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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – March 18, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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Relevance of India-Philippines Brahmos Deal

Source: Click Here  

Syllabus: GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India

Synopsis: India’s Brahmos deal with the Philippines is very important. India’s aspiration to become Atma Nirbhar in defense exports and emerge as a key regional security provider in Indo-Pacific will depend on it.

Background

  • In March 2021, India and the Philippines signed the “Implementing Arrangement” for procurement of defense material and equipment procurement.
  • The agreement lays the groundwork for sales of defence systems including the highly advanced Brahmos missile. The sale will be through a government-to-government route. 

About Brahmos Missile:

  • It is a cruise missile manufactured by BrahMos Aerospace limited. It is a joint venture of India’s DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia.
  • The research for the missile began in the 1990s. It became the first supersonic cruise missile to enter service.
  • It has a speed of 2.8 mach (almost 3 times the speed of sound) and a range of 290 km. A new version has a range of 400 km.
    • The high speed makes its interception very difficult and allows it to easily target fighter jets like the Chinese J-20 fighter aircraft.
  • The naval and land variants of the BrahMos were inducted into service by the Indian Navy in 2005 and the Indian Army in 2007. Later, the air variant was tested in 2017 thereby giving the missile a dominating presence in all three domains. 
  • India is now trying to build a superior version having hypersonic speeds (at or above Mach 5) and a maximum range of 1,500 km.

Relevance of Deal for India

  • It would boost the export potential of India. 
  • It would help in attaining the target of $5 billion in defense exports by 2025. More orders are expected to come from countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, etc.
  • Furthermore, It would elevate India’s stature as a responsible regional superpower.
  • This would also boost India’s economic, soft, and hard power profile in the Indo-Pacific region.

Relevance of Deal for Philippines

  • It would be helpful in protecting geopolitical and strategic interests, especially in the South China Sea. The sea has been a zone of frequent conflict between China and the Philippines. 
  • The deal would make the Philippines the first country to buy BrahMos. Thereby it will strengthen bilateral relations in the defence sphere. 

Geopolitical relevance:

  • It would act as a deterrent to China’s aggressive stance in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Further, other vulnerable countries of the region would come forward and induct Brahmos into their defense arsenal. This would protect their sovereignty and territory in the region.

Challenges in exporting Brahmos:

  • It may attract sanctions from the US under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
    • The act aims to sanction individuals and entities who engage in a “significant transaction” with a listed entity under CAATSA.
    • Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia is one of the listed Russian entities. That is why a threat of sanctions looms over the Philippines and other countries. Further, the US has maintained ambiguity over the Brahmos deal.
    • Turkey and China have been penalized under CAATSA for purchasing the S-400 Triumf air defense systems from Russia.
  • The cost of the Brahmos package comes around 2000 crores. This huge cost has discouraged purchase orders from many willing countries especially post the pandemic era. 
    • India has offered a $100 million line of credit to the Philippines that has enabled it to purchase Brahmos with minimum components.

Way Ahead:

  • India should engage in proactive talks with the US in order to obtain a waiver for the Brahmos deal. This seems possible as the deal would help contain China in the Indo-Pacific.
  • India should offer a rational line of credit to potential buyers to give them flexibility in buying the missile.

Use of Non Violence in Myanmar Protests

Source: Click Here  

Syllabus: GS 2 – India and its neighbourhood- relations

Synopsis: The February 2021 coup in Myanmar removed the democratically elected government. Since then people have adopted the non-violent approach of Gandhi for pressuring the military junta.

Background:

  • The democratically elected leaders in Myanmar were removed by the military on 1st February 2021 on allegations of election fraud.
  • Subsequently, the military came to power and main leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi got house arrest. This induced the masses to start non-violent protests in Myanmar.

About Non Violence and its usage:

  • It means positive action and not a state of passiveness. It involves working towards one’s goal using non-violent means.
  • Mahatma Gandhi used a spinning wheel as a symbol for his idea of non-violence. The spinning wheel presented two messages:
    1. An instrument to protest against India’s growing industrialism.
    2. A symbol to show resistance to the British-made clothes that had replaced Indian handmade clothes.
  • Martin Luther King turned to the symbol of the “American Dream” to portray his version of non-violence. The objective was to obtain social justice and equity for every member of American society. 

Myanmar and tool of Non Violence:

  1. The method was used in 1990 by Suu Kyi against the atrocities of the military government. Her efforts earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
  2. The Buddhist Spirituality gave her moral strength that automatically took her towards Gandhian Non Violence. Later on the masses were also attracted towards the noble method.
  3. The masses understood the Buddhist teachings under which each individual has the potential to change his circumstances. This was different from Despotic belief under which an individual is considered as faceless and helpless who can be manipulated at will.
  4. The same enthusiasm is now being witnessed in the current protests wherein masses are adopting new symbols of non-violence. This includes the 3 finger salute adopted by activists in Thailand against the totalitarian regime.

Significance of Non-Violent Protests:

  1. It is a laudable method to display the collective strength of the masses i.e. the power of the powerless.
  2. It displays a belief in the method of non-violence that might not deliver immediate results but is definitely the ethical path.
  3. Likewise, it is a peaceful way of questioning the legitimacy of military government and demanding democracy.
  4. It further places a question on the democratic nature of countries that are criticizing the struggle for democracy in Myanmar.

Way Ahead:

  • Greater number of people in Myanmar should engage in politics with ethical conduct. This would be in line with the Gandhian philosophy of associating politics with ethics that helps in delivering optimum outcomes.
  • The future of Myanmar is not up to the military, it is up to those who follow the example of Gandhi in the streets of Yangon and Mandalay. 

Ways to Strengthen India’s Democracy

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Powers, Functions, and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

Synopsis: Increasing attacks on the press and the erosion of judicial autonomy are threatening India’s global image as a democracy. The government needs to take steps to strengthen India’s democratic values,

Background

  • It has been said that Democracy is on retreat worldwide. Many democracies in the 21st century continue to disregard the principles of democracies.
  • Principles such as the freedom of press, independence of the other public institutions of the state are often violated.
    • For instance, many world leaders such as Vladimir Putin (Russia), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Trump (USA) had initiated a sustained, attack on these very institutions to sustain power.
  • Recently, the western academic institutions, the Freedom House (US) and the Varieties of Democracy project (Sweden) downgraded India’s democratic ratings.
  • However, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar dismissed these ratings as irrelevant.

Evolution of Democracy:

  • The first-ever institutional check on sovereign power was provided through the Glorious Revolution in England. It led to the establishment of Parliament and England shifted from absolute monarchy to Constitutional monarchy.
  • Later, the French Revolution and the American revolution assured inalienable rights to its citizens.
  • However, in the era of colonialism, exclusion of women, as well as racial and religious minorities continued till the 1950s.
  • After the 1950s, democracy got strengthened due to the following measures.
      • Institutionalization of universal suffrage elections
      • Constitutional check on the powers of the government
      • Independent judiciary empowered with judicial review
      • Empowered press to scrutinize government actions
  • Finally, after the end of the Cold War, due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, many authoritarian countries were forced to conduct elections. This led to the establishment of liberal democracy rule in most of the world’s countries.

Why India’s democratic ratings were downgraded?

  • Both Freedom House and V-Dem multi-dimensional framework give considerable weightage to the freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary.
  • Concerns about the undermining of these institutional checks-and-balances led both institutions to reduce India’s score on their index.
  • Weakening democracy in India can negatively impact India’s ambitions to become a full-fledged member of the Quad or the D-10. It will also undermine India’s claim to become a Permanent Member of the UN security council.

What needs to be done?

  • First, Government should hear criticism rather than rejecting it outrightly. Suggestions on eroding democratic values need a thoughtful, and respectful response.
  • Second, the press and the judiciary which are considered as the pillars of democracy, require to be independent of any executive interference.
  • Third, strong democracy requires strong opposition. Without an alternative choice, the very objective of election to provide a check on arbitrary power gets defeated.

Democratic Values and Principles are core to India’s identity. We need to safeguard our democracy by strengthening its pillars- the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary, and the Media.


Relevance of Inflation Targeting in India

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Synopsis: Inflation control will always be relevant. But there is no conclusive evidence that the policy of inflation targeting has worked in India.

Background

  • The RBI was tasked with a mandate of the inflation target of 4 percent with a 2% deviation either way in June 2016. This agreement between the centre and the RBI is set to end by march-31-2020.
  • It has been acknowledged that in these 5 years period (2016-2021) after inflation targeting was introduced,
      • Inflation rate has remained within the prescribed band of 2% to 6%.
      • Also, the RBI has been successful in anchoring inflationary expectations.
  • Against this backdrop, this article evaluates the success of inflation targeting as an effective monetary policy in India.

What is inflationary targeting?

  • Inflation targeting prescribes the use of the interest rate to target inflation. Whereas other methods to control inflation targets money-supply (monetarist approach). For example, Open Market operations.
  • Some suggest inflationary targeting is more effective than the monetarist approach, as the policy interest rate, is under the direct control of the central bank.

What are the issues in Inflation targeting?

First, inflation targeting is not statistically validated for Indian data.

      • The model of Inflation targeting is based on the assumption that inflation means overheating the economy. i.e., increased output greater than natural level output.
      • So, the Central bank will recommend raising the rate of interest (repo rate). This will eventually reduce the money supply in the economy and normalize economic activity, thereby achieving a reduction in inflation levels.
      • However, it is impossible to observe the level of output in an economy. Hence, setting policy rates based on the assumption that the economy has overheated is unscientific.

Second, the belief that RBI can successfully control inflation using Inflation targeting is not completely true. Consider the following examples,

      • First, RBI data on household expectations showed that inflation will remain well above 6% up to 2020.
      • However, inflation had fallen steadily since 2011-12, halving by 2015-16. During this period inflation targeting was not introduced. So, this explains that there are other factors that control inflation.
      • Second, during lockdown food inflation peaked even when the inflationary targeting mechanism was in force. It was mainly due to supply chain disruption during the lockdown.
      • Also, the lockdown period witnessed a contraction in growth but coincided with inflation. This is against the core principle of inflation targeting that inflation denotes overheating economy.
  • Third, if the inflation in India has been controlled via inflation targeting in the past five years, it would have benefitted growth, exports, non-performing assets (NPAs) of commercial banks, and employment.
      • However, the result has not been on the expected lines. Only, private investment has declined as higher interest rates contributed to a declining private investment rate.
      • Other factors employment and exports are declining steadily.
      • Also, NPA’s are increasing since 2016. The cases of IL&FS, PMC Bank, PNB and YES Bank suggest that poor management and maladministration in the financial sector can escape RBI scrutiny as they tend to focus more on inflation targeting.

Issue of High Vacancies in Higher Educational Institutions

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 2 – Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

Synopsis – According to the Education Ministry’s committee, there is a high rate of Vacancies for faculty positions in Central institutions for higher education. State-sponsored preparatory programmes are essential to fill vacancies.

Introduction-

  • The government provides reservation for faculty positions to the weaker sections under the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019.
  • But, According to the data shared by the Education Ministry, more than half of the faculty vacancies reserved for SCs, STs, and OBCs in Central institutions of higher education are vacant.
  • The situation is particularly worse in the elite Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). Here more than 60% of SC and OBC reserved positions are unfilled, while nearly 80% of ST reserved positions remain unfilled.
  • If we include Central Universities, IISERs, IIT (non-faculty), IGNOU, and Sanskrit Central Universities then the vacancies are about 38% to 52%.

This data highlights a serious mismatch between the government’s reservation goals and actual recruitment outcomes.

What are the recommendations made by an official committee?

  • Exemption from a reservation in faculty hiring – The official committee suggested exempting IITs, IIMs from the reservation for SC, ST, OBC and Economically Weaker Sections.
  • Vacancies to be de-reserve if no suitable candidates are found within a year– If vacancies for appropriate candidates from SC/ST/OBC/EWS applicants are not filled during a year, the vacancies may be de-reserved for the next year.

However, these recommendations are viewed as undermining the government’s goal of social equity through the reservation. The government needs to understand the education system’s shortcoming.

State-sponsored Preparatory programmes to fulfil various issues:

According to the Education Ministry’s committee, the failure for filling the reserved positions is due to a lack of qualified applicants. The issue can be resolved by-

  • State-sponsored Preparatory programmes(prepare faculties for their interviews) to meet the IITs and IIMs standards. These preparatory programmes have the following advantages,
      • The programme will increase the pool of aspiring candidates from the reserved sections.
      • Further, this will also create research faculties among the reserved sections.
      • These preparatory programmes could help to overcome the quality deficiencies in faculty preparation.
      • Make higher education institutions(HEIs) more socially responsive, thus achieving the objective of ending historical caste-based discrimination.

Way forward

  • Apart from state-sponsored preparatory programmes, the government must increase the funding for education at all levels. This will support the vulnerable sections on their way towards equality.

Single Use Plastic Pollution in India – A hidden pandemic

Source: The Indian Express  

Syllabus: GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation

Synopsis: COVID-19 pandemic paused and reversed India’s progress against single-use plastic pollution. Few necessary steps are essential to continue the progress.

Background  

Single-use plastics were in use in great quantities during the COVID-19 pandemic to produce gloves, sanitary equipment etc.  However, no attention has been paid to where the increased plastic waste will end up. India was progressing against plastic pollution before the pandemic began. 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to completely remove single-use plastics by 2022. The strategy calls for better arrangements to collect, store, and recycle single-use plastic.  
  • The UN Environment Programme along with the support of Norway and Japan took a multi-year assessment. They found out how plastic finds its way into riverways, and ultimately to the ocean. They achieved this through projects like CounterMEASURE.
  • National Geographic’s Sea to Source Ganges study tracked plastic sources in the Ganges river basin. This brought India and Bangladesh together to study plastic pollution.

Growth of Plastic pollution in pandemic times:

  • The pandemic reversed many of the aforementioned progress. Single-use plastics became more abundant. Plastic was used for masks, sanitiser bottles, personal protective equipment, food packaging, and water bottles. 
  • This plastic will eventually disintegrate into tiny particles called microplastics. Only 9 percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. 79 per cent of all plastic produced is present in the world’s landfills and in our air, water, soil, and other natural systems. 

Suggestions to reduce Plastic Pollution

Plastic is important because of its central role in durable goods, medicine and food safety. There are quite a few steps we can take right now during the COVID-19:

  1. The waste collection should operate at the same speed as the waste generation. Litter(paper, cans, and bottles lying in an open or public place) is a large part of plastic pollution. This generally ends up in Indian rivers. Improved planning and frequency of waste disposal operations can collect litter.
  2. The wastes should be separated and used plastics have to be found early in the waste-to-value cycle. So that the plastic remains suitable for treatment and recycling. It will make recycling much easier and more economically feasible.
  3. We need to encourage environmentally-friendly substitutes against single-use plastics. The government has to encourage business models that avoid plastic waste through alternative product delivery systems. 
  4. Plastic pollution should be considered as a truly society-wide problem. It is important for government, businesses, and civil society to coordinate to find solutions.
    • For example, UNEP and its partners are working with the Indian government towards these goals. They are working with researchers, enterprises, and community groups to address plastic pollution. 
    • The data created in this process will be helpful in policy framing and decision-making processes at the national, regional and local level. 

Way forward

  • The government has to strengthen the existing plastic waste management framework in India. Further, India has to develop a National Action Plan for Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution in Rivers. 
  • Apart from that, India also requires an approach to reduce the manufacture of new fossil fuel-based plastics and developing and using alternatives.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 18, 2021

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