9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 1st, 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 
  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.
  • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
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Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

GS Paper 4

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly) 

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

India quest for a road to Central Asia

Source: This post is based on the article “India quest for a road to Central Asia” published in LiveMint on 1st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Bilateral Relations with Central Asian countries.

Relevance: To study India-Central Asian relations and problems associated with it.

Synopsis: India can unlock a lot of economic and geostrategic potential if it can connect with Central Asian nations.

Introduction

Indian PM in a recently held SCO summit highlighted the importance of Central Asia. He also raised his concern over the connectivity issue with Central Asian countries because of the geographical disadvantage.

What are the challenges India is facing related to connectivity?

India’s trade with Central Asian countries was below $2bn in 2018. Most of the trade was routed through Iran, Russia and UAE. In contrast, according to the estimates, China’s trade was $5-bn-$60bn during this period. China has a huge advantage in its geographical location.

India is facing issues with connectivity such as:

Pakistan: Route through Pakistan is not possible because of the hostility between both of the countries.

Iran: India efforts went into vain with USA sanction on Iran over its suspected nuclear weapon programme.

Afghanistan: With the Taliban capturing Afghanistan, India faced a huge setback.

Importance of Central Asian nations to India

Central Asia includes fuel-rich countries that have the potential to fulfil the energy needs of India. Central Asia states are mineral-rich states. For example, Kazakhstan, a source of Uranium is beneficial for India’s nuclear power plants.

There is huge scope for collaboration in other sectors like building (power) transmission lines, contract farming, dairy sector, IT and enabled services, pharmaceuticals etc. Indian Sharda and Amity Universities have already set up their universities in Central Asian countries.

These countries are also struggling with terrorism and radicalization. India and Central Asian countries can come together to fight against it.

Must read: India and Central Asia
How India is trying to connect with Central Asia?

In the 1990s, India tried to explore the route through Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port and Mashad near the border with Turkmenistan to Central Asia but was unsuccessful.

In 2000, India along with Iran and Russia agreed on a new route which was later known as International North south Transit Cooridor (INSTC). The pact was again ratified in 2002. According to an ambassador of Azerbaijan to India,” INSTC offers a safe and cost-effective route to EU (European Union). It also offers 50% time-saving. In June this year, the first pilot project of paper products was successfully delivered from Finland via the territory of Azerbaijan to Nhava Sheva port of India.

In 2003, India with Iran announced the development of Chabahar port to find an alternate route to Central Asia.

The sanctions on Iran by the USA over suspected Nuclear power programmes slowed down the progress of INSTC and its impact was also visible on Chahbahar port. But, the INSTC will be the best option for India to strengthen relations with Central Asian countries, so India should diplomatically push other partners for the faster implementation of INSTC.


Making parties constitutional

Source: This post is based on the article “Making parties constitutional” published in The Hindu on 1st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

Relevance: To study the importance of providing constitutional status to political parties.

Synopsis: The majority of the countries do not provide constitutional status for Political parties. But it is time for making political parties constitutional.

Introduction

Political parties maintain a continuous connection between the people and those who represent them, either in government or in the opposition. But despite that, they do not provide constitutional status.

What are political parties?

It is an organized group of people or bodies who share a common view on governance and act as a political unit. They seek to capture political power through an election in order to run the affairs of a country.

Read more: Difference between Political party and Pressure group
What is their constitutional status?

In spite of their important functioning, political parties do not have constitutional status in most democracies. Eg: In the USA, The American Constitution does not presume the existence of political parties. In Britain, too, political parties are still unknown to the law. Ivor Jennings on the British constitution said that “a realistic survey of the British Constitution today must begin and end with parties and discuss them at length in the middle”.

In India too, political parties are extra-constitutional, but they are the breathing air of the political system.

How the political parties are working in developed nations?

They maintain high levels of internal democracy. For example, In U.K., the Conservative Party has the National Conservative Convention as its top body. It has a Central Council and an Executive Committee. The Central Council elects its President, a Chairman and Vice-Chairmen at its annual meeting. It also elects an Executive Committee which meets once a month.

In the U.S., both the Democratic and the Republican parties have the National Committee as their top decision-making body. The National Committee plays an important role in the presidential election and agenda-setting.

How the political parties are working in India?

In spite of one of the longest constitutions in the world, the Indian Constitution does not provide the right to form a political party. Even the political parties in India are mostly formed on a religious or caste-based. Their finances are also not done transparently. There are no periodical in-party elections in Indian parties except in a few like the CPI (M).

Must read: Electoral Bond and its challenges – Explained, Pointwise
What do we need to learn from the German model?

The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (1949) gives constitutional status to political parties. Article 21 of the Basic Law deals with their status, rights, duties and functions.

In India, Section 29(5) of the RPA Act 1951, is the only major statutory provision dealing with political parties in India. It orders political parties to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established.

What should India do?

With political parties being the agent of democracy and safety valves of politics, there is a need to bring reforms in their structure and functioning. It is high time to constitutionalize political parties to ensure in-party democracy, to impart transparency in their finances, and to de-communalize them.


The proposal to link Aadhaar with Voter ID is unconstitutional

Source: This post is based on the article “The proposal to link Aadhaar with Voter ID is unconstitutional” published in the Indian Express on 1st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Relevance: Understand the Aadhaar linking of Voter ID cards.

Synopsis: Recently, ECI proposed de-duplication of Voter ID by linking it with Aadhar. This needs careful consideration.

Introduction

This week marks 3 years of the Puttaswamy judgement. In the Judgement, a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court (SC) had reduced the scope of the Aadhaar project to contain its risks to the privacy of citizens. The government, however, continues to violate the “red lines” that were drawn by the judgement.

How has the Government violated the red lines of SC Judgement?

Within a year of the verdict, the government amended the Aadhaar Act to permit the use of Aadhaar authentication for telecom and banking services. This was done by a 2019 amendment, which is a pending challenge in the SC.

The amendment also permitted the government to expand the “purposes” that Aadhaar authentication can be used for. And in 2020, the government notified the Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020 (Good Governance Rules) to broaden the scope of Aadhaar authentication.

What is the proposal to link Aadhaar with the voter database?

Moreover, according to some reports, the law ministry has approached the UIDAI seeking Aadhaar authentication for voter verification. This was done on the basis of a proposal by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to the law ministry, which sought permission to use Aadhaar numbers to de-duplicate the voter database.

How does the ECI’s proposal stand against the proportionality test?

The proportionality test was laid down in the right to privacy case (Puttaswamy case). It lays strict parameters for state action that infringes on the right to privacy. It states such an action must be backed by law, and this law must be a suitable means in pursuance of a legitimate state aim.

But the government’s previous attempts to link voter ID and Aadhaar offer evidence that this may disenfranchise people, and deprive them of their voting rights, which is their constitutional right.

For this reason in 2015, an SC order halted the National Election Roll Purification and Authentication Programme, which sought to link Aadhaar with voter IDs. Despite this order, the governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh went ahead and linked the two. As a result, in 2018, at least 55 lakh voters were arbitrarily deleted from the voter database.

Finally, a law can be considered proportional only if it doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on the rights holder. Articles 325 and 326 of our Constitution promise universal adult suffrage. And we had seen in the case of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana where 55 Lakh people were disenfranchised. Thus, this law can have a significant impact on the rights of people.

What should be done?

The ECI has not shown why traditional verification mechanisms don’t work, or how they can be fixed through technology. So the ECI should first explore alternatives than proposing a restrictive law. Thus, this recent attempt of ECI to link Aadhaar and Voter ID needs greater scrutiny.


GS Paper 3

Water water everywhere and we must stop to think

Source: This post is based on the article “Water water everywhere and we must stop to think” published in Livemint on 30th Sep 21.

Syllabus: GS3 – Disaster and Disaster management.

Relevance: Rising cases of recurring floods in India.

Synopsis: Floods have begun to affect an increasing area of India with rising intensity and frequency. Urban infrastructure is under severe pressure, and it’s unclear if we are prepared for worse.

Introduction

Incidents of floods in urban areas have been increasing year after year in India.

Rainy season flooding in metro cities like Mumbai and now even Chennai has begun to host recurring floods.

This year, 11 September saw Delhi’s international airport waterlogged after its heaviest rainfall in 46 years, barely three weeks after a similar episode.

Kolkata logged a 13-year peak in precipitation, with canals for roads and even areas that had always stayed relatively dry getting soaked.

Bengaluru reported arterial roads and junctions flooded on 25 July.

The floods in Hyderabad after a torrential downpour on 2 September had a lethal quality: gushing waters swept away vehicles and hand-carts.

Several other state capitals have been submerged in recent years, Lucknow, Thiruvananthapuram, Patna, Bhopal and Ahmedabad among them.

What are the causes of floods?

Repeated floods in the cities are being caused primarily by cloudbursts in urban zones and overflowing rivers in the hinterland.

Among the contributors to recurrent floods in many cities, we have sewage systems choked with the debris of construction material.

Climate change is also responsible for such recurring floods in our cities.

What is the impact of the floods?

Floods destroy lives and property, impede routine engagements and undermine the finances of governments, businesses and financial institutions.

What are the associated issues?

This raises two important issues that go to the heart of India’s urban design.

Poor state of our urban infrastructure, with city planning and design lagging population and income growth. In most cities, that bedrock of support is out of sync with the demands of the user population and therefore under severe stress.

Given the rapid pace of urbanization in India the strain will only worsen in the years ahead unless apt investments are made in urban physical and social infrastructure.

Lack of planning for future contingencies: The second big issue is that ongoing public projects to plug gaps may not be building adequate space for future contingencies. We need to test the resilience of current infra projects against likely future scenarios of climate change. For example, if mean sea levels rise, as expected, are Mumbai or Chennai prepared for the consequences?

A related worry is our lack of emphasis on institutionalizing green investments and systems, whether it is buildings or roads.


Growing locally: On Significance of GI tags

Source: This post is based on the article “Growing Locally” published in Indian Express on 1st Oct 2021.

Syllabus– GS3: Inclusive Growth and issues arising from it.

Relevance: significance of Geographical Indications and reforms needed

Synopsis: Geographical Indications tag is an opportunity for India to redefine the future of work using automation, technology and artificial intelligence while simultaneously enhancing and adorning the country’s talented local work force.

Introduction

India’s global brand recall and attributes of multi-cultural ethos, authenticity, and ethnic diversity are reason for increasing the country’s potential. One channel through which these attributes are brought out are Geographical Indications or GI tags.

Why GI tag is significant?

Revenue generators: With the emphasis on climate change and sustainability, GI products can be ready revenue generators. The patents and copyright protection of products under GIs result in higher economic gains, fostering quality production and better distribution of profits.

Global reach: Amazon’s local to global programme has taken Indian producers and their products such as Delta Leather Corporation’s leather and SVA Organics’s organic products to 18 global markets in over 200 countries.

In the two years ending March 2021, Amazon exported such Made in India goods worth $2 billion.

How Geographical Indications can benefit India?

Passion economy and entrepreneurship: it will convert talent into entrepreneurship with gig workers, and create a “passion” economy. It is a new way for individuals to monetise their skills and scale their businesses exponentially. It removes the hurdles associated with freelance work to earn a regular income from a source other than an employer. It encompasses the concept of trusteeship, as advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and more recently, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN. It is truly Made in India.

Employment creation: the labour-intensive nature of GI offers the best solution to boosting the employment-to-population ratio in India.

Women empowerment: Monetising artisanal work done at home will increase India’s low female labour force participation rate, which at 21 per cent in 2019 was half the 47 per cent global average.

Reverse urban migration: it will conserve India’s ancient crafts, culture and food. A rejuvenation of MSMEs, which account for 31 per cent of India’s GDP and 45 per cent of exports, will follow.

Positive benefits for local communities: it encourages the preservation of biodiversity, local know-how and natural resources.

Soft power: A strong GI ecosystem can be a wellspring of economic and soft power. It will automatically resolve the three fraught India issues of poor pay for talent, low female participation in the labour force, and urban migration.

What are some existing challenges?

GI businesses are micro: it is necessary to address the challenges of capacity-building, formal or easy access to credit, forming marketing linkages, research and development, product innovation and competitiveness in both domestic and international markets.

Issue of middlemen: With the shift to digital platforms, the distribution margins of middlemen will be competitive. Hence, government need to ensure that they do not act as countervailing agents by getting into similar businesses or product lines which will erode GI producer incomes.

What is the way forward?

First, a required skill for GI producers is digital literacy. This should be a priority agenda item for NGOs and stakeholders like the DPIIT.

The groundwork for MSME access to formal credit has already been done with the new Account Aggregator data-sharing framework.

Second, the Indian GI economy can be a platform for India to showcase to the world a model for ethical capitalism, social entrepreneurship, de-urbanisation, and bringing women to the workforce, on the back of a robust digital system.

Third, Guardrails like regular audits and consultations with the GI producers must be mandated.


Staggered pricing: On cane pricing

Source: This post is based on the article “Staggered pricing” published in Business Standard on 1st October 2021.

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

Relevance: Issues faced by Sugar-cane farmers and factories.

Synopsis: The Government should avoid populist measures in cane pricing.

Introduction

Recently, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) suggested to pay sugarcane prices to farmers in tranches and stop reserving cane areas for sugar mills.

It has pros and cons that need to be weighed carefully.

What are the other key suggestions given by CACP?

The CACP’s other suggestion is the abolition of the system of reserving sugarcane catchment area for each factory and doing away with the mandatory minimum distance (mostly 25 km) between the two factories is equally contentious.

It binds the mills to buy all the canes on offer from that area and the farmers to sell to the designated mills only.

It leaves no room for the mills or the farmers to take their own business decisions. Even C Rangarajan committee have disfavoured this system.

Why is CACP favouring a staggered payment mechanism?

Burden on sugar factories: The main drawback in the existing system of payment within 14 days of delivery of the cane is that the cash-starved sugar factories are unable to adhere to the deadline.

Burden on the government: This results in accumulating unpaid arrears, forcing the government to come up with bailout packages.

Issue with the abolition of the system of reserving sugarcane: the argument in favour of this provision is that sugarcane has to be disposed of at the nearest factory because it starts losing its sucrose content soon after harvest.

How the proposed measures affect the interests of both the cane growers and the sugar industry?

Unnecessary interference: The proposed measures affect both but in a mutually conflicting manner. Their implementation at this stage would amount to needless meddling in a sector that is showing signs of becoming financially self-reliant and globally price-competitive.

No consensus: The concept of staggering the payment was floated in the past by various committees and expert panels, including the one set up by the NITI Aayog. The sugar industry welcomed this suggestion because it would ease its economic burden. However, most other stakeholders, including the cane growers, opposed it.

Gujarat, where cooperative sugar mills are predominant is the only state that has adopted this practice as a matter of state policy. In other states, the cane growers favour lump sum and prompt payment as ordained under the Sugarcane Control Order, 1966.

What is the way forward?

The government should address underlying issues rather than going for populist measures such as the UP government has announced a hike in sugarcane prices.


Why new rule allowing recycled plastic in food packaging raises concerns

Source: This post is based on the article “Why new rule allowing recycled plastic in food packaging raises concerns” and “Recycled plastic for food packaging: Why the new rules are shocking” published in DTE on 1st Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: Plastic waste management

Synopsis: The new directive by Union environment ministry overrides 2016 rules that did not permit carry bags made of recycled plastic for food items.

Introduction

Recently, the Union government notified the Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2021. The latest notification is a U-turn by the Centre and its stand of five years.

The use of recycled plastic was prohibited for food contact applications in the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 whereas, the latest amendment allows carry bags made of recycled plastic or products made of recycled plastic for storing, carrying, dispensing or packaging ready to eat or drink foodstuff.

Note, it was only in 2018 that the FSSAI banned the use of recycled plastic or newspaper for packaging of food items.

What the concern w.r.t the Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2021?

Firstly, the new packaging regulations would compromise the food safety in India.

Secondly, wide public consultation was not done. For instance, following two major rules have been added to the Plastic Waste Management Rules without them being part of the Draft rules 2021.

the rules provided a moratorium of 10 years to big companies.

use of recycled plastics for food products introduced in the latest amendment.

Why using recycled Plastics in Food packaging is a problem?

Firstly, the unscientific methods used by the informal workforce to produce plastic pellets (used to make recycled goods) raise concerns, especially around the contamination and purity of the recycled plastic.

Secondly, Plastic is used in a variety of sectors ranging from medicines, electronic equipment to chemical fertilizers, which also raises the concern of the source of the recycled plastic that will be used in food contact applications.

Thirdly, standards for recycling of plastic have not been specified in the country, making it all the more difficult to understand the chemical conformity of the recycled plastic.

Fourthly, research has proven that as plastics are recycled, its molecular integrity gets compromised. This may further the possibility of ‘legacy chemical’ migration from plastics to food. So, the possibility of presence of poisonous substance in recycled plastic bags can never be completely ruled out.

Fifthly, it is practically impossible to tell the amount of recycled plastic that has been added to the final product. This may give the big players a way out to keep using virgin polymers and endless use of recycled Plastic.

Must Read: How recycled plastic is regulated globally?
What is the way forward?

Before the FSSAI takes a call to include recycled plastic for food contact applications, we have to ensure the following things:

Our plastic has to be recycled in authorised recycling facilities. The country’s data around the number and capacity of plastic recycling plants is very weak. We need a yardstick to understand our capacity to recycle correctly and utilise the material for other applications.

The use of recycled plastic should have been mandated for non-food applications initially. This will help us to understand the issues faced by the industries in terms of production and social acceptability.

An inventory needs to be created of the types of processes that we have in the country to recycle our plastics. Then, we need to identify the plastic recycling processes that are safe enough to produce recycled plastic that can be used for food contact applications.

Guidelines are required for the use of recycled plastic for packaging of ready-to-eat food materials. This should include the source of the post-consumer plastic waste, type of polymer that can be used, the nature of the food material that they can be used for packaging, etc.,

Finally, a working mechanism needs to be developed with all the stakeholders such as MoEFCC, FSSAI, the Central Pollution Control Board, Urban Local Bodies etc.


Ordnance factories’ moment in history

Source: This post is based on the article “Ordnance factories’ moment in history” published in Business Standard on 1st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 Defence reforms in India.

Relevance: To understand the lacunae’s in the working of Ordnance Factories.

Synopsis: Corporatization of OFB is the first step towards reforming it. India need to do much more.

Introduction

Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) which started during the British era has ceased to exist starting today.

Read here: OFB Corporatisation” Approved by Cabinet
How was the OFB corporatized? 

The corporatization of OFB has been recommended by the various committees. It has been taken into action by recommendations of EGoM (Empowered Group of Ministers).

Read more: Explained: Dismantling the Ordnance Factory Board
What is the OFB corporatization plan?

According to the EGoM recommendation for the corporatization of OFB contains the following things.

12 major Ordnance Factories (OFs) that produce ammunition and explosives will be grouped into a single DPSU called Munitions India Limited.

Five more OFs that manufacture vehicles will be grouped into a DPSU called Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited.

Another five that manufacture weapons and equipment will combine to form Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited.

Eight more OFs that manufacture metals and steels will combine to form Yantra India Limited.

The remaining 11 OFs will form India Optel Limited, Gliders India Limited and Troop Comforts Limited.

What are the issues with OFB?

How OFB prices its product: It is currently done on a cost-plus basis. Under it, OFB adds up the cost of production (management, labour, materials, etc.) and bills the military after adding on a healthy profit margin, usually 15%. The military does not have any option of sourcing the product, even if it’s available cheaper. There is no mechanism to tighten up procedures and production processes in order to lower the costs.

These inbuilt inefficiencies are unlikely to be tackled by merely changing over from the OFB’s current functional model.

What can be done?

There is a need to ramp up production to the level that is needed in a war. Surge capacity requires to be built, and a cost is involved in maintaining this capacity. It is still now unclear that how this will be verified in the new manufacturing structures. The government should provide a proper layout for that.

With India going for corporatization, it would be wise if India learns from the experience of various countries that have corporatized their defence industries in the past, like the UK.


GS Paper 4

Recognising Gandhi the philosopher

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

  • Recognising Gandhi the philosopher” published in the Indian Express on 1st October 2021.
  • ” Gandhi timeless advice: Be the change you wish to see”  published in Live Mint on 1st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 4 – Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.

Relevance: To understand the Gandhian philosophy.

Synopsis: Philosophical dimensions of Gandhi are often ignored. It is time to pay attention to his ethics-led philosophical way of life.

Introduction

Often, Gandhi is portrayed as a political leader. His philosophical contributions are often ignored. But much like Buddha of the Nikayas and the Socrates of Plato’s early dialogues, he is an ethical philosopher. The credit for recognising Gandhi as a philosopher goes to two philosophers belonging to the Analytic tradition of philosophy — Akeel Bilgrami and Richard Sorabjee.

What are the philosophical dimensions?

Philosophy was initially practised only in three civilisations — Chinese, Greek and Indian. In these civilisations, philosophy functioned as a way of life and not a belief system rooted in supernatural powers.

Even the philosophical ways of life practised in those ancient times could be divided into two categories — a metaphysics-led philosophical way of life and an ethics-led philosophical way of life. Except for the philosophies of Buddha, Socrates and Confucius all other philosophies propagated metaphysics-led ways of life.

What is the difference between these two philosophies?

In ethics-led philosophy, the attempt is to transform the practitioner from his/her normal state of being to an ethically higher state of existence. During this process, the practitioner becomes psychologically self-sufficient. The Buddha called this state as “Nirvana”. Socrates declared this state as “a virtuous person cannot be harmed”.

However, in the metaphysics-led philosophical way of life, the philosopher tries to achieve a higher state of understanding (insight). It also seeks communion with what is taken to be the “god”. In this philosophy, ethics has a secondary role to play.

Why Gandhi’s philosophical aspect was ignored?

Initially, Christianity banned all non-Christian ways of life in Europe in 529CE. When philosophy re-emerged in 17th century Europe, it was as a purely theoretical discipline. With that, the idea of “philosophical ways of life” became extinct in Europe. With colonisation, European ideas started influencing public discourse in the rest of the world. Viewed against these standards, Gandhi did not qualify as a philosopher.

What was Gandhi’s philosophy?

Gandhi, like the Buddha, was an ethical consequentialist. According to him, the purpose of his life was to reduce self-centredness and to promote a concern for the well-being of all (Sarvodaya). What makes Gandhi different from the Buddha is that he also wanted the development of freedoms (freedoms such as freedom from hunger, thirst, illiteracy, avoidable diseases, etc.).

According to Gandhi, only through political action, the constructive programmes can be implemented. Anything that enhances selfishness, like a capitalist economy, is antithetical to Gandhi’s philosophical way of life.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Law is clear, road blockades can’t go on endlessly, says Supreme Court

What is the news?

The Supreme Court has recently said farmers’ grievances could be addressed either by Parliament or judiciary, but they can’t be seen to cause harassment to commuters through sit-in dharnas on highways, hindering traffic.

About the farmers’ protest and the PIL

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, have been on sit-in protests for more than a year on highways, jamming Delhi’s three border points — Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur.

The protesting farmers are demanding that the three farm laws have to be repealed. A PIL has been filed, and it mentioned that blockade of roads by farmers is making it hard for commuters to travel between Delhi, Haryana, and UP.

The Supreme Court observation in farmers’ protest and the PIL

The court sighted the Amit Sahni vs Commissioner of Police & Ors case judgment and held that “The law has already been laid down. It is the duty of the executive to implement it. Road blockades can’t be continued till perpetuity.”

Read more: Significance and Issues associated with Farms laws
About the Supreme Court observation on blockade

Amit Sahni vs Commissioner of Police & Ors case, 2020: While dealing with Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA road-blocking protests, the court held that the right to peaceful protest against legislation is appreciable. But that does not mean public ways and public spaces can be occupied in such a manner, and that too indefinitely.

The SC held that “occupation of public ways, whether at the site in question or anywhere else for protests, is not acceptable.” The court also held that “the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachments or obstructions.”

The SC also held that “Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.”

Read more: Ten months on, what lessons have we learnt from the farmers’ movement?

Source:  This post is based on the article “Law is clear, road blockades can’t go on endlessly, says Supreme Court” published in Times of India on 01st October 2021.


Shri Bhupender Yadav launches DigiSaksham- a joint initiative of Labour Ministry with Microsoft India to enhance the employability of youth

What is the news?

The minister for Labour and Employment has launched a digital skills programme (DigiSaksham) to enhance the employability of youth by imparting digital skills that are required in an increasingly technology-driven era.

About the DigiSaksham programme

Nearly one crore active job seekers will be able to access training at free of cost training in digital skills including basic skills as well as advanced computing.

Under the DigiSaksham initiative, there will be basically three types of training viz. Digital Skills – Self paced learning, VILT mode training (Virtual Instructor-led) and ILT mode training (Instructor led).

The job seekers can get training in areas like JavaScript, Data Visualisation, Advance Excel, HTML, Programming languages, Introduction to coding, etc. They can equip themselves with the skills required in a digital economy.

The Jobseekers can access the training through National Career Service (NCS) Portal. It is an extension of the Government’s ongoing programs to support the youth from rural and semi-urban areas.

The programme is a joint initiative of Microsoft India and the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

DigiSaksham will be implemented in the field by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme India (AKRSP-I).

The immediate focus of the DigiSaksham programme

The training will be provided to more than 3 lakh youths in the first year. The initiative gives priority to the job-seekers of semi-urban areas belonging to disadvantaged communities, including those who have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Significance of DigiSaksham programme

The programme will help in bridging India’s digital divide and place the country on the path to inclusive economic recovery. Further, the programme will also prepare India’s talented youth to thrive in a digital future, catering not only to the needs of the domestic economy but also to tap overseas employment opportunities.

About the National Career Service (NCS) Project

It is a Mission Mode Project for the transformation of the National Employment Service to provide a variety of employment-related services like job matching, career counselling, vocational guidance, apprenticeship, internships etc.

The services under NCS are available online through a dedicated NCS Portal. The NCS portals can be accessed directly or from Career Centres (Employment Exchanges), Common Service Centres, post offices, mobile devices, cyber cafes etc. The NCS Portal is now being integrated with other Ministries/ departments like MSDE, MHRD, AICTE, etc.

The NCS Project is implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Source:  This post is based on the article “Shri Bhupender Yadav launches DigiSaksham- a joint initiative of Labour Ministry with Microsoft India to enhance the employability of youth” published in PIB on 30th September 2021.


Union Minister Shri Giriraj Singh launches People’s Plan Campaign 2021 and Vibrant Gram Sabha Dashboard

What is the news?

Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Rural Development has launched People’s Plan Campaign 2021Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas and Vibrant Gram Sabha Dashboard.

About the Panchayats

Panchayats are the centre points of grassroots democracy. There are 31.65 lakh elected Panchayat representatives across the country of which 14.53 lakh are women. Panchayats have a significant role to play in the effective and efficient implementation of flagship schemes for the transformation of rural India.

About the People’s Plan Campaign – Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas 2021

Timeline: This year’s campaign will be rolled out in all the States from 2nd October 2021 to 31st January 2022.

Aim: To help Gram Panchayats(GPs) in the preparation of a convergent and holistic Gram Panchayat Development Plan(GPDP) through the identification of sectoral infrastructural gaps in respective areas.

During the campaign, structured Gram Sabha meetings will be held for preparing Panchayat Development Plans for the next financial year 2022–2023. The structured Gram Sabha meetings will include physical presence and presentation by frontline workers/supervisors on 29 sectors. These sectors represent the 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Click here to know more about Sabki Yojna Sabka Vikas Campaign

What is Vibrant Gram Sabha Dashboard?

It is a dashboard that will help in increasing maximum participation from Panchayats through the meeting of Gram Sabha, the Standing Committee meeting of Gram Panchayat, meeting of elected Panchayat public representatives throughout the year.

About Gram Panchayat Development Plan(GPDP)
Gram Panchayat Development Plan
Source: PIB
  • Under Article 243 G of the Constitution, Gram Panchayats have been mandated for the preparation of GPDP for economic development and social justice utilizing the resources available to them.
  • The GPDP planning process should be comprehensive and participatory by involving full convergence with the schemes of all related Central Ministries / Line Departments.

Source:  This post is based on the article “Union Minister Shri Giriraj Singh launches People’s Plan Campaign 2021 and Vibrant Gram Sabha Dashboard” published in PIB on 30th September 2021.


Senior Able Citizens for Re-Employment in Dignity (SACRED) Portal

What is the news?

The Union government is all set to develop a job portal for senior citizens. The portal named, ‘Senior Able Citizens for Re Employment in Dignity‘ (SACRED), will bring the employment seeking senior citizens (above 60 years of age) and employment providers on one platform.

What is the need for the SACRED portal?

There has been a steady rise in the population of senior citizens in India. These older persons are facing a lot of problems in the absence of adequate social security.

Must read: Elderly population in India – Explained, pointwise

Further, Indian society is also witnessing a decline of the joint family system, as a result of which a large number of parents are being neglected by their families exposing them to a lack of emotional, physical and financial support.

As per the LASI report 2020, more than 50% of senior citizens are found active. Many senior citizens having experience, time and energy can be used by business enterprises looking for stable employees with experience. So, to tap that potential, the SACRED Portal is to be developed.

About the Senior Able Citizens for Re Employment in Dignity’ (SACRED) portal

Aim: To devise ways to ensure Senior Citizens live healthy, happy, empowered, dignified and self-reliant life.

It is an IT portal to bring the employment seeker senior citizens and employment providers on one platform. The portal will be developed and maintained by an agency identified through a transparent process.

The portal will be developed through NIC. 

The portal will not be a guarantee for getting a job or employment or selling of the products of the SHGs, or for any other activity.

How the SACRED portal will work?

A senior citizen can get himself registered on the portal with his education, experience, skills and areas of interest. Any job provider, be it an individual, firm or organization, can also register on the portal, specifying the task involved and the number of senior citizens required.

Voluntary Organizations will help senior citizens in applying for jobs. No user charges will be taken from any of the senior citizens by any Voluntary  Organizations.

Source:  This post is based on the article “Senior Able Citizens for Re Employment in Dignity (SACRED) Portal” published in PIB on 30th September 2021.


India extends support for protecting the Antarctic environment and for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

What is the news?

Recently, India has extended its support for protecting the Antarctic environment and for co-sponsoring the proposal of the European Union for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

About the proposal to designate East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as MPAs

The proposal to designate East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as MPAs was first put forth to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in 2020. But the proposal could not reach a consensus at that time.

Till then, substantial progress has been made with Australia, Norway, Uruguay and the United Kingdom agreeing to co-sponsor the proposal. Now India will also join these countries in co-sponsoring the MPA proposals.

This is the first time India is considering co-sponsoring an MPA proposal at the CCAMLR.

What is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)?

CCAMLR is an international treaty to manage Antarctic fisheries to preserve species diversity and stability of the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem. It came into force in April 1982.

India has been a permanent member of the CCAMLR since 1986. Work pertaining to the CCAMLR is coordinated in India by the Ministry of Earth Sciences through its attached office, the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE) in Kochi, Kerala.

What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA)?

An MPA is a marine protected area that provides protection for all or part of its natural resources. Certain activities within an MPA are limited or prohibited to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring, or fisheries management objectives.

Since 2009, CCAMLR members have developed proposals for MPAs for various regions of the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR’s scientific committee examines these proposals. After CCAMLR members agree upon them, elaborate conservation measures will be set out by CCAMLR.

India’s Antarctic expedition

India had embarked on an Antarctic expedition in 1981, through the Southern Indian Ocean sector. To date, India had completed 40 expeditions, with plans for the 41st expedition in 2021-22.

Read more: India launches 40th Scientific expedition to Antarctica

Source:  This post is based on the article “India extends support for protecting the Antarctic environment and for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)” published in PIB on 30th September 2021.


Trans- Himalayan region becoming one of the promising astronomical sites globally

What is the news?

A recent study said that the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) located at Hanle near Leh in Ladakh is becoming one of the promising observatory sites globally. This is due to its advantages of more clear nights, minimal light pollution, background aerosol concentration, extremely dry atmospheric condition, and uninterrupted by monsoon.

About the study

Astronomers are constantly searching for ideal locations around the world to build their next big telescope based on local meteorological data collected over many years. Such studies are crucial in planning for future observatories and the prediction of how they will vary with time.

Researchers led by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore, carried out a detailed study of the nighttime cloud cover fraction over 8 high altitude observatories, including three in India. The Indian locations include Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) in Hanle and Merak (Ladakh), and Devasthal (Nainital) in India.

The study classified the quality of observable nights for different astronomical usages like photometry and spectroscopy on a daily basis.

What are the key findings of the study?

The researchers found decreasing trends for the cloud cover fraction over the central region of Africa, the Eurasian continent, and the American continents. On the other hand, the researchers found increasing trends in the maritime region as well as land regions in the Sahara Desert, the Middle East, Indian sub-continent, the Tibetan Plateau and some of the Southeast Asian islands. his was possibly caused by global warming and associated water vapour changes in land-oceanic regions.

The researchers found that Paranal, located in a high-altitude desert in Chile, to be the best site in terms of clear skies with around 87% of clear nights in a year.

The researchers found that the Hanle site is as dry as the Atacama Desert in Chile and much drier than Devasthal. The Hanle has around 270 clear nights in a year and is also one of the emerging sites for infrared and sub-mm optical astronomy. This is because water vapour absorbs electromagnetic signals and reduces their strength.

About Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO)

It is located in Hanle near Leh in Ladakh. It is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. The IAO currently hosts Telescopes such as the Himalayan Chandra Telescope, GROWTH-India Telescope, High Altitude Gamma Ray Telescope.

Source:  This post is based on the article “Trans- Himalayan region becoming one of the promising astronomical sites globally” published in PIB on 30th September 2021.


India, Australia aim to finalise trade pact by end of next year

Source:  This post is based on the article “India, Australia aims to finalise trade pact by end of next year” published in Business Standard on 01st October 2021.

What is the news?

India and Australia are looking to finalise a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) by the end of 2022, which will help expand trade between the two nations.

About the CECA between India and Australia

Both nations aim to sign an early harvest trade deal that will cover areas of immediate interest. Both the nations will exchange the first list of offers by October.

The trade deal will cover goods, services, investments, government procurement, logistics, standards, and rules of origin. The trade deal is expected to double the trade between the two nations.

In the past, a trade deal with Australia was put on hold as both countries were not able to reach a conclusion due to a lack of consensus on various issues.

About the trade between India and Australia
India-Australia Trade
Source: Business Standard

In 2020, India was Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner and sixth-largest export destination. India-Australia bilateral trade exceeded AUD 24 billion last year.

Major Indian exports to Australia are petroleum products, medicines, polished diamonds, gold jewellery, apparel, etc. The key Australian exports to India include coal, LNG, alumina, and non-monetary gold.

In services, major Indian exports relate to travel, telecom and computer, government and financial services. Similarly, the Australian services exports were principally in education and personal travel.

What is CECA?

CECA stands for Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. It is a kind of free trade pact that aims to provide an institutional mechanism to encourage and improve trade between the two countries.

CECA is different from the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). “Cooperation” denotes a less intense relationship between two countries, while the word “partnership” denotes a more personal and more intense relationship between the parties.

What is an early harvest trade deal?

An Early Harvest trade deal serves as a precursor to an FTA between the two countries. It helps them to identify certain products and services for tariff liberalisation to further strengthen the confidence between the two trading partners.


Hidden debt rising for partners of China’s BRI plan

Source: This post is based on the article “Hidden debt rising for partners of China’s BRI plan” published in The Hindu on 1st Oct 2021.

What is the news?

A new study has found under- reported debts to the tune of $385 billion in projects carried out in dozens of countries under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with a rise in “hidden” debt.

The study was conducted by AidData, a development research lab at the College of William & Mary in the U.S. The report studied 13,427 projects across 165 countries worth $843 billion, in the time period from 2000 to 2017, and examined how President Xi Jinping’s BRI plan, launched in 2013, has changed China’s overseas lending.

What are the findings of the study?

Chinese debt burdens are substantially larger than previously understood, and 42 countries now have levels of public debt exposure to China in excess of 10% of GDP.

– The total debt was systematically under-reported to the World Bank’s Debtor Reporting System (DRS) because, in many cases, central government institutions in LMICs [low and middle income countries] are not the primary borrowers responsible for repayment.

– The big difference between China and other prominent sources of overseas financing was that Chinese banks have used “debt rather than aid to establish a dominant position in the international development finance market.

While earlier most overseas lending involved central government institutions, now nearly 70% of China’s overseas lending is now directed to state-owned companies, state-owned banks, special purpose vehicles, joint ventures, and private sector institutions. This has introduced major public financial management challenges for LMICs.

From 2000 to 2017,

– Biggest recipients of Official Dev Assistance: Iraq ($8.5 billion), North Korea ($7.17 billion), Ethiopia ($6.57)

– Biggest recipients of Chinese loans: Russia ($151.8 billion) Venezuela ($81.96 billion) and Angola ($50.47 billion)

– India ranked 23rd in the list of top recipients of Chinese loans from 2000 to 2017, receiving $8.86 billion

– 35% of the BRI infrastructure project portfolio has encountered major implementation problems, such as corruption scandals or labour violations, with Pakistan topping the list of countries with the most number of projects hit by scandals and corruption

China has a 4.2% interest rate, a grace period of less than two years, and a maturity length of less than 10 years. Despite such conditions, what has, however, led to many countries, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka in South Asia, turning to Chinese loans at higher interest rates is the lack of financing options elsewhere for infrastructure projects.


New eel species discovered in Mumbai well

Source: This post is based on the article “New eel species discovered in Mumbai well” published in Down to Earth on 1st Oct 2021.

What is the news?

A new species of swamp eel belonging to the genus Rakthamicthys that is endemic to India was discovered in a well in Mumbai. It was named Rakthamichthys Mumba – the Mumbai blind eel. This is the fifth species from the genus to be described from India.

Also, this is the first completely blind subterranean freshwater fish species to be described from Maharashtra and the Northern western Ghats.

 

New eel species discovered in Mumbai well. Photo: Anil Mohapatra / Zoological Survey of India
Source: DTE
Rakthamichthys mumba

The eel has been named Rakthamichthys mumba, based on the city in which it was found. Unlike other species of its genus, the mumba lacks eyes, fins and scales.

Rakthamichthys mumba differs from its congener from Western Ghats of India by the possession of jaws-projecting forward equally, when viewed laterally, absence of eyes and having more vertebrae.

The present known habitat of the species is only the Mumbai well.


Unique technology for direct generation of Hydrogen from agricultural residue developed

Source: This post is based on the article “Unique technology for direct generation of Hydrogen from agricultural residue developed” published in PIB on 1st Oct 2021.

What is the news?

Indian researchers have developed a unique technology for direct generation of Hydrogen from agricultural residue.

A team of researchers from Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), GOI, in collaboration with Sentient labs of KPIT Technologies, have developed this technology at lab-scale to extract hydrogen from agricultural residues.

What are the features of the technology?

The technology is 25% more efficient as compared to conventional anaerobic digestion processes used today.

The two-stage process eliminates the pretreatment of biomass, thus making the process economical and environment friendly. The process generates Hydrogen in the first stage and Methane in the second. The methane generated in the process can also be used to generate additional hydrogen.

This process also generates a digestate that is rich in nutrients which can be used as an organic fertilizer.

What is the significance of the technology?

India has set a target of 60% renewable energy of about 450 GW by 2030. To achieve this, in the current scenario, researchers all over the world are working towards renewable energy solutions which should be sustainable with a limited carbon footprint.

One of the most economical ways to achieve this is to produce hydrogen from a cheap, abundant, and renewable source. Agricultural waste, which faces a great challenge for disposal, could be one of the sources of hydrogen production.

What are the benefits of the new technology?

This innovation by Indian researchers will promote eco-friendly hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles by overcoming the challenge of hydrogen availability.

It would also solve the dual problem of energy generation and waste disposal.

Generating hydrogen from unutilized agricultural residue will also help India to become self-reliant on energy resources and add a major stream of revenue to the farmer community.


 

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