9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 10th, 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 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

A democratic and strategic dissonance in India-German ties

Source: The post is based on an article “A democratic and strategic dissonance in India-German ties” published in the “The Hindu” on 10th May 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations

Relevance: Indo-Germany bilateral relations

News: Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited three European nations Europe at a critical time, shaped by the ongoing Ukraine war.

India also attended the sixth biennial India-Germany Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGC). This was of critical importance for ‘long-standing bilateral commercial ties and the ‘Strategic Partnership between India and Germany. 

Convergence of interests 

The assertive China is being visible on the world stage and in particular, at the border with India, New Delhi. This geopolitical factor of the rise of China particularly in the Indo-Pacific seems the most compelling necessity to come together. 

On the lines of India-Russia defence ties, European countries have significant reliance on Russian gas and crude.  

In fact, Germany is also reaching out to other Asian powers and building on democratic alliances as an outcome of its Indo-Pacific guidelines. It means Germany wants to reap democratic dividends that may lead to a convergence of views and possibly policies on Russia between the two countries.  

There is a convergence of issues of economics, technology and climate change between India and Germany. These are low hanging fruits.

Issues in India-Germany relationship 

India’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, abstention on critical votes on the war and continued economic engagement like cheap crude import has attracted criticism from the West.  

The convergence of interests to protect democratic values is not a strong binding chord between India and Germany. For example, India has adopted pragmatism on dealing with Myanmar’s junta.  

One of the factors that prevented the realization of the full potential in the bilateral relations between both the countries is the lack of understanding of each other’s strategic cultures and domestic politics.  

What was the reason the Indian PM visited Europe in general and Germany in particular? 

Despite India’s position on Russian invasion of Ukraine, India wants to continue its bilateral engagement with European countries such as Germany, France and Denmark. The purpose is to portray India as a swing power that can move deftly on the geopolitical and diplomatic chessboard. 

India insists that its position on the war is non-partisan and should be appreciated by its allies and friends. 

Way Forward 

India has to bring in more nuance to its approach with Europe. India should work t prevent any isolation by the West. India needs to manage a delicate balancing act. India should be able to assert its right to pursue its national interests and strategic autonomy in foreign policy.  

Despite India’s stand on Russia, Europe cannot overlook India’s role as a major power and largest democracy in the world. For example, European countries expect India to amend its position on Russia and join hands with the European countries and the U.S.  

Germany’s invitation to India in the G-7 meeting points to the emerging multipolarity in the international system. The major powers such as Germany and India can play a greater role in bringing peace and stability in other theatres, particularly in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.  

In times of shifting geopolitical alliances and realignments, India and Germany can emerge as important poles in shaping the new world order.


The importance of emigrants

Source: The post is based on an article “The importance of emigrants” published in the “The Hindu” on 10th May 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations

Relevance: Indian diaspora

News: Recently, the Indian government proposed a new Emigration Bill in 2021. The bill will provide a comprehensive data set for the efficient management of Indian migrants.  It proposes to integrate emigration management and streamline the welfare of Indian emigrant workers.  

Provisions of the Emigration Bill 

The bill proposes to modify the system of Emigration Check Required (ECR) category of workers applying for migration to 18 notified countries.   

The Bill makes it mandatory for all categories of workers to register before departure to any country in the world to ensure better protection for them, support and safeguard in case of vulnerabilities.  

The bill proposes to establish the Emigration Management Authority, an overarching authority to provide policy guidance. 

It aims to improve the protection measures through registration of all emigrants, skill upgradation and training, and pre-departure orientation. For example, skilling of migrant workers, foreign language training etc. can be of great help for workers. 

Besides workers, the Bill will also cover students (about 0.5 million students) who migrate for education.  

Status of Indian Emigrants  

Every year, about 2.5 million workers from India move to different parts of the world on employment visas. 

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, there are over 13.4 million NRI worldwide. Around 64% of NRI live in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the highest being in the UAE, followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Almost 90% of the Indian migrants living in GCC countries are low- and semi-skilled workers.  

Other significant countries of destination for overseas Indians are the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Canada. 

Importance of the Indian Diaspora for the host countries 

The skilled and semi-skilled Indian migrants are involved in nation-building of the destination countries. For example, various Indian-origin executives have become CEOs of top U.S. companies. This highlights the contribution of Indian talent to the U.S. economy.  

In addition, Indian semi-skilled migrant labourers have also contributed a lot in the global economy.  

Importance of the Indian Diaspora for India 

High remittances: As per a World Bank Group report (2021), India receives the highest annual remittances in the world ($87 billion), followed by China ($53 billion) among others. Remittances in India have been substantially higher than even Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). 

Socioeconomic development: According to a report by the National Statistical Office, urban and rural households receiving remittances have 23% better financial capacity than non-remittance-receiving households. 

NRIs can provide hedging against unsystematic risks. For example, after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, overseas Nepalese increased their remittances. This provided vital support to the domestic economy after a shock.  

Way Forward 

The government should look into increasing remittances to 10% of GDP and adopting Philippines’ model of promoting labour mobility. 

The cost of recruitment of such workers and the cost of sending remittances back to India should come down.  

The reduction of informal/undocumented migration, formalising all remittances, safety and well-being of migrant labour should be the top priority of the Indian government. It can be done by regulating the recruitment agencies through information technology.  

An integrated grievance redressal portal, ‘Madad’ was launched by the Union government in 2015.  


Centre’s plan to relook at sedition law is welcome but Supreme Court must take the review process to its logical conclusion

Source: The post is based on an article “Centre’s plan to relook at sedition law is welcome but Supreme Court must take the review process to its logical conclusion” published in the Indian Express on 10th May 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – Important Provisions of the Constitution of India

Relevance: Freedom of Speech and Express; Sedition Law 

News: The government has expressed its views to shed colonial baggage after 75 years since independence, and has told the Supreme Court that it would re-examine the provision.  

About Sedition law 

The provision (Section 124A) of the Indian Penal Code was incorporated in its current form in the penal code (IPC) in 1898, nearly four decades after the IPC was introduced.

It defines the offence of “sedition” as exciting “disaffection” against the government established by law, or bringing it into “hatred or contempt” and penalises such an action.

The punishment prescribed ranges from life imprisonment with an added fine or an additional jail term of three years.  

Constitutionality of Section 124A of the IPC 

First, the Punjab High court and the Allahabad high court struck down the sedition law as an exception to free speech in the 1950s, 

Second, the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar (1962) upheld its constitutionality. The SC said not all speech with “disaffection”, “hatred,” or “contempt” against the state are seditious. The speech that is likely to incite “public disorder” would qualify as sedition.  

Argument against 

The sedition law became obsolete in the UK in the 1960s and was finally repealed in 2009. In fact, Singapore, which like India inherited colonial English law, has also repealed the sedition law. 

In fact, the Law Commission and the Supreme Court in their successive reports have reported the rampant misuse of the law. For example, the provision has been invoked against comedians, journalists and ordinary citizens who expressed their dissatisfaction with the government.  

Way Forward 

The Supreme Court has decided to revisit the constitutional validity of the sedition law which is a colonial provision. 

The Home Ministry asked the SC to defer the hearing for now till a “competent forum”, presumably Parliament, deliberates on the issue of sedition law. 

The authority to identify and distinguish genuine expression of speech from seditious speech should not be left to the police


How India is empowering women through policy

Source: The post is based on an article “How India is empowering women through policy” published in the Indian Express on 10th May 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 Social Sector, Education Sector

Relevance: Gender justice and gender egalitarianism 

Context: The union government has brought into reality the maxim of sarvajana hitaya, sarvajana sukhaya (for the good of all, for the happiness of all), especially in the context of the women section of society. 

Measures taken by the government

The incumbent government has adopted a system-wide gendered lens to inform policy praxis.

The government has worked to elevate the social status of women. Women have been recognised as the head of the household in the ration cards under the NFSA 2013, and to secure benefits under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) and Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY).

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) makes a household without any adult male members eligible for the scheme, removes the cap of five beneficiaries per family that penalised women in larger families and it extends substantial number of health benefits packages that are women-centric in nature.

The government is challenging the unequal status quo and nurturing nari shakti by placing assets such as houses and LPGs in the hands of women. 

How has the government worked in this direction?  

The government has worked to bridge gendered data deficits. The statistical architecture of the nation has been rebuilt to count women. New gender sensitive data provided gender sensitive inputs in the policy discourse in India. This provides a scaffolding for resource allocation for policy-making. 

First, the first nationwide Time Use Survey (TUS) 2019 has recognized the unpaid work of women devoted to caregiving and domestic services (7.2 hours a day) against the average Indian man’s 2.8 hours 

Second, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has undergone comprehensive, methodological renovation. Further, the NFHS-4 and 5 provided crucial information on nutrition, fertility, family planning, reproductive, maternal and child health and mortality parameters. 

Third, the government has launched the annual Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). This encompasses timely gender-disaggregated labour force statistics such as Female Worker Population Ratio, Female Labour Force Participation Rate and Female Unemployment Rate etc. 

Fourth, The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) collected data on female foeticide in 2014. Thereafter, the government launched Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign. 

Way Forward 

Quantification is a step towards resolution and rectification. The government should continue to generate a plethora of gender-disaggregated data. This can be generated through either implementation-related statistics or through surveys. They would be used to inform or reform schemes. 

The individuals and groups in academia, research and evaluation consultancies should conduct audits and third-party assessments of such data. 

GS Paper 3


Explained: Behind low wheat procurement

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Behind low wheat procurement” published in The Indian Express on 10th May 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy, Agriculture

Relevance: Procurement of wheat

News: From an all-time high last year, procurement of wheat is set to hit a 15-year low this season, falling below existing stocks for the first time. What has led to this, and will it impact availability?

What are the reasons for the fall in procurement?

There are two main reasons:

1) Rise in Export demand: Supply disruptions from the Russia-Ukraine war – the two countries account for over 28% of global wheat exports – have led to skyrocketing prices and a further increase in demand for Indian grain.

2) Lower production: A sudden spike in temperatures from the second half of March — when the crop was in grain-filling stage, with the kernels still accumulating starch, protein and other dry matter — has taken a toll on yields.

In most wheat-growing areas — barring Madhya Pradesh, where the crop is harvest-ready by mid-March — farmers have reported a 15-20% decline in per-acre yields.

Thus, a smaller crop, in combination with export demand, has resulted in open market prices of wheat crossing the MSP in many parts of India.

What are the key requirement areas for procured wheat?

Requirements:

A minimum operational stock-cum-strategic reserve has to be maintained

Annual wheat requirement for the public distribution system, midday meals and other regular welfare schemes, is around 26 mt.

– The last two years have also witnessed substantial offtake under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana scheme (10.3 mt in 2020-21 and 19.9 mt in 2021-22) and open market sales to flour mills (2.5 mt and 7.1 mt, respectively).

  • There’s clearly not enough wheat for these, which explains the Centre’s recent decision to slash allocation under the PMGKAY.
What is likely to happen now?

Simply put, one can expect a rerun of what happened in 2006-07 and 2007-08. That period, too, saw a worldwide agri-commodity price boom and production shortfalls, causing reduced procurement and depletion of stocks.

However, the relatively tight supplies in wheat this time is compensated for by the comfortable public stocks of rice. At over 55 mt as on April 1, these were more than four times the required buffer of 13.6 mt.

And a good monsoon should further augment availability from the ensuing kharif crop and tide over the shortages in wheat.


Double down on efforts to end internet poverty

Source: This post is based on the article “Double down on efforts to end internet poverty” published in Livemint on 9th May 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Information Tech

Relevance: Digital divide in India

Context: Lack of digital access today is no small measure of deprivation. The internet is not just a basic necessity, but has become fundamental to civic and economic life.

What is the situation wrt digital connectivity in India?

As per studies, little under half the country’s population are active on the internet, but users in rural India rose 45% from 2019, outdoing the urban count on growth.

Hand-held telecom devices remain the primary mode by which 99% of users get on the digital highway.

By Nielsen data, 60% of rural and 41% of urban residents remain offline.

Budget smartphones and dirt-cheap data.

What are the upcoming challenges?

Global supply chain issues due to Ukraine crisis and COVID freeze in Shanghai.

High-speed data had tariff hikes in 2021

Hence, India’s digital divide may deepen just as the state’s embrace of the net for service delivery tightens.

Way forward

Internet poverty can have severe consequences.

The longer we have digital have-nots, the harder it will become for our worst-off to come up. Unmitigated inequality would put India’s economy at risk of middle-income stagnancy. Let no citizen get left offline who’d rather not be.


It is time for our corporate sector to work on export performance

Source: This post is based on the article “It is time for our corporate sector to work on export performance” published in Livemint on 09th May 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy

Relevance: India’s export sector

Context: In fiscal year 2021-22, India’s exports did rather well. They were nearly $420 billion, raising hopes that India was putting behind it a decade of export under-performance.

For India to be a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25, we need to export at least $1 trillion worth of goods and services, as exports contribute around 20% to overall gross domestic product (GDP).

What would it take to sustain India’s export growth?

Boost export competitiveness: To export $1 trillion by 2024-25, it is necessary to boost export competitiveness.

– Do exchange rate devaluations affect export competitiveness?: A country may mask its underlying competitive weakness by manipulating exchange rates—through devaluations, for example, or by maintaining a weak currency. In the case of India too, studies have pointed to the exchange rate as an important determinant of exports and our trade balance. However, it is not the key determinant.

Between 2011 and 2021, while the Chinese yuan appreciated by around 57% relative to the Indian rupee, our merchandise trade deficit increased by around 78% with China.

So there was no improvement in our trade balance with China despite rupee depreciation versus the yuan, implying there are other forces at work affecting export performance.

Other than the exchange rate, the following factors play a critical role in determining export competitiveness –

tariffs and quotas

non-tariff factors like infrastructure, research & development (R&D) expenditure, innovation, the ease of doing business and efficiency of logistics.

Indian industry needs to urgently invest in technology, corporate R&D and product innovations to be competitive and make India a global technology and innovation leader.

To reduce logistics cost and make supply chains efficient, the country must digitize supply chain operations, leverage disruptive technologies such as blockchain and Internet of Things, and move towards green supply chains.

What are some associated issues?

Lack of R&D investment remains a concern for India, as the share of gross domestic expenditure on R&D in GDP stood at a low 0.65% in 2018, as against 2% in China, and that too driven mainly by the government with a share of 56%.

Research suggests that weak protection of intellectual property (IP) rights leads to low returns on innovation, thereby disincentivizing companies to innovate. India ranked 43rd out of 55 nations in recent IP rankings.

India holds a comparative advantage in mainly labour-intensive commodities such as cotton, carpets and other textiles, etc, while Indian exports more capital-intensive products such as transport equipment, machinery and mechanical appliances. This is reflected in our declining share of labour-intensive exports over time, raising concerns for a country that is labour abundant.

In services sector, export competitiveness does not exist for sectors like health and education, despite India’s inherent potential in providing cost-effective, high quality services in these areas. This is reflected in the negligible share of these services in total service exports.

Way forward

India’s private sector needs to acquire specialization in products in which it is competitive.

India needs to climb the rankings of the Economic Complexity Index. The higher this score, the better the export performance. In the Harvard Growth Lab’s ‘Atlas of Economic Complexity’, India’s score in 2019 was 0.46. It was 0.32 in 2000. The country’s global ranking has remained unchanged.


The reasons behind the slow disinvestment pace

Source: This post is based on the article “The reasons behind the slow disinvestment pace” published in Livemint on 10th May 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy – Mobilization of Resources

Relevance: Disinvestment and related issues

Context: The government aims to earn 65,000 crore through the sale of its stakes in various central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) in FY23. However, privatization is still on the slow track.

What is the Centre’s disinvestment plan?

Under its Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) policy, the government plans t:

open all public sector units (PSUs) for private investment,

fully exit sectors it considers non-strategic, and

keep at least one PSU in sectors it considers strategic.

The government also sells equity through initial public offerings (IPOs), follow-on public offerings (FPOs), or offer for sale of listed entities.

What is responsible for these delays?

The covid-19 pandemic posed several hurdles to the government’s disinvestment plans. Strategic sales stalled over FY21 and FY22 when India saw three waves of the pandemic, largely because potential investors were unable to physically inspect the assets, conduct due diligence and submit bids.

Disinvestment has also faced opposition from employees fearful of job losses.

Several state governments have opposed privatization as well.

How important is disinvestment?

Disinvestment is a strategy for the government to reduce its fiscal burden and raise money to meet the needs of investments towards creating value for the public, which can be in the form of creating infrastructure or towards welfare schemes.

Disinvestment is also seen as a way to unlock the value of under-performing assets.

Thus, through the privatization of some PSEs, the Centre can seek private sector investments to turn around loss-making or under-performing units. This, in turn, helps in creating further employment creation.

Has the Govt met its disinvestment targets?

The government has rarely met targets set for disinvestment over the past several years, putting pressure on the government’s plans to balance out the fiscal deficit.

For the pandemic-hit fiscal years—FY21 and FY22—the government fell far behind achieving its targets with 32,845 crore achieved in FY21 against target of 2.1 trillion, and 13,530 crore achieved against a target of 1.75 trillion, which was later revised downwards to 78,000 crore.

For FY23, it has rationalized the disinvestment target to 65,000 crore.


Powering up after the power crisis shock

Source: The post is based on an article “Powering up after the power crisis shock” published in the “The Hindu” on 10th May 2022. 

Syllabus: GS3 Infrastructure (Energy Sector)

Relevance: Power Crisis and Power Sector Reforms 

News: India is currently going through a power crisis. Consequentially, the government has cancelled passenger trains to allow the Indian Railways to transport more coal to power plants.  In addition, the directives have been issued to use more imported coal to tide over the supply shortfall. 

Structure of India’s power sector 

Under the Electricity Act, the Distribution Company (Discom) is responsible to provide electricity reliably round-the-clock to all consumers to meet full demand. These Discoms work under the oversight of the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions. 

The Discom enters into contracts with a number of generating companies in order to ensure adequate supply.  

How did the crisis take place? 

Supply Side 

A number of coal– and gas-based power plants were stranded in nature. They could be called as non-performing assets 

India has been witnessing slower and lesser energy-intensive economic growth. This led to lower electricity demand growth than expected. 

The Discoms have failed to update the demand growth projections and scenarios over the medium term. Thus, they failed to enter into adequate supply arrangements in a robust manner with reserve margins.  

Probably, the State Regulatory Commissions have failed to scrutinise them transparently.  

Demand Side 

The nature of electricity demand is undergoing a qualitative transformation with rising daily and seasonal peaks, and spikes on very hot or cold days. This has been due to higher incomes and the consequent increase in the use of air-conditioners and other electrical appliances. 

India has been undergoing robust economic recovery after two waves of COVID-19. Further, India faced an unexpected heat wave. 

Way Forward 

The consumer, the political class and the Regulatory Commissions have the collective responsibility for reliable supply. 

Tariff Related 

There should be meaningful political discussion on the relative benefits from subsidies. In fact, the subsidies should be restricted to a specified level as provided in the Act.  

The Regulatory Commissions should not act from a political point of view. It should determine cost-reflective tariffs 

Demand Side 

There should be peak demand moderation through flattening of the demand curve. This can be done through a change in consumer behaviour with smart meters. In addition, there should be a large differential in peak and off-peak rates. Thus, consumers will resort to using cheap electricity during off-peak hours for geysers and washing machines.  

Supply Side 

The Coal India needs to create capacities to rapidly ramp up production; and should increase coal production.  

The Railways should ramp up its capabilities to carry larger quantities of coal when demand surges.  

There is idle but expensive generating capacity available in India. The idle gas-based power plants can run on imported LNG, and the idle thermal plants can run on imported coal 

The consumers who are willing to pay more could be kept free of power cuts with purchase and supply of more expensive electricity generated from imported coal and gas. This would be shown as a peak demand surcharge in the bills. 

The Regulatory Commissions should allow the Discoms to go in for bids for power storage (also, large-scale grid storage). This can help India achieve the goals of creating 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity including 450 GW of renewables by 2030. 

The Discoms should ensure that they do not delay payment to the power generation companies.  

It is also time to move towards separate peaking power procurement contracts in addition to the present system of long-term thermal power contracts 

There is a need to look whether Coal India or the Indian Railways have defaulted or power generators have defaulted contractually in supplying power to Discoms. The contractual terms may be tightened with enforceable financial penalties. 

India needs to transition to demand-based time of day rates of electricity for generators as well as consumers.  


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Explained: What new finds at Harappan site could mean

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: What new finds at Harappan site could mean” published in Indian Express on 10th May 2022

What is the News?

The Archaeological Survey of India(ASI) has made significant discoveries at the Rakhigarhi site.

About Harappan Civilization

Archaeologically, the span of the Harappan Civilisation is subdivided into three periods — early (3300 BC to 2600 BC), mature (2600 BC to 1900 BC), and late (1900 BC to 1700 BC). 

Five urban sites — Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Ganweriwala (now in Pakistan) and Rakhigarhi and Dholavira (India) — have been identified as centres of the Civilisation.

What is Rakhigarhi?

Rakhigarhi is a village and an archaeological site belonging to the Indus Valley Civilisation in the Hisar District of Haryana.

It was part of the mature phase of the Indus Valley Civilisation, dating to 2600-1900 BCE. The site is located in the Ghaggar-Hakra River plain.

Read more: The Chalcolithic cultures of Central India are adequately investigated and studied: Shri G.Kishan Reddy
What are the recent significant discoveries made at Rakhigarhi?

Skeletal Remains: The skeletons of two women were found at Mound No. 7 believed to be nearly 5,000 years old. Pots and other artefacts were found buried next to the remains, part of funerary rituals back. DNA samples might provide clues about the ancestry and food habits of people who lived in the region thousands of years ago.

Signs of Settlement: This is the first time excavations have been done on Mound No. 3 which has revealed what appears to be “an aristocratic settlement”; 

Note: In all Harappan sites excavated so far, there have been similar signs of three tiers of habitation — ‘common settlements’ with mud-brick walls, ‘elite settlement’ with burnt brick walls alongside mud-brick walls, and possible ‘middle-rung settlements’.

Jewellery Unit:  A large number of steatite beads, beads of semi-precious stones, shells, and objects made of agate and carnelian have been recovered. This discovery signifies that trading was also done from the city. 

Other noteworthy finds include steatite seals, terracotta bangles, terracotta unbaked sealing with relief of elephants and the Harappan script. The team also recovered some Harappan sealings (impression of a seal on a surface) indicating that seals were used to mark objects belonging to a set of people or community as they are today.


Explained: Cyclone Asani is on the way, but it won’t be another Fani or Amphan. Here’s why

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: Cyclone Asani is on the way, but it won’t be another Fani or Amphan. Here’s why” published in Indian Express on 10th May 2022

What is the News?

According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), Cyclone Asani is not going to hit West Bengal and is only likely to trigger a spell of rain that will majorly impact Bangladesh and Myanmar.

What is Cyclone Asani?

Cyclone Asani is a severe cyclonic storm that formed over the Bay of Bengal.

Named by: The name Asani is given by Sri Lanka which means wrath in the Sinhala language.

Significance: It is the first cyclone of 2022 formed in the North Indian Ocean region comprising the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

Impact: In comparison to Cyclone Fani and Cyclone Amphan, Cyclone Asani is expected to only graze the coast and not make landfall.

Occurrence of Cyclones in India

India has a bi-annual cyclone season that occurs between March to May and October to December. But on rare occasions, cyclones do occur in June and September months.

Cyclones are less common during the June to September monsoon season as there are limited or almost no favourable conditions for cyclogenesis due to strong monsoon currents.​​

This is also the period when the wind shear — that is, the difference between wind speeds at lower and upper atmospheric levels — is very high. As a result, clouds do not grow vertically and monsoon depressions often fail to intensify into cyclones.


Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana(PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana(PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojana(APY) complete 7 years of providing social security net

Source:  The post is based on the articlePradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana(PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana(PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojana(APY) complete 7 years of providing social security netpublished in PIB on 9th May 2022

What is the News?

Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana(PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana(PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojana(APY) has completed 7 years of providing social security benefits.

What is Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana(PMJJBY)?

Click Here to read about it

What is Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana(PMSBY)?

Click Here to read about it

What is Atal Pension Yojana(APY)?

Click Here to read about it

What is the significance of these schemes?

One of the main objectives of the National Mission for Financial Inclusion was to expand the coverage of insurance and pension in order to provide the poor and marginalized sections of the society the much-needed financial security through affordable products.

These three Jan Suraksha schemes have brought the insurance and pension within the reach of the common man. For instance, 28.37 crore people have enrolled for accident cover since the launch of PMSBY. Similarly, More than 4 crore people have already subscribed to the APY scheme.

The number of people who have enrolled and benefitted from the above schemes over the last seven years is a testimony to their success. 

Hence, these low-cost insurance schemes and the guaranteed pension scheme are ensuring that financial security which was available to a select few earlier is now reaching the last person in the society.


State of India’s Birds(SoIB) report: Future looms dark for 48% of bird species

Source: The post is based on the articleFuture looms dark for 48% of bird speciespublished in The Hindu on 9th May 2022

What is the News?

The State of India’s Birds(SoIB) report has been released.

What is the State of India’s Birds(SoIB) report?

State of the World’s Birds is an annual review of environmental resources.

Released by: Partnership of 10 Government and non-Governmental organizations.

What are the key findings of the report?
Findings related to the Global level

Approximately 48% of existing bird species worldwide are known or suspected to be undergoing population declines. 

This is compared to trends in 39% of species remaining stable, just 6% show increasing population trends and 7% still unknown.

More threatened bird species (86.4%) are found in tropical than in temperate latitudes, with hot spots for threatened species concentrated in the tropical Andes, southeast Brazil, eastern Himalayas, eastern Madagascar, and southeast Asian islands

Findings related to the Indian level

The trend toward declining bird diversity is just as alarming in India, where recent annual trends have been calculated for 146 species. Of these, nearly 80% are declining in numbers and almost 50% plummeting strongly.

Just over 6% of the species studied show stable populations and 14% show increasing population trends. Among the most threatened species were endemic species, birds of prey and those living in forests and grasslands.

Reasons for Declining Bird Species

Populations of almost half of all bird species are declining globally because of human-influenced factors such as loss or degradation of habitats, changes in land use, overexploitation and climate change.

Recommendations given by the report

– Conducting reliable estimates of population abundance and change.

– Novel and more effective solutions applied at scale for demand reduction for overharvested wild birds.

– Monitoring green energy transitions that can impact birds if inappropriately implemented.

– Eradication of populations of invasive alien species.

– Shifting human societies to economically sustainable development pathways.


The standard model of particle physics gets a jolt

Source: The post is based on the articleThe standard model of particle physics gets a joltpublished in The Hindu on 10th May 2022

What is the News? 

Researchers from the Collider Detector at Fermilab(CDF) Collaboration in the U.S announced that they have made a precise measurement of the mass of the so-called W boson. 

They stated that the W boson is slightly heavier than that predicted by the so-called Standard Model of particle physics. This result is highly significant because this implies the incompleteness of the Standard Model of Elementary Particles.

However, the mass discrepancy of the W boson needs to be checked and confirmed to the same accuracy by other facilities, for example, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

What is the Standard Model of Elementary Particles?

The Standard Model of Elementary Particles is a theoretical construct in physics that describes particles of matter and their interaction. 

It is a description that views the elementary particles of the world as being connected by mathematical symmetries, just as an object and its mirror image are connected by a bilateral (left-right) symmetry.

These are mathematical groups generated by continuous transformations from, say, one particle to another. 

What are the Fundamental Particles described by this Model?
fundamental particles of the standard model
Source: Quant Magazine

This model describes the universe in terms of the following 17 fundamental particles: six quarks (three families of two each), six leptons (three families of two each), the massless photon (carrier of the electromagnetic force), the massive W (charge neutral), Z0 bosons (carriers of the weak nuclear force), massive Higgs boson (which endows mass to all massive particles) and massless gluons (carriers of the strong nuclear force) and their antiparticles. 

Why is the standard model believed to be incomplete?

Firstly, the standard model is thought to be incomplete because it gives a unified picture of only three of the four fundamental forces of nature — electromagnetic, weak nuclear, strong nuclear and gravitational interactions — it totally omits gravity.

Secondly, the model does not include a description of dark matter particles. So far these have been detected only through their gravitational pull on surrounding matter.

What is W Boson?

Discovered in 1983, the W boson is a fundamental particle. Together with the Z boson, it is responsible for the weak force, one of four fundamental forces that govern the behavior of matter in universe.

The W boson, which is electrically charged, changes the very make-up of particles. It switches protons into neutrons, and vice versa, through the weak force, triggering nuclear fusion and letting stars burn.


Taxing digital companies: UN tax panel working on new set of rules

Source: The post is based on the article “Taxing digital companies: UN tax panel working on new set of rules” published in Business Standard on 10th May 2022

What is the News?

The United Nations(UN’s) tax committee is developing a set of rules to tax digital services in a way that is distinct from global tax deals for large multinationals including Google, Facebook, Netflix and Microsoft.

Note: India is also a part of this UN Tax committee.

What are the rules the UN is developing to tax digital services?
UN Tax committee
Source: Business Standard

The UN Tax Committee has approved a final draft to add Article 12B in the UN model tax convention in order to include the taxation of “automated digital services(ADS)”.

Article 12B does not require any particular threshold, such as a permanent establishment, a fixed base, or a minimum period of presence in a contracting state as a condition for taxing income from automated digital services.

It allows market jurisdictions to levy a withholding tax on the gross amount of digital services income. This means that it gives additional taxing rights to countries where an automated digital service provider’s customers are located.

It includes articles that 1) prevent certain forms of tax discrimination, 2) provide for the exchange of tax information and assistance in tax collection between the treaty partners, 3) allow the treaty partners to consult together through the Mutual Agreement Procedure, 4) to resolve disputes or address doubts concerning the treaty and 5) address certain types of treaty abuse.

Read more: OECD Global Tax deal

How are these UN Tax rules different from the OECD Global Tax deal?

 

Firstly, it allows taxing small to mid-sized firms, regardless of their business size and threshold.

Secondly, it is comparatively simple and can be applied to MNCs not covered by Pillar one of OECD. This will result in fair distribution of taxing rights and countries will be more comfortable giving up unilateral measures like equalization levy.


Andaman and Nicobar islands to get gas plant

Source: The post is based on the article “Andaman and Nicobar Islands to get gas plant” published in The Hindu on 10th May 2022

What is the News?

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has approved gas-powered plants to be set up in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Background

In 2019, the Government of India notified the Island Coastal Zone Regulation(ICRZ).

It declared certain coastal stretches as ‘Coastal Regulation Zone’ and imposed restrictions on setting up and expanding industries, operations and processes within such protected zones.

However, in 2021 National Coastal Zone Management Authority(NCZMA) recommended amending the ICRZ rules to allow gas-based power plants within the Island Coastal Regulation Zone area only in islands with geographical areas greater than 100 sq. km.

This was needed to meet the energy requirement of the islanders while reducing the dependency on highly polluting sources such as conventional Diesel Generator(DG) sets.

Accepting these recommendations, the Government of India amended the ICRZ rules.

Read more: New Lakshadweep Regulations: Issues and Rationale – Explained, pointwise
Where will the Gas Power Plant be located in Andaman?

A 50 MW Liquefied Natural Gas(LNG)-based power project will be commissioned at Hope Town, Port Blair. It will be a dual-fuel power plant—that runs on both diesel and LNG.

The plant will be developed by the National Thermal Power Corporation(NTPC).

Note: The development in Andaman is part of a Policy Push by NITI Aayog. As part of the plan, the Greater Andaman region or the southernmost stretch of islands is to be developed through projects like a trans-shipment port (TSP), parallel-to-the-coast mass rapid transport system, free trade zone and warehousing complex.


Explained: What is monkeypox, a smallpox-like disease from Africa that has been reported in the UK?

Source:  The post is based on the article “Explained: What is monkeypox, a smallpox-like disease from Africa that has been reported in the UK?” published in Indian Express on 9th May 2022

What is the News?

Health authorities in the United Kingdom have confirmed a case of monkeypox, a rare viral infection similar to smallpox in an individual who recently travelled to the UK from Nigeria.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease (a disease that is transmitted from infected animals to humans) that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions.

Monkeypox belongs to the orthopoxvirus, which is a genus of viruses that also includes the variola virus which causes smallpox.

First Discovered in: 1958 following two outbreaks of a pox-like disease in colonies of monkeys kept for research — which led to the name ‘monkeypox’.

Source of Transmission: Human-to-human transmission is very limited. However, transmission, when it occurs, can be through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects.

The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox.

Symptoms: It begins with a fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, and exhaustion. It also causes the lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy), which smallpox does not.

Incubation Period: The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7-14 days but can range from 5-21 days.

Treatment: There is no safe, proven treatment for monkeypox yet. The WHO recommends supportive treatment depending on the symptoms. Awareness is important for the prevention and control of the infection.

Mortality Rate: According to the WHO, the proportion of patients who die has varied between 0 and 11% in documented cases, and has been higher among young children.


Explained: What is the Rocket-Propelled Grenade, used in attack on Punjab Police Intelligence HQ in Mohali?

Source:  The post is based on the article “Explained: What is the Rocket-Propelled Grenade, used in attack on Punjab Police Intelligence HQ in Mohali?” published in Indian Express on 10th May 2022

What is the News?

The Rocket-Propelled Grenade(RPG) attack on the Punjab Police’s Intelligence headquarters in Mohali has brought the weapon into focus.

What is a Rocket Propelled Grenade(RPG)?

Rocket-Propelled Grenade(RPG) is a weapon of Soviet origin and its initials stand for Rucknoy Peotivotankovvy Granaromyot which roughly translated means a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.

It is a portable, shoulder-fired weapon which is easy to operate and can cause widespread damage whether used in an anti-personnel mode, against armoured vehicles or against buildings.

What are the origins of the RPG?

The origins of RPG lie in the various conflicts that have taken place in modern military warfare, dating back to World War I.

There have been many handheld weapons developed by western military powers but the most prolific of these has been the RPG. This is because the RPG has made its presence felt in almost every major insurgency or terrorism-affected region in the world.

Mains Answer Writing

Mundka fire is a symptom of all that ails the informal sector 

News: Recently, a fire broke out at Delhi’s Mundka, with a death toll of 27 persons so far. A majority of the persons who died in the incidents were women workers in informal manufacturing units.  What issues have been exposed the fire incident in our urban areas? The reports on buildings catching fire leading to fatalities… Continue reading Mundka fire is a symptom of all that ails the informal sector 

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How to strengthen cyber security the right way

Context: On 28th April, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) issued “directions” under Section 70-B(6) of the IT Act 2000 relating to information security practices, procedure, prevention, response and reporting of cyber incidents. These directions have expanded the scope of obligations of the above requirements compared to the IT (The Indian Computer Emergency Response… Continue reading How to strengthen cyber security the right way

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Modi in Lumbini: Buddhism provides India a cultural inroad in Nepal – it may not be enough to counter China

News: On the occassion of Buddha Poornima, PM Modi made a trip to Lumbini in Nepal, becoming the first Indian PM to do so. He offered prayers at the Mayadevi temple, believed to be the Buddha’s birthplace, and then laid the foundation for the International Buddhist Conference and Meditation Centre. The trip has come one… Continue reading Modi in Lumbini: Buddhism provides India a cultural inroad in Nepal – it may not be enough to counter China

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For a better South Asian neighbourhood 

News: Recently, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan have been facing a lot of hardship. All the South Asian countries are facing the problem of higher oil and food inflation. This has resulted in popular unrest across the region. This underlines the geographic imperative that binds India to its neighbours in the Subcontinent.   How is India… Continue reading For a better South Asian neighbourhood 

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A war that is shrinking India’s geopolitical options 

Relevance: Global and Asian Geopolitics, India-China Relations, India-Russia relations  News: The confrontation between Russia and Ukraine is now raging on with no end in sight, and with its long-term implications yet unknown.   What are the consequences for India?  India’s initial phase of diplomatic rush is over. Its geopolitical options are shrinking as the war drags… Continue reading A war that is shrinking India’s geopolitical options 

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The technical higher education market dissected 

News: During the past two years, the higher education technical institutions have seen a drop of 18.3% and 6.01% in the number of institutions and intake capacity, respectively.  Background of technical higher education  Much of the growth in technical higher education has been after 1991, when the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) became functional. … Continue reading The technical higher education market dissected 

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Focusing on public health engineering 

News: According to Startup India, one in five children die before their fifth birthday because of poor sanitation and hygiene conditions.  What are the environmental degradation problems?  Global   According to the United Nations, Globally, around 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused which pose a significant environmental and health… Continue reading Focusing on public health engineering 

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Inauguration of amenities at Kanheri Caves

What is the News? The Union Minister for Tourism, Culture and Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER) has inaugurated the Kanheri Caves on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.  What are Kanheri Caves? The Kanheri Caves are a group of caves and rock-cut monuments located on the western outskirts of Mumbai. The caves are located… Continue reading Inauguration of amenities at Kanheri Caves

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Explained: What is fair and average quality wheat, the norms for which have been relaxed by the government?

What is the News? The Centre has relaxed the Fair and Average Quality(FAQ) norms for wheat in the ongoing rabi marketing season in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh raising the permissible limit of “shriveled and broken grains” to 18% from the existing 6%. Procurement Process of Wheat Every year, before procurement begins in April, the Storage… Continue reading Explained: What is fair and average quality wheat, the norms for which have been relaxed by the government?

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Explained: What is the Places of Worship Act and what are its provisions?

What is the News? The Supreme Court will hear an appeal challenging the order of a civil court in Varanasi which allowed inspection, survey and videography at the Gyanvapi Mosque complex.  The petitioner contended that the Civil Court order upheld by Allahabad High Court is “clearly prohibited” by The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act,… Continue reading Explained: What is the Places of Worship Act and what are its provisions?

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