9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 12th, 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

The next step is a constitutional right to health

Source: This post is based on the article “The next step is a constitutional right to health” published in The Hindu on 12th October 2021.

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

Relevance: Understanding the importance of providing the Right to Health to all.

Synopsis: Presently, any investment in health care has failed to translate into a sense of security and sanctuary for many Indians. So, the logical next step would be providing the fundamental Right to Health for all.

Introduction

The present pandemic, not only shows the deficiencies in our health care, but also devastated it further. So, there is a need to provide citizens with a sense of security for their health. This can be done by providing the fundamental Right to Health to the people.

Why there is a need for a constitutional “Right to Health for all”?

The pandemic has exposed many cracks in our healthcare system. There are various sections in our society which face the brunt of these cracks.

Farmers: The majority of small and landless farmers fell into the debt trap and bondage when they have to pay for their medical bills from their limited earning. Various employment schemes do not deliver what they ought to be. Implementation of the Right to Health will provide them quality health care which they deserve to be.

Women: They are in a disadvantaged position because of patriarchal expectations, socio-economic conditions and other societal norms. Right to Health will ensure a guarantee to provide services to women whenever required.

Children: Children who belong to poor families often opt out of school because of their financial conditions. They tend to work in hazardous industries like mines, factories etc. The constitutional guarantee of the Right to Health will help them to prevail medical services without adding any extra financial cost.

What are the benefits of providing the “Right to Health for all”?

It will provide health security and guarantee the well-being of our people.

The constitutional “Right to Health,” will have an impact on financial saving, investment, and lead to job creation. This will also help in the realization of the vision of Ayushman Bharat and act as a leap for the economic and development progress of the nation.

What should India do?

The world has understood the importance of policy in the management of health. India, like in Right to Education, should adopt a rights-based approach and make the right to health a fundamental right.


How Delhi came to see Europe as a valuable strategic partner

Source: This post is based on the article “How Delhi came to see Europe as a valuable strategic partner” published in “Indian Express” on 12th Oct 2021. 

Syllabus: GS-2-International Relations: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. 

Relevance: To understand the India-Europe partnership.

Synopsis: The smaller European states and EU as a block has much to offer to India and vice versa, especially in the context of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy. 

Introduction 

EU is considered as one of the most trusted partners, and therefore it would contribute to a sound and stable partnership. 

The recent bilateral meetings with Denmark and other smaller European countries is a reminder that smaller countries of Europe have much to offer in India’s economic, technological, and social transformation. 

Read more: EU unveils Indo-Pacific strategy
What one can expect from the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy?

EU Strategy can work along with the Quad in Indo-Pacific. Further, it can step up security cooperation with a number of Asian partners, including India.

Apart from that, it can have a much greater impact on the region in a wider range of areas like trade and investment, green partnerships, quality infrastructure, digital partnerships etc. 

What are the prospects of India-Europe relations now? 

India’s strategy is to “cultivate Europe” was not the top priority in the past. But now India is now focussing on developing a strong partnership with the EU and engage all its 27 members. 

As the deepening confrontation between the US and China begins to squeeze South East Asia, Europe is widely seen as widening the strategic options for the Indo-Pacific region. 

What does Europe offer to India? 

EU outlined a strategy for India in 2018 to focus on four themes — sustainable economic modernisation, promotion of a rules-based order, foreign policy coordination, and security cooperation. 

EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy seeks to promote an open and rules-based regional security architecture, including secure sea lines of communication.

EU and India agreed to resume free trade talks and develop a new connectivity partnership that would widen options for the world beyond the Belt and Road Initiative. 

What are the advantages for India if engaged with the EU? 

It could help strengthen the military balance and contribute to regional security in multiple other ways. 

It would also be a valuable complement to India’s Quad coalition with Australia, Japan and the United States. 

Europe — with greater economic weight, technological strength, and normative power — can boost India’s own quest for a multipolar world and a rebalanced Indo-Pacific. 


GS Paper 3

Explained: Why launch of Indian Space Association is significant

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Why launch of Indian Space Association is significant” published in The Indian Express on 12th Oct 2021 and PM to launch Indian Space Association on 11th October” & “PM launches Indian Space Association” published in PIB on 9th and 11th Oct 2021 respectively.

Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology, Awareness in the field of space.

Relevance: Developing India’s space sector

Synopsis: Indian Space Association has been launched by the Prime Minister of India. The industry association will act as an independent and “single-window” agency for enabling the opening up of the space sector to start-ups and the private sector.

What is ISpA?

ISpA is the Premier Industry Association of Space and Satellite companies, which aspires to be the collective voice of the Indian Space industry.

It will undertake policy advocacy and engage with all stakeholders in the Indian Space domain, including the Government and its agencies.

Echoing with the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, ISpA will help in making India self-reliant, technologically advanced and a leading player in the space arena.

ISpA is represented by leading home grown and global corporations with advanced capabilities in space and satellite technologies. Its founding members include Larson & Toubro, Nelco (Tata Group), OneWeb, Bharti Airtel, Mapmyindia, Walchandnagar Industries and Ananth Technology Limited. Other core members include Godrej, Hughes India, Azista-BST Aerospace Private Limited, BEL, Centum Electronics, Maxar India.

What is the significance of establishment of ISpA?

Space exploration: Ever since the race to reach the space and then land on the Moon began between the US and the erstwhile USSR, governments across the world have poured millions of dollars towards exploration of the edges of the space. With time, governments and government agencies collaborated to explore newer planets and galaxies in search of life forms that exist outside Earth.

In the recent past, private sector companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have taken the lead in spaceflight, promising to start tourist flights to space.

Though India too has made significant strides in space exploration over time, state-run ISRO has been at the centre and front of this progress. Several private sector companies, however, have shown an interest in India’s space domain, with space-based communication networks coming to the fore.

Satellite internet: In India, the space-based communications network is being seen as the next frontier to provide high-speed and affordable Internet connectivity to inaccessible, hilly and remote areas. This includes SpaceX’s StarLink, Sunil Bharti Mittal’s OneWeb, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, US satellite maker Hughes Communications, etc.

What is the aim of the ISpA?

One of the main goals of the organisation is to supplement the government’s efforts towards making India a global leader in commercial space-based missions. Of late, ISRO’s rockets have been carrying the payload and communication satellites of various countries; now, private players will also look to enter this space with the new organisation.

ISpA will also work towards building global linkages for the Indian space industry to bring in critical technology and investments into the country to create more high skill jobs.

ISpA will be focussed on capacity building and creation of space hubs as well as incubators in the country for private space start-ups. It will work in tandem with NSIL, a central public sector enterprise under the Department of Space (DOS), which functions as the commercial arm for ISRO and secures launch contracts from customer satellites.

The association will also work with IN-SPACe, which acts as a regulator facilitating the use of government facilities to private companies.


Tackling the climate crisis

Source: This post is based on the article “Tackling the climate crisis” published in The Hindu on 12th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: Climate risk adaptation and mitigation

Synopsis: India is doing its part towards climate risk mitigation, but it also needs to develop adaptation strategies and look towards building resilience.

Introduction

IPCC’s 6th assessment report has warned India against more intense heat waves, heavy monsoons and rise in weather extremes in the future. Hence, the pressure to speed up mitigation and adaptation is at an all-time high.

What steps is India taking towards fulfilling its mitigation commitments?

India is doing well in achieving its mitigation commitments of reducing emission intensity and enhancing renewable capacity.

India is targeting 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and it has launched mega solar and green hydrogen missions.

The Shoonya programme by NITI Aayog, which aims to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles, is yet another effort towards adoption of clean technologies.

Note: Adaptation can be understood as the process of adjusting to the current and future effects of climate change. Mitigation means making the impacts of climate change less severe by preventing or reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere

With increasing climate risks, India needs to develop adaptation strategies and build resilience.

What steps should India take to develop adaptation strategies and build resilience?

India has some dedicated initiatives towards adaptation, such as the National Action Plan on Climate Change and the National Adaptation Fund. However, a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience actions is needed to save hard-earned developmental gains and adjust to new climate conditions.

India can take the following steps:

Improved early warning systems: It can be more prepared for climate change with high-quality meteorological data. With improved early warning systems and forecasting, we can tackle the crisis better. Premier research institutes can be roped in to develop regional climate projections
for robust risk assessments.

Markets for environmentally-friendly products: For sustainable production systems, it is necessary to develop well-functioning markets for environmentally friendly products and disseminate them for the desired behavioural change.

Private sector participation: It is important to encourage private sector participation for investment in adaptation technologies and for designing and implementing innovative climate services and solutions.

Utilizing traditional knowledge: We need to protect mangroves and forests to address climate-related risks by blending traditional knowledge with scientific evidence and encourage local and non-state actors to actively participate.

Major social protection schemes must be climate-proofed. India has an opportunity to create resilient infrastructural assets, diversify the economy and enhance the adaptive capacity of rural households.

Effective feedback mechanism: For continuous monitoring and evaluation, effective feedback mechanisms must be developed for mid-course correction. Periodic fine-tuning of State Action Plans on Climate Change is crucial.

What is the way forward?

Proactive and timely need-based adaptation is important. Without it, there will be a huge fiscal burden in the future. A more collaborative approach towards climate change adaptation is crucial. Next-generation reforms will promote new business and climate service opportunities across several sectors and thus create a sustainable economy.


The great hubris that lay behind the Great Moderation and Reset

Source: This post is based on the article “The great hubris that lay behind the Great Moderation and Reset” published in “Live Mint” on 12th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 -Issues related to Energy sector and its cascading effects on Indian Economy

Relevance: Green growth and the resulting energy crisis

Synopsis: Faulty assumptions of rosy economic scenarios have resulted in an energy crisis.

Introduction

Post-covid, there has been talk of a great reset. It has many elements. Important among them is green growth, an effort to decarbonize the world and attain net zero carbon dioxide emissions.

For instance, The International Energy Agency (IEA), in a road-map published in May 2021, called to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2050.

Unfortunately, it will negatively impact oil-importing economies. Because, the Great Reset has resulted in global fuel shortages and soaring energy prices.

How the ‘Great reset’ is impacting global fossil fuel supply ?

European governments are now desperate to bring down natural gas and coal at any cost. The EU’s own climate policy requires the purchase of carbon permits, whose prices have doubled since the start of the year, heaping more pressure on the cost to consumers.

Pension funds in Norway dropped hydrocarbon fuel companies from their portfolios.

In case of China, strict probe over entire country had deterred coal producers from overproduction to avoid a potential follow-on anti-corruption investigation. Further China enacted a new criminal law amendment that criminalizes those individuals held accountable for mining-related accidents. Ahead of the CCP’s 100th anniversary this year, a large number of coal mines across China were shut down to avoid deadly accidents.

Non-OPEC oil supply has fallen by over 2 mm barrels per day from its 2019 peak and [their] oil supply growth will turn negative as we progress through this decade. This will result in a structural gap between supply and demand.

How rising price of fossil fuel will impact India?

Inflationary effect and its impact on monetary policy: Recent rise in fuel price has made the Reserve Bank of India think hard about withdrawing its accommodative stance. Higher oil prices are both inflationary and contractionary.

Demand supply mismatch: India faces the issues of coal shortage and power generation has come under stress.

What should India do?

Oil producing countries like Mexico routinely hedge their price risk with derivatives. India should also adopt the same practice.

Our governance structures and procedures must change to make this happen. If oil prices keep climbing in the winter months, two things must happen.

The appropriateness of our current exchange-rate policies must be re-examined.

And India’s fiscal and monetary policy stances must be re-calibrated for the former to address growth and the latter, overheating.

Note: An overheating economy is an economy that is expanding at an unsustainable rate.


Taxing multinationals

Source: This post is based on the article “Taxing multinationals” published in “Business Standard” on 12th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance: Global agreement on taxing multinational corporations.

Synopsis: Global agreement on taxing multinational corporations and way forward for India

Introduction

After several years of negotiations, 136 countries, representing over 90 per cent of global output, finalised the agreement last week to tax multinational corporations. Since almost all members of the OECD’s framework on base erosion and profit shifting have agreed, tax avoidance for multinational corporations would become difficult once it’s implemented.

The two-pillar tax solution will now be presented before the finance ministers of the G20 countries this week and later at the G20 leaders’ summit.

Must Read: Global Minimum Corporate Tax – Explained, pointwise

What is the need for such Agreement?

A global agreement on taxing multinational corporations had become necessary because of a variety of reasons.

Increasing Tax evasion: With the increasing dominance of digital technology and intellectual property, it became easier for large corporations to avoid taxes in their home countries or where the income was being generated by shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions. The US has said it will end the race to the bottom in terms of corporate taxation

Need for increased fiscal resources: The agreement was also being driven by the need to raise more revenue to finance the increasing demands on national budgets in several countries, particularly after Covid-19.

To ease friction between countries: The deal is expected to provide stability to the international tax system and reduce overall friction.

What is the way forward for India?

Through equalisation levy India has collected about Rs 1,600 crore in the current fiscal year so far. India will need to withdraw such taxes once the agreement is implemented.

Given the potential for digital services in the country, it is important to make sure that the government doesn’t lose out on revenue, and that multinational firms pay their fair share in India.

Once the new tax rules are accepted and implemented, it will be extremely difficult to get them changed. Thus, India should use the upcoming G20 meetings to press its position.


How to get farmers to not burn crop residue

Source: This post is based on the article “How to get farmers to not burn crop residue” published in “Indian Express” on 12th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation,

Relevance: Stubble burning and its associated environmental costs

Synopsis: Steps to be taken to push famers away from resorting to stubble burning

Introduction

Farmers across northern India burn stubble to clear fields for the winter wheat sowing season. It is both a health and an environmental hazard that repeats every year. A 2018 Lancet study reported this as the number one reason for premature deaths in India.

Why farmers across northern India resort to stubble burning?

One, Short interval for field clearing and sowing of winter crops.

Two, financially strapped farmers often can’t afford other methods of crop residue management.

Despite government interventions why farmers continue the practice of stubble burning?

First, farmers perceive the alternatives to burning as too expensive, even though the central government has subsidised equipment for crop residue management. For them, the subsidies have not changed the calculus that moving away from burning hurts their bottom line.

Second, farmers state a preference for ex-situ management equipment such as balers over in-situ machinery such as the Happy Seeder and the Super SMS. They prefer to remove the paddy stubble from the field rather than working it into the field.

Third, pertains to the best format of cash transfers. It was critical to offer some of the payment upfront. Cash rewards worked only if a portion of the payment was given at the beginning. Partial upfront payment builds trust. Without it, farmers do not trust that they will get the promised payment afterwards. It also gives farmers some financial cushion given they need to pay for the equipment rental.

What is the way forward?

First, the government could restart conditional cash payments. Our study shows that this strategy can work, if the policy is designed correctly.

Second, the government can subsidise ex-situ equipment such as biogas plants. This could reduce the net cost of ex-situ management because farmers can sell the crop residue also it encourages innovation.

Lastly, the rewards farmers are offered need to cover their costs of managing stubble without burning. Based on studies, as, a subsidy of about Rs 2,500 per acre should be able to achieve a marked reduction in burning.


Protecting India’s natural laboratories

Source: This post is based on the article “Protecting India’s natural laboratories” published in “The Hindu” on 12th October 2021.

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

Relevance: Significance of Geo heritage sites.

Synopsis: India needs to take measures to protect and conserve Geoheritage sites.

Introduction

India has a very unique geodiversity. India has tall mountains, deep valleys, sculpted landforms, long-winding coastlines, hot mineral springs, active volcanoes, diverse soil types, mineralised areas, and globally important fossil-bearing sites. It is long known as the world’s ‘natural laboratory’ for geo-scientific learning.

India’s geological features and landscapes evolved over billions of years through numerous cycles of tectonic and climate upheavals and are part of the country’s heritage.

However, the lack of interest in the government and our academic circles towards geological literacy is unfortunate at a time when we face a crisis like global warming.

Why Geoheritage sites are important and needs to be protected?

Geo-heritage sites are educational spaces. They commemorate unique geological features and landscapes and promote geo-tourism that generates revenue and employment and they are of great scientific value.

For example, the Kutch region in Gujarat has dinosaur fossils and is our version of a Jurassic Park. The Tiruchirappalli region of Tamil Nadu, originally a Mesozoic Ocean, is a store house of Cretaceous (60 million years ago) marine fossils.

Learning from the geological past, may serve as an analogue for future climate.

The awareness generated through educational activities in geo-heritage parks makes it easier for us to memorialise past events of climate change and appreciate the adaptive measures to be followed for survival.

What are the issues and challenges faced in conservation of Geo heritage sites in India?

Despite international progress in this field, the concept of geo-conservation has not found much traction in India.

Apathy towards geological literacy: Indian classrooms view disciplines like environmental science and geology with disdain compared to how they view other ‘pure’ subjects like physics, biology, and chemistry.

No policy for conservation: Countries like Vietnam and Thailand have also implemented laws to conserve their geological and natural heritage. Unfortunately, India does not have any such legislation and policy for conservation

Not a single geo-park in India which is recognised by the UNESCO: Though the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has identified 32 sites as National Geological Monuments. This is despite the fact that India is a signatory to the establishment of UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Must Read: Global measures to conserve Geo-heritage sites

How the issue of development is threatening geological heritage sites in India?

Many fossil-bearing sites have been destroyed in the name of development. We are inching towards the disappearance of most of our geological heritage sites due to unplanned and booming real estate business.

Unregulated stone mining activities have also contributed to this destruction.

For example, the high concentration of iridium in the geological section at Anjar, Kutch district, provides evidence for a massive meteoritic impact that caused the extinction of dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. This site was destroyed due to the laying of a new rail track in the area.

Similarly, a national geological monument exhibiting a unique rock called Nepheline Syenite in Ajmer district of Rajasthan was destroyed in a road-widening project.

The Lonar impact crater in Buldhana district of Maharashtra is an important geo-heritage site of international significance. It is under threat of destruction, although conservation work is now in progress under the High Court’s supervision.

What is the way forward?

First, the current situation calls for immediate implementation of sustainable conservation measures such as those formulated for protecting biodiversity.

Second, the protection of geo-heritage sites requires legislation. Geo-conservation should be a major guiding factor in land-use planning. A progressive legal framework is needed to support such strategies.


We can’t stabilise the climate without carbon offsets — so how do we make them work?

Source: This post is based on the article ” We can’t stabilise the climate without carbon offsets — so how do we make them work? ” published in The Down to Earth on 11th October 2021. 

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

Relevance: regarding carbon offsetting and issues involved.

Synopsis: Carbon offsetting affords an opportunity to achieving net-zero emission targets but only if its done with full integrity.

Introduction 

Carbon offsetting has been in news lately. The Grattan Institute released a new report on the role of offsetting in achieving net zero targets. 

Carbon offsetting is a difficult part of the climate change conversation worldwide and, because of past problems, there’s understandable cynicism about its potential.

What is offsetting? 

Offsetting refers to reducing emissions or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in one place to make up for emissions in another.

Though it aims to lower the costs of reducing emissions, in worst case it can increase the costs and give us false confidence about our progress towards net zero emissions.  

Offsetting is often done through a system of credits or offsets — units that represent one tonne of emissions reductions achieved, or one tonne of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. 

Must Read: More companies pledge net-zero emissions to fight climate change, but what does that really mean?

For instance, a mining company with a net-zero target, might be able to partially reduce its emissions through adjusting its operations, but could find it still has emissions that are too expensive or technically impossible to reduce. In this case, it might buy an “offset” to cover these emissions. The offset could come from another company with plenty of options to reduce emissions (such as a landfill owner), or it might come from an activity like tree-planting.

What objections are frequently raised against carbon offsetting?

Some see it as an excuse for polluting companies to delay reducing emissions.

Others say it destroys the fabric of rural communities because it encourages farmers to turn farming land into places for tree-planting and other carbon-storage activities.

Some international schemes have been criticised for crediting offsetting activities that aren’t “additional”. This refers to activity that would have happened anyway, such as rewarding a landholder for maintaining vegetation that was never going to be cleared, or rewarding a manufacturer for investing in low-emissions technology when that would have occurred regardless.

Moreover, if there are too many emissions reduction or removal activities that are credited but didn’t actually happen (“hollow” offsets), then we get a false sense of progress towards net zero. This limits the market’s effectiveness. If buyers aren’t sure they’re getting what they pay for, they won’t pay as much. This pushes prices down, which limits the number of producers willing to do offsetting, because they won’t be paid as much.

What is the way forward? 

Investment in research and development: Governments should invest in research and development and early-stage technology development, such as direct-air carbon capture and storage.   

Stronger policies to reduce emissions: Steps should be taken to cut emissions from transport, industry and agriculture.


Diverting rice for fuel blending, a risky venture?

Source: This post is based on the article “ Diverting rice for fuel blending, a risky venture? ” published in The Livemint on 12th October 2021. 

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

Relevance: Using rice and sugar for ethanol blending 

Synopsis: Government’s plan to promote ethanol, its benefit to the country, various effects of this plan, its impact on crop diversification and food security and way forward. 

Introduction 

India is planning to use surplus rice, besides sugarcane, to meet its bio-fuel target of blending 20% ethanol with petrol. Could this pose problems for India’s crop diversification goals or worsen nutritional indicators? 

What’s the govt’s plan to promote ethanol? 

The government has planned to divert 17 million tonnes of surplus rice from its food stocks of 90 million tonnes to produce ethanol. This is in addition to the 2 million tonnes of sugar which is already being diverted to produce ethanol.  

-India is estimated to achieve about 8.5% blending with petrol by this year, which it plans to increase to a mandatory 20% blending by 2025.  

How would ethanol blending benefit India? 

Lower import of petroleum products: According to NITI Aayog, a successful biofuels programme can save India $4 billion or about ₹30,000 crore every year by lowering import of petroleum products.  

Emission reduction: Ethanol is less polluting and offers equivalent efficiency at a lower cost than petrol. 

The Centre expects that rising production of grains and sugarcane and feasibility of making vehicles compliant to ethanol-blended fuel makes its biofuels policy a strategic requirement.

What are the unintended effects of the policy? 

More stress on water– Increasing reliance on biofuels can push farmers to grow more water-intensive crops like sugarcane and rice, which currently use 70% of the available irrigation water. 

Impact on hunger situation in India: Experts have further raised concerns that the move could impact India’s hunger situation by limiting the coverage of the food security schemes.

Negative impact on crop diversification: Although the biofuels policy stresses on using less water-consuming crops, farmers prefer to grow more sugarcane and rice due to price support schemes.  

Diversion of sugar could be used as a temporary measure to reduce excess stocks of sugar, but in the long run, it would push farmers away from crop diversification strategy of growing more pulses and oilseeds which are less water-intensive.

Ethical concerns: As per some experts, it is unethical to use edible grains to produce ethanol in a country where hunger is severe. India, with 14% of its population undernourished and more than a third of its children stunted, ranks 94th out of 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2020.  

Rise in food prices: Diversion of mass consumption grains can push food prices up and can worsen our hunger problem.  

What is the way forward? 

Government needs to review its policy and plans to overcome the various others issues arising out of it and making its plan a success. 


The” yes or a no” the court must ask about Pegasus

Source: This post is based on the article “The” yes or a no” the court must ask about Pegasus” published in The Hindu on 12th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 basics of cyber security.

Relevance: Understanding the Pegasus spyware issue.

Synopsis: Given the seriousness of the matter and the right to privacy of citizens, the judiciary must hold the executive accountable in the matter.

Introduction

Earlier this year, a global coalition of media organisations revealed that the Pegasus was being used in a number of countries to surveil journalists, activists, dissidents, and political leaders.

Pegasus is a malware that once installed on an individual’s phone, can collect and transmit data, track activities such as browsing history, and control functionalities such as the phone camera.

Read morePegasus spyware issue – Explained, pointwise
Why is the Pegasus scandal controversial?

Pegasus is manufactured by an Israeli cyber-arms firm called the NSO Group. The NSO Group claims that its only clients are vetted governments. This indicates the possibility of the government’s abuse of its power to spy on its citizens.

What was the government reaction to Pegasus?

In countries like France, government-ordered inquiries into the matter. In India, however, the government has not taken any strict action. Even the RTI is filed on seeking government response on whether the government had purchased the Pegasus was met with the response is like no information available. The government was tight-lipped in Parliament and even a Parliamentary inquiry into the matter was quashed.

Given the inability of Parliament to hold the executive accountable, many have approached the courts for the matter. But unfortunately, no concrete action or steps have come out of the Supreme Court yet.

What are the legal challenges in the court?

The matters are petitions before the courts challenge the Pegasus in many aspects. Did the government authorize spying on its citizens? If yes, was there any legal justification for taking this action? If not, why did the government take sufficient steps to protect its citizens from such potentially dangerous malware?

The government‘s response has been that of evasion. It has not even filed a written affidavit in the matter. And the government has refused to answer questions, stating that it would endanger national security.

What should be the way forward?

Given the seriousness of the matter and violation of fundamental rights of the citizens, with Parliament fails to hold the executive accountable, it is imperative for the courts to protect the rights of the citizens.


Semiconductors: Why India should not make chips – Instead, the focus should be on other parts of the global value chain

Source: This post is based on the article “Semiconductors: Why India should not make chips – Instead, the focus should be on other parts of the global value chain” published in “Tines of India” on 12th October 2021. 

Syllabus: GS3- Science and Technology- Awareness in the fields of IT, Nanotechnology. 

Relevance: To understand the issues regarding demand and the global supply crisis in semiconductors and their global value chain. 

Synopsis: There is a burgeoning Electronics market, and also there is a consequent fight over the major powers to control the semiconductor industry. India can use this opportunity to improve to achieve digital India targets.

Introduction 

The global supply crisis in semiconductors has led many to suggest India should create chip fabrication facilities (fabs). The feasibility of this industry in India in light of raw material availability, technology and skilled manpower remains to be seen. 

Why is there a global chip fight? 

This tussle is mainly led by two countries, the US and China. On the one hand where the US controls the IP, design and technology, China, on the other hand, is the largest chip buyer, consuming 60% of all chips produced globally. 

The US, using export control laws in 2019, stopped its firms from helping Huawei (a China-based company) to restrict the export of design, fabrication among other technologies. 

What are its impacts on the world’s geopolitics? 

US has pressurised Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and others not to make chips for China. As, this step will cripple Chinese electronics and the advanced technology industry, China responded by violating Taiwanese airspace many times this year. 

What are the reasons India should not involve in chip-making? 

Investment– Chip fabrication facilities (fabs) are not a one-time investment.it needs huge annual investment as electronics technology is fast changing. 

Chipmakers like Intel, TSMC each spends over $20 billion in R&D, process improvement and new fabrication machinery every year. 

Technology- Fab technology is complex with very high failure rates. China is a case in point that even significant investments are no guarantee of success. 

World’s fab capacity– World will soon have surplus fab capacity. The US-China rivalry has spurred large investment in new fabs. The US government will spend $50 billion on chip manufacturing. Intel, TSMC is also spending huge on new fabrication technologies. Many other proposals are being discussed. 

Read more: Need of Indigenous Semiconductor Manufacturing Facilities in India – Explained Pointwise
What is the way forward for India? 

India should focus on other things in the chip value chain except for fabrication. These contribute to 40% of the value chain revenue. 

Chip design and assembling, testing, and packaging (ATP) are the two segments of interest for India. Chip design involves using software tools to simulate the physics of chip circuitry. India may leverage this skill set. 

The US which is a major player in semiconductors is seeking allies to develop a new supply chain, excluding China. India being an active Quad member, must participate in the fabless segment of the chip value chain. 

What are the advantages for India? 

The ATP industry generates millions of jobs and has low barriers to entry. Besides, it will give a push to Digital India mission, Make in India and the skilled manpower it will create. 


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Clean, healthy and sustainable environment a universal right: UN Human Rights Council

What is the News?

The United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) has unanimously voted for recognising a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal right.

What is the Right to Clean the Environment?

The idea of the Right to a clean environment is rooted in the “1972 Stockholm Declaration”.

The right brings together the environmental dimensions of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights, and protects the core elements of the natural environment that enable a life of dignity.

Is the Right to Clean Environment adopted by UNHRC legally binding?

The Right is not legally binding, but it has the potential to shape global standards.

The resolution emphasises on the rights to life, liberty and security of human rights defenders working in environmental matters referred to as environmental human rights defenders.

What is the need for this recognition?

Environmental defenders across the globe are subject to constant physical attacks, detentions, arrests, legal action and smear campaigns. Some 200 environmental defenders have been murdered in 2020 alone.

Special rapporteur

The UNHRC has also passed another resolution creating a three-year post of a special rapporteur.

The special rapporteur will monitor how the adverse effects of climate change, including sudden and slow-onset disasters, affect the full and effective enjoyment of human rights.

Source: This post is based on the articleClean, healthy and sustainable environment a universal right: UN Human Rights Councilpublished in ‘Down To Earth’ on 10th October 2021. 

Terms to know:


Explained: How Jupiter Trojan asteroids will help NASA learn about evolution of solar system

What is the News?

NASA is set to launch the ‘Lucy’ Mission in the next week.

What is Mission Lucy?

Mission Lucy is NASA’s first mission to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids.

Named After: The mission is named after ‘Lucy’, a 3.2 million-year-old ancestor who belonged to a species of hominins (which include humans and their ancestors).

What is the aim of the mission?

As per some planet formation and evolution models, the Trojan asteroids are believed to be formed from the same material that led to the formation of planets nearly 4 billion years ago when the solar system was formed.

Therefore, the mission is designed to understand the composition of the diverse asteroids that are a part of the Trojan asteroid swarms, to determine the mass and densities of the materials and to look for and study the satellites and rings that may orbit the Trojan asteroids.

What is the duration of the mission?

It is a solar-powered mission. It is estimated to be over 12 years long, during the course of which the spacecraft will visit eight asteroids covering a distance of about 6.3 billion km to deepen the understanding of the “young solar system”.

What are the types of asteroids, and What are Trojan Asteroids?

Asteroids are divided into three categories: 

The first group are those that are found in the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. This region is estimated to contain somewhere between 1.1-1.9 million asteroids.

The second group is that of trojans (the name comes from Greek mythology), which are asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet. NASA reports the presence of Jupiter, Neptune and Mars trojans. In 2011, they reported an Earth trojan as well.

The Jupiter asteroids can be found in what are referred to as “swarms” that lead and follow the planet Jupiter along its orbit around the Sun. ‘Lucy’ will reach the first swarm of these asteroids that precede Jupiter by August 2027.

The third classification of asteroids is under Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA), which has orbits that pass close to the Earth. Those that cross the Earth’s orbit are called Earth-crossers. More than 10,000 such asteroids are known, of which over 1,400 are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).

Source: This post is based on the article Explained: How Jupiter Trojan asteroids will help NASA learn about the evolution of the solar systempublished in Indian Express on 10th October 2021.


Explained: Top prize for labour economics

What is the News?

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics to three US-based economists: David Card, Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens. The prize has been awarded – with one half to Card, and the other half jointly to Angrist and Imbens – for their work on drawing conclusions from natural experiments.

What are Natural Experiments?

​​Natural experiments are real-life situations that economists study and analyse to determine cause-and-effect relationships.

David Card’s work on Wages & Jobs

David Card studied the relationship between the minimum wage and employment in the early 1990s.

He compared the labour market of US states of New Jersey, where the minimum wage had been increased and Pennsylvania, where it had not.

The research showed that the minimum wage increase had no downward effect on the number of employees.

That finding went against the prevailing theory at the time, which assumed that an increase in the minimum wage would destroy jobs as it would make it more expensive for companies to do business.

Angrist and Imbens work on education and pay
Nobel Prize in Economics
Source: Indian Express

Angrist and Imbens won the other half of the award for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships.

​​For example, extending compulsory education by a year for one group of students (but not another) may or may not affect everyone in the groups in the same way. This is because some students would have kept studying anyway, and for them, the value of education is often not representative of the entire group. So, is it even possible to draw any conclusions about the effect of an extra year in school?

In the mid-1990s, the duo solved this methodological problem, demonstrating how precise conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn from natural experiments.

Read – About Nobel Prizes 

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

  • “Explained: Top prize for labour economics” published in ‘Indian Express’ on 10th October 2021. 
  • “Nobel’s good card: 2021 economics prize acknowledges data’s role in understanding the real world” published in ‘TOI’ on 10th October 2021. 
  • “Three share Economics Nobel for research on natural experiment to study cause and effect” published in ‘The Hindu’ on 10th October 2021. 

Globally, India recorded the highest loss in terrestrial water storage

What is the News?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released a report titled 2021 State of Climate Services Report.

What are the key findings of the 2021 State of Climate Services Report?

Terrestrial Water Storage (TWS)

Terrestrial Water Storage(TWS) has dropped at a rate of 1 cm per year in 20 years (2002-2021).

Note: TWS is the sum of all water on the land surface and in the subsurface, i.e. surface water, soil moisture, snow and ice and groundwater. 

The biggest losses have occurred in Antarctica and Greenland. But many highly populated, lower latitude locations have also experienced TWS losses.

Findings related to India

The TWS has been lost at a rate of at least 3 cm per year. In some regions, the loss has been over 4 cm per year too.

India has recorded the highest loss in terrestrial water storage if the loss of water storage in Antarctica and Greenland is excluded. The northern part of India has experienced the maximum loss within the country.

India’s Per Capita Water Availability

In India, per capita, water availability is reducing due to an increase in population.

The average annual per capita water availability has reduced to 1,545 cubic metres in 2011, from 1,816 cubic metres in 2001. It is projected to further decrease to 1,367 cubic metres in 2031.

Water Scarce River Basins

According to the Falkenmark Water Stress Indicator, Five of the 21 river basins in India are ‘absolute water scarce’ (per capita water availability below 500 cubic metres).

Five are ‘water scarce’ (per capita water availability below 1,000 cubic metres) and three are ‘water stressed’ (per capita water availability below 1,700 cubic metres).

By 2050, six will become absolute water-scarce, six will become water-scarce and four will become water-stressed.

Note: The Falkenmark indicator is one of the most widely used indicators for assessing the stress on water. It relates the total freshwater resources with the total population in a country and indicates the pressure that population puts on water resources, including the need for natural ecosystems 

Source:  This article is based onGlobally, India recorded the highest loss in terrestrial water storagepublished in Down To Earth s on 9th October


Union Minister inaugurates training program on Sandalwood Farming & Management of its health

What is the News

Union Minister of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj has inaugurated a training program on Sandalwood Farming & Management of its health. The program is structured around the basics & benefits of Indian sandalwood, seed handling, nursery techniques & managing the health of the plant.

What is Sandalwood?

Sandalwood is a class of woods from trees in the genus Santalum. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and, unlike many other aromatic woods. Further, they can retain their fragrance for decades. 

Benefits: Sandalwood has several antibacterial, antibiotic & anti-cancer benefits amongst others. Hence, it finds its uses in pharmaceuticals, personal care & furniture.

Sandalwood and India: Sandalwood has been long associated with the Indian heritage & culture, as the country contributed 85% of the world’ sandalwood trade erstwhile. However, of late this has been declining at a fast rate.

Largest Growers of Sandalwood: Globally, India & Australia are the largest growers of sandalwood. On the other hand, the biggest markets lie in the United States, China, Japan & the Indian domestic market.

Future Prospects of Sandalwood Market

In 2020, the world sandalwood market stood at USD 300 million. The World Trade Research has pegged the market size at USD 3 billion by 2040. 

Identifying this tremendous growth potential, the Government of India has laid emphasis on preparing for the upcoming demand from right now by creating export quality products. 

This can be achieved by taking up multiple initiatives like establishing Sandalwood Technology Innovation centres in the growing states, value addition in training & skill development as well as introducing new methods of cultivation amongst farmers & young entrepreneurs.

Source: This post is based on the articleUnion Minister inaugurates training program on Sandalwood Farming & Management of its healthpublished in PIB on 10th October 2021.


Over 2 lakh RTI pleas pending

What is the News?

Satark Nagrik Sangathan(SNS) has released a Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India, 2021.

What are the key findings of the report?

Vacancies in Information Commissions: Under the RTI Act, information commissions consist of a chief information commissioner and up to 10 information commissioners, appointed by the President of India at the central level and by the governor in the states. 

However, the CIC  has three vacancies left and has not functioned at its full strength of 10 Commissioners.

Delay in Disposal of Cases: The report has highlighted the delays in disposing of cases due to both shortage of personnel and inefficient operations.

Pending RTI's
Source: The Hindu

For example, a complaint filed under the Right to Information Act (RTI) in Odisha this summer would not be disposed of by the State’s Information Commission until 2028 at the current rate of operations. 

Moreover, twelve State Information Commissions plus the Central Information Commission (CIC) would need at least a year to dispose of their appeals.

Functioning of Information Commissions: An assessment of the functioning of the  Information Commissions has revealed that 21 out of 29 commissions in the country did not hold a single hearing during the first three stages of the national lockdown imposed in 2020.

Source:  This article is based on the article “Over 2 lakh RTI pleas pending” published on 11th October.

Terms to know:


Conserving India’s dhole population: Study earmarks 114 talukas

Source: This post is based on the article “Conserving India’s dhole population: Study earmarks 114 talukaspublished in Down to Earth on 11th October 2021.

What is the news?

A recent study has identified 114 priority talukas/tehsils where habitats can be consolidated to enhance population connectivity for the Dholes. The study was conducted by scientists from the Non-profit Wildlife Conservation Society–India (WCS-India), National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, University of Florida, United States, Non-profit Conservation Initiatives and Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bengaluru.

What are the key findings of the study?

The study found that the Western and Eastern Ghats is a stronghold region for dholes. On the other hand, Central India appeared to be weak in terms of connectivity.

The findings suggested that having a special focus on habitat patches, protected areas and talukas can facilitate the movement of Dholes especially between the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats. For that, the study has identified 114 priority talukas/tehsils.

About Dhole
Asiatic wild dog
Source: Deccan Herald

It is also known as the Asiatic wild dog, red dog, and whistling dog. It is about the size of a German shepherd, but looks more like a long-legged fox.

Furthermore, it is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.

They are native to Central, South, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Habitat: Dholes occupy a wide variety of climates and habitats, including dense forests, scrub, steppes, and alpine regions. They vary in colour from charcoal grey to rust-red to sandy beige, depending on their habitat.

India: They are found in Western and Eastern Ghats, Central Indian landscape and North East India.

Conservation Status of Dhole

They are listed under

Schedule II species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Endangered by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN).

Under Appendix II of theConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list.

 Threats

  1. Depletion of prey base
  2. Habitat loss and transformation
  3. Retaliatory killings due to livestock predation
  4. Disease and pathogens and
  5. Competition with other species like Tigers and Leopards for prey.

U.K. asks India to update climate goals

What is the news? 

Recently, the British Prime Minister and Indian Prime Minister had a meeting. The meeting occurred a few weeks ahead of a United Nations climate change summit in the U.K.

During the meeting, the British PM urged India to update India’s NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) targets, besides they also talked about vaccine certifications and the Afghanistan situation.

What are the key discussions of the meeting?
Updating the NDCs

Being president of COP-26 of UNFCCC, the U.K. is asking all countries to update their NDCs to reflect climate targets for the next few decades. One hundred and ninety three countries filed their first NDCs, but only 19 have so far updated them.

India filed its first NDC in 2016, committing at the time to cut emissions by 33% by 2030 (from 2005 levels). However, the U.K. and the U.S. have been asking India to do more in terms of declaring its second NDC.

They expect India’s promise of installing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030, and to declare firm deadlines for achieving Net Zero carbon emissions and ending the use of coal for generating electricity, to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Other discussions

Both nations agreed on the importance of “cautiously opening up international travel”, and the issue of vaccine certification.

Both sides on Afghanistan crisis agreed on the need to develop a common international perspective on issues regarding extremism and terrorism, as well as Human Rights and rights of women and minorities. 

Read more: Why COP26 is important? 

Source: This post is based on the article “U.K. asks India to update climate goals” published in “The Hindu” on 12th October 2021. 

Terms to know:


Detoxing pilot project has brought a river back from dead: Meghalaya

What is the news? 

Meghalaya government has claimed that a detoxing project through the use of phycoremediation has rejuvenated Lukha river. The project was funded by the “District Mineral Fund”. 

What is the reason for contamination? 

The Lukha River was considered toxic beyond redemption a decade ago. Meghalaya’s pollution control board in its report blamed drainage from ‘acid mines’ drainage and ‘rat-hole coal mines’ as the reason for toxicity in the river. 

Read More: What is Rat Hole Mining?

In response, the government used the Phycoremediation method to detoxify the river.

What is phycoremediation? 

It is a type of bioremediation, can be defined in a broader sense as the use of macroalgae or microalgae for the removal or biotransformation of pollutants. It improves the PH of the water. 

About Lukha river

It drains the southern part of ‘East Jaintia hills’(Meghalaya). It is fed by its major tributary ‘The Lunar River’ and streams from ‘Narpuh reserve forest’.

The river passes into southern Assam’s Barak Valley and ends up in the floodplains of Bangladesh.

What is District Mineral Fund? 

DMFs were instituted under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Act 2015. 

They are non-profit trusts to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining-related operations. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Detoxing pilot project has brought a river back from dead: Meghalaya” published in “The Hindu” on 12th October 2021. 


 

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