9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – June 23rd, 2022

Dear Friends,

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

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
    6. Down To Earth
    7. PIB
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
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Current Affairs Compilations for UPSC IAS Prelims 2022

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 1

What makes an area urban?

Source: This post is based on the article “What makes an area urban?” published in The Indian Express on 23rd June 22.

Syllabus: GS1 – Urbanisation

Relevance: Defining an urban area and related issues

Context: Urban areas in India need to be clearly defined by the policymakers.

What are the factors to determine whether an area is urban or not?

An urban area is a function of various factors, like –

a) population size, b) land surface, c) primary occupation, d) the level of development

Why defining urban areas is necessary?

It is not only necessary to define “urban” in order to understand urbanization, but also to understand the rural-urban divide.

This is all the more important in the context of in-situ urbanization, where non-agricultural opportunities are promoted in rural areas, and economic linkages are strengthened.

Further, almost 55% of the population live in cities now and nearly 70% is projected to be living in cities by 2050. This merits that definitional aspect of an urban area is clearly defined.

Also, the lines between rural and urban spaces are not as clear as one might think, thereby urging for a definition.

For instance, in the 19th and early 20th century the United States, a rural area, would have been classified as urban if the streets were laid out in a grid. Such clear transitions are hard to find today.

An urban area’s distinguishing characteristics are tied to its strategic role in the larger community, its value as a civilising force, and its role in enabling the market.

What is the Rural – urban continuum that has emerged lately?

Unlike before, living in rural areas today does not mean exclusion from urban life. The processes of integrative development have meant that rural and urban have become more a part of a continuum than a dichotomy.

Among the Scandinavian countries, rural and urban spaces are classified on the basis of each other.

– For example, population density and distance from urban centres are seen as the criteria to define rural areas.

In Denmark, which has close to 88% of the population living in cities, there are three classes of rural areas with distinctions between a) urban-adjacent, b) intermediate and c) remote rural areas. There’s also a further classification system that compiles the socio-economic profiles of its municipalities.

How the Census defines an urban area?

According to the census definition, a habitation is classified as urban (excluding municipalities, corporations, cantonment boards, and notified town area committees) if it has a) a population of at least 5,000 people, b) at least 75% of the male working population employed in non-agricultural pursuits, and c) the population density is at least 400 people per square kilometre.

These are also called Census Towns.

What are various constitutional provisions related to the issue?

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments also enshrine the categorisation of areas into a) district, b) intermediate level, and c) village, as well as the d) creation of municipalities.

The 74th Amendment Act (1992) defines three types of municipalities:

Nagar Panchayat for transitional areas (rural to urban)

Municipal Council for smaller urban areas

Municipal Corporation for larger urban areas.

The demographic and other criteria determining which sort of municipality is formed vary greatly from state to state.

As a result, it is up to the state legislatures to select which municipality will be formed for each urban area.

What are the Urbanization trends in India?

The Census of 2011 revealed a decline in India’s rural population for the first time.

Cities like Bengaluru that have emerged as innovation hubs have grown between 2001 and 2011, subsuming many non-urban areas.

This is only expected to grow with the next Census.

GS Paper 2

Heal the nation before healing the rest of the world

Source: The post is based on an article “Heal the nation before healing the rest of the world” published in the “The Hindu” on 23rd June 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – Issues related to Health

Relevance: Healthcare Professionals

News: News: The Centre is developing an exhaustive online repository of all categories of health-care professionals in the country, under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and the “Heal by India” initiative

About the move

An online health-care professional repository will aid foreign stakeholders in finding their right choices.

What are the reasons for such a move?

Soft power projection: In the post-COVID-19 era, the countries want to project soft power through healthcare services. In fact, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) aims to improve cross-border trade in medical and health-care services.

What are the problems with creating an online repository of healthcare professionals?

The primary purpose of creating an online repository is to aid external stakeholders, viz. foreign employers and patients in finding a right Indian match for their respective needs.

The move will worsen the out-migration of health-care professionals from the country. This will be done at the expense of the nation’s own health interests.

The proposal indicates liberalization in healthcare sector, which is a shunned principle in the health care sector.

As per a study by WHO and the Public Health Foundation of India, India faces shortage of health-care personnel. India needs nearly two million more doctors and nursing professionals to attain the minimum threshold ratio of health-care professionals to the population.

India has a skewed skill-mix of health professionals across a number of States. Their current pace of growth is unlikely to result in any significant improvement in the density or skill-mix of health-care professionals by 2030.

There are health-care professionals who remain inactive and remain outside the labour force.

Other important measures taken by the government

The Union health Budget 2022 has put focus on training different cadres of health-care personnel. The government will utilise the existing capacities at the district and sub-district levels. Such a move was recommended in the Fifteenth Finance Commission.

Way Forward

The government should draw a distinction between exporting products such as vaccines and health-care professionals because the latter require a lot of investment in training and involve a net drain of resources from the native country.

Further, India cannot afford to divert India’s scarce national health-care resources to medical tourism. It will worsen already worsened health equity in developing countries such as India.

This is not the right time to pursue medical tourism and out-migration because, at present, the country is reeling under acute shortages of healthcare professionals.

An online registry of health-care professionals would be beneficial at the national and sub-national levels. The benefits are:

(1) There are a lot of disparities in the availability, distribution, and skill mix of the health manpower.

(2) This would strongly complement measures such as an integrated public health cadre

(3) The initiatives will also help to train, deploy and retain more local manpower.

The political, geopolitical expediency or cultural chauvinism should not be allowed to undercut national health interests.

GS Paper 3

Crypto came tumbling after

Source: This post is based on the article “Crypto came tumbling after” published in The Hindu on 23rd June 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Economy

Relevance: Fluctuations in the crypto market and related issues

News: Crypto market is witnessing a crash right now. But, Crypto assets like Bitcoin have been subject to wide fluctuations in their prices since their inception. The current downturn is not the first of its kind.

As crypto assets are digital assets, the rate of return is sensitive to changes in the global liquidity condition.

Why Crypto is popular?

It is an asset that allows people to keep their money outside the formal financial system and make it accessible so that it can be used anywhere in the world.

Why there was a marked rise in Crypto prices in recent years?

The phenomenal rise in the price of Bitcoin in recent years has dwarfed the fluctuations in its price in the past.

The popularity of Bitcoin is obvious from the price differentials with Ethereum and Litecoin.

The rise in the price of crypto assets began at the onset of the pandemic, as people with excess funds parked them in crypto assets. This made sense given the lack of investment opportunities on account of the uncertainty arising from lockdowns.

What are the factors behind the recent downturn in Crypto market?

As the COVID-19 spread slowed down, people started to move their funds out of crypto assets and into more lucrative real investment opportunities arising from a recovering economy. This led to the eventual decline in prices.

The halt in withdrawal by Celsius especially led to panic among investors, as this company is supposed to be one of the biggest crypto lenders.

Major reason

Recently, there have been changes in the price of an important class of assets: government bonds issued by the governments of developed countries.

Many central banks across the developed world have been raising their policy interest rates to combat rising inflation.

Debt raised by developed country governments, especially the U.S. but also by U.K. and Germany, is an important class of assets because these are deemed as safe assets across the world.

As the central banks of these countries raise their policy interest rates, the rate of return is also expected to go up, motivating large institutional investors to buy more of these.

Accordingly, these investors would get out of some current investments and use the newly realized liquidity to buy these safe assets.

Why the demand for safe assets has increased?

The world over, demand for safe assets has increased as many developing countries have grown fast and accumulated enormous foreign exchange reserves.

These countries then demanded USD-denominated assets to preserve the value of their portfolios.

Events like the pandemic only increased the demand further for safe assets.

Unfortunately, the supply of safe assets has not kept up with this demand, as the developed countries that produce these assets have grown at a much slower rate.

Way forward

Given that there is generally a shortage of safe assets, it is likely that the demand and prices of crypto assets will change frequently as institutions look for alternatives with slight movements in the rate of return on safe assets.

Overall, investors must understand the nature of crypto assets and their demand and not ignore the interconnectedness of financial markets at the global level.

Do We Need Geoengineering & What Are The Risks?

Source: The post is based on the article “Do We Need Geoengineering & What Are The Risks?” published in “The Times of India” on 23rd June 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Relevance: To understand the concepts of geoengineering.

News: With record-breaking heatwaves hitting many parts of the world, scientific circles have been debating whether countries should prepare to deploy geoengineering technologies to deal with such climate emergencies or not.

What is Geoengineering?

Geoengineering is an umbrella term for various experimental technologies designed to deliberately alter the climate system to reduce the impacts of global warming. They are broadly fall under two categories: Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) technologies and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies.

Premier universities such as Cambridge and Harvard have set up specialised geoengineering research centres. There are a few geoengineering modelling programmes in India as well.

What are Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) technologies?

SRM aims to reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth by reflecting sunlight back into space, thereby reducing surface temperatures. Scientists are proposing to do this by a variety of techniques such as making clouds brighter, thereby reflecting sunlight like a mirror. Or by thinning/ removing the ‘cirrus clouds’ that absorb solar radiations and warm the earth. These technologies are attracting the most attention.

SRM has many techniques. Such as,

Cloud engineering: Countries have been seeding clouds to force more rainfall for years. China has been implementing an extensive cloud seeding programme, with plans to cover more than half of the country by 2025. In India, cloud seeding has been tried in states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra during droughts.

These practices have encouraged scientists to propose cloud engineering of the planet to reduce warming. But still, cloud engineering is in the ideation stage.

Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI): It is one of the technologies that has reached the experimentation stage. SAI aims to mimic large volcanic eruptions that have a cooling effect on the globe. During large eruptions, millions of tonnes of sulphur particles (called aerosols) are injected into the upper atmosphere, where they reflect back the incoming solar radiations, thereby cooling the planet.

For example, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 caused global cooling of 0. 6°C for the following two years. Scientists are now proposing to send aeroplanes and balloons to the stratosphere to release millions of tonnes of aerosols to mimic a smaller version of Mount Pinatubo.

What are Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies?

CDR is about removing carbon from the atmosphere, either by the massive deployment of machines to extract CO2 from the air or by more natural methods like planting trees.

What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with the Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI)?

Advantages: Several modelling studies indicate that SAI might reduce some of the worst effects of climate change, such as lowering warming and reducing the frequency of heatwaves and high-intensity storms.

Also, the price is so affordable that a few dozen countries can easily deploy this technology unilaterally.

Disadvantages: a) SAI might create unintended consequences such as adverse impacts on rainfall, crop production and ocean acidification, b) Large-scale spraying of aerosols into the atmosphere could also deplete the ozone layer, enlarging the ozone hole, c) If the aerosol injection is terminated abruptly this will cause rapid warming, disrupting the water cycle and leading to massive biodiversity loss, d) Unilateral use of SAI could lead to significant adverse effects in other countries, leading to conflicts.

What will be the future of geoengineering techniques?

The best way to solve the climate crisis is by cutting down the global emissions. But environmentalists fear that the excessive focus on geoengineering would move the focus away from cutting emissions.

Countries will deploy geoengineering on a large scale only if they fear large-scale casualties or economic disruptions due to extreme climatic events.

Before deploying, a) enough research must be done about the safety and effectiveness of these technologies, b) A global governance mechanism based on international rules-based system must be established to deter the unilateral deployment of these technologies, c) Better to be prepared for the consequences.

India should take the lead from the global South in developing scientific knowledge on the subject.

GVC restructuring: China’s zero Covid policy & India’s opportunity

Source: The post is based on the article “China’s zero Covid policy & India’s opportunity” published in “Business Standard” on 23rd June 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth

Relevance: To understand the global value chain (GVC) restructuring and stand of India.

News: Just after reopening the complete lockdown, Shanghai reimposed a fresh, partial Covid-19 lockdown again. This shows China’s zero-tolerance strategy toward Covid-19.

The lockdown provides another opportunity for global value chain (GVC) restructuring and relocation. India should utilise this opportunity and must attract relocating supply chains.

What are the phases of GVC restructuring?

Global financial crisis and aftermath: The process of GVC restructuring began in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008-09 followed by a series of natural disasters like the Tohoku earthquake in Japan, the Tsunami and the Thai floods in 2011.

The earthquake impacted semiconductor production, the Thai floods disrupted the automotive value chains followed by electronics and electrical appliances.

During risk rebalancing, large corporations preferred regionalisation of GVCs or shorter-length supply chains.

During US-China trade tensions: “China plus one” emerged as the alternative strategy for MNCs to relocate their subsidiary operations.

In sectors like automobiles, machinery, transport equipment and electrical equipment, the EU, Mexico, Taiwan and Vietnam, have gained from this strategy.

Pandemic-led border closures, followed by the Ukraine war: This further added to supply chain woes by disrupting the flow of critical minerals, elements and components.

The availability of easily substitutable inputs from alternative trading partners is now being considered as a means to make GVCs more resilient.

Globally, two alternatives, localisation and regionalisation are being debated for GVC resilience. Both strategies compromise efficiency but they reduce geopolitical risks.

Read more: The Global Semiconductor Shortage – Explained, pointwise
How does Localisation benefit GVC restructuring?

Localisation means the use of domestically produced inputs is encouraged through protectionist instruments such as tariff increases and restrictions on imported inputs.

Challenges: Building complete supply chains domestically is a more time-consuming process. Further, relying solely on domestic inputs will make localised supply chains rigid and actually less capable of adjusting to exogenous shocks.

Status of India: India’s trade policy has been more protectionist in the last few years and this is one of the reasons for India’s inability to take advantage of the earlier waves of GVC restructuring and shifts.

How does regionalisation facilitates GVC restructuring?

Over the last two decades, global trade has been increasingly dominated by GVC-led trade in intermediate goods.

Several countries directed their trade policies to facilitate the movement of intermediates across multiple borders. For example, China and ASEAN economies adopted a differential and favourable tariff structure for imports of parts and components/ intermediates, particularly in sectors like automobiles and electronics.

This has been a major contributory factor in these countries’ ability to attract export-oriented foreign direct investment (FDI) in these sectors.

India and regionalisation: India maintains much higher levels of tariffs and relatively fewer duty-free lines in GVC-intensive sectors. Further, customs compliance has been made more cumbersome in India for importers utilising free-trade agreement (FTA) preferences.

India’s trade policy was not designed in recognition of the importance of integration with GVCs for enhancing its trade participation as well as manufacturing competitiveness.

Read more: India must integrate with global value chain :ADB
What should be done to attract GVCs to India?

Apart from low and favourable tariff structures, trade and investment agreements play a significant role in integrating with GVC/regional value chain networks. Hence, India must negotiate trade agreements with ASEAN or East Asian economies.

India should work on the early conclusion of the review processes of its existing FTAs/Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. with ASEAN, Korea and Japan.

India should also follow up the India-Australia early harvest scheme with necessary investment liberalisation provisions towards achieving a full-fledged comprehensive agreement.

Recognising that integration with GVCs is an important means to achieving long-sought manufacturing competitiveness in India. Hence, India should reorient its trade policy to take advantage of China’s zero-Covid strategy.

Fiscal weakness – State finances can impede growth

Source: The post is based on the article “Fiscal weakness – State finances can impede growth” published in “Business Standard” on 23rd June 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth

Relevance: To understand the challenges faced by state government finances.

News: State governments indulge in most of the general government spending (including the central government). According to a recent Reserve Bank of India(RBI) study, five states namely, Bihar, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, and West Bengal figure among the most stressed states fiscally.

The study has highlighted 10 vulnerable states based on their debt stock in 2020-21. These 10 states account for around half of the total expenditure by all state governments in India.

Read more: Five states need to take steps to stabilize debt levels: RBI
What are the reasons for distressed state government finances?

Impact of Pandemic: Before the pandemic, the average gross fiscal deficit (GFD) to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio was at 2.5%, though some states ran fiscal deficits above 3.5%. But the pandemic significantly affected government finances.

During the pandemic State’s revenues were hit. Despite that, States continuously provided medical care and supported the vulnerable sections of the population.

Decline in revenue collection: Revenue expenditure constitutes about 80-90% of total expenditure in these (10 vulnerable) states, which clearly affects their ability to spend on growth-enhancing asset creation.

What are the risks highlighted by RBI to state government finances?

The RBI study also underlines several risks to state government finances. Due to that, the RBI projections suggest that most states would have a debt-GSDP ratio of over 30 per cent by 2026-27. These risks are,

a) Growing preference for distribution, b) Some states reverting to the old pension scheme is also a cause for concern, c) The guarantees extended to state-owned enterprises and the mounting debt of power distribution companies, d) According to estimates, the off-budget borrowings of state governments have increased to about 4.5% of GDP and e) The end of the compensation regime under the goods and services tax would further weaken the fiscal position of the states.

What should be done to improve the state government finances?

An unsustainable level of debt in some of the large states would not only affect growth prospects, but could also pose risks to macroeconomic stability. Hence, India needs an overall medium-term consolidation road map.

The role of caste in economic transformation

Source: The post is based on an article “The role of caste in economic transformation” published in the “The Hindu” on 23rd June 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 Issues and Challenges pertaining to growth and development in India; Inclusive Growth in India

Relevance: Barriers to inclusive Growth in India

News: Recently, India witnessed agitations against farm laws, agitation for reservation by agriculture castes, and is witnessing an ongoing protest against the Agnipath programme, at present.

What are the reasons for such protest?

They are all arguably an outcome simmering discontent due to jobless economic growth for at least two decades, coupled with rising poverty and discontent in rural areas.

How does it impede the economic transformation in India?

As per Arthur Lewis, a Nobel Prize winner for development economics, accumulation of physical capital is vital for economic transformation in the developing world. Further, Theodore William Schultz, emphasized that human capital in the form of educated workforce and entrepreneurs, is vital for better transition to modern sectors.

There were divergent outcomes in structural transformation between countries in the Global South, particularly India, China and South East Asia. It was because all the nations which attained inclusive growth in the Global South succeeded in land reforms, human capital formation, investment in infrastructure through capitalism and began industrialisation in the rural sector.

However, only India lost the game. It has been due to three factors which impeded Inclusive growth in India:

(1) The caste system shapes the ownership pattern of land and capital. It has led to ownership and land inequality.

(a) India has one of the highest land inequalities in the world today. It started under British rule. They assigned land ownership to proper cultivators who belong to certain castes at the expense of others/labourers belonging to lower castes who cultivate granted/gifted lands. It is still reflected in the post-independent land ownership pattern in India because Dalits and lower castes remained excluded in the post-independent land reforms.

Since Economic reforms of 1991, the farm lobby has lost its power. The land has lost its productive capacity.

The farm cultivators could not transform into the capitalist entrepreneurs in the modern sectors, except a few castes in western and southern India.

(2) There is an elite bias in higher education. Further, it is found that there is a historical neglect of mass education

The Indian education system has been suffering from an elite bias since colonial times. These elite were largely from upper castes. This has continued in the post-independent India. The service growth since 1991 reforms is an outcome of this historic elite bias in education.

India did not achieve much success in human capital formation which was required for the manufacturing growth. In contrast, Chinese and other East Asian Countries invested in basic education and gradually shifted towards higher education.

Therefore, they accumulated human capital which contributed to their success in manufacturing. Unlike India which concentrated in high-end technology jobs, these countries captured low-end manufacturing jobs.

(3) Caste system generated a barrier to entrepreneurship. It was done through its rigid social control and networks which facilitated economic mobility for some and erects barriers for others in the modern sector.

The relative success in South India is being attributed to the ‘Vaishya vacuum’ or an absence of traditional merchant castes.

In contrast, agrarian capitalists entered into urban enterprises in the South East Asian Countries.

What were the reasons due to which the agriculture sector could not benefit from the economic reforms?

Due to historical neglect of education and the entry barriers erected by the upper castes in modern sectors. It is validated by the recent agitations by the Jats, the Marathas and the Patels, demanding reservation for their castes in higher education and formal jobs.

Towards a single low tax regime

Source: The post is based on an article “Towards a single low tax regime” published in the “The Hindu” on 23rd June 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Government Budgeting

Relevance: GST Reforms

News: The Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime which reduced big barriers to free trade and economic growth in India is back in the news due to various reasons, including demand for low-tax regime.

Why should India move towards a low tax regime?

The late Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley had announced that the 28% GST slab, which he called the “dying slab”, would be phased out, except for luxury items. In addition, he said, India would eventually have just two slabs: 5% and a standard rate between 12% and 18%.

There is empirical data from across the world which talks about the benefits of a unified single tax.

The ‘Sin’ taxes impede the growth rate and creation of jobs under ‘Make in India’ in India. The high taxes create an economic ripple effect downstream, which finally reaches down to the bottom of the employment pyramid.

  • For example, a five-star hotel, paying sin tax, generates a lot of direct low-salaried employment such as waiters, housekeeping staff, etc., it also generates indirect employment, such as it buys furniture, carpets, air conditioners, cutlery, etc. So, it’s unwise to tax these hotels to death.

It is a complicated and confusing tax regime, due to its different slab nature.  For example, the GST on bread is zero, but the vegetable sandwich is in the 5% tax slab, hitting the vegetable grower directly.

The present regime leads to harassment and litigation. For example, ID Fresh Food appealed against a GST ruling of the Authority for Advance Rulings, which made a distinction between rotis and parotas, in which rotis were subjected to 5% slab and parotas were subjected 18% slab.

There are various items that are exempt from GST. For example, Petrol, diesel, and aviation turbine fuel come under Central excise and State taxes. These Central excise duties and varying State taxes on petrol and diesel, are probably the highest in the world

In addition to above, there is a distrust between the States and the Centre on revenue sharing. Various state governments are angry at the Centre for reducing the States’ autonomy and disregarding the federal structure of the Constitution.

Way Forward

The Finance Ministry must adopt the principles of Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) which is used in the low-cost airline model. It means keep a framework which is so simple that even a stupid person would be able to understand and comprehend it without problem.

The government can come up with a single low tax regime along with a list of exempt items. The tax regime can be of just two categories: (1) goods eligible for zero tax and (2) goods that will fall under a single rate, say 10% or 12%.

The GST framework should allow more people to buy items purchased by the rich and upper middle class.

The GST reform would ensure compliance, widen the tax net, improve ease of doing business, boost the economy, create jobs, increase tax collections and reduce corruption

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Explained | The controversy around the Northern Ireland Protocol

What is the News?

The UK administration has come up with new legislation named the “Northern Ireland Protocol Bill”. The Bill would enable the UK to override provisions of the Brexit deal that concern trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol(NIP)?

Special trading arrangements were needed for Northern Ireland after the UK voted for Brexit in 2016. This is because it’s the only part of the UK with a land border with an EU country – the Republic of Ireland.

Before Brexit, it was easy to transport goods across this border because both sides had the same EU trade rules. No checks or paperwork were necessary.

After Brexit, a new system was needed because the EU has strict food rules and requires border checks when certain goods -arrive from non-EU countries.

Hence, the UK and the EU agreed to sign the Northern Ireland Protocol in 2019 as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which is now part of international law.

What does the current protocol provide for?

Instead of checking goods at the Irish border, the protocol agreed that any inspections and document checks would be conducted between Northern Ireland and Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). 

It was also agreed Northern Ireland would keep following EU rules on product standards.

Why are businesses in the UK opposing this protocol?

The main irritant for the U.K. in the current version of the NIP was the creation of “unacceptable barriers” to trade within the U.K. internal market — between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

It has sparked complaints from businesses about the enormous paperwork needed for the supply of goods and services to Northern Ireland despite it being within the sovereign territory of the U.K.

What are the changes the UK has proposed to this protocol?

The UK government wants to create red lanes and green lanes for goods imported from Britain into Northern Ireland.

The green lane would be for trusted traders transporting goods to Northern Ireland only. These would be exempt from checks and customs controls,

The red lane would be for products destined for the EU, including the Republic of Ireland. These goods would undergo full checks and customs controls.

The government also wants an independent body to settle disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol, rather than the European Court of Justice.

What has been the reaction to these proposed changes?

Political parties in the UK and EU officials have pointed out that the changes would violate international law, damage the U.K.’s reputation as a trade partner and spark a trade war with the EU. 

Moreover, the EU’s executive branch has announced that it would be taking legal action against the U.K. for violating international law.

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained | The controversy around the Northern Ireland Protocol” published in The Hindu on 15th June 2022.

Four new corals recorded from Indian waters

What is the News?

Scientists have recorded four species of azooxanthellate corals for the first time from Indian waters. 

What are the four new species of corals found?

The four new species of azooxanthellate corals found are: 1) Truncatoflabellum crassum, 2) T. incrustatum, 3) T. Irregular and 4) T. Krasum.

These corals were found in the waters of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They are from the same family Flabellidae.

They are non-reef building, solitary corals and have a highly compressed skeletal structure.

Significance: Most studies of hard corals in India have been concentrated on reef-building corals while much is not known about non-reef-building corals. These new species enhance our knowledge about non-reef-building solitary corals.

What are Azooxanthellate Corals?

Azooxanthellate corals are a group of hard corals. They do not contain zooxanthellae and derive nourishment not from the sun but from capturing different forms of planktons.

They are deep-sea representatives with the majority of species being reported from depths between 200 meters and 1,000 meters.

They are also reported from shallow waters, unlike zooxanthellate corals that are restricted to shallow waters.

Note: There are about 570 species of hard corals found in India and almost 90% of them are found in the waters surrounding Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The pristine and oldest ecosystem of corals shares less than 1% of the earth’s surface, but they provide a home to nearly 25% of marine life.

Source: The post is based on the article “Four new corals recorded from Indian waters” published in The Hindu on 23rd June 2022.

Explained: In Maharashtra political crisis, powers of Governor, floor test law in spotlight

What is the News?

The Maharashtra political crisis has once again put the spotlight on the role of the Governor to call for a floor test.

Constitution on the role of Governor in calling for a floor test 

Article 174(2)(b): It gives powers to the Governor to dissolve the Assembly on the aid and advice of the cabinet. 

– However, the Governor can apply his mind when the advice comes from a Chief Minister whose majority could be in doubt.

Article 175(2): It says that the Governor can summon the House and call for a floor test to prove whether the government has the numbers. 

Article 163: It says that the governor shall exercise her or his functions with the aid and advice of the council of ministers. But it also adds that she or he would not need their advice if the Constitution requires her or him to carry out any function at her/his discretion.

Supreme Court on Powers of Governor in calling for a floor test 

In 2020, the Supreme Court in Shivraj Singh Chouhan & Ors versus Speaker case upheld the powers of the Speaker to call for a floor test if there is a prima facie view that the government has lost its majority.

The court also held that the Governor is not deprived of the power to order a floor test where on the basis of the material available to the Governor it becomes evident that the issue as to whether the government commands the confidence of the House requires it to be assessed on the basis of a floor test.

Note: When the House is in session, it is the Speaker who can call for a floor test. But when the Assembly is not in session, the Governor’s residuary powers under Article 163 allow him to call for a floor test.

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: In Maharashtra political crisis, powers of Governor, floor test law in spotlight” published in Indian Express on 23rd June 2022.

Green Energy Open Access Rules,2022: Open access: A game changer for green energy?

What is the News?

The Ministry of Power has notified the Green Energy Open Access Rules, 2022.

Read here: Open access: A game changer for green energy?
What are the key provisions of Green Energy Open Access Rules,2022?

Lower Limit for green energy open access: The limit of open access transactions has been reduced from 1 MW (megawatt) to 100 kW for green energy in order to enable small consumers also to purchase renewable power through open access.  

Setting up of Central Nodal Agency: The rules provide for the setting up of a central nodal agency for operating a single-window green energy open access system through a centralized registry. 

Faster Application Process: The decision to grant green energy open access or not would have to be taken in 15 days failing which it would be treated as deemed permission.

What are the implications of these rules?

Firstly, open-access rules for green power, though helpful to the consumers, will put the discom finances under further strain. 

Note: If India really wants to reach 500 GW of non-fossil capacity, the financial health of the discoms needs to improve by taking the following actions: Retail tariffs need to be raised, the discoms need to bring down their commercial losses and the government needs to pay the promised subsidy to the discoms.

Secondly, the states will still be able to thwart open access by citing technical issues, meaning a lack of transmission capacity. 

Source: The post is based on the article “Open access: A game changer for green energy?published in Business Standard on 23rd June 2022.

Here is what Assam can do to prevent floods

What is the News?

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources in its report has suggested several measures that it can take to manage floods.

What are the measures suggested in the report?

Strengthen embankments along the rivers: Most flood protection structures in Assam are over 50-60 years old. These were constructed on the main stem of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries way back in the 1960s and 1970s and have become weak now.

Dredging of Rivers: Dredging is the removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of lakes, rivers, harbours, and other water bodies. It is a routine necessity in waterways around the world because sedimentation—the natural process of sand and silt washing downstream—gradually fills channels and harbors.

Set up modern weather stations in the upstream catchment of all dams in the North East and install sirens on river banks near dams. This would alert downstream populations in the event of floods.

Measures such as Afforestation and rejuvenation of wetlands should be taken to mitigate floods.

Inclusion of river erosion in an admissible list of calamities: Government should consider the inclusion of river erosion in the admissible list of calamities for availing assistance under the National Disaster Response Fund / State Disaster Response Fund.

Fill Vacant Posts: Brahmaputra Board which has been functional since 1982 does not have enough manpower. It had asked the board to fill up all vacant posts on a priority basis.

Other Measures suggested by the report

Enact Flood Zoning Bill: Major flood-prone states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Odisha etc had not taken the initiative to enact the flood plain zoning bill. The bill envisages the zoning of the flood plain of a river according to flood frequencies and defines the type of use of flood plains.

Set up River Basin Organizations: The report strongly recommended the setting up of River Basin Organizations or RBOs. These would effectively provide immediate, short-term and long-term solutions in addition to the overall development of the river basin.

Source: The post is based on the article “Here is what Assam can do to prevent floods published in DTE on 22nd June 2022.

Explained: The importance of Snake Island, speck of land in the Black Sea, where Ukraine has bombed Russia

What is the News?

Ukraine has said it has caused significant losses to the Russian military in airstrikes on Zmiinyi Island also known as Snake Island in the Black Sea.

What is Snake Island?
Snake Island
Source: BBC

Snake Island is also known as Zmiinyi or Serpent Island.

The island is located 35 km from the coast of the Black Sea, to the east of the mouth of the Danube and roughly southwest of the port city of Odessa.

The island is a small piece of rock less than 700 meters from end to end that has been described as being “X-shaped”.

The island has been known since ancient times and is marked on the map by the tiny village of Bile that is located on it. This village belongs to Ukraine. 

About Black Sea

Click Here to read it

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: The importance of Snake Island, speck of land in the Black Sea, where Ukraine has bombed Russia” published in The Hindu on 20th June 2022.

Dutch disease

What is the News?

This article talks about the Dutch Disease and how to combat it.

What is Dutch Disease?

Dutch Disease in economics refers to a phenomenon wherein a country witnesses uneven growth across sectors due to the discovery of natural resources, especially large oil reserves. 

According to the concept, when a country discovers natural resources and starts exporting them to the rest of the world, it causes the exchange rate of the currency to appreciate significantly and this, in turn, discourages the exports from other sectors while encouraging the import of cheaper alternatives.

Who coined the term Dutch Disease?

The term ‘Dutch disease’ was first coined by The Economist in 1977 to describe the decline of the manufacturing industry in the Netherlands.

How to combat Dutch Disease?

Role of Fiscal Policy: According to the researchers, the role of fiscal policy is important to control the boom following the discovery of natural resources. Rising income due to the export of natural resources should be adjusted with cautious spending on public welfare.

Promote public spending policies: Public spending such as concentrating on imports of tradeables rather than non-tradables would help slow the impact of the Dutch disease. Private spending in order to improve the productivity of private firms would also help reduce the impact.

Role of Monetary Policy: With the discovery of natural resources, the country sees a huge inflow of money, especially foreign currency. The export of natural resources tends to affect the equilibrium in the money and exchange rate markets. The Dutch disease can be prevented if the central bank raises the banking system reserve’s requirement, which decreases domestic credit.

Source: The post is based on the article Dutch diseasepublished in The Hindu on 20th June 2022.

Understanding bird strikes and aviation safety

News: Recently, two aircraft in India suffered bird hits. Damage to the engine was reported.

India’s civil aviation regulatory body, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has ordered an inquiry. Further, in a directive to all airport operators, it has asked all airports to review their wildlife hazard management plans for within and outside the airfield.

What is the data on bird strikes?

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been collecting bird strike data since 1965, but it was in 1979 that it requested member states to begin reporting bird strikes to aircraft into a data entry and retrieval system.

The ICAO Bird Strike Information System (developed with the help of experts) has been in operation since 1980.

The annual costs of bird strikes are an estimated $1.2 billion.

A report says that in India in 2021, DGCA data has recorded over 1,400 suspected and confirmed wildlife incidents (for 20.5 lakh aircraft movements), up from nearly 840 cases in 2016 (for 22.9 lakh aircraft movements). Most of the incidents were reported from Delhi and Mumbai airports.

In India’s National Aviation Safety Plan (2018-2022), which is in line with ICAO’s Global Aviation Safety Plan, the DGCA has said that one of the key safety priorities is looking at “wildlife and bird strikes”.

What is being done to help minimise instances of bird hits?

All areas surrounding an airport ought to be clear of slaughterhouses and garbage dumping (factors which can attract wildlife and increase risks).

Airports are also expected to have incinerators to dispose of garbage removed from aircraft.

Understanding bird behavior is something crew and operators need to be familiar with. Close to the ground, the instinctive response of birds is to get away from the aircraft path. Over 100ft, birds tend to dive to avoid an aircraft.

Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) is to start a series of training programmes from August 2022 involving airport bird hazard management teams.

Each airport in India has its unique ecological setting and therefore the solutions are different. For example, if there are 60 avian species that could be around an airport, only five to six could pose a problem.

A study of birds over a year would lead to a specific list of recommendations on how to handle the dynamics of these species. There are good results in airports where there is 100% implementation.

In the Indian scenario, a proper database needs to be developed that collects essential details such as the bird species, the height of occurrence and exact geospatial coordinates.

Need to ensure proper forensics and a data reporting and management system.

Source: This post is based on the article “Understanding bird strikes and aviation safety” published in The Hindu on 23rd June 22.

World Cities Report 2022: India’s urban population to stand at 675 million in 2035, behind China’s 1 billion

What is the News? United Nations-Habitat(UN-Habitat) has released the World Cities Report 2022. What are the key findings of the report? World Urban Population The urban population is expected to continue to grow naturally through rising birth rates, particularly in lower-income countries. Globally, the urban population is forecast to grow from 56% of the global… Continue reading World Cities Report 2022: India’s urban population to stand at 675 million in 2035, behind China’s 1 billion

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India’s largest floating solar power project commissioned

What is the News? India’s largest floating solar plant is now fully operational at Ramagundam in Telangana’s Peddapalli district. About Ramagundam Floating Solar Project It is a 100-megawatt(MW) floating solar power photovoltaic project commissioned by the National Thermal Power Corporation(NTPC).  Features: The project is endowed with advanced technology and Environment-friendly features. The solar modules are… Continue reading India’s largest floating solar power project commissioned

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Asia’s largest cities, including Delhi, lack water security

What is the News? Researchers have found that urban water security in Asian cities including Delhi is in decline, forcing them to find new ways to manage this precious resource. Water Scarcity in Asian Cities The global mega cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Delhi are the symbol of the rise of the new Asian century… Continue reading Asia’s largest cities, including Delhi, lack water security

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India-EU conclude 1st round of negotiations for India-EU Trade and Investment Agreements

What is the News? India and the European Union have concluded the first round of negotiations for India-EU Trade and Investment Agreements including the Geographical Indicators (GI). About India-EU Trade Talks India started negotiations for a trade pact with the European Union(EU) in 2007. But the talks stalled in 2013 as both sides failed to… Continue reading India-EU conclude 1st round of negotiations for India-EU Trade and Investment Agreements

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Measuring India’s Plastic Problem

What is the News? India has banned ​​certain single-use plastics(SUP) from July 1,2022 across India. These items include ice cream sticks, thermocol, plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, straws, trays, wrapping or packaging films and cigarette packets.  India’s Plastic Waste Problem Plastic Waste Generation in India: India is generating about 3.5 million tonnes of plastic… Continue reading Measuring India’s Plastic Problem

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National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS): MSDE launches DBT scheme to extend direct monetary support to apprentices

What is the News? The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship(MSDE) has announced that the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) will be a part of Direct Beneficiary Transfer(DBT) Scheme providing direct government benefits to all apprentices. What is the significance of this decision? Earlier companies used to pay apprentices the entire amount and then seek… Continue reading National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS): MSDE launches DBT scheme to extend direct monetary support to apprentices

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Targeting GI tag, Mayurbhanj’s superfood ‘ant chutney’ set to find more tables

What is the News? Tribals of the Mayurbhanj district in Odisha are seeking a Geographical Indications(GI) tag for Kai Chutney. What is Kai Chutney? Kai Chutney is a food item made from Kai (Red Weaver Ant) in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. This chutney is rich in valuable proteins, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium,… Continue reading Targeting GI tag, Mayurbhanj’s superfood ‘ant chutney’ set to find more tables

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The Functioning of the National Investigation Agency(NIA)

What is the News? The National Investigation Agency(NIA) has taken over the probe into the terrible beheading of a person in Udaipur. What is the National Investigation Agency(NIA)? NIA was constituted under the National Investigation Agency(NIA) Act, 2008. Mandate: It is a Central Agency mandated to investigate all the offences affecting: – Sovereignty, security and… Continue reading The Functioning of the National Investigation Agency(NIA)

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Ashok Gulati and Ritika Juneja write: Why rice and wheat bans aren’t the answer to inflation

News: Earlier, the government banned wheat exports to check the potential rise in prices in the face of low procurement. But now, there are reports that the government is mulling a ban on rice exports to tame inflation. The wheat and rice exports ban was also done in 2007-08, in the wake of the global… Continue reading Ashok Gulati and Ritika Juneja write: Why rice and wheat bans aren’t the answer to inflation

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We need an urgent national plan on electrical safety

News: With the increasing access to electricity, the issue of electricity accidents must be addressed. National or State policies or programs do not provide targets or specific resource allocation for safety, at present. Nearly all households have an electricity connection, as per reports. However, a small portion of the allocation to the electricity sector is… Continue reading We need an urgent national plan on electrical safety

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