9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – November 25th, 2021

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.
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Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021: How resistance to antibiotics develops

Source: This post is based on the articles “Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021: How resistance to antibiotics develops” and “Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021: How vaccines can help reduce India’s AMR burden” published in Down To Earth on 24 Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Relevance: To understand the grave situation of antimicrobial resistance(AMR), their types, and actions taken.

News: The development of resistance to antimicrobial is a major public health problem all over the world.

Though the world is trying to develop new drugs, there are difficulties in treatment as a result of the rapid development of resistance to these drugs.

What is antimicrobial resistance(AMR)?

It occurs when microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites) evolve and stop responding to medicines, making even minor infections tough to treat, causing severe illnesses and deaths.

What are the reasons for AMR?

Poor prescription practices, inappropriate antibiotics in pharmacies, and self-medication practices are key determinants of AMR in India.

What are the different types of AMR?

Natural (intrinsic, structural) resistance: This kind of resistance is caused by the structural characteristics of microbes and is not associated with the use of antimicrobials. It has no hereditary property.

Acquired resistance: Due to changes in the genetic characteristics of microbes, acquired resistance occurs as it is now unaffected by the previous antimicrobial.

-This kind of resistance occurs mainly due to structures of chromosomes or extrachromosomal such as plasmid, transposon, and others.

Cross resistance: Some microorganisms are resistant to a certain drug that acts with a similar mechanism as some other drugs. However, sometimes it can also be seen in completely unrelated drug groups.

-This resistance is usually observed against antibiotics whose structures are similar. This may be the chromosomal or extrachromosomal origin.

Multi-drug resistance and pan-resistance: These are often bacteria resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them. This means that a particular drug is no longer able to kill or control the bacteria.

How vaccines can help reduce the AMR burden?

Vaccinations not only prevent diseases but also prevent the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

-Prevention of infections through vaccines results in reduced use of anti-microbials for treatment, reducing the emergence of resistance.

What are the steps taken in this regard?

The Global Action Plan (GAP) on AMR was launched in 2015 by WHO. Today, almost 80 countries have announced National Action Plans to address AMR at a national level.

In India, the recent announcement to universalize PCV across the country would protect children not only from pneumococcal disease, but also protect children and other populations from the emergence of drug-resistant pneumococcal disease.


We need a multi-pronged approach to end child marriage

Source: This post is based on the article “We need a multi-pronged approach to end child marriage” published in the Indian Express on 25th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Relevance: Understanding the need of empowering girl children and stop child marriages.

News: There is an increase in Child marriages in India.

What is the status of child marriages in India?

NFHS 4 data shows that one in four girls in India was being married before 18. The first phase findings of NFHS5 (2019-20) also show a similar result. Even according to other reports, more child marriages happened during the Covid pandemic.

What are the reasons behind the prevalence of child marriage?

1) Domestic work and care performed by women, 2) A belief that girls need to marry early for their safety and protection, 3) Apprehensions about the risk to family honour or economic burden.

Read here: Major reasons for prevalence of child marriage in India
What are the negatives of child marriages?

1) Violates girl human rights, 2) Lack of opportunities for women in society, 3) Impacts their overall personality from education to health, 4) Exposed to domestic abuse, 5) Women will have less decision-making powers.

There are several other outcomes that will also occur. Such as teenage pregnancy, population growth, child stunting, poor learning outcomes for children and the loss of women’s participation in the workforce etc.

What are the government initiatives to stop child marriages?

-Karnataka amended the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2017 declaring every child marriage void, making it a cognizable offense and providing harsh punishment for those involved in child marriages.

Read here: Incentives and Schemes provided by the Government of India to end child marriage
What are the hurdles in stopping child marriages?

1) Patriarchal mindset 2) One size fits all approach: Although the government introduced various schemes like Conditional Cash Transfers, all failed to show the desired result.

What is the way forward?

Introduce various reforms: Like the expansion of secondary education, access to safe and affordable public transport, and support for young women to apply their education to earn a livelihood.

Education: Teachers should hold regular gender equality conversations with high school girls and boys to shape progressive attitudes that will sustain them into adulthood.

Community engagement: through programmes like Mahila Samakhya.

Involvement of various stakeholders: Bureaucrats across multiple departments, teachers, Anganwadi supervisors, panchayat and others interacting with rural communities, should be notified as child marriage prohibition officers.

Decentralized approach: Decentralising birth and marriage registration to gram panchayats will protect women and girls with essential age and marriage documents, thus better enabling them to claim their rights.


The pandemic is an opportunity to correct some historical wrongs

Source: This post is based on the article “The pandemic is an opportunity to correct some historical wrongs” published in the PIB on 24th November 2021.

Subject: GS 2-health.

Relevance: Understanding the issue of COVID-19 vaccine waiver.

News: In the upcoming 12th ministerial conference of WTO, access to vaccine and vaccine viva will be the most contentious issue.

Read more: Issues Associated with IPR Waiver to Covid Vaccine
What has been India’s contribution towards Vaccine equity?

India gifted two lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccine for UN peacekeepers. India provided critical medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators to more than 150 countries.

India and South Africa also moved a motion at the WTO. In that motion, they asked the WTO Council on TRIPS to provide a waiver of Intellectual Property Rights for vaccine production. This would enable all the countries to domestically manufacturer vaccines. The proposal now has the backing of more than a hundred countries.

Must Read: Intellectual Property Rights(IPR) and Universal Vaccination – Explained, Pointwise

Due to India’s pressure, global supply lines and raw materials have remained open. India has contributed to the COVAX initiative as well.

India’s vaccine Maitri programme, with the premise that no one is safe until everyone is safe, provided vaccines to many developing and least developed countries. India could supply more than 65 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to about a hundred countries.

Further, India is one of the initiators of the “Political Declaration on Equitable Global Access to Covid 19 vaccines”. The declaration treats vaccines as a global public good (GOPG). At present, it has the support of more than 180 UN member states.

What should be the way forward?

It is time for the global community to work collectively and urgently to address the COVID-19 crisis. Implementation of TRIPS was in favour of developing and least developed countries can be a good start in this direction.

GS Paper 3


Privatise Post-Repeal: Selling sarkari banks & PSUs is critical.

Source: This post is based on the article “Privatise Post-Repeal: Selling sarkari banks & PSUs is critical” published in Times of India on 25th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3-Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development, and employment.

Relevance: To understand the need and challenges of privatization.

News: In the upcoming winter session of Parliament, ‘The Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ to be proposed, will facilitate the transfer of ownership of two PSBs, by making changes in concerned laws.

In the last session of Parliament, GoI said privatisation was ongoing in the case of 21 PSUs. The exercise was completed in the case of one of them, Air India.

What is the need for privatization?

Privatization is essential to redeploy public resources in areas such as education and healthcare.

It helps PSUs get the benefit of additional capital and a clear approach to business, thereby helping the economy.

PSU staff will be beneficiaries of it.

A few big-ticket privatisations will convey to stakeholders about the reformist spirit of the economy.

What are the challenges?

PSBs have carried the burden of the NPA problem. Any potential buyer will need GoI to absorb some NPA.

Loss-making PSUs, burdened by debt and staffed by an unionised workforce, make it tough to privatise. The privatisation of ‘Air India’ is an example.


A food crisis of the government’s own making

Source: This post is based on the article “A food crisis of the government’s own making” published in The Hindu on 25th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3-Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Relevance: To understand the dilemma of crop yield and organic farming.

News: Recently, the Sri Lanka government banned agrochemical fertilizers, to switch to 100% organic agriculture.

The example of Sri Lanka is an eye-opener for the other countries as well. It proves that any unplanned attempt to move to organic farming may prove to be disastrous for the agriculture sector.

What were the issues associated with the plan of the Sri Lanka government?

It neither had solid scientific information nor a clear action plan to move to organic farming. It was based on the raw advice of some officials that only organic and traditional agriculture is safe for the environment and human beings.

Furthermore, it announced the compensation for the loss due to reduced crop yield due to a lack of agrochemicals. However, it created no mechanism to identify the reasons behind reduced crop yield, which could also happen due to natural causes, farmers’ attitudes, and so on.

It failed to consider the fact that globally, only 1.5% of farmland is organic, due to various issues associated with it. The country lacked the capacity for mass production of organic fertilizers in a short period of time.

Meemkem and Qaim (2018) pointed out in an analysis that organic agriculture on average could result in a yield drop of 19%-23%, depending on the crop and agro-climatic region.

As the crisis deepened, it purchased a liquid nano-N fertilizer from Indian Farmer Fertilizer Corporative Limited (IFFCO). It was actually a nano-urea, which could not be used for organic farming. Health concerns that might arise on long-term exposure to nano-particles were also not clear.

Thus, due to an unplanned decision, Sri Lanka had to use a fertilizer, which had no proven record regarding efficiency and safety.

What were its impacts?

Failure to maintain the same level of yield lead to food shortage, increase food prices.

The government ultimately has to resort to food imports, thereby hurting the public exchequer.

Also, the imported food is produced using agrochemicals because of the higher price of organic food. This was in contrast to the initial objective.

What steps are needed to be taken?

To switch to 100% organic agriculture, a country must have robust scientific evidence and a carefully planned methodology along with targeted actions.


What $650 billion can buy – On India’s currency reserves

Source: This post is based on the article “What $650 billion can buy” published in Business standard on 25th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Significance of RBI in maintaining the stability of the economy

Relevance: India’s rising foreign exchange reserves and the way forward

News: India’s foreign exchange reserves have gone up by over $160 billion since the beginning of the last fiscal year and are currently at about $640 billion.

Since, India has one of the largest foreign exchange reserves, the debate has shifted to what it should do with the pool. Many options are being debated.

But it will be more effective if the higher reserves can be used to maintain the financial stability, given the global economic environment.

What are the various options, and the issues with them?

Firstly, using reserves to finance infrastructure needs. But it’s not clear how this can be done.

Secondly, using foreign currency to buy foreign goods and services, or assets. But it is unlikely to be preferred as it will have a variety of macroeconomic implications.

Thirdly, forming a sovereign wealth fund, that would allow India to buy assets overseas.

Finally, there are suggestions that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should diversify its investment to increase yields. Since it invests in highly liquid assets, such as US government securities, returns are usually low. However, this will increase risks and could potentially defeat the purpose of holding reserves.

So, the best option would be to use the reserves to maintain financial stability, given the global economic environment.

Why the reserves should be used to maintain financial stability?

Firstly, India is a net importer of goods and services from the rest of the world, and India regularly runs a current account deficit.

Secondly, India’s reserves essentially reflect the excess flow of capital, and part of it could get reversed quickly as the US Federal Reserve has decided to “taper” its asset purchase program.

This could result in tightening of global financial conditions, and capital could flow out from a country like India, at least temporarily.

As a consequence, a fall in currency triggered by large capital outflows can pose risks to financial stability.

In such a situation, the RBI will be able to control volatility in the currency market, due to its large forex reserves.

What is the way forward?

While higher reserves provide stability on the external account, the RBI cannot endlessly keep accumulating foreign exchange. Because of two reasons,

– One, higher reserves can potentially attract more capital flows and makes currency management difficult. This would keep putting upward pressure on the rupee and affect India’s competitiveness.

– Two, sustained intervention by the RBI will push up the level of rupee liquidity in the system and increase inflation risks.

So, instead of heavily intervening in the currency market, India can revisit the kind of foreign flows it needs. Foreign direct investment and equity flows should be preferred to debt. Policymakers must align the capital account to broader macroeconomic objectives.


Farm Laws: Is MSP guarantee really the elixir that Indian agriculture needs?

Source: This post is based on the article “Farm Laws: Is MSP guarantee really the elixir that Indian agriculture needs?” published in DTE on 25th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to MSP

Relevance: MSP and its negative consequences

News: Recently, the Prime Minister announced the withdrawal of the farm bills. He also stated that the government would form a committee to discuss how the system of minimum support price (MSP) could be more effective.

The committee proposed by the Centre will have representatives from Union and state governments, farmer groups, as well as agricultural scientists and economists.

Irrespective of the committee’s decision, a statutory guarantee to MSP will be a problem. So other options should be evaluated.

Read more: https://blog.forumias.com/explained-in-perspective-farm-distress-and-the-demand-for-guaranteed-msp/
What options have experts suggested in place of MSP?

Experts have recommended the following measures that the government can adopt instead of MSP:

– Giving remunerative prices to farmers for their produce.

– Letting the market determine the prices.

– Building mechanisms to safeguard farmers against fluctuations, like government interventions when commodity prices become dearer.

– Building efficient markets and provide price or income support for efficient production.

What measures can be looked into to protect farmers against price fluctuations?

Experimenting with Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana. It is a price differential scheme to compensate farmers in the event of a price crash that was started as a pilot scheme in Madhya Pradesh (2018). It was not relaunched the next year owing to criticism regarding cartelisation and depressed prices.

Re-examining the Income assurance scheme introduced during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule: The model calculated the seven-year average income. Based on this, if a farmer didn’t get the best yield or price in three of the last seven years, the government would compensate them.

Government should create an index of the farmers for providing price support during distress. The index should contain information’s on irrigated area, land, types of crops produced on an average, insurance cover, weather vulnerability. This index can be used for providing price support during distress.


Farm bills may be repealed, but farmers will still need help

Source: This post is based on the article “Farm bills may be repealed, but farmers will still need help” published in Indian Express on 25th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to Agriculture

Relevance: Diversification of agricultural labor force

News: Recently, the Prime Minister announced the withdrawal of the farm bills.

In this context, the farm bills, whether they are passed or not, were unlikely to have made any sustained difference to the life of the farmer.

Because, the farm bill that stands withdrawn didn’t have any policy solution to address the issues faced by agriculture sector and lift the Indian farmers out of a low-income existence.

Solutions to improve the life of farmers lies in the development of non-farm sector (service and manufacturing).

Why farm bills were inadequate to address the key problems faced by the agriculture sector?

Indian agriculture is unproductive: This is the fundamental reason why the Indian farmer is poor. The land, despite many improvements in irrigation, seeds, fertilisers and mechanisation, just doesn’t have enough in it to sustain the sheer number of people dependent on it.

Agriculture today employs 45% of India’s workers, while only producing around 10% of its output.

In this backdrop of unproductive farms, farm laws that aimed towards better price realisation of agricultural products by bringing changes with agricultural marketing laws are inadequate to address the low productivity of Indian agriculture.

Why labor shifted from agriculture to non-farm sector in industrialised countries when they were at similar income levels a century ago?

Firstly, the difference between labour productivities in the non-agricultural and agricultural sectors was much smaller in the industrialised countries due to relatively few policy controls on prices and quantities. Hence, the initial misallocation of labour was smaller.

Secondly, deterioration in the agriculture in the currently industrialised countries generated a push factor that induced labour to shift out of agriculture.

Thirdly, expansion of large scale, low-tech industrial employment, provided the avenues to absorb the surplus agricultural labour.

Why the shift is not happening in India?

Welfarism approach towards agriculture: Measures such as, minimum support prices, subsidies to cultivators and interest rate subventions on crop loans hardly do anything for long-term changes in the agriculture. Instead, they trap farmers by giving them marginally stronger incentives to remain in agriculture though productivity and incomes are declining.

Failure of India’s large-scale, low-tech manufacturing sector: This is the sector that typically absorbs surplus agricultural labour in bulk while also providing them with significant improvements in incomes. This sector has completely failed to grow in India.

Less productive service sector: In India, the majority of the non-agricultural employment growth has happened in the service sector. Unfortunately, 80% of this service sector employment is in very low productivity.

What is the way forward?

The need of the hour is for the non-agricultural sectors to step up and provide a viable alternative to low productivity agriculture.

The government, thus, needs to focus on incentivising entrepreneurs to invest in large-scale manufacturing by legislating labour reforms.


Pointers that India is witnessing a K-shaped recovery

Source: This post is based on the article “Pointers that India is witnessing a K-shaped recovery” published in The Hindu on 25th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance: Economic Cycle- Expansion, recession, recovery

News: There have been talks about a V-shaped recovery for quite a while, ever since the first lockdown following the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Though, India is on a recovery path, but it can’t be classified as a V-shaped recovery because the pandemic has had an uneven impact on different socio-economic groups.

The recovery we see today is more K-shaped than V-shaped with some groups and industries recovering much more rapidly than others.

A V-shaped recovery is characterized by quick and effective recovery in measures of economic performance after an acute decline in the economy.
What are some indications of a K-Shaped recovery in India?

Decline in two-wheeler sales: The sales of two-wheelers are the second-lowest it has been in seven years. Two-wheelers represent the economic situation of the lower and middle-class groups and India’s small businesses.

What are the reasons behind India’s K-Shaped recovery?

Sustained loss in disposable income due to the taxation policy of government: Government taxation policies continue to be regressive, with increased indirect taxes and lower direct taxes placing greater tax burden on the poor. While inflation increased, the incomes of the middle and lower-middle-class have remained constant.

Lower Budget allocation accounts for MGNREGA tends to increase the pressure on unemployment figures: MGNREGA acts as an alternative employment source for the informal sector at the time of distressed economy.

However, the Government of India had cut its budget allocation towards MGNREGA by 34% for 2021-2022 when there is a greater demand now for MGNREGA jobs.

Further, the lower Budget allocation accounts for the inability to compensate workers in time and fairly.

The recovery in the stock market and other such financial assets over the past year benefitted only a few sections of the population: Less than 5% of India invest in equities, which means that less than 5% of India directly benefited from said recovery. The lower middle class, which does not invest in such assets, has no protection against inflation.

Disproportional benefit of the asset price inflation favored the upper-middle-class and this further explains the inherent K-shape of the recovery.

What is the way forward?

The Government should address this phenomenon and works towards aiding the middle and lower-middle class.

First, Social welfare schemes must be given greater importance to assist households to get through this period. International examples from The U.S. and European economies can be a case point.

Second, Government should try to increase progressive (direct) taxes and reduce regressive (indirect) taxes to ease the financial pressure on lower-income households.


A unified regulatory framework

Source: This post is based on the articles:

The growth and inclusion potential of India’s telecom space published in The Indian Express on 25th Nov 2021.

A unified regulatory framework‘ published in The Hindu on 25th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Infrastructure

Relevance: Telcos and internet firms need to be governed by a uniform regulatory framework

News: With 5G technologies on the horizon, new dynamics are emerging wherein there is a growth of an integrated sphere of cooperation as well as competition between telcos and Internet companies.

This has fueled the need for regulatory parity between them.

What is the new integrated sphere of competition and cooperation b/w telcos and internet companies?

This new architecture, that has been talked about in the article, involves elements of both competition and cooperation b/w telcos and internet firms.

Note: Telcos here refers to telecom companies like Airtel, Jio etc., while internet companies here refers to companies like Amazon, Google etc

Competition in substitute services:

– OTT messaging services: The growth in over-the-top (OTT) messaging services by Internet firms has been accompanied by significant reductions in the revenues of text messaging services provided by telcos. For instance, the quarterly SMS volume in the U.K. has declined by half to 10 billion by 2021 in the past five years.

– VoIP services: Similarly, the growth of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services offered by OTT service providers is also a threat to telcos.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is a technology that allows one to make voice calls over a broadband Internet connection.

Cooperation in complementary value networks: Under this, network operators, handset manufacturers, platform vendors, and content providers are offering a bouquet of services. These are termed as Complementary value networks or ‘Walled Gardens’.

Must Read: What is a complementary value network?

Despite the fact that services can be substituted and despite increasing competitive pressures within walled gardens, there is an asymmetric regulatory stance with respect to telcos and Internet companies.

What is an example of asymmetric regulation wrt telcos and internet companies?

Net Neutrality: One example of the prevailing asymmetric regulation are wrt net neutrality provisions. These provisions prohibit discriminatory treatment of Internet companies by the telcos, but impose no such regulatory limitations on internet companies.

The net neutrality principles prohibit service providers from discriminating against Internet content and services by blocking, throttling or according preferential higher speeds.

Over the past decade, the Internet has evolved to a point where many Internet companies also provide an essential service and enjoy significant market power. For instance: Web search, is a market dominated by Google, an internet company. Without search neutrality, search results may be manipulated to favor certain firms.

What is the way forward?

– Net neutrality principles need to be applied to Internet companies as well.

Interconnection regulation: It is mandatory for telcos to provide “equal access” for interconnecting with other telcos’ networks. Similarly, social media networks, instant messengers, and indeed any Internet service that exhibits critical mass dynamics needs to be governed by interconnection regulation.

Presently in India, while the sector regulator makes rules for telcos, the competition regulator oversees the behavior of the Internet firms. It is time for a unified regulatory framework, like in the case of European Union.


Do not ignore livestock’s contribution to climate change

Source: This post is based on the article “Do not ignore livestock’s contribution to climate change” published in Livemint on 25th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Relevance: Understanding the need to initiate a dialogue around reducing Greenhouse emissions from animal agriculture and livestock production.

News: About 103 countries, took the Global Methane Pledge, which includes a commitment to reduce emissions of this gas by 30% from 2020 levels by the end of this decade.

But the problem of emissions from animal agriculture and livestock production is also central to the global discussion on climate change.

And much of the developed world is not even talking about it.

This is an opportunity for India to assume a leadership position in building a dialogue and furthering action around this issue.

Why reduction of livestock production matters?

According to the IPCC,

Livestock production currently contributes at least 14.5 % of all greenhouse gas emissions.

And, if current production levels continue on the same trajectory, it is expected to account for nearly 81% of emissions, possibly raising global temperatures by 1.5° Celsius by 2050.

What are India’s challenges in lowering of GHG emissions from ruminant animals?

Huge population of cattle: With a livestock count of over half a billion, as per the 20th livestock census of the department of animal husbandry, India is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases such as methane, which is produced by ruminant animals.

India’s rural economy is dependent on animal agriculture: Two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion-plus population still lives in rural parts of the country. A sizeable number is dependent on animal agriculture (i.e. dairy, poultry and fisheries).

Policy priority: The Indian government’s investments also prioritize animal agriculture as a livelihood option. For instance:

– In 2018, govt launched the Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund to incentivize investment by the cooperative sector for the development of dairy infrastructure.

– In 2020, India announced a 15,000-crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund.

What is the way forward?

Transition to an economy that promotes a lifestyle and diet based on plant nutrients. Our huge population is a strain on the limited resources we have, and so depending on animal-based sources of food such as milk is a problem. Also, research by the University of Oxford indicates that a shift to a plant-based diet could free up 75% of agricultural land.

Raising crops only for human use may boost available food calories by up to 70%, effectively feeding 4 billion people.

Large investments aimed at boosting animal agriculture that will lead to climate change should be discouraged.

India:

Food system transition policy: India needs to grow and consume food differently. It must develop a comprehensive policy that

– moves farmers to sustainable modes of plant-based food production

– diverts subsidies from industrial livestock production and its associated inputs, and

– looks at job creation, social justice, poverty reduction, animal protection and better public health as multiple aspects of a single solution.


Decline in India’s camel population is worrying

Source: This post is based on the article “Decline in India’s camel population is worrying” published in the Indian Express on 25th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

Relevance: Understanding the need to empower Raikas and control the decline of the camel population.

News: According to the article published in National Geographic, the camel population in India has been in decline, especially in Rajasthan because of the Indira Gandhi Canal which hampered the movement of Raikas and Camels.

What were the reasons behind the decline in the camel population?

Fewer dairy benefits: Long gestation period (15 months); limited saleable meat yield (less than 5 kg a day), high cost of maintenance, high cost of milk, and strong flavour of camel milk, all make it unsuitable for the domesticating camel for economic benefits.

Change in lifestyle: Replacement of the nomadic-pastoral way of life by agriculture. Individually owned farmlands that are often fenced restrict the movements of camels. Camels are rarely used for ploughing along with that shrinking of grazing grounds, shortage of fodder also a reason for reduced camel population.

Other means of transport: Camels are replaced largely by road networks.

Raikas- The Raikas are a specialized caste of pastoralists from northwestern India, particularly the arid and semi-arid parts of Rajasthan. Although they also raise goats, cattle, sheep, and water buffalo, the most important animal for Raika’s cultural identity is the camel. The Raika and their camels talk to each other; this language/conversation is called akal-dhakaal.

Fewer benefits for Raikas: Raikas do not sell dead camels for their bones and also do not eat camel meat. Raikas believe they were born of Lord Siva’s skin to protect camels.

How does the Rajasthan government aims to protect camels?

Rajasthan’s government enacted The Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 2015. The Act aims to prohibit the slaughter of camels and also to regulate their temporary migration or export from Rajasthan.

But the Act does not show positive results. Camels are now sold in the grey market, further driving down camel prices. Camels that should normally command a price of Rs 40,000 plus, reportedly sell in this grey market for less than Rs 5,000. The ban has benefitted only the meat traders and corrupt officials.

What the government should do?

Camel-rearing still has potential economic opportunities and have great demand in the Middle East. So, the government should

1. Focus on controlling the decline of the camel population, 2. Empower Raikas with education, trading skills, etc.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Railway Minister announces introduction of ‘Bharat Gaurav Trains’

What is the News?

Indian Railways has announced the introduction of theme-based, tourist circuit trains named ‘Bharat Gaurav’ Trains.

What is the aim of Bharat Gaurav Trains?

Aim: To showcase India’s rich cultural heritage and magnificent historical places to the people of India and the world.

What are the key features of this initiative?

Indian Railways has allocated 190 trains for this initiative.

Eligibility: These trains could be taken on a lease by any private player, state government or Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation(IRCTC) and run them on theme-based circuits. 

Themes: The service provider can decide themes like Guru Kripa trains for covering Sikh culture’s important places, Ramayana trains for destinations connected with Lord Shri Ram among others.

Registration Fee: For interested players, the process has been made easy with one-step, transparent online registration. The registration fee will be Rs 1 lakh.

The operator has the freedom to decide the route, the halts, the services provided, and most importantly, the tariff.

Tenure of Lease: The tenure of right to use is a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 years.

Source: This post is based on the articleRailway Minister announces introduction of ‘Bharat Gaurav Trainspublished in PIB on 24th Nov 2021.


Cabinet approves Continuation of the umbrella scheme “Atmosphere’ & Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems & Services (ACROSS)” from the 14th Finance Commission to the next Finance Commission Cycle (2021-2026)

What is the News?

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the continuation of the umbrella scheme “Atmosphere & Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems & Services (ACROSS)”.

What is the ACROSS Scheme?

The ACROSS scheme pertains to the atmospheric science programs of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

The scheme addresses different aspects of weather and climate services which includes warnings for cyclones, storm surges, heatwaves, thunderstorms among others.

Sub Schemes under ACROSS

There are eight sub-schemes under ACROSS: 1) Commissioning of Polarimetric Doppler Weather Radars (DWRs) 2) Upgradation of Forecast System 3) Weather & Climate Services 4) Atmospheric Observations Network-IMD 5) Numerical Modelling of Weather and Climate  6) Monsoon Mission III 7) Monsoon Convection, Clouds and Climate Change(MC4) and 8) High-Performance Computing System (HPCS).

Implementation of Scheme

The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences(MoES) through its units namely the India Meteorological Department (IMD), National Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF); Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).

Each institute has a designated role for accomplishing the tasks through the aid of eight sub-schemes.

Impact of this Scheme

The scheme will provide improved weather, climate, ocean forecast and services, and other hazard-related services thereby ensuring transfer of commensurate benefits to the end-user.

Source: This post is based on the articleCabinet approves Continuation of the umbrella scheme Atmosphere & Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems & Services (ACROSS)published in Livemint on 23rd Nov 2021.


Cabinet approves continuation of the umbrella scheme “Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology (O-SMART)”

What is the News?

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the continuation of the umbrella scheme “Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology (O-SMART)” for the period from 2021-26.

About O-SMART Scheme

The O-SMART Scheme was launched by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Objectives of the scheme: a) To provide forecasts and services based on the continuous observation of oceans b) To develop technologies and exploratory surveys for the sustainable harnessing of oceanic resources (both living and nonliving) and c) To promote front-ranking research in ocean sciences.

Sub-schemes: The scheme includes seven sub-schemes – 1) Ocean Technology 2) Ocean Modelling and Advisory Services (OMAS) 3) Ocean Observation Network (OON) 4) Ocean Non-Living Resources 5) Marine Living Resources and Ecology (MLRE) 6) Coastal Research and Operation and 7) Maintenance of Research Vessels.

Implementation: The sub-schemes are being implemented by autonomous/attached institutes of the Ministry of Earth Sciences namely: National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai; Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad; National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, Center for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), Kochi; and National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), Chennai.

Significance of the Scheme

Firstly, the extensive research and technology development activities under the scheme would augment the capacity building of the nation in the oceanographic field at the international level.

Secondly, the present decade has been declared as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development by the United Nations (UN). Hence, the continuation of the scheme would strengthen India’s stand in the global oceanographic research and technology development.

Source: This post is based on the article “Cabinet approves continuation of the umbrella scheme Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology (O-SMART)” published in Livemint on 23rd Nov 2021.


Data protection panel against hefty penalties on tech giants

What is the news?

Joint Parliament Committee (JPC) headed by P P Chaudhary has finalized its recommendations on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.

Read here: Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019
What are the JPC recommendations regarding technology giants?

The committee is against imposing hefty penalties on global technology giants such as Facebook, Instagram, Google etc. As there is no clear mechanism to quantify the global turnover of companies, especially when the digital data space is changing rapidly. So, the committee suggested enabling the government to quantify the penalties.

JPC also recommended to did away the penalty of Rs 5 crore or 2% of worldwide turnover for violations such as failure to take prompt and appropriate action in response to a data security breach, failure to register with the proposed data protection authority etc.

Read here: JPC retains exemption clause, adopts personal data Bill
What will be the impact of JPC recommendations?

Not imposing a hefty penalty will be a big relief to the global giants, especially when many of them are accused for user-info violations, data breaches, unlawful processing, and lax oversight. For e.g. CBI inquiry over the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica episode, which involves the misuse of data.

Source: This post is based on the article “Data protection panel against hefty penalties on tech giants” published in the Times of India on 25th November 2021.


NITI Aayog Releases Discussion Paper on Digital Banks Seeking Comments

What is the news?

NITI Aayog has released a Discussion Paper titled “Digital Banks:A Proposal for Licensing & Regulatory Regime for India”.

About the Discussion paper

The Discussion Paper makes a case, and offers a template and roadmap, for a Digital Bank licensing and regulatory regime for India.

The paper has been prepared by NITI Aayog, in consultation with eminent experts in the field of finance, technology and law and based on inter-ministerial consultations.

What are the reforms proposed by the paper?

Digital Bank licensing: The paper proposed a Digital Bank license for solving as well as mitigating the financial challenges faced by India.

Digital Bank Regulatory Index:  Paper recommends constructing “Digital Bank Regulatory Index” comprising of 4 factors: Entry barriers; Competition; Business Restrictions and Technological Neutrality. It maps the elements of these indices against the 5 benchmark jurisdictions of Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia and South Korea.

Two-Stage Approach: It recommends a two-stage approach – a digital business bank license to begin with, followed by a Digital (Universal) Bank license after policymakers and regulators have gained experience from the former.

Inclusive Approach: It focuses on avoiding any regulatory or policy arbitrage and giving a level playing field to all the stakeholders.

Source: This post is based on the article “ NITI Aayog Releases Discussion Paper on Digital Banks Seeking Comments” published in the PIB on 24th November 2021.


Raksha Mantri virtually inaugurates 5th World Congress on Disaster Management

What is the News?

The Defence Minister has inaugurated the Fifth World Congress on Disaster Management.

About Fifth World Congress on Disaster Management

Organized by: Disaster Management Initiatives and Convergence Society (DMICS)

Aim: To promote interaction of science, policy, and practices to enhance understanding of risks and advance actions for reducing risks and building resilience to disasters.

Theme: ‘Technology, Finance and Capacity for Building Resilience to Disasters in the context of COVID-19’

What are the key highlights of the Defence Minister address at the conference?

Firstly, Effective response mechanisms to address humanitarian crises & natural disasters are one of the most important pillars of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region).

Secondly, India has always been a first responder in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). It has been regularly conducting Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) situations exercises to deepen the HADR co-operation.

Example: Some HADR missions undertaken by India include Operation Rahat in Yemen in 2015, During a cyclone in Sri Lanka in 2016; quake in Indonesia in 2019 and Cyclone Idai in Mozambique.

Thirdly, the COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the “centrality of multilateralism” in our interconnected world, not only for matters of international security but also disaster management.

Lastly, there is a need for collective solutions to deal with global challenges in the post-COVID world.

Source: This post is based on the following articles 

  • Raksha Mantri virtually inaugurates 5th World Congress on Disaster Managementpublished in PIB on 24th Nov 2021.
  • India first responder in the Indian Ocean Regionpublished in The Hindu on 25th Nov 2021.

Digital tax for US companies to stay until OECD pact comes into force

What is the News?

India and US have agreed on a “transitional approach” to digital service tax imposed by the Indian Government.

Background

In 2016, India had introduced a 6% equalisation levy for digital advertising services. Later, in April 2020, it widened the scope to impose a 2% tax on non-resident e-commerce players.

However, the United States Trade Representative(USTR) had threatened to initiate retaliatory trade action against India and other countries that imposed unilateral taxes such as equalisation levy.

What has been done now?

India and US have signed an agreement on a “transitional approach” to digital service tax imposed by the Government of India.

Under the agreement, the equalisation levy imposed by India on digital players will continue until a global agreement on the minimum corporate tax rate for taxing multinational enterprises(MNEs) comes into effect on March 31, 2024, or whichever is earlier. 

On the other hand, the United States has committed to withdraw its threat of retaliatory trade action against India.

This agreement is similar on the lines of the pact agreed between the US and Austria, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

What is the Global Agreement on Minimum Corporate Tax Rate?

Read here: Global Agreement on Minimum Corporate Tax Rate

Source:  This post is based on the following articles 

  • Digital tax for US companies to stay until OECD pact comes into force published in Business Standard on 25th November 2021.
  • India, US finalise deal on digital service taxpublished in TOI on 25th Nov.2021

Cabinet approves continuation of National Apprenticeship Training Scheme for next five years

What is the News?

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the continuation of the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS) from 2021-22 to 2025-26.

What is the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme(NATS)?

The National Apprenticeship Training Scheme is the flagship programme of the Ministry of Education for Skilling Indian Youth.

Purpose: It is a one year programme equipping youth with practical knowledge and skills required in their field of work. 

The Apprentices will be imparted training by industry and commercial organisations.

What are the changes made to the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme(NATS)?

The government of India has decided to make some changes to the NATS Scheme. These changes are: 

Firstly, NATS will now include students from humanities, science and commerce besides students from engineering stream.

Secondly, apprentices who have completed graduate and diploma programmes in Engineering, Humanities, Science and Commerce will receive a stipend of Rs. 9,000 and Rs. 8,000 per month, respectively.

Thirdly, the scheme will also provide apprenticeships in the emerging areas under ‘Production Linked Incentive’ (PLI) such as Mobile manufacturing, Medical devices manufacturing, Pharma sector, Electronics/Technology products, Automobile sector etc. 

Fourthly, the scheme will be preparing skilled manpower for connectivity/ logistics industry sectors, identified under Gati Shakti, a national master plan for Multi-modal connectivity, essentially a digital platform.

Source: This post is based on the articleCabinet approves continuation of National Apprenticeship Training Scheme for next five yearspublished in PIB on 24th Nov 2021.


What  strategic  oil release  means  for Indian  consumers

What is the News?

India has announced that it will release five million barrels of crude oil from its strategic petroleum reserves in consultation with other big global oil consumers such as the US, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

Click Here to read the reasons and impact of strategic oil release

How  does cheap oil  help  the  government?

Source: Livemint

The Government of India has benefited from low oil prices in the past giving it the opportunity to raise taxes and find resources for various welfare schemes. 

The  government has also phased out most of the petroleum subsidies, cleaning up the government balance sheet, making oil prices pass through to consumers. 

However, high oil prices forced the government to cut taxes, making it harder for it to balance budgets. Higher energy costs are also seen by experts as a deterrent to consumption.

Is India on a collision course with OPEC?

India’s efforts to influence oil pricing with its status of a bulk buyer has seen little result till now because of cartelization (to control or regulate the price or supply of a commodity by forming a cartel).

Moreover, this plan of release of oil reserves may backfire as OPEC countries may respond to the move by cancelling plans to boost production from their own reserves, thereby negating the addition of stockpiled oil onto the market. 

Measures taken by India to reduce Oil Consumption

Ethanol blending is critical to reducing dependence on oil. The target is to achieve 20% ethanol blending of petrol by 2025. 

A strong policy backing is given to facilitate the transition from fossil fuel-based transportation to electric mobility. 

State-owned oil refiners are always lookout for contracts with new suppliers. 

Policy-makers are also eying hydrogen as a fuel.

Source: This post is based on the article “What  strategic  oil release  means  for Indian  consumers” published in Livemint on 23rd Nov 2021.


Hard to count the poor, but poverty in India is falling

Source: This post is based on the article “Hard to count the poor, but poverty in India is falling” published in TOI on 25th November 2021.

What is the news?

According to last year data on the Tendulkar committee recommended poverty line, India’s poverty has reduced by 7.9 percentage points between 2009-10 and 2011-12.

About the brief history of India’s poverty line

 

Poverty Line

Source: TOI
What are the issues associated with the poverty line?

Generally, poverty indicators are linked to the general level of food intake such as malnutrition, wasting. But they don’t reflect the estimated reduction with poverty lines. For example, The proportion of stunted children is higher than the proportion of poor in the country. So the poverty lines are there under counting the poor or people fall into poverty due to spike in expenses and income loss.

Poverty measures based on income alone ignores other factors like education and health that keep a person trapped in a poverty.

About the multidimensional poverty

Multidimensional poverty approach factors in health education and general quality of life. But the people under multidimensional poverty will be higher than normal poverty estimation.

India’s multidimensional poverty reduced from 53.7% of the population in 2011 to 27.9 % of the population in 2018. But this is higher than poverty levels based on income poverty.

Read more: About Multidimensional Poverty Index


Union Health Ministry releases NFHS-5 Phase II Findings

Source: This post is based on the following articles

  • “Union Health Ministry releases NFHS-5 Phase II Findings published in PIB on 24th November 2021.
  • “More hospital births, but limited gains in childhood nutrition: National Family Health Survey-5 published in The Hindu on 24th November 2021.
  • “Fertility rate falls to below replacement level, signals population is stabilising published in Indian Express on 25th November 2021.
  • “Health survey shows anaemia a concern across age groups in children, women published in Indian Express on 25th November 2021.
  • “Anaemia in women and children on the rise, Assam fares worst: NFHS-5 published in DTE on 24th November 2021.
  • “For first time, India’s fertility rate below replacement level published in TOI on 25th November 2021.
  • “Anaemia, malnutrition key concerns in NFHS-5 survey published in Livemint on 25th November 2021.
What is the news?

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) has released the 2019-21 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) that belongs to phase-2 states along with all-India data.

States covered in NFHS-5 phase II

Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

About NFHS and findings of NFHS-5 Phase I

Read here: What is National Family Health Survey (NFHS)?

What are the key findings of NFHS-5 Phase II?
NFHS-5
Source: Livemint

Total Fertility Rates (TFR): Declined from 2.2 to 2.0 at the national level. All Phase-II States have achieved replacement level of fertility (2.1) except Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

NFHS 5
Source: TOI

Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR): Increased from 54% to 67% at an all-India level and in almost all Phase-II States/UTs with an exception of Punjab.

Full immunization drive: Improved among children aged 12-23 months from 62% (NFHS-4) to 76% at an all-India level.

This increase is attributed to the flagship initiative of Mission Indradhanush launched by the government since 2015.

Read more: “Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 3.0”

Institutional births: Increased substantially from 79% to 89% at all-India levels. Institutional delivery is 100% in Puducherry and Tamil Nadu and more than 90 per cent in 7 States/UTs out of 12 Phase II States/UTs.

There has also been a substantial increase in C-section deliveries in many States/UTs, especially in private health facilities.

NFHS-5 Phase II
Source: The Hindu

Child Nutrition: When compares to NFHS-4, 1. Stunting – declined from 38.4% to 35.5%, 2. Wasting declined from 21% to 19.3%, 3. Underweight – declined from 35.8% to 32.1% and 4. Overweight –  Increased from 2.1% to 3.4%. Further, breastfeeding is also shown an improvement from 55% in 2015-16 to 64% in 2019-21.

Child marriage: Declined from 27% to 23% in the last five years. West Bengal and Bihar had the highest prevalence of girl child marriage, and this has remained unchanged since the NFHS-4.

NFHS-5
Source: Livemint

Anaemia: More than half of the children and women (including pregnant women) are anaemic in all the phase-II States/UTs and all-India levels compared to NFHS4.

Assam is among the worst-performing states, with a huge spike in anaemic cases.

Women’s empowerment: Significant progress has been recorded between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5 in regard to women operating bank accounts from 53% to 79% at an all-India level.

What are the significant things to consider from NFHS-5 Survey?

Achievement of TFR is a significant feat for the country’s family-planning programme. But, the onus of family planning still lies with women. This is visible from an increase in female sterilisation and stagnated male sterilisation.

An increase in people with overweight highlights the very large burden of NCD and diet-related diseases.

Anaemia among children and women continues to be a cause of concern.


 

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