We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- 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:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
- 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.
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Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Unpacking China’s game plan
- Seeking a paradigm shift in mental health care
- Vacancies send a wrong signal
- Let’s chalk out a plan to reopen our schools before it gets too late
- Let’s keep pace with the world on covid research
Times of India
Down to Earth
GS Paper 3
- Shibboleths of the ‘ideal’ tax system
- Drone policy set to be relaxed as IAF goes for counter-rogue tech
- What four years of GST have taught us about this tax regime
- The pandemic gave us a sandbox for real-world trials
The Times of India
- HC: Govt free to act against Twitter for IT rules violation
- Canada’s Wildfires are a Warning to India: Here is how we must shore up our cities against heatwaves
Down to earth
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- What Sebi giving a free hand to directors means
- The Pew study’s glazed picture of our religious tolerance
- Open-sourcing project govt panel: What’s in store for online retailers
- What is the Arctic’s ‘Last Ice Area’ that is now showing signs of melting
- Union Minister for Fisheries launches Mobile App “Matsya Setu” for Fish Farmers
- First commercial shipment of Mishri variety of cherries from Kashmir exported to Dubai
- Government creates a new Ministry of Cooperation
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Unpacking China’s game plan
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – India and its Neighborhood- Relations
Relevance: After the 2020 clash between Indian and Chinese forces, keeping an eye on the Chinese movement becomes very important.
China is upgrading defence infrastructure in the Tibetan plateau to nullify the disadvantages that its airpower has in comparison to the Indian airpower. This would afford them a layered air defence setting and affect the balance of power in the medium to long term.
- Aviation websites are abuzz with reports of a rapid up-gradation of aviation infrastructure in Tibet.
- Upgradation of airfields, construction of hardened aircraft shelters, new runways, aprons, underground storage and tunneling into mountainsides, etc. is happening at a rapid pace.
- China realised its shortcomings in airpower during the 2020 clash in eastern ladakh.
- India did not yield any ground and actually occupied vantage points in the south Pangong Tso area to balance out some sectoral disadvantages.
- This firmness was backed by deterrent Indian Air Force (IAF) firepower, and it was clear to the Chinese that they were on a weak wicket in the air.
Deterrent power of IAF:
- The IAF is equipped and trained for offensive action. In all the previous conflicts the IAF conducted aggressive strikes, besides providing active close support to ground forces.
- The odd exception was the 1962 India-China conflict where the IAF’s substantial strike potential was nullified by a political decision to not use it.
- The equipment accretion profile is a pointer to the offensive role as seen by the acquisition of Jaguars, Mirage-2000, Sukhois, and now the Rafale. Seen from the prism of airpower doctrine, this points to India’s strategy of deterrence by punishment: don’t mess with us, as we have the means and power to hurt you.
Reasons behind China’s weak airpower in 2020 clash:
- Indian Air Force’s (IAF) aircraft enjoys the advantage of a string of airfields all along the foothills of the Himalayas. They are at low altitudes which permit carrying of a full armament load.
- Chinese airfields in Tibet were few, widely spaced out, and hence not mutually supportive. There were gaps in the air defence structure too, that the IAF would utilise to interdict targets in the rear.
- Most Tibetan airfields are at altitudes above 10,000 ft, severely restricting the payload of People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) aircraft.
- The air defence up-gradation drive is surely being monitored, but that is not enough. If status quo ante on the ground is not obtained soon, it may be too late a year or two from now.
- The future talks should be aimed at a skillful counter of dubious Chinese intentions. India’s posture and demands at the talks must reflect its understanding of China’s game plan.
Seeking a paradigm shift in mental health care
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.
Relevance: Mental health-related issues have become a major aspect of the health care structure in India. Reading all aspects linked to it are important from an exam point of view.
Persons with mental health conditions need a responsive care system that inspires hope and participation, without which their lives are empty.
- Recently, a High Court suggested that homeless persons with mental health conditions be branded with a permanent tattoo when vaccinated against COVID-19. This would enable the tracking of a floating population.
- Earlier judgments have also suggested ‘round ups’ of such persons to facilitate pathways into care.
- These are well-intended directives, but may create hardships for the homeless. They might get pushed into overcrowded shelters without their consent in order to control the virus spread.
Challenges faced by Mental Health care patients:
- Deplorable conditions: In many countries, persons with severe mental health conditions live in shackles in their homes, in overcrowded hospitals, and even in prison. On the other hand, many persons with mental health issues live and even die alone on the streets.
- Inadequate Laws: Far-sighted changes in policy and laws have often not taken root, and many laws fail to meet international human rights standards. Many also do not account for cultural, social, and political contexts, resulting in moral rhetoric that doesn’t change the scenario of inadequate care.
- Social Exclusion: The attitude of society is based on traditional prejudices. This results in an “othering” of persons who seem different from dominant groups.
- Poor degree of Care: It is largely based on a colonial mindset. Individual preference and indigenous culture were substituted with what the coloniser thought was appropriate.
- For instance, doctors interpreted a patient’s refusal to wear clothing as a sign of morbidity, and clothing became a way of civilising the savage.
Learn from best practices – The Guidance on Community Mental Health Services:
- It was recently launched by the World Health Organization. The Guidance addresses the issue from ‘the same side’ as the mental health service user.
- It focuses on the co-production of knowledge and on good practices built around the key themes of crisis services, peer support, supported living, community outreach, hospital-based services, and comprehensive mental health service networks.
- Drawn from 22 countries, these models balance care and support with rights and participation.
- Tupu Ake, a New Zealand-based recovery house service, welcomes ‘guests’ from various ethnicities.
- Atmiyata in Gujarat employs a stepped-care approach using community-based volunteers. They identify persons in distress, offer counseling support, and enable access to social care benefits.
- Naya Daur in West Bengal works with local networks and volunteers who support homeless persons through their outreach programme. This enables access to food, clothing, counseling, shelter, and housing.
- Home Again, a programme of The Banyan in Tamil Nadu, facilitates residence options in regular neighbourhoods. It also offers graded levels of supportive services for persons with severe disabilities.
- It emphasizes socio-cultural participation, ‘neurodiversity’, and normalisation of mental health conditions.
- The government should adopt an inclusive and harmonious approach for vaccinating and monitoring homeless people having mental health conditions. It should provide a network of services –
- soup kitchens at vantage points
- mobile mental health and social care clinics,
- non-intimidating guest homes at village panchayats with access to toilets and the comfort of a welcoming team, and
- Well-being kiosks that offer a basic income and/or facilitate livelihoods.
Small emergency care centers and long-term inclusive living options should be made available for valuing diversity and celebrating social mixing. This will reframe the archaic narrative of how mental health care is to be provided.
Terms to know:
Vacancies send a wrong signal
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: Appointment to various Constitutional Posts
Relevance: Civil Services and other important services are backbones of governance in India. Vacancies on the top-level posts will affect the quality of governance.
Synopsis: Leaving top posts in the government unoccupied, affects governance and is demoralizing for officers
Delays in the appointment of personnel to important posts affect governance
- The vacancies in the Central government and the States in recent years have had a deleterious effect on governance.
- The post of the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission was kept vacant until June this year. Even though the previous Chairman, retired in December 2020.
- Similarly, the post of the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) too was kept vacant until the recent appointment of Subodh Kumar Jaiswal. The post had been vacant since February.
- The National Council of Educational Research and Training, which is largely responsible for planning the education policy of the country, is headless.
- Of the 40 Central universities across the country, nearly half are without regular Vice-Chancellors.
- Apart from vacancies, there are many examples of officers holding additional charge. For instance, Rakesh Asthana after his appointment as Director-General (DG) of the Border Security Force in August, continues to hold a charge of the NCB as DG. He assumed additional charge of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) from December 2019.
- Similarly, Kuldeep Singh, DG of the Central Reserve Police Force, now also heads the National Investigation Agency.
- Delays in promotions and appointments not only affect the organisations but also tend to demoralise the officials who await promotions after vacancies arise.
Alternative method suggested for the appointment of CEC
- Recently, the Centre appointed Anup Chandra Pandey as the new Election Commissioner in June.
- Meanwhile, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court.
- ADR demands the appointment of Election Commissioners by a committee, as is done in the case of appointment of the Director of the CBI, and not by the Centre.
- ADR has referred to the 255th Report of Law Commission that had recommended that Election Commissioners be appointed by a high-powered committee.
- The high-powered committee headed by the PM has two members, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
- However, the Opposition leader has a little say in the selection process. If the Prime Minister decides on a candidate and the CJI consents, the Opposition leader’s dissenting note carries no weight.
- Therefore, there is a need, to expand the high-powered committee to include at least two more members of eminence with proven integrity for the selection process.
- Preferably a retired police officer and a Chief Minister of a State governed by a party other than that of the party of the Prime Minister.
When we lost oxygen
Source: Indian Express
Relevance: The period of the Covid Pandemic needs proper analysis of what worked and what went wrong.
Synopsis: Second COVID wave was marked by an Oxygen crisis in India. The number of deaths caused due to lack of Oxygen was also underestimated. Hence, there is an urgent need to establish mechanisms of accountability within the public health system.
The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the fragility of India’s healthcare systems. While several factors were responsible for the damage, an easily preventable dimension of the disaster is deaths caused due to shortages of oxygen in hospitals.
- Lack of proper official record-keeping, undercounting and denial continue to be recurring themes of the pandemic since the first wave.
- The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court observed that any loss of life due to lack of oxygen is an infringement of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution
There’s an urgent need to establish mechanisms of accountability within the public health system, along with efforts to improve health infrastructure and oxygen supply.
|Also Read: Issue of medical oxygen in India – Explained|
Terms to know:
Let’s chalk out a plan to reopen our schools before it gets too late
Source – Live Mint
Syllabus – GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Relevance – Education is an important aspect of social and economic development.
Synopsis – With 15 months of learning loss, Government must start a dialogue on how and when to get children safely back in school.
- The pandemic caused more than 15 months of learning loss for an entire student generation in India. Because schools had been closed since the outbreak began.
- Countries around the world have opened schools safely and with minimal risk to children’s health. However, India has yet to make headway in this direction.
Impact of Pandemic on children and everyone in the education sector-
- Learning loss – According to UNESCO estimates, children have lost two months for every month they haven’t attended school, that’s approximately 30 months of learning loss from the start of the pandemic.
- Digital divide- Not all students have smartphones with proper internet connection. The Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force noted that only 24% of Indian households have access to internet facilities.
- Rural parents and teachers also lack digital literacy.
- Parental fears- According to a study, 62% of parents will not take their children to school even if it is reopened on government instructions. Fearing a probable third wave
- Psychological impact on children’s mental health – Since May 2020, one-third of primary and half of the secondary students’ parents have reported that their child’s mental and socio-emotional health has been affected by the pandemic.
- The number of children who are hungry, isolated, abused, anxious, living in poverty, and pushed into marriage has increased.
- Impact on teachers-
- More than 80% of teachers said it was difficult to establish an emotional connection with students online. 90% said they couldn’t adequately measure development.
- Salary loss– Almost one in two teachers have suffered a pay cut, while 11% lost their jobs.
Plan for reopening of schools-
- Learn from others’ experiences- Government should find a way to reopen schools based on the experience of other countries and the opinion of experts. As 90% of the world’s countries operated schools in some capacity.
- Reopening with limited capacity- Starting with as low as 25% of students coming to school on a given day. Experience has shown that even one in-person touch-point each week may significantly improve our children’s involvement.
- Proper safety measures – School teachers and employees must be vaccinated as soon as possible because many of them have been exposed to COVID due to election responsibilities, as well as other potentially unsafe environments.
- Alleviating parental fear of the 3rd wave – There is no scientific evidence which states that the 3rd wave would affect children more than any other age group.
Government should start the complex process of preparing to reopen schools by putting safety precautions in place and alleviating parental fears.
Terms to know:
Let’s keep pace with the world on covid research
Syllabus: GS 2 – Awareness in the fields of biotechnology.
Relevance: Covid-19 research is essential for controlling the pandemic.
India has been behind the curve on tracing virus variants by their genomes. However, a new brain-study initiative points to the potential of forging ahead with work on Covid’s pathology.
About India’s Covid-19 research capability:
So far, India has mostly been behind the curve on pandemic research. For example, India learned only later that the Delta variant caused a deadly second wave of infections that overwhelmed hospitals and revealed other inadequacies. By contrast, other countries have been tracking the virus’s variants closely. Further, British endeavors revealed many pieces of information about the Delta variant.
About the Covid-19 impact on the human body:
During the early stages of the outbreak, the Covid-19 thought to invade the lungs, chiefly, causing potentially fatal pneumonia, ‘cytokine storms’ in severe cases. But later, the researchers found that no organ of the human body was beyond the scope of its virulence. The bug can hit the pancreas, heart, liver, intestines, kidney, brain, and gall bladder.
The global surveys on Covid-19 impact on the brain:
Covid is observed to increase ‘oxidative stress’, with healthy cells impaired by ‘free radicals’ created by excessive oxidation, while depletion of antioxidants has been associated with neurological problems like rapid aging, memory loss, and brain fog.
- A recent study in the UK found Covid causing a loss of gray matter, which could meddle with various functions of the brain. It compared several hundred brain scans of covid survivors with pre-covid records held in a database.
- An American survey released in April had said that every third person who’d had the disease displayed a psychiatric or brain disorder within six months of infection.
Indian initiatives to find Covid-19 impact on brain:
- India proposed a brain-mapping study of infected individuals who have either recovered or shown no symptoms.
- Neuroscientists at the state-run National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), Gurugram, aim to delve into covid’s impact on the most vital organs.
Steps India needs to do:
- India needs to redeem its reputation as a country. India needs to research the fundamental work on what covid does to the human body and how best to counter it.
- Since little is known about covid’s pathology, especially its extended effects, uncovering its trail of ailments as the virus evolves is a health imperative
Terms to know:
UAPA should go the way of TADA & POTA
Syllabus: GS 2
Relevance: Misuse of UAPA to curb political dissent.
Synopsis: Right to fair trial is being consistently violated under the UAPA provisions. This law should be repealed like TADA and POTA.
Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest, known for his service and activism in the cause of Adivasis, died nine months into his unjust imprisonment. He was charged of being a part of a Maoist plot to overthrow the government.
- His age and deteriorating health drew no sympathy from either the prosecuting agency or the trial court. Despite being a fit case for bail, he was denied bail, mainly due to the statutory bar on bail under the anti-terrorism law invoked against him.
Evidence against him
As per prosecution,
- He was in contact with Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao and Arun Ferreira, all accused of terrorism and criminal conspiracy in the Elgar Parishad case. It is instructive to note that the main accused Varavara Rao is out on bail for medical reasons. But the same yardstick was seemingly not applied to Swamy.
- Communist literature was found on a hard drive. This was deemed sufficient to keep Father Swamy in jail despite his failing health.
- The NIA court observed that in light of the seriousness of the charges against him, the collective interest of the community would outweigh Swamy’s right of personal liberty and his old age.
Problems with UAPA provisions
Laws such as the UAPA are meant to be repressive, to be deployed at the slightest inconvenience to the state.
- The provisions of this Act have an extremely wide ambit. For example: Membership of a banned organization can be deduced simply by possessing literature of an organization. The Act gives the police sweeping powers and makes it nearly impossible for people to get bail.
- Given the snail’s pace at which the criminal justice system works, the UAPA has become merely a tool to incarcerate people. It keeps them entangled in the legal system for as long as the state desires. The process itself is the punishment.
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau, as of 2019, over 95% of cases under the UAPA are pending before various courts in India. This amounts to 2,244 cases with at least as many accused, if not many more. The conviction rate under this Act stands at a mere 29%.
Indian Penal Code (IPC) is more than sufficient to handle incidents of terror, disaffection, unlawful associations, whatever they may be. It is time for the UAPA to meet the same fate as its predecessors – TADA and POTA – and be repealed.
|Also Read: Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) – Explained|
Terms to know:
How Radio Dhimsa is helping Odisha’s tribal students?
Syllabus: GS2 – Governance
Relevance: Can be used as an example in GS and Essay.
Synopsis: Radio Dhimsa is bringing school lessons to the poor tribal students in Odisha’s Koraput district who don’t have internet access or cannot afford a smartphone. The endeavor attempts to close the digital divide in imparting education amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
- It is a community radio station set up by South Odisha Voluntary Action (SOVA), a Koraput based non-profit.
- Radio Dhimsa started broadcasting educational content for students in 2016. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 and when classroom studies had to be stopped, special education programme for children was started.
- It broadcasts educational content to over 2,000 students of classes I-V in 62 villages of six panchayats in Koraput and Lamptaput blocks.
- Most of the beneficiaries are the children of Paraj, one of the tribal communities in the state
- The organisation has developed education programs on Mathematics and English for primary levels. The program has been designed with the help of school teachers and education experts of the district resource group.
- All programmes are designed in Odia and Desiya dialects as entire tribes and non-tribes do use Desiya as a common communication dialect.
- The channel also has shows to create awareness on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and vaccination programme in collaboration with the Koraput administration.
- Why was Radio Dhimsa set up?
- Lack of internet connectivity: Odisha State School Education Programme Authority started streaming live classes on YouTube from June 21, 2021. But hundreds of students, mostly in the tribal districts like Koraput, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh and Keoinjhar, however, do not have the internet connectivity to access the lessons.
- Expensive smartphones: Poor tribals could not afford expensive smartphones
|Also Read: Bultoo Radio|
GS Paper 3
Shibboleths of the ‘ideal’ tax system
Source: Business Standard
Syllabus: GS 3 – Economy
Relevance: The old idea that direct taxes are “progressive needs a relook as all ideas and principles should be implemented as per a country’s requirements.
The principle of focusing on direct taxes is worth questioning in the current era. This is an example of the mindless application of “universal” principles that have begun to fail even in the soils in which they were originally nurtured. Therefore, the focus should be on using a strategy that works best as per the country’s society and economy.
- All the things that we took for granted in the 20th century have started to crumble under the weight of their own contradictions.
- Belief in free trade, globalisation, electoral democracy, capitalism, communism or Keynesian macroeconomics has never been lower. The principles underlying them have proved to be flawed and are not working.
- As per Hegelian thesis, every proposition contains within it the seeds of its own destruction.
- Marx’s predictions have failed primarily because they expected human and economic progress to move linearly. However, in reality, they moved in cycles as Hegel’s proposition or karma theory suggest.
Crumbling of traditional outlook and propositions:
- Capitalism is under attack in Western Europe and America, and communism has collapsed in the regions of its dominance in the last century.
- One can be certain that authoritarian capitalism of the Chinese variety will also have a sell-by date.
- The United States now believes that all companies must pay a minimum amount of tax (currently deemed to be around 15 percent) that most rich nations seem to agree with.
- Ideas are portrayed as universal only as long as they work for the US. The country supported capitalism and free markets when they saw benefit in them. However, now it has changed tack and wants to make sure that the capital which had flown out of the US to low-tax jurisdictions comes back.
- The US preached the virtues of technology when it was the top dog. This enabled technology companies like google and facebook to become market leaders.
- Today, the US wants to rein these technology giants at home through antitrust suits. However, the US has no problems with tech colonisation elsewhere, as long as it serves US interests.
Considering this evolving and changing nature of traditional propositions, one can also question the two time-hallowed tax principles.
Principle one – it is good to raise the tax-GDP ratio in general
- This ratio is the result of not just tax policies, but levels of compliance and levels of economic activity achieved. It is a derivative number, and should not be a focus area for action.
- The focus should be on having a rate where compliance is maximised, and economic activity is least impeded. It is time we stopped obsessing over the wrong goals.
Principle Two – one must not raise too much from indirect taxes
- The basis of this principle is the regressive nature of indirect taxes. As per the principle, focus should be on direct taxes which are “progressive.
- The recent provisional data put out by the Office of the Controller General of Accounts showed that the Centre’s collection of indirect taxes exceeded collections from direct taxes in 2020-21.
- Due to this, many economists are expressing caution about regressive taxes overtaking progressive ones.
- This reasoning is flawed in the Indian context for our goods and services tax (GST). It is actually progressive in nature, as less GST is imposed on basic goods and more on luxury goods.
- Further, focusing purely on direct tax will allow the rural rich to escape the tax net due to a negatively taxed agriculture setup.
- On the other hand, it is not always true that direct taxes have to be progressive. A state that levies a flat rate of income tax will be regressive.
- Therefore, we must understand that whether a tax rate is regressive or progressive depends not on the tax itself, but the rate structure.
- In a diverse country like India, taxpayers and social security beneficiaries may come from different communities. Thus, the willingness to comply will always be low. Hence, a need for tax terrorism arises however this may induce high net worth individuals to move elsewhere.
- Therefore, indirect taxes are the right way to make people pay more taxes, without anybody worrying about who is paying them or benefiting from them. Bearable indirect taxes with near zero rates for wage-goods are the way to go for India.
- With reference to Global Taxation, India should insist that actual tax flows from global companies must be monitored to check if the minimum tax proposal is beneficial to all or not.
Terms to know:
Drone policy set to be relaxed as IAF goes for counter-rogue tech
Source: Business Standard
Gs3: Security Challenges and their Management in Border Areas
Relevance: After a small attack by drones on the Indian Army’s base, drone policies are being reconsidered.
Synopsis: India is expected to further liberalise drone regulations. It will be easing the process of getting licence as well as doing business for operators.
- The decision to simplify the licensing requirements, relax operational curbs and reduce penalties for operators was taken at a meeting chaired by PM last week. The decision came just days after terror attack in Jammu using drones.
- The new rules will supersede the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rules 2021, that came into effect only in March. This move will open up the sector more.
- The Indian Air Force has been tasked with procuring and developing counter drone technology to tackle the problem of rogue drones.
- DRDO has developed a counter-drone technology that uses methods like jamming and hard kill systems to detect and neutralise the danger from such aerial attacks.
- The IAF has sought to purchase 10 Counter Unmanned Aircraft System (CUASs) known as anti-drone systems in common parlance specifically from Indian vendors.
Why the government is working on liberalised drone rules?
First, though there were concerns about the security aspect of drones. Top government officials perceive that restricting the drone industry would hamper the growth of a sunrise sector that holds significant promise for future.
- Second, there were multiple complaints from the drone industry that the current rules were not convenient and instead increased compliance burden for operators.
- For instance, under the regulations that were unveiled in March, a drone operator required 23 permissions from multiple government agencies to operate a drone.
- Even for testing a drone, permission was required from the police and Indian Air Force.
- Such provisions lead to administrative bottlenecks and a never-ending process of obtaining approvals.
- Third, the current rules also mandate high technical requirements like geo fencing capability and collision avoidance system. Such systems are costly for manufacturers as most of them have started business around five to six years ago.
- Fourth, the concept of safety by certification, similar to manned aircraft has not been considered. For instance, a helicopter does not have any equipment for its main rotor but is still certified to fly over people in complex urban environments. Such a consideration seems to have been ignored for drones.
- Fifth, the new policy is also likely to reverse the ban on commercial use of drones for food or good delivery, according to sources.
- Stricter regulations would only prove to be detrimental for the nation’s plan to develop advanced technological capabilities.
- No strict or liberal drone regulations can stop any miscreants from assembling a drone and using it for malicious activities.
- Drones are the future of aviation, logistics, surveillance and warfare. The government should offer continued support to the drone ecosystem.
Terms to know:
Let’s not politicise the Central Vista project
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Relevance: Central Vista project is an important topic under Infrastructure.
Synopsis: People are also questioning the purpose and benefits of the Central Vista Project. But The questions are short-sighted.
About the Central Vista Redevelopment Project:
The initiative to build a new Parliament building was taken by the then Lok Sabha in 2012. Under the Central Vista project, the offices of the vice-president, the prime minister and the 51 ministries will be housed under one roof. MPs will have offices.
For more info on central vista – Central Vista project
Challenges with the present Parliament Building:
- Many of the present Parliament buildings are dilapidated and difficult to work in. Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, North Block, and South Block, and the National Museum building were built in 1931. After that, Nirman Bhawan, Shastri Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan, Rail Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan were constructed between 1956 and 1968.
- The legislature sits in the Parliament House whereas the president, vice-president, prime minister, and the officials of 51 ministries sit in different places. Today, 39 ministries are housed in different buildings in the Central Vista area, while 12 ministries are occupying rented premises outside.
- The annual rent for these buildings is about Rs 1,000 crore, and they are located far from the PMO and other ministries. Obviously, the administrative work gets hampered.
- When the buildings were built in Central Vista and its surrounding areas, there was no digitalisation, unlike today. Now, along with the security of Parliament House and the ministries, the protection of digital files also matters. Building a new complex will ensure better security for both.
Need for Central Vista Project:
- India is a rising power in the world today. Our priorities are changing, so it is very important that the entire central government should be accommodated in a cluster of buildings equipped with modern technology, so that ministers can easily reach out to each other, meet and interact.
- India’s population is growing, so the number of MPs will have to be increased too in the future. So, to accommodate the large number of MPs in the future, the new project is essential.
- The office of our Prime Minister should also be state-of-the-art, equipped, and secure like the parliamentary and presidential buildings of the USA, Russia, Britain, and other developed countries.
Major criticism and its counter:
Many people are of the view that Rs 20,000 crore of the Central Vista project should be spent on helping the poor and providing healthcare facilities during the pandemic. But this is wrong for two reasons.
- The government is not diverting any funds allotted for welfare schemes. Also, the government is not rolling back any welfare scheme meant for the poor to implement the project.
- The Central Vista Project is a plan for the future. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and all other Indian leaders have planned for the future and that is why India occupies its current prime position. The Central Vista project is one such project that aims to fulfill India’s present and future needs of the Indian Parliament.
Terms to know:
What four years of GST have taught us about this tax regime
Source – Live Mint
Syllabus – GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development, and employment.
Relevance: GST is one of the most important debt-free sources of revenue. An aspirant must know about the issues and challenges in its smooth implementation.
Synopsis – An analysis of 4 years of India’s GST regime
Myths regarding GST regime-
- First, GST will increase GDP growth by 1-2 percentage points –
- However, GDP growth is only possible in case there is more income that gets spent. GST cannot increase GDP by itself, though it can statistically include the unorganized sector to an extent.
- Second, Inflation would come down with GST implementation
- However, with deep contradictions in our tax structure, inflation will remain beyond the grasp of GST.
- Third, Government revenue would increase after GST implementation.
- However, GST is a consumption-based tax, for government revenue to rise, the economy has to keep moving along and people have to spend.
Concerns with GST regime-
- Compensation to states- Due to the lockdown in 2020-21, States were concerned about tax shortfalls because of the implementation of GST.
- The compensation cess was levied, and any compensation was to be paid from the compensation cess revenue. However, the [lockdown] situation is different due to the revenue shortfall because of the coronavirus outbreak.
- GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017- States were guaranteed compensation for loss of revenue on account of implementation of GST for a transition period of five years [2017-22].
- Exclusion of petroleum from GST regime caused higher inflation- The government had kept petroleum goods out of GST regime to raise taxes to protect revenue.
- Currently, taxes on petroleum goods are levied by both the Centre and the states. While the Centre levies excise duty (Rs. 33 per litre), states levy value added tax (VAT) (30% in Delhi).
- This has to change, as an unintended consequence has been higher inflation.
- Unintended consequence –
- Prices of all commodities increase once transport costs increases.
- Higher fuel cost leads to higher prices of food-grains and manufactured goods alike.
- Unintended consequence –
- Multiple rates for each product group – Globally, most regimes have a single rate. India has adopted a four-tier tax structure of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% makes it complex like earlier regime.
- Single rate for one product group will bring simplicity in the structure and make implementation easier.
The Government should continue to take measures to fulfill its promise such as-
- Petroleum to be brought under GST, both Centre and States taxes would be merged and fuel prices across the country would be uniform.
- There is need to reduce multiple GST rates into a single slab.
The pandemic gave us a sandbox for real-world trials
Source: Live mint
Syllabus: GS 3 – Science and tech
Synopsis: Covid-mandated testing on everything from ecological systems to BPO laws has generated valuable information.
The impacts of noise on sea life have been studied by marine scientists. The sound of onboard motors can affect fish feeding habits and cause migratory patterns to shift at sea. The solar hum of container ships has become so widespread that researchers are concerned that entire kinds of aquatic critters have been rendered silent.
- The Covid pandemic resulted in a significant drop in marine traffic. For scientists, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to assess the extent to which sound has harmed marine life.
- Early findings from these researches appear to show that noise levels have been reduced by more than half in various regions around the world. It allows large animals to inhabit more of the ocean than they might otherwise have been capable of.
What were the findings of these real-world experiments?
Scientists have been presented with the ideal natural experiment due to the pandemic. Marine biologists, conservationists, environmental scientists, and seismologists have seized the opportunity to experiment and the results have been astounding.
- Firstly, during citywide lockdowns, pollution scientists observed a significant reduction in atmospheric pollution. It was particularly in large metropolitan cities such as Mumbai (40 percent reduction in the particulate matter) and New Delhi (70 percent reduction in NO2 levels). This accurately measured the impact of human activities on the environment.
- Secondly, seismologists were able to exploit the lack of human disturbance to create baseline noise levels for the natural environment. It allows them to identify low magnitude occurrences such as minor earthquakes and landslides more accurately.
- Thirdly, wildlife experts discovered that a number of animals formerly assumed to be nocturnal were actually diurnal. They were venturing out during the day in the absence of human activities.
What were the other regulatory experiments?
The epidemic has provided an opportunity to conduct regulatory experiments. National and municipal governments were forced to ease various limitations that had been in place for decades.
- Firstly, regulations that prohibited restaurants from delivering cocktails were relaxed during the pandemic. Customers could pick cocktails along with takeaway orders. Food delivery businesses delivered alcoholic beverages along with food orders in more than 30 states across the United States.
- These prohibitions have been in place since prohibition and were designed to limit the unlicensed drinking of alcohol. Officials in many states are considering making these exemptions permanent, as the business benefits outweigh the potential dangers.
- Secondly, regulations preventing telemedicine in the United States had to be eased in order for patients to consult doctors they could not physically meet. This is likely to be permanent.
- Thirdly, in India, lockdown compelled business process outsourcing firms to shift from providing services in-office to have workers work from home. It became the dominant method of carrying out BPO operations.
- After six months of allowing BPO staff to work from home, it was clear to all that the regulator’s early concerns were unwarranted. Work from home would not result in a widespread toll bypass, as had been expected.
- On the contrary, it allowed BPO businesses to make better use of their staff and contemplate expanding their operations into the country’s exhausted II and tired III towns.
- Lastly, the Indian government proposed major modifications to its OSP legislation in November 2020, giving its remote work liberalisation a permanent stamp. The rules were liberalised even further a few weeks ago.
- Empirical policy formulation is required. Using a regulatory sandbox, an environment in which restrictions can be relaxed for a limited time and under certain conditions will help us to be more careful in policy design.
- The pandemic compelled us to develop restrictions in the sandbox. We should make this a permanent practise.
HC: Govt free to act against Twitter for IT rules violation
Source: Times of India
Syllabus: GS 3 – Role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges.
Relevance: New IT rules aim to regulate social media, digital news media, and Over-The-Top (OTT) content providers.
The Delhi high court recently said that the government was “free to take action” against microblogging site Twitter for not following the new IT Rules and warned the platform it would be “in trouble” if it fails to comply.
About the case:
As per the New IT Rules, significant Social media intermediaries like Twitter, WhatsApp has to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person, and a Resident Grievance Officer (RGO) in India. All of them should be Indian Residents.
The HC was currently hearing a plea alleging failure by Twitter to comply with the Centre’s new Information Technology Rules. The Court also observed that the three-month window was given to the intermediaries to comply with the rules.
Despite the time window, the HC pointed out that only an interim RGO was appointed by Twitter. The Court observed this as a violation of Government rules.
The Government argument in the case:
The Central government has approached the SC seeking transfer of all petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, from various high courts to the top court. This is due to the following reasons,
- The Centre has filed a transfer petition saying several HCs including Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Kerala, are seized of the issue, and the issue be adjudicated by the apex court.
- Several pleas challenging the validity of the new IT rules are pending adjudication in various courts.
Terms to know:
Canada’s Wildfires are a Warning to India: Here is how we must shore up our cities against heatwaves
Source: Times of India
Syllabus: GS 3 – Disaster and disaster management
Relevance: With the increasing frequency of Heatwaves in India, it needs adequate attention for mitigation.
Synopsis: The frequency of Heatwaves is increasing in India. The existing measures are not enough for mitigating it.
For decades, scientists have warned that the climate crisis will increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves. However, Canada is not one of the countries predicted to be severely impacted. But the recent Wildfires, caused by the extreme heat, have reduced Canada’s tiny town of Lytton to ash.
Global Heat Wave projections:
- Lethal heatwaves are projected to bring death and destruction across the Middle East, South Asia, and portions of Africa and China.
- Deadly heatwaves will become commonplace across South Asia even if global warming is contained to 1.5 °C; The consequences would be far worse if 1.5 °C is breached.
- Heat waves in India:
- Researchers from IIT-Gandhinagar published a study in Environmental Research Letters in 2017 that convincingly proved a considerable rise in the frequency and severity of heatwaves from 1951 to 2015. It also revealed that the five most severe heatwaves occurred after 1990.
- IIT-Gandhinagar’s projections suggest that the frequency of severe heatwaves will increase 30-fold by 2100 if the global temperature increases by 2°C.
- Another study reveals that the mortality rate due to heatwaves has increased by 62.2% in the last 50 years.
How Heatwaves are declared in India?
Only in 2015 did the Indian government declare the heatwave a natural disaster under the National Disaster Management Act of 2005.
IMD declares a heatwave based on temperature. A heatwave is proclaimed when the highest temperature at a station surpasses 45°C; if it exceeds 47°C, it is referred to as a severe heatwave. Heatwaves in coastal and hilly locations are declared using similar criteria.
How human body react to heatwaves?
The human body reacts to a combination of heat and humidity known as the ‘wet-bulb temperature’. Wet-bulb temperature can be high even when the temperature is relatively low. Only a few humans can tolerate a wet-bulb temperature exceeding 35°C because their bodies can no longer cool themselves.
- For example, if the temperature is 35°C and the relative humidity is 80%, the wet-bulb temperature will be 32°C, which is considered dangerous for manual labour. Similarly, if the temperature is 40°C and the relative humidity is 75%, the wet-bulb temperature is about 36°C.
- Many regions of India now experience wet-bulb temperatures exceeding 32°C during certain parts of the year. However, we are not declaring such days to be heatwaves, endangering the lives of people engaged in manual labour.
Development of Heat Action Plans in India:
Many cities and states have acknowledged the threat and developed Heat Action Plans. For example, in 2013, Ahmedabad became the first city to implement a HAP to raise public awareness, identify high-risk groups, issue heatwave alerts, and improve inter-agency collaboration. So far, 30-odd cities have adopted similar HAPs.
State-wide HAPs have also been introduced in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Odisha.
Suggestions to mitigate Heatwaves in India:
- Prepare a national heat code: A heat code will outline the criteria for declaring heatwaves and will develop SOPs to be used during heatwaves. Further, It will also give the district administration the authority to declare an emergency, halt outdoor activities, and allocate resources for heat relief.
- Plan to cool our cities: Our existing building codes and urban planning are worsening heatwaves by magnifying the heat island effect. To reduce heatwaves, India needs to modify urban planning standards and building bylaws to enhance green areas and water bodies and promote cool roofs and green buildings, among other things.
- Recognise the Emergency: The central government has to acknowledge heatwaves as a real threat and assists states and districts in implementing heat codes and HAPs. Moreover, scientists and planners will also have to update the definition of a heat emergency and the guidelines for dealing with it
Albino palm civet sighted in Satkosia Tiger Reserve
What is the news?
The common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) has been sighted in Odisha’s Satkosia Tiger Reserve after 129 years.
Common palm civet
- It is also known as Asian palm civet or Indian palm civet.
- A partial albino common palm civet, Saliapatani, was last sighted in 1891 in the forests of Kandhamal district.
- Albinism is a hypo-pigmentary disorder with a total lack of both melanins in hair, eyes and skin due to the heritable absence of functional tyrosinase enzyme in pigment cells affecting skin and hair. This resulting in a total white plumage / fur with red eyes. Albinism is controlled via inheritance by an autosomal recessive gene in all animal species
- The common palm civet is a small mammal belonging to the family Viverridae.
- It is thought to lead a solitary lifestyle, except for brief periods during mating.
- It is both terrestrial and arboreal, and shows a nocturnal activity pattern.
- Habitat: It can be found in southern and southeastern Asia.
- Conservation status:
- IUCN Red list = Least Concern (LC)
- Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972 = Schedule II
- CITES = Appendix III
|Also Read: Classifications under IUCN red list, CITES & India’s Wildlife Protection Act 1972|
Satkosia Tiger Reserve
- Satkosia was established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1976. It is spread along the magnificent gorge over the mighty river Mahanadi in Odisha.
- The name Satkosia originates from two words; sat meaning seven and kos meaning two miles, indicating the length of the gorge as 14 miles or 22 km.
- The area was declared as Satkosia Tiger Reserve in 2007, comprising two adjoining wildlife sanctuaries; the Satkosia Gorge sanctuary and Baisipalli sanctuary. The Reserve is spread over 4 districts like; Angul, Cuttack, Nayagarh and Boudh.
- Core area of the reserve is also a part of the Mahanadi elephant reserve. Satkosia is the meeting point of two bio-geographic regions of India; the Deccan Peninsula and the Eastern Ghats, contributing immense biodiversity.
- Species found: The area of Satkosia Tiger Reserve supports moist deciduous forest, dry deciduous forest and moist peninsular Sal forest.
- This area is the home for Tiger, Leopard, Elephant, Gaur, Sambar, Spotted deer, Mouse deer, Nilgai, Chousingha, Sloth bear, Wild dog etc.
- Varieties of resident and migratory birds, reptilian species( Gharial, Magar, Crocodile, Fresh Water turtle, Poisons & Non poisons snakes etc.)
- The Forest Department of the Government of Orissa with technical support from the UNDP and FAO decided to start a breeding programme of crocodiles during March 1974. As a part of this joint conservation initiative, the Gharial Research and Conservation Unit (GRACU) was started during March 1975.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
What Sebi giving a free hand to directors means
What is the News?
Securities and Exchange Board of India(SEBI) has tightened the rules for appointing and removing independent directors. This move aims at strengthening the corporate governance framework.
Click Here to Read New rules for Independent Directors
Who is an Independent Director?
- An independent director is a non-executive director who does not have any kind of stake in the firm.
- Purpose: They are expected to help strengthen corporate governance. Further, they bring an element of objectivity and safeguard the interests of shareholders, especially minority shareholders.
- Under the Companies Act, 2013, all listed companies are required to have at least a third of their board made of independent experts from varying fields.
- Section 149(1) of the Act mandates that out of all independent directors, at least one independent director must be a woman.
Role of Independent Directors: The independent directors bring in transparency and accountability in corporate governance by:
- Ensuring a balance of conflicting interests of all stakeholders and bring in an objective view in the evaluation of management and board performance.
- Playing the role of a watchdog by bringing in independent judgment regarding strategy, risk management, resources, key appointments and standards of conduct.
- By chairing the audit and compensation committee to ensure transparency in fixing compensation and perks for top executives and in preparing independent reports.
Are the new norms of independent directors applicable to PSUs?
- Yes, the rules for Public Sector Undertakings(PSUs) are the same as for private listed firms.
- At PSUs, the administrative ministry recommends the nominee/ independent director. These recommendations are cleared by the appointments committee chaired by the prime minister.
The Pew study’s glazed picture of our religious tolerance
What is the News?
Pew Research Center, a non-profit based in Washington DC has released the results of the survey titled ‘Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation’. The survey takes a closer look at religious identity, nationalism, and tolerance in Indian society.
Key Findings of the Survey:
Religious Tolerance and Segregation:
- Most Indians across all religions feel they enjoy religious freedom, value religious tolerance, and regard respect for all religions as central to what India is as a nation.
- However, the majority of Indians prefer friendships and peer groups to be largely restricted to their own religious and/or caste groups.
- For instance, one in three Hindus did not want a Muslim as a neighbor.
- Further, the majority of Hindus, predominantly from North India—linked the idea of being a ‘true Indian’ with being Hindu and speaking Hindi.
Inter-Caste and Inter-Religious Marriage:
- The majority of Indians prefer to marry within their own castes/religion and prefer their parents to ‘arrange’ their marriages.
- However, people opposed to inter-caste marriage are a minority in the south.
Significance of the Survey:
- Divided Society: The survey clearly shows how divided Indian society is and how central religion is to the average Indian: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh.
- Meaning of Tolerant: The survey has shown what exactly Indians mean when they say they are ‘tolerant’.
- Being tolerant comes with a caveat: it is clearly limited to each group living segregated lives and within their agreed lines. Transgression of these supposedly ‘agreed lines’ can and often do result in violence.
- Patriarchal Society: The idea that women cannot marry out of their religion or caste community is something that a majority of those surveyed prefer.
- Decades-old Indian feminist research on marriage and women has also shown how almost all religions foster patriarchal set-ups under which women are viewed as property.
Open-sourcing project govt panel: What’s in store for online retailers
Source: Indian Express
What is the News?
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade(DPIIT) has issued orders for appointing an advisory committee for its Open Network for Digital Commerce(ONDC) project.
About Open Network for Digital Commerce(ONDC) project:
- The ONDC Project is aimed at curbing digital monopolies in the e-commerce sector.
- This will be done by making the e-commerce process open-source. Thus, it creates a platform that can be utilized by all online retailers.
- Several operational aspects including onboarding of sellers, vendor discovery, price discovery, and product cataloging could be made open source on the lines of Unified Payments Interface(UPI).
- The project of developing this open network has been given to the Quality Council of India(QCI).
What is the meaning of Open Source?
- Making a software or a process open-source means that the code or the steps of that process is made available freely for others to use, redistribute and modify.
- For example, the operating system of Apple’s iPhones — iOS — is closed source, which means, it cannot be legally modified or reverse engineered.
- On the other hand, Google’s Android operating system is open-source and therefore it is possible for smartphone OEMs such as Samsung, Xiaomi to modify it for their hardware.
- Hence, if the ONDC gets implemented and mandated, it would mean that all e-commerce companies will have to operate using the same processes. This could give a huge booster shot to smaller online retailers and new entrants.
What is the Arctic’s ‘Last Ice Area’ that is now showing signs of melting
Source: Indian Express
What is the News?
A part of the Arctic’s ice called “Last Ice Area” has started showing signs of melting earlier than what the scientists had expected.
About Last Ice Area:
- The Last Ice Area is located north of Greenland and in Ellesmere Island in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.
- Scientists had believed this area was strong enough to withstand global warming.
- In 2015, National Geographic had forecasted the total disappearance of summer ice in the Arctic by the year 2040. The only place that would be able to withstand a warming climate would be the “Last Ice Area”.
Why is Ice Last Area important?
- The Last Ice area is important because it was thought to be able to help ice-dependent species as ice in the surrounding areas melted away.
- This area is used by polar bears to hunt for seals, who use ice to build dens for their offspring. Walruses too use the surface of the ice for foraging.
Reasons for Melting of Last Ice Area: The first sign of change in the Last Ice area was observed in 2018. The reasons for the change include:
- About 80% of thinning can be attributed to weather-related factors, such as winds that break up and move the ice around.
- The remaining 20% can be attributed to the longer-term thinning of the ice due to global warming.
Union Minister for Fisheries launches Mobile App “Matsya Setu” for Fish Farmers
What is the News?
The Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying launched the Online Course Mobile App “Matsya Setu”.
About Matsya Setu App:
- Matsya Setu is an online course app. It aims to provide the latest freshwater aquaculture technologies to the aqua farmers of the country.
- Developed by: The app was developed by the ICAR-Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (ICAR-CIFA), Bhubaneswar. The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB), Hyderabad is providing the funding support.
Key Features of Matsya Setu:
- The app has species-wise/ subject-wise self-learning online course modules. Where aquaculture experts explain the basic concepts like breeding, seed production, grow-out culture of commercially important fishes, and also better management practices.
- Moreover, upon successful completion of each course module, an e-Certificate can be auto-generated.
- Further, farmers can also ask their doubts through the app and get specific advisories from experts.
About National Fisheries Development Board(NFDB):
- NFDB is an autonomous organization under the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying.
- It was initially established in 2006 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
- Objective: To enhance fish production and productivity in the country and to coordinate fishery development in an integrated and holistic manner.
First commercial shipment of Mishri variety of cherries from Kashmir exported to Dubai
What is the News?
The first commercial shipment of Mishri variety of cherries from Kashmir valley has been exported to Dubai from Srinagar.
About Mishri Cherries:
- Mishri varieties of Cherries not only taste delicious but also contain vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds with health benefits.
- The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir produces more than 95% of India’s production of commercial varieties of cherries. It produces four varieties of cherry — Double, Makhmali, Mishri, and Italy.
- Cherries are harvested, cleaned, and packed by APEDA registered exporters before exports. For ensuring exports of quality agricultural produce, APEDA has also initiated an awareness program on National Programme on Organic Production.
Key Fact Mentioned in the Article:
National Program for Organic Production(NPOP):
- The NPOP Program was launched by the Ministry of Commerce in 2001.
- Purpose: NPOP grants organic farming certification to products through a process of third-party certification.
- The program also involves the accreditation program for Certification Bodies, standards for organic production, promotion of organic farming and marketing, etc.
- Implementation: It is implemented by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Government creates a new Ministry of Cooperation
What is the News?
The Government of India has announced the creation of a new Ministry of Cooperation.
About Ministry of Cooperation:
- Purpose: The Ministry of Cooperation has been created for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country.
Key Objectives of the Ministry of Cooperation:
- Firstly, it will provide a separate administrative, legal, and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country.
- Secondly, it will make the cooperative movement a true people-based movement by helping it reach the grassroots level.
- Purpose: The Ministry of Cooperation has been created for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country.
- Thirdly, it will work to streamline processes for ease of doing business for cooperatives and enable the development of multi-state cooperatives (MSCS).