9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – June 15th, 2022
We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- Down To Earth
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
- It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Dictates for doctors
- An ideal approach to social media grievance redressal
- The way to end child marriage
- Malnutrition in India is a worry in a modern scenario
- China wants a larger BRICS to challenge the existing international order
GS Paper 3
- Needed: A PM’s council for human development
- Patently false: WTO debate on waiving vax IPR misses the point. Equitable access needs quick tech transfer
- Agnipath will lead to a leaner military, savings in pensions. But there are challenges beyond the bold step forward,
- Biomass co-firing: Why India’s target for coal power plants is challenging
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Air Quality Life Index: Indians losing 5 years of life due to air pollution: Study
- New evidence emerges on how Mayas fortified maize, built indoor toilets
- Union Minister releases the second edition of the National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment 2021, NeSDA 2021
- Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS) – Annual Report
- Cabinet approves Agreement between India and United Nations on a ‘Way Finding Application’ to be used in the Palais des Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva
- Cabinet clears Agnipath Scheme
- Elephant deaths due to collisions: New plan to save jumbos from train hits
- Drone Certification Scheme: Union Aviation Minister awards first Type Certificate under Drone Rules, 2021 to Gurugram-based IoTechWorld
- India appears to be expanding its nuclear arsenal, claims SIPRI
- Elderly lack financial, social security: study
- LaMDA: Can the new Google chatbot be sentient?
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Source: This post is based on the article “Dictates for doctors” published in The Hindu on 15th June 22.
Syllabus: GS2 – Govt policies and interventions
Relevance: Medical sector in India and related issues
News: The National Medical Commission (NMC) has published a draft of the regulations it proposes for the professional conduct of doctors and invited comments by June 22.
The draft regulations have overlapping with the existing regulations of the erstwhile Medical Council of India.
What are the constituents of the draft regulations?
Chapters 2 to 6 deal with the a) professional conduct of doctors, b) the duties of registered medical practitioners towards their patients, c) the responsibilities of doctors to each other, d) the responsibilities of doctors to the public and allied health professionals, and professional misconduct, respectively.
The guidelines are a mix of templates for certificates and extensive instructions.
It is interesting that guideline 3, the NMC code of medical ethics, has dropped the controversial Charak Shapath and returned to the Declaration of Geneva. This is a wise move. India is a founder member of the World Medical Association and contributed to the drafting of the declaration.
What are some associated issues?
Patient records: Every registered medical practitioner will have to maintain patient records for three years from the last consultation.
– This will be difficult to implement for most general practitioners who provide high-quality services at low prices and depend on high volumes of patients to earn a decent income.
– It will reduce the number of patients who can be attended to, add considerably to costs, and delay treatment.
This measure is unwise and should be withdrawn.
Informed consent: In the section on informed consent, the statement that “in an operation that may result in sterility, the consent of both husband and wife is required” is poorly thought out and must be redrafted.
– It is possible that the person requiring such surgery may be single. Even if the individual is married, this regulation is contrary to the principle of individual autonomy.
The guidelines on continuous professional development resemble a decree. All practitioners of medicine need to keep abreast of evolving knowledge in medicine to provide competent care to patients. Such continuing education cannot be a repetition of college education. The rules suggested demonstrate a schoolteacher’s approach with excessive regulation and control.
– Medical practitioners are mature learners and do not need the stick to be forced to learn.
The blanket prohibition on medical practitioners participating in educational activities sponsored directly or indirectly by pharmaceutical companies and the allied health sector will severely restrict access to the latest developments.
In the guidelines on social media, the prohibition of sending scan images on social media will considerably impair communication and needs rethinking.
The guidelines on telemedicine read more like a briefing paper than a guideline. It is one of the most elaborate sections and there is some repetition, but it provides a good framework.
There is a lack of harmony in the draft. The first part, the regulations, read like typical bureaucratese.
In summary, the draft needs extensive reworking.
Source: This post is based on the article “An ideal approach to social media grievance redressal” published in Livemint on 13th June 22.
Syllabus: GS2 – Govt policies and interventions
Relevance: IT rules, Intermediary guidelines
News: Recently, the govt released a set of draft amendments to the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
Once enacted, digital intermediaries will have to ensure that the community standards to which they hold their users answerable comply with Indian law and India’s constitutional principles.
This, the govt clarified, has become necessary because a number of intermediaries have taken it upon themselves to act in violation of the rights of Indian citizens.
What has been proposed in the draft amendment?
Constitution of a Grievance Appellate Committee: It will be tasked with dealing with “problematic content” in an expeditious manner.
– Users unsatisfied with how their complaint to an intermediary has been handled will be able to appeal the decision at this body. And have it resolved within 30 days.
For more: Read here
Are the draft amendments a threat to free speech ?
In the view of civil society, the proposal of setting up a Grievance Appellate Committee is being called as yet another attempt by the government to either curtail or interfere with free speech.
– What the government sees as an escalation mechanism to provide redress to users against unfair decisions of the social media platforms they subscribe to, many members of civil society view as just another tool of government censorship.
Moreover, if an appeal is made by a government agency whose take-down notice has been rebuffed, it is likely that a government-appointed appellate committee will rule in favor of its own agency.
Need for the Grievance appellate committee: Not all appeals to the Grievance Appellate Committee will be about government take-downs. Some will address illegal content—like violations of copyright. Hence, allowing social media platforms to have last word on all such content moderation issues is problematic.
As much as social media platforms are designed to enable free speech, they must also eliminate—or at least mitigate—the harms that could arise from speech unfettered.
They need to arrive at a balance between the rights of persons who post and those they offend.
The industry can establish a self-regulatory appellate body to which appeals from all content moderation decisions can be referred. The government has already indicated that it is open to considering self-regulatory alternatives.
– It could be staffed with experts from industry and the domain of law, so that its decisions will be sufficiently robust, i.e. informed both by industry context and applicable laws and judicial precedents taken into account.
– Ideally, this body should operate as an appellate forum for all content moderation decisions, regardless of the platform from which the appeal originates. This will keep it beyond the power hierarchy of the platforms themselves, offering the process a measure of independence that is absent in internal grievance redressal systems.
– Since it will not be operated by the government, it will, hopefully, have the neutrality required to remain impartial while deciding on take-down notices issued by the government.
Source: The post is based on an article “The way to end child marriage” published in the “The Hindu” on 15th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 – Social issues
Relevance: Child Marriage and related issues
News: Recently, the government has increased the age of marriage of women in India from 18 to 21 years, as a delayed marriage might offer significant public health dividends and substantive benefits at the individual and societal levels.
Benefit of increasing age of marriage
There is a significant association between early marriage and adverse health and educational outcomes of women and their children.
Early marriage of women leads to early pregnancy. Further, it leads to lower likelihood of accessing ante-natal care, higher risks of maternal morbidity and mortality, poor nutritional status of women and poor nutritional outcome. In addition, it leads to poor educational outcomes of children.
Is increasing the legal age of marriage enough?
As per NFHS-5 data, about 25% of women aged 18-29 years married before the legal marriageable age of 18. It means that the legally mandated age of 18 has not been complied.
West Bengal has the highest prevalence (42%), followed by Bihar and Tripura (40% each). Oddly, the decline in child marriage has been paltry at best in these high-prevalence States. At the other end of the spectrum are Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala (6% to 7%).
What are the ultimate factors?
The association between child marriage and adverse health outcomes is based on structural factors, which includes, social norms, poverty, and women’s education.
(1) The social norms compel the parents to begin preparations for a girl’s marriage once she has reached menarche. For example, 39% of child marriages take place among Adivasis and Dalits, 17% among advantaged social groups and the remaining among Other Backward Classes (OBC).
(2) The poverty plays an important role in child marriages. It is aimed to avoid the burden of the huge costs of dowry associated with delayed marriages. For example, 58% take place among the poorest wealth groups, about 40% of them take place among the middle 50% and only 2% of them take place among the top 10% of wealth groups.
(3) Education outcomes: Only 4% of child marriages in India take place among women who have completed more than 12 years of education. A significant proportion of child marriages takes place among women with less than 12 years of schooling.
Is increasing the legal age of marriage enough to improve the health outcomes?
A mere increase in age at marriage without an increase in education is not going to give good result. For example,
As per NFHS-5, Around 27% of illiterate women who married before 18 years, and around 24% of illiterate women who married at the age of 21 years are underweight.
However, women with 12 years of schooling married before 18 years and at 21 years have hardly any difference in underweight prevalence (14% and 13%, respectively).
The child marriage is substantially lower among women with a higher level of schooling. Therefore, an increase in years of schooling would increase the age at marriage.
– Therefore, the government should focus more on increasing education in addition to increasing the age of marriage. If education is not improved, it might adversely impact the poor and illiterate.
– It would be advisable that women complete education at least up to 12 years. For example, Bangladesh improved women’s education and imparted modern skills to increase their employability, which reduced child marriage and improves health and nutrition.
The schemes should ease the financial burden of marriage. The eligibility criteria of these schemes should include educational attainment in addition to age.
In the absence of an improvement in women’s schooling or skills, a legalistic approach to ending child marriage might become counterproductive.
Source: The post is based on an article “Malnutrition in India is a worry in a modern scenario” published in the “The Hindu” on 15th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 Social Sector; health Sector, Poverty and hunger
News: Even after 75 years of independence, India is still struggling to meet the nutritional needs.
Stunting is defined as low height-for-age
Wasting is defined as low weight-for-height
Anaemia is defined as the condition in which the number of red blood cells (RBCs) or the haemoglobin (Hb) concentration within them is lower than normal.
What is the finding of NFHS-5?
Marginal improvement: As per the survey, there has been marginal improvement across the nutrition indicators in India since the findings of the NFHS-4.
What are the factors behind poor nutritional outcomes?
A child’s nutritional status is directly linked to their mother. Poor nutrition among pregnant women affects the nutritional status of the child and has a greater chance to affect future generations.
What are the issues?
The progress in tackling malnutrition among children and women over the past decade has been slow. This has been despite declining rates of poverty, increased self-sufficiency in food production, and the implementation of a range of government programmes.
Children in several States are more undernourished now than they were five years ago.
(1) Since NFHS-4, 13 States or UTs (including Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Kerala) have seen an increase in stunted children.
(2) Wasting, the most visible and life-threatening form of malnutrition, has either risen or has remained stagnant over the years.
(3) India also has the highest prevalence of anaemia in the world. More than 57% of women (15-49 years) and over 67% children (six-59 months) suffer from anaemia.
What are the consequences of poor nutritional outcomes?
Anaemia has major consequences in terms of human health and development. It reduces the work capacity of individuals. This in turn impact the economy and overall national growth. For example, India loses up to 1.18% of GDP per annum due to iron deficiency anaemia.
Undernourished children are at risk of under-performing in studies and have limited job prospects.
The workforce, affected mentally and physically, has reduced work capacity. This vicious cycle restrains the development of the country.
The investment in women and children’s health and nutrition should be increased. This will ensure their sustainable development and improved quality of life.
India must adopt an outcome-oriented approach on all the nutrition programmes.
The parliamentarians should monitor interventions in their constituencies. All nutritionally vulnerable groups at the local level should be engaged. If individual persons are made aware about the nutritional aspects. They will become an agent of change.
The programmes should be monitored and evaluated. The systemic challenges should be addressed.
There should be a committee on nutritional status which should meet and deliberate over effective policy decisions, monitor the implementation of schemes, and review nutritional status across States.
The government should involve all the stakeholders and contribute towards ending malnutrition and anaemia.
Source: The post is based on an article “China wants a larger BRICS to challenge the existing international order” published in the Indian Express on 15th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 International Order, Regional Grouping, Multilateral Forum
News: Recently, a virtual meeting of BRICS+ foreign ministers was held in which representatives of various countries participated and it was proposed to expand the BRICS membership.
What was proposed?
It was decided that this is an opportune time to expand BRICS and challenge the domain of the G7 by including members from the G20.
In 2022, China is taking the lead and setting the agenda for BRICS expansion. It has been working with the 2022 theme of “Foster High-quality BRICS Partnership, Usher in a New Era for Global Development”.
Why is there a proposal for expansion of BRICS?
The BRICS expansion is part of China’s strategic challenge to the international order and to collect middle powers around them.
The fashion of competitive plurilateral form is visible because the cracks in the G20 are looming. The world is facing convulsions in the international order. It has been heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the hardening of Western positions.
This is part of China’s aim to challenge Western influence over countries and wants to use BRICS to that end.
The New Development Bank associated with BRICS, expanded membership in 2021. It admitted Bangladesh, the UAE, Uruguay and Egypt, i.e., first four countries to be admitted after the establishment of the NDB.
What are the likely criteria that could emerge to guide the process of inducting new members into BRICS?
The first likely criteria will be to prioritise G20 members like Argentina, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Other prospective members may include, the UAE and Egypt, which are NDB members, Kazakhstan was invited as the largest country in Central Asia, Nigeria was invited as another important African economy, Senegal was invited as the current chair of the African Union, Thailand, as the chair of the APEC. Indonesia was invited also as part of Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA).
Other criteria could be countries which have an emerging economy status and adherence to BRICS objectives.
What are the issues?
While proposing BRICS expansion, China has not obtained the concurrence of other members except Russia.
In reality, the setting of criteria is a battle to choose partners who are more amenable to the individual members of the BRICS.
– For example, Russia and China want Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Argentina. Brazil would not want Argentina because both have a rivalry in Latin America. South Africa would not want Nigeria and Egypt because he would no longer be the African representative in the BRICS.
There could be an easier consensus on Indonesia because India is unlikely to oppose it as its relationship has been improving.
The inclusion of UAE and Saudi Arabia in the BRICS could be advantageous to India because India has rapidly enhanced its engagement with these countries. Both countries have a longstanding relationship with the US. Both seek to diversify and would not be averse to joining BRICS.
On the inclusion of Kazakhstan, Russia and China have to deal with the other Central Asian countries.
A consensus with Brazil and South Africa for members from their regions will be critical.
India needs to ensure that expansion is not on Chinese terms and that the countries admitted are equally receptive to India.
India can leverage the IBSA trilateral of democracies within BRICS to assert itself. India can consult on criteria and members.
GS Paper 3
Source: This post is based on the article “Needed: A PM’s council for human development” published in Business Standard on 15th June 22.
Syllabus: GS3 – Economic Growth and Development
Relevance: A case for a PM’s Human Development Council
Context: India’s goal should be to be in the top 50 nations of the world by 2047 in human development and at least a rank below 100 by 2030. These need a prime minister-led human development council under the NITI Aayog.
The governing council/ National Development Council itself can be that body with exclusive meetings on human development at least twice a year. All chief ministers, concerned Union ministers and a few experts from these sectors must be a part of this council.
Why India needs a PM’s Human Development Council?
Due to the following factors:
– Providing opportunities to every citizen of India to develop their fullest human potential is not only good for inclusive development; it is necessary for sustaining high rates of economic progress. Evidence from across the world substantiates this.
– Outcomes in the indicators of health, education, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, etc are all inter-related. They depend on a simultaneous improvement in all related sectors, with the gram panchayat or an urban local body as a unit.
– Unfortunately, India neglected human development for decades even though a few IITs and IIMs provided global class human capital for leadership.
- The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the National Rural Health Mission increased the pace of improvement but it was not good enough to change India’s 130 rank in the Human Development Index.
– The thrust on removing the asset deficits of deprived households, in the form of housing, toilets, electricity, cooking gas, among others provides an opportunity for better outcomes in human development.
– PM played a critical role in providing leadership to the chief ministers of all states in the fight against Covid and in the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan. It shows how the partnership between the Centre, state, local governments and community organisations like self-help groups and frontline workers can achieve development outcomes.
– Community connect with the use of technology as a means has the power to speed up infrastructure roll-out for higher growth.
– There’s a need for partnerships between the federal government and the states and local governments for need-based implementation of development schemes.
What indicators need to be monitored?
An illustrative list of 12 key indicators is given below:
1) Monitor stunting among infants. Stunting (child too short for age) reflects chronic undernutrition during the most critical periods of growth and development in early life. It highlights the need for diverse food and timely health check-ups.
2) Wasting among infants (low weight for height) indicates recent and severe weight loss. It happens due to inadequate quantity and quality of food or frequent or prolonged illnesses. These irreversibly affect the learning abilities of a child. Education suffers and illnesses begin.
3) Monitoring anaemia among women and children. Anaemia reflects poor food diversity, besides prevalence of diseases. It also reflects the lack of timely access to primary health care.
4) Monitoring foundational literacy and numeracy among all children under the Nipun Bharat programme.
5) Monitoring the status of youth in schools and skills programmes
6) Monitoring the linking of households to health facilities for holistic primary, secondary, and tertiary care with the Ayushman Digital Health Mission as a means.
7) Seventh, female work participation rate. We need to monitor female employment in every panchayat. Women need opportunities for paid work.
8) Percentage of girls from deprived households in high schools and higher education needs constant monitoring.
9) Funds, functions and functionaries with panchayats and urban local bodies need active involvement of social capital of community organisations.
10) Access to credit for all on the basis of individual micro credit plans.
11) Monitoring the life of the urban poor to improve access to public services, education, health, nutrition, sanitation, housing and the like. Public campaigns to ensure access of services to urban poor are needed.
12) Monitoring market wages and availability of work for men and women. It captures the essence of poverty of households and poverty of regions. The government will need to address inter-panchayat disparities by ranking them.
Patently false: WTO debate on waiving vax IPR misses the point. Equitable access needs quick tech transfer
Source: This post is based on the article “Patently false: WTO debate on waiving vax IPR misses the point. Equitable access needs quick tech transfer” published in The Times of India on 14th June 22.
Syllabus: GS3 – issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights
Relevance: WTO debate on waiving vax IPR
News: The ongoing WTO ministerial conference in Geneva is discussing, among other things, a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights (IPR) on Covid vaccines.
The genesis was an earlier India-South Africa proposal in October 2020. Since then, many other countries have backed the idea.
Of course, as the draft says, India won’t benefit on account of its status as a vaccine exporter. However, the underlying reason for the original proposal, inequitable vaccine access in a health emergency, remains.
Therefore, it’s an issue that needs a solution.
Issue of inequitable vaccine access
In large areas of Africa, many are yet to be vaccinated. The core issue, therefore, is narrow access as manufacturing is largely confined to a handful of countries.
What’s the best way forward?
Evidence shows it’s not a temporary IPR waiver. For example, US firm Moderna announced in 2020 it will not enforce IPR on its mRNA vaccine as long as Covid is active. It didn’t make a difference.
The key to expanding vaccine manufacture is by spreading technical know-how currently available to a handful of firms.
– Technology transfer in 2020 from AstraZeneca to Serum allowed India to quickly ramp up vaccine production.
Finding a way to facilitate technology transfer, along with a financing mechanism, will be of help to Africa. Moreover, this channel can be later used to make other vaccines when Covid recedes.
Agnipath will lead to a leaner military, savings in pensions. But there are challenges beyond the bold step forward,
Source: The post is based on the following articles -“Agnipath will lead to a leaner military, savings in pensions. But there are challenges beyond the bold step forward” published in the Indian Express on 15th June 2022;
“A reform called Agnipath will ensure youthful and tech-savvy profile of armed forces while reducing burden of pensions and gratuities” published in the Indian Express on 15th June 2022;
“Jawans, Josh & Jobs” published in the Times of India on 15th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 – Various Security Forces and their Mandate
Relevance: Indian Armed Forces
What is the Agnipath scheme
It will lead to recruitment of non-officer personnel to the armed forces, who will be called as the Agniveer.
They will be hired on contract in the age group of 17.5 to 21 years old and will serve for four years.
At the end of their service, they will get Rs 11.71 lakh through the Seva Nidhi package in which their contribution of 30% of the monthly salary will be matched by an equal amount by the government.
25% of the Agniveers in each batch, will be selected for regular cadre to serve for another minimum of 15 years.
They will get a life insurance cover of Rs 48 lakh, ex-gratia payment of Rs 44 lakh in case of death, and payment for the remainder of the four years of service in case of death.
What will be the process of recruitment?
The recruitment will be All India All Class (AIAC). It will not be restricted by ethnicity or caste unlike the regiments introduced by the British colonisers.
They will be recruited from recognised technical institutes like the Industrial Training Institutes through a centralised online system with specialised rallies and campus interviews.
What was the need of such a reform?
At present, the “colour service” of 17 years have led to an ageing army. More than 60% of men are above 30 years of age. Today, the number of sepoys has fallen below 40%. Therefore, it will lead to regular intake and ensure availability of youthful, patriotic, physically fit and highly-motivated youth.
In fact, all major militaries in the world are undergoing reform. There is a trend towards reduction in the number of personnel and emphasis on increasing capital expenditure on modern weapons and equipment.
Defence salary and pension bills account for roughly half of the annual defence budget. It imposes overall budgetary constraint and compromises the availability of funds for military modernisation.
The policy will lead to hiring without the promise of lifelong benefits, including the shortened training.
It will result in demobilised young soldiers who may pose a violent threat to society. It will be difficult to absorb them in the economy because India does not create adequate employment opportunities in India.
The new recruitment plan can strain existing training resources and produce a quality problem.
The mix of long-term and short-term soldiers will skew in favour of the latter and affect battle readiness.
Argument in favour
In many modern armed forces around the world, the service period ranges from 2 to 8 years. Therefore, the Agniveers will bring down the average age by 4-5 years.
The shorter duration service does not compromise on training, morale and commitment. For example, the Israeli army, the US and the UK Army have shorter duration contracts.
The training for Agniveers will be comparable to the timeframe in many world-class armed forces.
In case of demobilisation, the demobilized soldiers will be in their 30s. They will have better skill-sets and motivation. Therefore, they will not pose a threat to society.
The new reform can only be assessed in the coming years. The government will need to have a plan to anticipate and address the problems that lie beyond the bold step forward.
Source: This post is based on the article “Biomass co-firing: Why India’s target for coal power plants is challenging” published in Down To Earth on 13th June 22.
Syllabus: GS3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc
Relevance: To understand the challenges associated with Biomass co-firing.
News: The unavailability of biomass pellets of agricultural residues is halting the implementation of co-firing biomass with coal in thermal power plants.
What is Biomass co-firing?
Biomass co-firing is the practice of substituting a part of the fuel with biomass at coal thermal plants. Coal and biomass are combusted together in boilers that have been designed to burn coal. For this purpose, the existing coal power plant has to be partly reconstructed and retrofitted.
What are the steps taken to improve Biomass co-firing?
According to the ‘National Mission on use of biomass for coal thermal power plants’ set up by the Union power ministry, around 95,000-96,000 tonnes of biomass pellets are required per day for co-firing.
National Mission on use of Biomass in coal-based thermal power plants, also called SAMARTH (Sustainable Agrarian Mission on use of Agro-residue in Thermal Power Plants) has shared a list of 70-80 pellet manufacturers with the power plants.
To strengthen and regulate the supply chain, the manufacturers were also asked to be registered under SAMARTH.
Training for pellet manufacturers has been conducted by the National Power Training Institute all over the country.
What are the benefits of Biomass co-firing?
Reduction in CO2 emissions: Substituting 5-7% of coal with biomass in coal-based power plants can save 38 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
Biomass co-firing is an effective way to curb emissions from open burning of crop residue; it also decarbonises the process of electricity generation using coal.
|Read here: Can biomass co-firing offer a viable solution to coal shortage and stubble burning?|
What are the challenges faced in Biomass co-firing in India?
There is not much improvement in Biomass co-firing in India because,
Low Pellet manufacturing capacity: India’s pellet manufacturing capacity is 7,000 tonnes per day at present despite a surplus of 228 million tonnes of agricultural residue available in the country.
Higher price in the open market: Pellet suppliers favour selling their product to industries such as textile, food processing, metal-based or in the open market at higher prices.
Increased demand from industries in NCR: Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas directed industries in Delhi-National Capital Region to switch to cleaner fuels by end of September 2022. Hence, the Biomass demand from industries escalated.
Challenges in biomass pellet storing: Only pellets with up to 14% moisture can be used for combustion along with coal. Storing biomass pellets for long durations at the plant sites is hard, since they absorb moisture from air quickly, rendering them useless for co-firing.
Seasonal availability and unreliable supply of biomass pellets.
|Must Read: Scale of crop residue generation in India|
What should be done to improve biomass for co-firing?
a) SAMARTH must map the existing pellet manufacturers and incentivise entrepreneurs to set up more pellet manufacturing plants, b) SAMARTH has to ensure the price of biomass pellets is capped and protected from fluctuations in market demand, c) Platforms need to be established to ensure farmers have an intrinsic role in this business model of pellet manufacturing and co-firing in power plants.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Source: The post is based on the article “Indians losing 5 years of life due to air pollution: Study” published in TOI on 15th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Air Quality Life Index has been released.
What is the Air Quality Life Index?
Produced by: Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago(EPIC)
Purpose: The index converts air pollution concentrations into their impact on life expectancy. From this, the public and policymakers alike can determine the benefits of air pollution policies in perhaps the most important measure that exists: longer lives.
What are the key findings of the index?
Globally, air pollution reduces 2.2 years of life expectancy. This impact on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, more than three times that of alcohol use and unsafe water, six times that of HIV/AIDS and 89 times that of conflict and terrorism.
South Asia stands to lose the most in terms of life expectancy. It accounts for more than half (52%) of the expected lost life years globally due to high pollution.
Findings related to India
Of all the countries in the world, India faces the highest health burden of air pollution.
The average Indian resident is set to lose five years of life expectancy if the WHO guidelines are not followed.
Delhi, the most polluted megacity in the world stands to lose 10 years of life expectancy if the current air pollution level persists.
The Indo-Gangetic plains, home to more than 50 crore people or about 40% of the country’s population, are the most polluted region in India.
Reasons for Rise in Air Pollution in India: The study attributed the rise in air pollution in India to the industrialisation, economic development and population growth over the last two decades which have led to skyrocketing energy demand and fossil fuel use.
Source: The post is based on the article “New evidence emerges on how Mayas fortified maize, built indoor toilets” published in Down To Earth on 13th June 2022.
What is the News?
A study has thrown light on how Maya people fortified their maize with the chemical process known as ‘nixtamalisation’.
What is Maya Civilization?
What is the Nixtamalisation technique used by Mayas?
Nixtamalisation is a method by which the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica like the Maya used to soak and cook their maize in an alkaline solution and make it more palatable, nutritious and non-toxic. Nixtamal is derived from the Nahuatl word nextamalli, meaning ‘nixtamalised maize dough’.
Note: Maize is the primary crop of the Americas and has been cultivated in the region for millennia. Maize, beans and squash are called the ‘Three Sisters’ and formed the basis of diets throughout pre-Columbian North and Mesoamerica.
Significance of Nixtamalisation technique: The researchers noted that the key reason for the spread of maize in the Americas was nixtamalisation.
– This technique ensures that the maize contains amino acids, calcium and Vitamin B2, which can be utilised by the human body. It also eliminates certain mycotoxins (toxins produced by certain moulds (fungi) and can be found in food) present in maize.
– Without this treatment, maize-dependent populations were at elevated risk of pellagra (Vitamin B2 deficiency), calcium deficiency and mycotoxin poisoning.
Moreover, researchers have also found that Nejayote, wastewater from nixtamalisation may have been used to lime the chultunes while they were used as latrines. This was done to control odours and inhibit insect and microorganism growth.
Note: A chultunes is a bottle-shaped underground storage chamber built by the pre-Columbian Maya in southern Mesoamerica.
Union Minister releases the second edition of the National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment 2021, NeSDA 2021
Source: The post is based on the article “Union Minister releases the second edition of the National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment 2021, NeSDA 2021” published in PIB on 13th June 2022.
What is the News?
The second edition of the National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment(NeSDA) has been released.
What is the National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment(NeSDA) 2021?
Constituted by: Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG) in 2019.
Objective: It is a biennial study that assesses States, Union Territories (UTs) and focuses on Central Ministries on the effectiveness of e-Governance service delivery.
Significance: NeSDA helps the respective governments improve their delivery of citizen-centric services and shares best practices across the country for all States, UTs and Central Ministries to emulate.
Sectors Covered: NeSDA 2021 covers services across seven sectors – Finance, Labour & Employment, Education, Local Governance & Utility Services, Social Welfare, Environment and Tourism sectors.
Note: NSDA also assessed portals on several parameters such as Accessibility, Content Availability, Ease of Use and Information Security & Privacy among others.
What are the key findings of NeSDA 2021?
States and UTs: Amongst all the States and UTs, Kerala had the highest overall compliance score.
Among the North-East and Hill States, Meghalaya and Nagaland are the leading State Portals with an overall compliance of more than 90% across all assessment parameters.
Among Union Territories, Jammu & Kashmir ranked the highest with an overall compliance of nearly 90%.
Central Ministries and Portals: The Ministry Portal of Home Affairs had the highest overall compliance score.
The Central Public Procurement Portal, Digital Police Portal, and Bhavishya Portal are the leading Ministry Services Portals with an overall compliance of more than 85% across all assessment parameters.
Source: The post is based on the article “Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS) – Annual Report” published in PIB on 14th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has released the Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS) for 2020-21.
What is the Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS)?
What are the key findings of the survey?
Unemployment Rate: The unemployment rate saw a decrease of 0.6% and fell to 4.2% in 2020-21 compared with 4.8% in 2019-20.
– This means that only 4.2% of adults who looked for jobs could not get any work in rural and urban areas of the country in 2020-21.
– Rural areas recorded an unemployment rate of 3.3% and urban areas recorded an unemployment rate of 6.7%.
Labour Force Participation Rate(LFPR): It is defined as the section of the working population in the age group of 16-64 in the economy currently employed or seeking employment.It was 41.6% during 2020-21 compared to 40.1% in the previous year.
Worker-Population Ratio(WPR): It is defined as the percentage of employed persons in the population. It was 39.8% in 2020-21, an increase from 38.2% of the previous year.
Migrants: Migrants are defined in the survey as a household members whose last usual place of residence, at any time in the past, was different from the present place of enumeration.
– According to the survey, the migration rate is 28.9%. The migration rate among women was 48% and 47.8% in rural and urban areas respectively.
Note: PLFS says that only 4.4% of migration happened due to employment which is a drastic reduction from the 10% in 2011. Hence, this report justifies the theory of large-scale reverse migration and job losses during the pandemic.
Cabinet approves Agreement between India and United Nations on a ‘Way Finding Application’ to be used in the Palais des Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva
Source: The post is based on the article “Cabinet approves Agreement between India and United Nations on a ‘Way Finding Application’ to be used in the Palais des Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva” published in PIB on 14th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for the signing of an agreement between the Government of India and the United Nations on a ‘Way Finding Application’ to be used in the Palais des Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva(UNOG).
What is the United Nations Office at Geneva(UNOG)?
UNOG is located at Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Purpose: It serves as the representative office of the Secretary-General in Geneva.
Significance: It is the biggest department of the United Nations Secretariat outside of headquarters in New York.
What is the need for a Way Finding Application at UNOG?
UNOG consists of five buildings and 21 floors. A large number of delegates visit UNOG to participate in various meetings and conventions.
Keeping in view the complexity of buildings and huge participation, there was a requirement for a navigational application which can help the visitors in finding their way inside the premises.
Who will be developing the Way Finding Application?
India has taken up the project to develop a ‘Way Finding Application’. The app will facilitate navigation on the premises of UNOG.
It will enable users to find their way from point to point within the 21 floors spread across five buildings of UNOG. The App will work on Android and iOS devices with an internet connection.
The development of the App has been entrusted to the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT).
What is the significance of this contribution by India to the UN?
Firstly, it will be a significant contribution from the Government of India to the UN.
Secondly, it will not only highlight the technical capabilities of India but also enhance the prestige of the country at the UN level platform.
Thirdly, it will make India’s presence felt in the UN and showcase its soft power in the form of strong software technology expertise – a ‘Made in India’ App in the mobiles of people who come from across the globe.
Source: The post is based on the article “Cabinet clears Agnipath Scheme” published in The Hindu on 15th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Union Cabinet has approved an attractive recruitment scheme for Indian youth to serve in the Armed Forces called AGNIPATH.
What is Agnipath Scheme?
It is a pan-India short-term service youth recruitment scheme for the armed forces.
Aim: The scheme has been designed to enable a youthful profile of the Armed Forces.
Key Features of the Scheme: Under the Scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 Agniveers will be recruited annually under respective Service Acts for a period of four years. They would form a distinct rank in the Armed Forces, different from any other existing ranks.
– Upon the completion of four years of service, Agniveers will be offered an opportunity to apply for permanent enrolment in the Armed Forces.
– These applications will be considered based on objective criteria including performance during their four-year engagement period and up to 25% of each specific batch of Agniveers will be enrolled in regular cadres of the Armed Forces.
Eligibility: Under the scheme, aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 21 years will be eligible to apply. The recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies.
How will the recruitment be done?
Recruitment will be undertaken through an online centralized system for all three services with specialized rallies and campus interviews from recognised technical institutes such as Industrial Training Institutes and National Skills Qualifications Framework among others.
Salary of Agniveers: Agniveers will get a starting salary of Rs 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.
– During the four-year period, 30% of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month and this amount will also accrue interest.
– At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free.
– They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years. In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
What are the benefits of the scheme to armed forces and recruits?
– A transformative reform of the recruitment policy of the Armed Forces.
– A unique opportunity for the youth to serve the country and contribute to Nation Building.
– Attractive financial package for the Agniveers.
– Opportunity for Agniveers to train in the best institutions and enhance their skills & qualifications.
– Availability of well-disciplined and skilled youth with military ethos in civil society.
– Adequate re-employment opportunities for those returning to society and who could emerge as role models for the youth.
Source: The post is based on the article “New plan to save jumbos from train hits” published in The Hindu on 15th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Union Environment Ministry and the Railways Ministry are exploring a project to minimize accidents where elephants get killed due to collisions with trains.
What is the data on elephant deaths due to collisions with trains?
According to Government data, nearly 186 elephants are officially reported to have been killed due to collisions with trains in the last decade.
Most of these accidents did not occur in States with the highest elephant numbers. Instead, Assam, West Bengal and Uttarakhand which are hilly States saw the most number of casualties.
Reason: An elephant is the only mammal with six toes, one of which is exclusively for gripping slopes. Due to this, they take more time to descend slopes and when tracks are located at such locations, they tend to result in accidents.
What is the Government doing to minimize such accidents?
The Government of India is exploring an initiative where it will analyze patterns geographically and propose measures that the Railways can feasibly implement.
Other measures taken by Government: 1) Providing fencing at selected locations, 2) Erecting signage board to warn locomotive pilots about identified elephant corridors, 3) Sensitizing train crew and Station Masters on a regular basis, 4) Clearing vegetation on the sides of the track within railway land, 5) Deputing a Forest Department staff in Railway control offices to liaison with Railway and 6) Have the Forest Department engage elephant trackers for timely action by alerting station Masters and locomotive pilots.
Drone Certification Scheme: Union Aviation Minister awards first Type Certificate under Drone Rules, 2021 to Gurugram-based IoTechWorld
Source: The post is based on the article “Union Aviation Minister awards first Type Certificate under Drone Rules, 2021 to Gurugram-based IoTechWorld” published in PIB on 14th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Union Minister of Civil Aviation has awarded the first Type Certificate (TC) under Drone Rules, 2021 to IoTechWorld Avigation Pvt Ltd.
What are Drone Rules,2021?
What is a Drone Certification Scheme?
Launched in: January 2022
The scheme has been developed by the Quality Council of India in consultation with drone startups, industry, academia and defence experts.
Objective: To provide safety and security criteria and requirements for drones, evaluate their certification, among others.
Significance: The scheme is likely to create an ecosystem for world-class drones to be manufactured in India and sold all across the world.
What are the other reforms undertaken in the Drones Sector?
– A Drone Airspace Map has been published opening up nearly 90% of Indian airspace as a green zone for drones flying up to 400 feet.
– Production-Linked Incentive(PLI) scheme for drones has been notified.
– Mission ‘Drone Shakti’ has been announced for supporting drone startups and promoting Drone-as-a-Service(DrAAS),
– Drone import policy has been notified banning import of foreign drones and freeing up import of drone components.
– Drone(Amendment) Rules,2022 has been notified abolishing the requirement of a drone pilot license.
– UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Policy Framework has been published.
Source: The post is based on the article “India appears to be expanding its nuclear arsenal, claims SIPRI” published in The Hindu on 13th June 2022.
What is the News?
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released the findings of SIPRI Yearbook 2022.
What are the key findings of the report?
Globally: The nine nuclear-armed states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)—continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals.
Russia and the USA together possess over 90% of all nuclear weapons. However, in 2021, the number of nuclear warheads in both countries declined, but this was mainly due to the dismantling of discarded warheads, which the military had already abandoned years ago.
China had 350 nuclear warheads in January 2021 as well as January 2022.
India: India had 160 nuclear warheads as of January 2022. India has expanded its nuclear stockpile from 156 in January 2021 to 160 in January 2022.
Note: India does not share official data on its nuclear arsenal.
Global Military Expenditure: Global military expenditure rose for the seventh consecutive year in 2021 to reach US$2113 billion, exceeding $2 trillion for the first time.
Importers and Exporters of Major Arms: The five largest arms exporters in 2017-21 are – the United States, Russia, France, China and Germany.They accounted for 77% of the total volume of exports of major arms.
The five largest arms importers were India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia and China, which together accounted for 38% of total arms imports.
The region that received the largest volume of major arms supplies in 2017–21 was Asia and Oceania, accounting for 43% of the total.
Source: The post is based on the article “Elderly lack financial, social security: study” published in The Hindu on 15th June 2022.
What is the News?
HelpAge India has carried out a national survey to study the social security of senior citizens. A report based on the survey results was released on the eve of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
About the report
Based on: A survey conducted by the non-governmental organisation with the involvement of 4,399 senior citizens and 2,200 caregivers across 22 cities.
Released by: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
What are the key findings of the report?
The financial situation of elders: 52% of the elderly surveyed reported inadequate income; 40% of them said they did not feel financially secure. Further 57% of elders said their expenditure was in excess of their savings, and 45% said the pension amount was not enough for survival.
Working of senior citizens: 71% of senior citizens were not working, while 36% were willing to work and 40% wanted to work “as long as possible”. As many as 30% of the elders were willing to volunteer their time for various social causes.
Health cover for elders: 87% of elders reported there is the availability of healthcare facilities nearby. However, 78% of elders mentioned unavailability of app-based online healthcare facilities and a significant 67% of elderly reported they do not have any health insurance at this critical stage in their lives and only 13% are covered under government insurance schemes.
Elderly abuse: 59% of elders felt that elder abuse was “prevalent” in society, but 10% reported being victims themselves.
What is the significance of the report?
a) The report highlights the need to pay greater attention to the social security of senior citizens in the country. HelpAge India has been advocating for a universal pension of ₹3,000 a month, b) Both financial planning for later years and social security needs much greater attention at present.
Source: The post is based on the article “Can the new Google chatbot be sentient?” published in The Hindu on 15th June 2022.
What is the News?
Google’s modern conversational agent, Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), was engaged to test for bias/hate speech. The tester claimed that the updated software is now sentient.
He argues that consent from the software must be obtained before experiments are run on it. But, Google and many tech experts have dismissed the comment.
What is LaMDA?
LaMDA is short for ‘Language Model for Dialogue Applications’. It is Google’s modern conversational agent enabled with a neural network capable of deep learning.
LaMDA trained with: Instead of images of cats and dogs, the algorithm is trained using 1.56 trillion words of public dialogue data and web text on diverse topics.
Built on: The neural network built on Google’s open-source neural network, Transformer, extracted more than 137 billion parameters from this massive database of language data.
Status of LaMDA: The chatbot is not yet public, but users are permitted to interact with it.
Versions: The LaMDA 0.1 was unveiled at Google’s annual developer conference in 2021, and the LaMDA 0.2 in 2022.
Significance: Google claims that LaMDA can make sense of nuanced conversation and engage in a fluid and natural conversation. Further, advanced conversational agents like LaMDA could revolutionise customer interaction and help AI-enabled internet search.
How is LaMDA different from other chatbots?
Chatbots like ‘Ask Disha’ of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) are routinely used for customer engagement. But, the collection of topics and chat responses is narrow. The dialogue is predefined and often goal-directed.
But, LaMDA is a non-goal-directed chatbot that dialogues on various subjects.
What are the challenges associated with AI Chatbots?
a) AI software learning from historical data could inadvertently perpetuate discrimination. The chatbots might uphold historical bias and echo hate speech, and b) AI tech uses a false analogy of learning. For instance, A baby learns a language from close interaction with caregivers and not by ploughing through a massive amount of language data.
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