to the Afghan peace process. A strong Indo-US partnership in tech sector should be the way forward to out-compete China.

Background

US. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s day-visit to Delhi. Most of the discussion b/w Mr. Blinken and India’s External Affairs ministers, was focused on Quad cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan, and in discussing the state of democracy and rights.

Difference of views

Over Afghanistan

Although both India and the US agree that there is no military solution to conflict, and that neither country would recognize a Taliban regime that takes Kabul by force, differences persist. Like,

  • Continued engagement with Taliban: The U.S. continues to engage the Taliban in talks for a power-sharing arrangement, despite the Taliban leadership’s refusal to enforce a ceasefire, and stop attacks against civilians in areas they take over.
  • Perhaps the greatest worry for India is, the U.S.’s refusal to hold Pakistan to account for having given shelter to the Taliban.
  • U.S.’s announcement of a new “Quad” with Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan on connectivity, but this is another cause for worry.
Views on QUAD

As per the US, Quad was not a military alliance, and that’s how India prefers to describe the grouping too. There is a wide scope of possible cooperative activities that the Quad can undertake, from vaccines to infrastructure to supply chain resilience.

  • The question, however, is how much of this can be operationalised at short notice. The Quad summit earlier this year, for example, promised that the US would help manufacture the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in India for export to Southeast Asia and elsewhere. This has not yet materialised.
  • Cooperation on infrastructure has also been slow to get off the ground, in spite of efforts by Japan and by the US in the past.

Whether New Delhi likes it or not, Washington’s eyes have turned eastward from Afghanistan, and, therefore, more pressure will be put on the Indo-US partnership.

Taliban-China

All this comes as Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, was meeting a nine-member Taliban delegation led by Mullah Baradar in Beijing.

The Taliban’s focus is to get China to pledge “non-interference” while China wants to get the Taliban to “fight” and clear out the Uyghur group, ETIM.

India’s future strategy

1]. US and India together can out-compete China: The US is not getting out of “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan to engage in another one with superpower China. Similarly, India is not about to get into an armed conflict with China either.

  • But both countries together have a chance to ‘out-compete China.

India, therefore, needs to pay much greater attention to the most important working group of the Quad – on critical and emerging technologies.

2]. De-risking tech from China: India began de-risking (taking steps to make something less risky) its tech sector from Chinese influence only in 2020, because that was the first time we acknowledged the dangers of China’s “civil-military fusion” policies. That process is underway and has gathered traction. US recent tech and trade sanctions, and laws, makes it pretty clear that America is headed the same way.

For the moment, the quest is to make up for the global shortage of chips, semiconductors, and other hardware as well as 5G. There, the US is looking at working with Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

  • What is the military-civil fusion policy of China? The Chinese government’s military-civil fusion policy aims to boost innovation and economic growth via policies and other government-supported mechanisms, including venture capital (VC) funds, while taking advantage of the fruits of civilian innovation for China’s defense sector.

3]. Indo-US tech partnership: Not too long ago, Blinken outlined a US tech-foreign policy, which could be a huge opportunity for India. This includes reducing national security risks from emerging tech, building resilient and secure supply chains, and building tech partnerships.

India is a natural partner as it has a tech universe that just needs less government and more facilitation. For instance, Bangalore is doing more work on 6G than is generally known.


GS Paper 3

Integrated approach for EVs

Source: Business Standard 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy

Relevance: Electric Vehicles are the future of the automotive industry. A better policy for their promotion is required.

Synopsis:

A reduction in Customs duty wouldn’t solely boost the Electric Vehicles (EV) sector, the government needs to adopt an integrated approach towards it.

Background:

Indian cities are among the most polluted in the world, and it makes sense for the government to push EVs as it would help curb vehicular pollution. The government of India has rolled out several initiatives over the past few years to increase the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

Considering this, foreign players are inclined to invest in the EVs sector but are restrained by the higher customs duties on the import of EVs. India imposes 60 percent duty on imported cars worth up to $40,000, and 100 percent on more expensive vehicles.

Government initiatives for EVs:

  • The FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) scheme and lowered goods and services tax on EVs.
  • A deduction in personal income tax on the purchase of EVs. 
  • It is also providing incentives under the production-linked incentive scheme to help increase the production of batteries. 
  • In terms of reducing Customs duty, there is a case for progressively bringing it down for all cars.

Analyzing the decision to abolish custom duty on EVs:

  • Abolition would make imports cheaper. There would be a surge in demand for EVs like Tesla. Further, the domestic industry would face considerable competition, thereby inducing them to improve the quality of EVs.
  • However, on the flip side, India may fail to attract investment in the EVs sector. A high duty induces global firms to set up manufacturing plants in India, leading to the development of indigenous EVs manufacturing.
    • Ola is already building capacity to manufacture e-scooters. India has a significant automotive manufacturing base and should be able to develop a value chain for EVs to a large extent.
  • The government should avoid cutting duty only on EVs. Because it would go against the conventional automotive industry. It would reduce incentives for firms to produce better cars. 
    • For instance, firms may be discouraged to work on better technologies like hydrogen fuel cells, which are more environment-friendly. Currently, EVs are predominantly powered by coal.

Other issues with EVs:

  • Robust charging infrastructure: According to a new report, India will need about 400,000 charging stations to serve about 2 million EVs that could possibly hit its roads by 2026. India currently has about 1,800 charging stations.
  • Transparent Pricing of Power: Although the government has issued guidelines for charging and de-licensed charging activity, this may not be enough. At a broader level, transparent pricing of power will be a key issue. 
    • A significant shift and an increase in power demand at non-commercial rates could affect state-run distribution companies and ultimately damage state government finances.

Thus, the government should work on the EV ecosystem more holistically as import duty is just one aspect.


Changes to deposit insurance

SourceIndian Express  , Live Mint

Gs3:  Issues related to Banking Sector

Relevance: Deposit Insurance Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) bill will protect the interest of consumers.

Synopsis: How the New Amendments to the Deposit Insurance Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) Act will help depositors cause?

Background

  • Recent events related to Punjab & Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank, Yes Bank, and Lakshmi Vilas Bank have put a spotlight on the issue of deposit insurance.
  • Consequently, the Union Cabinet cleared amendments to the Deposit Insurance Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) Act.
  • It brings relief to depositors of stressed banks placed under a moratorium.
  • The amendment will help depositors access their deposits up to ₹5 lakh within just 90 days if their bank gets in trouble, and is placed under a moratorium.
  • The new rule will apply to all commercial banks and branches of foreign banks operating in India.

What is deposit insurance?

  • In an unlikely event of a bank failure in India, a depositor can claim a maximum of Rs 5 lakh per account as insurance cover.
  • The cover of Rs 5 lakh per depositor is provided by the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC), which is a fully owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India.
  • Depositors having more than Rs 5 lakh in their account have no legal recourse to recover funds in case a bank collapse.
  • The depositors enjoy the highest safety on their funds parked with banks, unlike the equity and bond investors in the banks.

How will the changes benefit account holders?

  1. First, the depositors normally end up waiting for 8-10 years. Now depositors will get insurance money within 90 days in the event of a bank coming under the moratorium, without waiting for eventual liquidation of the distressed banks.
    • Within the first 45 days of the bank being put under a moratorium, the DICGC would collect all information relating to deposit accounts.
    • In the next 45 days, it will review the information and repay depositors closer to the 90th day.
  2. Second, this will cover banks already under the moratorium and those that could come under the moratorium. This will be beneficial to depositors of PMC Bank, under moratorium since September 2019, with depositors not being able to access funds beyond Rs 1 lakh.

Who pays for this insurance?

  • Deposits in public and private sector banks, local area banks, small finance banks, regional rural banks, cooperative banks, Indian branches of foreign banks, and payments banks are all insured by the DICGC.
  • The premium for this insurance is paid by banks to the DICGC and not be passed on to depositors.
  • Banks currently pay a minimum of 10 paise on every Rs 100 worth of deposits to the DICGC as premium, which is now being raised to a minimum of 12 paise.

Why flooding raises alarm over bearing of hydropower plants on the Himalayas

Source: Down to Earth

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

Relevance: Article analyses impacts of large hydel-power projects in the Himalayas.

Synopsis: The need of the hour is to put a halt to large hydel-power projects in the Himalayas. Can small hydropower plants offer a sustainable solution?

Hydropower In India

  • Hydropower is a renewable and non-polluting source of energy.
  • In India, the western Himalayan states of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh are rich in hydropower potential as they have numerous glaciers and rivers.
  • India has a viable hydropower potential, which is estimated to be about 84,000 megawatts at a 60 percent load factor.
  • Currently, the installed capacity of hydropower in the country is 45,700 MW. India’s hydropower capacity is expected to reach 70 GW by 2030, according to MNRE.
  • Further, The Central Electricity Authority reported that the country has around 13,000 MW of hydropower plants under construction.
  • Small hydel power projects up to 25 MW in India are under the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Whereas, large hydel-power projects exceeding 25 MW are under the Union Ministry of Power.

Steps taken to increase Hydropower in India

  • The country has set a target of 175 GW of renewable power capacity by 2022, including 5 GW of small hydropower.
  • The power ministry in its draft amendment of the Electricity Act has proposed to include hydropower within the renewable purchase obligation targets, set for the state power distribution companies.

Why are large hydel power projects in the Himalayas a cause of concern?

  • There has been an increase in extreme weather events in the Himalayan states. Scientists have said many factors contribute to flooding, but the warming of the atmosphere, caused by climate change, makes extreme rainfall more likely.
  • For example, the Chamoli disaster in Uttarakhand in February 2021. More than 200 people lost their lives.
  • Further, increasing hydel power development in the Himalayas has drastically altered fragile ecosystems.
  • By releasing minimal water downstream, large hydroelectric projects have disrupted fish migration, leading to a loss of aquatic biota and diversity.

NEERI research report

  • National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) research has highlighted the detrimental effects of the Tehri dam on the unique capacity of Ganga Jal in the Bhagirathi to purify itself.
  • Large storage-based hydro projects also result in the submerging of villages and the displacement of people. Furthermore, they alter the volume of water flow downstream, which affects irrigation.
  • The Geological Survey of India reported that 97.42 percent of the area of Himachal is prone to landslide hazards.
  • One in four hydropower projects in the Himalayas is at risk from landslides caused by earthquakes and tremors, according to a study released last year by the Institute of Earth and Environmental Science in Germany.
  • Further, compensatory afforestation policies implemented to mitigate the loss of forest lands diverted for hydropower projects have resulted in more physical interference with natural landscapes.

Why small hydropower (SHP) projects are viable options?

  • The Union government should halt large hydropower projects in the Himalayas and promote only small hydropower (SHP). In general, SHPs do not encounter the problems associated with large hydel projects, which include the construction of dams, deforestation, and relocation.
  • Remote and isolated areas can benefit from these projects. These plants have a long useful life and their generation costs are almost inflation-free. In addition to conserving fossil fuels, the plants reduce carbon emissions because they substitute thermal power.
  • They are ideal for powering villages and far-flung or isolated areas. The accessibility of electricity in these areas will boost small-scale industries and thereby improve the socio-economic status of the residents.
  • As a result, SHP is one of the most attractive renewable sources of grid-quality electricity.

It’s been 40 years! Update India’s flood map NOW

Source: Down To Earth

Syllabus: GS 3 – Disaster and disaster management.

Relevance: New flood-prone area map is essential for India’s Disaster Management.

Synopsis:

To mitigate frequent floods, India needs a New flood-prone area map.

About the news:

Recent occurrences of heavy rainfall leading to flooding across India have shown that flood-prone areas in the country go beyond those mentioned in the central monitoring map. This is because the Flood panel, on whose watch India’s flood-prone areas were demarcated, was formed in 1980.

About the Flood-prone areas demarcation in India:

Flood-prone areas
Source: Down To Earth
  • Regions susceptible to floods, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), lie mostly along the Ganga-Brahmaputra river basin, from the northern states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, covering Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and stretching to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast.
  • The coastal states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, parts of Telangana and Gujarat also witness yearly floods, NDMA observed.
Why new flood-prone area map is essential?
  • This demarcation is based on estimates made in 1980 by Rashtriya Barh Ayog (RBA) or National Flood Committee formed four decades ago.
    • Around 40 million hectares of the geographical area in India is vulnerable to floods, according to the RBA.
    • RBA also ascribed the floods to purely anthropogenic factors and not heavy downpours.
  • Over the last four decades, India has been reeling from the effects of climate change. The global rise in temperatures has led to large periods of no rain followed by extreme precipitation, an observation that is becoming a trend.
  • Extreme rainfall events have tripled in central India between 1950 and 2015, according to the science journal Nature.
  • In recent times, the southwest monsoon period has also been causing massing floods in parts of the country in recent years.
  • There will be a rise in the frequency of floods in India due to rising temperatures between 2070 and 2100, according to Climate Change and India: A 4×4 Assessment, a report by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest.
  • Overall, in 2020, 256 districts across 13 states in India reported floods due to excess rainfall.

So, the shift in the flooding patterns and frequencies demands an updated map of flood-prone areas, factoring in the impacts of climate change.


The Pegasus nightmare

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express, Livemint

Syllabus: GS3 – Technology, Cybersecurity

Relevance: Understanding the potential negative impact of cyberthreats and ways to counter them.

Synopsis: Cyberthreats need to be countered with a deeper understanding of cyber technologies. Short term remedies won’t work.

Background

Pegasus spyware issue has compelled nations to realize the threat posed by such new age weapons.

Must Read: Pegasus spyware issue – concerns & way forward
Negative impact of the cybertechnology

The dramatic technological advances that have widened access to computing and internet have also resulted in few unintended consequences:

  • Privacy has been eroded
  • Internet has become a powerful weapon in the hands of those seeking to exploit its various facets.
  • Cyberweapons: Cyber is often referred to as the fifth dimension of warfare — in addition to land, sea, air and space. And cyberweapons are increasingly being deployed to launch remote attacks.
    • Stuxnet worm: U.S.- Israeli effort in 2010 helped in unleashing Stuxnet Worm at the Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz, helping disable several hundred centrifuges.
    • Shamoon virus: The virus attack on Saudi Aramco occurred in 2012.
    • The 2016 cyberattack on Ukraine’s State power grid
    • NotPetya ransomware: The 2017 Ransomware attack (NotPetya) which affected machines in as many as 64 countries
    • Wannacry ransomware: A Wannacry attack, in 2017, on the United Kingdom’s National Health Service
    • Series of attacks, in 2021, on Ireland’s Health Care System and in the United States such as ‘SolarWinds’, the cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline and JBS, etc.

Israel, identifies Pegasus as a cyberweapon, and claims that its exports are controlled.

Also Read: How does Pegasus work? – Explained
Why we need to act against Cyber threats?
  • Destructive capacity: Cyberweapons have become a weapon of choice even during peacetime. They carry untold capacity to distort systems and structures, civilian or military and, most importantly, interfere with democratic processes, worsen domestic divisions and, above all, unleash forces over which established institutions or even governments have little control.
  • Cyber threats will increase: As more and more devices are connected to networks, the cyber threat is only bound to intensify, both in the short and the medium term. The instruments of everyday use can be infected or infiltrated without any direct involvement of the target. The possibilities for misuse are immense and involve far deadlier consequences to an individual, an establishment, or the nation.
Suggestions

Short term remedies are unlikely to yield results

  • A deeper understanding of cyber technologies is needed along with a recognition of the mindsets of those who employ spyware of the Pegasus variety, and those at the helm of companies such as the NSO.
  • Work needs to be done beyond India’s borders, as the best technology is imported. We urgently need trans-national treaties along the lines of the Paris climate accord to collectively make it difficult for rogue governments and corporations to implement surveillance at scale. A new proposal calls for a multi-pronged approach combining a moratorium on spyware sales until a global export regime is defined.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


India’s 14 Tiger Reserves get Global CA/TS recognition

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Environment Minister has announced that 14 Tiger Reserves from India have received the accreditation of the Global Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS).

Tiger Reserves that received Global CA|TS recognition:

India’s 14 tiger reserves that have received the accreditation of the Global Conservation Assured|Tiger Standards(CA|TS) are:

  1. Manas, Kaziranga and Orang Tiger Reserve in Assam
  2. Satpura, Kanha, and Panna in Madhya Pradesh
  3. Pench in Maharashtra
  4. Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar
  5. Dudhwa in Uttar Pradesh
  6. Sunderbans in West Bengal
  7. Parambikulam in Kerala,
  8. Bandipur Tiger Reserve of Karnataka
  9. Mudumalai and Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu

Note: The three most popular tiger reserves in terms of tourist visitors:  Corbett (Uttarakhand), Ranthambore (Rajasthan), and Bandhavgarh (Madhya Pradesh) do not figure in the list of 14 Tiger Reserves to get CA/TS recognition.

 What is CA|TS?

  • CA|TS was officially launched in 2013. It has been developed by tiger and protected area experts.
  • Purpose: It is a set of criteria that allows tiger sites to check if their management will lead to successful tiger conservation.
  • It also sets minimum standards for effective management of target species and encourages the assessment of these standards in relevant conservation areas.

Other News Mentioned in the Article:

Status of Leopards, Co-predators, and Megaherbivores-2018 Report:

  • The Ministry of Environment has released this report. According to the report, in 2018, the number of leopards in tiger range states of India was 12,852.
  • This was a significant increase when compared to 2014 where the figure stood at 7,910 leopards.
  • States: A maximum of these leopards are found in Madhya Pradesh (3,421) followed by Karnataka (1,783), and Maharashtra (1,690).

Geo-imaging satellite “EOS-03” is scheduled for launch in third quarter of 2021

Source: PIB

What is the News?

Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) is scheduled to launch a geo-imaging satellite named “EOS-03” in the third quarter of 2021.

About EOS-03:

  • EOS-03 is a geo-imaging satellite for earth observation. The satellite is capable of imaging the whole country four-five times daily.
  • The satellite would enable near real-time monitoring of natural disasters like floods and cyclones.
  • In addition to natural disasters, the satellite would also enable monitoring of water bodies, crops, vegetation conditions, and forest cover changes.

Other Facts Mentioned in the Article:

About Small Satellite Launch Vehicle(SSLV):

  • SSLV is a small-lift launch vehicle being developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • Features: They are cost-effective, three-stage, all-solid launch vehicles with a payload capability of 500 kg to 500 km planar orbit or 300 kg to Sun-Synchronous Polar Orbit.
  • Benefits: SSLV is ideal for the on-demand, quick turn-around launch of small satellites.
  • Launch Date: The first developmental flight of SSLV is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2021 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.

National Gallery of Australia returns 14 artworks including Chola idols

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The National Gallery of Australia(NGA) has announced that it would return 14 works of art from its Asian art collection to India. The art collection includes the dancing child-saint Sambandar of the 12th century, belonging to the Chola dynasty.

About Chola Dynasty:

  • The Chola Dynasty is a Tamil dynasty. It ruled primarily in southern India until the thirteenth century.
  • Founder: The Chola Empire was founded by Vijayalaya. He took over the Tanjore kingdom in the 8th century by defeating Pallavas. Tanjore was hence made the first capital of the Chola Empire.
  • Important Ruler: Rajendra Chola was the important ruler of Chola Empire. He succeeded Rajaraja Chola. He was the first to venture to the banks of the Ganges. Furthermore, he was popularly called the Victor of the Ganges. His new empire capital was called the Gangaikondacholapuram where he received the title of ‘Gangaikonda’.

Culture and Roots:

Society:

  • Society and its culture saw massive developments in the reign of the Cholas. In this era, the temple was the main center for all social and religious meetings.
  • Several gods and goddesses were worshipped with Shiva being a popular source of strength for the faithful.

Great Living Chola Temples

  • The Great Living Chola Temples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for a group of Chola dynasty-era Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu. The temples were completed between the early 11th and the 12th century CE. The monuments include:
    • Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur
    • Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram
    • Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram.

Affordable Rental Housing Complexes Scheme under Atmanirbhar Bharat Package

Source: PIB

What is the News? 

Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs has informed that about 88,236 govt-funded vacant houses are available. They can be converted into Affordable Rental Housing Complexes under the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes Scheme.

About Affordable Rental Housing Complexes Scheme:

  • Affordable Rental Housing Complexes(ARHCs) is a Sub-scheme under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana- Urban (PMAY-U) to provide affordable rental housing to urban migrants/ poor close to their workplace.

Objectives:

  • To address the vision of ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ significantly by creating a sustainable ecosystem of affordable rental housing solutions for urban migrants/poor.
  • To achieve the overall objective of “Housing for All” encompassing the need for affordable rental housing for urban migrants/poor.
  • Also, to create a conducive environment by incentivizing Public/Private Entities to leverage investment in rental housing.

Duration:

  • ARHCs to be considered till PMAY (U) Mission period, i.e. March 2022.

Beneficiaries:

  • Beneficiaries for ARHCs will be varied groups of urban migrants/ poor from EWS/ LIG categories including industrial & construction workers, migrants working with market/ trade associations, educational/ health institutions, hospitality sector, long-term tourists/ visitors, students, etc.

Implementation Strategy: The ARHCs will be built through a two-pronged strategy: –

  • Strategy-1: Utilizing existing Government funded vacant houses to convert into ARHCs through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) or by Public Agencies.
  • Strategy-2: Construction, Operation & Maintenance of ARHCs by Public/ Private Entities on their own available vacant land.

Over 9 lakh kids, most from UP, acutely malnourished

Source: TOI

What is the News?

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has informed Rajya Sabha about the status of the Malnourishment of Children in India.

Malnourishment in Children:

  • Over 9.3 lakh severely acute malnourished (SAM) children between six months and six years have been identified in the country till November 2020. Out of this number, Uttar Pradesh accounted for over 4 lakh, such children.

Government Initiatives to tackle Malnutrition among Children:

  • Under Integrated Child Development Services(ICDS), supplementary nutrition is provided to children, including severely malnourished children in the age group of 6 months-6 years.
  • The government has launched its flagship program Poshan Abhiyan aimed at reducing malnutrition. Under this, the target is to bring down stunting of children under 6 years from 38.4% to 25% by the year 2022.
  • Poshan Tracker: Poshan Tracker was launched under Mission Poshan 2.0. The tracker provides real-time monitoring and information relating to various parameters of service delivery and malnutrition under Poshan Abhiyan.

Undernutrition among Women:

  • According to the National Family Health Survey-4(2015-16), the prevalence of undernutrition among women was 22.9% as compared to males (20.2%). This is an improvement from the levels of 35.5% and 34.2% respectively reported in NFHS-3 (2005-06).

Amendments to Act regulating major airports passed in LS

Source: Livemint

What is the News?

Lok Sabha has passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Purpose of the Bill:

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.
  • The 2008 Act established the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).
    • AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (such as airport development fees) for aeronautical services rendered at major airports in India.

Key Features of the Bill:

 Definition of Major Airports:

  • The 2008 Act designates an airport as a major airport if it has an annual passenger traffic of at least 35 lakh.
  • The central government may also designate any airport as a major airport by a notification.
  • The Bill adds that the central government may group airports and notify the group as a major airport.

Tariff:

  • The amendment will allow AERA to regulate tariff and other charges for aeronautical services for not just major airports with annual passenger traffic of more than 35 lakh, but also a group of airports

Benefits of the Amendment:

  • The Bill will pave the way for the privatization of a small, loss-making airport by clubbing it with a larger airport.
    • The government has already decided to privatize airports at Amritsar, Varanasi, Bhubaneshwar, Indore, Raipur, and Tiruchirapalli. But it is yet to finalize smaller airports that can be paired with them for disinvestment.
  • Moreover, the bill will also help in expanding the air connectivity to relatively remote areas and as a result, expediting the UDAN regional connectivity scheme.

Landmark decision taken by Government of India in Medical Education

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Central Government has announced that it will provide 27% reservation for OBCs and 10% reservation for the economically weaker section(EWS). It will be provided under the All India Quota (AIQ) scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical/dental courses in state medical and dental colleges from 2021-22.

About All India Quota(AIQ) Scheme:

  • The All India Quota (AIQ) Scheme was introduced in 1986 under the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
  • Purpose: It provides for domicile-free merit-based opportunities to students from any State to aspire to study in a good medical college located in another State.
  • All India Quota consisted of 15% of total available UG seats and 50% of total available PG seats in government medical colleges.
  • Initially, there was no reservation in the AIQ Scheme up to 2007. In 2007, the Supreme Court introduced a reservation of 15% for SCs and 7.5% for STs in the AIQ Scheme.
  • Moreover, when the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act became effective in 2007 providing for uniform 27% reservation to OBCs, the same was implemented in all the Central Educational Institutions.
  • However, this was not extended to the AIQ seats of State medical and dental colleges. This has been done now.

Significance of this decision:

  • OBC and EWS students from across the country will now be able to take advantage of this reservation in the AIQ scheme to compete for seats in any state.
  • Moreover, being a central scheme, the central list of OBCs shall be used for this reservation.

Note:

  • This decision is in sync with the reforms carried out in the field of medical education since 2014.
  • In the six years to 2020, MBBS seats in the country have increased by 56% to 84,649 and the number of postgraduate seats has increased by 80% to 54,275 seats.
  • During the same period, 179 new medical colleges have been established, for a total of 558 medical colleges (269 of them are run by private operators).

Intriguing layer where internal rotation profile of Sun changes theoretically explained

Source: PIB

 What is the News?

Indian astronomers have found a theoretical explanation for an intriguing layer named Near-Surface Shear Layer(NSSL).

What is a Near-Surface Shear Layer(NSSL)?

  • It has long been known that the sun’s equator spins faster than the poles.
  • However, a peek into the internal rotation of the sun using sound waves revealed the existence of an intriguing layer where its rotation profile changes sharply.
  • This layer is called the near-surface shear layer(NSSL) and exists very close to the solar surface, within which the angular velocity decreases rapidly with radius.
    • Angular velocity is the time rate at which an object rotates or revolves, about an axis, or at which the angular displacement between two bodies changes.
  • Significance: Understanding NSSL is crucial for the study of several solar phenomena like sunspot formation and solar cycle.

Explanation for the existence of Near-Surface Shear Layer(NSSL):

  • Astronomers have provided an explanation of NSSL based on the thermal wind balance equation. It explains how the slight difference in temperature between solar poles and equator called thermal wind term is balanced by the centrifugal force appearing due to solar differential rotation.
  • Most scientists believe that this condition is true only in the interior of the Sun, and it does not hold near the solar surface.
  • But in this study, astronomers have shown that this belief actually holds near the solar surface as well. Hence, this is the reason for the existence of the Near-Surface Shear Layer(NSSL).

Legislators indulging in vandalism cannot claim immunity, says SC

Source: The Hindu

 What is the News?

The Supreme Court has rejected Kerala government’s plea to withdraw criminal cases against its MLAs. They were charged for destroying public property and disrupting a Budget speech on the State Assembly floor in 2015.

What was the argument of the Kerala Government?

Kerala Government has argued that the criminal cases against the MLAs was not sustainable as the members are protected by legislative privileges under Article 194 of the Constitution for the acts committed inside the Assembly.

What has the Court said in its judgement?

 On Freedom of Speech:

  • Acts of vandalism cannot be said to be manifestations of freedom of speech and be termed as ‘proceedings’ of the Assembly.

On Privileges and Immunities:

  • The purpose of giving privileges and immunities to elected members of the legislature was to enable them to perform their “essential functions” without hindrance, fear or favour.
  • The ‘essential’ function of the House is collective deliberation and decision-making.
  • These privileges are not a mark of status which makes legislators stand on an unequal pedestal.
  • Moreover, Privileges and Immunities granted to legislators can’t be used to claim exemption from the law of the land.

On Right to Protest:

  • A member of the legislature has a right to protest on the floor of the legislature.
  • But vandalism on the Assembly floor could not be equated with the right to protest.
  • Moreover, no member of an elected legislature can claim either a privilege or immunity to stand above the sanctions of the criminal law, which applies equally to all citizens.

Intensity of severe cyclonic storms increasing in the North Indian Ocean region due to atmospheric parameters related to global warming

Source: PIB

About the news:

The intensity of severe cyclonic storms in the North Indian Ocean region has shown an increasing trend in the past four decades, says a recent study by Indian Scientists.

Why do we need to study the North Indian Ocean?

  • The impact of global warming due to climate change and its effect on extreme weather events such as frequency and high-intensity tropical cyclones formed over global ocean basins is a matter of concern.
  • Severe cyclonic storms have become more frequent in the North Indian Ocean, causing significant risk and vulnerability to the coastal regions.
  • In the recent decade (2000 onwards), an increasing trend in cyclone formation was found to be quite substantial in both Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea basins.
Read more: How Tropical cyclones are formed?

Key findings of the study related to North Indian Ocean:

  • The increasing intensity of severe cyclonic storms with major socioeconomic implications was due to atmospheric parameters. This includes parameters like
    • Higher relative humidity (RH), especially at mid atmospheric level,
    • Weak vertical wind shear (VWS)
    • Positive low-level relative vorticity (RV)
    • Suppressed outgoing long wave radiation
    • Warm sea surface temperature (SST).
  • The study also found that the RH, RV, VWS are distinct during pre-monsoon seasons of La Niña, and that favors the genesis of severe cyclone formation over this region.
  • Investigation of the role of additional parameters such as water vapour and zonal Sea Level Pressure gradients revealed the possible linkage of La Niña years on the increased severity of tropical cyclones.
  • The study reported an increased amount of water vapor content in the troposphere, and during the past 38 years at 1.93 times as compared to the base year 1979.
  • During the past two decades (2000-2020), the La Niña years experienced almost double the number of intense cyclones compared to the El Niño years.
Read more: Why Arabian Sea is transforming into a New Cyclonic Hotbed? – Explained, Pointwise

Significance of the study:

  • The new findings from this study are expected to augment advanced research in tropical cyclone activity for the North Indian Ocean region
  • The study also provides the scope for a detailed investigation on the possible linkages and teleconnection with other climate indices over the North Indian Ocean.
Read more: Cyclone Nivar: All about tropical cyclones

India’s leopard count jumps 63% in just 4 years

Source: Down To Earth

About the news:

The Environment Minister has recently released the report ‘Status of Leopards, Co-predators and Megaherbivores-2018’. The report points out that India’s official leopard count increased 63 percent from 2014-2018.

Key findings of the report:
  • The report mentions that in 2014, the number of leopards in India was 7,910. The number of leopards in 2018 rose to 12,852. This is a 63 percent increase in leopard count.
Read more: Status of leopards in India, 2018 Report
Why separate leopard census is necessary?

One could not ‘piggyback leopard surveys on tiger surveys, because there were vast areas where the distributions of the two species did not overlap.

About Indian Leopard or Common Leopard:
  • The Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is a leopard subspecies widely distributed on the Indian subcontinent. These are known for their ability to adapt to a variety of habitats.
  • Vegetation: In India, the leopard is found in all forest types, from tropical rainforests to temperate deciduous and alpine coniferous forests. It is also found in dry scrubs and grasslands, the only exception being desert and the mangroves of Sundarbans.
  • Distribution: Its range stretches from the Indus river in the west, the Himalayas in the north, and all the way to the lower course of the Brahmaputra in the east.
  • Conservation Status:
    • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
    • Wildlife (Protection)Act,1972: Schedule I
    • CITES: Appendix I
Read more: India’s first snow leopard conservation centre to come up in Uttarakhand

SC: Why keep inmates entitled to remission of sentence in jails?

Source: Times of India

About the news:

Recently, a Supreme Court bench comprising the Chief Justice of India expressed disappointment over the efforts of legal services authorities (LSA’s), both at the national and state level. The bench mentioned, “Legal services authorities aren’t educating the inmates about their right to get remission”.

About Prison Status in India:

There are 1,350 prisons in the country consisting of 617 Sub-Jails, etc. The prisons have the capacity to lodge 4,03,739 prisoners, but there are actually 4,78,600 of them at the end of December 2019. Among them, 4,58,687 were male and 19,913 were female.

Read more: State of Prisons in India – Explained, pointwise
Other key observations by the Supreme Court:
  • The bench mentioned that the LSA failed to educate the inmates about their eligibility for remission and the procedure for making applications seeking remission of sentences, after undergoing a requisite period of incarceration.
  • The additional solicitor general informed that “All jails in Delhi have installed e-kiosks that would display details of the period of incarceration, the offence for which a person was convicted, and the furloughs availed by a convict when he opens the e-kiosk through a biometric access mechanism.
    • But the CJI appeared dissatisfied with the lackadaisical approach of authorities in facilitating a convict to exercise his right to remission.
How Supreme Court is reducing overcrowding in prisons during the pandemic?

During the Covid pandemic, the SC had ordered the release of prisoners/undertrials facing imprisonment for petty offences to prevent the spread of Covid in overcrowded prisons.

Recently, the Supreme Court also asked all states to furnish within a week details of the norms employed for releasing prisoners accused of minor offences from overcrowded jails

 


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