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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

The Hindu

Indian Express


Business Standard

GS Paper 3

Indian Express


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Puzzle out how to make vax ring-fences succeed

Source: Live Mint

Syllabus: GS 2 – Health and associated issues

Relevance: A forest fire-based ring-fence approach is useful to contain Covid spread also.

Synopsis: The concept of using vaccine rings to prevent Covid flare-ups deserves a try.


For the past two months, the deadly 2nd wave of Covid has been waning, but the number of daily infections is alarmingly high. Over the previous week, India reported an average of more than 42,000 daily new cases, approximately a tenth of our peak of over 414,000 on May 6.

What is ring vaccination?

The ongoing public immunisation program, which aims to reach all adults, is critical, but it will require twice the daily rate of a little over 4 million shots reported over the previous week.

  • Thus, center has written to states, requesting that “ring vaccination” be carried out in places where more than a tenth of all covid tests are positive. 
    • This will include selecting high-case zones within a wide radius of each outbreak. People here will be vaccinated on a priority basis. When a high-risk zone is surrounded by covid-resistant people, the virus will not be able to travel too far in any direction.
  • A ring-fence like this appears to be modeled after what is done in some countries to confine forest fires. Trees are chopped and an inert ‘moat’ is set around a wildfire to keep the flames from spreading.

What needs to be done?

  • Firstly, unique vaccine allotments and precise calculations of the size of a circle to vaccinate are needed, if the idea of a vax ring is to be tested.
  • Secondly, every flare speed up will have to be calculated and evaluated against the creation of antibodies. The time between dosages needs to be shortened because the latter is a much slower process. To maximize the effort, a lot of charting and planning would be required.
  • Thirdly, ring-fences rely on accurate data and their success would depend on the accuracy of the approach. At the time of the last count, India had 73 districts with a covid positivity rate of 10% or higher, with three-fifths in the northeast and a few in Kerala. Vaccines should be delivered quickly to these locations. 
    • A diagnostic scale-up will help, but we must also work to reduce the ‘image’ motivation for states to under count instances.
  • Lastly, we’d also require supporting data sources. Aarogya Setu app’s analysis of all-India data was supposed to provide us with early warnings of local outbreaks, but it has fallen short of that promise. This digital tracker could still be helpful if we rebuild it.

Ideas drawn from nudge theory could weaken a third covid wave

Source: Live mint 

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

Relevance: This article highlights the importance and effectiveness of behavioral interventions to bring about social change.


Well-designed behavioral interventions that guide people to make safe choices could potentially help India in the fight against pandemic. The use of nudge theory will help in combating vaccine hesitancy and lockdown fatigue. Thereby it will ensure greater vaccination and Covid appropriate behavior in the country. 


  • India is augmenting the availability of medical supplies and healthcare infrastructure across the country in order to combat the 3rd wave of Covid 19.
  • But the experience of other countries (Italy in April 2020, the UK in January 2021) shows that virus can cripple even the most well-equipped health systems. Once a wave emerges, it can quickly spiral into chaos.
  • Therefore, initiatives to bolster India’s healthcare infrastructure must be accompanied by actions to reduce the intensity of the wave itself. 

Reducing the intensity of waves:

  • India should focus on two key actions – administering vaccines and enforcing covid appropriate behavior until a substantial share of the population has been inoculated.
  • However, two obstacles will hinder the actions: Vaccine hesitancy and lockdown fatigue. Across the world, these two remain especially wicked problems—hard to break down, harder yet to solve. 
  • Nonetheless, these hindrances can be tackled using behavioral economics—specifically, the nudge theory.

About Nudge Theory:

  • Nudges are subtle interventions that help people make better decisions without restricting their choices.
    • For instance, the UK moved from a sign-up to an opt-out process for pension accounts in 2012. This simple change-induced more than 10 million people in the country to save for their retirement.
  • Nudge units are entities that work with governments to apply behavioral science to public policy. They help in formulation of effective nudging strategies as every detail counts: Text, visuals, colours, font size, placement, and communication channel.
    • Visuals: McKinsey’s research indicates that images of non-smokers playing with their grandchildren on cigarette packs can deter smokers more effectively than images of damaged lungs.
  • Nudges can be dramatically cost-effective. For instance, Virgin Atlantic famously spent only about $2,500 on a nudging intervention that helped it save $5.5 million in airline fuel costs over 8 months in 2014.
  • To be successful, nudges must effectively speak to the cultural and socioeconomic realities of their target audience.
  • Many countries have used them both before and during the pandemic to drive behavioural change at scale.

Use of Nudge Theory in tackling the Pandemic:

  • Last year’s ‘Happy Birthday’ sing-along nudge helped millions wash their hands long enough to make them virus-free. 
  • Similarly, many nudge units are now running studies to discover which nudges might help overcome vaccine hesitancy.
    • A recent study in Colombia by the UK’s nudge unit indicated the potential to increase vaccination numbers by 2.4 million or nearly 5% of that country’s population. 
    • For this, messages should be sent to people that countered their concerns about vaccine safety or appealed to their deep psychological needs.

How to use Nudge theory in India for tackling the Pandemic?

  • The project should be anchored by an independent team of experts convened by the center. This includes behavioural economists, neuroscientists, design thinking experts, researchers, digital marketers, etc.
  • Considering time will be of the essence, this team will need to be agile. It should add new capabilities and partners as it progresses. 
    • Further, it should adhere to a sprint approach: rapidly prototyping, testing, refining and then deploying the most promising solutions.
  • Given its scale, the effort would need all hands on deck. 
    • Telecom and e-commerce companies could provide a platform to directly connect with large sections of the population; 
    • Large media spenders could amplify messages; 
    • Social-sector organizations could work on grassroots activation; 
    • Influencers could power viral social media outreach; 
    • India Inc could provide the required tech infrastructure.

If successful, this effort could sow the seeds for the creation of India’s own nudge unit. In the long term, this unit could recommend and implement interventions to solve many complicated developmental challenges faced by our nation.

Tracking fugitives everywhere

Source: The Hindu 

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

Relevance: India’s criminal handling system should be aligned to catch fugitives within the country. Because once they leave the country, it becomes difficult to bring them back.


In the absence of a coordinated database, criminals can go undetected. Hence, robust tracking of fugitives demands the creation of a nationwide database of wanted persons, which should be accessible by the government agencies and the public.


  • Indian law on extradition is spread across the Indian Penal Code as well as various laws pertaining to narcotic drugs, Information Technology, hijacking, and so on.
  • Theoretically, there exists a system of tracking criminals worldwide through Interpol Notices and the sharing of immigration databases of different countries. 
  • However, there is no coordinated system or database for tracking criminals or wanted persons domestically.
    • Some police stations do initiate proceedings for attachment of property and declaration of the accused as proclaimed offenders. 
    • But the number of cases where coordinated efforts are made to pursue fugitives (domestically or internationally) are hardly documented.

Impact of not having a Domestic Database:

  • It is relatively easy for criminals from one police station/jurisdiction to mix into the population in any other area without being detected.
  • The absence creates a tendency to close investigations once the accused have absconded. This reduces the pendency of cases but undermines the administration of justice.

What should be done?

  • A nationwide database of wanted persons should be created, which could be accessible by the government agencies and the public.
    • The Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) and the National Intelligence Grid are efforts in the right direction, but more integration is desirable.
  • A nationwide system of ‘Wanted Person Notices’, similar to Interpol Notices, is required to track fugitives domestically. Countries like the US already have functional inter-State extradition and fugitive tracking systems.
  • The integration between immigration agencies, State police agencies, Interpol-New Delhi, the External Affairs Ministry, and Home Ministry should be enhanced.
  • Further India needs to sign more bilateral and multilateral conventions on criminal matters and extradition. 
    • All relevant legal processes and requirements should be incorporated into one consolidated law on international cooperation. This would restrain criminals from absconding abroad.
  • The entire gamut of activities pertaining to fugitives, from investigation to extradition, needs to be incorporated into a specialized setup with an Integrated International Cooperation Division (IICD) at the top. 
    • The IICD should have linkages with proposed fugitive tracking units at the State level. This would ensure the creation of desired forward-and-backward linkages.

The judicious choice

Source: Indian Express 

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

Relevance: This article emphasises ensuring the independence of the judiciary.


Selection of deserving judges is essential to ensure independence of the judiciary. The Collegium must do its best in this task in order to uphold the constitutional spirit and democratic ethos.


  • India is the largest democracy in the world thanks to the sacrifices of millions of freedom fighters.
  • Amongst the constitutional institutions designed to protect democracy, the judiciary occupies a significant place. However, there is little doubt that the judiciary is being challenged, from within and outside. 
  • The judiciary must shield itself from further erosion of its independence and competence by carefully following the law, as declared by the Supreme Court (SC) itself.

Judicial Pronouncements:

  • Second Judges Case (1993): The SC held that no appointment of SC or HC judge can be made unless it conforms with the opinion of the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
    • A Collegium system was devised for recommending the appointments; consisting of the CJI and the four senior-most judges of the SC and high courts.
    • This ensured that the opinion of the CJI is not merely his individual opinion, but an opinion formed collectively by a body of men at the apex level in the judiciary.
    • Further, the decision would preserve the independence of the judiciary which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. 
  • National Judicial Appointment Commision (NJAC) Case (2016):  The SC struck down NJAC. It strongly disapproved of any role for the political executive in the final selection and appointment of judges.
    • As per SC, NJAC may generate reciprocity and feelings of payback to the political executive, which would have been disastrous to the independence of the judiciary.

Dismal performance of Judiciary:

  • Candidates lacking in essential attributes have been appointed routinely, which has raised serious questions over the integrity of Collegium members.
  • Sadly, instead of selecting the best from amongst those available, compromises appear to have been repeatedly made in the past.
  • As per Justice HR Khanna, one of the new trends in judiciary is growing tilt in favor of upholding the orders of the Government.
  • The scenario is pointing towards the compromise of judicial independence, thereby undermining democracy and basic structure of the constitution.  

Way Ahead:

  • Judiciary must realize that there is a heavy burden on its shoulders. It should function in an independent and objective manner.
  • The judiciary should work to the best of its abilities and in consonance with the constitutional oath. This will help in upholding the rule of law and ensure prudent administration of justice.

Repeal UAPA

Source: Business Standard

Gs2: Important Aspects of Governance

Synopsis: The Statute of UAPA has no place in Democracy.


  • The death of the priest Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, offers the government an opportunity to revisit this 54-year-old law.
  • In its current form, the UAPA is out of sync with the country’s democratic credentials.

What are the issues with UAPA?

The UAPA in its current form is an inversion of basic legal precepts.

  • One, it enables the state to arrest and incarcerate citizens almost indefinitely.
  • Two, Bail under the law is extremely difficult to obtain, since courts are required to depend on police documents to presume the guilt of the accused.
    • Recent amendments extended the pre-charge sheet custody period from 90 days to 180 days but even this time period is observed more in the breach.
    • For instance, Stan Swamy was arrested under UAPA for alleged links with Maoist terror organisations, has been in prison for three years.
  • Three, it potentially reduces the economic ability of the accused to fight a legal case.
    • Because UAPA allows courts to provide for the attachment of property equivalent to the proceeds of terrorism involved in the offense.
  • Four, prone to be misused by the state.
    • According to the home ministry data, there has been a 72 percent increase in the number of arrests made under the UAPA between 2015 and 2019.
    • However, the conviction rate has only been roughly 2 percent, underlining the weak grounds on which these cases are built.

How Subsequent amendments strengthened UAPA?

  1. The UAPA became a terror law after amendments were introduced in 2004. But successive amendments between 2008, after the Mumbai terror attacks, and 2019 significantly expanded the scope of the Act.
  2. Currently, in its present form, the UAPA resembles the two previous and hugely controversial terror laws.
    1. One, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA).
      1. It was passed against the backdrop of the turmoil in Punjab. However, It was allowed to lapse in 1995 after being criticized by human rights activists for giving the security agencies the freedom to arrest and torture citizens.
    2. Two, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). It allowed, among other things, confessions obtained by the police to be submitted in evidence. Even this law was allowed to lapse in 2004 due to rising criticism against its misuse by some states.
  3. The 2019 amendment strengthened the UAPA more. It allowed the government to name individuals as terrorists. Previously, only organizations could be given this tag.

Court’s View

  • Recently, the Delhi High Court granted bail to three student protesters arrested under this law.
  • In its ruling, the court reminded the government of the distinction between protests, which are a legitimate activity in a functioning democracy, and an act of terrorism.

India is increasingly being placed in the same league as regimes in Hungary, Turkey, Brazil, and the Philippines for its authoritarian rule. Repealing the UAPA would be a good way of regaining the country’s reputation.

Troubling prospects in Afghanistan

Source: The Hindu

 GS2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

Relevance: Resolution of the Afghan issue is important for ascertaining peace in South Asia. India will also suffer from the spillover of this issue.

Synopsis: An air of uncertainty surrounds Afghanistan, and it needs to think over the future of its land.


  • The United States recently handed over the Bagram airbase to the Afghan authorities.
  • It marked a symbolic end to its military presence of the U.S.A.
  • However, forces completed their withdrawal ahead of the September 11 deadline, announced by the American President.

What are the consequences of the USA’s intervention?

  • First, it was a costly misadventure of the USA.
    • No one predicted that the USA’s military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 would get embroiled in an endless war for 20 years and
    • Now to exit safely, it negotiated with the Taliban.
  • Secondly, the war effort has cost over billions and the USA has also spent on reconstruction, security forces, governance and on counter-narcotics and humanitarian relief works.
  • Third, the real price of war has been paid by the Afghans.
    • Afghans bear the brunt of 130 daily Taliban/IS Khorasan (IS-K) attacks.
  • Lastly, socio-economic developments are at risk due to the growth of Taliban.
    • Today, eight million children attend school and a third are girls.
    • Literacy is up from 12% in 2002 to 35%.
    • Life expectancy from 40 to 63 years.
    • Urbanisation is 26%.
    • Today, tarred roads cover 10,000 miles.
    • Infant mortality rates are down from 20% by over half.
    • With a median age of 18.5 years, a majority of Afghans have grown up in a post-Taliban era.

How Taliban gained legitimacy?

  • Firstly, the objective was to build a stable, strong, effectively governed Afghanistan.
    • However, the U.S. shifted from counter-terrorism to counter-insurgency, Afghanistan turned into Vietnam.
    • Eventually, U.S. President Barack Obama diluted the objective to preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for global terrorism.
    • He oversaw a successful operation to eliminate Osama bin Laden in 2011, implemented an unsuccessful military surge concluding with an end to combat operations in end-2014 and Taliban opened the Doha office in 2013.
  • Secondly, S. President Donald Trump saw himself as a deal-maker and initiated direct negotiations with the Taliban by setting out four elements.
    • A ceasefire.
    • Cutting ties with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
    • Intra-Afghan peace talks.
    • A withdrawal of all foreign military forces,
  • Thirdly, slowly the Taliban had cut down the U.S. demands and got a withdrawal timeline not linked to the other factors.
  • Lastly, the U.S. President Joe Biden was convinced that the U.S. had to exit from its forever wars.

This way the U.S. ended up legitimising the Taliban at the expense of the government.

Challenges ahead:

  • Civil war due to hasty withdrawal: The U.S. commander in Afghanistan indicated that Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualised.
  • Increasing Taliban presence: The Taliban military strategy has been to target districts that enable them to surround provincial capitals.
  • Power sharing: there is no clue about changes in Taliban ideology and Taliban unity as the distances have grown between the Quetta shura, the Doha negotiators and the fighters who want to guard their individual preserves.
  • Question about integrity: If opportunistic leaders are tempted to strike their own deals with the Taliban, it will hasten the collapse.
  • The Pakistan factor: there are question about Pakistan’s role and its persuading abilities.
    • Is Pakistan still seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan, or has it realised that a Taliban-dominated Kabul will home be for extremists.

Hence, hasty withdrawal of the USA has left the Afghanistan and its immediate neighbours in an uncertain scenario.

Terms to know: Durand line

GS Paper 3

The sentiment boost that India’s economy is in need of

Source-Live Mint

Syllabus- GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development

Relevance: The article explains the areas, the government should focus, for achieving desirable economic growth.

Synopsis – A more rapid vaccination drive, greater government spending, and a reduction in fuel cess might help in the economic recovery and uplifting the public sentiment.

Factors that could boost sentiment and play a crucial role in strengthening the economic recovery-

  • First, Faster vaccination is critical for economic recovery – If India is able to vaccinate two-thirds of its population and attain herd immunity, the economic outlook will be brighter.
    • Possible Solution: This can be achieved by increasing the vaccination rate to 6 million per day in the second quarter of 2021-22 and increased to 8 million in the third. Then all adult populations should receive both vaccine doses by early February 2022.
  • Second, Government spending – The government spent Rs.2.7 trillion in April 2021, which was 26 percent less than the Rs.3.07 trillion it spent in the year-ago month. The government’s revenue spending fell by 35.6 percent y-o-y to roughly Rs.1.8 trillion in April 2021.
    • Furthermore, despite record tax collections, the government reduced the state’s share in Central taxes. Lower devolution of taxes by the Centre [in April 2021] has affected the ability of the state governments to spend.
    • Possible solution: If the monthly devolution is increased by the Centre to the states, it may encourage states to accelerate capital spending.
  • Third, Reduction in fuel cess can boost sentiment – Fuel cess reductions would provide a monetary policy with more room to support a recovery in growth.
    • Lowering fuel prices would also help to mitigate some financial burdens on consumers, allowing for a more rapid recovery in consumer sentiment and spending.
    • Possible Solution: According to ICRA, The GOI will get Rs.40000 Crore revenue through higher collection of cess. If the government decides to forego this additional cess collection, it can reduce the cesses by Rs 4.5 per litre, and help contain the inflation situation.
Terms to know: Monetary Policy Committee 

Civil society must accept its failure to hold government accountable

Source: Indian Express

GS-Paper -2: Development Processes and the Development Industry — the Role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

Relevance: Civil societies work as an important pillar for strengthening democracy and governance.

Synopsis:  Not strengthening civil society organisations and the deepening of checks and balances work will result in governance failure. This address must be resolved immediately.


India’s civil society consists of

  1. Grassroots organisations that connect to the last mile and provide essential services
  2. Think tanks and academic institutions that produce new policy ideas and generate evidence.
  3. Advocacy organisations that build support for causes
  4. Large impact funds and philanthropists who decide how these organisations get funded.

What are the issues with the functioning of Civil society organisations in India?

  • First, successive governments in India have significantly curtailed the kind of activities that civil society actors can engage in. For instance,
    • Philanthropists and donor organisations often find themselves unable to support initiatives that strengthen India’s democracy and its accountability mechanisms, for fear of retribution.
  • Second, many civil society actors focus on engaging with narrow policy problems by ignoring the politics around policy and focussing disproportionately on technocratic solutions. For instance,
    • A report by McKinsey and Company estimated that close to 90 percent of total donor interest in India was targeted towards primary education, primary healthcare, rural infrastructure, and disaster relief.
    • Whereas, areas such as human rights and governance are left with minimal funding.

What needs to be done?

  • Need to re-examine parliamentary rules that are heavily tilted in favour of the ruling government.
  • Need to strengthen the judiciary, bolster federalism and the independent media.
  • Further, need to create transparency in decision-making within the executive.
  • Philanthropists need to fund initiatives that empower citizens, build fair processes, call for responsive policy, strengthen information and communication networks, and bolster social cohesion.
  • Civil society organisations too, need to broaden their agenda. It should include issues that strengthen India’s institutions by demanding more transparency and accountability in all areas and levels of policymaking.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Human-wildlife conflict among greatest threats to animal species: WWF and UNEP report

Source: Down to Earth

What is the news?

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), have released a new report titled – A future for all – the need for human-wildlife coexistence. 

Key findings

Conflict between humans and animals is one of the main threats to the long-term survival of some of the world’s most iconic species.

  • Human-wildlife conflict, in combination with other threats, has driven the significant decline of species that were once abundant and species that are naturally less abundant, have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Global wildlife populations have fallen an average of 68% since 1970
  • Such impact not limited just to wildlife. It would also affect humans who lived alongside wild animals, especially in developing countries rich in biodiversity. It could cause injury, death or loss of livelihood
  • Completely eradicating human-wildlife conflict was not possible. But well-planned, integrated approaches to managing it can reduce conflicts and lead to a form of coexistence between people and animals.
Findings wrt India
  • India will be most-affected by human-wildlife conflict, the report said. This was because it had the world’s second-largest human population as well as large populations of tigers, Asian elephants, one-horned rhinos, Asiatic lions and other species.
  • Human-Elephant conflict: India’s elephants probably reflect the scale of the problem the best. The animals are restricted to just 3-4% of their original habitat. Their remaining range is plagued by deforestation, invasive species and climate change.
    • The animals are thus pushed to find food outside of protected areas where they clash with humans. This, in turn, causes the deaths of humans as well as loss of livelihoods for their families. The report gave the example of Sonitpur district in Assam. Here, destruction of forests had forced elephants to raid crops, in turn causing deaths of both, elephants and humans.
  • In response, WWF India had developed the ‘Sonitpur Model’ during 2003-2004 by which community members were connected with the state forest department. They were given training on how to work with them to drive elephants away from crop fields safely.
  • WWF India had also developed a low-cost, single strand, non-lethal electric fence to ease the guarding of crops from elephants.
  • Such initiatives had brought dividends and helped in reducing crop losses to zero for four years running. Human and elephant deaths also reduced significantly.

Terms to know:


  • It is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
  • HQ: Gland, Switzerland.
  • Its mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
  • The Living Planet Report is published every 2 years by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Indian Navy’s reluctance to vacate spectrum likely to delay 5G auction

Source: Business Standard

What is the news?

The Indian Navy has expressed reservations in vacating 100 MHz (from the 3300 MHz – 3400 MHz) band of the spectrum, proposed to be sold in the tender expected next year. This could delay the Centre’s plans to proceed with the 5G auctions in 2022.

Why Indian Navy is not vacating the spectrum band?

The 3300 MHz-3600 MHz (or 3.3GHz-3.6GHz) will be auctioned for the first time in the proposed 5G auctions, likely next year. This frequency is halfway between the existing WiFi bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) and is used by naval radar systems and for satellite ground communications.

Work on India’s first dolphin research centre to start in Patna post-monsoon

Source: Down To Earth

What is the news?

The construction work on India’s first dolphin research centre is to commence in Patna after the monsoon this year. The National Dolphin Research Centre is coming up on the 4,400 square metre plot of land on the premises of Patna University, near the banks of the Ganga.  Recently, the Bihar urban development department has recently cleared the construction of NDRC’s building about 200 metres from the Ganga. 

About National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC):

  • Bihar is home to around half of the estimated 3,000 Gangetic dolphins in India
  • During the mid-2011 and early 2012 Montek Singh Ahulwalia, then-deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, had approved the proposal to set up NDRC as he was impressed by the sight of dolphins along the 22 km stretch of the Ganga. But the construction has been delayed so far.

Advantages of setting up NDRC:

  • The National Dolphin Research Centre would boost conservation efforts for river dolphins and would provide an opportunity for in-depth research on them.  This includes dolphin’s changing behaviour, survival skills, food habits, cause of death and other aspects.

About Gangetic Dolphin: 

  • The Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal.  
  • It is a Schedule I animal under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.  
  • It has been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 
  • The Gangetic river dolphin is one of four freshwater dolphin species in the world.  
  • The other three are found in the Yangtze River in China (now extinct), the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river in South America. 
  • The dolphin is found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It is blind and finds its way and prey in river waters through echolocation.  
  • Dolphins prefer water that is at least five to eight feet deep. They are usually found in turbulent waters, where there are enough fish for them to feed on. 
  • Gangetic dolphins live in a zone where there is little or no current, helping them save energy. If they sense danger, they can dive into deep waters. The dolphins swim from the no-current zone to the edges to hunt for fish and return.

Cabinet approves modifications in financing facility under ‘Agriculture Infrastructure Fund’

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Union Cabinet has approved modifications to the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) to increase investment.

About Agriculture Infrastructure Fund(AIF):

  • Agriculture Infrastructure Fund(AIF) is a Central Sector Scheme launched by the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare(DAC&FW), Ministry of Agriculture.
  • Aim: To provide medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects. This includes post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets through incentives and financial support.

Key Changes approved under the Scheme:

Extension of Eligibility:

  • Eligibility for credit under the scheme has been extended to State Agencies/ APMCs, National & State Federations of Cooperatives, Federations of Farmers Producers Organizations(FPOs) and Federations of Self Help Groups (SHGs).

Interest Subvention:

  • At present, Interest subvention for a loan upto Rs. 2 crore in one location is eligible under the scheme.
  • However, from now on entities would be able to get interest subvention of 3% per annum not just for one loan up to ₹2 crores but for multiple projects at different locations.
  • But for a private sector entity, there will be a limit of a maximum of 25 such projects. This limitation of 25 projects will not be applicable to State agencies, national and state federations of cooperatives, federations of FPOs, and federation of SHGs.
  • Further, for APMCs, interest subvention for a loan upto Rs. 2 crores will be provided for each project of different infrastructure types e.g. cold storage, sorting, grading, and assaying units, silos within the same market yard.


  • The power to make necessary changes with regard to the addition or deletion of beneficiaries has been delegated to the Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.

Duration of the Scheme:

  • The period of the financial facility has been extended from 4 to 6 years up to 2025-26.
  • The overall period of the scheme has been extended from 10 to 13 years, i.e upto 2032-33.

Deaths by exposure to hazardous chemicals increased 29% between 2016 and 2019: WHO

Source: Down To Earth

What is the News?

The World Health Organization(WHO) has released estimates on the Impact of hazardous chemicals on Public Health.

Key Findings:

Deaths due to Hazardous Chemicals Exposure:

  • Deaths due to exposure to hazardous chemicals worldwide have increased by 29% in 2019 from what they were in 2016.
    • Two million people died due to exposure to hazardous chemicals in 2019, compared to 1.56 million in 2016.
  • Around 4,270 and 5,400 people died every day due to unintentional exposure to chemicals.
  • Children and young adults are particularly affected by unintentional poisoning from hazardous chemicals.

Lead Exposure:

  • Lead is primarily used in paints for various reasons, including enhancing the color, reducing corrosion and decreasing the drying time.
  • Lead exposure causes cardiovascular diseases(CVD), chronic kidney diseases, and idiopathic intellectual disability.
  • Further, Lead is responsible for nearly 45% or close to half of deaths caused due to hazardous chemicals in 2019.
  • Over 0.9 million people died from exposure to lead. Of these, close to 9 out of every 10 persons died from CVD due to lead exposure.
    • The deaths due to lead exposure have increased by a disturbing 67% since 2016.

Note: In 2020, UNICEF in its report “The Toxic Truth” had raised concerns on the impact of lead pollution on the health of children. According to the report, at least 1 in 3 children — up to approximately 800 million globally — have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per decilitre(µg/dL).

Deaths due to other Hazardous Chemicals:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD) from exposure to occupational particulates including dust, fumes, and gas has claimed over 0.5 million lives.
  • Over 3.5 million died from cancers due to occupational exposure to carcinogenic chemicals like arsenic, asbestos, and benzene.

Disability-adjusted life-years lost too

  • In 2019, 53 million disability-adjusted life-years were lost due to Hazardous chemicals’ exposure. This is an increase of over 19% since 2016.
    • The disability-adjusted life year(DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability, or early death.
  • In 2019, 21.6 million disability-adjusted life-years were lost due to lead exposure. This is an increase by over 56% since 2016.

Steps to be taken by World and India:

  • India must bring a comprehensive law to regulate chemical use, production, and safety. However, India’s national chemical policy has been pending since 2012.
  • Moreover, the world is lagging behind in controlling lead use. Just 41% of countries including India have legally binding controls on the production, import, sale, and use of lead paints.

From Assam, a new underground spider

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

Researchers have discovered two new species of spiders, namely Gravelyia boro and Dexippus kleini from Jharbari range of western Assam’s Chirang Reserve Forest.

About Gravelyia boro:

  • The Gravelyia boro is a burrow spider. It belongs to the Nemesiidae family which comprises 184 species worldwide.
  • Features: The burrow spider lives underground, about 10-15 cm below the sandy-loam surface.
  • The name “Gravelyia boro” has been derived from the Bodo community, one of the largest ethnolinguistic groups in Assam.

About Dexippus kleini:

  • Dexippus kleini is an oriental jumping spider. It belongs to the Salticidae, the largest family of all spiders on earth.
  • This spider has been recorded for the first time since its original description 129 years ago by Swedish arachnologist in Sumatra, Indonesia.
  • Features: The jumping spider is a slow mover, but capable of jumping up to 25 mm in length to hunt its prey.

Other Discoveries:

Stoliczkia vanhnuailianai:

  • Stoliczkia vanhnuailianai is a non-venomous snake discovered in a dried-up area of Tuinghaleng river bed in Mizoram.
  • The snake belongs to the Stoliczkia genus and is only the third species of Stoliczkia from India.
  • Named after: The snake has been named as Stoliczkia vanhnuailianai, in honour of Vanhnuailiana, a famous Mizo warrior.
  • Features: The snake is about 50 cm in length and has a dark brown shade above with a few dorsal scale rows bright yellow in colour. Though the head scales are uniformly dark brown, it has bright pinkish sutures.

Significance: The researchers have also named the snake as ‘Lushai hills dragon snake’. In the local Mizo language, it is called rulphusin, meaning ‘snake with small scales’

What UAE’s Hope orbiter tells us about discrete auroras on Mars?

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

UAE’s Hope Spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars, has captured images of glowing atmospheric lights in the Red Planet’s night sky known as discrete auroras.

What are Auroras?

  • Auroras are a mysterious and unpredictable display of light in the night sky.

What causes an Aurora on Earth?

  • Auroras are caused when charged particles ejected from the Sun’s surface — called the solar wind — enter the Earth’s atmosphere. These particles are harmful, and our planet is protected by the geomagnetic field, which preserves life by shielding us from the solar wind.
  • However, at the north and south poles, some of these solar wind particles are able to continuously stream down and interact with different gases in the atmosphere to cause a display of light in the night sky.
  • This display of Light is known as aurora. They are seen from the Earth’s high latitude regions (called the auroral oval) and are active all year round.
  • In the northern part of our globe, these lights are called aurora borealis or Northern Lights. In the south, they are called aurora australis or southern lights.

Do other planets get auroras?

  • Auroras are not just something that happens on Earth. If a planet has an atmosphere and magnetic field, they probably have auroras.

Discrete Auroras on Mars:

  • Unlike auroras on Earth, which are seen only near the north and south poles, Discrete Auroras (DA) on Mars are seen all around the planet at nighttime.

How are Discrete Auroras Different?

  • Unlike Earth, which has a strong magnetic field, the Mars magnetic field has largely died out. This is because the molten iron at the interior of the planet – which produces magnetism – has cooled.
  • However, the Martian crust, which hardened billions of years ago when the magnetic field still existed, retains some magnetism.
  • So, in contrast with Earth, which acts like one single bar magnet, magnetism on Mars is unevenly distributed, with fields strewn across the planet and differing in direction and strength.
  • These disjointed fields channel the solar wind to different parts of the Martian atmosphere, creating “discrete” auroras over the entire surface of the planet as charged particles interact with atoms and molecules in the sky– as they do on Earth.

Significance of studying Martian Auroras:

  • Studying Martian auroras is important for scientists, for it can offer clues as to why Mars lost its magnetic field and thick atmosphere– among the essential requirements for sustaining life.
Terms to know: UAE’s Hope orbiter 

Cairn says it has got court nod to attach 20 Indian assets in Paris

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

Britain’s Cairn Energy Company has secured an order from a French court authorising the freezing of 20 Indian government properties in Paris valued at over 20 million euros.

What is the issue all about?

  • In 2006-07, Cairn UK had transferred shares of Cairn India Holdings to Cairn India, on which Income Tax authorities slapped a tax demand of Rs 24,500 crore on the grounds that Cairn UK had made capital gains.
    • Capital Gains Tax is a tax on the profit realized on the sale of a non-inventory asset. The most common capital gains are realized from the sale of stocks, bonds, precious metals, real estate, and property
  • However, due to different interpretations of capital gains, the company refused to pay the tax, which prompted cases being filed at the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) and the Delhi High Court.
  • In 2012, the Indian government then retrospectively amended the tax code, giving itself the power to go after mergers and acquisitions(M&A) deals all the way back to 1962 if the underlying asset was in India.
  • The retrospective tax demanded by the Indian government was challenged by Cairn Energy Plc in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague.

What was the PCA ruling? The judgment went in favour of the Cairns company. The court ruled that:

  • The Indian government must pay roughly Rs. 8,000 crore in damages to Cairn.
  • Cairn Tax Issue was not just a tax-related issue but an investment-related dispute, and therefore the issue comes under its jurisdiction.
  • India’s demand in past taxes was in breach of fair treatment under the UK-India Bilateral Investment Treaty.

Moreover, Cairn can use the arbitration award to approach courts in countries such as the UK, France or US  to seize any property owned by India overseas to recover the money if the award is not honored.

What has happened now?

  • Cairn Energy has secured a French court order allowing it to freeze at least 20 Indian properties in central Paris.
  • However, the Government of India has denied the knowledge of the order. It said that it has filed an appeal against the tribunal decision of the Permanent Court at The Hague delivered in December 2020.

What is Retrospective Taxation?

  • Retrospective taxation allows a country to pass a rule on taxing certain products, items or services and deals and charge companies from a time behind the date on which the law is passed.
  • Countries use this route to correct any anomalies in their taxation policies that have, in the past, allowed companies to take advantage of such loopholes.

MoD launches SPARSH for sanction and disbursement of defence pension

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Ministry of Defence has launched SPARSH (System for Pension Administration Raksha) Portal.

About SPARSH Portal:

  • SPARSH is an integrated system for automation of sanction and disbursement of defence pension.
  • The portal processes pension claims and credits pension directly into the bank accounts of defence pensioners without relying on any external intermediary.
  • The portal is also available for pensioners to view their pension related information, access services and register complaints for redressal of grievances.
  • As part of the SPARSH system, Service Centres will be established to provide last mile connectivity to pensioners who may be unable to directly access the SPARSH portal for any reason.
  • In addition to several offices of the Defence Accounts Department, which are already functioning as Service Centres for pensioners, the two largest banks State Bank of India(SBI) and Punjab National Bank (PNB) – have been selected as Service Centres.

Cabinet approves “India COVID 19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Package: Phase II”

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Union Cabinet has approved a new scheme ‘India COVID-19 Emergency Response & Health System Preparedness Package: Phase-II’ for FY 2021-22.

Objectives of the Scheme:

  • The scheme aims to accelerate the health system’s preparedness by providing an immediate response for early prevention, detection, and management with the focus on health infrastructure development including pediatric care.

Duration of the Scheme:

  • The scheme would be implemented from July 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.

Components: The scheme has Central Sector (CS) and Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) components. These include:

Central Sector(CS) Component: Under this, support would be provided for:

  • Setting up Covid exclusive beds at Central Hospitals, AIIMS, and other Institutions of National Importance
  • Providing Genome Sequencing machines to National Centre for Disease Control(NCDC).
  • Implementation of Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) in all the District Hospitals of the Country
  • Expanding the National Architecture of Sanjevani Tele-consultation platform
  • Information Technology(IT) interventions including strengthening of the Central War room, COVID-19 Portal, and 1075 COVID helplines.

Centrally Sponsored Schemes(CSS) Components: Under this, States/UTs would be supported to:

  • Create Paediatric units in all districts and also establish Paediatric Centre of Excellence.
  • Build 20,000 ICU beds in the public healthcare system, out of which 20% will be Pediatric ICU beds.
  • Install Liquid Medical Oxygen(LMO) Storage Tanks with an aim to support at least one such unit per district.
  • Increase the existing feet of ambulances – 8,800 ambulances will be added under the package.
  • Engage Undergraduate and postgraduate medical interns

Flexible support to the Districts for meeting the requirement of essential medicines for COVID-19 management

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