9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 17th, 2022
We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- Down To Earth
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
- 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.
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Focusing on public health engineering
- The technical higher education market dissected
- A war that is shrinking India’s geopolitical options
- For a better South Asian neighbourhood
- Modi in Lumbini: Buddhism provides India a cultural inroad in Nepal – it may not be enough to counter China
- Reforming the NITI Aayog
GS Paper 3
- Mundka fire is a symptom of all that ails the informal sector
- How to strengthen cyber security the right way
- Digital markets must be defined well for competition regulation
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- India hosts SCO-RATS Meet
- Inauguration of amenities at Kanheri Caves
- Cryptos can lead to dollarisation of economy: RBI officials to parliamentary panel
- Explained: What is fair and average quality wheat, the norms for which have been relaxed by the government?
- LAUNCH OF INS SURAT & INS UDAYGIRI
- Explained: What is the Places of Worship Act and what are its provisions?
- The repo rate in India
- Chief of Defence Staff and top-level military reforms
- Biomaterial from fungal extract helps heal wounds
- India’s 52nd tiger reserve, Ramgarh Vishdhari notified
- Report flags risk of fortified rice for some
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Source: The post is based on an article “Focusing on public health engineering” published in the “The Hindu’ on 17th May 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 – Issues related to Health
Relevance: 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?
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 threat.
According to the World Bank, about 70% of sewage is discharged untreated into India’s water bodies. This contaminated water led to a staggering 21% of diseases in India,
What are the issues involved?
Both as professions and as practice, engineering and public health have been traditionally understood as different fields in India.
In India, public health engineering is executed by the PWD or by health officials. This differs from international trends. For example, Europe has specialized candidates in wastewater engineering.
There is the issue of population growth, diminishing resources and risky exploitation of natural resources.
Currently, the civil engineers don’t have adequate skills to address public health problems. And public health professionals do not have adequate engineering skills. Both fail to understand the nexus between wastewater and solid waste management and public health issues clearly.
Majority of diseases are water-related like transmitted through consumption of contaminated water, vectors breeding in stagnated water, etc.
What steps need to be taken?
It is essential to find and implement innovative ways of treating wastewater to achieve sustainable development goals of clean water and sanitation.
Innovative solutions are also needed to address the growing demands for water consumption and preservation of both surface water bodies and groundwater resources.
There is a need to expand the scope of public health/environmental engineering science.
Both engineering and public health field, together can work in different fields like wastewater treatment systems, for understanding complex quality and monitoring processes, designing and managing septic tank systems, supplying good quality water in adequate quantities, etc.
The Government should launch public health engineering as a two-year structured master’s degree programme or through diploma. It should be developed as an interdisciplinary field. Public health professionals can be groomed through in-service training.
The health and engineering institutes should provide knowledge in areas of environment science in the refresher course.
On one side, public health professionals can contribute to engineering through well-researched understanding of health issues, etc. Similarly, engineers can contribute to public health through their problem-solving approach. Thus, combination of engineering and public health skills can lead to development of public health engineering.
The decentralised and onsite wastewater management systems should be designed based on hydro-geological data and observations of climate patterns.
Public health engineering can help policymakers to understand processes, trends, and the latest technology in water and wastewater quality monitoring, treatment, and management.
There is a need to hire environmental engineers to address public health problems.
Institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) are considering initiating public health engineering as a separate discipline.
In wake of India’s Jal Jeevan Mission, India needs a cadre of public health engineers, who can help in identification of sustainable sources of water, monitoring the quantity and quality of supply, among other things.
Source: The post is based on an article “The technical higher education market dissected” published in the “The Hindu” on 17th May 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 Social Sector; Higher Education
Relevance: Higher Technical Education Reforms
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.
Between 1961 and 1991, the number of technical higher education institutions increased five times (53 to 277) and the enrolment increased Six times. Most of this growth has been in the government sector.
Between 1991-2020, the institutions have gone up by 40 times and the intake capacity rose 15 times to touch 32.85 lakh. Much of this expansion has been in the private sector.
What are the issues?
Supply exceeds demand: The total demand (based on number of students appearing in NEET, JEE etc,) for technical higher education appears to be more than overall available seats. Therefore, a large number of technical institutions are unable to fill their sanctioned seats. Their capacity utilisation is falling which stands at 53.53% in 2020-21.
The AICTE prescribes a minimum specific student-teacher ratio (STR), ranging from 7.5 to 20. However, the majority of the institutions are unable to admit students. Therefore, their STR has gone down from 5.5 in 2012-13 to 3.0 in 2020-21 due to inadequate admissions.
Due to lower STR, these institutions are threatened by lack of economic sustainability. This has a negative impact on the creation of quality infrastructure and human resources.
In order to increase admission, the institutions demand for relaxation in the eligibility criteria for admissions. For example, relaxation in minimum percentage of marks in the school board, condition of studying science and mathematics at the intermediate level in schools, etc.
The technical higher educational institutions are differentiated and highly hierarchical. For example, the IIT, the NIT, the IIIT, etc. among others are the most sought after.
The high-quality private institutions resort to an exploitative pricing policy. They charge high fees. After all, the Veblen Effect (what is expensive is perceived to be excellent) also works in higher education institutions.
The AICTE should provide a broad framework and guidelines for determining the permissible level of fees. Then, the State-level fee fixation committees should work. This would be in the true spirit of federalism which expects States to be a responsible partner in the process.
AICTE Act mandates it “to take necessary steps to prevent commercialisation of (in) technical education”.
The AICTE should take all such steps for the coordinated and integrated development and maintenance of standards.
Source: The post is based on an article “A war that is shrinking India’s geopolitical options” published in the “The Hindu” on 17th May 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 International Relations, Bilateral, Grouping, Multilateral relations
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 on.
Earlier, India’s balancing act propelled it to the centre stage of global attention. Therefore, a number of high-profile visits were seen in India. India had a number of geopolitical options. But, the number of options seems to be limited for at least three reasons:
One, Russia which is a key strategic partner of India is no longer available to India for balancing purposes. Now, Moscow is more dependent on India today than the other way round.
Two, By the time the war ends, Asia’s regional balance of power would be shifted in Beijing’s favour. Therefore, India’s challenge of managing China would continue to increase. The Ukraine war has complicated the China conundrum for India.
Three, today, the focus of the United States and its western partners has shifted from China and the Indo-Pacific to the Ukraine theatre. Further, the war will further weaken the American influence in the Southern Asian region due to preoccupations with the European theatre.
In the longer run, a war-fatigued and weakened Russia will become a junior partner to China.
For New Delhi, instead of how to please both sides in this war, now the bigger question is how manage China which is rapidly consolidating in the region under its influence.
Today, India’s immediate to medium term engagement with Russia can have a second-order fallout in the medium to long term.
War is impacting India’s north-western continental strategy towards Afghanistan and Central Asia. Earlier, India withdrew from Afghanistan due to Taliban’s return. This led to decline in India’s strategic interests in Afghanistan. Now, due to war, China’s role into the region will increase, so India’s footprint will be reduced in the Central Asian region.
Measures taken by India
The Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to India is an indication that Beijing also seeks to calm the tempers on the LAC.
During the Chinese Foreign Minister visit, Indian leaders made it clear that the normalisation of diplomatic and political ties between India and China can happen only after the disengagement of troops from the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Indian Prime Minister is to attend the BRICS Summit in China. It should leverage the summit.
India can exploit China-Russia ties. At present, Moscow can nudge Beijing to stop its aggression on the LAC. If China heats up the LAC at present, India would have to turn to the West and the U.S. for political, diplomatic, and intelligence support which would not be in Russian interests.
It is important that two of its Asian friends China and India do not clash, at least while the war is still on.
What are the challenges if India exploits Russia-China ties?
If China stabilises the LAC at the nudging of Russia, it would also expect India to go slow on the Indo-Pacific.
At present due to the Ukraine war, India cannot utilise the many inherent contradictions between Moscow and Beijing.
Moscow should understand that the Ukraine war is going to boost Beijing’s attempts to take over its backyard using economic means, which the NATO has been doing to Russia using military means.
Source: The post is based on an article “For a better South Asian neighbourhood” published in the Indian Express on 17th May 2022.
Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations, Regional Grouping
Relevance: SAARC, South Asia, India’s Neighbourhood Policy, India’s bilateral relations with the South Asian Countries
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 at the centre of geographic imperative in the South Asia region?
India has had a long tradition of hosting political exiles from the region. Delhi has welcomed leaders from the neighbourhood taking shelter in India. For example, Dalai Lama from Tibet or Prachanda from Nepal.
India’s emerging neighbourhood policy requires the Indian leadership to provide support and assistance at such crisis time.
What are the challenges in the South Asian Regions?
India-Sri Lank relations
In the past, India has been involved in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. It has caused deep distrust between Delhi and the Sinhala nationalists
The Chinese influence is growing in Nepal. For example, China has built a new airport near Lumbini, Nepal.
India is facing the challenge of turbulent triangular dynamics between Delhi, Kathmandu, and Beijing.
There is a deep political discomfort between India and Nepal. Nepal’s politics have been dominated by the communists in the last two decades.
India-Paksitan bilateral relationship has been frozen. Islamabad’s policies are deliberately anti-geographic. For example, the recent controversy in Pakistan over the routine appointment of a “trade officer” in its high commission in Delhi.
The Pakistan is unwilling to expand trade ties or at least have a limited trade liberalisation with India. For example, Pakistan said it can’t trade with India unless Delhi reversed its 2019 constitutional changes in Kashmir.
Pakistan Army has been long viewed as a decisive arbiter in Pakistan’s political and policy disputes.
At present, Pakistan is facing a political crisis. Delhi had little reason to believe that Pakistan’s new government can alter its self-defeating policy towards India.
All the countries in South Asia should work with the logic of geography amidst the deepening regional and global crises accentuated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The cultural geography can help in reshaping the Subcontinent’s regional relations. Religion and culture are deeply interconnected in South Asia. Therefore, all religious pilgrimage sites should be developed across the region. They should be made accessible. This will improve tourist revenues and also calm the troubled political relations between nations.
The Subcontinent can be reconnected through sacred geographies — including the Ramayana trail and Sufi shrines.
A more intensive regional cooperation is one of the tools for managing the new dangers by the countries in the region.
India-Sri Lanka Relations
The Sri Lankan current crisis raised hopes for transcending the internal ethnic divide in the island nation. This can rebuild political confidence between Colombo and Delhi.
India’s has provided both material and financial support during this unprecedented economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka. This has generated much goodwill in Sri Lanka.
The Nepal congress has returned and its readiness to deepen ties with India has opened the door for a recalibrating India-Nepal ties.
In addition to revitalising cultural geography, better management of economic geography is inevitable.
Prime Minister Modi visited Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha in Nepal. There is an idea of a “Buddhist circuit” across the India-Nepal border. There is wider international interest in the Buddhist’s historic sites.
The Indian government should accelerate transborder transport and energy connectivity in the eastern subcontinent.
Delhi and Islamabad had agreed to open the Kartarpur corridor to make it easier for Sikh pilgrims to visit the shrine in Kartarpur in Pakistan.
India must continue to bet that the geographic imperative will eventually prevail over Islamabad’s policies. India must continue to find ways to work with Pakistan.
Modi in Lumbini: Buddhism provides India a cultural inroad in Nepal – it may not be enough to counter China
Source: This post is based on the article “Modi in Lumbini: Buddhism provides India a cultural inroad in Nepal – it may not be enough to counter China” published in The Indian Express on 17th May 22.
Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations – India and its neighbourhood
Relevance: Indo-Nepal bilateral relations
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 month after Nepal PM’s India visit.
Why the PM’s trip to Nepal is being considered significant?
The trip is being projected as a “cultural visit” but there are many who call it India’s late awakening from a deep diplomatic slumber.
– Late awakening, because Delhi has been indifferent to the deep inroads China has been making in Nepal.
– And moreover, very little has been done to repair Indo-Nepal bilateral relations, which suffered immensely b/w 2016 and 2021. India not only refused to welcome Nepal’s constitution promulgated in September 2015, but also launched an economic blockade for 134 days.
Hence, PM Modi, by befriending Deuba, has made an effective attempt to repair the damage in bilateral ties that took place
Deuba, who is also the chairman of the Nepali Congress, recently accepted Modi’s invitation for his party and the BJP to establish fraternal relations — something the Chinese Communist Party tried with the unified Communist party of Nepal.
What has been agreed at Lumbini?
India and Nepal agreed to develop a Buddhist circuit, linking shrines located in the two countries with Lumbini occupying a prime position.
India also agreed to set up the Dr B R Ambedkar Chair in Lumbini University, with around 1,000 students, including from China, enrolled.
China’s efforts at establishing its foothold in Nepal
China first offered to spend $3 billion to build up Lumbini as the world peace city under the aegis of its NGO – Asia Pacific Exchange and Foundation – co-opting Maoist leader Prachanda as its vice chairman.
China has also built a monastery in the core area of the Lumbini Development Project. China’s offer to develop it as the World Peace Centre and construct a railway line connecting Tibet and Kathmandu is as yet in abeyance, but not completely given up.
How has Lumbini become the centrestage for competing international forces in Nepal?
The increased presence and influence of the US and the European Union, along with India, has become more pronounced in Nepal’s domestic politics – especially following the political changes of 2005-06.
China retaliated with a matching presence and economic investments. This has had an impact on internal politics and policy-making in Nepal. But unlike its competitors, China’s outlook had depth and took into account multiple dimensions.
Lumbini, thanks largely to China, has now become sort of a microcosm of the competing international forces in the country.
India first reacted to the Chinese presence in Lumbini on November 8, 2011, in the wake of enthusiastic publicity by the Chinese about the World City initiative.
Modi’s visit to Lumbini and the laying of the monastery’s foundation may give India a foothold and cultural space. But that provides zero guarantee that it will be able to outdo its competitors, including the West and China, who are already deeply entrenched in Nepal.
Source: This post is based on the article “Reforming the NITI Aayog” published in Business Standard on 16th May 22.
Syllabus: GS2 – Govt policies and interventions
Relevance: Reforming NITI Aayog
Context: The justification for the establishment of the NITI Aayog has been more or less disproved by the way development policies are being formulated in the present Union government regime.
Why NITI Aayog was established?
The word “niti” in Hindi means policy and one can say NITI Aayog is the Policy Commission of the Union government.
The Planning Commission was designed for a top-down command economy and had to be replaced because India is a diversified country, and its states are in various phases of economic development along with their own strengths and weaknesses.
In this context, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to economic planning is obsolete. It cannot make India competitive in today’s global economy.
What kind of role has NITI Aayog played since it was established?
Looking at the work of the NITI Aayog over the past seven years, it would appear that its role in development policy has been mainly that of a formulator of programmes to realise grand goals announced from above.
– For instance: The prime minister announced that agricultural incomes would be doubled by 2022-23 and the NITI Aayog had to work out how this improbable target could be achieved.
A visit to the NITI Aayog website and the list of reports and papers it has prepared show that it focuses mainly on sectoral issues rather than on the overall development strategy.
– One indicator of this is the retaining of the old Planning Commission’s sectoral divisions but winding up of the large and influential Perspective Planning Division and Finance Division into a relatively small Economics and Finance Division, which seems to focus more on monitoring than on developing growth or equity or sustainability strategies.
What are the issues invovled?
No medium- or long-term strategy formulation by NITI Aayog: Most policy initiatives seem to be shaped by immediate sectoral compulsions and political impact and lack a long-term perspective.
Top-down approach: Formulation of development policy is now top-down, not just with the Union government imposing its vision, but with the head of the Union government playing that role. The public hoardings and other publicity measures that associate virtually every governmental activity with the image of the prime minister (as in the Covid vaccine certificates) reinforce this perception.
The real problem of strategy formation for development is that it is not being done. The NITI Aayog has produced some vision documents; but they are not agreed strategies, formulated after widespread consultations with experts and discussion with the states.
What are some key features of a development strategy?
A grand strategy for development must spell out the opportunities and threats faced by the key objectives of development which are growth, equity and sustainability.
It must then identify the changes in the role of the public and private sector, shifts in global economic alliances and policy shifts that are required to maximise benefits from opportunities and manage risks from threats.
The time frame for a grand strategy has to be long-term, but the more specific strategies derived from it must take into account short- and medium-term challenges that the country faces.
What are the challenges to India’s future growth?
The most immediate challenge for growth is the disruption of the global economy brought about by the Ukraine war and related sanctions, the Covid shutdowns in China and the rising tide of inflation.
The goal of equity in growth is a another difficult challenge.
Sustainability of growth: This includes components like climate change, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions etc
What are the steps that need to be taken?
India needs a strategy to grow rapidly in a global economy in which competitive advantages will be shaped by new-age technologies like, machine learning, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, etc. A grand strategy that does this can then be the basis for more specific strategies for infrastructure, technology development, educational quality, and skill formation and so on.
To ensure equity in growth, we need to design and implement an employment generation and skill development strategy that would allow the disadvantaged to earn enough to raise their living standards in a market environment. This strategy can be supplemented with public support for education, health care and social security.
India also needs to tackle the inequality in the pace of development between states, like the northern and eastern states and the southern, western and north-western states.
A grand strategy for sustainability must look beyond just climate change to the broader challenge of environmental conservation in a rapidly changing production and consumption environment.
NITI Aayog must bring in the talent required and launch a process of broad-based consultation, particularly with the states, to secure a broad national consensus on a long-term growth strategy.
Specific programmes must be based on the implementation of this strategy.
The NITI Aayog must be converted from a Department of Development Implementation to a High Command of Development Strategy.
GS Paper 3
Source: The post is based on an article “Mundka fire is a symptom of all that ails the informal sector” published in the Indian Express on 17th May 2022.
Syllabus: GS3 Disaster Management, Infrastructure (Urban Infrastructure)
Relevance: Fire Incidents, 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 exposes the picture of illegal constructions and unplanned infrastructural development in urban centres. The buildings do not have required fire clearance and no-objection certificates (NOC) from concerned authorities. For example, the norms of construction were not followed in the building involved in the Mundka mishap.
The incident underscores the invisibilities and insecurities of informal workers in the city. This shows the lack of identity of informal sector workers.
Although enquiry commissions are instituted and assurances are made of tightening procedures. But no substantial change takes place at the ground level. Such incidents keep on repeating.
There are thousands of unregistered/informal industrial units functional in cities like Delhi. These workplaces violate all norms, including basic labour laws.
What is the nature of informal industrial units in urban areas?
Working conditions: There are extremely poor working conditions, like Poorly ventilated workplaces, dilapidated buildings and violation of even the basic norms of occupational safety requirements, shady and stingy rooms, inadequate safety precautions, the provision of drinking water and toilet facilities are often denied to workers
The quality of jobs is very poor in the informal establishments, especially for women. For example, long working hours, absence of any leave, including maternity leave, dusty among other things.
Most of the workers are young in their 20s or 30s. They are migrants with poor economic conditions. They are forced to join the labour market in low-paid and highly-informal jobs.
There is often a clear separation of tasks for men and women. Women workers are involved in packing or as helpers that are the lowest skilled.
Wages are kept very low in the informal units because the labour pool remains massive and the job profiles do not require much skill. The living expenses have soared. Thus, a dignified life is beyond imagination. Many women workers are often the sole earners or primary earners of their households.
Due covid-induced resultant decline in work opportunities and household income, women are compelled to join employment to compensate for the loss of employment or declined income of male household members.
There is poor enforcement of the labour laws by the enforcement machinery as the corruption has entered into administration.
What are the consequences of such an informal sector?
There are limited opportunities for personal or economic advancement, with monotonous repetitive work filling the day. The conditions expose the issues in economic empowerment of women.
What are the issues in The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSHWC)?
There are anxieties that the new labour codes will add to the vulnerability of informal workers. The code has left the compliance to the small units themselves. They will follow prescribed safety conditions themselves. This can go unaccountable.
The accountability of employers should be increased. In addition, the political will can improve working conditions.
Syllabus: GS3 – Information Technology
Relevance: CERT-In directions on cybersecurity compliance
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 Team and Manner of performing functions and duties) Rules, 2013 (Rules).
Some of the provisions in the absence of clarification from CERT-In have raised concerns amongst industry observers and cyber security experts.
What are the obligations under the new directions?
Among the activities in which compliance is sought by service providers, intermediaries, data centres and body corporates are the –
– Synchronisation of computer clocks to the network time protocol set at the National Physical Laboratory and National Informatics Centre (NIC)
– Mandatory reporting of all cyber incidents within six hours of noticing or being brought to their notice in the prescribed format
– Designating point of contact and notifying CERT-In and undertaking to perform such actions for cybersecurity mitigation when notified by CERT-IN
– Maintaining all logs of all ICT systems up to 180 days within Indian jurisdiction and for data centres, virtual private network service providers, cloud service providers and virtual private server providers to maintain all records of their users and usage for a minimum of five years.
What are the concerns with the new directions?
The directions do not differentiate between the scales and nature of the incident. Some cyber incidents are far more common and occur regularly. An organisation might receive hundreds of phishing emails and the effort to notify each would drastically increase their compliance cost.
A window of 60 days has been provided before implementation of these compliances begins. Given the scale of the revamp, this might be too short a window. The government must look at the concerns that arise from such directions and work out a realistic timescale. In this case, there will be multiple companies even from the MSME sector that will take time to set up systems for compliances.
At present, most entities maintain logs for around 30 days, and in order to maintain logs for 180 days, the additional data storage device cost would be huge.
– Similarly, data centres, virtual private server providers, cloud service providers and virtual private network service providers will need to retain additional information for five years or more after the cancellation or withdrawal of registration.
– The virtual asset industry too will have to maintain all KYC records and details of all financial transactions for five years.
The compliance cost in each case is going to rise substantially.
Many of the entities will have to shift their servers geographically as well as add excess storage capacity. Most importantly, the recruitment of additional manpower for compliance may take far longer. A realistic timeline would be six months, which would allow the entities to effectively migrate to the new regime.
The penalty for non-compliance is stiff (including up to one year of imprisonment and monetary fines). But it is also unfair to create unrealistic deadlines for industry.
Privacy concerns: With VPNs and virtual asset wallets being asked to store and share KYC and transaction data, these concerns become evident. In the absence of legislative backing for data protection in India, the question is: How will the user have any say on which information can be held back or how his sensitive personal information is being protected?
While CERT-In has been proactive in recognising the changing frontiers of technology and trying to deal with unknown cyber threats, it is wanting in terms of a graded approach to ensuring compliance.
Source: This post is based on the article “Digital markets must be defined well for competition regulation” published in Livemint on 16th May 22.
Syllabus: GS3 – Industrial policy and growth
Relevance: Regulation of digital markets
Context: Digital markets operate differently than traditional markets. Hence, the rise of the digital sector has presented unique challenges for Indian regulatory authorities, including the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
Further, several issues emerging from the growth of digital markets are being analysed by regulators in other countries simultaneously, resulting in a lack of guidance from other jurisdictions.
There is growing demand, worldwide and in India, to hold digital platforms responsible and accountable for adverse impacts caused by them. This is evidenced by recent investigations initiated by the CCI into the operations of digital platforms such as Google, WhatsApp, Apple, Zomato, Swiggy, etc.
Proper assessments of relevant markets is needed, so that India’s digital emergence story doesn’t end up stifled by over-regulation.
How a relevant market can be defined?
The Competition Act of 2002 requires the CCI to define a ‘relevant market’ based on what is regarded as interchangeable or substitutable by a consumer (“Relevant Market Test”).
The factors required for consideration by the CCI while defining a ‘relevant market’ include
– the physical characteristics or end use of goods
– prices of goods or services
– consumer preferences
– Regulatory trade barriers
– Local specification requirements
What has been the CCI’s approach so far?
Until 2016, while defining a ‘relevant market’ for e-commerce companies and marketplaces (such as Snapdeal, Ebay, Yepme, Cloudtail, etc), the CCI viewed online and offline segments as different channels of distribution and not different relevant markets.
In 2018, when examining a complaint filed against e-commerce companies that alleged ‘abuse of dominance’ by way of predatory pricing and preferential treatment to certain sellers, the CCI diverged from its initial view and recognized the possibility of a distinction between online and offline segments.
In October 2019, the CCI drew a defined distinction in its prima facie order initiating a probe against MakeMyTrip by defining the ‘relevant market’ in its case as “the market for online intermediation services for booking of hotels in India“. This case is still under consideration.
What needs to be done?
Given the pace at which the digital sector is expanding in India, and the emergence of several issues prompted by this growth, it is essential that the CCI carefully consider the question of ‘relevant market’, and more particularly, the question of whether the online and offline distribution segments of such a market are substitutable in each case and industry.
A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to this question will prove unsatisfactory, given the large variation in business models today and the significant number of businesses that have add-on ‘online’ delivery channels.
Accordingly, the CCI should define a ‘relevant market’ in the digital sector by taking into consideration all substitutable and interchangeable products or services for each industry, including what’s available offline.
CCI should conduct market surveys to explore consumer preferences, habits and dependence on digital platforms, on a case-to-case basis. It needs to reach out to consumers on a wider scale and not limit its analysis to secondary studies or surveys.
It is critical that the CCI’s approach in digital markets is well considered, consistent and proportionate, so that the digital sector gets space for growth while safeguarding the interests of competition and consumers.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
What is the news?
India hosts SCO-RATS (Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Regional Anti Terror Structure) meet. The meeting discussed boosting cooperation in combating various regional security challenges.
More about the present SCO-RATS meet
Officials from China, Pakistan, Russia, and other members of SCO participated in the meeting.
India assumed the chairmanship of the Council of Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of SCO (RATS SCO) on October 28 for a period of one year.
A major focus of the discussions was to be on the situation in Afghanistan, especially in dealing with the threat from active terrorist groups in the country.
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 within the forests of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Origin of the word: The name Kanheri is derived from ‘Kanhagiri’ in Prakrit and occurs in the Nasik inscription of the Satavahana ruler Vasisthiputra Pulumavi.
Style: Kanheri consists of excavations primarily undertaken during the Hinayana phase but also has several examples of the Mahayana stylistic architecture as well as a few printings of the Vajrayana order.
Patronaged by: Kanheri flourished under the patronage of Satavahana, Traikutakas, Vakatakas and Silaharas and through donations made by the wealthy merchants of the region.
Excavations: The Kanheri caves comprise more than 110 different rock-cut monolithic excavations and are one of the largest single excavations in the country.
— Moreover, the scale and extent of excavations with its numerous water cisterns, epigraphs, one of the oldest dams, a stupa burial gallery and excellent rainwater harvesting system indicate its popularity as a monastic and pilgrim centre.
Foreign Travellers: Kanheri was mentioned in the travelogues of foreign travellers. The earliest reference of Kanheri is ascribed to Fa-Hein who visited India during 399-411 CE and later by several other travellers.
Significance: Kanheri caves importance is heightened by the fact that it is the only centre where a continuous progression of Buddhist faith and architecture is observed as an unbroken legacy right from 2nd century CE (cave no. 2 stupa) to 9th century CE are observed here.
Source: The post is based on the article “Inauguration of amenities at Kanheri Caves” published in PIB on 16th May 2022.
Source: The post is based on the article “Cryptos can lead to dollarisation of economy: RBI officials to parliamentary panel” published in Economic Times on 16th May 2022.
What is the News?
Officials from the Reserve Bank of India told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that cryptocurrencies can lead to the “dollarisation” of a part of the economy.
What is Dollarisation?
Dollarisation is a form of currency substitution where dollars are used in addition to or instead of the local currency of a country.
Though only tax havens like Liberia and Panama can be defined as ‘dollarized’ in a true sense, there are many economies dollarised to a large extent. In fact, two-thirds of dollars are held outside the United States which issues it.
How crypto would lead to the dollarisation of part of the economy?
Almost all cryptocurrencies are dollar-denominated and issued by foreign private entities.
Due to this, cryptocurrencies have the potential to become a medium of exchange and replace the rupee in both domestic and international financial transactions.
This could seriously undermine the RBI’s capacity to determine monetary policy and regulate the monetary system of the country.
What are the other concerns highlighted by RBI on crypto?
Crypto has a negative impact on the banking system as these being attractive assets people may invest their hard-earned savings in these currencies which may result in banks having lesser resources to lend.
Cryptocurrencies are being used for terror financing, money laundering and drug trafficking.
What are the steps taken by the Government of India to regulate Crypto?
In Union Budget 2022-23, the Finance Minister has introduced a tax on trading in cryptocurrencies and related assets like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) at a flat 30% and 1% of tax will be deducted at source (TDS) when any such transaction takes place.
Note: There are an estimated 15 million to 20 million crypto investors in India, with total crypto holdings of around USD 5.34 billion. However, no official data is available on the size of the Indian crypto market.
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 and Research (S&R) division of the Department of Food & Public Distribution notifies specifications to ensure the quality of the procured wheat.
During this year, wheat-containing up to 0.75% foreign matter, 2% damaged grain, 4% slightly damaged grain, 6% shrivelled and broken grain and 12% moisture was cleared for procurement.
These specifications are implemented at the time of procurement by the Quality Control Wing of the Food Corporation of India(FCI).
What is Fair and Average Quality(FAQ) Wheat?
Fair and Average quality(FAQ) wheat is one that meets all laid-down specifications for the procurement.
FAQ wheat is fully developed and has a proper shine or luster. The main varieties of FAQ wheat are golden or pale yellow in colour, the grain is not dark and does not have any streaks.
It is properly dry and meets all nutritional conditions, the values of which are tested in the lab in case of doubt.
Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: What is fair and average quality wheat, the norms for which have been relaxed by the government?” published in Indian Express on 17th May 2022.
Source: The post is based on the article “LAUNCH OF INS SURAT & INS UDAYGIRI” published in PIB on 16th May 2022.
What is the News?
Defence Minister will be launching two frontline warships of the Indian Navy INS Surat and INS Udaygiri at Mazgaon Docks Limited, Mumbai.
What is INS Surat?
INS Surat is the fourth ship of Project 15B Destroyers.
Note: Project 15B class of ships are the next generation stealth guided-missile destroyers of the Indian Navy being built at the Mazgaon Docks Ltd, Mumbai.
Named After: It is named after the commercial capital of the state of Gujarat and also the second-largest commercial hub of western India after Mumbai.
The method used: The ship has been built using the Block construction methodology which involved hull construction at two different geographical locations and has been joined together at Mazgaon Docks Limited(MDL), Mumbai.
What is INS Udaygiri?
INS Udaygiri is the third ship of Project 17A Frigates.
Named After: It is named after a mountain range in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It is also considered as the reincarnation of erstwhile ‘Udaygiri’, the Leander Class ASW Frigate.
What is Project 17A?
Project 17A is a follow-on of the Project 17 Shivalik-class frigate for the Indian Navy.
The ships have been named after the first major warships to be built in India which in turn were named after hill ranges in India.
A total of seven ships will be built under Project 17-A.The seven ships under this project are 1) INS Nilgiri 2) INS Himgiri 3) INS Udaygiri 4) INS Dunagiri 5) INS Taragiri 6) INS Vindhyagiri and 7) INS Mahendragiri.
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, 1991.
What is the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991?
Supreme Court Views on Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991
In the 2019 Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi verdict, the SC Constitution Bench upheld the law and said that it is reflective of the secular credentials in the Constitution of India and that it prohibits retrogression.
What are the arguments against the Act?
Firstly, the Act has created arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff dates and has barred the remedies against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimages.
Secondly, the Act is unconstitutional and beyond its (Parliament’s) law-making power.
Thirdly, it is against the principle of law ‘ubi jus ibi remedium (where there is a right, there is a remedy), “thus violating the concept of justice and Rule of Law, which is the core of Article 14”.
Fourthly, Article 13(2) prohibits the State from making any law which takes away or abridges fundamental rights conferred under Part-III of the Constitution. But the Act bars the right to seek judicial review of a grievance.
Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: What is the Places of Worship Act and what are its provisions?” published in Indian Express on 17th May 2022.
What is the News?
Reserve Bank of India has announced that the RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee(MPC) had held an ‘off-cycle’ meeting at which it had decided unanimously to raise the policy repo rate by 40 basis points to 4.40% with immediate effect.
What is Repo Rate?
The Repo Rate is one of several direct and indirect instruments that are used by the RBI for implementing monetary policy.
RBI defines the repo rate as the fixed interest rate at which it provides overnight liquidity to banks against the collateral of government and other approved securities under the liquidity adjustment facility(LAF).
In other words, when banks have short-term requirements for funds, they can place government securities that they hold with the central bank and borrow money against these securities at the repo rate.
What is the importance of Repo Rate?
Firstly, it serves as a key benchmark for the lenders to in turn price the loans they offer to their borrowers.
Secondly, it allows central banks to control the money supply within economies by increasing or decreasing the availability of funds.
How does Repo Rate function as a monetary tool?
Repo Rate functions as a monetary tool by helping to regulate the availability of liquidity or funds in the banking system.
For instance, when the repo rate is decreased, banks may find an incentive to sell securities back to the government in return for cash.This increases the money supply available to the general economy.
Conversely, when the repo rate is increased, lenders would end up thinking twice before borrowing from the central bank at the repo window thus, reducing the availability of money supply in the economy.
What impact does Repo Rate have on inflation?
Inflation can broadly be demand-driven price gains or a result of supply-side factors that in turn push up the costs of inputs used by producers of goods and providers of services, thus spurring inflation.
Changes to the repo rate to influence interest rates and the availability of money supply. It primarily works only on the demand side by making credit more expensive and savings more attractive and therefore dissuading consumption.
However, they do little to address the supply side factors, be it the high price of commodities such as crude oil or metals or imported food items such as edible oils.
Source: The post is based on the article “The repo rate in India” published in The Hindu on 17th May 2022.
What is the News?
The government of India is reassessing the concept of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the Department of Military Affairs(DMA) to fix overlaps in the system and streamline the process due to which there has been a delay in the appointment of a new CDS.
What is the Chief of Defence Staff(CDS)?
In 2019, the Government of India created the post of Chief of Defence Staff(CDS) in the rank of a four-star General with a salary and perquisites equivalent to a Service Chief.
Responsibilities of CDS
– Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister on tri-services matters.
– Secretary to the Department of Military Affairs(DMA) in the Ministry of Defence(MoD).
– Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
– Evaluate plans for Out of Area Contingencies as well as other contingencies such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief(HADR).
– Capital Procurements: While capital procurements are still with the Department of Defense(DoD), the prioritization is with the CDS.
– Specialized tri-service divisions — special operations, defense cyber and defence space — were also brought under the ambit of the CDS.
Why is there a rethink on the concept of CDS?
There is a rethink on the concept of CDS because:
Firstly, the appointment of a CDS in itself wasn’t enough and there are several issues with respect to roles and responsibilities, issues of equivalence among others.
Secondly, there is a dichotomy in the roles and responsibilities with the several hats worn by the CDS and also overlap in responsibilities between the DMA and DoD.
Thirdly, there is also a rethink on the ambitious timelines set for the creation of theater commands and also the number of commands and their envisaged format.
What are the options being looked at?
One of the ways to go forward would be to have a CDS with operational powers. After due legislative changes, the CDS will have theatre commanders report to him while the Service Chiefs will look after the raise, train and sustain functions of respective Services.
Source: The post is based on the article “Chief of Defence Staff and top-level military reforms” published in The Hindu on 17th May 2022.
What is the News?
Scientists have developed a new biomaterial that can be used to disinfect wounds and hastens the process of healing.
What is Biomaterial?
A biomaterial is a substance that has been engineered to interact with biological systems for a medical purpose, either a therapeutic or a diagnostic one.
What type of Biomaterial have the scientists developed?
Scientists have developed a biomaterial derived from the polymer pullulan which is secreted by the fungus Aureobasidium pullulans.
Note: Aureobasidium pullulan is an exopolysaccharide which means that this polymer is secreted by the fungus itself into the medium on which it is growing.
This biomaterial can be used to disinfect wounds and hastens the process of healing.
What is Pullulan?
Pullulan is basically a polymeric chain of glucose.
Pullulan as a biomaterial is already successful and widely used commercially. It is exploited in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry because of its non-toxic, non-mutagenic and non-immunogenic properties. Further, its ease of manufacture has also added to its appeal.
What is the significance of the development of this biomaterial?
The use of antibiotics to control bacterial infections has taken a beating with the emergence of multi-drug resistant pathogens. Hence, the development of this biomaterial will help in tackling such bacterial infections.
Source: The post is based on the article “Biomaterial from fungal extract helps heal wounds” published in The Hindu on 15th May 2022.
What is the News?
Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary was notified as a tiger reserve after a nod by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change(MoEF&CC).
Note: Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary will be India’s 52nd tiger reserve and Rajasthan’s fourth after Ranthambore, Sariska and Mukundra.
What is Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary?
Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary is located mostly in Bundi district and in part in Bhilwara and Kota districts in Rajasthan.
The Government of Rajasthan declared it a sanctuary in 1982 under Section 5 of the Rajasthan Wildlife and Bird Protection Act, 1951.
Wildlife: The sanctuary is home to the Indian wolf, leopard, striped hyena, chinkara, antelope and foxes among other animals.
Significance: Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary acts as a buffer for Ranthambore National Park, which is one of the most famous wildlife sanctuaries in India.
Why is Ramgarh important for Tiger Conservation?
Experts note that while Ramgarh doesn’t have a high tiger population, it plays a critical role in the movement of tigers.
The Ramgarh sanctuary will connect the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Sawai Madhopur district in the northeast with the Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve in the Kota district on the southern side and become an important tiger corridor.
Furthermore, this new reserve will help in controlling the overpopulation of tigers in Ranthambore. Currently, the Ranthambore Tiger reserve houses 80 tigers over 1,334 sq km.
Source: The post is based on the article “India’s 52nd tiger reserve, Ramgarh Vishdhari notified” published in Down To Earth on 16th May 2022.
What is the News?
Activists have said that the distribution of iron-fortified rice through government schemes to curb anemia must be stopped in States like Jharkhand.
What is fortified rice?
One kilogram each of iron powder, vitamin B12 and folic acid are added to a quintal of powdered rice, reconstituted into small rice-grain shaped pellets and distributed through different food schemes. This is what constitutes fortified rice.
What is the Fortification of Rice Programme?
A Pilot Project on Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under the Public Distribution System was implemented for a period of 3 years beginning from 2019-20 in fifteen states.
A team of the Right to Food Campaign visited some of the targeted districts in Jharkhand.
After finding several issues with the programme, it has asked the Jharkhand government to halt the distribution of fortified rice immediately.
Why have they asked to stop the distribution of fortified rice in Jharkhand?
The team discovered that among the beneficiaries who received fortified rice in the State were also patients diagnosed with thalassemia, sickle cell disease, and tuberculosis.
Thalassemia, sickle cell anaemia and malaria are conditions where there is already excess iron in the body whereas TB patients are unable to absorb iron.
Hence, consumption of iron-fortified foods among patients with these diseases can reduce immunity and reduce the functionality of organs.
Note: Jharkhand is an endemic zone of sickle cell disorder and thalassemia with a prevalence of 8%-10%, which is twice the national average. Jharkhand is also an endemic zone for malaria — in 2020, the State ranked third in the country in malaria deaths.
What are the recommendations given by the team?
Firstly, it suggested that the government promote diet diversity by expanding its food security basket by including millets, pulses, eggs, cooking oil and milk in the food schemes.
Secondly, nutrition gardens should be scaled up along with support to extensive livestock systems that provide nutrition as well as support livelihoods.
Source: The post is based on the article “Report flags risk of fortified rice for some” published in The Hindu on 17th May 2022.
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NITI Aayog and TIFAC Launch Report on Future Penetration of Electric Two-Wheelers in the Indian Market
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