9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – June 7th, 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.
    • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
    • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

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

The debates around the Surrogacy Act

Source: This post is based on the article “The debates around the Surrogacy Act” published in The Hindu on 7th June 22.

Syllabus: GS1 – Women issues

Relevance: Surrogacy and related issues

News: Petitioners in the Delhi High Court questioned why marital status, age, or gender were the criteria for being allowed to commission or not commission surrogacy in India.

The female petitioner said that she already had a child, but the trauma of the first childbirth experience and her need to juggle work with child care persuaded her that surrogacy would be a better option for the second child. But under the provisions of the Surrogacy Act, she was denied a chance at commissioning surrogacy.

What is the Surrogacy Act?

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill was introduced in Parliament in November 2016, and passed in the Winter session of Parliament in 2021.

The Act sought to regulate the surrogacy part of a rather flourishing infertility industry in the country.

It defines ‘surrogacy’ as a practice where a woman undertakes to give birth to a child for another couple and agrees to hand over the child to them after birth,

The Act allows ‘altruistic surrogacy’ — wherein only the medical expenses and insurance coverage is provided by the couple to the surrogate mother during pregnancy. No other monetary consideration will be permitted.

As per the Surrogacy Act that kicked in from January this year, a married couple can opt for surrogacy only on medical grounds.

The law defines a couple as a married Indian “man and woman” and also prescribes an age-criteria with the woman being in the age group of 23 to 50 years and the man between 26 and 55 years.

Additionally, the couple should not have a child of their own.

Though the law allows single women to resort to surrogacy, she should either be a widow or a divorcee, between the age of 35 to 45 years.

Single men are, however, not eligible.

Why is there a need for a Surrogacy Act in India?

India has emerged as a hub for infertility treatment, attracting people from the world over with its state-of-the-art technology and competitive prices to treat infertility.

Soon enough, due to prevailing socio-economic inequities, underprivileged women found an option to ‘rent their wombs’ and thereby make money to take care of their expenses.

Once information of the availability of such wombs got out, the demand also picked up, and exploitation of these women began. Several instances began to emerge where women, in often desperate straits, started lodging police complaints after they did not receive the promised sum.

Other issues also began to crop up. For instance,

in 2008 a Japanese couple began the process with a surrogate mother in Gujarat, but before the child was born they split with both of them refusing to take the child.

in 2012, an Australian couple commissioned a surrogate mother, and arbitrarily chose one of the twins that were born.

The time therefore, was ripe for proper regulation.

Who all are allowed to make use of the services of a surrogate mother?

Any couple that has ‘proven infertility’ are candidates.

The ‘intending couple’ as the Act calls them, will be eligible if they have a ‘certificate of essentiality’ and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by the appropriate authority.

The certificate of essentiality will be issued if the couple fulfills three conditions: a), a certificate of infertility of one or both from a district medical board; b), an order of parentage and custody of the surrogate child passed by a Magistrate’s court; c) insurance cover for the surrogate mother.

Who can become a surrogate mother?

Only a close relative of the couple can be a surrogate mother, one who is able to provide a medical fitness certificate. She should have been married, with a child of her own, and must be between 25 and 35 years, but can be a surrogate mother only once.

GS Paper 2


How best to interpret CMIE’s consumer survey findings

Source: This post is created based on the article “How best to interpret CMIE’s consumer survey findings” published in Live Mint on 7th June 2022.

Syllabus: GS Paper 2, Social and associated issues

Context: Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has been at the forefront of providing necessary data that provide information about the average Indian household. However, some discrepancies in the survey methodology brought the CMIE data under question.

CMIE provided the surveys during lockdowns that helped to understand the scale of urban unemployment and distress migration of urban workers to rural farms. It received admiration for providing real-time data, free from state influence.

What are the discrepancies in CMIE survey?

CMIE reports fewer women in the workforce than the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).

Women’s labour force participation rates estimated by CMIE are roughly half the ‘official rate’ estimated by the PLFS.

CMIE shows a higher share of respondents with post-office savings, pension (or provident fund) plans, and insurance products (life and health) compared to the All India Debt and Investment Survey (AIDIS) 2019.

What are the concerns raised against the CMIE survey?

First, Very poor, uneducated, and very rich have found less representation in the survey, compared to National Family Health Survey (NFHS, 2019-21).

Second, the sampling theory demands that surveys select households in the primary sampling unit (typically villages or urban wards) randomly from a list of all households in that unit. However, CMIE did not follow this theory. It asked field staff to count the number of households in the street after entering there and pick a random number, between 5 and 15, to select households. After completing the main street, the person moves to the inner streets. Thus, there was a lack of a complete listing, the absence of a random start, and the use of an ‘ad-hoc’ interval (5-15) to select households.

Third, this method is mainly problematic in rural areas, where residential arrangements are not random. Richer households often tend to be clustered on the Main Street and poorer households on the periphery.

CMIE is currently investigating its survey methods for any biases. Thus, until these reviews and corrections are done, these surveys should be used cautiously.


Vivek Katju writes: Why India must engage Taliban

Source: This post is based on the article “Vivek Katju writes: Why India must engage Taliban” published in The Indian Express on 7th June 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations

Relevance: India – Taliban relations, Engaging with Taliban

Context: On June 2, the Ministry of External Affairs announced that a team led by J P Singh, Joint Secretary (PAI) is currently on a visit to Kabul to oversee the delivery operations of India’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The government clarified that although the delegation would meet senior members of Taliban, this engagement should be seen only in limited context of assistance to the Afghan people.

What are the Taliban’s views on this visit?

A Taliban spokesperson tweeted that diplomatic relations between the two countries, and trade and humanitarian assistance were discussed.

Singh’s visit was branded as a good beginning in the ties between the two countries.

The Taliban stressed that bilateral ties would not be influenced by rivalries with other countries. This was an obvious indication of the Taliban’s desire to develop independent ties with India despite its bonds with Pakistan.

Why India must engage the Taliban?

Security concerns

Afghanistan impacts India’s security. It has, in the past, provided space to al-Qaeda with which the Taliban had a special relationship. Afghanistan has an ISIS presence too, though the Taliban is at odds with it.

Of special concern to India are the Taliban’s ties with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. A recent United Nations report has emphasised that the Taliban’s connections with these groups have not been severed. Indeed, it is unlikely that the Taliban would entirely turn its back on them.

An engagement with the Taliban would at least give an opportunity to convey Indian concerns directly and encourage those elements within the group who wish to open up its diplomatic choices.

India should not leave the Afghan arena entirely to Pakistan and China because of the social manifestation of Taliban theology on the Afghan people.

Way forward

It is good that India has extended humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan at this time through international agencies and not let its unhappiness with the Taliban’s policies come in the way.

There are indications of the development of some opposition to the Taliban in the Panjshir valley. However, it would be futile for Indian policymakers to consider this as becoming effective. At most, it will remain an irritant to the Taliban. There is also no indication of a popular countrywide upsurge which could push them out. Thus, the Taliban is here to stay and for India, there is no alternative but to deal with it.

There would also be nothing wrong in maintaining contacts with some of the leaders of the ousted Republic, especially as the Taliban itself wants them to return to the country.

All in all, the sooner India establishes a permanent presence in Kabul, the better for the pursuit of national interests in the external sphere.


The judiciary should have annual performance reports, too

Source: This post is based on the article “The judiciary should have annual performance reports, too” published in The Indian Express on 7th June 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – Judiciary

Relevance: Judicial transparency and accountability

News: In a rare exhibition of transparency, the Orissa High Court has published an annual report taking stock of its performance in a difficult year that marked by the resurgence of the pandemic. By subjecting itself to the scrutiny of the common citizen, the court has shown exceptional humility.

Details of the annual report

The report provides a district-wise breakup of cases and availability of judges.

It contains a section explaining the reasons for delays and backlog at the level of the district judiciary. The following reasons have been cited for the delay –

The tendency of higher courts to “stay” proceedings

The uneven distribution of cases amongst judges in trial courts

The non-availability of witnesses due to transfers

The report also sheds light on the administrative functioning of the court.

In addition to listing the judges on each administrative committee, the report acknowledges the work done by them.

For instance, the committee that deals with the appeals by the employees of the district judiciary against orders passed by disciplinary authorities had 40 appeals, out of which it disposed of only 13 appeals. This is useful information if one wishes to assess the administrative workload of judges and the efficiency with which they discharge their tasks. Most HCs do not share this information with ordinary citizens even if requests are made for the same under the Right to Information Act.

Significance of annual reports

Annual reports have traditionally been an important way of ensuring accountability of public bodies to Parliament and citizens.

Each Union ministry is required to supply copies of these reports to the Lok Sabha Secretariat a week before the Demand for Grants of the ministries is taken up.

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has detailed instructions on the expectations regarding the timeline and content of such reports.

These reports are examined by the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committees and the Parliamentary Committee on “Papers Laid on the Table”, which regularly takes to task ministries for delays in tabling reports of the government companies and autonomous bodies under their control.

Unlike the executive, the judiciary is not under any legal obligation to prepare annual reports or table them before Parliament or the state legislature.

Do courts publish annual reports regularly?

No.

A survey of the websites of the 25 high courts in the country revealed that only the high courts of Madras, Himachal Pradesh and Tripura had published an annual report in the last two years.

At most, all high courts submit short reports to the Supreme Court which compiles all the information into one annual report on the judiciary.

Way forward

It’s up to Parliament to enact a law that mandates high courts to publish an annual report not just on their performance, but also on the performance of the district judiciary under their administrative control.

This law should clearly outline the expected content of the report and establish a clear timeline for its publication.


Explained: Why the Gulf matters for India

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Why the Gulf matters for India” published in The Indian Express on 7th June 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations

Relevance: India’s relations with the Gulf countries

News: Recently, the ruling BJP suspended its national spokesperson and expelled its Delhi spokesperson Naveen Kumar Jindal, following comments they had made about Islam and the Prophet.

The move came after three countries in the Gulf region had summoned the Indian ambassadors to their nations to register their protest, and demanded a public apology from India.

It underlines the significance of the Gulf region for India.

Why is the Gulf region important to India?

Barring the Jewish state of Israel, the 10 other countries of the Gulf region together account for one-fifth of the world’s Muslim population, and are among the strongest voices of the Muslim world.

  • Gulf countries – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan and Yemen

India shares good relations with most of the countries in the Gulf.

The two most important reasons for the relationship are – oil & gas, and trade.

Two additional reasons are the huge number of Indians who work in the Gulf countries, and the remittance they send back home.

How much trade does India do with countries in this region?

According to India’s embassy in Riyadh, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait has emerged as a major trading partner of India.

UAE: The UAE was India’s 3rd largest trading partner in 2021-2022, and 2nd largest for both exports ($28 billion) and imports ($45 billion) when these are counted individually.

Saudi Arabia: At a total volume of $42.9 billion in 2021-22, Saudi Arabia was India’s 4th-largest trading partner.

Iraq: It was India’s 5th-largest trading partner in 2021-22 at $34.3 billion.

Qatar: The total trade was $15 billion, accounting for just 1.4% of India’s total trade, but the country is India’s most important supplier of natural gas.  Qatar accounts for 41% of India’s total natural gas imports. The UAE accounts for another 11%.

How much oil does India import?

According to an analysis by the Observer Research Foundation in April, more than 84% of India’s petroleum demand, which included crude oil and petroleum products, was met with imports.

The share of Persian Gulf countries in India’s crude imports has remained at around 60% over the last 15 years.

In 2021-2022, the largest exporter of oil to India was Iraq, whose share has gone up from 9% in 2009-2010 to 22%. Saudi Arabia has accounted for 17-18% of India’s oil imports for over a decade.

Kuwait and UAE remain major oil exporters to India. Iran used to be the second-largest oil exporter to India in 2009-2010, its share went down to less than 1% in 2020-21, due to US sanctions.

How many Indians work in the Gulf, and how much remittance do they send?

According to Ministry of External Affairs data,

more than 13.46 million Indian citizens work abroad. If Persons of Indian Origin (those who have taken up citizenship of other countries, and their descendants) are added, this number goes up to over 32 million.

Counting only the 13.4 million non-resident Indians (NRIs), the Gulf has the largest numbers. The UAE (3.42 million), Saudi Arabia (2.6 million) and Kuwait (1.03 million) together account for over half of all NRIs.

In terms of remittances from abroad, India was the largest recipient in 2020 at $83.15 billion, according to World Bank data. This was nearly twice the remittances to the next highest recipient, Mexico, at $42.9 billion.

The largest contributor is the huge Indian diaspora in the Gulf


Taking steps to ensure sex workers’ rights

Source: The post is based on an article “Taking steps to ensure sex worker’s rights” published in the “The Hindu” on 7th June 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 Important Provisions of the Constitution of India

Relevance: Fundamental Rights of Sex Workers

News: Recently, the SC in Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal & Ors, has given directions related to rights of the sex workers and their children.

About Sex Worker and Prostitution

The expression ‘sex worker’ has not been defined in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) or any other law. But according to the ITPA 1987, ‘prostitution’ means the sexual exploitation or abuse of persons for commercial purposes.

The expression ‘prostitution’ includes offering the body to a person for promiscuous sexual intercourse for hire. It also include taking unjust and unlawful advantage of trapped women for one’s benefit or sexual intercourse.

Six SC directions which the central government agreed to implement

The court directed the government to implement the other six recommendations as well as the provisions of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) of 1956. These are:

(1) to provide immediate medical assistance to sex workers who are victims of sexual assault;

(2) to release adult sex workers detained in ITPA protective homes against their will;

(3) to sensitise the police and other law-enforcement agencies about the rights of sex workers to live with dignity;

(4) to ask the Press Council of India to issue guidelines to the media so that they don’t reveal the identities of sex workers while reporting on arrest, raid and rescue operations;

(5) To not consider health measures that sex workers employ for their safety (such as condoms) as evidence of commission of an offence; and

(6) To ensure that the legal service authorities of the Central and State governments educate sex workers about their rights vis-à-vis the legality of sex work.

Four recommendations on which The Central Government has shown reservations

(1) Preventing the police from taking any criminal action against a sex worker on the basis of ‘age’ and ‘consent’, if sex worker is an adult and is participating with consent.

An adult sex worker who is a sex worker voluntarily is not an offence per se, until exploitation or abuse is reported by the sex worker or revealed during investigation.

(2) Since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running a brothel is unlawful. Therefore, sex workers should not be arrested or victimised during any raid in the brothel.

(3) No child of a sex worker should be separated from the mother merely on the ground that the mother is in the sex trade. If a minor is living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that he/she has been trafficked.

As per law, the law presumes trafficking if a child is found with any person in a brothel. Such a child or a minor after being rescued should be place with any child care institute recognised under the Juvenile Justice Act. Similar remarks have also been reiterated in Gaurav Jain v. Union of India (1997), by the Supreme Court of India

(4) The government should involve representatives of the sex workers in the process of decision-making in laws relating to sex work. For example, rehabilitation of sex workers, improving their living conditions etc.

Way Forward

The ITPA and CrPC may be amended suitably to enforce the directions of the Supreme Court.

If possible, other directions may be implemented through executive orders by the governments.

The government should differentiate between prostitution and the work of sex workers. It can ban prostitution per se. However, voluntary sex work should be allowed with certain conditions keeping in mind the public interest.

The women in the flesh trade should be viewed more as victims of adverse socioeconomic circumstances rather than as offenders.

The law should be appropriately amended to define ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘abuse of persons.


The need for digital collaboration

Source: The post is based on an article “The need for digital collaboration” published in the “The Hindu” on 7th June 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Social Sector, Education Sector

Relevance: Higher Education Reforms in India

News: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has simplified its approval process for local universities to collaborate with their counterparts abroad, to offer joint degrees, dual degrees, and twinning programmes.

Which Higher Education Institution (IHEI) are eligible for collaboration?

Indian

Any IHEI accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council having a minimum score of 3.01 on a 4-point scale or any IHEI featuring in the top 1,000 of the Times Higher Education or QS World University Rankings will be eligible to participate in the collaboration.

Further, Indian institutes in the top 100 list of the National Institute Ranking Framework will also be eligible.

Foreign Institutes

The willing institute must rank in the top 1,000 in either of the two world university rankings.

What are the issues?

The UGC’s regulations do not allow academic collaboration with foreign institutions for online learning and open and distance learning (ODL).

This hinders leveraging the potential of information and communication technology in the teaching and learning process.

Importance of ODL Programme in India

The NEP 2020 recommends for more ODL and online programmes to increase the gross enrolment ratio in HEIs in India, especially to improve access in remote areas.

Part-time employees in both the organised and unorganised sectors opt for ODL in order to upgrade their qualifications for better career prospects.

Distance enrolment constitutes 11.1% of the total enrolment in higher education in the postgraduate, undergraduate, PG Diploma, Diploma, and Certificate levels programmes in India.

The ODL programmes are more affordable compared to the in-person programmes and are therefore popular among disadvantaged sections.

Online Education

The government has been promoting online education in India. For example, MOOCs, SWAYAM and NPTEL

The universities and colleges are now being centrally funded under the RUSA and TEQIP-III programmes to create and strengthen infrastructure for online and digital education.

In addition, the Union Budget announced the establishment of a digital university.

Other disadvantages from the move

The chances of a state-sponsored institution for smooth international collaboration will be thwarted by the UGC regulations. The central universities, the IITs and the IIMs are better funded by the Centre. In fact, the central institutions outplay their State-sponsored counterparts. The State-funded HEIs do not perform well in the ranking system.

The move will only exacerbate the divide between central and State institutes.

What will be the advantages from the International Collaboration?

According to AISHE’s findings, 49,348 international students from 168 countries are enrolled in Indian universities. For example, 45.6% are from four neighbouring nations: Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

The move will pave the way for an increase in the footfall of international students in India.

The move will be a game changer for the financially constrained HEIs.

It will help to compensate for the outflow of foreign exchange from India.

Way Forward

The UGC needs to revisit its policies for foreign collaborations. It should ensure students studying in State-sponsored HEIs and opting for ODL and online education are not deprived of benefits in India.


An anomaly that goes by the name populism

Source: The post is based on an article “An anomaly that goes by the name populism” published in the “The Hindu” on 7th June 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 Formal or Informal Associations and their Role in the Polity.

Relevance: Political parties, Populism

Context: The populist measures and creation of perceptions have become part of the political mobilisation;

Social democratisation in India

New technology has replaced old social divides. For instance, now everyone does photography and shares everything.

Markets have created new modes of consumption. For example, Netflix has been referred to as a non-exclusive consumption. It breaks the gap between high and low cultures.

Relative educational opportunities have spread through the private sector. Further, English education now looks within reach. For instance, the Andhra

There has been renewed legitimisation of democracy through the principle of ‘one vote, one value’. For example, voter turnout has been increasing and on the day of voting, the rich and the poor carry the same value to their power to decide their representative.

What are issues involved?

Social equalisation has been without distributive justice. India has been witnessing social mobility without economic equality. Populism is one of the expressions of such a process

Populists are mobilising the aspirations born out of social mobility. They address demands for dignity, sentiments and recognition within the cultural realm.

The populists do not address the issues related to economic equality. For them, economic inequalities happen to be the outcome of either random or an individual failure.

The growing economic and material inequalities in India have been challenging the social confidence gained through the processes of democratisation.

Populists try to leverage new possibilities of being a precariat. They try to create insecurities.

Social mobility without durable economic equality (of opportunities) is creating resentment against the present.

The people are subjected to aggressive mobilisation based on or against other social identities, such as Muslims. The populists work against both the weak (Dalits) and the strong (Muslims).

At present, the ‘perceptions’ matter more than evidence. This is an era of post-truth. These perceptions are created and leveraged. No amount of evidence can off-set perceptions. For example, the birth rate or fertility perceptions about some of the minorities.

Pretence has become a generic ‘way of life’ for all social groups. For example, today majorities ‘fear’ from the disempowered minorities and some of the upper castes are feeling persecuted.

The ruling regimes are occupying perceptions and playing with the aspirations of different social groups. Social mobility is challenged with the perceived economic and material inequalities. The economic disempowerment has led to downgrading of social mobility.

The regime has created newer avenues to live pretence and perceptions. It has legitimised and given credibility to pretence and hyper-reality. The perceptions have started influencing policy making. This has converted pretence into a ‘way of life’.

There is a perceived dissonance between the social mobility of the past and economic inequalities of the present. This has transformed the character of governance too.

The role of digital media has been very adverse. It has been responsible for creating the perceived reality.

The rhetoric of outcomes and finality have replaced ideals of the rule of law and the separation of powers. This has been the result of a hyper-exaggeration which is common at present


A ‘silver’ moment to propel a Bay of Bengal dream

Source: The post is based on an article “A silver moment to propel a Bay of Bengal dream” published in the “The Hindu” on 7th June 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 International Relations; Regional Grouping

Relevance: BIMSTEC

News: On June 6, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has completed 25 years

Background

It was launched as a modest grouping of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand), with the acronym, BIST-EC as a result of the Bangkok Declaration 1997.

Later on, three countries (Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar) and it became the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

Importance of the Grouping

It is an instrument of regional cooperation and integration between South Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Resurgence

The far-reaching decisions which were taken in Goa paved the way for the institution’s reform. Further, the Goa decisions took final shape in Kathmandu summit in 2018. Further, The Colombo summit in March 2022 finally approved the plans of rejuvenation.

Key achievements

It has crafted a new Charter. The charter spells out the grouping’s vision, functions of its constituent parts, and has secured a legal personality.

It has prioritised the sectors of cooperation. The sectors have been reduced from 14 to 7. Each member-state will serve as the lead country for the assigned sector.

It has taken measures to strengthen the Secretariat.

Unlike the SAARC, post-2014, BIMSTEC has continued to hold its summits and meetings of Foreign Ministers.

The grouping has progressed in combating terrorism, and forging security cooperation. It has created mechanisms and practices for the better management of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The grouping has established institutions such as an Energy Centre and the Centre on Weather and Climate to push sectoral cooperation forward.

What are the challenges?

BIMSTEC has been hindered by the burdens of South Asia Countries. Therefore, it grew slowly.

In the 21st century, the strategic contestation between the United States and China defines the region’s geopolitics and geo-economics. It is creating new tensions and opportunities.

There are internal tensions between member countries. For example, the Rohingyas influx into Bangladesh, Myanmar’s military coup has led to its virtual boycott by a large segment of the international community; and Sri Lanka is facing political and economic crisis.

It has failed to produce a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) despite signing of the Framework Agreement before 18 years.

Despite summit declarations, the concerned ministers and officials have failed to expedite action.

There has been poor connectivity with respect to infrastructure (roads, railways, air, river, and coastal shipping links); energy; the digital and financial domain; and institutions. This has been despite the adoption of the Master Plan for Connectivity supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The bilateral initiatives, for example, taken by India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan to strengthen transport links have also been delayed inordinately.

The grouping has not started working upon the Blue Economy.

The members have not engaged business chambers and corporate leaders with activities of BIMSTEC. Therefore, the grouping remains in the hands of officials and experts.

Way Forward

The Heads of state and government need to assert their authority to fulfil the FTA obligations.

More financial resources are needed for greater regional connectivity. The BIMSTEC Development Fund can be launched.

The vision of the Bay of Bengal Community (BOBC) should be realized. It has the potential to play a pivotal role to deepen linkages between South Asia and Southeast Asia in this Indo-Pacific century.

The collaboration can be done with the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) to accelerate the region’s economic development.

Three countries have a special responsibility: Bangladesh as the host of the BIMSTEC Secretariat; Thailand as the representative of Southeast Asia; and India as the largest state in South Asia.

GS Paper 3


Open network for e-commerce: It’s an idea whose time has come

Source: This post is created based on the article “Open network for e-commerce: It’s an idea whose time has come” published in Live Mint on 7th June 2022. Syllabus Topic – GS Paper 3 – Science and tech

Context: The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) was launched in few cities recently on a pilot basis. It has the potential to usher in a disruptive change.

India’s potential in digital economy

India has the world’s highest fintech adoption rate of 87%, as compared with the global average of 64%.

E-commerce market in India doubled between 2017 and 2020.

3 of the largest public digital platforms in the world are from India i.e.

  1. Aadhaar – A unique digital identity platform
  2. Unified Payments Interface (UPI) – largest digital payments ecosystem.
  3. Co-Win – the largest vaccination platform

About ONDC

Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is a globally first-of-its-kind initiative that aims to democratize digital commerce.

Read about ONDC

How ONDC would bring disruptive changes in online commerce?

It creates a shift from a platform-centric model to open networks. It means citizens of India would be able to make deals using any ONDC-compliant platform.

Furthermore, it will digitize the entire value chain, and standardize operations (like cataloging, inventory management, order management, and order fulfillment).

It will make e-commerce more inclusive for small retailers.

It will give freedom of choice to the consumer.

Not only that, but it will enable transactions of any denomination, thus making ONDC a truly ‘open network for democratic commerce’.

Small businesses will be able to save more as they won’t have to pay deep cuts to aggregator platforms.

ONDC will be compliant with the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the emerging Personal Data Protection Bill. It will provide privacy protection to the users.

The development of ONDC has been very contextual to Indian needs, designed for a diverse society with a wide continuum of digital skills and for solutions to specific local problems.

Lastly, it offers a vital global template for the harnessing of technology for and as a public good at population scale in an inclusive and equitable way.


The inflation spectrometer

Source: The post is based on an article “The inflation spectrometer” published in the Business Standard on 7th June 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 Indian Economy

Relevance: Macroeconomic Conditions; Inflation

News: Inflation is a macroeconomic phenomenon which is under pressure at global and local level.

Major driving factors behind inflation

Inflation is caused by a number of factors which may includ supply, demand, local and global factors.

Globally

The inflation started with the US fiscal stimulus during Covid-19. This pushed inflation. This led to increased demand when global production was impaired due to Covid-19.  This resulted into shortages and longer delivery times.

The wage-price spiral (when higher prices lead to higher wages, which in turn drive the next round of price hikes) is now visible in the US. This may be visible across the world.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has made it harder to adjust with demand and supply disruption caused earlier. The conflict and the associated sanctions have reduced the global supply of food and energy.

The countries are competing for the remaining supplies of energy. This has been the driving force in pushing up prices.

In addition, Higher prices have also not triggered investments in new supplies yet, as suppliers lack crtainty on how long the shortages may persist.

Local drivers of inflation:

Inflation occurs when a stimulus pushes aggregate demand above the economy’s capacity to meet it. In India, the total government deficit is higher than in pre-Covid times. The recent fiscal steps to prevent a rise in fertiliser and fuel prices may lead to spreading of inflation over a longer period.

The rise in India’s current account deficit (CAD) suggests domestic demand, at present, is unsustainable.

The labour market is also the most important driver of sticky inflation. The NREGA work demand has reduced. It is the most reliable indicator of unemployment in India.

Some other drivers of Indian inflation are the rise in telecom tariffs, and the low base of cereals prices

Measures Taken

Nearly every major economy has announced energy subsidies due to domestic political compulsions as well as the need to sustain growth,

What are the issues in fiscal and monetary policy measures?

The fiscal and monetary measures have limited implications. They cannot offset the shortages. The above-mentioned fiscal measures will only prolong the period of higher energy prices.

Way Forward

The US federal fiscal deficit as a share of gross domestic product or GDP has declined. There is an ongoing switch between goods-to-services in consumption; shipping bottlenecks have been easing; global industrial production has restarted, and there is evidence of excessive inventory in many supply chains.

The US needs to do further monetary tightening.

The Monetary Policy Committee should target the inflation. Further, the consumer price index may provide a better measure of persistent inflationary impulses in the economy that monetary policy can try to address.

There should be normalisation of rates given the healthy post-Covid recovery.

Instead of using interest rates, the government can let the rupee weaken to address the BOP imbalance.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Union Minister launches the Leaders in Climate Change Management Program to help urban professionals champion climate action in India

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the Leaders in Climate Change Management Program(LCCP).

What are Leaders in the Climate Change Management Program(LCCP)?

Leaders in Climate Change Management(LCCM) is a capacity-building program that seeks to build a pool of leaders to champion and lead climate action – across sectors and geographies. 

Designed by: The program has been designed and implemented through core partners being: the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), World Resources Institute(WRI) – India, United Nation Environment Programme(UNEP) and Indian School of Business (ISB).

Target: The program aims to train 5,000 professionals including mid to junior-level government officials and frontline workers. The program will prepare them to champion climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions towards a coordinated effort to achieve India’s climate commitments.

Phases: The program has four phases:

1) It is an online learning module that can be completed over eight weeks; 2) It includes face-to-face sessions spanning four to six days; 3) It mandates participants to complete a project over six to eight months and attend exposure visits and 4) It includes networking and establishing a community of practice.

Source: The post is based on the articleUnion Minister launches the Leaders in Climate Change Management Program to help urban professionals champion climate action in India” published in PIB on 6th June 2022.


Sustainable Development Report, 2022: India’s SDG preparedness ranking continues to decline: Report

What is the News?

The Sustainable Development Report, 2022 has been released.

What is the Sustainable Development Report, 2022?

Released by: Group of independent experts at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

Purpose: It is a global assessment of countries’ progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a complement to the official SDG indicators and the voluntary national reviews.

What are the key findings of the report related to India?

India’s Rank: India’s rank in the report has slipped for the third consecutive year. It has been ranked 121 out of the 163 countries in 2022. India ranked 117 in 2020 and 120 in 2021.  

Observations on India’s progress on SDGs: India is not placed well to achieve the SDG goals and its preparedness has worsened over the years in comparison with other countries.

The country continues to face major challenges in achieving 11 of the 17 SDGs which has pushed down its ranking.

For instance, the progress in around 10 of these goals is similar to those in 2021. These include SDG 2 on ending hunger, SDG 3 on good health and well-being and SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation. Further, ensuring decent work (SDG 8) has become even more challenging.

However, India is on track to achieving SDG 13 on climate action.

What are the other report’s observations on India’s performance on climate action?

According to the State of India’s Environment Report, India’s performance on climate action — (SDG) 13 — has slipped from 2019-2020. 

In 2020, the country’s overall national score on SDG 13 was 54 (out of 100) — a significant dip from 60 in 2019.

This decline in India’s overall performance is primarily due to eight states. These are Bihar, Telangana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Jharkhand. The scores of these states have dipped under SDG 13 in the two years.

Source: The post is based on the article “India’s SDG preparedness ranking continues to decline: Report” published in Down To Earth on 6th June 2022.


Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, Agni-4, successfully tested

What is the News?

India has conducted a “routine user training” launch test of its Nuclear-Capable Agni-4 missile.

What is Agni-IV?

Agni-IV is an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (ICBM).

Developed by: Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO).

Range: It has a range of around 4,000 km. 

Payload: It can carry a 1,000-kg payload and can go as high as 900 km.

Significance: The successful test reaffirms India’s policy of having a ‘Credible Minimum Deterrence’ Capability.

Note: Credible minimum deterrence is the principle on which India’s nuclear strategy is based. It underlines no first use(NFU) with an assured second-strike capability and falls under minimal deterrence as opposed to mutually assured destruction.

Read more: Explained: India’s missile capability

Source: The post is based on the articleIntermediate Range Ballistic Missile, Agni-4, successfully testedpublished in PIB on 6th June 2022.


Indian Army Contingent Participates In Multinational Joint Exercise “Ex Khaan Quest 2022” Hosted By Mongolia

What is the News?

A Multinational Peacekeeping exercise “Exercise Khaan Quest 2022” has commenced in Mongolia.

What is Exercise Khaan Quest 2022?

Exercise Khaan Quest is a multinational peacekeeping exercise hosted annually by the Mongolian Armed Forces.

Aim: To enhance interoperability, build a military to military relationships, developing peace support operations and military readiness among participating nations. 

Participating Countries: The exercise saw participation from military contingents from 16 countries. India is one of the participating countries.

Significance of the exercise for India: The exercise will enhance the level of defense cooperation between the Indian Army and participating countries. Especially with the Mongolian Armed Forces which will enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.

Read more: Ministry of Culture is reprinting “Mongolian Kanjur” manuscripts

Source: The post is based on the articleIndian Army Contingent Participates In Multinational Joint Exercise “Ex Khaan Quest 2022” Hosted By Mongoliapublished in PIB on 7th June 2022.


Artificial light may become a new weapon in the fight to control malaria

What is the News?

A study has demonstrated that artificial lights can be used as a weapon to fight against malaria.

What is the importance of Light?

Light regulates much of the timing of biological events like when birds breed, lions hunt – and humans’ sleep patterns. 

While species have been exposed to changes in climate cycles over the eons, the timing of day and night has remained relatively constant owing to the rotation of the earth. This means that all life on the planet has evolved with regular day-night cycles.

Melatonin hormone is a gene responsible for regulating the sleep-awake cycles. It is found in plants as well as animals.

However, rapid change in the natural sleep cycles has been observed on account of the increased use of artificial light. For instance, nearly 80% of the world’s people now live under artificially lit skies.

What role can Artificial Light play in the fight against malaria?

Artificial light can alter mosquito biology. For instance, the malaria-transmitting mosquito species “Anopheles is a nocturnal feeder.

Using artificial light, these mosquitoes can be tricked to behave as if it’s daytime.

For example, a short pulse of Light Emitting Diode (LED) light, is commonly used in homes as “downlights” or reading lamps. This can delay the onset of biting by hours in Anopheles. This can in turn reduce biting rates and malaria transfer. 

What are the challenges associated with this method to control malaria?

The issue is that it is still unclear how artificial lights might be used to lessen the risk of malaria infections.

Demonstration of the effects of artificial light in controlled laboratory settings is one thing, but rolling out their use as an effective vector control strategy is quite another.

Moreover, LED light can have negative impacts on human health like disrupting sleep.

Source: The post is based on the article “Artificial light may become a new weapon in the fight to control malaria” published in Down To Earth on 26th May 2022.


Union Govt seeks fresh comments on Draft IT Rules

What is the News?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MEITY) has released a fresh draft of the amendment to the Information Technology(IT) Rules 2021.

What are the new amendments to the IT Rules,2021?

The Government has proposed the following amendments:

First Amendment: It requires intermediaries to respect rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution of India. This has been added because a number of intermediaries have acted in violation of the constitutional rights of Indian citizens.

Second Amendment: Government has proposed the requirement by intermediaries to address certain complaints regarding the removal of content from a platform within 72 hours. This is because there are chances of something becoming viral. Any other grievance will continue to be addressed within 15 days. 

Third Amendment: Government has proposed to bring in a new Grievance Appellate Committee which is aimed to give users an additional mechanism to appeal decisions made by grievance officers of intermediaries.

Note: Even after this amendment, the users will have the right to directly approach a court of law against the intermediary’s decision.

Source: The post is based on the article “Union Govt seeks fresh comments on Draft IT Rules” published in The Hindu on 7th June 2022.


Explained: Tamil Nadu sculptures recovered from Australia, US

What is the News?

Ten antiquities (sculptures) retrieved from Australia and the United States were handed over to the Government of Tamil Nadu.

What were the important sculptures recovered from Australia and the US?
Dvarapala, Kankalamurti and Nataraja
Images of Dvarapala, Kankalamurti and Nataraja. Source: Indian Express

Dvarapala: This stone sculpture belongs to the Vijayanagar dynasty dating to the 15th-16th century. It is holding a Gada in one hand and has another leg raised up to the level of his knee. 

Nataraja: It is a depiction of Shiva belonging to the 11th-12th century. He is in tribhanga posture, standing on the lotus pedestal. Possibly, ananda tandava or the Dance of Bliss is portrayed here. 

Kankalamurti: Kankalamurti is depicted as a fearsome aspect of Lord Shiva and Bhairava. The sculpture is four-armed, holding ayudhas such as damaru and trishula in the upper hands and a bowl and a trefoil shaped object, as a treat for the playful fawn, in the lower right hand. The idol is dateable to the 12th-13th century.

Nandikeshvara: It is a bronze image of Nandikeshvara dateable to the 13th century. It is shown standing in tribhanga posture with folded arms, holding an axe and a fawn in the upper arms with his forearms in namaskara mudra. 

Four-armed Vishnu: It is dateable to the 11th century and belongs to the later Chola period. The sculpture has Lord Vishnu standing on a padma pedestal holding attributes such as shankha and chakra in two hands; while the lower right hand is in abhaya mudra.

Goddess Parvati: The image depicts a Chola-period sculpture dateable to the 11th century. She is shown holding a lotus in her left hand whereas the right is hanging down near her kati. 

Standing child Sambandar: Sambandar, the popular 7th-century child saint, is one of the Muvar, the three principal saints of South India. It is said that after receiving a bowl of milk from Goddess Uma, the infant Sambandar devoted his life to composing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva.

The sculpture displays the saint’s childlike quality while also empowering him with the maturity and authority of a spiritual leader. 

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: Tamil Nadu sculptures recovered from Australia, US” published in Indian Express on 7th June 2022.


Now drones can be used to deliver medical supplies, vaccines in India: ICMR guidelines

What is the News?

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has released guidelines for drone use in the healthcare sector to ensure access to medicines and vaccines, especially in the geographically difficult terrains in the country.

Why should drones be used in the Healthcare Sector?

Only 30,000 government-run primary healthcare centres cater to nearly 1.4 billion people in India. Moreover, 5-10% of these are not accessible to the suppliers and patients because of difficult terrain.

This highlights the need to ensure last-mile delivery of essential treatments, vaccines and other medical supplies. 

In this, drones have tremendous potential to deliver vital goods to vulnerable populations, overcoming access barriers and enabling faster delivery of life-saving medicine.

Guidelines for Drone Use in Healthcare Sector

The guidelines have been issued in compliance with the New drone Rules-2021 which highlights the ways of selecting drones and choosing takeoffs and landing sites.

According to the guidelines, temperature-sensitive medical supplies and vaccines with a storage temperature between 2 °C and 8 °C are allowed to be transported by drones

Tablets, capsules, syrups, surgicals, blood bags and diagnostic biological tissues can also be transported following the guidance.

What is Medicine from the Sky project?

Medicine from the Sky project is a collaboration of the Telangana government, World Economic Forum, HealthNet Global and NITI Aayog.

Purpose: To deliver medicines, vaccination and units of blood to remote, rural areas by means of drones.

Source: The post is based on the article Now drones can be used to deliver medical supplies, vaccines in India: ICMR guidelinespublished in Down To Earth on 6th June 2022.


Posidonia Australis: World’s largest known plant is 4,500 years old, stretches across 180 kms

What is the News?

Researchers have discovered the largest plant in the world named “Posidonia Australis”.

What is Posidonia Australis?
Posidonia Australis
Source: Indian Express

Posidonia Australis is also known as ribbon weed is a species of seagrass.

It was discovered in the shallow waters of the World Heritage Area of Shark Bay in Western Australia. 

The plant is estimated to be at least 4,500 years old.

It stretches across 180 km in length. This makes it the largest known plant on earth.

The plant appears to be extremely resilient without successful flowering and seed production. 

What is unique about this plant?

Firstly, it covers an area of 20,000 hectares which makes it the largest known plant on earth.

Note: The largest tree in India, the Great Banyan in Howrah’s Botanical Garden, covers 1.41 hectares.

Secondly, this plant is unique from others as it has twice as many chromosomes as its relatives. This makes it what scientists call a “polyploid”.

Note: Polyploids instead of taking half-half genome from both parents, take 100% genome of each of their parents, something not unheard of in plants. 

Source: The post is based on the article “World’s largest known plant is 4,500 years old, stretches across 180 kms” published in Indian Express on 6th June 2022.


Jan Samarth Portal: PM launches new series of coins, portal for credit-linked govt schemes

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has launched Jan Samarth Portal and also released a new series of coins.

What is Jan Samarth Portal?

Jan Samarth is a unique digital portal linking thirteen credit-linked Government Schemes on a single platform.

The portal will be an ‘end-to-end delivery platform’ and more people will come forward to avail of loans because of the ease of compliance.

Significance: The portal will help reduce turnaround time and facilitate faster sanction of loans to beneficiaries.

What is the new series of coins launched by the PM?

The Prime Minister has released a special series of Rs 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 coins.

These coins will have the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ design. They will not be commemorative coins and will be part of the circulation.

Significance: These coins will remind people of the goal of ‘amrit kal’ and motivate people to work towards the development of the country.

Source: The post is based on the article “PM launches new series of coins, portal for credit-linked govt schemes” published in Indian Express on 6th June 2022.


Mains Answer Writing

[Answered] India-UAE ties are not only comprehensive but strategic. Elaborate

Introduction: Contextual introduction. Body: Explain India-UAE ties in various fields. Conclusion: Write a way forward. India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) enjoy strong bonds of friendship based on age-old cultural, religious and economic ties between the two nations. India-UAE together have built a considerable degree of mutual trust that has enabled them to take… Continue reading [Answered] India-UAE ties are not only comprehensive but strategic. Elaborate

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[Answered] State-owned banks mustn’t be completely privatized, these lenders still have a valid role to play. Discuss

Introduction: Contextual introduction. Body: Write some reasons why State-owned banks mustn’t be completely privatized. Also write some reasons for complete privatization. Conclusion: Write a way forward. Privatization refers to the process by which the private sector assumes operational or financial control of public institutions. In other words, privatization entails the abolition of all government controls… Continue reading [Answered] State-owned banks mustn’t be completely privatized, these lenders still have a valid role to play. Discuss

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[Answered] The present legal structure of India to keep the criminals from the electoral process needs restructuring. Discuss.

Introduction: Contextual introduction. Body: Explain some issues with present legal structure of electoral process. Also write some solutions. Conclusion: Write a way forward. Recently, two MLAs were prevented from casting their votes according to Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. In the past, the Supreme Court has observed that the intent of this… Continue reading [Answered] The present legal structure of India to keep the criminals from the electoral process needs restructuring. Discuss.

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[Answered] Highlight the salient provisions of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) initiative by G7. How is it going to counter China’s expansion plans?

Introduction: Contextual introduction. Body: Write some salient provisions of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) initiative by G7. Also write how it is going to counter China’s expansion plans. Conclusion: Write a way forward. It is a $600-billion global infrastructure investment partnership aimed at helping developing countries. The initiative was first unveiled at the 2021 G7 summit in… Continue reading [Answered] Highlight the salient provisions of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) initiative by G7. How is it going to counter China’s expansion plans?

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[Download] – Preksha Agrawal AIR 303 (UPSC CSE 2021) – MGP Test Copies

Dear Friends, We are happy to release the Mains answer copies of Preksha Agrawal. She has secured AIR 303 in the UPSC Civil Services Examination 2021. Aspirants can learn from these copies and strategize their preparation accordingly. Download link: Preksha Agrawal MGP Copy 1 – GS Test Copy Preksha Agrawal MGP Copy 2 – GS… Continue reading [Download] – Preksha Agrawal AIR 303 (UPSC CSE 2021) – MGP Test Copies

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[Download] – Prassannakumar V AIR 264 (UPSC CSE 2021) – MGP Test Copies

Dear Friends, We are happy to release the Mains answer copies of Prassannakumar V. He has secured AIR 264 in the UPSC Civil Services Examination 2021. Aspirants can learn from these copies and strategize their preparation accordingly. Download link: Prassannakumar V MGP Copy 1 – GS Test Copy Prassannakumar V MGP Copy 2 – GS Test… Continue reading [Download] – Prassannakumar V AIR 264 (UPSC CSE 2021) – MGP Test Copies

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[Download] – Donthula Zenith Chandra AIR 241 (UPSC CSE 2021) – MGP Test Copies

Dear Friends, We are happy to release the Mains answer copies of Donthula Zenith Chandra. He has secured AIR 241 in the UPSC Civil Services Examination 2021. Aspirants can learn from these copies and strategize their preparation accordingly. Download link: Donthula Zenith Chandra MGP Copy 1 – GS Test Copy Donthula Zenith Chandra MGP Copy… Continue reading [Download] – Donthula Zenith Chandra AIR 241 (UPSC CSE 2021) – MGP Test Copies

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[Answered] Enumerate NITI Aayog’s recommendations for the betterment of gig and platform workers.

Introduction: Contextual introduction. Body: Write some points related to NITI Aayog’s recommendations for the betterment of gig and platform workers. Conclusion: Write a way forward. A gig worker is a person who engages in income-earning activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship, as well as in the informal sector. When gig workers use platforms i.e.,… Continue reading [Answered] Enumerate NITI Aayog’s recommendations for the betterment of gig and platform workers.

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[Answered] The dominant position of online aggregator platforms is damaging for small and medium businesses and customers. Discuss and also suggest some international experiences for dealing with this issue.

Introduction: Contextual introduction. Body: Explain how dominant position of online aggregator platforms is damaging small and medium businesses and customers. Also write some international experiences for dealing with this issue. Conclusion: Write a way forward. The proliferation of a wide range of e-commerce platforms has created convenience and increased consumer choice. But in reality, the… Continue reading [Answered] The dominant position of online aggregator platforms is damaging for small and medium businesses and customers. Discuss and also suggest some international experiences for dealing with this issue.

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[Download] 10 PM Weekly Compilation – June, 2022 – 4th week

Hello, everyone. We are posting a Compilation of the 10 pm current affairs quiz – June 2022 – Fourth week  Click on the following link to download Download The 10 PM Daily Current Affairs Quiz is focused on the current affairs part of UPSC Prelims. The daily current affairs quiz consists of 10 questions based on the daily current affairs.… Continue reading [Download] 10 PM Weekly Compilation – June, 2022 – 4th week

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