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 9PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- 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.
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Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Apt judicial reminder in era of over-criminalisation
- The trouble with rankings
- The future of learning in India is ed-tech
- How much can a four-year-old really learn from a smartphone?
- Mendez principle to replace torture and coercive interrogation
- What CCI has to do with economic opportunity?
GS Paper 3
- A kind of relief
- An appropriate way to judge the famed economic reforms of 1991
- Does India need more coal power?
- A question of compliance
- What to check when building by the sea
- V2G – Vehicle to grid technology and its future
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Explained: Ration card reform, so far
- National Remote Sensing Centre(NRSC) launches NHP-Bhuvan Portal
- Justice Department launches “Enforcing Contracts Portal”
- SEBI tightens norms related to independent directors
- India launches Asia’s longest High Speed Track for automobiles
- Capex push to aid economy: CEA
- Chamoli disaster due to avalanche
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Apt judicial reminder in era of over-criminalisation
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions
Relevance: Delhi High Court judgment has highlighted the scope of UAPA.
The criminal justice system needs to take note of the Delhi High Court’s recent judgment on ‘defining terrorism’. The judgment can help in preventing the misuse of anti-terrorism laws like UAPA.
- The Delhi High Court granted bail to Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Tanha on 15th June 2021. They were imprisoned for over a year in connection with the riots in North-east Delhi and the anti-CAA-NRC protests under the UAPA act.
- The 133-page bail order brings into limelight another instance of misuse of anti-terrorism laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Misuse of Laws:
- In the period 2015-2019, as many as 7,840 persons were arrested under the Draconian UAPA but only 155 were convicted by the trial courts.
Factors behind misuse:
- First, the prosecution had unjustifiably invoked provisions of TADA ‘with an oblique motive of depriving the accused persons from getting bail.
- Second, there is no universal definition of the term ‘terrorism’ either in India or at the international level.
- Section 15 of UAPA merely defines a terrorist act in extremely wide and vague words. It states that any act with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, or sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people is a terrorist act.
- Third, there is vagueness in many provisions of UAPA that gives a scope for misuse.
- For instance, UAPA states that a terrorist act can be committed by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or by any other means of whatever nature to cause or likely to cause death or injuries. Here the meaning of any other means is not clear.
About the Delhi High Court’s recent judgement:
- The court held that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests cannot be covered by the expression ‘any other means’ under UAPA.
- A general word used in any statute after specific words should be interpreted in the context of specific words.
- In Yaqoob Abdul Razzak Memon (2013), the Supreme Court said that terrorist acts can range from threats to actual assassinations, kidnappings, airline hijacking, car bombs, explosions, use of chemical, biological, nuclear weapons etc.
- Since the three student activists did not do any of these things, the Delhi HC could not be convinced of their involvement in any terrorist act.
- Through an authoritative and enlightened bail order entirely based on the apex court judgments, the court reminded the Delhi police of the true meaning of a terrorist act.
- One can hope that our police will be far more cautious in charging people under black laws such as UAPA, the NSA, etc. after the recent Delhi HC judgement.
- Further, we must understand that no anti-terror law can really end the problem of terrorism. Our focus should be on creating a truly just, egalitarian and non-oppressive society. This would be far more effective in combating terrorism.
The trouble with rankings
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to education
Relevance: The article highlights the issues in the ranking system of universities
Today the universities are judged based on different ranking lists, however, there are certain flaws in them. The rankings are biased against the small institutions and place excessive focus on quantity rather than quality. Hence, there is a need to redefine the idea of a university within the framework of an ever-changing social perspective.
- The concept of university has evolved since the ancient times of Nalanda and Taxila. Earlier they were considered as a place for the communication and circulation of thought by means of personal intercourse.
- This notion was altered with the Humboldtian principle of Germany. It called for a fusion of teaching and research in the work of the individual scholar.
- As per this, the objective was to advance knowledge by original and critical investigation, not just to transmit the legacy of the past or to teach skills.
- The ‘Humboldtian’ university became a model for Europe, and subsequently for the research universities of the U.S.
Evolution of Universities in India:
- In India, the Universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were established in 1857 with an aim to promote Advancement of Learning.
- However the immediate interest was to produce graduates to fill up the salaried positions emerging in the wake of colonial rule.
- Today the universities are judged based on different ranking lists such as Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds. The rank is derived based on weighted averages of scores for several performance-related criteria.
Issues with Ranking:
- First, there is no uniformity in assignment of weightage to a particular criteria. The criteria and their weights differ from one ranking organisation to another. Change in weights may produce a different list of rankings.
- Second, the criteria are biased against the small institutions. The criteria constitute research income from industry; ratio of international to domestic staff and students; research papers, citations; etc. Small institutions automatically trail on such issues.
- Third, it gives very high weightage to academic peer review, where opinions of academics get importance. This means too much emphasis on perception rather than tangible outcomes.
- Last year, seven leading IITs boycotted one such ranking, saying they are not satisfied with the transparency of the process.
- Fourth, greater focus is placed on quantity of research rather than quality of research. Academics are expected to keep churning out papers.
- The concept of a university should not be the same everywhere. Universities at Chicago, Harvard and Oxford might make the achievements of their students or professors as the yardstick of excellence.
- However, there are many universities which cater to the local people as the only spectacles of higher education and the prism of enlightenment.
- Their importance is no less than the ‘elite’ universities. Hence, a university should be judged within its social perspective.
- Thus, there is a need to redefine the idea of a university within the framework of an ever-changing social perspective and need.
The future of learning in India is ed-tech
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Relevance: How technology can help India achieve its long-term policy objective of access to education?
Synopsis: Pandemic has shown us that traditional model of education delivery is not sufficient. Integration of technology with education offers a resilient alternative.
Why India is well positioned to integrate technology with education?
India is well-poised to take this leap forward because of the following factors:
- increasing access to tech-based infrastructure and electricity
- affordable internet connectivity
- Digital India and the Ministry of Education’s initiatives, including the Digital Infrastructure for School Education (DIKSHA), open-source learning platform and UDISE+ — one of the largest education management information systems in the world.
Designing an ed-tech policy architecture
A comprehensive ed-tech policy architecture must focus on four key elements —
- Access: providing access to learning, especially to disadvantaged groups
- Enabling processes of teaching, learning, and evaluation
- Teaching: facilitating teacher training and continuous professional development
- Governance: Improving governance systems including planning, management, and monitoring processes.
Problems with using technology in education
- First, technology is a tool, and not a panacea.
- Second, technology must be in service of the learning model. There is a danger in providing digital infrastructure without a plan on how it’s to be deployed or what teaching-learning approaches it would support.
- Third, technology cannot substitute schools or replace teachers. It’s not “teachers versus technology”; the solution is in “teachers and technology”. In fact, tech solutions are impactful only when embraced and effectively leveraged by teachers.
- Fourthly, digital divide is a big problem esp. for students living in slums and remote villages, with poorly-educated parents further strained by the lockdown.
Several examples of grassroots innovation
- The Hamara Vidhyalaya in Namsai district, Arunachal Pradesh, is fostering tech-based performance assessments
- Assam’s online career guidance portal is strengthening school-to-work and higher-education transition for students in grades 9 to 12
- Samarth in Gujarat is facilitating the online professional development of lakhs of teachers in collaboration with IIM-Ahmedabad
- Jharkhand’s DigiSATH is spearheading behaviour change by establishing stronger parent-teacher-student linkages
- Himachal Pradesh’s HarGhar Pathshala is providing digital education for children with special needs; Uttarakhand’s community radio is promoting early reading through byte-size broadcasts
- Madhya Pradesh’s DigiLEP is delivering content for learning enhancement through a well-structured mechanism with over 50,000 WhatsApp groups covering all clusters and secondary schools
- Kerala’s Aksharavriksham initiative is focusing on digital “edutainment” to support learning and skill development via games and activities.
Action needs to be taken on multiple fronts.
- In the immediate term: There must be a mechanism to thoroughly map the ed-tech landscape, especially their scale, reach, and impact. The focus should be on access, equity, infrastructure, governance, and quality-related outcomes and challenges for teachers and students.
- In the short to medium-term: The policy formulation and planning process must strive to enable convergence across schemes (education, skills, digital governance, and finance), foster integration of solutions through public-private partnerships, factor in voices of all stakeholders, and bolster cooperative federalism across all levels of government. Lessons can be learnt from the Aspirational Districts Programme on tech-enabled monitoring and implementation
- In the long term: A repository of the best-in-class technology solutions, good practices and lessons from successful implementation must be curated. The NITI Aayog’s India Knowledge Hub and the Ministry of Education’s DIKSHA and ShaGun platforms can facilitate and amplify such learning.
- Addressing digital divide: Special attention must be paid to address the digital divide at two levels — access and skills to effectively use technology.
- India’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is responsive to the need of integrating technolgy with education. It envisions the establishment of an autonomous body, the National Education Technology Forum (NETF), to spearhead efforts towards deployment and use of technology. This needs to be implemented in letter and spirit.
Integrating ed-tech with India’s education sector has a transformative potential for India as it will not only maximize student learning but also help India in realizing a universal access to education.
How much can a four-year-old really learn from a smartphone?
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Relevance: Addressing issues arising out of COVID’s impact on primary education
Synopsis: Alleviating the impact of COVID on India’s primary education sector involves bringing back the dropouts, addressing the learning deficit and an increased requirement of manpower.
How can India resolve COVID-induced problems in primary education?
- Bringing back the dropouts: Whenever schools reopen, to bring back the dropouts. The Uttar Pradesh government proposes to track all students disappearing between Classes VIII and IX. The exercise needs extending to all classes in all states, especially the very young, who might otherwise be consigned to illiteracy for life.
- Among migrant workers’ children, 46.2% were out of school by July 2020. The Education Ministry has a three-page guideline for their rehabilitation that calls for a database of children who have left the state. Such guidelines are impractical without detailed planning, transfer of funds and active coordination with the states.
- Addressing the learning deficit: The second task is to plug the huge learning deficit. It calls for detailed yet open-ended planning, adjustable to the evolving COVID scenario. That planning needs to start right now.
- Requirement of manpower: These measures, current and future, demand much more manpower than the regular corps of teachers can provide. Given the scale and urgency of the need, it might be undertaken in mission mode.
- Increased spending under the SAKSHAM scheme is desperately needed to arrest the decline in nutrition and child growth evident for years and grossly aggravated by the pandemic.
|Also read: Blended model of learning – Explained in detail|
How have states adapted their offline instruction model?
The states, have adopted two major strategies for offline instruction.
- Teaching material is distributed and worksheets collected for review. Parents might play a part, but success depends on the teacher’s monitoring.
- Lockdown schools: Here small groups of children meet their teacher at a place other than their school. Karnataka has formalized the arrangement. Such endeavors work best in villages, which have more open spaces and better community support; but they reach only a minority of children.
Mendez principle to replace torture and coercive interrogation
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: Important Aspects of Governance
Relevance: Mendez anti-torture principles can be used to reduce the use of torture in obtaining evidence.
Synopsis: Without addressing the structural constraints that encourage the persistence of torture, Institutionalising Mendez anti-torture principles in India will be difficult.
- Instilling fear through torture, either physical or psychological to obtain the truth, is still seen as an effective interrogation technique by security forces. However, such techniques violate moral and legal standards.
- In the Indian context, too, enough evidence indicates that the belief in the utility of torture is embedded in institutional culture and accommodated by law.
- In spite of the prohibition of and safeguards against “third-degree methods”, they are normalised in police practice.
- For instance, the National Human Rights Commission has said that “custodial violence and torture is so rampant in this country that it has become almost routine”.
- Even, a 2019 survey of about 12,000 police personnel across India, published by Common Cause and Lokniti confirmed the same. For instance, Three out of four personnel felt that it is justified for the police to be violent towards “criminals”.
- However, there needs to be a fundamental shift in police thinking.
Why coercive interrogations still exist?
- One, Structural constraints encourage the persistence of torture, since it is seen to be effective.
- Two, investigating officers have little scope to develop specialisation in investigative work.
- Three, inadequate resources, political pressure, and an overburdened legal system compelled them to take matters into their own hands.
- Four, Popular films, and political and public support to illegal police killings as in the Hyderabad ‘Disha’ case 2019, further legitimise such actions.
- Five, Indian law still allows evidence obtained through torture or coercive methods as admissible.
- For example, Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act permits the admissibility of statements before the police if they relate to the recovery of material objects, often called ‘recovery evidence’.
Why coercive interrogations are counterproductive?
- Méndez’s Principles that are based on scientific empirical studies across disciplines (Psychology, criminology, sociology, neuroscience) had established that coercive interrogation is counterproductive.
What are Mendez’s principles?
- The ‘Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering’ is also known as the ‘Méndez Principles’. It reinforces the empirical evidence that torture does not work.
- It was initiated by Mr. Méndez, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
- The principles seek to prevent coercive techniques and torture by introducing a paradigm shift away from “confession” based on information gathering.
- It aims to replace torture and coercive interrogation with “rapport-based” interviews, that would be in line with legal and procedural safeguards.
- It offers practical guidance for non-coercive interrogations; addresses vulnerabilities in custody and provides specific guidance on training, accountability, and implementation.
- ‘Méndez Principles’ were developed through a comprehensive, expert-driven consultative process.
- It applies to all authorities who have the power to detain and question people, including the police, military, and intelligence.
What is the way forward?
- Need to use scientific techniques of interrogation, such as lie detectors and narco-analysis, to end physical torture.
- However, Jinee Lokaneeta’s analysis in The Truth Machines (2020) revealed that the introduction of these techniques, without addressing the existing conditions, has resulted in psychological forms of torture.
Structural constraints, popular culture, and political approval have institutionalised violence and coercion techniques to obtain the truth. Without urgent introspection, Méndez’s anti-torture vision will remain distant for India.
What CCI has to do with economic opportunity?
Syllabus: GS 2
What is CCI? Why was it introduced?
India’s antitrust regulator, the CCI, was established in 2003. It is governed by the 2002 Competition Act, which aims to provide a stable competitive environment. The competition law safeguards trade from the whims of unjust commercial activities like price-fixing and ensures that fair competition prevails.
- This Act, which focuses on increasing competition and business freedom, replaced the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act of 1969, which was aimed at preventing monopolies and restricting enterprises with assets of over 100 crores from expanding. It is similar to antitrust legislation in nations such as the United States.
- The CCI Act was created with the goal of stimulating market competition, preserving consumer interests, and ensuring trade freedom while keeping the country’s economic progress in mind. The prior system of regulating firms with assets worth more than 25 crores (relaxed to 100 crore in1985) was unscientific before the MRTP Act of 1969.
What is the role of CCI in promoting equitable opportunity across the economy?
- The Competition Act aims to prevent huge businesses from entering into anti-competitive agreements and abusing their dominating position. It governs mergers and acquisitions that may have an anti-competitive effect. It prohibits price-fixing, market allocation, predatory pricing, and tied selling, as well as other horizontal and vertical constraints.
- The economy can reduce its deadweight loss, which is a cost caused by market inefficiencies, by boosting competition and supporting free trade.
- It aims to defend customers’ interests in terms of price, quality, and availability of a diverse range of products by limiting the scope for monopoly advantage exploitation.
- This will also contribute to India’s tale of being a desirable investment destination for both global and domestic investors by fostering a competitive and efficient market system. CCI is known to have intervened in situations of cement and steel cartelization.
- Google, Amazon, and Flipkart have been accused of abusing their dominating positions in the smart TV industry and of evading foreign investment e-commerce restrictions. In the information technology sector, 11 and five companies were issued notices for breaking regulations in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively.
- The scope of anti-competitive agreements should not be restricted to horizontal and vertical limitations, according to a government-appointed commission in 2019. It also stated that high-value deals involving technological corporations may go unnoticed, necessitating a re-examination.
GS Paper 3
A kind of relief
Source: Livemint, Indian Express, Livemint
Syllabus: GS Paper 2, Indian Economy, issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development
Relevance: Indian Economy is facing a slowdown. A fiscal stimulus package was much needed to give it a boost.
Synopsis: India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently announced a long-awaited stimulus package. Now, critics and experts are analyzing the nature, targets, and potential of the package.
Read facts about Stimulus Package
Analysis of stimulus package
- The package consists largely of credit guarantees to boost liquidity flows towards the more vulnerable parts of the economy. It includes micro, small and medium enterprises, small household borrowers, tourism, and health sectors.
- Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) would help MSMEs in accessing much-needed funds to commence operations.
- The scheme announced for the tourism sector likely to have less impact because a majority of the sector operates in the informal economy.
- One of the Scheme announced for the health sector focus specifically on paediatric care. Further, other measures would address the gaps in the public health infrastructure exposed by the pandemic.
What would be the impact on the budget?
- Firstly, the actual fiscal outgo on account of these relief measures is likely to be minimal. The credit guarantee route will have actual fiscal outgo of around 0.6 percent of GDP.
- This approach is similar to the one adopted during the first wave. Direct demand-side support from the central government has been limited.
- Secondly, most of the Centre’s commitments are contingent liabilities that may not arise at all.
Nature of Fiscal stimulus package
- This package reaffirms the rejection of the Keynesian method of demand stimulation, which includes measures like Cash giveaways.
- Direct spending has been reserved only for absolute vulnerable sectors and sections such as food hand-outs, healthcare infrastructure, and rural internet connectivity.
- Thus, the nature of government policy is fiscal conservatism. Last year’s Atmanirbhar rescue plan also depicted this policy, where state expenditure was very less compared to the package announced.
How desirable is fiscal conservatism?
- India’s policy of fiscal conservatism is a step in the right direction if we look from the future perspective. It would save the economy from the risk of future instability and a heavier tax burden.
- However, still, India would need some moderate measure for revival in overall demand. Which is not possible by easing loans.
An appropriate way to judge the famed economic reforms of 1991
Syllabus: GS 3 – Effects of Liberalization on the Economy, Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth.
Relevance: Economic reforms of 1991 revolutionized the Indian economy. It is important to analyze their success and failures.
Four big structural constraints have eased after 1991: savings, food, foreign exchange, and a small home market. However, there are newer structural constraints on the horizon that needs to be tackled.
- The Indian economy had begun to gather pace around the 1980s with tentative changes in fiscal, monetary, trade, tax, exchange rate, and industrial policies.
- However, the policy reforms of that decade were within the boundaries of the earlier system of economic management.
- In July 1991, a web of interconnected reforms were launched to address the problems surrounding the Indian economy.
- Due to the severe balance of payments crisis, the country was on the verge of defaulting
- Macroeconomic imbalances, low productivity of public sector investments, loopholes in the tax system, etc.
- Further indiscriminate protection to domestic players had weakened the incentive to export.
- The country also had a weak financial system that was not allocating capital efficiently.
What was the objective of the 1991 reforms?
- The objective was to evolve a pattern of production which is labor-intensive and generates larger employment opportunities in productive sectors.
- It aimed to reduce the disparities in income and wealth between rural and urban areas.
- The implicit goal of the 1991 economic reforms was to create a new economy that had learned the right lessons from the success stories of East Asia.
Impact of reforms:
- Economic growth since 1991 has been far more stable. One simple indication of this is the external account.
- Independent India had a severe balance of payments crisis almost once every decade: 1957, 1966, 1981, 1990. There has been no comparable crisis over the past 30 years, despite a scare in 2013.
- All four macroeconomic constraints (domestic savings, foreign exchange, food, and aggregate demand) have eased after 1991.
- The domestic savings rate to fund domestic investments has undoubtedly come down since the peak it hit in 2008. But it is still almost eight percentage points higher than the average of the 1980s.
- The availability of foreign exchange is no longer a major worry. The occasional balance of payments surpluses in recent years show that India receives more international savings than it can absorb.
- The food constraint had already begun to ease after the Green Revolution. India now has excess food stocks as a buffer against sudden shocks to farm production.
- The aggregate demand constraint meant that there was not enough domestic demand for industrial goods because of high poverty levels. Rising incomes, as well as exports, have eased this as well.
- The reforms failed to generate enough jobs in formal enterprises. This led to the proliferation of informal employment in the country.
- Further, enhanced political pressure was created to use fiscal resources for subsidies or income support rather than on the creation of public goods.
- The 1991 reforms played a big part in loosening the four traditional structural constraints that had dominated Indian economic thinking for many decades.
- The focus should be now placed on newer structural constraints:
- The health and education crises during the pandemic have underlined inadequate investments in human capital.
- India still does not have adequate state capacity and regulatory capacity for a $3 trillion economy.
- Ecological stress, as well as climate change, will create new forms of constraints on sustainable economic growth.
Does India need more coal power?
Source: Business Standard
Gs3: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.,
Relevance: India needs to rethink the relevance of coal-based plants at present.
Synopsis: Critical analysis on the future of coal plants in India.
Arguments in favour of doing away with additional coal-based capacity
Several reasons are being cited in support of this argument. They are,
- First, need to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting temperature rise to only 1.5 degrees centigrade by 2100 when compared to pre-industrial levels.
- Second, coal-fired plants in India are already operating at a very low plant load factor (PLF). It is possible to generate additional power at a relatively low marginal cost.
- Third, India has envisioned a massive programme of having 450 GW of renewable capacity by 2030 and it is growing at the rate of about 25 per cent annually in the last few years.
- Fourth, with the cost of batteries declining progressively, storage has become a viable option, which will help in attaining grid stability.
- Fifth, green hydrogen may become a viable option by 2030 and will be able to provide long-term storage solutions.
- Sixth, coal-based developers will find it increasingly difficult to find lenders for their projects due to increasing divested from coal.
However, India needs to look into the following issues in detail before coming to a conclusion.
- First, India needs to estimate the demand for electricity for the future in 2030. Various estimates suggest India needs 2,200 billion units (BUs) to 2,800 BUs depending upon the assumptions made.
- Second, need to estimate the shape of our load curve in 2030. Need to understand whether the load curve will be the same as it is today where the peak demand will be at around 8pm or will it shift to sometime during the daylight hours.
- Third, need to have a realistic estimate about the feasibility of achieving a renewable capacity of 450 GW by 2030.
- Fourth, though battery costs may have come down by 80 percent approximately in the last decade, there is apprehension that further decrease in costs may no longer be so dramatic. Even at today’s battery prices, it is economically viable to have storage of approximately four hours only.
- Fifth, low PLF does not necessarily mean that India does not need any further fresh capacity. PLF is only the average use of the capacity of the generating station over the year. There could be certain hours of the 24-hour dispatch period where the plant may have to operate at more than 80 percent of the load, for a short period of time.
In conclusion, it would be a significant achievement for India if it can do away with more coal-based plants other than the ones under construction. However, this can only happen after a thorough study clearly establishes that we can meet the demand for electricity without new coal-based plants.
A question of compliance
Source: Business Standard
GS2: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development.
Relevance: Inflation Targeting is the main tool of fighting inflation.
Synopsis: More transparency and clarity are required over RBI’s way of managing inflation.
- RBI has recently released minutes of the RBI Monetary Policy Committee’s meeting.
- It decided to retain the prevailing repo rate at 4 per cent and continue with the accommodative stance to revive growth and continue to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.
- RBI has prioritized growth over inflation.
Why such a move of RBI is the cause of concern?
- Firstly, there is no clarity over what happens if these inflation projections go wrong.
- The June retail inflation number will have to decline to around 5 per cent to be in line with the projections, which is difficult.
- Also, Localised lockdown in different parts of the country is not fully reflected in retail inflation.
- Secondly, it raises question over Committee’s compliance of inflation targeting regime.
- As per compliance provision, average inflation above 6 per cent for any three consecutive quarters means a failure to achieve the inflation target.
- RBI must submit a report to the Union government stating the reasons for failure, remedial actions, and an estimate of the time within which the inflation target should be achieved.
- Thirdly, when retail inflation exceeded the upper tolerance band from March 2020 to December 2020, there was no such report from the RBI.
- Monetary Policy Committee had noted that data for April and May 2020 were collected under the limitations of the lockdown.
- The government had clarified that it was due to short-run supply gaps and instability in agriculture production.
- Lastly, the break in the CPI series is questionable.
- The tolerance band is expected to allow the MPC to recognize the short-run trade-offs between inflation and growth and enable it to pursue the inflation target in the long run.
- It implies that the tolerance band was not able to handle data limitations.
It shows the Committee had taken the easy way out by not explaining to the government what its perspective was on inflation. Also, the government failed to secure from the RBI a report on inflation.
- Compliance report should be presented as it brings attention back to the need for reining in inflation.
- It helps to generate a public debate on the vital issue affecting the people.
- It also helps the government explore policy options to limit the impact of higher prices on its citizens.
Hence, RBI should soon return to its primary mandate of adhering to the inflation target of 4 per cent with a permissible upper tolerance level.
What to check when building by the sea
Source- The Indian Express
Syllabus- GS 3 – Disaster and disaster management.
Relevance: Florida building collapse highlights the need for caution in building structures in coastal areas.
Synopsis – Some factors should be considered while building construction close to coastal areas, as well as a possible way to avoid sudden building collapses.
- The sudden collapse of a building in surfside, Florida, coastal area underlines the vulnerability of structures near the sea.
- According to some reports, the collapsed building was in need of substantial repairs. There has been a lack of adequate waterproofing and abundant cracking of varying degrees.
- Sea level rise, corrosion might be possible causes of Florida building collapse.
Key consideration with coastal construction-
- Soil and foundation type- In general, the bearing capacity of the soil around the coastal areas, is not good enough. Thus the deep foundation is to be adopted for multi-storey buildings in which the superimposed loads are transferred to firm strata.
- Type of deep foundation in the coastal area-
- Pile foundation
- Pier foundation
- Consider Corrosion – saltwater seeping into concrete is a major issue in a coastal area, causing support beams to corrode and weaken over time, eventually leading to collapse. Therefore, engineers should consider the following things during construction in such conditions
- Should use non-corrosive steel.
- Concrete Carbonation should be considered. Anti-carbonation coatings can be applied to the cleaned surface of the concrete reinforcement.
- Choosing the right building material – The use of the right material that withstands the hostile saline environment is very important for coastal area construction.
- Use of chemical additives to improve the performance of concrete.
- Cement type – Sulphate-resistant cement.
- Proper and timely structure audit – To avoid buildings in coastal areas from collapsing unexpectedly, proper maintenance and regular structure audits are required. The following audits can be done –
- Buildings that are 30 years or older can undergo Non-Destructive Testing.
- Basic check related to columns, beams, pillars, iron bars and plaster, sewage discharge systems, and water pipelines.
- Rising sea levels and overdevelopment are two significant causes that contribute to the abrupt collapse of coastal structures.
V2G – Vehicle to grid technology and its future
Source- Live Mint
Syllabus- GS 3 – Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Synopsis – V2G solutions could be the future of decentralized power in India. EVs could be used as a buffer against the inconsistency of renewable energy.
What is V2G?
V2G stands for vehicle-to-grid and is a technology that enables energy to be pushed back to the power grid from the battery of an electric car to balance variations in energy production and consumption.
- The V2G technology requires a bidirectional charging infrastructure so that surplus energy can be transfer.
Advantages of V2G technology-
- Reduce power storage building cost – building energy storage facilities that operate as a buffer are more expensive to supply and require significant investments to establish. As the number of EVs is continuously rising, electric cars provide a storage option with no extra costs.
- V2G will be reliable as conventional energy – Solar and wind energy are weather dependent, while the V2G is not.
- Environment friendly- Vehicle-to-grid helps mitigate climate change by allowing energy system to balance more and more renewable energy.
- V2G will help to reduce carbon emissions by contributing clean, green energy.
- The EV batteries can act as a buffer against patchy power supply from renewable energy sources.
- Extra income for EV owners by selling surplus energy of batteries back to grid.
Scope of V2G in India-
There are some positive steps taken in this directions-
- India has set itself an ambitious target of achieving 100% EV sales by 2030.
- Manufacturing EVs batteries in India- To meet EV demand, the government plans to develop Tesla style giga factories in India.
What need to be done?
Need of technical and regulatory frameworks – The framework that allows EVs, producers of renewable energy and the electricity grid to seamlessly interact with one another. So EV can be dynamically utilized by the grid.
- The deciding factor for V2G adoption would be the development of V2G enabling infrastructure, and its integration in flexibility markets in the future.
- V2G technology is one of the few potential flexibility assets that could support the grids, help avoid peak power plants usage and at the same time benefit the EV users financially.
- EVs are simply the smartest way to help with the renewable energy production, as EVs will be part of people’s life in the future.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Explained: Ration card reform, so far
Source: Indian Express
What is the News?
The Supreme Court has directed all states and Union Territories to implement the One Nation, One Ration Card (ONORC) system by July 31st,2021.
What is One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC)?
- The ONORC scheme is aimed at enabling migrant workers and their family members to buy subsidized ration from any fair price shop anywhere in the country under the National Food Security Act,2013.
- For example, a migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh will be able to access PDS benefits in Mumbai, where he or she may have gone in search of work. On the other hand, members of his or her family can still go to their ration dealer back home.
How does ONORC work?
- ONORC is based on technology that involves details of beneficiaries, ration card, Aadhaar number, and electronic Points of Sale (ePoS). The system identifies a beneficiary through biometric authentication on ePoS devices at fair price shops.
- The system runs with the support of two portals —Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) (impds.nic.in) and Annavitran (annavitran.nic.in) which host all the relevant data.
- When a ration cardholder goes to a fair price shop, he or she identifies himself or herself through biometric authentication on ePoS, which is matched real-time with details on the Annavitaran portal.
- Once the ration card details are verified, the dealer hands out the beneficiary’s entitlements.
- While the Annavitaran portal maintains a record of intra-state transactions — inter-district and intra-district — the IM-PDS portal records the inter-state transactions.
Incentives to States:
- To promote ONORC reform in the Public Distribution System(PDS), the Government of India has provided incentives to states.
- The Centre had even set the implementation of ONORC as a precondition for additional borrowing by states during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
How many States have implemented ONORC?
- To date, 32 states and Union Territories have joined the ONORC, covering about 69 crore NFSA beneficiaries.
- Four states are yet to join the scheme — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, and West Bengal.
National Remote Sensing Centre(NRSC) launches NHP-Bhuvan Portal
What is the News?
The Government of India has launched the NHP –Bhuvan portal of the National Remote Sensing Centre(NRSC).
About NHP –Bhuvan Portal:
- The National Hydrology Project or NHP-Bhuvan Portal is a repository of information on the initiatives undertaken by NRSC under NHP (National Hydrology Project).
- The portal also has a facility to download the reports and knowledge products being developed by NRSC.
About National Hydrology Project(NHP):
- National Hydrology Project (NHP) is a Central Sector scheme. It was launched by the Department of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti with the financial aid of the World Bank.
- Objective: To improve the extent and accessibility of water resources information and strengthen institutional capacity to enable improved water resources planning and management across India.
- Components: The project comprises four broad components:
- Improving In Situ Monitoring System (IMS)
- Improving Spatial Information System (SIS)
- Promoting Water Resources Operation and Management Applications(WROMA)
- Strengthening Water Resources Institutions and Capacity Building.
- Implementing Agency: National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC)
About National Remote Sensing Centre(NRSC):
- NRSC is one of the primary centers of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Department of Space (DOS).
- Mandate: NRSC has the mandate for:
- establishment of ground stations for receiving satellite data,
- generation of data products
- development of techniques for remote sensing applications, including disaster management support.
- Geospatial services for good governance and
- capacity building for professionals, faculty, and students.
Justice Department launches “Enforcing Contracts Portal”
What is the News?
The Department of Justice has launched the “Enforcing Contracts Portal”.
- The Doing Business Report is the flagship publication of the World Bank Group. It benchmarks business regulations in 191 economies.
- The Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) index ranks countries. It is an indication of an economy’s position relative to that of other economies across 11 indicators of business regulation.
- The “Enforcing Contracts’‘ is one of the indicators. It measures time and cost to resolve a standardized commercial dispute.
- Currently, only the cities of Delhi and Mumbai are under the purview of the World Bank. Kolkata and Bengaluru are also likely to be included in the future.
About Enforcing Contract Portal:
- The portal aims to promote ease of doing business and improve the ‘Contract Enforcement Regime’ in the country.
- Key Features of the Portal:
- Firstly, the portal will be a comprehensive source of information related to the legislative and policy reforms, that are undertaken on the Enforcing Contracts parameters.
- Secondly, the portal will provide easy access to the information on commercial cases in the Dedicated Commercial Courts of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Kolkata.
- These Dedicated Commercial Courts have been established for the speedy resolution of commercial disputes
- Lastly, the portal will also provide access to a repository of commercial laws.
Why was the Enforcing Contract Portal launched?
- The Department of Justice is the nodal department for the Enforcing Contracts indicator.
- In the Enforcing Contracts indicator, India has achieved 163rd position in the Doing Business Report 2020. This is an improvement of 23 positions from the 186th rank in 2015.
- But the portal has been launched to ensure that India’s ranking in this Enforcing Contracts indicator comes within the TOP 50.
SEBI tightens norms related to independent directors
What is the News?
Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has approved various amendments to rules governing the appointment, re-appointment, and removal of Independent Directors.
What are Independent Directors?
- An independent Director is a director on a board of directors representing minority shareholders. He/she does not have a pecuniary relationship with the company or related persons, except for sitting fees.
- Their role is to take an unambiguously and independently stand to have a check and balance on the majority shareholders. It reduces exposure of the company to unwarranted risks.
- As per the Companies Act, 2013 all listed public companies need to have at least one-third of the total Directors to be independent.
Amendments approved by SEBI for Independent Directors:
Appointment of Independent Directors(IDs)
- The appointment, re-appointment, and removal of independent directors shall be through a special resolution. It will now require 75% votes in support instead of 51%. This will be applicable to all listed entities.
- The nomination and remuneration committee(NRC) will be required to have two-third Independent Directors(IDs) instead of the existing requirement of a majority. NRC selects candidates for appointment as independent directors
- Further, the NRC will have to disclose and justify the skill-sets while selecting a candidate as an independent director.
- The key managerial personnel and their relatives or employees of the promoter group will have to observe a three-year cooling-off period before they get appointed as an independent director.
Read Also :-Corporate governance Framework in India: Analysis
Resignation of Independent Directors:
- In case an independent director resigns, the company must disclose the entire resignation letter along with a list of her/his present directorships and membership in board committees.
- Moreover, a cooling-off period of one year has been introduced for an independent director transitioning to a whole-time director in the same company or subsidiary company or any company belonging to the promoter group.
- At least 2/3rd of the members of an audit committee should be independent directors.
Read Also :-China’s plans for new dams on Brahmaputra River
India launches Asia’s longest High Speed Track for automobiles
What is the News?
The Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has inaugurated NATRAX- the High Speed Track(HST) in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
What is High Speed Track(HST)?
- A High-Speed Track (HST) is used for measuring the maximum speed capability of high-end cars like BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Tesla.
- At present, foreign OEMs go to their respective high-speed track abroad for high-speed test requirements.
About NATRAX-the High-Speed Track(HST):
- The National Automotive Test Tracks(NATRAX) is an 11.3 kms long High-Speed Track (HST) facility.
- Purpose: The facility is a one-stop solution for all sorts of high-speed performance tests for the widest categories of vehicles, from 2 wheelers to heavy tractor-trailers.
- The track has been designed for neutral speeds up to 250 kmph and a maximum speed of up to 375 kmph on curves. There is no limit to maximum speed on the straight patch.
- The zero-percent longitudinal slope makes this track an open-air test laboratory for precise measurement of the performance of vehicles.
- Moreover, the track is open to having vehicles from overseas being evaluated here as part of the testing process.
- Significance: The track is the longest in Asia and fifth-largest in the world.
Capex push to aid economy: CEA
What is the News?
According to the Chief Economic Advisor(CEA), the Government is following a Capital Expenditure(Capex) driven strategy to boost economic activity in the country.
Key facts mentioned in the article:
What is Gross Fixed Capital Formation(GFCF)?
- Gross Fixed Capital Formation(GFCF) represents investment demand in the economy.
- As per RBI, GFCF refers to the aggregate of gross additions to fixed assets (i.e. fixed capital formation) plus changes in stocks during the counting period. Fixed asset refers to the construction, machinery, and equipment.
Increase in GFCF:
- The Gross fixed capital formation(GFCF) has increased by almost 30%.
- Hence, due to this the ratio of GFCF to gross domestic product (GDP) was 34.3%, the highest in the last 26 quarters. However, a lot of it was Government Capex (capital expenditure).
Impact of Increase in GFCF: The two key spillover effects of the increase in GFCF are:
- Firstly, Consumption declined for three quarters because of both the pandemic-induced restrictions and pandemic-induced risk aversion. Now, it has grown by 2.7% in the fourth quarter.
- Second, contact-sensitive sectors were affected across the world because of the pandemic and declined in high double digits. But, in the previous three quarters, it has declined by only 2.3% in the fourth quarter.
Chamoli disaster due to avalanche
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
The Geological Survey of India has come out with a report. It suggests that the disaster which hit Chamoli district of Uttarakhand was possibly due to an avalanche.
Note: An avalanche (also called a snowslide) is a rapid flow of snow down a slope, such as a hill or a mountain. Avalanches can happen due to various factors such as increased precipitation or snowpack weakening or by external means such as humans, animals, and earthquakes.
- In February 2021, a part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off and flooded the Rishiganga river in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
- It led to massive flooding in the region that damaged many villages in its path and claimed at least 72 lives and 200 missings.
- The flood also wiped out two hydroelectric power projects on their way.
Why did this disaster happen? According to the Geological Survey of India report, the disaster happened due to:
- A large mass of snow, ice, and rock avalanche along with a hanging mass of rock had crashed into the Raunthi Garh valley floor.
- Due to this, it crushed the combination of rock, snow, and ice causing a rapid flow downstream of Raunthi Garh and into the Rishiganga valley leading to the flash flood.
- The flash flood, in turn, destroyed the 13.2 MW Rishiganga power plant and damaged the 520 MW Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel power project, in which tunnels several workers had been fatally trapped.
Major Factor behind this Flash Flood:
- A major contributory factor for this flash flood was the unusually warm weather in the region. (heavy snowfall followed by a sudden warmer climate).
- This may have possibly triggered this huge snow and rock avalanche/ landslide, causing a sudden domino effect of flash floods downstream.
Note: The report has found no evidence of a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) having caused the Chamoli Disaster.