9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – July 6th, 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

Crafting a unique partnership with Africa

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

Relevance: African region is full of untapped opportunities. China has made a strong base in the region. India can also make use of this opportunity.

Synopsis:

The African continent presents an opportunity for enhancing India- Africa ties in the domain of agriculture. India should proactively provide funds and other resources to unleash this potential to contain the rising Chinese influence in the region.

Background:

  • New Delhi’s engagement with the African continent has been multifaceted. Multiple projects have been implemented under Indian lines of credit and capacity-building initiatives.
  • There has been robust cooperation in a range of sectors, amongst which agricultural cooperation holds immense significance. 

India- Africa Agriculture partnership:

  • India is an importer of fruits, nuts, grains and pulses from the continent.
  • India-Africa agricultural cooperation currently includes institutional and individual capacity-building initiatives such as 
    • India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development in Malawi, 
    • Extension of soft loans, supply of machinery, 
    • Acquisition of farmlands and the presence of Indian entrepreneurs in the African agricultural ecosystem. 
      • Indian farmers have purchased over 6,00,000 hectares of land for commercial farming in Africa. 
  • The Kerala government is trying to meet its steep requirement for raw cashew nuts by imports from countries in Africa. The state’s production capacity is currently limited to 0.83 lakh tonnes, compared to the requirement of 8 lakh tonnes.

Scope of increasing cooperation in Agriculture:

  • The African continent has 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. It employs over 60% of the workforce and accounts for almost 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP. This testifies the importance of agriculture in improving India- Africa relations.
  • Further, the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement is expected to improve cost competitiveness by removing tariffs.
  • There are also proposals to create a jointly-owned brand of Africa-Kollam cashews. Similar ideas could encourage State governments and civil society organisations to identify opportunities and invest directly.
  • The transformative power of innovative and disruptive technology has been evident in the African agri-tech sector. The startup ecosystem in the continent enjoyed a 110% growth between 2016 and 2018. This presents an opportunity for Indian industries to tap into African agri-business value chains.

However, China’s influence in the region is a cause of concern for India- Africa relations.

China- Africa relations:

  • Today, China is amongst Africa’s largest trading partners. It is also Africa’s single biggest creditor. 
  • Access to Africa’s natural resources, its untapped markets and support for ‘One China Policy’ are primary drivers of Chinese engagement with Africa. However, there are other factors at play. 
    • Chinese-built industrial parks and economic zones in Africa are attracting low-cost, labour-intensive manufacturing units that are relocating from China.
    • Chinese operations in Africa are important to accumulate global experience in management, risk and capital investments
    • China is willing to overlook short-term profits in order to build ‘brand China’ and push Chinese standards in the host countries.

Way Ahead:

  • While India’s Africa strategy exists independently, it is important to be cognisant of China’s increasing footprint in the region. India should learn from China’s mistakes and try to avoid it. These include:
    • Operation in silos by the Chinese and African experts working in ATDCs.
    • Existence of a critical gap between skills transferred in China and the ground realities in Africa. 
    • Large commercial farms are run by Mandarin-speaking managers, and there is a presence of small-scale Chinese farmers in local markets. This has aggravated socio-cultural stress.
  • A thorough impact assessment needs to be conducted of the existing capacity-building initiatives in agriculture for India to stand in a strong position.

This could include detailed surveys of participants who have returned to their home countries. Country-specific and localised curriculum can be drawn up, making skill development demand-led.


Will a national judiciary work?

Source: The Hindu 

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

Relevance: The article analysis the idea of an All India Judicial Service through various judgments and recommendations of committees. 

Synopsis:

The idea of an All India Judicial Service (AIJS) is surrounded by impairment of federal powers, language barriers, and debatable efficacy in addressing pendency. Thus, a cautious analysis needs to be done by constitutional experts and legal professionals before its establishment. 

Background:

  • The Union government appears to be devoted in its resolve to implement reforms in recruitment and appointment to the subordinate judicial services. 
  • In 2019, it spearheaded a consultative process for the creation of the All India Judicial Service (AIJS). 
    • Initially, only four States and two High Courts supported the proposal. Eight States rejected it, five suggested changes, and 11 are yet to respond.

Constitutional Perspective on Subordinate Judicial Services:

  • Article 233(1) of the Constitution: It states that appointments, posting, and promotion of district judges in any State shall be made by the Governor of the State in consultation with the state’s High Court. 
  • The 42nd Constitutional amendment in 1976 amended Article 312 (1) empowering Parliament to make laws for the creation of one or more All-India Services. This included the creation of an AIJS common to the Union and the States. 
    • However, Clause 3 of Article 312 places a restriction that such a service shall not include a post inferior to that of a district judge. 
  • The amendment also brought about a significant change in the Seventh Schedule. Entry 3 of List II in its entirety was placed as Entry 11A in List III.
    • Entry empowers the parliament to enact laws with regard to ‘Administration of Justice; constitution and organisation of all courts, except the Supreme Court and the High Courts’.

Judgements, Opinions, and Commissions over the formation of AIJS:

  • The 11th law commission deliberated upon the objections.
    • The primary fear was that promotional avenues of the subordinate judiciary would be severely curtailed.
      • 50% of the posts of district judges are to be filled by promotion from the subordinate judicial service. It leaves the remaining posts open for direct recruitment. 
    • Another fundamental concern was the language barrier. An outsider would face difficulties in understanding the local language and local concerns.
    • Similarly, taking away the fundamental power of the States to govern the appointment of district judges would be against the principle of federalism and the basic structure doctrine.
  • Some experts believe that the AIJS will not reduce judicial delays. Because the reason behind delays is the existence of large vacancies and not the poor quality of judges.
  • The First National Judicial Pay Commission (headed by Justice K. Jagannatha Shetty) found that it would be in the interest and the health of the judiciary to form an AIJS. The report supported and reiterated the recommendations of the 14th Law Commission.
  • The issue was again discussed in All India Judges Association Vs. Union of India (2002). The court accepted most recommendations of the Shetty Commission and directed the government to implement the judgment.
  • The Union Law Minister has supported AIJS to be an ideal solution for equal representation of the marginalised and deprived sections of society. 
    • Most States already have a reservation policy in force. Tamil Nadu provides for a roster-based reservation of 69%, of which 30% is for women. 
    • Uttar Pradesh merely provides 20% reservation for women and the AIJS may therefore benefit States like U.P. 

Way Ahead:

  • The feasibility of the AIJS in the current context requires to be studied, especially when reliance is placed upon archaic reports of the Law Commission. 
  • It is for the Union to dispel doubts and at the same time give wings to the aspirations of all stakeholders when implementing the proposal.

Terms to Know:


How India and China are shaped by the idea of national humiliation

Source: Indian express

GS3: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

Relevance: China used its historic national humiliation for strengthening the country. However, India could not do that due to the prevalence of inequality.

Synopsis: China uses national humiliation to legitimise authoritarian rule. Whereas, India’s lack of egalitarianism(Equality) makes it harder for national humiliation to be owned equally.

How China used the idea of humiliation?

  • Firstly, Chinese nationalism is the centrality of the idea of humiliation.
    • From the First Opium Wars to the Nanjing massacre, it is an organising principle of historiography in China.
    • President Xi Jinping’s address at the Party centenary begins with a reminder and resolve that China will never be humiliated again.
  • Secondly, national humiliation is central to education policy.
    • For instance, public monuments remind people of sites of national humiliation.
  • Thirdly, the idea of humiliation has a legitimizing function.
    • The Communist Party makes a claim for its fitness to rule on its ability to position itself as the agent that overcomes China’s humiliation.
  • Fourth, the theme of humiliation became an organising frame for foreign policy.

How the concept of humiliation worked in Indian nationalism?

  • Firstly, In India’s post-colonial trauma, the psychological sense of humiliation is present.
    • After the Rowlatt Bills, Gandhi declared April 6, 1919, as National Humiliation Day, but that was almost a one-off event.
    • At an ideological level, the onset of colonialism was also welcomed by many constituencies.
    • For some Hindus, it was an opportunity to come out from under the yoke of the Mughal Empire.
    • For many Dalits, it was an opportunity for shaking up oppressive social structures.
  • Secondly, modern India’s ruling class and identity was created as much by collaboration with colonialism, as resistance to it.
    • India’s ruling structure comes out as being embedded in the colonial project.
    • Families from the Tagores to the Tatas, the Indian Army, the Indian civil service, the legal profession, and pretty much any part of the ruling establishment displayed more continuity than discontinuity.
    • Even post-Independence, the persistence of English and new elites reinforced this.
  • Thirdly, Indian political ideologies and cultural practice is less politically authoritarian and are far less egalitarian. So it is difficult for national humiliation to be owned equally.
    • The real source of India’s humiliation is still abiding and crushing poverty.
  • Fourth, the nature of traumas is different. India’s traumas turned out to be more self-inflicted.
    • The Chinese construction of humiliation was directly structured around military defeats.
    • No war defines Indian victimhood or trauma. But it is 1962 that is marked as a national humiliation.
    • However, its suffering and trauma cannot be deployed in the same way in which the Chinese deploy memories of WW II.
  • Fifth, as VS Naipaul wrote that due to humiliation by British rule, there will be ideas of country’s pride and historical self-analysis.
    • The presence of the Hindu-Muslim question in Indian politics meant that humiliation became a source of divisiveness.
    • Humiliation is more easily deployed against pre-British, Mughal and Sultanate rule, than as a unifying ideology.
  • Lastly, calling India a Vishwaguru and then adoption of new aggressive nationalism are signs of a repressed sense of humiliation that is unable to confront its true sources. It shows India’s powerlessness and its inability to give most of its citizens a dignified life.

The practical and moral necessity of playing down national humiliation may not be a bad thing but how countries deal with their own constructs of humiliation will determine their future.

Terms to know: 

  • Egalitarianism: Egalitarianism is a trend of thought in political philosophy. This thought believes that all people were created equal and should be treated equally in fundamental worth or moral status.

Gauging pandemic mortality with civil registration data

Source: The Hindu

GS-2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis: The Civil Registration System (CRS) is still an imperfect system, with potential sources of error.

Background

  • Recently, Indian journalists from across the country assessed and reported on State-level all-cause mortality from the Civil Registration System (CRS) of various states.
  • The data shows a large rise in excess mortality in the surge months of the second wave of April and May 2021.
  • The increase in mortality ranges from reported deaths climbing to five times the usual monthly data in Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Whereas in Tamil Nadu and Kerala there has been a modest increase.
  • Though the CRS data has highlighted the undercounting of COVID-19 deaths in India and remains the best source of data on all-cause mortality. There are some known sources of error that exist with the data.

Why the data from Civil Registration System is considered inaccurate?

  • First, the CRS numbers underestimate total mortality.
    • For example, The Union government last published annual Civil Registration System data for 2019.
    • This data shows that India registered 92 of every 100 deaths as of 2019. But there was a large variation between States. Bihar, for instance, registered just half of all deaths.
    • Additionally, the online portals show lower numbers than what was published by the Union government for 2018 and 2019.
  • The second possible source of error. If mortality was either naturally increasing over time, or if registration was getting better, or if both were taking place. If any of these three phenomena was taking place, the magnitude of excess mortality in 2020 and 2021 could be moderated by these processes.
    • For instance, let us assume that Madhya Pradesh achieved 100% registration by May 2021.
    • Given the flattening of mortality in the State, let us assume that the total mortality in 2021 in ‘normal’ times would have been about the same as the total estimated deaths for 2019 5.53 lakh deaths.
    • Even then, the numbers for Madhya Pradesh show over 1.18 lakh excess deaths in 2021, which is over 26 times the official COVID-19 death toll for the same period.
    • The other States, too, show excess mortality in 2021 even assuming full registration.

These sources of error indicate that the total number of deaths in India during the pandemic reported using Civil Registration System data might be underestimated.


What India must keep in mind when it comes to Turkey

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Relevance: India – Turkey relations are important for India’s engagement in West Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Synopsis:

Turkey, Qatar, and China have become critical players in post-America Afghanistan. So, India needs to improve its relations with Turkey.

How Turkey is engaging in Afghanistan?
  • Afghanistan and Turkey have recently celebrated the centennial of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Through this century, Turkey has engaged purposefully with Afghanistan over a wide domain.
  • While it joined the NATO military mission in Afghanistan after the ouster of the Taliban at the end of 2001, Turkey avoided any combat role and differentiated itself from the Western powers.
  • Turkey has contributed to the training of the Afghan military and police forces. It has also undertaken much independent humanitarian and developmental work.
  • Turkey’s “Heart of Asia” conference or the Istanbul Process has been a major diplomatic vehicle for attempted Afghan reconciliation in the last few years.
  • Turkey has been running Kabul airport security for a while. Further, Turkey is in negotiations with the US on taking charge of the Kabul airport, which is critical for an international presence in Afghanistan.
Challenges in improving India – Turkey relations
  • Turkey’s growing role in Afghanistan opens a more difficult phase in relations between India and Turkey.
  • Turkey’s deepening bilateral military-security cooperation with Pakistan made it even harder for Delhi to take a positive view of Ankara.
    • Pakistan and Turkey were part of the Central Treaty Organisation that was set up in 1955 by the British. Although CENTO eventually wound up in 1979, Turkey and Pakistan remained close partners in a number of regional organisations and international forums like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
    • Turkey’s Islamist internationalism has inevitably led to its deeper alliance with Pakistan, greater meddling in South Asia, and a sharper contraction with India.
    • Turkey has become the most active international supporter of Pakistan on the Kashmir question. Apart from that, Turkey even condemned the Bangladesh government’s hanging of a senior Jamat e Islami leader in 2016.
  • The shared secular values between Delhi and Ankara in the pre-Erdogan era were not enough to overcome the strategic differences between the two in the Cold War.
    • Turkey has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation since the early 1950s.
How India can engage with Turkey?
  • Turkey has carefully modulated its confrontation with major powers by avoiding a breakdown in relations. This shows that Turkey has learnt to take advantage of the alliance without sacrificing its “strategic autonomy”. So, India needs to engage in Turkey’s strategic sectors.
    • Turkey has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation since the early 1950s. But recently, Turkey bought S-400 missiles from Russia in defiance of NATO.
    • Further, Turkey was the first Muslim-majority nation that established full diplomatic relations with Israel.
  • Turkey’s good relations with both Afghanistan and Pakistan have given space for Turkey to present itself as a mediator between the warring South Asian neighbours. India can utilise Turkey’s role.

The complex geopolitics of our times offers us a big opportunity

Source: Livemint

Syllabus: Effects of globalization on Indian society and Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India

Relevance: Understanding the present phase of Globalization is important to understand the future of Global countries.

Synopsis:

India could play a leadership role by helping set common standards for the democratic world in this new era of globalization

About the new era of globalization

The Globalisation puzzle that is unfolding is multidimensional. There are two superpowers (the US and China), traditional powers (G7 countries), emerging players and important states recalcitrant to the traditional powers and moving towards the emerging superpower. Understanding this new form of globalization requires us to make sense of the complex tapestry of geopolitics today.

The level of globalisation at present
  1. The superpowers do not agree on the underlying values on which agreements are built. Further, these are areas of the fundamental difference between the US and China. These areas include principles of governance, the purpose of the state, the concept of privacy and its extent, an understanding of ‘public good’, the rule of law, etc.
  2. Today, the primary conflict is around technology and its growing primacy in life—business, health, education, financial services and payments, etc. These are all areas where digital technology is becoming vital. Similar trends are clear in espionage and cyber warfare.
    • This makes global cooperation in respect to data (all forms of it, be it for storage, use or sharing), technology (quantum computing, biotech and cyber), communications (5 G and beyond) and the surrounding standards.
    • The divergence in them has resulted in an inability to agree on global standards for technology that are likely to emerge.
  3. Competition in the traditional areas of globalization—tariffs, taxation, immigration and capital flows—will get more intense.
    • The existing multilateral arrangements on trade may get replaced by regional or bilateral arrangements.
    • The G7 move for minimum global taxation signals cooperation.
    • Immigration has got politically polarized as an issue in some parts of the world.
    • Essentially, competition will get accentuated, and global interests might be superseded by various national interests
  4. Globalisation in areas like climate change, health, space and possibly even nuclear weapons.
    • Climate Change: The need to address global warming is on every country’s agenda. Moves to contain the growth of fossil fuel usage by the introduction of carbon taxes, incentives for renewable energy and investments in storage are gathering pace. The 26th Conference of Parties (better known as COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provides a forum for deliberations.
    • Space: The private sector has got into this sector in a big way, there is cooperation on sharing international stations, and conflict does not seem likely.
    • Health: With the advent of the Pandemic, the world largely understands global risk.
    • Nuclear arsenal: the build-up of nuclear arsenals has slowed. All countries armed with such weapons recognize that their current stockpiles are enough to destroy the world and superpowers mostly use their influence to try and rein in countries that violate international protocols
New Globalisation and India
  • India needs to recognize the emerging world order and begin to actively navigate it, especially around technology.
    • The time is ripe for a Quad-plus formulation(Including Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea, and Vietnam apart from Quad members) in creating data protocols, laying out ‘monopoly’ definitions for large tech firms, and forging standards for taxation, cyber coalitions and privacy.
  • Further, India will need to shed some of its traditional inhibitions and align itself. The country should work judiciously and take the lead in creating common technology standards for its bloc (hopefully with the US).
  • India should work to create institutions and fair protocols that allow for some give-and-take thereafter.
  • The country must also avoid getting caught in the kind of standoff it is currently having with Big Tech (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter). Both the US and India are concerned with many aspects of Big Tech, and creating joint standards for the democratic world will be an important move for India.

GS Paper 3

Haircuts and Settlements

Source: Business Standard 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Economy

Relevance: The insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) is an important mechanism to protect the economy from NPA and failed businesses. Any issue in this mechanism will act as a big hurdle in the economic development of the country.

Synopsis:

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) allows for a system of haircuts and settlements. However, experts have expressed concerns over their misuse which demands a robust reformation of the IBC process. 

Background:

  • India’s bankruptcy process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) is relatively new and should be seen as a work in progress.
  • Experts have expressed concerns about the magnitude of haircuts that banks are taking under the IBC resolution process. Also, the system of one-time settlement (OTS) is harmful. 

Issue of Haircuts:

  • In finance, a haircut refers to the reduction applied to the original loan amount during the insolvency resolution settlement.  
  • Overall, haircuts have been in the 80 percent range. Banks have lost four-fifths of the money they have lent to companies that have entered the IBC process.
  • Even the National Company Law Tribunal recently expressed surprise that Vedanta’s Anil Agarwal was “paying almost nothing” to take over Videocon Industries. 

Issue of One-time Settlement (OTS) Mechanism:

  • Under IBC, 90 percent of the committee of creditors (CoC) can decide to give the firm back to the promoter. 
    • The recent OTS between the promoter of Siva Industries and Holdings Ltd and its creditors is one such example. The promoter paid Rs 500 crore against a Rs 5,000 crore loan and got back the firm.
  • The mechanism is beneficial as:
    • It preserves capital and involves an agreement of the original lenders, 
    • It also takes the pressure off the tribunal, which is clogged up with cases.
  • However, the OTS mechanism to settle cases can be open to subversion as the mechanism attracts minimum legal oversight.
    • The promoters could borrow money from banks, take it out of the company, and then use the OTS mechanism to have the banks take a massive haircut on the loans.

Way Ahead:

  • Any further reform of the IBC process must take into account the basic motivation for its introduction: 
    • Firstly, to preserve the companies as far as possible.
    • Secondly, to ensure that capital is not wasted or locked up in legal proceedings.
    • Third, to introduce some market discipline in bank’s corporate lending.

The ideal solution is the development of an incentive-compatible banking sector that lends more carefully. But until public sector banking in India occupies a far smaller share of corporate lending, such incentive compatibility is a distant dream.


With no subsidy, cooking fuel burns a hole in consumers’ pocket

Source: Business Standard

Gs2: Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger.

Relevance: Price of LPG cylinders is increasing after the removal of subsidy.

Synopsis: Government’s cut on LPG subsidies will adversely affect nearly 290 million households with LPG connections.

What is the issue?

  • Lack of global demand due to lockdowns had led to a crash in both prices of crude oil and petroleum products.
  • Seizing the opportunity, the Central government phased out the LPG subsidy that successive governments had maintained.
  • When international LPG prices began to rise in 2021, the oil-marketing companies also hiked the subsidised prices.
  • The pressure was shifted onto the consumers who had to bear a Rs 140 increase in the price of a cylinder, irrespective of their income slab.
  • This LPG subsidy disbursement was fine-tuned with the introduction of the direct benefit transfer program.
  • It was further enhanced to voluntary removal of beneficiaries through the Give It Up program and finally the exclusion of those with a taxable income above Rs 10 lakh in 2016.
  • The subsidy on LPG was done away with and what remained was some freight subsidy, which comes to Rs 20-30 a cylinder. This move of the government came after subsidies on diesel were phased out.
  • This leaves more money in the hands of the government, which is tightening its purse. However, it adds to the woes of nearly 290 million households that have LPG connections but are battling high inflation, salary cuts, and job losses.

How cryptocurrency turbocharged the cybercrime racket: Explained

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS3 – S&T, Cyber-security

Relevance: Cryptocurrency is an emerging sector. As a UPSC aspirant one needs have knowledge about its pros and cons.

Synopsis: Use of cryptocurrencies for ransomware attacks by hackers and related challenges.

Must Read: What is a ransomware?
How is crypto used in cybercrime?

A typical ransomware attack on a company or organization might proceed like this: Executives realise their business website is down or systems inaccessible, and administrator overrides don’t work. A ransom demand arrives via email, providing a Bitcoin address where the payment must go if the company wants its systems operational again, along with a deadline. The victim calls up the Bitcoin address, which is 26 to 34 characters in length, when signing onto a cryptocurrency exchange to make the deposit.

What makes crypto attractive to criminals?

The anonymity built into the blockchain, which forms the foundation of cyber­curren­cies, can be utilized through a variety of ways.

  • Coin mixer: A ransom paid in Bitcoin can be swiftly run through a so-called cryptocurrency mixer or coin mixer, which obscures the trail of ownership by pooling it with other people’s holdings. (While the practice itself is not considered illegal, mixer operators can get into trouble if found to have laundered illegally gotten money.)
  • Conversion to a different cryptocurrency: Another option is to convert the ransom payment to a different cryptocurrency via a crypto exchange. So-called money mules (a person who transfers illegally obtained money between different payment accounts) can be recruited on dark web forums and directed to withdraw Bitcoins out of certain accounts.

In 2020, victims paid more than $406 mill­ion in crypto­curr­ency to attackers, accord­ing to blockchain analysis firm Chainanalysis Inc. This year, groups had taken at least $81 million from victims as of May, the firm said. Hackers who specialize in ransomware are said to be actively seeking out targets that have insurance.

Can payments made in cryptocurrency be traced?

Yes, at least at first. All Bitcoin transact­ions, while anonymous, are available for anyone to see, so someone tracking a par­ticular Bitcoin wallet can observe when cash arrives. But accessing the money inside the wallet requires a private key, essentially a password, and that’s some­thing ransomware groups do not normally share with anyone outside their operation.

What steps can be taken?

Regulation is the key. In April, the Ransomware Task Force, a private-public partnership created by the Institute for Security and Technology, published an 81-page report with recommendations for how governments can protect against and deal with ransomware attacks.

  • The group urged governments to extend Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating Financing of Terrorism (CFT) requirements — which national and international authorities enforce against banks around the world — to crypto exchanges, kiosks (crypto’s version of automated teller machines) and over-the-counter trading desks.
  • Calls to ban Bitcoin altogether have been quieted by the currency’s gradual acceptance by the financial industry.

Terms to know:


COP26 offers a chance to revise zero-emission targets

SourceLivemint

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Annual meeting of the UNFCCC (COP) is an important event where critical policy decisions related to global environment are deliberated upon. As a UPSC aspirant one must be aware of the outcomes of such events.

Synopsis: COP26 (UNFCCC) assumes importance since the last COP meeting could not be held due to pandemic

  • The United Kingdom will be hosting the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in early November, 2021.
Why COP26 is important?

COP26 is important because

  • First 5-year assessment: It will feature the first quinquennial (after every 5 years) ‘global stock take’. It will also feature opportunities for countries to strengthen commitments to new NDC plans and ‘ramp up’ their contributions since it is likely that there will be a global shortfall.
  • US rejoined Paris Agreement: COP26 is important also because the US returns to the table after a gap of several years. Under President Joe Biden, the US rejoined the legally binding Paris Agreement this February. President Biden has climate change at the top of his agenda, and the US will likely play a large role in COP26.
  • Unequal impact of COVID: While widespread lockdowns dramatically reduced emissions, economic policy responses around the world have not been uniformly green. The unequal impact of the pandemic on poor countries and the poor within each country is likely to worsen any future impact of extreme weather events and climate change. One major consequence of the pandemic is that health and environmental policy will have to go hand in hand.
What is IPCC and its importance?
Impact of a 1.5°C and a 2°C scenario

In a landmark report released in 2018, the IPCC evaluated the potential impact of a 1.5°C temperature rise compared to 2°C. The Special Report concludes that

Findings of the special report of a 2018 IPCC report
A global warming which is limited to 1.5°C, Will reduce –

  • increases in ocean temperatures,
  • associated increases in ocean acidity and decreases in ocean oxygen levels;
  • risks to marine biodiversity, fisheries and ecosystems
  • chances of an ice-free Arctic summer.

Will prevent –

  • Small islands from sinking into the ocean
  • Millions of poor people from having to face the adverse impacts of extreme weather
Will increase climate-related health risks to

  • Health
  • Livelihoods
  • Food security
  • Water supply
  • Human security
  • economic growth

The negative consequences of 1.5oC global warming will be further amplified if global temperatures rise to 2oC.

Way forward for India

As the 3rd largest emitter of carbon and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India will have to do its part and step up its NDC (Nationally-Determined Contribution) ambitions.

  • India has taken strong steps, including the setting of an ambitious goal renewable electricity generation goal. India’s NDC goals include a reduction of 33-35% in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, the creation of an additional carbon sink of 3 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent through forest cover, and the use of transferred technology for mitigation and adaptation in the years ahead.
  • Amongst Indian corporates, however, very few have specific net-zero goals right now.
Also Read: UNFCCC Summits

Terms to know:

  • UNFCCC
  • The IPCC’s Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (TFI) develops and refines an internationally agreed methodology and software for the calculation and reporting of national greenhouse gas emissions and removals, and encourages the use of this methodology by countries participating in the IPCC and by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • Net zero emissions vs Carbon Neutral:
    • Carbon neutral means that any CO2 released into the atmosphere is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed.
    • Net-zero emissions are reached when anthropogenic emissions of GHGs in the atmosphere are balanced by anthropogenic removals over a specific period. Net-zero emissions strategies include every type of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Distressing’ and ‘shocking’ that people are still tried under Section 66A of IT Act, says SC

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has expressed shock at the practice of police registering FIRs under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. The act was struck down by the SC in the 2015 judgment in the Shreya Singhal case.

What is the issue?
  • A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The petition seeks various directions and guidelines against the FIRs under the struck-down provision of Section 66A.
  • The plea has stated that as many as a total of 745 cases are still pending and active before the District Courts in 11 States under 66A of the IT Act.
  • Moreover, Section 66A has continued to be in use not only within police stations but also in cases before trial courts across India.
What has the Supreme Court said?
  • The Supreme Court has termed the continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 as a shocking state of affairs and sought a response from the Centre.

About Section 66A:

  • Section 66A defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet.
  • A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.
What were the issues with the Act?
  • The vagueness about what is “offensive”. The word has a very wide connotation and is open to distinctive, varied interpretations.
  • Hence, it was subjective and what may be fine for one person, may lead to a complaint from someone else. Consequently, an arrest under Section 66A if the police prima facie accepts the latter person’s view.

Terms to know 


Govt unveils NIPUN to improve learning

Source: Livemint, The Hindu

 What is the News?

The Ministry of Education has launched the National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy(NIPUN Bharat) Mission.

About NIPUN Bharat Mission:
  • NIPUN Bharat Mission aims to improve foundational literacy and numeracy of children in the age group of three to nine years.
Key Features of the Mission:
  • Implementation: The mission will be implemented by the Union Education Ministry in collaboration with states through the flagship school education program Samagra Shiksha.
  • Target: The mission has set a target that by 2026-27, every Class 3 child should be able to read with understanding at the rate of at least 60 words per minute. Further, the child should be able to read and write numbers up to 9,999 and solve simple multiplication problems.
  • Survey: A National Achievement Survey of Class 3 students will be conducted to set a baseline to track the future progress of the mission.
  • Mother Tongue: The mission also emphasizes the importance of using a child’s mother tongue in teaching, a principle of the National Education Policy 2020.

What was the need for this mission?

  • Foundational learning has been poor in Indian schools. Annual State of Educational Report (Aser) findings released by education non-profit Pratham have shown that for successive years.
  • According to ASER findings, at least 25% of school children in the four-eight age group do not have age-appropriate cognitive and numeracy skills. It is leading to a massive learning deficit at an early stage.
  • Just 37.4% of children below six were able to recognize at least letters, and only 25.6% could do additions.
  • Similarly, only 34.8% of children in Class II could read a text meant for Class I. In Class III, only 50.8% could read texts meant for their juniors two levels below.

Minister of Ayush launches five Important Portals on Ayush sector

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Ayush has launched five Important Portals in the Ayush sector.

Five Portals on Ayush Sector:

  • AMAR (Ayush Manuscripts Advanced Repository) Portal- It is a repository for Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, and Sowa- Rigpa manuscripts and catalogues.
  • Ayurveda Dataset on Clinical Trial Registry of India(CTRI): It is a primary register of Clinical Trials under WHO’s International Clinical Trials Registry Platform(ICTRP). The portal will facilitate the usage of Ayurveda terminologies to record clinical studies based on Ayurveda interventions.
    • Until now, the clinical trials in Ayurveda were dependent on terminology borrowed from modern medicine.
  • CCRAS-Research Management Information System: The portal will be a one-stop solution for Research and Development in Ayurveda-based studies.
  • E-Medha (electronic Medical Heritage Accession) Portal- It is an online public access catalog for more than 12000 Indian medical heritage books through NIC’s e-granthalaya platform.
  • SHAI (Showcase of Ayurveda Historical Imprints) Portals- This portal will be helpful in understanding the Indian Knowledge system, with a focus on indigenous health care practices.

OPEC’s output pact proposal: How will decision affect India?

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

The meetings among the OPEC+ group of oil-exporting countries have stalled. Because the UAE has pushed back proposals, making an increase in crude oil supply conditional on an extension to an output agreement.

Background:

  • In April 2020, the OPEC+ countries had signed a two-year agreement. It included steep cuts in crude production to deal with a sharp fall in the price of oil as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Due to this agreement, the price of crude oil started rising consistently and has now reached $76.5 per barrel. Despite this, OPEC+ maintained lower levels of crude oil production.
  • However, the group ran into sharp criticism from developing economies, including India, for deliberately maintaining low supply levels to raise prices.

What is the issue now?

  • The current issue is between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. UAE has accepted a proposal from Saudi Arabia to raise output of crude oil in phases.
  • However, UAE has rejected extending the remaining cuts to the end of 2022 from the current end date of April 2021 without adjusting its current baseline production.

How will it impact India?

  • If the OPEC+ countries do not reach an agreement to increase production of crude oil, then expected relief in the form of lower crude oil prices could be delayed.
  • India is currently facing record-high prices of petrol and diesel, with prices of petrol exceeding Rs 100 per litre in 13 states and Union Territories.

ONDC: Looking to open source e-comm processes, DPIIT sets up 9-member panel

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade(DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry has set up a nine-member advisory council for creating an Open Network for Digital Commerce(ONDC).

About Open Network for Digital Commerce(ONDC):

  • ONDC is being designed to curb the monopolistic tendencies of e-commerce platforms.  It brings together all of India’s E-commerce marketplaces on a single network on the lines of Unified Payments Interface(UPI).
  • It will do this by promoting open networks developed on open-sourced methodology using open specifications and open network protocols, independent of any specific platform.
  • Impact: This is expected to digitise the entire value chain, standardise operations, promote inclusion of suppliers, derive efficiency in logistics, and enhance value for consumers.
  • Nodal Body: The task of this project has been assigned to the Quality Council of India(QCI).

Cities along rivers urged to include conservation plans

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has released a policy document containing guidelines for cities situated along rivers.

Note: These guidelines are currently for towns situated near Ganga. There are 97 towns encompassing five States — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal.

Key Guidelines of the Policy:

  • Firstly, the cities situated on the river banks will have to incorporate river conservation plans when they prepare their Master Plans.
  • Secondly, these river-sensitive plans must be practical and consider questions of land ownership such as restrictions on the Floor Area Ratio, ground coverage, and setting limits on the maximum permissible heights of buildings.
  • Thirdly, the plan should include a systematic and alternate livelihood rehabilitation plan for encroaching entities.
  • Fourthly, the Master Plan should not mandate specific technologies. But it can create an environment for facilitating the use of state-of-the-art technologies for river management.
    • These include satellite-based monitoring of water quality; artificial intelligence for riverine biodiversity mapping; big data and citizen science for river-health monitoring and unmanned aerial vehicles for floodplain mapping.
  • Lastly, the cities with an ongoing Master Plan should conduct an immediate analysis of the extent to which these river guidelines could have been adopted.

Terms to Know: 


The rise in inequality of opportunity in India

Source: Live mint

What is the News?

A World Bank study has found that children of under-educated parents in India find it much more difficult to rise up the educational and income ladder. The situation is better in other large developing countries(China, Brazil, Indonesia, Egypt, and Nigeria).

Key Findings of the Study:

 Privileged Learners:

  • In normal years without any school closures, children from affluent and better-educated families learn much more than those from poorer families.
  • Furthermore, the pandemic-induced school lockdown threatens to widen these fault lines even further. Children in poorer and under-educated families are falling far behind peers.
    • The length of school closures in India was among the highest in the world.
  • It is being estimated that around 300 million children across India have been affected due to school closures. Further, those without access to smartphones or a family member to help them with their lessons have been hit the hardest.
Caste Gap:
  • In a socially stratified society such as India, differences in class tend to reflect differences in caste, and educational outcomes reflect this reality.
  • Most college-educated Indians belong to privileged castes and tend to be the sons or daughters of college-educated parents.
  • This also means that many students from marginalized caste groups tend to be first-generation learners who struggle even in a physical classroom environment.
  • Hence, with limited access to smartphones and computers, their struggle is much greater in the current digitized learning environment.

Job Segregation:

  • Differences in educational attainments can widen job market inequalities. ‘Meritorious’ children from privileged castes and social backgrounds are gaining better-paying jobs.
  • Decent salaried jobs are rare for scheduled castes (SCs) and tribes (STs).
  • Moreover, the pandemic’s role in widening wealth inequality received a fair amount of attention due to the soaring stock prices of a few multi-billionaires firms.

E-commerce companies call out lack of clarity in draft rules

Source: Indian Express

What is the news?

Government has decided to extend the last date for submission of comments on the draft ecommerce rules till July 21 from the earlier deadline of July 6. While the government did not disclose any reasons for extending the date, it is learnt that it has come as a result of the demand made by e-commerce players in their recent meeting with the Consumer Affairs Ministry.

Also Read: Draft E-commerce rules
What are the concerns expressed by e-commerce companies?
  • On Fallback liability rule: According to the proposed rules, e-commerce firms will be held liable in case a seller on their platform fails to deliver goods or services due to negligent conduct, which causes loss to the customer.
    • Companies argue that with these various measures where an online marketplace operates from a distance when it comes to seller inventory, a provision like ‘fall-back liability’ could prove to be antithetical (opposite) to the way e-commerce business models have evolved.
  • On flash sales: E-commerce companies have also sought clarification on the nature of flash sales that have been banned. While the government, on June 21, clarified shortly after publishing the draft rules that conventional flash sales will be allowed, companies have sought more information on this regard. Companies have also pointed out that various measures, including one on flash sales, “appear to blatantly limit consumer choices further”.
  • On definition of related party: Clauses pertaining to dealings with related-parties have also added to the confusion, with the companies seeking that the definition of “related party” be shortened from the current wide-ranging entities that it could cover.
    • The draft regulations cite Companies Act for the definition of a related party, but state that an e-commerce company must ensure that “nothing is done by related parties or associated enterprises, which the e-commerce entity cannot do itself”.
Also Read: Draft e-commerce rules and their challenges – Explained

Spinner dolphin carcass found in Odisha

Source: DowntoEarth

What is the news?

The carcass of a male Spinner dolphin washed ashore in Odisha’s port town of Paradip within the Bhitarkanika National Park on June 30, 2021, taking the number of marine animal deaths in the state within five months to six.

  • The reason behind the death is yet to be ascertained
  • In Odisha, 544 dolphins belonging to the Irrawaddy, bottlenose and humpback species were counted during the annual census in 2021.
Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris)
  • The species’ name, longirostris, is Latin for “long beak,” referring to their slender shaped beak or rostrum.
  • Habitat: Spinner dolphins live in large pods from a few dozen to a thousand or more in tropical and subtropical zones around the world. They are the most abundant dolphin species in the Indian Ocean. The spinner dolphin is a rare mammal in Odisha as it is an offshore species and is found in deeper waters as part of large schools.
  • Conservation scenario:
Convention/LawConservation status:
Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972Schedule I
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)Appendix II
IUCN Red listLeast Concern (LC)
Convention on Migratory SpeciesAppendix II
  • Spinner dolphin is famous for its acrobatic displays in which it spins along its longitudinal axis as it leapt through the air.
  • These dolphins need to resurface every 10 to 15 minutes to breathe.
  • Threats: Some dolphins die every year after being mistakenly caught in trawling and other nets
Marine animal deaths in Odisha

Other marine animal deaths in Odisha include the following species,

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