9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – November 8th, 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

AUKUS could rock China’s boat in the Indo-Pacific

Source: This article has been developed based on “AUKUS could rock China’s boat in the Indo-Pacific” article, published in “The Hindu” on 8th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

News: Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS) security agreement is not a new development. Its root lies in the historical background of these countries.

What makes AUKUS alliance a traditional and natural alliance?

U.S., the U.K., and Australia coming together to create an alliance is not surprising at all, after looking at their historical relations and strategic interests.

The U.S. and the U.K. are in a special defence partnership for decades. The U.S. shared nuclear weapons technology with the U.K. after the American Manhattan Project 1940s and U.K. conducted its 1st nuclear weapon test in 1952 in the Montebello Islands in Australia.

Australia still regards the British monarch as the head of state. The governor-General of Australia exercises her powers (British Monarch) as per the constitution.

Also, U.S. and the U.K. fought the 2nd world war as allies, together with Australia. During the Second World War, three Japanese midget submarines launched an attack on the Sydney Harbour. Which established that Australia’s distant geographical location could not guarantee its security against a direct maritime threat. Now, China’s increasing naval capabilities are a threat of the same level for Australia.

The AUKUS joint statement clearly acknowledges that trilateral defence ties are decades old. The word further in the aim (to further joint capabilities and interoperability) of AUKUS also signifies that it aims to include other areas of existing defense cooperation i.e. cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies, apart from undersea capabilities.

This expansion of areas also provides an opportunity for AUKUS countries to engage the regional countries like New Zealand.

What are the other reasons behind the formation of AUKUS alliance?

China’s policy of deliberately targeting Australian exports backfired and resulted in Australia Joining the alliance.

China’s naval power is challenging the U.S. dominance in the Pacific. The U.S. has been looking for effective means to militarily counter China.

What are the challenges to AUKUS alliance?

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries are disunited over the emergence of AUKUS. A sudden increase in Australia’s naval capabilities may cause unease in the region.

Although Australia has assured ASEAN countries of its support for the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty as well as the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, China can exploit the concerns of AEAN countries. For example, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has criticised AUKUS as an “exclusive bloc” and “clique” that gravely undermines regional peace and security and reflects a Cold War mentality.

Will AUKUS reduce the significance of QUAD grouping?

The Quad and AUKUS are distinct, yet complementary. While Quad initiatives cover the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, AUKUS has a Pacific-centric orientation. AUKUS will strengthen the security of countries like Japan and Taiwan. Also, QUAD’s structure and mandate are not aligned to challenge the Chinese naval power.


How Those Critiquing Bureaucrats Get It Wrong

Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Role of civil services in a democracy

Source: This article is developed based on the article “How Those Critiquing Bureaucrats Get It Wrong” Published in the Times of India on 8th November 2021.

News: The article addresses the allegations leveled against the bureaucracy.

Lately, bureaucracy has been criticized by many newspapers. It has been called bloated, inefficient, self-serving, obstructive, corrupt, and non-responsive to people. This article addresses these allegations against bureaucracy one by one.

Why the allegations against bureaucracy are misplaced?

Bloated bureaucracy: According to ILO (International Labour Organization) estimates, the percentage of public sector officials in the total workforce is much higher in other countries compared to only 3.8% in India. It is about 18-20% of the total workforce in France and the UK, 12-13% in Germany and the US, and 28% in China. Further, out of the total number of public sector officials, only 2.8% belong to group A, who would take up senior-level, managerial, and leadership tasks.

Self-serving or autonomous: In reality, bureaucracy is subservient to the political executive. It is its duty to implement and respond to the policies, programs, and orders of central and state governments.

Inefficient bureaucracy: There are more than one reasons for that, i.e. outdated rules and regulations, political interference in postings, transfers, corrupt recruitment systems, etc. However, overburdening of bureaucracy is the most important reason. The number of public officials per 10,000 people in India is very low. For example, it is 85 government officials for 10,000 people in India, compared to 625 full-time equivalent in New York State.

Inefficient and corrupt: Political patronage is a reality in bureaucracy. Ministers and MLAs in state governments have a say in postings and transfers of civil servants. Entrepreneurial bureaucrats accept the system and establish the system of political patronage. In many states, a spoils system is being established where the MLAs and ministers get bureaucrats of their choice. It gives rise to both inefficiencies and corruption.


China challenge: India must stabilise Kashmir to counter Beijing’s multi-pronged strategy in the east

Source: This post is based on the article “China challenge: India must stabilise Kashmir to counter Beijing’s multi-pronged strategy in the east” published in TOI on 7th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Relevance: Countering the Chinese threat on Indian borders

News: Pentagon recently released a report stating that that China has been undertaking incremental and tactical actions to press its claims along the frontier with India. How should India respond to this emerging situation?

Must Read: China taking incremental action to press claims along frontier with India – Pentagon report
What is the way forward for India?

India must take the following steps to counter the Chinese threat:

Keeping the situation in Kashmir under control: India must keep the situation in Kashmir under control. Pakistan’s strategy is to keep India busy with China while it makes moves to destabilize peace in Kashmir.

Speed up normalisation in Kashmir: A division of security-military resources will only aid the China-Pakistan nexus. Hence, speeding up the pace of normalisation in Kashmir and restoring full political rights through elections must be treated as priority.

Elections in Kashmir: For elections to take place, the delimitation exercise must be completed soon.

Stability and peace in Kashmir will ensure that India will be able to divert its full attention to the China problem.

Partnering with US and QUAD: Dealing with China will require India to partner more closely with the US and Quad.


The long road to timely MGNREGA payments

Source: This post is based on the article “The long road to timely MGNREGA payments” published on 8th November 2021 in The Hindu

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

News: There remain delays in the stage where the Central government transfers wages to the workers’ accounts.

There are wage payment delays under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Eight crore MGNREGA wage transactions were pending on Diwali.

According to the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) findings, funds allocation for this financial year (FY) is 34% lower than the revised budget allocation of last year. And this year’s funds have been exhausted.

Also, there are pending arrears of ₹17,543 crore from previous years.

What are the reasons for the delayed payments of MGNREGA wages?

Insufficient funds: There is ample evidence by now, including an admission by the Ministry of Finance, that delays in wage payments are a consequence of insufficient funds.

Stage 2 delays: There are two stages in the wage payment process. a) In Stage 1, States must electronically send invoices, also called FTOs, to the Central government within eight days of completion of work at a worksite. b) In Stage 2, the Central government then processes the invoices and transfers wages directly to the workers’ accounts. Stage 2 is the Central government’s responsibility that must be completed within seven days after Stage 1.

LibTech India, recently analysed 18 lakh invoices across 10 States from April to September in order to investigate Stage 2 delays.it was found that Stage 2 was completed only for 29% of the invoices within the mandated seven-day period.

There was also a steady increase in Stage 2 delays from July to September indicating depletion of funds.

How has central government responded so far?

Instead of ensuring sufficient funds for timely payments, the Central government has repeatedly tried to modify the payment architecture as if payment delays are an outcome of technological hurdles.

What are some other concerns/issues?

Violation of act: As per the Act, if Stage 1 plus Stage 2 exceeds 15 days, then workers are entitled to a delay compensation for each day’s delay. However, in violation of the Act and the Supreme Court’s orders, no delay compensation for Stage 2 is even being calculated.

Caste-based segregation of Invoices: Earlier, the invoices were not segregated by caste. On March 2, the Central government issued a circular to segregate invoices based on the caste of workers (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and ‘Others’).

Caste-based segregation has also resulted in tensions at worksites. It had also resulted in a threefold increase of workload for computer operators at blocks.

However, after critical media reportage, the Central government, has revoked the caste-based segregation of wage payments.

Issues in Payments platform: Shifting to Aadhaar Payment Bridge Systems (APBS) from traditional account-based payments has complicated problems. Misdirected payments and payment failures, are being caused due to erroneous Aadhaar mapping with the payment software.

These problems are difficult to resolve even for bank and block officials resulting in increased hardships for workers.

What is the way forward?

At least ₹50,000 crore needs to be allocated urgently and the Central government, in compliance with Supreme Court orders, must automatically calculate and pay the workers their entitled delay compensation.

To secure the payment systems there is a need for an impartial, independent assessment and audit of the payment systems.


The country needs to get a handle on mental health

Source: This post is based on the article  “The country needs to get a handle on mental health” published in the Livemint on 8th November 2021.

Subject: GS2-Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Relevance: Understanding mental health.

Synopsis: As mental health issues are increasing in India, there is need to address social, institutional and governance issues to overcome this impending crisis.

Introduction
India celebrates 10th October as World Mental Health Day. Despite such campaigns, mental health remains under-invested and underappreciated in India.

What is the status of mental health issues in India?
The proportion of mental disorders to the total disease burden in India has doubled since 1990. Lancet 2020 study shows that over 197 million Indians suffered from mental disorders in 2017 ( 15% of India’s population).

UNICEF survey has found that only 41% of people between 15 and 24 years of age in India sought help for mental health issues (compared with 83% in the world).

Read more: Seeking a paradigm shift in mental health care

What is the impact of the Mental Health issue?

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that unaddressed mental health issues could cost India $1 trillion between 2012 and 2030.

What steps have been taken by the Indian government?
The Mental Healthcare Act was passed in 1982. It was further improved with Mental Health Act, 2017. Act mandated each state to set up its own mental health authority by 2019.

Read here: How can India address its mental healthcare problem?

What are the issues in the Indian system?

According to the WHO’s Mental Health Atlas for India, there were only 0.07 psychologists and 0.29 psychiatrists per 1 lakh people in 2017.

Psychologist needs a license which requires a 2 year MPhil degree from select institutions picked by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). Though national education policy abolished the need for this degree, RCI still insists on it.

What are the governance issues?
India specifies mental illness on WHO’s criteria. But neither RCI nor the health ministry has any clarity or consistency on this in their textbooks. Also, RCI is part of the Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment while mental health is under the health ministry.

Quota system: RCI, run by bureaucrats, rations out seats for MPhil programmes. This limits the number of trained psychologists that can be produced every year.

What is the way forward?

There is a need to adopt a multi-stakeholder approach, where inputs from all the perspectives are taken to evolve a comprehensive policy.


Strengthening vaccine trust

Source: This post is based on the article  “Strengthening vaccine trust” published in The Hindu on 8th November 2021.

Subject: GS2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Relevance: Boosting vaccine confidence amongst the masses.

News: Vaccination is key to returning to normalcy and in curbing the further spread of COVID-19. Now is the time to put extra efforts to boost vaccine confidence among the public.

After the devastating second wave, India has performed well in controlling the spread of Covid. Vaccination, together with face masks and social distancing, have helped India in return to normalcy.

What is India’s vaccination status?

About 78% of the adult population has received one dose and more than 36% has received both doses.

Why we need to make efforts to boost vaccine confidence?

Acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines in India is among the highest in the world. But even small pockets of unvaccinated individuals can threaten the success of the entire immunization campaign. This is especially true of highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID.

Moreover, the misinformation about vaccines can erode vaccine confidence. In 2017-2019, false rumors about the measles-rubella vaccine spread through social media led to vaccine refusals in some areas.

Also, as daily count of cases lessens, the enthusiasm to get vaccinated can subside.

Hence, considerable efforts need to be made to boost vaccine confidence.

What should be done to build confidence?

First, The government should provide authenticated information to help curb the rumors and mis-perceptions.

Second, Promoting vaccination as a default normative behaviour should be encouraged. The messenger used for this should belong to local areas and have public trust. For example a Sarpanch, Doctors and health workers.

What should be the way forward?

The Polio campaign with its tagline’ do Boond Zindagi ki’ was a very successful campaign for polio vaccination. The message was hopeful and appealed to Indians. A strong endorsement from celebrities and the engagement of community leaders propelled the message. The ongoing campaign to vaccinate India requires similar energy.

For instance: A similar campaign launched with support of marketing agency Wieden+Kennedy, Delhi,: “Teeka lagwaya, na?” is a step in the right direction.

Any health emergency requires a multidisciplinary approach. And so, creatives and public health experts must work closely together to bolster vaccine confidence.


A new jurisprudence for political prisoners

Source: This post is based on the article  “A new jurisprudence for political prisoners” published in The Hindu on 8th November 2021.

Subject: GS2 Indian Constitution – features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

Relevance: Understanding bail provisions and UAPA.

News: The stringent provisions of UAPA have denied bail to many accused. However, Thwaha Fasal’s judgment can now be invoked to release other political prisoners in the country who have been denied bail due to harshness or narrow interpretation of the law.

In Thwaha Fasal vs Union of India, the Court has deconstructed the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). This has great potential to check blatant misuse of UAPA.

What are the details of the case?

In this case, police arrested three accused. Some material containing radical literature was found and the provisions of the UAPA were invoked. These provisions were:

Section 38 of UAPA: deals with offence relating to membership of a terrorist organization.
Section 39 of UAPA: For support given to a terrorist organization.
Section 13 of UAPA for unlawful activities and Section 120B of the IPC on criminal conspiracy.

However, students accused that they were being labelled as terrorists based on their intellectual and ideological inclinations.

What is the SC’s view?

Supreme Court granted bail to both accused.

Offences under Section 38 or Section 39:  SC remarked that mere possession of documents or inclination to any ideology does not automatically make one a terrorist. Unless and until the association and the support were with intention of furthering the activities of a terrorist organisation offence under Section 38 or Section 39 is not made out.

How Thwaha Fasal vs Union of India resolves various issues with UAPA?

Presumption of guilt & Bail provisions: Instead of presumption of innocence, the UAPA holds presumption of guilt of the accused. This makes it hard to obtain bail.

Further, section 43D(5) of the UAPA says that bail should not be granted if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation is prima facie true. UAPA thus permits keeping a person in prison for up to 180 days, without even filing a charge sheet.

The Court, while granting bail to the accused, took a progressive step and refused to interpret this Section in a narrow and restrictive sense.

This was also a reversal of the previously held stand of SC in the Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali case. In Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, the Court said that by virtue of Section 43D(5) of UAPA, the burden is on the accused to show that the prosecution case is not prima facie true

This error has now been corrected by Supreme Court.

What other cases did SC rely upon to reach its verdict?

Court relied on a later three-judge Bench decision in Union of India vs K.A. Najeeb (2021).

– In K.A. Najeeb, the larger Bench said that even the stringent provisions under Section 43D(5) do not curtail the power of the constitutional court to grant bail on the ground of violation of fundamental rights.

This was further strengthened in the Delhi riots case as to where HC and SC had both granted bails on similar grounds.

Delhi riots case: Delhi HC granted bail to student activists who were charged under the UAPA for alleged connections with the Delhi riots. But in appeal, Supreme Court held that this judgement shall not be treated as a precedent.


India’s new rare diseases policy offers a lifeline to many

Source: This post is based on the article  “India’s new rare diseases policy offers a lifeline to many” published in Indian Express on 8th November 2021.

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

Relevance: Understanding rare diseases policy.

News: India needs a rare diseases policy to address the health issue of those for whom the cost of treatment is extremely high.

India requires a policy that is entirely focused on rare diseases, especially blood-threatening diseases, whose burden is huge in India.

Read more: All about Rare Diseases

What is the burden of haematological disease in India?

Every year, over 10,000 children are born with thalassemia and over 7,000 cases are diagnosed with aplastic anaemia. The per-year incidence of blood cancer is over 1,00,000.

Blood stem cell transplant plays an important role in the treatment of such disorders. But Indian stem cell donors only form about 0.04 per cent of the total listed unrelated donors globally.

What steps have been taken by India?

India has introduced the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021 (NPRD). It aims to cover 40 % of the population that is eligible under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

What role can the social sector play?

Multi-stakeholder approach: include stakeholders who can fill critical gaps. For example organisations like DKMS BMST Foundation India who have more than 50,000 donors.

Public engagement: By raising awareness, conducting webinars, donor registration events, and various other media campaigns.

Technological innovations: DKMS has developed HAP-E Search, which helps connect haematologists and oncologists to potential donors across the globe.

Thus, an approach that is based on public-private partnership and includes civil society can best handle the issues of rare diseases.


We need greater global cooperation

Source: This post is based on the article  “We need greater global cooperation” published in Indian Express on 8th November 2021.

Subject: GS2 Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: Understanding great power, competition, and collaboration.

Synopsis: The rivalry between USA and China is unfolding on a global stage. This is also creating a problem of consensus on global problems, which requires urgent attention.

Introduction

Secretary Antony Blinken outlined the US approach to China: “Competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.” While this is true for foreign policies of most countries, in the current context of US-China rivalry the scope of cooperation seems limited.

Why scope of the cooperation is limited?

Two factors that could have led to collaboration are under great strain.

Interdependence: Global economy and supply chains are highly interlinked. But American initiatives against China will target the Chinese economy. This will reduce global economic interdependence.

Global cooperation: It is needed to tackle issues like climate change etc. But, as pointed by Bruno Macaes – all issues of global cooperation have become the sites for global competition. For e.g. Instead of cooperating on climate change, countries are fighting to maintain technological superiority and economic supremacy.

What are the challenges facing global cooperation on climate change initiatives?

Technological innovations: Not sufficient to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Climate justice or common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) has not been accepted by the developed world as they only seek to preserve their developmental hegemony.

Credibility of the countries: While the US is talking of climate change, domestically it is taking contradictory actions by pushing for more hydrocarbon production.

This lack of global cooperation is also threatening the system of multilateral world order which was established after the collapse of USSR and bipolar world order.

What are the challenges to multilateralism?

The old multilateral system, dominated by the USA, was full of conflicts e.g. Gulf wars. Countries have not taken credible actions to make new multilateralism better as it is still dominated by USA.

Often there is no agreement or consensus on global rules ranging from COVID-19 vaccine to climate change or solving the problem of public goods.

Read more: Let us revitalize multilateralism: The future of the world is at stake

So the real challenge is not choosing between the USA and China. The real challenges between choosing to solve global problems or just preserving national supremacy. We do need a collaborative approach where world countries act as one to solve global problems.


GS Paper 3

The dirty secret of EV supply chains that can’t be overlooked

Source: This post is based on the article “The dirty secret of EV supply chains that can’t be overlooked” published on 8th November 2021 in Livemint

Syllabus: GS3 – Infrastructure: Issues related to energy sector.

News: Increasingly, electric vehicles are being seen as a major solution to the severe emissions problem. However, many tend to ignore the carbon emissions produced during the process of manufacturing these cars.

The transport sector is responsible for almost a quarter of direct carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fuel. EVs were supposed to be the answer to this.

But while cleaner cars may eventually solve the tailpipe-emission problem, they don’t address all the damage done to the environment while making them.

How manufacturing of EVs contribute to an increase in GHG emissions?

Firstly, compared with traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, greenhouse gases released while making battery-electric cars account for a higher portion of life-cycle emissions.

Every step of making a vehicle’s 20,000-30,000 parts, involves a few thousand tonnes of aluminium, steel and other materials, produces emissions.

With increase in sale of EV vehicles, material emissions will rise to over 60% by 2040 from 18% today.

Secondly, EVs uses 45% more of aluminium than traditional vehicles. Emissions from aluminium have started rising, too, because it’s energy-intensive to mine and produce.

Thirdly, Materials used for essential parts of the battery are even more carbon intensive. And as companies try to make batteries that can take cars further, they are using nickel, cobalt and manganese, which generate still more greenhouse gases.

Finally, the metals used for making the battery-electric ones make up 47% of the manufacturing carbon footprint, according to the Greenpeace report.

What is the way forward?

Policy and car-makers should start focusing to control the emission during the process of manufacturing the EV’s. it can be done by the following ways,

Mandatory Scope 3 disclosures by car manufacturing companies: Scope 3 disclosures is defined by Greenpeace as ‘indirect emissions that are a result of an organization’s operations, but are not owned or controlled by the company‘.

Emission control strategies: These should include battery recycling, prioritizing types that use less carbon-intensive materials, or emission caps on the battery and electric vehicle manufacturing process.

Supply chain decarbonization: Small companies like Nano One Materials Corp and Euro Manganese Inc are thinking about how to decarbonize supply chains for battery parts. Other, bigger players need to catch on, too.


Pledges at Glasgow could change the global distribution of power

Source: This post is based on the article “Pledges at Glasgow could change the global distribution of power” published on 8th November 2021 in Livemint

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to climate change and its impact.

News: India’s commitments at the Glasgow COP-26 meeting came at a substantial cost to its medium-term economic prospects, while other developed countries such as EU, US and China will have an advantage.

How new commitments will cost India its medium-term economic prospects?

New commitments related to energy transition mean the challenge of raising the living standards of hundreds of millions of our people has become even more difficult.

It is uncertain if high economic growth at the scale required to create the 20 million jobs, we need every year is possible within the parameters of India’s carbon commitments.

Rapid decarbonization is likely to cause a supply shock, raise prices and raise public debt. It will create winners and losers, and the latter could push back, as they have done against globalization.

Must Read: India’s new climate targets at COP26 – Explained, pointwise
How EU, US and China will benefit from the CoP-26 commitments?

China: The transition from fossil fuels to modern renewables, for instance, presents China with a massive economic opportunity, given its dominance in solar, battery and nuclear power.

Europe: it can protect its domestic industries from foreign competition by imposing green standards and tariffs.

US: Given its advanced research and development ecosystem, the US is sure to derive economic benefits from the emerging global market for green technology.

Why India can neither rely on the rich countries’ promises nor on climate financing?

First, the rich countries have failed to make covid vaccines available to billions of people in need of them today. So, they can hardly be relied upon to help future generations.

Second, the talk of $1 trillion in green financing and assistance from rich countries, cannot be believed given their past records. For instance, the $100 billion per year promised by rich countries at Paris six years ago has remained as an unfulfilled goal till now.

Why it has become more difficult to address common global challenges?

It is because the political structure of the world is not optimized to formulate solutions for humankind as a whole.

Our failure to adopt coherent global approaches to a growing number of important issues, such as international terrorism, public health, environment, etc is in large part due to political structures.

What is they way forward?

There is a need to evolve a stable balance of power that creates a global order that permits global solutions for global problems.

Nation states need to rethink political structures. Within countries, mechanisms of representative democracy and bureaucratic administration need overhauling.


Agritech startups have great potential in India

Source: This post is based on the article “Agritech startups have great potential in India” published on 8th November 2021 in Indian Express.

Syllabus: GS3 – Use of Technology in Agri sector.

News: The Agritech startup ecosystem can be the next-generation technology revolution in the agri-food sector.

Agritech Startups are raising large sums, despite many of them currently making losses. This is because they disrupt the traditional system of doing business and increase efficiency.

India witnessed an increase in funding from $619 million in H1 2020 to $2 billion in H1 2021.

Many of them use artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), internet of things (IoT), etc, to unlock the potential of big data for greater resource use efficiency, transparency and inclusiveness.

Currently, it is estimated that there are about 600 to 700 Agritech startups in India operating at different levels of agri-value chains.

How Agritech startups are empowering farmers?

Ninjacart, Dehaat, and Crofarm (Otipy) are a few of the many startups that are redefining the agri-food marketplace.

Ninjacart & Crofarm (Otipy): it sources fresh produce from farms and supplies to retailers, restaurants, grocery and kirana stores, and small businesses.

Dehaat: it is an online marketplace providing all the agricultural products and services to farmers.

These startups have had a demonstrated impact.

For instance, Ninjacart reduced wastage to 4% compared to up to 25% in traditional chains through demand-driven harvest schedule.

Logistics optimisation enabled delivery in less than 12 hours at one-third the cost in traditional chains.

Farmers’ net incomes are reported to have increased by 20%.

Dehaat has enabled up to 50% increase in farmers’ income as a result of savings in input costs, increased farm productivity, and better price discovery.

Agritech startups-led e-commerce platforms have the potential to steer the shift from government-controlled agricultural markets towards more demand-driven digital markets.

These startup network is able to leverage the bigger front-end players who demand bulk quality produce and have challenges in directly linking with farmers.

What are the associated challenges?

Sustainability and scalability: There are likely to be a lot of changes in Agritech startups in the future. Many ventures are falling out while others are consolidating through mergers and acquisitions. In India, the biggest challenge is to sustain and scale up the farmer outreach.

Underutilised potential: An Ernst & Young 2020 study pegs the Indian Agritech market potential at $24 billion by 2025, of which only 1% has been captured so far.

What is the way forward?

The startup-Farmer Producer Organisation partnership can be strengthened by incentivising the FPOs under the central government’s programme to add 10,000 new FPOs by 2024.

Working together: The network of Agritech startups, incubators, accelerators and investors need to work closely with policymakers, academia, think tanks, and government departments to understand the dynamics of the agri-food sector better. This will also enable the government and policymakers to leverage the existing Agritech pool and co-create solutions for shared value.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

The Sun lights up aurorae in high-latitude countries

Source: This post is based on the article “The Sun lights up aurorae in high-latitude countries” published in “The Hindu” on 8th November 2021.

What is the News?

Scientists had predicted that a solar flare will arrive at the Earth in the early hours of November 4.The magnitude of this flare would be such as to trigger spectacular displays of aurora (the coloured bands of light seen in the North and South poles) in the high-latitude and polar regions. This prediction seems to have come true as people from several countries were tweeting pictures of aurorae.

Click Here to Read about Auroras

What are Sunspots?

Sunspots: These are areas that appear dark on the surface of the Sun because they are cooler than other parts of the Sun’s surface. 

Why are sunspots relatively cool? It’s because they form in areas where magnetic fields are particularly strong. These magnetic fields are so strong that they keep some of the heat within the Sun from reaching the surface.

What are Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejection (CME)?

The magnetic field lines near sunspots often tangle, cross, and reorganize. This can cause a sudden explosion of energy called a solar flare.

Sometimes solar flares also cause hot plasma to be ejected from the Sun, causing a solar storm, and this is called Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). Coronal Mass Ejections can harbour energies exceeding that of a billion atomic bombs.

What are the effects of Solar Activity on Earth?

Auroras: When charged particles from a CME reach areas near Earth, they can trigger intense lights in the sky, called auroras. 

Affects Electronics and Satellites: The energy, radiation and high-energy particles emitted by the flares can affect Earth-bound objects and life on Earth – it can affect the electronics within satellites and affect astronauts. 

Failure of Power Grids: Very powerful Earth-directed coronal mass ejections can cause the failure of power grids and affect oil pipelines and deep-sea cables.


Green lending: World’s biggest banks’ latest initiative at COP26 is a step backwards

What is the News?

At the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, around 450 financial firms have become members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero(GFANZ).

What is Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero(GFANZ)?

GFANZ was launched in April 2021 by UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance and UK Prime Minister’s Finance Adviser for COP26 in partnership with the Race to Zero campaign.

Purpose: To provide a forum for leading financial institutions to accelerate the transition to a net-zero global economy. 

Members: Its members currently include over 450 financial firms across 45 countries responsible for assets of over $130 trillion.

Annual Reporting: The financial firms have pledged to report annually on the carbon emissions linked to the projects they lend to.

What is the Race to Zero campaign?

Race to Zero is the UN-backed global campaign rallying non-state actors – including companies, cities, regions, financial and educational institutions – to take rigorous and immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030. 

Source: This post is based on the articleGreen lending: World’s biggest banks’ latest initiative at COP26 is a step backwardspublished in “Down To Earth” on 8th November 2021.


India, France agree to expand partnership in defence, security

What is the News?

India and France held a strategic dialogue meeting. It was co-chaired by India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) and the Diplomatic Advisor to the French President.

What are the key highlights of the meeting?

Strengthen Defence and Security Partnership: India and France have agreed to strengthen defence and security partnership by enhancing intelligence and information sharing.

Indo-Pacific Region: France stressed its continuing commitment to the Indo-Pacific region as a resident power and partnership with India as a “major pillar” of its strategy for the region.

Note: A resident power is one that does not own territory or have a territorial presence in a particular region of the world, but is nevertheless a force to be reckoned with in the international politics of that region.

Significance of India-France meeting:

The assertion by France to deepen cooperation with India in the Indo-Pacific came nearly two months after the AUKUS alliance by Australia, the UK, and the US.

Under the alliance, Australia will get technology from the US and UK to build nuclear-powered submarines.

The alliance is also seen as an effort to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

However, France reacted angrily to the formation of the new alliance as it resulted in France effectively losing a multi-billion dollar deal to build 12 conventional submarines for Australia. 

Source: This post is based on the article India, France agree to expand partnership in defence, security published in “Indian Express” on 8th November 2021.


Reservation Within quota

What is the News?

The Madras high court has declared Tamil Nadu legislation unconstitutional, which granted 10.5% internal reservation to the Vanniyar community within an existing 20% quota for the most backward classes (MBC) in the state.

Background: 

The Tamil Nadu Assembly had passed a special Act that divided the existing 20% quota for the ‘Most Backward Classes/Denotified Communities’ category into three parts. 

Among them, the largest share of 10.5% was specified as exclusive to the Vanniyar community and its various sub-castes. 

Why has the Madras HC then struck down the internal reservation for Vanniyar caste in Tamil Nadu?

The Act has been struck down due to following reasons:

Firstly, the Act had been passed by the State without any quantifiable data on population, socio-educational status, and representation of the backward classes in the services.

Secondly, the government acted hastily, as it had earlier appointed a commission under a retired High Court judge to compile quantifiable data on all castes so that the State could justify its 69% total reservation. But it did not wait for its report. 

Thirdly, the Act was unconstitutional, mainly on the ground that the Assembly had no legislative competence to pass the law on the date of the enactment. This was because the 102nd Amendment to the Constitution empowered the President to notify the backward classes list for each State was in force.

Note: Later, the Government of India brought the 105th Amendment to make it explicit that the States could make changes in the Backward class lists.

Fourthly, separate reservations for one caste amounted to discrimination against all the other castes in the same MBC category.

Source: This post is based on the article Reservation on quota published in “The Hindu” on 8th November 2021.


India moves to patent the over century-old logos of Darjeeling’s ‘Toy Train’

What is the News?

India has registered the logos of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) as its intellectual property. This means that the use of these logos anywhere in the world will now require written permission from India and the payment of a fee.

About Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the DHR or the Toy Train, is a narrow-gauge railway built between 1879 and 1881.

Route: The railway runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in West Bengal. 

UNESCO World Heritage Site: In 1999. UNESCO declared the DHR a World Heritage Site. Two more railway lines (Nilgiri and Kalka-Shimla) were later added and the site became known as one of the mountain railways of India.

Source: This post is based on the article “India moves to patent the over century-old logos of Darjeeling’s Toy Train” published in “Indian Express” on 8th November 2021.


Explained: PM’s climate promises, and how far India is on track to meet them

What is the News?

At the UN climate conference in Glasgow, the Prime Minister raised India’s existing climate targets and also announced a few new targets. 

What are the targets announced by the PM, and what is its status?

First Target: India will reach its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030.

Is this target achievable? Non-fossil fuels include not just renewables like solar or wind but also nuclear and hydro. According to the 2020 Central Electricity Authority’s report, India’s non-fossil installed capacity in 2019 was 134 GW and is projected to reach 817 GW by 2030.

Second Target: India will meet 50 percent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.

Is this target achievable?  By November 2020, the share of renewables, including large hydropower, in total installed electrical capacity had already crossed 36%. Therefore, taking this target to 50% is not difficult.

Third Target– India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now on till 2030. This means that India would bend its business-as-usual emissions trajectory to ensure at least 1 billion tonnes of emissions are saved.

Fourth Target: By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by less than 45 percent.

Is this target achievable? According to India’s third Biennial Update Report, by 2016, the emissions’ intensity of GDP had fallen by 24% compared to 2005. (This estimate excludes agriculture sector emissions).

Fifth Target: By the year 2070, India will achieve the target of Net Zero. This means that come 2070, India will not add a single particle of carbon into the atmosphere (or rather, it will capture and store all the particles it releases).

Source: This post is based on the article Explained: PM’s climate promises, and how far India is on track to meet thempublished in Indian Express on 8th November 2021.


Department of Fisheries organises a webinar on “Promotion of Inland Saline Water Aquaculture”

What is the News?

The Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying has organized a webinar on “Promotion of Inland Saline Water Aquaculture”.

What is Inland Saline Water Aquaculture?

Inland saline aquaculture is the farming or culture of aquatic animals and plants using inland (i.e. non-coastal) sources of saline groundwater rather than the more common coastal aquaculture methods. 

Benefits of Inland saline aquaculture 

Firstly, it plays an important role in saline affected soils with low productivity as it can be used to convert the waste land into wealth land.

Secondly, it can be used to reduce the amount of salt in underground water tables leading to an improvement in the surrounding land usage for agriculture.

Initiatives to Promote Inland saline aquaculture 

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana has a component for the development of saline water aquaculture.

The component aims to promote aquaculture in saline/alkaline areas with the help of technology infusion, training and capacity building of farmers, provision of market linkages, availability of quality seed and feed and good aquaculture practices.

Potential of Inland Saline Aquaculture in India

Inland Saline Aquaculture has a huge potential in saline waters available in the northern States of Haryana, Panjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. 

Challenges in Inland Saline Aquaculture

Infrastructure for sustainable development of saline aquaculture

Lack of laboratory & technology support

Lack of buyers on demand among others.

Source: This post is based on the articleDepartment of Fisheries organises a webinar on “Promotion of Inland Saline Water Aquaculture” published in “PIB” on 8th November 2021.


Explained: Life, work and legend of Adi Shankara, Advaita master, philosopher nonpareil

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has inaugurated a 12-foot statue of Adi Shankaracharya at Kedarnath, Uttarakhand. This was because it is believed that at this place Adi Shankaracharya has attained samadhi at the age of 32 in the ninth century.

Who is Adi Shankaracharya?

Adi Guru Shankaracharya was an 8th-century Indian spiritual leader and philosopher. He is said to have been born in Kaladi village on the bank of the Periyar, the largest river in Kerala.

Philosophy

Advaita Vedanta: Adi Shankaracharya propounded the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta which articulates a philosophical position of radical non dualism, a revisionary worldview which it derived from the ancient Upanishadic texts. 

According to the philosophy, the whole world is a manifestation of the one and only God (brahman) and all diversity we see is delusion (maya) as the result of ignorance (advidya). 

Established Mathas: Shankaracharya established Mathas in Sringeri, Dwaraka, Puri, and Joshimath for the spread of Advaita Vedanta.

Major Works of Adi Shankaracharya

He authored 116 works. Among them, the celebrated commentaries (bhashyas) are on Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra, and the Gita.His famous poetic works include  Maneesha Panchakam and Saundaryalahiri.

He authored the Vivekachudamani. It spells out the qualifications required in a student of Vedanta.

He also composed the Kanakadhara Stotram, following which there was a rain of golden amlas which brought prosperity to the household.

Further, he also composed texts like Shankara Smrithi which seeks to establish the social supremacy of Nambuthiri Brahmins.

Source:  This post is based on the articleExplained: Life, work and legend of Adi Shankara, Advaita master, philosopher nonpareilpublished in “Indian Express” on 5th November 2021.


RBI publishes ‘Statement of Commitment to Support Greening India’s Financial System

What is the News?

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has published its Statement of Commitment to Support NGFS [Network for Greening the Financial System] declaration.The declaration aims to contribute to the global response required to meet the climate goals.

What is NGFS?

NGFS was launched at the Paris One Planet Summit on December 12, 2017.

Purpose: It is a group of central banks and supervisors willing to share best practices and contribute to the development of environment and climate risk management in the financial sector. 

It also seeks to mobilise mainstream finance to support the transition towards a sustainable economy.

Members: It includes central banks and financial supervisors.

Secretariat: It is hosted by the Banque de France

When did RBI join NGFS?

Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has joined the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) as a Member in April,2021.

RBI expects to benefit from the membership of NGFS by learning from and contributing to global efforts on Green Finance which has assumed significance in the context of climate change.

Source: This post is based on the articleRBI publishes ‘Statement of Commitment to Support Greening India’s Financial Systempublished in “AIR” on 6th November 2021.


 

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