9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – June 20th, 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 1
GS Paper 2
- The WTO restores faith in convergence of views
- How can Agnipath be made more attractive? Recommendations from 2 former army leaders
- What West Seti power project can mean for India-Nepal ties
GS Paper 3
- On India’s unemployment issue: Persistent problem
- The EPI may rankle but India can recast policies
- Petty patents can boost R&D
- Partha Sen writes: The inflation tightrope
- Ashok Gulati and Ritika Juneja write: An oil palm plan for home
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Explained: What is ‘critical information infrastructure’, who protects it?
- Use of ICT in school education in India receives UNESCO’s recognition
- PM launches historic torch relay for 44th Chess Olympiad
- Captive Private Networks: Telcos seek level playing field with captive network operators
- India’s fishing subsidy win at WTO the start of a long fight
- Climate frontline: Barents Sea around Svalbard, Franz Josef Land warming 7 times faster than globe, says study
- Auctioning 5G spectrum bands
- Indian interests at the WTO Ministerial Conference
- Global Trends Report: UNHCR: Global displacement hits another record, capping decade-long rising trend
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
Source: This post is based on the article “Time to end systemic misogyny reflected in the gender pay gap” published in Livemint on 20th June 22.
Syllabus: GS1 – Society – Women related issues
Relevance: Gender pay gap and related issues
News: Prevailing gender pay gap in developed and developing economies
What is the situation wrt gender pay inequity?
In a pre-pandemic world, UN Women stated that “women only make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men“, resulting in lifelong income inequality.
An International Labour Organization policy brief in July 2021 drew attention to the pandemic’s gendered impact on the global labour market, with women’s employment down 4.2%, compared to 3% for men.
The WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 aired pessimism, saying that the gender pay gap is likely to further widen by 5%.
As per PayScale’s State of the Gender Pay Gap Report 2022,
– Women pay a “motherhood penalty” and suffer from an uncontrolled pay gap of $0.74 for every dollar earned by a male parent, which over the years, shrinks to $0.88 on the dollar. This suggests that women without children face fewer social barriers in securing higher-paying jobs.
As per the Oxfam report of 2019
– The country’s gender pay gap is about 34%.
According to ADP Research Institute’s study, People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View,
– only 65% of women in India received a pay rise or bonus for taking on extra responsibilities or a new role, compared to 70% of men. This, despite the fact that men and women were just as likely to take on such additional or new responsibilities to help employers deal with the covid fallout.
What are the reasons behind the inequity?
A recent Pew Research Centre’s study showed that one of the reasons for the gender pay gap in the US was women workers’ lack of work experience, as they mostly leave the workforce for unpaid care work.
Should gender pay gap be fixed?
The cost of doing nothing to fix gender disparity would be high. Taking action, as McKinsey estimated, could add $13 trillion to world gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 over a “do nothing” scenario.
What are some global and domestic efforts to address the issue?
The Code on Wages Act, 2019, prohibits gender discrimination in matters related to wages and recruitment.
– However, many legal experts have opined that since it doesn’t provide a single dispute resolution forum it could lead to confusion over redressal.
The World Bank’s Women, Business and The Law 2021 report said that around 190 economies had undertaken some reforms in laws and regulations that restricted women’s economic opportunities.
– Countries like Bahrain, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam eliminated restrictions on women working in jobs previously deemed dangerous for them.
The EU has launched a Gender Equality Strategy 2020-25, identifying key areas of labour-market reforms.
The world also celebrates International Equal Pay Day (IEPD), which began in 2020 under the United Nations’ banner.
Pay inequity is a result of a systemic flaw deeply embedded in socio-cultural norms. Hence, as countries seek to re-build their pandemic-ravaged economies, focus must be on gender justice for the sake of a more optimally productive world.
GS Paper 2
Source: This post is based on the article “The WTO restores faith in convergence of views” published in Livemint on 19th June 22.
Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations – International org and groupings
Relevance: World Trade Organization (WTO) and related issues
News: The WTO deal in Geneva confirms that it is still possible for the world’s countries to achieve a modest consensus. India has played a worthy role, even if its gains are far from dramatic.
What were the difficult circumstances prevailing before the WTO’s 12th ministerial?
That a deal went through was victory in itself. Ahead of its 12th ministerial conference, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was up against stiff odds.
– There was a question mark on its credibility as an arbiter of trade disputes
– Ukraine war was making the idea of each country for itself seem like the operative reality after basic principles of trade fell victim to Cold War II.
What is the significance of the deal?
Considering the tough circumstances before the ministerial, the expectations of any tangible outcome were dim.
Yet, 164 countries were nudged towards consensus, and the WTO managed to forge a package of pacts—the first such in nine years—on food security, fishing subsidies and a vaccine patent waiver.
As an assertive voice at the table, India played a significant role in the last of these.
WTO curbs on fishing subsidies are only the second multilateral agreement on global trade rules struck in its 27-year history. Since even a single vote of dissent can spoil a deal, this was impressive.
What are the key constituents of the deal?
The inclusion in trade talks of ecological concerns like the threat posed by large-scale overfishing to marine life had once raised eyebrows, but the deal confirmed acceptance of it.
India’s stance: In contrast with the state-supported fishing industries of rich nations, India’s 9 million odd fisherfolk cannot be accused of global fish stock depletion.
– Under the Geneva deal, India’s subsidy support for fishing at current levels can carry on for at least four years;
– a proposed ban on subsidized overfishing was dropped.
On food security
Another clutch of Indian demands on food, including the right to mop up foodgrain to feed the needy, has been pushed forth to the next ministerial meeting.
India’s most noteworthy win was on a proposal it had pushed along with South Africa – A patent waiver window of five years to make and export covid vaccines.
– Significance: This is rather late in the day, and may not do much to fix vaccine inequity, and leaves therapeutic and diagnostic stuff for later talks. Still, it also signifies a WTO dilution of its position that any easing of intellectual property protection would hurt pharma incentives for innovation.
None of the mini deals struck qualify as big fillips for international trade. But in a fractured world faced with huge challenges of cooperation, the deal has opened up paths of possibility.
Source: This post is based on the following articles
“How can Agnipath be made more attractive? Recommendations from 2 former army leaders” published in The Times of India on 20th June 22.
“It’s a chance to transform our defence management” published in Livemint on 20th June 22.
“Agnipath could be a path to vexing social problems” published in Livemint on 20th June 22.
Syllabus: GS2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Relevance: To understand the benefits and challenges associated with the Agnipath Scheme.
News: Recently, the government of India introduced a new recruitment scheme for the armed forces, Agnipath. Violent protests erupted in parts of India ever since the launch of the scheme.
|Must read: Cabinet clears Agnipath Scheme|
What are the advantages of the Agnipath Scheme?
a) Lower the age profile in the units, b) Create a more empowered and capable junior leadership, c) The scheme will serve as a trigger for the long-pending modernization of the structure and management philosophy of the armed forces.
Overall, Agnipath is not a short-term contract, it’s a way to modernise India’s armed forces, making it more agile and tech-friendly.
|Read more: Education Ministry to recognize in-service training received by Agniveers as credits for graduation|
What are the challenges associated with the Agnipath Scheme?
Impact performance of armed forces: The Army’s technical units have longer training cycles. They might face a shortage of suitable recruits, or lose people just when they have started performing.
Political economic factors: Short service commission officers initially started with five-year tenure. But later their tenure is increased effectively 14. It is a step away from its original purpose. Hence, the Agnipath scheme is also vulnerable to political and economic factors.
Shakeup of military culture: National recruitment involving regimental catchments will provide units with new and unfamiliar social contexts.
Impact on Youth: Some European countries have compulsory military service. The recruits of the service suffered from a) Permanent disruption in studies, b) Mental health issues, c) Substance abuse problems and d) Some may even commit crimes.
The Agnipath scheme might also create similar problems.
Impact on Agniveers families: Without accessible support services in India, the discharged recruits and their families will have to cope alone.
Unique Unemployment: After four years in the Army, having carried and learnt to use weapons, when they return to civilian life, they will be at a loss to find comparable placement. Apart from private security and the police, none of them required such skill sets.
Increase violence: It was estimated that in 2017, in India, there were 7.1 crores of privately owned (licit and illicit) firearms and 6.1 Crores of unregistered and unlawfully held firearms, placing India second globally in terms of private ownership of guns.
India is already prone to caste and communal violence. Agniveers disappointment and resentment would make it easy to mobilize them against their neighbours and take up violence.
Further, gender-based violence will also increase as Agniveers get immersed for four years in a masculine universe of the Armed forces.
|Must read: Agnipath Scheme: Need, Benefits and Challenges – Explained, pointwise|
What should be done to improve Agnipath Scheme?
Relaxation to candidates: Many candidates had already entered the selection process in response to advertisements published in 2019 and 2020. These candidates are stuck at different stages as per the erstwhile process. The age relaxation of 2 years is not enough. They should be recruited via the earlier process.
Apart from that, the government should a) Improve training infrastructure, b) Like Home and defence ministries, other Ministries should reserve a certain percentage of jobs. This percentage should also be legally backed, c) Clearly explain 25% retention criteria along with clear Entry, Exit Norms, and Hiked Retention Ratio, d) Conduct common tests at both exit and entry to retain certain Agniveers for full service. This will increase competition and remove ambiguity after four years of induction, e) Consider retaining 33-50% instead of 25% after four years. Similarly, a four-year term can be extended to 5 years, f) The government should bear Agniveers’ National Pension Scheme contribution. The cost will be very small given salary levels.
Source: The post is based on an article “What West Seti Power project can mean for India-Nepal ties” published in the Indian Express on 20th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 International Relations; Bilateral Relations
Relevance: India-Nepal Relations
News: India’s National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) will be taking over the West-Seti Hydropower Project in Nepal, after China withdrew from it, ending a six-year engagement between 2012 and 2018.
About the Project
The project will be a storage scheme generating power round the year. The power will be supplied to India, either for domestic consumption or for the trade through its national grid.
Why did the Chinese CWE Investment Corporation withdraw from the project in 2018?
It stated that it would not be able to execute the 750-MW West Seti Hydropower Project because it was “financially unfeasible and its resettlement and rehabilitation costs were too high”.
Why has it been given to India?
Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba declared that since India was Nepal’s power market and it had a policy of not buying power from China-executed projects. Therefore, the project would be given to India.
Mutually Beneficial India -Nepal power relations
Nepal is rich in power sources, with around 6,000 rivers and an estimated potential for 83,000 MW.
India has formally approached Nepal on many occasions, seeking preferential rights over Nepali waters. India is also viewed as a feasible market for Nepal.
What are the problems in the Nepal’s power sector?
Nepal has a massive power shortfall. It generates only around 900 MW against an installed capacity of nearly 2,000 MW.
Although Nepal is currently selling 364 MW power to India, it has over the years importing from India.
Issues in India-Nepal bilateral relations
There has been some uncertainty in Nepal over India’s inability to deliver various projects on time.
(1) India has still not been able to come out with the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Mahakali treaty which was signed back in 1996, to produce 6,480 MW.
(2) The multinational GMR has not made any headway for years in the`Upper Karnali project
India is successfully executing the 900-MW Arun-III project in the eastern Nepal’s Sankhuwa Sabha. It is being executed by India’s Sutlej Vidhyut Nigam under a BOOT scheme. Its foundation was laid in 2018 and is set for completion by2023.
What are the challenges ahead?
Nepal’s Constitution has a provision under which any treaty or agreement with another country on natural resources will require Parliament’s ratification by at least a two-thirds majority.
During his first visit as PM to Nepal in 2014, Modi had said India must start executing its projects timely.
Nepal is also planning to award the 695-MW Arun Four project to the Sutlej Vidhyut Nigam, followed by the decision to award West Seti to NHPC.
At present, the India-Nepal’s relations on river water projects remained focused only in the power sector. It has to be reviewed. The projects must be made multi-purpose by expanding the scope to flood control, navigation, fisheries, irrigation contributing to agricultural growth etc. This will lead to multiple benefits on both sides
The Nepali PM Deuba has been developing friendly and “fraternal ties” with the Indian government, after worsening of relations due to standoff between Nepal and India which led to the economic blockade of 2015.
The successful execution of the West-Seti project by the NHPC, is expected to restore India’s image in Nepal. It can lead to preference of India, in future considerations for hydropower projects by Nepal.
GS Paper 3
Source: This post is based on the article “Persistent problem” published in Business Standard on 19th June 22.
Syllabus: GS3 – Economy – Issues related to growth and development
Relevance: Unemployment in India and related issues
News: Poor state of employment creation in India is reflected in the recurrent protests against changes in the government’s recruitment policy or delays in appointment.
The ongoing violent protests against the change in the recruitment policy for armed forces, which have led to a massive loss of public and private property, are yet another example in this context.
Has the unemployment rate declined?
Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) annual report shows that the unemployment rate declined and the workforce participation increased. But, it is important to look beyond the headline numbers.
– According to the report, the unemployment rate declined to 4.2% compared to 4.8% during the previous year, and 5.8% in 2018-19.
Since this was the period when the economy was recovering from a stringent lockdown, the labour force participation rate increased to 41.6% compared with the level of 40.1% in the previous year.
The female workforce participation rate, which has been a significant drag on labour force participation, also improved during this period.
Has the unemployment actually gone down?
The improvement was not particularly on account of improved employment opportunities.
– More people joined the workforce due to the decline in household income. This is also evident in the quality of employment.
- During the period under review, the percentage of people employed in the agriculture sector increased to 46.5% as against 45.6% in the previous year. This is significantly higher than the 42.5% in 2018-19.
- Consequently, the proportion of labor employed in the manufacturing sector declined.
Among the workers earning wages and salaries, the percentage of employees not getting any social security benefit declined marginally to 53.8% compared to the previous year, but was significantly higher than the 49.6% in 2017-18.
Overall, while the share of self-employed people increased, the proportion of workers earning wages declined.
The latest quarterly PLFS report for January-March 2022, which was also released last week, did not show any material change in labour force participation with the recovery in economic activity.
What are the challenges before India?
The most pressing challenge before India will continue to be employment creation for an expanding workforce.
While the government is promoting select industries in the manufacturing sector through an incentive scheme, it would not be able to create jobs at the scale required.
Nearly half of India’s labour force is engaged in agriculture and can move only to low-skill manufacturing.
This is the exact opposite of what India’s labour market needs.
– Sustained higher growth with an increase in productivity can be attained only by moving the labour force out of agriculture.
India’s labour force participation is also significantly low and would be a drag on growth in the medium to long run.
Source: The post is based on an article “The EPI may rankle but India can recast politics” published in the “The Hindu” on 20th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 Ecology and Environment
Relevance: The Environment Performance Index 2021
News: Recently, India was placed last among all 180 assessed countries in the latest Environmental Performance Index (EPI), carried out by Yale and Columbia Universities.
Key findings of the EPI index
India performed better in sub-metrics such as growth rates for black carbon, methane and fluorinated gases, and greenhouse gas emissions based on their intensity and per capita volumes.
India performed low on projected GHG emissions for mid-century, a target for Net Zero emissions. The EPI report estimates that China, India, the United States, and Russia are expected to account for over 50% of global residual greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
For more: Read here
What is controversial in the index?
It emphasised on climate change mitigation. It prioritised the release of GHGs from countries. It reduced the emphasis on the stock of CO2 from industrialised countries which is warming the globe. India would have ranked much better, if the latter was emphasised more than the former.
The Indian Government’s response
The ranking agencies have not “engaged” with India on the climate change mitigation programme.
India protested the EPI for introducing a new metric on climate with increased weight in the calculation compared to the 2020 assessment.
The Union government rejected the ranking based on the grounds that it used “unfounded assumptions”, “surmises” and “unscientific methods.”
The important tenets, like the United Nations principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), which forms the basis of the Paris Agreement, have been ignored by the agencies in the EPI.
The report ignored the facts that India has to raise the living standards of hundreds of millions. Despite this, India has secured to have low per capita GHG emissions, reduced intensity of GHG emissions in its economy, India has made big strides for achieving 40% renewable power generation, India’s support to electric vehicles, India launched a major carbon sink initiative, and India has done a lot for wetland conservation.
What are the objections to various claims made by the Indian Government?
The ISFR was based on poor methodology. For example, it relied on a relaxed definition of forest, it claimed expansion of forests when satellite imagery of the same areas showed a decline, the urban tree agglomerations were found added as forest.
There is little doubt that India’s air is very polluted. For example, in 93% of India, the amount of pollution remains well above the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
India does not have a centralised system to drive pollution control efforts and achieve substantial improvements.
The Union government can focus on providing clean public transport, cycling and pedestrianisation because the present transport system contributes about 13% of emissions.
In order to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2070, the government can strive to reduce emissions from buildings, including embedded carbon in construction materials such as cement and steel.
India can expand rooftop solar power across residential deployments and commercial structures.
The government must provide stronger protection for biomes. It can generate wide-ranging benefits and biodiversity can recover. This protection of tree cover will augment carbon sinks.
India can adopt models of development beyond GDP, which has been proposed by Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and Jean-Paul Fitoussi.
India can adopt a rigorous dashboard approach to indicators. It can assign high weight to the environment.
Source: The post is based on an article “Petty patents can boost R&D” published in the “The Hindu” on 20th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 Issues related to Intellectual property rights (IPR)
Relevance: The Petty Patents or Utility Model
News: Recently, India was ranked 46 in WIPO’s Global Innovation Index (GII) 2021, up from 81 in 2015. These findings corroborate are similar to findings in the UNCTAD’s Digital Economy Report 2021.
Importance of Innovation
Innovative activity is the key driver of competitiveness and economic growth. It is important for the Indian Economy.
The innovation can lead to self-reliance in technology, especially in the context of the incipient digital revolution.
India’s rising rank in the global innovation league suggests India has a lot of potential, and opportunity, to strengthen the competitiveness among business enterprises.
Indicators of innovative activity
(1) Gross R&D (GERD) and (2) The number of patents registered, are the key indicator of innovative activity.
Status of the patent filings in India
The patent filings by Indian enterprises and other institutions have increased from 8,841 in 2011 to 23,141 in 2020 (WIPO).
What are the issues in the field of innovation in India?
Issues in GERD
(1) India’s gross R&D expenditure (GERD) as a percentage of GDP at 0.7% is low.
(2) The Indian enterprises have not got into an R&D culture. Only 30% of the GERD is spent by business enterprises, despite the generous tax incentives offered by the government.
(3) The bulk of innovative activity is conducted by a handful of companies in the pharma and auto sectors.
Issues in case of patents in India
The patents granted have been only 776 and 4,988 for Indian enterprises and other institutions respectively.
Many patent applications fail to satisfy the three-pronged test of novelty, inventive step and utility.
The patent system fails to encourage minor innovations since the criteria for inventiveness tend to look at the novelty of the invention
What can be done to boost the R&D activities of Indian enterprises?
The development countries spend billions of dollars on R&D subsidies given to national enterprises to shore up their competitiveness. However, as per the World Trade Organization rules, subsidies up to 50% of project costs have been made non-actionable.
The India government can go for partial funding for specific R&D projects undertaken by business enterprises. It may be done in a desirable direction or field.
– For instance, to promote capability building for new products, process innovations for local or global markets, focus on enhancing ecological sustainability, promote industry’s linkage with public-funded research laboratories and universities, and so on.
Furthermore, products based on indigenous developed technology could be given production tax concessions, as well as income tax concessions to encourage innovation.
India should protect minor innovations through the so-called utility models or petty patents in order to promote local innovation. This has been done by several East Asian countries.
The utility model or petty patents regime provides limited protection to minor incremental innovations made, especially those by MSMEs. For example, providing a limited period of protection (5-10 years in contrast to 20 years in case of patents) and having less stringent requirements and procedures.
The petty patents and industrial design patents can encourage domestic enterprises to undertake minor adaptive innovations and foster an innovation-based rivalry among them.
Source: The post is based on an article “The inflation tightrope” published in the Indian Express on 20th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 Indian Economy; Issues and Challenges pertaining to growth and development
Relevance: Inflation Targeting
News: The Indian economy has been hit by inflationary shocks. The RBI failed to keep the inflation rate below the upper threshold of 6%. Only after inflation hit 7%, it raised the repo rate.
Mandate of the RBI
In 2016, an independent monetary policy committee was constituted. It embraced the idea of inflation-target.
The Reserve Bank of India is 4 per cent, with a band of 2 per cent on either side. However, the RBI did
Monetary authorities raise interest rates if inflation is above the preferred target, and vice versa. It causes a compression in demand (and a fall in economic activity), which in turn will reduce inflation.
What are the causes of inflation?
Some part of inflation is coming from abroad. For example, global supply chain disruption and so on.
There has also been a steady outflow of foreign funds from the stock market. This caused the rupee to depreciate. This raised the prices of imported goods, for example petroleum products. This further added to the inflationary woes.
Measures Taken So Far
The Monetary Policy Response
The RBI has raised the cost of borrowing by increasing the repo rate, with a promise of more to come.
The Fiscal Policy Response
The central government has cut fuel taxes. Further, it has also banned the export of certain items.
What are the problems in India’s inflation targeting framework?
In a bid to follow international best practices, the RBI seems to have fallen for a fashionable framework, without thinking about the structure of the Indian economy. This can be illustrated through the following points.
The first point relates to agriculture’s role in the Indian economy. India’s non-food and non-oil components of the consumer price index CPI are about 47%. The RBI has no control over international prices of food and oil. Therefore, it is left to squeeze less than 50% of the domestic economy to lower inflation.
The real interest rise works through demand compression. But the problem is on the supply side.
The RBI’s monetary policy is silent on the exchange rate and its effects on output in the Indian Economy.
– For example, Until the 1970s, the monetary policies aimed to achieve both, internal balance (full employment and low inflation using monetary and fiscal policies); and external balance (balanced current account through the exchange rate).
The inflation targeting can be at odds with the external balance. For example, as the RBI raises interest rates, outflows will possibly slow down with the rupee appreciating.
Over time, from a policy perspective, the internal balance has come to mean only low inflation, since “the market” will ensure full employment.
Further, the Reserve Bank of India policy targets demand constraints. It faces the problem of tackling Supply shocks (originating from food and oil, primarily). If output is stabilised using macroeconomic policies, it can lead to prices rise even at higher levels. Further, on the other hand, if the authorities try to stabilise prices, it will lead to a fall in the output and employment in the country.
What is the situation of India’s foreign exchange reserves since 2020?
Until 2020, India had seen massive portfolio capital inflows, and its current account deficits were financed by foreign reserves.
In about six months, the foreign exchange reserves have fallen from around $640 billion to around $600 billion due to reversal in portfolio inflows. The RBI has executed “sterilised intervention”, in which it has bought foreign exchange (with rupees) and sold the government bonds.
Source: The post is based on an article “An oil palm plan for home” published in the Indian Express on 20th June 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 Indian Economy, Effects of liberalization on Indian Economy; Issues and Challenges pertaining to buffer stocks and PDS; Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country
Relevance: Self- Reliance in Edible Oil in India; Oil Palm
News: Recently, The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference was concluded.
It struggled to find satisfactory answers to some of the complex questions pertaining to global trade, especially with respects to trade in agriculture commodities and public stockholding for food security purposes,
What are the major issues in international trade related to trade in agricultural commodities?
The most appropriate trading rules with respect to agriculture, trade and food security have not been figured out in dire situations like pandemics, wars, social/political disruptions or natural disasters.
In crisis times, many countries become inward-looking citing domestic food security needs.
– For example, Russia’s export ban on wheat and sunflower oil, Ukraine’s ban on exports of food staples, Indonesia’s ban on palm oil exports, Argentina’s ban on beef exports, and India’s wheat export ban etc.
What are the impacts of such inward-looking measures by the countries?
Sudden actions such as these lead to supply disruption, exacerbate the pressure on global trade leading to a spike in the prices of these commodities, threatening the food security of net food-importing countries.
Supply disruptions during the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have led many nations to think about “self-sufficiency” in critical food items, or at least reduce their “excessive dependence” on imports of essential food products.
– For example, India is working to reduce its dependence on palm oil import.
India’s Agri-EXIM Situation
India’s Agri-exports are more than its Agri-imports. This means that Indian agriculture is largely globally competitive.
However, India’s biggest Agri-import item, edible oil, accounts for 59% of India’s Agri-import basket. Further, Palm oil comprises more than 50 per cent of India’s edible oil imports, followed by soybean and sunflower.
Measures Taken for making India self-reliant in edible oil
The National Edible Oil Mission-Oil Palm (NEOM-OP) was launched in 2021 to achieve self-reliance in edible oils, primarily through traditional oilseeds such as mustard, groundnuts and soya.
The objective of NEOM-OP also includes to bring in at least 1 million hectares under oil palm by 2025-26.
What are the challenges for making India self-reliant in edible oil?
The cultivation of traditional oilseeds would require an additional area of about 39 million hectares under oilseeds.
However, such a large tract of land will not be available without cutting down the area under cereals. This could endanger India’s food security.
The government can reduce import dependence in edible oils through promotion of oil palm at home.
India has identified 2.8 million hectares of area where oil palm can be grown suitably.
The oil palm is a long gestation period crop. It takes four to six years to come to maturity. Therefore, during this period, smallholders need to be fully supported in the form of subsidy or else.
Besides the cultivation, the processing industry needs to ensure that there is an oil recovery of at least 18 to 20%.
The oil palm can be declared as a plantation crop which would allow the corporate players to to develop their own plantations and processing units.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: What is ‘critical information infrastructure’, who protects it?” published in Indian Express on 19th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Union Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has declared the IT resources of ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and UPI managing entity NPCI as ‘Critical Information Infrastructure’.
What is Critical Information Infrastructure?
Definition: The Information Technology Act of 2000 defines “Critical Information Infrastructure” as a computer resource, the incapacitation or destruction of which shall have a debilitating impact on national security, economy, public health or safety.
Under the Act, the government has the power to declare any data, database, IT network or communications infrastructure as CII to protect that digital asset.
Penalty: Any person who secures access or attempts to secure access to a protected system in violation of the law can be punished with a jail term of up to 10 years.
How are CIIs protected in India?
National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre(NCIIPC) was created in 2014. It is the nodal agency for taking all measures to protect the nation’s Critical Information Infrastructure(CII).
Functions of NCIIPC: 1) To guard CIIs from unauthorized access, modification, use, disclosure, disruption, incapacitation or distraction and 2) To monitor and forecast national-level threats to CII for policy guidance, expertise sharing and situational awareness for early warning or alerts.
Source: The post is based on the article “Use of ICT in school education in India receives UNESCO’s recognition” published in PIB on 19th June 2022.
What is the News?
Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), a constituent unit of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has been awarded the UNESCO’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize.
Why has UNESCO given this award to CIET?
CIET has been awarded by UNESCO for use of ICT in Education under a comprehensive initiative called PM eVIDYA.
What is PM eVIDYA?
Launched in: 2020 by the Ministry of Education
Purpose: It is a comprehensive initiative which unifies all efforts related to digital/online/on-air education to enable multimode access to education.
What is the Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET)?
CIET is a constituent unit of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
Established in: 1984 with the merger of the Center for Educational Technology(CET) and the Department of Teaching Aids(DTA).
Aim: To promote utilization of educational technologies viz. radio, TV, films, Satellite communications and cyber media either separately or in combinations.
What is the King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize?
Established in: 2005 by UNESCO with the support of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Aim: To reward individuals and organizations that are implementing outstanding projects and promoting the creative use of technologies to enhance learning, teaching and overall educational performance in the digital age.
Source: The post is based on the article “PM launches historic torch relay for 44th Chess Olympiad” published in PIB on 19th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Prime Minister has launched the historic torch relay for the 44th Chess Olympiad at Indira Gandhi Stadium, New Delhi.
What is the Chess Olympiad?
The Chess Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament in which teams representing nations of the world compete. The first Official Chess Olympiad was held in 1927 in London, UK.
Organized by: FIDE organizes the tournament and selects the host nation.
India and Chess Olympiad: India made its debut at Chess Olympiad in 1956. India has a gold medal (joint winners with Russia in 2020) and two bronze medals (2021, 2014) from the Chess Olympiad.
Who is hosting the 44th Chess Olympiad in 2022?
The 44th Chess Olympiad will be held in Chennai, India.
Significance: India is hosting the Chess Olympiad for the first time. Moreover, Asia gets to host the event after a gap of 30 years. The Philippines last hosted it from Asia in 1992.
Source: The post is based on the article “Telcos seek level playing field with captive network operators” published in Livemint on 20th June 2022.
What is the News?
The government of India has announced that it has reserved a portion of airwaves for Captive Private Networks.
What are Captive Private Networks?
Captive Private Networks are cellular networks built specifically for individual enterprises. These networks are often deployed at a single unit, for example, a factory.
They can also be used in a wide-area setting, for instance, to monitor a mine in real-time. Airports and ports can also have their own private 5G cellular network to process imaging data coming from surveillance cameras to manage the facility.
The key reason behind the adoption of Captive Private Networks is that enterprises are demanding more reliability in their applications, better cyber security, lower latency for Machine-2-Machine(m2m) applications. Further, CPNs also have more choice and control in running their networks rather than depending on telcos.
How does the government plan to set aside spectrum for private network operators?
The Department of Telecommunications(DoT) has said that private firms can set up a 5G network by either getting a slice of the public network from a licensed telecom company or obtaining spectrum directly from the Department of Telecom or sub-leasing it from telcos.
Why are telcos opposing the spectrum to Captive Private Networks?
Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has voiced concerns over the allocation of the 5G spectrum to captive private networks. It has suggested to the government several conditions that captive private networks should follow to ensure a level playing field. These conditions are:
Firstly, they should be made to conform to the same license fee and GST payment requirements as the existing telecom providers.
Secondly, the scope of private captive networks is restricted to use within an organization such as machine-to-machine communication and plant automation.
Thirdly, captive private networks should not be permitted on 2G, 3G or 4G technologies and should be assigned spectrum only in the non- International Mobile Telecommunications(IMT) bands.
Fourthly, private captive networks set up using a dedicated spectrum must store call or data records for two years, keep records of software updates, ensure data localization and allow remote access only from within the country and not allow remote access outside of India. Similar conditions are there for non-captive networks.
Source: The post is based on the article “India’s fishing subsidy win at WTO the start of a long fight” published in Livemint on 20th June 2022.
What is the News?
At the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, India was successful in defending the rights of developing countries to subsidize their fisheries.
What have the WTO members agreed regarding the Fishing Subsidy?
WTO members agreed on eliminating subsidies to those engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The only exception for continuing subsidies is for overfished stock when they are deemed essential to rebuild them to a biologically sustainable level.
The agreement also provides that there would be no limitation on subsidies granted or maintained by developing or least-developed countries for fishing within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
What has India achieved in its demand at WTO on fisheries subsidies?
India had strongly opposed the article in the draft that required developing countries to do away with subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity within 7 years of the agreement coming into effect or up to 2030.
Instead, India sought a 25-year transition period as the sector still requires support in developing countries to protect the livelihoods of low-income fishermen.
This provision cited above was removed from the text and will now need to be negotiated afresh within four years.
However, India was also pressing for disciplines on subsidies given by developed countries with large industrial fleets in the form of non-specific fuel subsidies. This account for 22% of total fisheries subsidies. But the text completely excludes these subsidies from the pact allowing countries to continue with them.
Climate frontline: Barents Sea around Svalbard, Franz Josef Land warming 7 times faster than globe, says study
Source: The post is based on the article “Climate frontline: Barents Sea around Svalbard, Franz Josef Land warming 7 times faster than globe, says study” published in Down To Earth on 16th June 2022.
What is the News?
According to a study, the region around the northern Barents Sea in the Arctic region has been warming two to two-and-a-half times the average warming of the Arctic region and five to seven times the warming in the rest of the world.
Such intense warming has never been observed in the Arctic region before. This is leading to the phenomenon of Atlantification.
Where is the Barents Sea?
The Barents Sea is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean located off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia. It is divided between Norwegian and Russian territorial waters.
The Barents Sea is bounded by the Svalbard archipelago in the northwest, Franz Josef Land islands in the northeast, the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the east, the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea in the west, and by the Kola Peninsula in the south.
What is Atlantification?
Streams of warmer water from the Atlantic Ocean flow into the Arctic at the Barents Sea. This warmer, saltier Atlantic water is usually fairly deep under the more buoyant Arctic water at the surface.
Lately, however, the Atlantic water has been creeping up. That heat in the Atlantic water is helping to keep ice from forming and melting existing sea ice from below. This process is called “Atlantification”.
Hence, the ice in the Arctic is now getting hit both from the top by a warming atmosphere and at the bottom by a warming ocean.
Reasons: The reason for all of this is global climate change. The Arctic sea ice extent and thickness have been dropping for decades as global temperatures rise.
As the Arctic loses ice and the ocean absorbs more solar radiation, global warming is amplified.
That affects ocean circulation, weather patterns and Arctic ecosystems spanning the food chain, from phytoplankton all the way to top predators.
What is the impact of warming Arctic ice?
The rapid warming of the Arctic region has already thrown up weird weather such as the first recorded rainfall at the Summit Station of Greenland in August 2021 and back-to-back storms in July.
Lightning strikes which were once rare in the region, have also increased by eight times in the last decade.
Apart from the local consequences, the warming of the Barents Sea also led to an extreme snowfall event, often dubbed as the ‘Beast from the East’, across most of Europe in 2018.
In India, Arctic warming has been linked to the sweltering heat waves across most of the northwest, central and some parts of eastern India in 2022.
Source: The post is based on the article “Auctioning 5G spectrum bands” published in The Hindu on 19th June 2022.
What is the News?
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has given its nod for the auction of the spectrum that can be used to offer 5G services. It has also announced that it has reserved a portion of airwaves for captive private networks.
What are the 5G Spectrum Auctions announced by the Government?
When will the commercial rollout of 5G happen?
5G deployment is likely to start from August-September this year and service should commence in about 20-25 cities by the year-end.
Note: As per a report by a Government Panel on 5G, even after the entry of 5G into the Indian networks, the earlier generation mobile technologies — 2G, 3G and 4G, will continue to remain in use and may take 10 or more years to phase out.
What are the issues highlighted by the Industry?
The two issues that the industry has highlighted with regards to the upcoming auctions are 1) High reserve prices for the spectrum and 2) Direct allotment of spectrum to enterprises for setting up captive private networks.
What benefits are likely to come with 5G?
High Speed: As per the set standards, with 5G, the peak network speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gbps as opposed to about 25 Mbps on current 4G networks.
Emerging Technologies: 5G is expected to form the backbone of emerging technologies such as IoT and machine-to-machine communications, thereby supporting a much larger range of applications and services, such as telesurgery and real-time data analytics.
Low Latency: Ultra-low latency offered by 5G makes the technology desirable for such use cases. Latency is the amount of time data takes to travel between its source and destination.
Source: The post is based on the article “Indian interests at the WTO Ministerial Conference” published in The Hindu on 19th June 2022.
What is the News?
The 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization has agreed to a series of deals relating to the temporary waivers on Covid-19 vaccines, a moratorium on e-commerce trade, food security and setting limits on harmful fishing subsidies.
What is the Ministerial Conference of the WTO?
The Ministerial Conference is the WTO’s top decision-making body and usually meets every two years.
All members of the WTO are involved in the MC, and they can take decisions on all matters covered under any multilateral trade agreements.
Note: All decisions at the WTO are made collectively and through consensus among member countries at varied councils and committees.
What are the key takeaways from the 12th Ministerial Conference of WTO?
Global Food Security: Members agreed to exempt food purchased by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian purposes, from any export restrictions. But countries would be allowed to restrict food supplies to ensure domestic food security needs.
– However, negotiators could not reach agreements on issues such as permissible public stockholding threshold for domestic food security, domestic support to agriculture, cotton and market access.
Curtailing harmful fishing subsidies: WTO members agreed on eliminating subsidies to those engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The only exception for continuing subsidies for an overfished stock is when they are deemed essential to rebuild them to a biologically sustainable level.
Further, the agreements hold that there would be no limitation on subsidies granted or maintained by developing or least-developed countries for fishing within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
Note: Overfishing refers to exploiting fishes at a pace faster than they could replenish themselves. According to FAO, currently, 34.2% of fisheries are overfished.
Moratorium on Electronic Transmissions: Member countries agreed to extend the current moratorium on not imposing customs duties on electronic transmission (ET) until MC13 — scheduled to take place in December 2023.
Patent Relaxations: WTO members agreed to temporarily waive intellectual property patents on Covid-19 vaccines without the consent of the patent holder for 5 years so that they can more easily manufacture them domestically.
However, the waiver agreed by the WTO was criticized by advocacy groups for being narrow in scope as it did not cover all medical tools like diagnostics and treatments.
Global Trends Report: UNHCR: Global displacement hits another record, capping decade-long rising trend
Source: The post is based on the article “UNHCR: Global displacement hits another record, capping decade-long rising trend” published in UNHCR on 16th June 2022.
What is the News?
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has released a report titled “Global Trends Report”.
What are the key findings of the report?
Forceful Displacement: The number of people forced to flee due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events seriously disturbing public order has reached 89.3 million by the end of 2021.
This is more than double the 42.7 million people who remained forcibly displaced at the end of 2012 and represents a sharp
As a result, above 1% of the world’s population – or 1 in 88 people – were forcibly displaced at the end of 2021. This compares with 1 in 167 at the end of 2012.
Low and middle-income countries hosted 83% of the world’s refugees.
Turkey hosted nearly 3.8 million refugees, the largest population worldwide.
Note: By the end of May 2022, more than 100 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide.
War in Ukraine: The war in Ukraine has led to more than 7 million Ukrainians displaced within their country and more than 6 million refugee movements from Ukraine having been registered.
It is one of the largest forced displacement crises since World War II, and certainly the fastest.
India: In India, nearly five million people in India were internally displaced due to climate change and disasters in 2021.
UPSC has released the results of IFoS 2021. We are happy to share that ForumIAS Student Shruti , a student of MGP and then AWFG and also the IGP has secured Rank 1 in IFoS. This is the year, like 2018, when Rank 1 was secured by ForumIAS Students in both CSE and IFS –… Continue reading IFoS 2021 Results Declared – ForumIAS Student Shruti Gets Rank 1
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[Answered] What is Virtual Private Network (VPN)? Highlight the implications of India’s new VPN rules.
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