9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – November 29th, 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 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 1

The implications of a skewed sex ratio for India

Source: This post is based on the article “The implications of a skewed sex ratio for India” published in Livemint on 29th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated issues.

Relevance: To understand the concerns associated with NFHS data on sex ratio.

News: According to the latest round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-21), India has 1,020 females per 1,000 males.

Must ReadUnion Health Ministry releases NFHS-5 Phase II Findings
What are the concerns associated with the NFHS data?
Sex ratio - NFHS 5
Source: Livemint

1. Near-double rate of rising in the population of women against that of men in the last five years. If the sex ratio were to be 991, as estimated by NFHS 2015-16, the population of women would have comprised 643 million. But according to the recent NFHS, the population of women might comprise 688 million.

2. Consistently overestimated sex ratio, compared with population census. In 2005-06, NFHS estimated the sex ratio at 1:1, whereas census 2011 revealed it to be 943 females per 1,000 males.

Read moreNFHS-5 and its findings – Explained, pointwise
What are the implications of NFHS’s data on sex ratio?

Sex ratio at birth (SRB) estimated by NFHS can be an imperfect proxy for Child Sex Ratio.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) was launched in 2015 to improve the declining child sex ratio (CSR)—girls per 1,000 boys in 0-6 years.
What does India need to focus on?

Over the last two decades, India has slipped on the labour force participation rate (LFPR) of females above 15 years, despite an improving sex ratio. This is true even after the NFHS-5 Survey.

According to World Bank data, from 38% in 2001, LFPR of females has fallen to 26% in 2020. The major reason for this is the higher participation rate for Indian women in unpaid domestic duties.

What the government should do?

To come out of the “Missing Women” tag, India must invest in policies to ensure women are not missing in the workforce.

Read more: What they own: NFHS on women property ownership isn’t conclusive

GS Paper 2


The development turnaround in Nepal and Bangladesh is an inspiring story for South Asia

Source: This post is based on the article “The development turnaround in Nepal and Bangladesh is an inspiring story for South Asia” published in Indian Express on 29th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – India and its neighbourhood relations (Roles and function of UNGA)

Relevance: UNGA, LDC, Developing country.

News: The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a historic resolution to include Bangladesh, Nepal and Laos in the list of developing countries from the category of the least developed countries.

What are the criteria to qualify in the developing countries’ category?

Countries must meet at least two of the below criteria in order to qualify for inclusion in the developing countries’ category.

Per capita Gross National Income of $1,018 and above.

A high score of 60 on the Human Assets Index, which includes a health index and education index.

A low score of 36 on the Economic & Environmental Vulnerability Index.

What are the pros and cons of this move?

Negative implications

Disruption in a country’s development: As an LDC, a country gets trade related concessions including market access, and development assistance, technical assistance and special pathways to participate in international processes.

But when such benefits are withdrawn suddenly on account of a country’s development from LDC to Developing country status, it could impact its growth.

Positive implications

The inclusion of Nepal and Bangladesh as developing countries, plus the scheduled graduation of Bhutan in 2023, are all positive developments for the South Asian region.

The improvement in the economic and social prospects of the people of a country can benefit other nations, particularly those in its neighbourhood.

What protections have been given to Nepal and Bangladesh to ensure they don’t slip back to LDC status?

Graduating countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh are given a transition period during which most of the benefits available to LDCs remain available to graduating countries.

Usually, the transition period is three years, but this time, in view of the economic, social and other disruptions caused by Covid-9, the UN General Assembly has taken the right step by giving five years.


An Indian model that’s better than China’s

Source: This post is based on the article ” An Indian model that’s better than China’s” published in the Times of India on 29th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Relevance: Understanding the health policy.

News: The National Family Health Survey 5 indicates that India has defused the population bomb without adopting any extreme measures like the One Child policy.

Also read: Union Health Ministry releases NFHS-5 Phase II Findings
What does the variation of status in TFR indicate?

According to NFHS 5, India’s Total Fertility Rate or the average number of children per woman has dropped to 2 below the replacement level (2.1 estimated by WHO).

NFHS 5 showed an increase in the proportion of women using modern contraceptive methods from 47.8% in 2015-16 to 56.5% in 2019-21, a decrease in the unmet need for family planning and improvement in family planning services.

The states with the highest TFR like Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh also have the lowest proportion of literate women and women who have completed 10 years of schooling. They are also the states ranked lowest in the Niti Aayog’s latest multi-dimensional poverty index.

This is a clear indication of the importance of underlying characteristics such as level of women’s education, their average marital age, access to contraceptive services etc on population control measures.

What is the difference between China’s and India’s policies?

China and India, both had a TFR of 6 in the 1950s, but China reached below-replacement fertility levels by 1990 through a one-child policy. This has resulted in disastrous demographic consequences such as a rapidly ageing population, a skewed gender ratio as people aborted or abandoned female babies, and a shrinking labor force with too few young people to support the elderly.

However, like India, countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, Turkey, and Malaysia, which started off with TFRs of 6 or more achieved replacement level fertility without such coercive policies.

What lessons should states need to learn?

India’s decadal growth rate reached as high as 24.8% in the 1960s and 24.7% in the 1970s. Since the 1980s, there has been a steady decline in population growth. 2011 census showed that for the first time since 1900 India added fewer people to its population in a decade than in the previous decade.

Despite this refined, overpopulation is described as a cause of countries ills. Many states have introduced punitive measures, such as not letting people in more than two children contest local elections. Such penalty measures could even be counter-productive. There is need to reduce population not stigmatize it.


Questionable criterion: On EWS quota income limit

Source: This post is based on the article ” Questionable criterion: On EWS quota income limit” published in The Hindu on  29th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: Understanding the reservation mechanism.

News: Recently, the Supreme Court raised questions about the basis on which Centre fixed income limit and criteria for granting reservation to Economic Weaker Section (EWS).

Read more: The new 10% quota, its implications, and more
What was the SC case all about?

In an ongoing case, the bench is considering the validity of the 27% quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and 10% for Economically Weaker Sections, introduced for admission to the All-India Quota (AIQ) of seats in medical admissions throughout the country.

Also read: The Mandal case and Reservation in India – Explained, Pointwise

The court wants to know whether there was any study done before the Centre prescribed the norms for identifying EWS beneficiaries based on indicators of economic disadvantage. The court has clarified that it is not examining any policy issue but wants to determine if constitutional requirements have been complied with.

Also read: 103rd constitutional amendment present a more difficult judicial examination than usual
What was the status of the OBC reservation for AIQ seats in medical admissions?

OBC reservation is applicable to admissions done separately by the Union and State governments in their respective medical institutions, but it was not implemented all these years for all-India quota seats. The introduction of the OBC quota in AIQ only brings the admission norms in line with prevailing policy.

This pool is formed by the surrender of 15% of undergraduate seats and 50% of PG seats by the States.

What was the issue that is still not handled?

The current proceeding will only decide the validity of OBC and EWS reservation in admissions under the AIQ.

The larger issue that still remains is whether reservation can be treated as a poverty alleviation measure or it should also include those not well-off but socially advanced communities too. Constitution Bench should need to address this question too.


Get to Business: About India – Pakistan relations

Source: This post is based on the article ” Get to Business” published in the Indian Express on  29th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: Understanding the importance of normalizing India- Pakistan relations.

News: India and Pakistan have partially opened their land border recently.

Recent trade relations between India and Pakistan

After the Pulwama terror attack, bilateral trade between the two countries plummeted from around $2 billion in 2017-18 to $280 million in 2020-21 (April to February).

Also read: “India-Pakistan Relations” – Pakistan to Resume Trade with India
What steps India and Pakistan should initiate to normalize the relations?

Pakistan should revoke the unilateral suspension of trade: After India’s decision to revoke Article 370, Pakistan suspended the trade with India, which it should revoke now. Also, this trade suspension by Pakistan is inconsistent with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.

Read here: Pakistan downgrades diplomatic ties, suspends trade with India

GATT, as part of WTO, allows countries to adopt trade-restraining measures on certain grounds such as public health, national security purposes (Article XXI). Similarly, Article 14 of SAFTA permits trade-restrictive measures for national security and other purposes. Neither the WTO nor SAFTA permits a country to suspend trade with another member country on grounds that it disapproves of domestic law.

Pakistan to accord Most Favored Nation(MFN) to India: Pakistan is in breach of Article I of GATT towards India since the formation of the WTO in 1995. So, it is time that Pakistan grants the MFN status to India.

Most Favoured Nation: It is a treatment accorded to a trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between two countries vis-a-vis other trade partners.

India to restore Pakistan’s MFN status: India has revoked the MFN status to Pakistan in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Pulwama and hiked the tariff rates on all Pakistani imports to an unfeasible rate of 200%.

Also read: India revokes Pak.’s MFN status day after terrorist strike in J&K

Trade agreements to be consistent with GATT objectives: Article XXIV allows both countries to enter into any special trading arrangement without fully complying with GATT conditions. The only requirement is that these special trade arrangements should be consistent with GATT’s objectives. Both countries should frame policies according to that.

How normalizing relations with Pakistan can benefit India?

The rise of China poses a greater threat to India. According to the Centre for Policy Research report, a continuing freeze in relations with Pakistan will “enhance India’s external vulnerability to other actors, in particular, China.”

So, normalizing and strengthening trade relations with Pakistan can help India to counter the threat that emerges with the rise of China.

Hence, effective management should be the main objective for fostering economic and trade relations with India and Pakistan.


Making the House work

Source: This post is based on the article” Making the House work” published in Indian Express on 29th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS2- Parliament —Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these.

Relevance: Understanding the functioning of Parliament.

News: In India, the efficiency of Parliament is measured through the number of bills passed. Given that the government has decided to repeal three farm laws, this will raise questions on the efficiency of Parliament and the net output.

What questions does it raise for Representative democracy?

Repealing these farm laws will be unique as they had been passed but never implemented. This will also raise questions on the fate of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Also read: Can a state challenge/reject central laws? On issue of farm bills and CAA

The government has faced severe criticism on human rights and freedom of the press, and increasing cases of sedition and UAPA.

Also read: UAPA and the recent judgments

Moreover, laws passed by Parliament are being seen as unacceptable by people.

What is the role of opposition under present circumstances?

The opposition and government need to ensure coordination on common issues, standardize the Parliamentary procedures, give or represent voices of the suppressed and marginalized segment. Unnecessary confrontation should be avoided, and adequate respect should be given to differences of opinion.

The opposition should avoid using stalling the functioning of the Parliament. Further, the ruling party should create sufficient space for the opposition to voice their views and concerns. Otherwise, it could lead to factionalism within the ruling party.

What should be the way forward?

A vibrant democracy needs a robust civil society. So government should give voice to people, give space to legitimate voices of concern and protests, ensure that democracy is representative all the time.


A gender turnaround in UP spells hope for women all across India

Source: This post is based on the article “A gender turnaround in UP spells hope for women all across India” published in Livemint on 29th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Relevance: To understand the developments in UP based on NFHS data.

News: According to the recent NFHS-5 data, Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) overall sex ratio improved from 995 females per 1,000 males to 1,017. Further, UP also improved in various other metrics on Women empowerment.

Why UP’s achievement is significant?

This is significant as the state has rigid patriarchal norms, historically skewed sex ratio, high son preference and high fertility, low levels of girls’ education, low female labour force participation etc.

Read moreNFHS-5 and its findings – Explained, pointwise
What are the concerns associated with NFHS-5 data on UP?

1. This improvement could be due to male migration to other states for work, 2. Many other northern states still have skewed sex ratios so the data on UP might not reliable.

Why does the improvement of UP is significant for India?

-When a populous and poor state begins to experience large positive shifts, then it has a disproportionate impact on the country’s development picture as UP.

-It signals a much earlier reversal of daughter discrimination in India than anticipated.

-UP is still contributing the largest number of girls ‘missing at birth’ to India’s total. So, the improvement in UP signifies acceptance of girl children among society.

Read more: What they own: NFHS on women property ownership isn’t conclusive

Heartland misery: Four states hosting 30% of Lok Sabha seats are among the poorest. That’s a message for India

Source: This post is based on the article “Heartland misery: Four states hosting 30% of Lok Sabha seats are among the poorest. That’s a message for India” published in TOI on 29th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

Relevance: To understand the poor performance of Heartland states in the recent Multidimensional Poverty Index.

News: Niti Aayog has released India’s first National Multidimensional Poverty Index.

Read more: One out of every two Bihar households is multidimensionally poor: NITI Aayog
How much disparity is there between states?

In 1991, on economic reform-eve, Bihar and Tamil Nadu were nearly at par in per capita GDP. So, the performance of these states in multidimensional poverty index indicators depends on the extent of welfare policies and their ability to deliver household amenities to the poor.

National MPI
Source: The Hindu

But, three decades later, TN has reduced it’s multidimensionally poor to 4.8% of the population, but not the Heartland states. (Bihar stayed at 51.9%. Jharkhand follows with 42%, UP 38% and MP 37%).

Why does Heartland state’s poor performance is a cause of concern?

Governance issues: These four states cumulatively account for 30% of seats in Lok Sabha and their electoral outcomes play a decisive role in national government formation. But, despite that, the MPI did not improve.

Massive welfare funding from Centre for these four states.

Reversal of farm laws makes even harder to reduce poverty: These four states failed to reduce the subsidy given to big farmers and did not lead the agri-reforms.

But they collectively account for nearly 5 crore of India’s 12.5 crore unviable agricultural land holdings under 2 hectares. So, the farm laws’ reversal makes poverty eradication in villages even harder.

What has to be done?

The recent NFHS-5 survey mentions that 60% of women and young children facing malnutrition. This highlights the limitations of welfarism. This has to be corrected.

To overcome the poverty, importance of economic growth has to be emphasised, and it has to create enough jobs.


What the Omicron variant means for India

Source: This post is based on the article” What the Omicron variant means for India” published in The Hindu on 29th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2  Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Relevance: Understanding the need to globally unite to solve the health crisis arises because of corona new variants.

News: Corona’s situation is coming to normalize following the deadly second wave in India. But the coming of the new Omicron variant poses a threat to progress made in the Covid fight.

What is the present situation amidst the corona pandemic in India?

The number of corona cases is declining in India even the rise has been seen across much of Europe. According to studies, this is because of two factors:

1. A large number of people already exposed to the virus. Thus providing some level of protection to subsequent infections, 2. The vaccination drive in India. Approximately 44% of Indian adults have been fully vaccinated and 82% have received at least one dose.

What is the Omicron variant? Why is the Omicron variant worrying?
Read here: Why this new Covid strain ‘B.1.1.529’ is more lethal that Delta variant

It is still unclear,  whether the Omicron variant might lead to more severe forms of COVID-19, both in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. So, research is needed for the same.

Although the RT-PCR test can still detect the Omicron variant, India should still prepare for handling this variant. If these mutations do lead to greater immune escape, vaccines and treatments like monoclonal, antibodies might need to be reformulated.

What should be done to control the situation?

As long as the virus circulates, the possibility remains that new variants could emerge. So, the best option available is to reduce the case numbers and boost the vaccination process. A single dose of vaccine can reduce dramatically the risk of hospitalization or a worse outcome; two doses do even better.

It has been found that more than 60 countries have vaccinated less than 25% of their population, including South Africa. So, there is a need to solve the inequity problem in the vaccination process.

GS Paper 3


How to regulate Cryptocurrencies?

Source: This post is based on the article “How to regulate Cryptocurrencies?” published in Business Standard on 29th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Relevance: Regulation of Cryptocurrencies

News: Indian regulators can leverage the simple money management approach towards regulating Cryptocurrencies. The task of financial-economic policy is to address market failure, i.e. the four problems of –  systemic risk, resolution, prudential regulation, and consumer protection.

Does cryptocurrency merit financial regulation in India?

The role for financial regulation in any situation can be analysed using four parameters below:

Systemic risk: Does a financial firm or market (Crypto market in this case) present an issue to the soundness of the overall financial system in the event of a default? If so, there can be a market failure. This can be a reason for the government to get involved, either through rules that reduce the failure probability, or rules that make resolution more orderly.

In the case of cryptocurrency, the magnitudes involved in India are as yet tiny and there is no hint of systemic risk. When any single player gets to a balance sheet of perhaps Rs 3 trillion, or 1% of gross domestic product, this can become a consideration.

Must Read: Cryptocurrency: Ban or regulation? – Explained, pointwise

Resolution: Does a financial firm present significant difficulties for resolution through the route of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)? For instance: Resolving defaulted financial firms having no retail depositors, such as DHFL, through the IBC process of handing power to the committee of creditors is optimal. But, in case of retail depositors of a bank, a specialised Financial Resolution Corporation is needed.

The simple process of owning and trading cryptocurrency does not elicit questions about resolution.

Prudential regulation: If an organisation makes promises about future payouts, then unsophisticated consumers worry whether these promises will be fulfilled or not. To reduce this risk, governments can engage in “prudential regulation”, to bring failure probabilities down to low values.

These concerns do not arise when dealing with the process of buying or owning or transferring cryptocurrency assets.

Consumer protection: Financial firms often treat consumers unfairly, leading to consumer retreat from formal finance, in favour of informal finance or gold or overseas assets. Regulators need to intervene in such cases.

With thousands of cryptocurrency assets, there is a risk for unsophisticated consumers making mistakes and then retreating from cryptocurrencies as a class. This would be an excessive retreat from an entire sector.

What is the way forward for Indian regulators?

Indian regulators can deploy a reasonably simple strategy, akin to that used with money management.

Money management approach: In money management, unsophisticated users must go to highly regulated mutual funds. Once a customer is above a certain minimum ticket size (e.g. Rs 500,000) they are presumed to have knowledge or the means to acquire the requisite knowledge.

Indian regulators could force Indian financial firms offering cryptocurrency trading to have a “market lot” of at least Rs 500,000. This would ensure that unsophisticated users, would not come into this field. Access to the field would be for sophisticated participants.

It is not the job of regulators to ensure that users make profits. It is not the job of regulators to prevent people from making losses.

A regulator’s job is to ensure that a market failure doesn’t happen.


Stable banking – On Banking reforms

Source: This post is based on the article “Stable banking” published in Business standard on 29th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Issues related to the banking sector.

Relevance: Corporatisation of banks and Banking reforms.

News: The RBI last week announced that it had accepted 21 of the 33 recommendations of the internal working group set up to examine the ownership guidelines and corporate structure in private sector banks.

One of the key recommendations made by the internal working group was that industrial houses be permitted to promote banks after necessary amendments to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949.

However, the RBI has decided not to open up the banking sector for industrial houses, at least for now.

What are the arguments in support of opening up the banking sector to industrial houses?

– International examples: There are very few countries that explicitly prohibit industrial houses from setting up banks.

India needs more banks to cater to the diverse needs of both businesses and consumers.

– To improve innovation: More competition in the banking sector will increase innovation and help improve the flow of credit.

– Poor performance of state-owned banks: The Indian banking sector is dominated by state-owned banks, which as a group are not in a position to cater to the needs of the Indian economy. This is due to a variety of issues, including recurrent asset quality problems.

What are the risks involved in opening up the banking sector for industrial houses?

First, the issue of connected lending, could lead to higher systemic risks,

Second, corporatisation of banks will lead to concentration of power.

Third, India has fairly limited regulatory capability to contain both the concentration of market power and risks

Hence, the experts are of the opinion that mixing industry and finance will negatively impact growth, public finances, and the future of the country itself.

What are the other recommendations that has been accepted by RBI?

Firstly, the RBI has accepted the proposal for allowing the promoter holding cap to be raised to 26% of the paid-up voting equity capital in banks. This will enable promoters to bring in more capital if required.

Secondly, the RBI has also accepted the recommendation of subjecting large non-bank financial companies (NBFCs) to tighter, bank-like regulation. This is critical as some NBFCs have gained significant size and are systemically important.

Thirdly, the minimum capital requirement for setting up banks has also been increased. The capital needed to set up a universal bank, for example, has been increased from Rs 500 crore to Rs 1,000 crore. A higher level of capital will certainly make the bank more stable.


The great inflation conundrum that policymakers must resolve

Source: This post is based on the article “The great inflation conundrum that policymakers must resolve” published in Livemint on 29th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests,

Relevance: Inflation and its impact on the economy

News: Economies around the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, India, and, most importantly, the US are witnessing an increase in price levels.

The increase of inflation in the U.S and other economies will have adverse effects worldwide because its spill over effects are far-reaching.

What has been the inflation trend across the countries?

While present inflationary trends have a common cause, namely, the rebound from the pandemic-induced slowdown, countries’ diverse responses to this novel crisis have led to varied economic performance.

U.S: Some experts think that the current inflationary pressure is a short-term episode triggered by supply-chain disruptions. While others see it as the result of the large spending under US President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

As a result of sustained inflation, Americans expect their financial situation to worsen in the near term, a level of pessimism not seen since the Great Recession of 2008-09.

Turkey: Turkey has an alarming annual inflation rate of 19.9%. Making matters worse, its president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan believes the right response is to reduce interest rates. However, reducing interest rates will not be a good policy choice for now.

Brazil: Brazil has recently joined the list of countries with double-digit price growth. Inept policymaking by the government has created fears that the economy is on the verge of a technical recession.

How India’s experience has been till now?

India, especially, faces a tricky inflation problem. Retail inflation is elevated but not at the level seen in many other economies.

But wholesale price inflation, that increased sharply to 12.5% year-on-year in October, has reached its highest levels since the late 1990s. This poses an unusual policy challenge.

Why India’s inflation issue is said to be tricky?

The wide divergence between wholesale and retail inflation is impacting the small manufacturers, the self-employed and workers.

Those who buy from the wholesale market and sell on the retail market are seeing a fall in their profits. They are cutting back production and this, in turn, is adversely affecting workers.

Here is the problem:

– If this divergence is allowed to persist, growth will likely decline as small businesses, already under strain, reduce output and cut employment and possibly shut down.

– But if the government tries to narrow the gap by letting retail inflation rise, consumers will be hit hard.

What is the way out for India?

The only reasonable way out is for policymakers to tackle wholesale price inflation directly.

This will require a combination of fiscal and monetary measures, like reducing the high tax on fuel and slashing all non-essential spending while also supporting those hit hardest by the pandemic.

It may also be time for the Reserve Bank of India to consider hiking interest rates.


A new public stocking policy centred on pulses, edible oils and vegetables is needed to manage unseasonal price hikes

Source: This post is based on the article “A new public stocking policy centred on pulses, edible oils and vegetables is needed to manage unseasonal price hikes” published in Indian Express on 29th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Food inflation and its negative consequences

Relevance: Food inflation, climate change

News: Unseasonal price spike in Tomatoes and onions

The cost of many vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage and other greens become relatively affordable during winter. This is because of increased supply, since planting of these crops is done during August-October, and they are all 50-to-100-day crops.

But in the current winter, all these vegetables are being sold at high prices.

What is the reason behind the deviations in prices?

Erratic rainfall: For instance, Maharashtra recorded excess rains in September and October, hitting production of both kharif onions and tomatoes. Whereas, in the south, due to excess rains in November standing kharif tomato crop suffered extensive damage.

What are the implications?

Impact on inflation and, inflation expectations among the public: Increasing inflation for vegetables at a time when there is a sharp increase in petrol, diesel, LPG and edible oil prices costs the poor more. Further, it becomes more difficult for the RBI to continue with its accommodative monetary policy stance.

Concerns over Long-term impact due to climate change: This is a second successive year when the south India has had heavy unseasonal rains in September-October, destroying the harvest-ready kharif crops.

What is the way forward?

First, need for a new public stocking policy away from rice and wheat to pulses, edible oils and vegetables that are more vulnerable to climate and global price risks.

Second, Vegetable storage can even be done in dehydrated/processed form such as potato flakes, onion paste and tomato puree.


The T-20 investment path

Source: This post is based on the article “The T-20 investment path” published in Indian Express on 29th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Relevance: To understand the changing nature of investment in economy.

News: Parliament is about to come up with a bill banning crypto-currencies, which are today the most sought after investment option for today’s generation.

Why do people prefer to invest in new options like crypto currency?

Bank deposits returns are quite low with respect to other options-2.75% in a savings account or 5% in a fixed deposit.

-Interestingly, banks today are discouraging deposits with low rates as this is the only way they can               manage their balance sheets.

The RBI’s reverse repo offers around 3% making bank’s own deposit with RBI sub-optimal.

Everyone wants instant gratification and more so because one could lose a third as taxes, which makes  such savings option un-tempting.

A new culture nudges us to borrow more for satiating our immediate needs rather then to save for future.

The willingness to take risk in high return instruments. This is a major change we see today. Making money on a currency that has no underlying asset like a metal or other currency and is traded on faith is unique.

Unicorns have delivered excellent results. So instead of investing in the Nifty companies, the new age start-ups is where people likes to invest in equity.


Why India’s coal habit won’t be easy to shake off

Source: This post is based on the article “Why India’s coal habit won’t be easy to shake off” published in Times of India on 29 November 2021.

Source: GS3- Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

Relevance: To understand India’s dependence on coal.

News: In the climate summit at Glasgow, India spoke of a “phase down” rather than a “phase out” for coal, and it was backed by China, South Africa and some other countries.

It shows India’s huge dependence on coal for its energy requirements and is likely to be so by 2030. A phase-out may hurt developing countries that rely heavily on coal more.

Why a “phase out” for coal is not possible in the case of India?

For now, 67% of India’s generated power comes from coal. By 2030, the share may drop, but coal will still remain the largest source of power under existing policies.

India’s energy demand is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world and unlike many other countries, it does not have large oil and natural gas reserves or nuclear power infrastructure to fulfill the excess demand created.

Six of the world’s 10 largest coal consumers are in the Asia-Pacific region, led by China and India. Still, India’s consumption is likely to rise by another quarter by the end of 2023.

Coal-fired power plants are hard to shut in developing countries because they are cost-effective and convenient.

What are the issues with coal based power?

This fossil fuel has a higher percentage of carbon compared with oil or natural gas, and when burnt, it produces more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than oil and gas.

-In 2010, CO2 emmission from coal crossed 1 billion tonnes mark and has seen a steady increase since then.  It was only last year that a slight dip was recorded.

What are the steps taken by India to ‘phase down’ coal based energy?

At the Glasgow summit, however, India committed to increasing the share of renewables in total energy use to 50% by 2030 in an attempt to reduce its dependence on coal.

Over the past 20 years, India has retired at least 38 coal power units generating 13.7GW and cancelled plans for another 401 units with a capacity of 577GW in the last decade.

What is the way forward?

Decommissioning some of the old coal fired plants early could save India in huge retrofitting costs.

Countries that have recorded large volumes of historical coal emissions and still have higher per capita emissions than others, are better placed to make the shift to low carbon economy.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Explained: How PASIPHAE will peep into the unknown regions of the sky

Source:  This post is based on the article Explained: How PASIPHAE will peep into the unknown regions of the skypublished in Indian Express on 28th Nov 2021.

What is the news?

Wide Area Linear Optical Polarimeter (WALOP), a vital instrument for the PASIPHAE Project, is being developed at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, India.

Note: WALOP is an instrument for PASIPHAE Project. It will be mounted on two small optical telescopes to detect polarised light signals emerging from the stars along high galactic latitudes.
What is the PASIPHAE Project?

Polar-Areas Stellar-Imaging in Polarisation High-Accuracy Experiment (PASIPHAE) is an international collaborative sky surveying project.

Aim: To study the polarisation in the light coming from millions of stars.

What are the key features of PASIPHAE Project?

The survey will use two high-tech optical polarimeters to observe the northern and southern skies, simultaneously.

This will help us focus on capturing starlight polarisation of very faint stars that are so far away that polarisation signals from there have not been systematically studied.The distances to these stars will be obtained from measurements of the GAIA satellite.

Note: GAIA is a European Space Agency astronomical observatory mission. Its aim is to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. 

By combining these data, astronomers will perform a maiden magnetic field tomography mapping of the interstellar medium of very large areas of the sky using a polarimeter instrument known as WALOP (Wide Area Linear Optical Polarimeter).

What is the significance of this Project?

Since its birth about 14 billion years ago, the universe has been constantly expanding, as evidenced by the presence of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation which fills the universe.

However, immediately after its birth, the universe went through a short inflationary phase during which it expanded at a very high rate, before it slowed down and reached the current rate. 

A definitive consequence of the inflationary phase is that a tiny fraction of the CMB radiation should have its imprints in the form of a specific kind of polarisation (known scientifically as B-mode signal).

All previous attempts to detect this signal met with failure, mainly due to the difficulty posed by our galaxy, the Milky Way, which emits enormous amounts of polarised radiation caused by large dust clouds that fill the galaxy.

Hence, PASIPHAE aims to remove these obstacles and enable astronomers to look for the elusive B-mode signal so that we can ultimately learn how things played out in the early universe.


Endemic Western Ghats flycatchers could lose third of their range due to climate change: Study

Source: This post is based on the article Western Ghats flycatchers could lose a third of their range due to climate change: Studypublished in Down To Earth on 28th Nov 2021.

What is the news?

Researchers have released a study titled ‘Impact of climate change on two high-altitude restricted and endemic flycatchers of the Western Ghats, India.

About the study

The study was conducted on two species endemic to the Western Ghats, namely:

Black and-orange Flycatcher (BOF), and

Nilgiri Flycatcher(NIF)

The study’s aim was to determine the current potential suitability and possible responses of the species to future climate change. This was done using the MaxEntalgorithm.

MaxEnt which stands for ‘maximum entropy modelling’ predicts species’ occurrences by finding the distribution that is most spread out, or closest to uniform while taking into account the limits of the environmental variables of known locations.

Findings: The study has found that these two species could suffer a loss of 31% and 46% of their range respectively by 2050 due to climate change.

About Black-and-orange Flycatcher(BOF) and Nilgiri Flycatcher(NIF)

Black-and-orange Flycatcher and Nilgiri Flycatcher are monotypic species endemic to the southern Western Ghats and confined to higher elevations. 

BOF prefers the understorey of shola forests, especially among the stunted evergreen forest patches in the sky islands of Western Ghats.

The NIF is also found above 600 m elevation but more frequently above 1200 m.

Moreover, about 75% of the currently suitable areas of both these species lie outside the protected area network in the Western Ghats.

Conservation status:

SpeciesIUCN Redlist
Nilgiri FlycatcherLC (Least Concerned)
Black and Orange FlycatcherLC (Least Concerned)

Satellite communications could improve quality of existing mobile networks

Source: This post is based on the articleSatellite communications could improve the quality of existing mobile networks published in Business Standard on 28th Nov 2021.

What is the news?

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reprimanded Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet Services for pre-selling and booking the satellite based internet services without having obtained the necessary licences in the country.

In this context, let us read about satellite communication.

What is Satellite Communications (SATCOM)?
Source: Business Today

Satellite communication refers to any communication link that involves the use of an artificial satellite in its propagation path. 

The commercial launch of SATCOM services for telecom industry is expected in India and companies such as Starlink, OneWeb and others are preparing for this. 

They have plans to send thousands of LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellites into space to provide global coverage.

What are the benefits of  Satellite Communication (SATCOM) for India?

Can reach inaccessible areas: Around 20-25% of India’s population resides in places which can’t be easily covered by terrestrial telecom and lack mobile and internet access. These areas could easily be reached through satcom.

Lesser Cost in reaching difficult terrain areas: The rollout of terrestrial telecom in difficult terrain can cost 15 times more than its rollout in more accessible areas. Moreover, such regions are often under-populated with low average revenue per user. Satcom could dramatically improve the backhaul for mobile service providers in these areas.

In satellite communication, backhaul is used to mean getting data to a point from which it can be distributed over a network.

Increased reliability and quality: Only about 35% of mobile base stations are fibre-connected. Satellite connectivity works better than microwave technology and is more feasible than fibre in difficult terrain. Hence, Satcom could increase the reliability and quality of existing mobile networks.

What are the concerns related to satellite communications launch?

Firstly, Satellite communication is expensive,

Secondly, setting up ground stations or gateways would require regulatory approvals in each country, and there could be inhibitions with conservative regulators.

Thirdly, there is no clear policy on Universal Licence (UL) specifically permitting international internet gateways.

Recommendations by TRAI

TRAI has given several recommendations related to SATCOM such as:

Reforming specifications to suit modern technologies and allowing satcom for cellular and Wi-Fi backhauls.

Permitting licences to obtain satellite bandwidth from foreign satellites and to lease satellite capacity from foreign satellites.

Technology neutrality in the use of all types of satellites for internet-of-things (IoT) applications.


Cooperative model best suited for India, says Shah

Source: This post is based on the article Cooperative model best suited for India, says Shahpublished in The Hindu on 28th Nov 2021.

What is the news?

The Union Home Minister has said that the cooperative model is the only model of economic development that will work to achieve an all-encompassing and all-inclusive development of a huge country like India.

He also said that one of the most successful cooperative models in India is Amul and based on this, a similar model needs to be adopted for organic farming where farmers are encouraged to adopt this practise.

What are Cooperatives?

According to the International Co-operative Alliance, cooperatives are people-centred enterprises owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realise their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations.

Must Read: Ministry of Cooperation
Amul Cooperative Model

Amul was founded in 1946. It is managed by the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF), a cooperative body that comprises 3.6 million milk producers of Gujarat.

It follows a professionally-run 3-tier model.

Tier 1: It collects milk from farmers at the district level

Tier 2:  It runs district cooperative unions that process and manufacture milk and milk products

Tier 3: then markets these products under the Amul brand through the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation.

Why is the Amul Model successful?

The success of Amul could be attributed to following important factors:

1) The farmers owned the dairy, 2) their elected representatives managed the village societies, and 3) the district union usually employs professionals to operate the dairy and manage its business.


Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited launch

Source: This post is based on the article “From deals to pacts, expansive India-Russia defence agenda next month” published in TOI on 28th November 2021.

What is the News?

Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited have announced the launch of the Model Retail Outlet Scheme and a Digital Customer Feedback Program called Darpan@petrolpump.

What is the aim of the Model Retail Outlet Scheme?

Aim: To enhance service standards and amenities across their Retail Outlets, which serve over 6 Crore consumers every day.

What are the key features of the Model Retail Outlet Scheme?

Firstly, the scheme involves an intense 5 Level evaluation process of retail outlets in the country on a set of core service and facility parameters as well as standard of customer amenities e.g., clean and hygienic washrooms, customer-centric innovative offerings etc. 

Secondly, the Retail Outlets have been divided into 4 categories based on sales performance, facilities offered and their percentage of digital transactions at the point of sale in keeping with the Digital India imperative.

Thirdly, Top performers will be awarded the “Uttam” awards by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and the “Rajya SarvPratham” awards by the respective Oil Companies. 

What is the purpose of the Digital customer feedback program?

It is a unique, real-time feedback program where customers will be encouraged to give their valuable feedback which will go a long way in enhancing service standards at the retail outlets


Ganga Connect concludes in London: High Level of Engagement & Tangible Outcomes

Source: This post is based on the articleGanga Connect concludes in London: High Level of Engagement & Tangible Outcomes published in PIB on 28th November 2021.

What is the News?

The Ganga Connect exhibition that has been running across the UK has successfully concluded in London.

What was the objective of the Ganga Connect Exhibition?

The primary objective of the Ganga Connect exhibition was to engage with the UK community and major support has been received from community members from all across the UK.

What are the key outcomes of the Ganga Connect Exhibition?

Impact Project using Arth Ganga Framework:  ‘Arth Ganga’ implies a sustainable development model with a focus on economic activities related to Ganga. Under this, an impact project will be launched to generate major economic activity of a select region along the banks of river Ganga. This initiative will be led by the City of Glasgow College and Strathclyde University.

Ganga Finance and Investments Forum: The forum has been formed by a number of investors and finance companies. The forum will develop state of the art financial instruments such as river bonds, blue bonds, impact and outcome bonds, credit enhancement and guarantee instruments to channelise investments from around the world into the Namami Gange Programme.

Technologies enrolled into the Environment Technology Verification(ETV) programme: ETV helps technology developers to gain credibility for their environmental technologies, thereby facilitating their market reach. Technologies are verified by qualified third parties that use test results to assess claims about the performance and produce a “Statement of Verification”. 

UK-India Scientific Collaboration: A number of scientists and research institutions have agreed to come together to form a knowledge pool for the exchange of scientific and technological ideas, leading to the development of collaborative research.

​​Global Youth for Ganga: It will be an association of youth from India and other countries on a common mission to exchange knowledge and expertise through advocacy for a clean Ganga, and all rivers at large. 


From deals to pacts, expansive India-Russia defence agenda next month

Source: This post is based on the articleFrom deals to pacts, expansive India-Russia defence agenda next month published in TOI on 28th November 2021.

What is the News?

The Russian President will come to India for the 21st annual summit between India and Russia. During this visit, many deals and agreements are expected to be signed.

What are the deals and agreements expected to be signed between India and Russia?

2+2 Meeting:  India’s Defence Minister and External affairs minister will hold the first 2+2 meeting with Russia. India has similar dialogues only with the US, Japan and Australia.

Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement(RELOS): It is expected to be signed during the visit. It is meant to be a reciprocal arrangement by which the two nations can use the military logistics facilities while on a visit to each other’s ports, bases, and military installations.

A 10-year military-technical agreement between India and Russia is likely to be signed. The agreement could help in the transfer of new-age technologies to India right up to 2031.

Defence Weapons Deals: India and Russia are expected to sign deals on Kalashnikov assault rifles and very-short range air defence missile systems (VSHORADS).  

S-400 Missiles: The meeting will also include talks on the fast-tracking of deliveries for the five S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile squadrons under the deal signed in 2018. 

Akula Class Submarine: India also wants to induct the Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine called Chakra-III.  Under the 2019 pact, Russia will deliver the Akula class submarine for a period of 10 years by 2025-2026.


MSDE launches pilot projects to revive and catalyze the traditional Namda Craft and upskill the Artisans and Weavers of Kashmir

Source: This post is based on the article MSDE launches pilot projects to revive and catalyze the traditional Namda Craft and upskill the Artisans and Weavers of Kashmirpublished in PIB on 28th Nov 2021.

What is the News?

Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has launched two projects— (i) Revival of Namda craft of Kashmir as a special pilot project under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) 3.0 and (ii) upskilling of artisans and weavers of Kashmir under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), component of PMKVY.

What is the objective of these projects?

Objective: To boost and preserve the traditional Namda craft of Kashmir and upskill the local weavers and artisans to enhance their productivity through RPL assessment and certification. 

What is Namda Craft?

Namda craft is widely thought to have originated in the 11th century during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar.

Made of: Namda craft is a rug made of sheep wool through a felting technique instead of the normal weaving process. 

Uses: Namda Craft is extensively used in Kashmir households for floor covering and mattresses.

Reasons for Decline of Namda Craft

Due to the low availability of raw materials, lack of skilled manpower and marketing techniques, the export of Namda craft has declined almost 100% between 1998 and 2008. 

Therefore, through these special projects under PMKVY, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has designed a short-term training curriculum to preserve this endangered craft. 

Significance of these projects

The projects will contribute towards preserving and reviving the rich heritage associated with Namda craft in Kashmir. This will also improve the access of existing artisans of Namda crafts cluster in Kashmir and will improve their prospects of employability.


 

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