9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – July 8th, 2021

Dear Friends,

We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do: 

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:  
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.  

  • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick here
  • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 1

The Hindu

GS Paper 2

The Hindu

Times of India

Business Standard

GS Paper 3

Indian Express

Livemint

Business Standard

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Mains Oriented Articles


GS Paper 1

Challenging negative social norms

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and Associated Issues

Synopsis:

India touches a demographic milestone this World Population Day, wherein half of its population is below 29 years of age. However, a prudent realisation of this demographic dividend is possible only when every citizen (especially women) enjoys a robust degree of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). This enjoyment in turn demands challenging negative social norms in Indian Society.

Background:

  • World Population Day (July 11) brings some positive news to India. The country has entered a demographic sweet spot that will continue for another two to three decades
  • Half of India’s population is under 29 years of age. This means a greater proportion of young people will drive India’s economic growth and social progress.

How should the population be developed?

  • They must not only be healthy, knowledgeable, and skilled but must also be provided with the rights and choices to develop to their fullest potential. 
  • This includes imparting a sufficient degree of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
    • A comprehensive definition of SRHR by the Guttmacher–Lancet Commission encompasses a broader range of issues.
    • These include SRHR and issues such as violence, stigma and respect for bodily autonomy. It greatly impacts the psychological, emotional and social well-being of individuals.

Trends in India’s population growth:

  • India’s population growth is now stabilising. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR), presently at 2.2 children, will soon reach replacement level (2.1).
    • TFR refers to the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime. 
  • However, the TFR remains higher than the national average of 2.2 children among women who live in rural areas.

Challenges in giving SRHR and controlling TFR

  • First, rural women have little formal education and are in the lowest income quintile — a majority of them live in the poorer States.
  • Second, the prevailing social norms doesn’t allow women to have a say in choosing their family size.
  • Third, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in healthcare systems. This has led to serious gaps and challenges in the provision of information and services on sexual and reproductive health (SRH).

India’s performance with SRH indicators:

Positive:

  • Sample Registration System’s (SRS) data shows progressive policies for maternal health have resulted in improved rates of institutional delivery and a decline in maternal mortality ratio (MMR). 
    • It declined from 327 in 1999-2001 to 113 per 100,000 live births in 2016-18.
  • National Health Family Survey 5 for the year 2019-20 (NFHS-5) shows contraceptive prevalence has improved in most States.
  • Programs such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) have made some efforts to challenge existing social norms. It has underlined that investments in social causes must go alongside economic progress.

Negative:

  • In girls aged 15-19 years, 22.2% had an unmet need for contraception, according to NFHS-4. This points to inadequate information and access to SRH services for this age group.
  • Girls are still marrying too young 26.8% of women aged 20-24 years are married before they turn 18. Further they often have their first child within the first year of marriage. 
  • India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report (2021). It is now the third-worst performer in South Asia.

Way Ahead:

  • India’s population stabilisation strategy must be adjusted, keeping in mind the rights of women and girls. Placing youth, women and girls at the centre of policymaking and services could trigger a positive ripple effect. 
    • Young people, and adolescent girls, in particular, should have access to education, relevant skills, information and services to make healthy choices.
    • They should be empowered to exercise their rights, and have access to opportunities for employment.
  • Research and practical experience shows that societies are healthier and more productive when women are empowered to make informed choices.
    • A woman who has control over her body gains not only in terms of autonomy but also through advances in health, education, income and safety. She is more likely to thrive, and so is her family. 
    • The UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) calls upon stakeholders to help build a new set of social norms to drive this mission.

GS Paper 2

A long road for migrant workers

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services

Relevance: In the wake of the pandemic-induced migrant crisis, many developments took place. It is important to keep a track of all such important developments.

Synopsis:

The guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court are welcome, but they require robust systems. The bulk of guidelines seems declaratory rather than mandatory which warrants active cooperation between the States and the Centre for efficient realisation of the court’s directive. 

Background:

  • The Supreme Court on June 29 pronounced its judgment in the migrant labourers case. The case was initiated last year after the national lockdown was announced on March 24. 
    • Thousands of landless laborers had started walking towards their home States due to the loss of employment and income. 
  • The Supreme Court took cognizance of the matter on May 26 that year and acknowledged the plight of the workers in light of the strict lockdown.

Supreme Court’s Directives for Migrants:

  • The court has laid down numerous guidelines to provide relief to workers and efficiently tackle the problem till the threat of COVID-19 subsides. 
  • In the orders pronounced in May this year that dry ration be provided to migrants who want to return to their homes. 
    • Further, the court said that identity proof should not be insisted upon by the governments since the labourers might not be able to furnish it. 
    • The court called upon the State governments to arrange transportation for workers who need to return to their homes.
    • The Supreme Court fixed July 31 as the deadline for the States to implement the ‘One nation One Ration Card scheme. 
      • Under this scheme, the States are to complete the registration of migrant workers in order to provide dry ration to them
    • The top court also directed the State governments to run community kitchens for migrant workers.
  • In the order passed on June 29, the court affirmed the Right to Food under Article 21 of the Constitution. 
    • In furtherance of this, the court asked the States to formulate their own schemes and issue food grains to migrants
    • This is an indispensable step to keep more than a fourth of the population of the country safe and healthy during the pandemic.
    • The court directed the Ministry of Labour and Employment to ensure that the National Database for Unorganised Workers is updated by July 31.
    • Finally, the top court recognised the need for direct cash benefit transfer to workers in the unorganised sector. But it did not issue any guidelines for the same, as the workers need to be covered by the States themselves.

Challenges in implementing the Judgment:

  • First, it is unlikely that a standardised system can be developed by states for implementing the ONORC scheme within the deadline prescribed by the court. 
  • Second, many States do not have the necessary infrastructure to run and maintain community kitchens on such a large scale.
  • Third, migrant workers keep moving in search of employment, and therefore it is difficult to cover all of them under state government schemes. 

Way Ahead:

  • The Supreme Court has given a purposive declaration in the case, but the bulk of the judgment seems declaratory rather than mandatory. In order to efficiently implement the orders of the court, the State governments need to work with the Centre closely. 
  • With the third wave of COVID-19 infections looming, it is imperative to ensure that government machinery works to its full potential and robust systems are developed to withstand the challenges.

Confronting Xi: India should engage both the Dalai Lama and Taiwan

Source: TOI

Syllabus: GS 2 – India and its Neighborhood- Relations

Synopsis:

China has adopted a confrontational attitude against India as seen from last year’s unilateral aggression in the Galwan Valley region of Eastern Ladakh. In this scenario, India needs to recalibrate its China strategy and engage with both the Dalai Lama and Taiwan.    

Background:

  • The Dalai Lama’s 86th birthday made headlines after the Indian PM greeted the Tibetan spiritual leader
  • The public acknowledgement is a subtle recalibration in the China policy as he’s persona non grata for China.
    • In literal terms, the phrase is Latin for “an unwelcome person.” The term in a diplomatic sense refers to a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a certain country is prohibited by that country.

Dismal state of India- China relations in recent times:

  • Last year, China unilaterally invaded the Eastern Ladakh region and violated the border agreements.
  • India negotiated a disengagement this year at one friction point – Pangong Tso. However, there has been no progress on disengagement in Demchok, Gogra, Hot Springs and Depsang. 
  • Chinese President’s speech, delivered on the occasion of centenary celebrations of Communist Party of China (CPC), signalled a strong confrontational attitude against India.
  • China’s actions and their scale have altered the bilateral relationship. Due to this, the Indian Government has begun to scale back the economic engagement. Noticeably, in keeping China out of the forthcoming 5G transition and parts of the tech market.

Lesson for India:

  • An important takeaway for India is that the size and the sophistication of the domestic economy matters in securing strategic interests. 
  • China’s increasing belligerence has accompanied its growing economic clout that is backed by a $14.7 trillion GDP.

Way Ahead:

  • As India works on its economic transformation, it should deepen its ties with Taiwan, a global leader in semiconductors. Deepening ties will simultaneously serve India’s economic interests and send China a message.
  • Military commanders from both the countries are scheduled to meet for the 12th time. The meeting should be duly leveraged by India to work out a disengagement plan from the remaining friction points on the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

A geopolitical roadmap in uncertain times

Source: The Business Standard

Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: The centrality of the India-China-US triangle is an important topic for International Relations

Synopsis: 

The book India and Asian Geopolitics: The Past, the Present offers a magisterial insight into the complex dynamics of our changing world.

Recent geopolitical developments around the world:
  • Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in a year-long border standoff that has taken the lives of soldiers on both sides.
  • China’s naval vessels patrol the Indian Ocean, while it consolidates partnerships in South Asia and across Eurasia.
  • The US is struggling to regain its superpower image, after the term of former President Trump.
The growth of China and its future policies:

According to the book, China is central to the world economy. This is because,

  • China manufactures one-fourth of global industrial production,
  • Consumes a fourth of the world’s energy
  • Consumes around 59 percent of the world’s cement and half the world’s steel and copper
  • China has used its wealth for domestic development, to modernize its armed forces, and expand its economic, political and military footprint in areas of strategic importance — the East and South China Seas, the Eurasian landmass, and the Indian Ocean.

In 2012 Chinese president set the goal of the “Double Hundred”: Doubling of per capita income to $10,000 by 2021, the hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. By 2049, the centenary of the Peoples’ Republic, China aims to become a “modernised, fully developed, rich and powerful” nation.

China’s growth in US prism:

The US views China’s rise as a challenge to its dominance for over seven decades and is shaping its foreign policy to prevent the emergence of a global competitor. Previous President of US impose restrictions on China’s access to US technology and markets.

The current President is mobilizing initiatives and allies. The US has given up on competing with China in Eurasia and is focused on restricting Chinese activity in the maritime sphere. For instance,

Geopolitics of India:
  • Several of India’s South Asian neighbors share borders with China — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar. So these states have also become areas of political competition between the two countries.
  • Conscious of China’s increasing economic and military prowess, India has, from 2008, been deepening security and defense ties. For instance,
    • India signed several agreements with the US that have included increasing defense purchases, agreements on the interoperability of their armed forces.
    • A proliferation of joint military exercises of defense forces, intelligence-sharing, and regular high-level interactions.
The centrality of the India-China-US triangle:

The book recognizes the centrality of the India-China-US triangle in determining the regional security scenario.

  • The rapid expansion of Indo-US security relations possibly encouraged China to initiate the Ladakh standoff in May last year as a rude geography lesson to remind India where its serious security concerns lie.
Suggestions to improve India’s relations:
  • India’s goal should be “to be closer to both China and the US than they are to each other”. Clearly, the present state of Indo-US ties has violated this norm, while providing few strategic benefits to India.
  • More engagement and more strategic autonomy and issue-based coalitions of the willing will provide India with the ability to manage the changes taking place in world affairs, particularly the rise of new players — China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and Iran.

“India’s strategy” for the future has to be more modest, more realistic, and has to be more valuable over the longer term. Domestic effort and external engagements can transform “India into a prosperous, strong and modern country.”


GS Paper 3

Centre must step up cash flows to the states

Synopsis: Borrowing by states via state development loans has been low in the first quarter of the present financial year. Reasons are discussed.

State Development Loans (SDLs)

A predominant source for state governments to raise money to finance their fiscal deficit is via SDLs or bonds. RBI facilitates the auctioning of SDLs.

  • SDLs are dated securities issued by various state governments (Security is just a piece of paper in which the borrower promises to repay the amount with or without interest. Bonds, g-secs, shares, etc. are all types of securities)
Lower issuance of SDLs

In the first quarter (Apr – May – June) of the current financial year, the gross issuance of bonds stood at Rs 1.4 trillion.

  • This amount is 14% lower than the bonds issued last year (Rs 1.7 trillion) when state governments’ cash flows had undergone a sharp disruption during the nationwide lockdown.
  • This is also around 20% lower than what states had initially indicated they would borrow (Rs 1.8 trillion)

Lower bond issuance means state governments have sought lesser money via the SDL route, despite the economic slowdown due to COVID. But, why? Read on to find out.

Why state borrowings have been lower?

Lower state borrowings were a consequence of three major factors which boosted state governments’ cash inflows.

  • Additional tax devolution by the Centre: First, an additional tax devolution of Rs 450 billion from the Centre in late March. This amount was in excess of the Rs 5.5 trillion tax devolution that had been included in the revised estimates for 2020-21, presented during the budget in February.
  • Record-high GST collections: Second, record-high GST collections in April. The amount that the states received through state GST and their upfront share of integrated GST doubled to Rs 1.3 trillion in the first quarter of this year, up from Rs 0.6 trillion in the same period last year.
  • Grants from the Centre: Third, receipt of substantial grants from the Centre adding up to Rs 436 billion in April-May related to the recommendations of the Fifteenth Finance Commission.

Thus, gross bond issuances in April-May 2021 were Rs 476 billion lower than indicated. However, the situation reversed in June 2021, with the issuance being 20% higher than the indicated amount. This increase may reflect some emerging stress in the states’ revenue collections in June, as widening state-level restrictions in May curtailed economic activity.


Behest lending can give rise to a NPA problem

Source: Livemint

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy

Relevance: A lesson from the 2008 global financial crisis that can help India tackle post-pandemic situation better

Synopsis: Aggressive lending to MSME sector can result in a NPA problem in the future.

Background

Response to 2008 financial crisis
Central banks and governments across the developed world adopted extraordinary policy measures to avoid panic and to boost growth.

  • Central bank policy rates were slashed to historic lows. Markets were flooded with liquidity (money supply). The US Fed Funds rate was cut from 5% to 0%. Japan and Switzerland took policy rates below 0%.
  • In addition, governments stepped up their spending, resulting in high fiscal deficits all around the world.

Policy response of India
India’s policy response was similar to the world governments.

  • The Reserve Bank of India slashed policy interest rates from 7% to an effective low of 3.25%.
  • Moreover, the central government expanded the fiscal deficit from 2.5% of GDP in FY08 to 6% in FY09, and 6.5% in FY10.

All these steps resulted in recovery too, but things went sour after 2011. Fiscal spending alongside low-interest rates led to inflation and increased imports. After dipping sharply in 2008, India’s WPI and CPI entered into double-digits beyond 2010. Twin deficits (Current Account Deficit & Fiscal Deficit) and inflation caused India’s growth rate to return to the pre-crisis level in FY12 through FY14 (FY = Financial Year).

Present situation – impending problems

Two problems that can have long-term consequences need to be looked at carefully. One is linked directly to the actions of the central bank (RBI followed these steps post-2008 crisis too) and the other is linked to the action of the government and PSBs.

Inflation: To initiate a speedy recovery of the Indian economy post-COVID, RBI has slashed interest rates this time too. So, are we going to see a repeat of the post-2008 financial crisis scenario? Signs are visible.

  • At 6.3%, inflation in May 2021 has already crossed the upper end of RBI’s tolerance band of 6%.

Behest-lending: This problem has not received appropriate attention so far. This is the phenomenon of behest-lending by public sector banks (PSBs) at the order of the government, and its side effect, a rise in non-performing assets (NPAs).

  • The post-2008 period saw banks increase lending to the infrastructure sector, we now also see PSBs being exhorted to lend to the MSME sector (micro, small and medium enterprises) by the finance minister.
  • Aggressive lending to the infrastructure sector post-2008 crisis ultimately led to the problem of NPAs, as banks lent without any sound sense of judgment. Hence, this time, authorities should exercise some restraint and leave lending decisions to the commercial judgment of banks.
Impact of lending to MSMEs

Once again, the government is pushing banks to lend, this time to MSMEs rather than infrastructure projects. Banks have been urged to restructure loans under various schemes. Already, the impact of aggressive lending is visible.

  • Dramatic rise in net credit inflow to MSMEs: Boosted by schemes like the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS), net credit flow to stressed MSMEs during March 2020-February 2021, has risen dramatically.
  • Findings of RBI’s financial stability report: RBI’s Financial Stability Report of July 2021 released last week warns: “Despite re-structuring (to the tune of 56,866 crore), stress in the MSME portfolio of PSBs remains high. Banks face prospects of a possible rise in non-performing loans, particularly in their small and medium enterprises (SME) and retail portfolios, especially as regulatory support starts getting reduced.” Also, banks’ exposures to better-rated large borrowers are declining.

All this could lead to increased NPA problems in the future.

Shortcomings of credit schemes

On paper, schemes like ECLGS might seem just like what should be done in a pandemic. But the danger is two-fold.

  • One, with pressure from the government, PSBs could end up lending to unviable borrowers/ventures in the MSME sector.
  • Second, on paper, the ECLGS guarantee is 100%, but there is nothing automatic about it. The National Credit Guarantee and Trustee Company (NCGTC) is committed to giving only 75% of an ‘eligible’ claim preferred by the bank within 30 days. The balance 25% is paid at the conclusion of recovery proceedings or when the decree gets time-barred, whichever is earlier. (Read about ECLGS scheme to better understand this point)

As with the earlier Credit Guarantee Corporation (the NCGTC’s predecessor, prior to 2014), claims could be turned down on various grounds. In which case, it will be back to the vicious cycle of high NPAs, leading to high provisioning, capital impairment, and finally capital infusion in PSBs at taxpayer expense.

Also Read: Govt extends ECLGS Scheme

Oil on the boil

Source: Business Standard

Syllabus: GS3 – Infrastructure: Energy

Relevance: Understanding how global crude oil prices impact India

Synopsis: India should gradually move away from an over-reliance on imports for its crude oil and gas requirements. Possible solutions.

Impact of energy demand

Energy prices are likely to stay elevated due to demand from a rapidly recovering global economy, even if the energy exporters agree to an increase in production. This means, pressure on India’s external account (foreign exchange reserves) and higher inflation (due to increased prices of petrol and diesel).

Countering increased demand

This increased demand for energy can not be countered by an associated increase in the supply of crude oil till August. The reason behind this problem is that the Saudis and the UAE have not been able to agree on the methodology for national quota allocation.

Impact on India

India is enduring record retail prices of petrol and diesel. Apart from hikes in retail prices by the oil marketing companies, there are high taxes and duties on petroleum products.

  • The states and the Centre combined realized over Rs 6.7 trillion in tax revenues from the petroleum sector in 2020-21. This was higher than the Rs 5.5 trillion realized in 2019-20.
Suggestions/measures

High crude and gas prices invariably put pressure on the trade account, since India imports over 85%  of its crude, and 50% of its gas requirements. Hence, the government should take steps towards the gradual reduction of this over-reliance. Here are possible measures:

  • Imposition of duties: High duties, even in times of low global crude oil prices, act as a carbon tax. This creates an incentive to shift away to less environmentally damaging energy sources.
  • Capacity building in renewable sources.
  • Policymakers should look at ways to ramp up the domestic production of oil and gas
  • Encouraging companies such as ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) to search for energy sources abroad. Presently, the domestic production of oil and gas has stagnated for five years. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Oil India Ltd (OIL) have not made any new major discoveries, and existing fields are ageing
  • Reducing red tape and simplifying tax structure: Successive auctions under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and its successor, the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP), have met with a lack of enthusiasm.
    • Overseas energy firms claim there is still a daunting amount of red tape to be negotiated before foreign direct investment can enter.
    • In addition to a review and possible simplification of tax and foreign direct investment norms, there is also the need to review the track record of state-run firms like ONGC, OVL, and OIL.
  • The upstream energy public sector units must be encouraged and given the necessary resources to improve their track record in exploration and production.
    • Upstream is a term for the stages of the operation in the oil and gas industry that involve exploration and production. Upstream firms deal primarily with the exploration and initial production stages of the oil and gas industry.

India must show global leadership on climate crisis by adopting a holistic approach to energy

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Relevance: Renewable energy and its issues are direct topics on Energy.

Synopsis: 

Meeting the Energy demands of people and government policy on them have to address some critical issues to achieve energy security.

Global countries on Climate Change:

Political leaders of Western nations express alarm and make promises about the climate crisis, but do precious little to tackle it.

India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership:

According to the partnership statement: “The United States has set an economy-wide target of reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent below 2005 levels in 2030. India has set a target of installing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030.”

The Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership will aim to

  • Mobilise finance and speed clean energy deployment;
  • Demonstrate and scale innovative clean technologies needed to decarbonise sectors including industry, transportation, power, and buildings;
  • Build capacity to measure, manage, and adapt to the risks of climate-related impacts.
Challenges with Energy projects in India
  1. While substantially increasing Renewable Energy(RE), India is also expanding fossil fuel extraction and use. In the middle of the pandemic, the government has auctioned 60 new coal mining blocks, and several new thermal power stations are being considered. This includes mining in some of the most biodiverse forests in Central India.
    • In effect, total carbon emissions, which is what impacts climate, will keep going up even as RE’s share rises.
    • While public transportation has been given more investment in the 2021 budget, there is no discouragement of private cars, and fossil fuel use continues to rise.
  2. India includes mega-hydropower in RE, despite the ecological and social havoc it causes. For instance, Despite the recent flood tragedy in Uttarakhand, the government is pushing for mega-hydro projects.
  3. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has announced mega-park type RE production in 10,000 sq km in seven states. These projects have serious ecological and social impacts but do not even need an environmental impact assessment. This is because of the faulty assumption that RE is necessarily “clean” and eco-friendly.
    • About 60,000 hectares of Kachchh’s ecologically fragile grassland-desert ecosystem have been allotted to energy mega-parks.
    • The government’s target of 100 GW by 2022 also included 40 GW of rooftop solar, but poor policy back-up has stymied it.
    • Such an approach also undermines democracy. People who protest the forcible acquisition of their lands for mega-projects are labelled anti-development.
  4. Electricity demand was met in all possible ways (including dangerous nuclear power). But this is simply unsustainable.
    • For instance, a shift from petrol-diesel to electric cars will significantly expand devastating mining (for electricity production) across the world. This also ignores biodiversity loss and pollution.
    • Unless luxury and wasteful consumption is eliminated, unsustainability and people’s displacement are inevitable.
How India can adapt to energy demands?
  • Integrated power micro-grids can provide adequate power for entire villages and urban neighbourhoods, and be locally managed. Viable alternatives have been demonstrated across the world.
    • The Delhi government supports 150 government schools to generate rooftop solar energy, helping them save Rs 8.8 crore on electricity and earning Rs 8.5 crore from selling power back to the grid.
    • A study in the US shows that rooftop solar can create 30 times more jobs than mega-solar parks.
  • Similarly, alternatives to energy-guzzling sectors like urban construction and privatised transportation also exist.
  • National Energy Policy should include few essential tasks. Such as,
    • Changing Consumer behaviour to curb wasteful and luxury power usage.
    • Redistributing power to those who do not have enough power.

People have the right to demand energy. But more and more demand will create unsustainable and inequitable ways to produce and distribute energy. So, the demand has to be just. Without which the planet will not sustain us.

 


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


DBT-NIBMG creates world’s first database of genomic variants of oral cancer

Source: PIB

 What is the News?

The National Institute of Biomedical Genomics(NIBMG) has created a database of genomic variations in oral cancer called dbGENVOC. This is the first of its kind database in the world.

About dbGENVOC:
  • dbGENVOC is a browsable online database of GENomic Variants of Oral Cancer. The database is publicly available and is a free resource.
  • The database will contain somatic and germline variants derived from oral cancer patients and also peer-reviewed published publications.
  • The database also has a built-in search engine. This allows researchers to carry out analysis of identifying variants in associated altered pathways in oral cancer.
About Oral Cancer:
  • Oral cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer among men in India, largely fuelled by tobacco-chewing.
  • Tobacco-chewing causes changes in the genetic material of cells in the oral cavity. These changes (mutations) precipitate oral cancer.

About NIBMG

  • The NIBMG has been established as an autonomous institution under the Department of Biotechnology.
  • This is the first institution in India explicitly devoted to research, training, translation & service, and capacity-building in Biomedical Genomics.
  • Location: It is located in Kalyani, West Bengal.
What are Somatic and Germline Cells?
  • A Somatic Cell is any cell of the body except sperm and egg cells. Somatic cells are diploid, meaning that they contain two sets of chromosomes, one inherited from each parent. Mutations in somatic cells can affect the individual, but they are not passed onto offspring.
  • A Germline Cells are the sex cells (eggs and sperm) that are used by sexually reproducing organisms to pass on genes from generation to generation. Egg and sperm cells are called germ cells, in contrast to the other cells of the body that are called somatic cells.

Indemnity issues hold up U.S vaccine donation

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

India is yet to receive coronavirus vaccines from the US under its global donation programme as Indemnity Issue is holding up the U.S vaccine donation.

What is Indemnity?

  • An indemnity is a form of contract.
  • Section 124 of the Indian Contract Act,1872 defines a contract of indemnity as the one by which one party promises to save the other from any loss caused to the latter.
  • Once the government of India grants indemnity to the vaccine manufacturer, it would mean that even if a particular vaccine might have caused death or any lasting damage to a recipient, any claim of compensation arising from it will have to be met by the government and not by the company.

Why are US pharma firms asking for indemnity clauses?

The US pharma firms are demanding indemnity, because:

  • Firstly, vaccines were developed at record speed and were approved for emergency use. So, they took a huge risk in response to the pandemic. Hence, there could be potential side effects and the Government’s duty is to protect them.
    • For instance, Pfizer enjoys indemnity in the US, UK, and most other countries where it is supplying COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Secondly, the indemnity would be used as a legal defense to protect the U.S. firms, which have pointed out that they cannot take responsibility for cold-chain lapses and transportation problems within India.

What is the dilemma for the Indian Government?

  • The dilemma for the Indian Government is that if the U.S pharma companies are given indemnities. Then all vaccine makers including those from India such as Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech, and Russian Sputnik would also demand the same.

Terms to know


COVID-19 unemployment: Make agri-food systems equitable for youth, says UN report

Source: Down To Earth

 What is the News?

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has released a report titled “Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems”.

Key Findings of the Report:

  • COVID-19 has affected labour markets around the world. This has impacted the employment prospects for the youth more than those belonging to other age groups.
    • Globally, employment among the youth fell 8.7% in 2020 compared with 3.7% for adults.
  • However, promoting the employment of young people in food systems can reduce unemployment and also secure the future of global food security and nutrition.

Recommendations given by the Report:

The report has provided several suggestions to promote the engagement and employment of young people in food systems. These include:

  • Providing an enabling environment for youth as agents of change
  • Securing dignified and rewarding livelihoods
  • Increasing equity and rights to resources to the youth to access, conserve and protect land, seeds and biodiversity, fisheries, and forests.
  • Ensuring recognition of their legitimate tenure rights
  • Enhancing knowledge, education, and skills
  • Fostering sustainable innovation

About Committee on World Food Security(CFS):

  • CFS was established in 1974. It is an international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work to ensure food security and nutrition for all.
  • Reports to: The Committee reports to the UN General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC) and to the FAO Conference.
  • Secretariat: It has a permanent Secretariat. It is located in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy,
  • Funding: It receives its core funding equally from The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and The World Food Programme (WFP).

Exports of GI certified Bhalia wheat from Gujarat begins

Source: PIB

 What is the News?

The first shipment of Geographical Indication (GI) certified Bhalia variety of wheat was exported to Kenya and Sri Lanka from Gujarat.

About Bhalia Wheat:

  • Bhalia Wheat is also known as Daudkhani Wheat.It is a type of long grain wheat cultivated in Bhal region in the north of Gulf of Khambhat, Gujarat, India.
  • Characteristics: The unique characteristic of the Bhalia wheat is that it is grown in the rainfed condition without irrigation and cultivated in around two lakh hectares of agricultural land in Gujarat.
  • GI Tag: The Bhalia variety of wheat received GI certification in 2011.The registered proprietor of GI certification is Anand Agricultural University, Gujarat.
  • Nutritional Benefits: Bhalia Wheat is rich in Gluten, a type of amino acid.It has high protein content and is sweet in taste.

Wheat Exports:

  • In 2020-21, the wheat exports from India witnessed a significant growth of 808 % to Rs 4034 crore from Rs 444 crore reported in 2019-20.
  • India exported a substantial quantity of the Wheat to seven new countries – Yemen, Indonesia, Bhutan, Philippines, Iran, Cambodia and Myanmar during 2020-21.

China goes malaria-free with multi-pronged health strategy

Source: The Hindu

 What is the News?

China has been awarded a malaria-free certification from the World Health Organization(WHO). This is a huge success for China, as it used to report 30 million cases of Malaria annually in the 1940s.

Malaria Free Status for China:

  • China is the first country in the WHO Western Pacific Region to be awarded a malaria-free certification in more than 3 decades.
  • Other countries in the region that have achieved this status include Australia (1981), Singapore (1982), and Brunei Darussalam (1987).
  • Globally, 40 countries and territories have been granted a malaria-free certification from WHO. The most recent countries include, El Salvador (2021), Algeria (2019), Argentina (2019), Paraguay (2018), and Uzbekistan (2018).

How did China achieve Malaria Free Status? China started taking efforts to eliminate Malaria in 1950s. Several of the important initiatives include:

  • 523 Project: It was launched in 1967 by China. It led to the discovery of artemisinin therapy in the 1970s, which became the most effective antimalarial drug available.
  • Insecticide Treated Nets: China started distributing insecticide-treated nets in 1980s. This led to a huge fall in Malaria cases.
  • 1-3-7 strategy: China launched a “1-3-7 strategy” referring to a one-day deadline to report a malaria diagnosis, confirming a case and determining the spread by the third day, and measures taken to stop the spread by the seventh day, along with continued surveillance in high-risk areas.

WHO malaria-free certification:

  • Certification of malaria elimination is the official recognition by WHO of a country’s malaria-free status.
  • WHO grants the certification when a country has demonstrated –with credible evidence, that the chain of indigenous malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past three consecutive years.
  • A country must also demonstrate the capacity to prevent the re-establishment of transmission.
  • However, the final decision on awarding a malaria-free certification rests with the WHO Director-General, based on a recommendation by the independent Malaria Elimination Certification Panel(MECP).

Centre sets up new solar thermal components testing facility at Hyderabad

Source: PIB

 What is the News?

The Ministry of Science and Technology has announced the setting up of a Concentrated Solar Thermal(CST) Testing Facility at Hyderabad.

About Concentrated Solar Thermal(CST) Testing Facility:

  • The CST Testing facility has been set up by the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials(ARCI).
  • Purpose: The facility will help the solar industry to test the capability and performance of solar thermal components like solar receiver tubes, heat transfer fluids, and concentrating mirrors.
  • The facility will validate the components by parallelly comparing the performance (heat gain and heat loss properties) of them with varying operating parameters (e.g. flow rates of Heat Transfer Fluids(HTFs), operating temperature, pressures, etc.).

About ARCI:

  • International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials(ARCI) was established in 1997.
  • Ministry: It is an Autonomous Research and Development Centre of the Department of Science and Technology(DST).
  • Mandate: ARCI’s mandate is
    • Development of High-Performance Materials and Processes for Niche Markets
    • Demonstration of Technologies at Prototype/pilot scale
    • Transfer of Technology to Indian Industry.

Perfecting the test

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Relevance – Regulatory bodies are taking steps to ensure continuity of education, in times of pandemics.

Synopsis – An analysis of CBSE’s New Assessment Scheme For Classes 10 and 12 Exams For 2021-22 Session

Introduction 

  • In the wake of the current pandemic, the CBSE has issued a new assessment scheme for Class 10 and 12 students for the academic year 2021-22.
  • The board established a basket of four alternatives for how the final results will be computed based on four distinct probable circumstances.

Key features-

The board has declared that the curriculum would be reduced. Further, board exams will be held twice a year in various forms.

Continuous recording of internal assessment scores will be ensured in order to provide a range of choices for calculating a final score at the end of the year.

  • The academic year 2021-22 is divided into two terms. Each semester will cover half of the curriculum, culminating in board examinations at the conclusion of each term.

The four possible scenarios-

  • First – If the COVID situation permit, both terms exams will be held in person-
    • Term 1 [held in school between November-December] – It will be a 90-minute with MCQ multiple-choice questions only.
    • Term 2 [held in examination centers in March-April 2022] – It will be a two-hour exam with various question formats.
  • Second, if schools are closed for Term 1- The Term 1 exams will be conducted online and Term 2 can be held at the centres. The weighting of term 1 in the final scores would be decreased.
  • Third, if schools closed in term 2 – Term 1 exams are held in school and Term 2 exams will be conducted online in the MCQ format. The weightage of marks of Term 1 will be increased.
  • Forth, neither of the term exams can be held at schools and centers- The results will be computed on the basis of internal assessments and practicals and theory marks of both Terms exams taken online.

Challenges

  • Not all students able to complete their syllabus or attend online classes.
  • Criticism related to MCQ based examination

Way forward-

  • The worst-case scenario underscores the need for the proper online lessons for all the classes.
  • A decentralized method, allowing regional CBSE units and external experts to examine the status of certain districts and come up with evaluations adapted to a specific situation, might be a supplement to the MCQ pattern.

Climate crisis intensifies: Coastal areas may become unliveable by 2100, flags report

Source: Down To Earth

Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

What is the news?

Millions in India are currently reeling under severe heatwaves. Scientists have warned that the rising climate crisis will make the situation more unbearable in the coming years.

A recent report by Climate Trends said that most parts of India experience 12-66 days of potentially deadly heat and humidity combinations in a year. The report also pointed out that the temperature will increase 4.3 degrees Celsius by 2100 relative to pre-industrial temperature.

Key findings of the report:

  • Most of India experiences 12-66 days of a combination of potentially deadly heat and humidity, with hotspots along the east coast.
  • The wet-bulb temperature will cross the deadly threshold for six months or more in another nine decades.
    • 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.

Warnings of the report:

  • The report warned of a substantial worsening of the situation even by 2050.
  • The report also warns that in hot conditions, humans cool themselves by sweating; but if the humidity is too high, sweating no longer works, and the human also risks dangerous overheating.
  • Air can hold more moisture with more heat, and the combined impact of heat and humidity becomes critical. With more warming under climate change impact, the combined impact of heat and humidity is set to rise.
  • Heat and humidity combinations may also affect health and productivity. There are five physiological mechanisms, according to the report, which are triggered by heat exposure. They are,
    • Ischemia (reduced and restricted blood flow),
    • Heat cytotoxicity (cell death),
    • An inflammatory response (swelling),
    • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (abnormal blood clotting),
    • Rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle fibres).
      These mechanisms affect seven vital organs: the brain, heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs, and pancreas. “There are 27 lethal combinations of these mechanisms and organs that have been shown to be caused by heat,” the report said.
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