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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – March 25, 2021

Good evening dear reader

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.

About Factly- The Factly initiative covers all the daily news articles regarding Preliminary examination. This will be provided at the end of the 9 PM Brief.

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We know for a fact that learning without evaluation is a wasted effort. Therefore, we request you to please go through both our initiatives i.e 9PM Briefs and Factly, then evaluate yourself through the 10PM Current Affairs Quiz.

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Water conservation is must for preventing another pandemic

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS 3 –  Natural resources + Pollution and degradation

Synopsis: NITI Aayog has expressed concerns over the poor water quality in India. This gives a conducive environment for the spread of another pandemic through the water. Thus, it requires an effective mechanism for water conservation.

Background:

  • NITI Aayog, Water Aid, and others have found that over 70% of India’s surface and groundwater is contaminated by human and other waste.
  • The contaminated water can be a breeding ground for numerous viruses causing another Pandemic. 

How virus spreads through contaminated water?

Dangerous viruses can spread from animals to humans through the consumption of their meat. The closeness creates an artificial environment that can give birth to mutations in erstwhile dormant viruses.

  • After infecting a human, the virus can easily proliferate in wastewater.
    • For instance, several wastewater samples were tested and were found to carry traces of SARS-CoV-2 in England, Wales and Scotland
    • Traces of the virus have also been detected in raw sewage across Sydney.
  • Astrovirus, hepatitis A and norovirus are some water-transmitted viral pathogens.

Need for water conservation in India

  • The wastewater gets discharged into the river. Thus, it becomes a very generous host for viruses by carrying human waste, sewage, and toxic waste. This breeds more proliferation.
  • Further, a huge population is dependent on polluted water sources for meeting their drinking requirements thereby enhancing the vulnerability. There is also a concern of growing demand in the future due to the rising population. 
  • The success of schemes like Nal se Jal demands the conservation of water.
    • The scheme aims to provide drinking water connections to every rural household by 2024. 
  • The techniques used for water purification like RO (reverse osmosis) are very costly and unaffordable for the majority population. Further, they extract the essential minerals from the water along with containments.
  • Destruction of natural resources is happening at a rapid pace as our development model focuses on building artificial infrastructure. This involves the creation of highways, industrial plants, high-rise structures, etc. at the cost of natural infrastructure.

Is there any clean source of water left?

  • There are two unpolluted freshwater sources left in the country – 
    • Water lying below our forest
    • Aquifers below the river floodplain
  • Both provide natural underground storage and are annually recharged by rain water.
  • The modest drinking requirement (2-3 litres) can be met with water below our forests.
  • Similarly, river floodplains are a great source of water for cities.
    • The Delhi Government is already using water from Yamuna floodplains to meet the requirement of million people.

Way Forward:

  • We must focus on conservation techniques for solving the water problem like: 
    • Using only a fraction of the annual recharge of water bodies and aquifers.
    • Declaring Forests and floodplains as water sanctuaries.

There is no technological substitute for living natural resources like pristine natural water and soil. The focus should be shifted from artificial infrastructure to natural infrastructure.


Similarities between Disinvestment and fiscal deficit

Source: Click Here  

Syllabus: GS 3 – mobilization of resources

Synopsis: Selling of Public assets (Disinvestment) has similar macroeconomic results to fiscal deficit. Both increase wealth inequalities in the society and hence should be avoided.

Background

  • The government has set a target of 1.75 lakh crore rupees from the disinvestment of PSUs in the current financial year.
  • The only rationale shown by the government behind such a move is to generate additional resources for spending.
Basic Terms:

  • Fiscal Deficit: It is the difference between the total revenue of the government (excluding borrowings) and its total expenditure. A fiscal deficit situation occurs when the government’s expenditure exceeds its income.
  • Disinvestment: It simply means the withdrawal or reduction of investment.

Fiscal Strategy of selling Public Sector Undertakings:

  • Under disinvestment, equity (shares) of PSUs is offered for sale to the private sector.
  • However, the purchase of public assets crowds out private investment in other sectors.
    • This happens as the amount kept for investment in varied projects like road, rail, energy, etc. is used for the purchase of Public assets. It reduces the pool and hence crowding out takes place. 

Moreover, there is not much difference between fiscal deficit and disinvestment.

Relationship between Disinvestment and Fiscal Deficit:

  • In Fiscal Deficit, the government issues bonds to the private sector for raising money. While in case of disinvestment, ownership of public assets is offered.
  • Both have similar macroeconomic consequences:
    • Enhancing private savings
    • Crowding out some private investments
    • Allowing the production of idle output and resources by increased government spending
    • Creating wealth inequalities
  • The only difference is the nature of the paper handed over to the private party. 

How does fiscal deficit increase wealth inequality?

Fiscal Deficit generates additional private savings. It enhances wealth inequality.

  • The government expenditure financed by fiscal deficit generates additional demand in the economy. 
  • This further increases output and incomes until additional savings generated out of such incomes match the fiscal deficit.
  • These savings are generally more in the case of the rich who have a higher propensity to save. 
  • These additional savings result in greater wealth creation for the rich and enhance wealth inequalities.

How selling of public assets increases wealth inequality?

  • The process of disinvestment involves the transfer of ownership of public assets to the private sector.
  • Wealth Inequality gets enhanced as:
    • Additional savings are created in the economy just like in the case of fiscal deficit, which enhances inequality. 
    • Further, the transfer usually happens at prices well below the capitalized value of earnings. This makes new owners more wealthy in the future and enhances inequalities in society.
      • Capitalized value refers to the current value of an asset, based on the total income expected to be realized over its economic life span.

Alternative of disinvestment for increasing spending:

  • The focus should be on tax-financed government expenditure. In this case, there would be no addition to private wealth, and hence no increase in wealth inequality.
  • In the current scenario government can take the following steps:
  1. It can impose a wealth tax that would help it extract a bigger chunk of private profits and doesn’t increase inequalities.
    • Elizabeth Warren had proposed the idea during her nomination for the American presidency and 18 billionaires supported this.
  2. Increase the GST rate on luxury goods with due consultation with states. This should be complemented with a proportional increase in government spending. The result would be an increase in employment and output in the economy without impacting post-tax profits in real terms.

Thus, the multiple benefits associated with PSUs like social empowerment (role in green revolution), protection against the dominance of multinational corporations, etc. cannot be ignored. \

Even if we ignore these, the sale of public assets to finance government spending is undesirable and unnecessary on purely fiscal terms.


Assessment on India’s counter to International criticism

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

Synopsis: India needs to address the international criticism of declining democratic values. It will strengthen the world’s largest democracy further.

Background

Many countries are scrutinising the functioning of Indian democracy due to the alleged diminishing democratic space in India. For example,

  • Recently, annual reports of the United States-based Freedom House and the Sweden-based V-Dem Institute downgraded India from a free democracy to a “partially free democracy”.
  • Similarly, issues of Farmer’s safety and freedom of press have been debated in the British Parliament.
  • Despite these criticisms, India has countered its critics strongly displaying hard sovereignty.
  • By countering the critics India has missed out to address the fundamental point of the critics, that human dignity and freedoms are universal.

How India has responded to the criticism of eroding democratic values in India?

  1. First, India has resorted to the new approach of Emphasizing hard sovereignty. It has repeatedly mentioned that the issues mentioned are internal to India.
  2. Second, countering the criticisms aggressively.
  3. Third, India’s statements from high level offices are being fine-tuned to silence the critics.
  4. Consider the following examples,
      • One, to counter U. K’s criticism, India has taken up the issue of Racism in the UK, and it was discussed in  Rajya Sabha. It pointed out Systemic racism in the UK.
      • Two, Similarly, India’s External Affairs Minister highlighted the lack of public trust in the electoral process of western countries. Example the U.S
      • Three, The high-level statements are being fine-tuned to counter the allegations and to assert the autonomy of Indian institutions. For example, the statement form Indian High Commission in London mentioned India’s ‘well-established independent democratic institutions.
      • Four, India’s response to the celebrity tweets was also aggressive. A Statement by the Ministry of External Affairs referred to international critics as ‘fringe elements’ and linked them to desecration of Gandhi statues.

How the global situation is aiding India to counter international criticism aggressively?

  • First, the Pandemic has helped India to engage in ‘vaccine diplomacy’ and has positioned India in a central role in global politics. The goodwill generated by ‘Vaccine Maitri’ has been used to counter the criticisms. For example, India’s has supplied critical health aid to 70 countries.
  • Second, the crisis within western democracies has damaged their reputation, privilege, and their moral right to criticize other countries.
  • Third, the growing significance of India for economic, environmental, and geopolitical reasons, gives India considerable space for an aggressive response.
  • Fourth, India’s conservative allies in western countries have also helped to undermine international criticism. For example, in October 2019, right-wing Members of the European Parliament visited Kashmir and gave a clean chit to the government against the allegation of human rights issues in J&K.

Evaluation of India’s response to international criticism?

  • India’s response has been good with respect to limiting the cultural arrogance of west and their ‘knowledge imperialism’.
  • But India has failed to address the fundamental point of the critics. That, human dignity and freedoms are universal and an assault on them anywhere is an assault on them everywhere.

Lessons from the Bangladesh’s Growth story

Source: Indian Express

Gs2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora

Synopsis: India and other South Asian countries can learn from the growth story of Bangladesh.

Background

  • March 2021 marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and India and 50 years of Bangladesh independence.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Dhaka as the guest of honour in Bangladesh’s 50th Independence Day celebration.

Growth Story of Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh’s GDP growth in 2019 was 8.4% (2 times that of India). It was one of the few countries that maintained a positive growth rate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Its GDP per capita is around $2,000 which is almost equal to India.
  • Further, in the next 5 years, Bangladesh will move from the least developed country status to developing country status.

The Vietnam Growth Model

  • Economic reforms (Doi moi) in 1986, enabled Vietnam to achieve rapid economic growth and industrialisation.
  • Growth story of Vietnam started with the manufacturing of textiles and garments and later diversified to mobiles and electronics. Also, it has largely benefitted from China’s supply chain.
  • It also remains the biggest beneficiary of the China+1 strategy leading to rising investment from Asian countries like Japan and Thailand.
  • Further, the signing of smart trade agreements such as ASEAN FTA and free trade agreements with the US and with India, Japan, and China through ASEAN has immensely benefitted.
  • It provided scope for Vietnam to skill-up its population for labor-intensive manufacturing at a large scale. Thereby, it brought down costs and increased exports.

What aided the success of Bangladesh?

  1. Focus on the intensive manufacturing sector: Bangladesh has followed the same strategy as Vietnam. Its GDP growth is directly connected with the growth in the textiles and garments industry. It accounts for 80 percent of the country’s exports.
  2. Signing of beneficial Free trade agreements: It also got benefitted from preferential trade treatments with the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Japan with negligible or zero tax. With India too, Dhaka has a zero-export duty on key products like ready-made garments.
  3. Liberalised FDI regime: it has helped to attract more investments. For example, Bangladesh allows 100 percent equity in local companies and no limits on repatriation of profits in most sectors.
  4. Innovative microfinance models: For example, successful and pioneering microfinance organisations like Grameen and BRAC have aided small businesses in the country. It also helped in empowering women by supporting them with financial independence and encouraging them to work outside the home. Consequently, Bangladesh’s workforce in its textiles sector is almost all women (95%).
  5. Effective public health schemes: For example, government schemes like Pushti Apas (Nutrition Sisters) and community health clinics. It has helped Bangladesh to perform better in development indices such as infant mortality, sanitation, hunger, and gender equality better than India.

What India can learn from Bangladesh’s successful development trajectory?

Some of the key lessons that could be learned from Bangladesh are,

  • Increasing women in the workforce,
  • Liberalising internal and external trade,
  • Making micro lending accessible,
  • Building special economic zones with adequate infrastructure, connectivity and environment friendly design.
  • Supporting Domestic entrepreneurs

Cost and Benefits of Adani’s Carmichael Coal Project in Australia

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc

Synopsis – Adani is making one of the world’s largest new coal investments in the Carmichael coal mine project in Queensland. This article analyzes the Costs and Benefits of the Project.

Introduction-

New investment in coal will be a major factor if India is not able to meet its commitment against Climate Change.

Recently the Adani’s $16.5 billion dollar investment in the Carmichael coal mine project in Queensland has sparked debate. Being a primary buyer of this project, India would also face its environmental consequences.

Proposed benefits of Adani’s Carmichael coal project-

  • Economic benefits – It would be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It will produce 60 million tonnes of coal per year at full capacity. The mine is expected to produce 2.3 billion tonnes over the next 60 years.
  • It will create employment opportunities and generate revenue for Australia’s economy.
  • Australian government’s subsidies- Despite the G20 commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, the Queensland and Australian governments have proposed various forms of assistance to the Carmichael coal project.

Issues

  • Financial viability- With coal prices falling, the mine may not be able to produce enough income to cover its costs.
    • A number of major international banks ruled out financing the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project. It is due to its poor return on investment and environmental risks.
  • Environmental and climate impacts – The project is likely to emit 4.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than 0.5% of the remaining global carbon budget for limiting warming to 2 degrees C.
    • Climate change is already affecting Australia. The frequency and intensity of droughts and extreme weather events such as heat-waves, storms and flooding, and bushfires are increasing.
  • Health Impact- Coal mining causes fine particle pollution, which contributes to heart diseases, lung diseases, and lung cancer.
    • In Australia, health damage due to CO2 emission alone costs $2.6 billion annually.
    • In India, coal is responsible for 100000 premature deaths each year.

Way forward-

India’s carbon-neutrality would be hampered by the approval for Adani to mine and export coal to India.

To avoid dangerous climate change and increased risks to human health, it is required to keep the global temperature rise within 2°C. This means Australian and Indian coal reserves need to stay under the ground.


Need for an Integrated Digital System in Indian Justice System

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS

Synopsis: The implementation of an integrated digital system for the criminal justice system will help in speedy justice.

Background

43 years old Vishnu Tiwari, was recently found innocent by the Allahabad High Court. Vishnu was sentenced to life imprisonment for rape under the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. He spent 20 years in prison before this decision.

  • His appeal before the Allahabad High Court was pending for 16 years. The reasons behind that usually were missing documents or documents in the wrong format for listing the case. However, Vishnu’s lawyer had no interest in pursuing the case. So, the appeal stayed defective.
  • Shweta Singh Rana, a legal aid lawyer, was given the case in 2019, at the request of jail authorities to the High Court. The High Court pointed out in its verdict that the State government did not consider converting his life sentence after 14 years.
  • A sincere lawyer and aware family members are essential to secure justice. However, these facilities have become luxuries that only prisoners with good economic conditions have access to.

How a poorly designed system is to be blamed in this case?

An effective justice system should be strong enough to ensure justice for everyone, irrespective of the economic condition of an individual.

  1. Firstly, there is an absence of an integrated digital platform for the criminal justice system. Moreover, present systems are designed poorly.
  2. Secondly, Digitisation has transformed the delivery of public services like passports. Whereas, the criminal justice system is still functioning with old procedures and paper-based processes.
    • The eCourts project has made significant progress in digitising the works of courts. Still, large gaps are present in the system.
  3. Thirdly, criminal cases involve coordination and communication between various institutions such as the police, prosecutors, legal services authorities, and forensic labs. These interactions are not smooth.

How will an integrated digital system help?

It allows the interaction between various institutions through a digital platform. This system normalizes the format and content of data across all the systems. Thereby, it helps in smooth communication and avoiding duplication of data.

  • Firstly, this system will notify the registry about the defects in a particular appeal, un-rectified for an extended period. The system would also inform the accused that his lawyer was not pursuing his case carefully.
  • Secondly, the legal service authority would be informed of the case and the lawyer could be replaced. The quality of representation of the lawyer could be monitored by the system.
  • Thirdly, after 14 years of imprisonment, the system would have notified the State government that the prisoner was eligible for re-sentencing of his sentence.

Conclusion

Priority must be given to speeding up the implementation of such a system. It will help in providing transparent, real-time access to criminal justice information to all stakeholders, including accused persons.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 25, 2021

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