9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 20th, 2021

Dear Friends
We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
    6. Down To Earth
    7. PIB
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
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Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 1

Movers and shapers: On Migrant workers

Source: This post is based on the article “Movers and shapers” published in The Times of India on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS -1 Population and associated issues

Synopsis: Targeted terror attacks in Kashmir have triggered an exodus of migrant workers. But this is not the sole challenge faced by migrant workers in India.

Introduction

Attacks on migrants in Kashmir have received nationwide attention. However, the challenges posed by nativist politics for migrant workers have gone unnoticed.

Migrant workers provide cheap labor to the destination state and remittances to the home state (source state). But states have chosen to ignore this economic logic.

Haryana passed a bill granting reservation to locals in private jobs. However, due to labor crunch, it faced after the lifting of lockdown, it had to call back migrant labors.

Similarly, many other states have either passed laws or are willing to do so for reserving jobs for locals.

What is the significance of migrant labors for destination states?

In urban and robust agricultural societies, low-paying or back-breaking jobs refused by locals are done by migrant workers.

Alternatively, there are also fast-progressing states short of high-skilled human capital, who require educated migrants.

These laws (mentioned above) push up labor costs and drive away, the employers or industrialists.

What is the reason behind the resistance faced by migrant labors?

In the past, the economic stagnation of socialist years (before 1991) triggered the anti-migrant sentiment in states like Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

However, after the acceleration of economic growth after 1991 liberalisation, these sentiments were quieted and accelerated migration.

Similarly, whenever there is an economic slowdown, it increases the competition for jobs and drives the localism emotions up.

GS Paper 2

The decline of the Budget school

Source: This post is based on the article “the decline of the Budget schoolpublished in Livemint on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Issues related to development and management of Social Sector and Human Resources.

Relevance: Understanding the impact of the pandemic on private budget schools.

Synopsis: The private budget school ecosystem is collapsing, which is a threat to millions of children who rely on it.

Introduction

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is visible in almost all the sectors, and the schools are no exception to it. Today, most private budget schools are facing the problem of financial crunch and are on the verge of lapse owing to shut down and transfer of students from schools.

What are the problems faced by the parents?

The pandemic has caused financial instability in many homes. With the frequent lockdowns and the slowdown of the economy, they are struggling to pay their children’s fees to private institutions. Apart from the fees, there are other expenses like books, internet and school uniforms, which most of the families are unable to afford in the pandemic period. So the parents have no choice but to transfer their students to government schools.

Read more: Long term Impacts of School Closure – Explained, pointwise
What are the problems faced by the private budget schools?

Fall in the strength of students: There has been seen a decrease in enrollment of students during and after the pandemic. This led to problems of paying the staff, school building rent and other expenses. Some student entrepreneur claims that approx tens of thousands of private schools are either shut down or on the verge of closure.

Death Incidents: There are also many instances of private school promoters and teachers are committing suicide. With the people lost their jobs and reduction in salary led to less admission of students in schools. Budget schools already running on the minimum fee. So, they found it difficult to pay salaries to staff. According to the National Independent School Alliance, private schools are facing an annual loss of 77,000 crores in the aftermath of the corona pandemic.

Mismatch: With a cut in teachers’ pay rates and fewer teachers in schools, their workloads have been increased. Also, there is a mismatch in the teacher-student ratio. Even the low-budget schools are struggling to provide digital solutions to students owing to the lack of resources. The only digital medium they are using is Whatsapp.

Read more: Blended model of learning – Explained in detail

What should the government do?

Government should treat private budget schools as MSME. They should be given concession or relaxations should be provided on loan repayment. Also, it should focus on covering the learning loss of students.


EU, Indian and the Indo Pacific

Source: This post is based on the article “EU, Indian and the Indo Pacificpublished in Indian Express on 20th October 2021.

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

Relevance: Understanding the parameters of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy document.

Synopsis: India does not figure prominently in the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy. The Chinese challenge might change that.

Introduction

Recently, the “EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific” document has been released. It appears to be over-determined by China’s expansionism. However, there is a need to analyze it in the context of the rapprochement between the EU and India.

Read more: EU unveils Indo-Pacific strategy

What are the important highlights of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy?

Human Rights: It highlights the importance of values and human rights. The document says the EU will further continue to use sanctions against the bodies, entities etc who will involve in human rights violations and abuses worldwide. It will also lend its support to like-minded countries in Indo Pacific that work for human rights.

Partnership: The document highlights ASEAN as an important partner for the EU. New Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs) are also announced with Thailand and Malaysia.

Security cooperation: EU is seeking to play a stronger role in the ASEAN security architecture and participate in the ASEAN ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus(ADMM-Plus) structures and the East Asia Summit (EAS) . ASEAN is also the main partner of the EU from the military point of view.

EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy and India

The document does not give much-required importance to the Indian partnership. However, India appears in the list of the countries which already have an Indo-Pacific strategy and with which the EU is interested in a deeper “engagement”.

India is listed as the EU’s first partner only in one area, which is“Enhancing Security Cooperation in and with Asia (ESIWA)”. It covers counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, maritime security and crisis management. But for most other parts, Europeans put India on par with Pakistan under military cooperation.

Diversification: The document did not mention any role India could play in value-chain diversification, which is a top priority of the EU since the pandemic.

Why EU’s interest is not at par with India?

German Vision: EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy document is mostly in tune with the German vision of Indo-Pacific. Germany puts more emphasis on trade, economy, human rights, and engagement with China. It has less attention over the security aspect which is India and French strong pillars. 

Economic perspective: EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy is mostly driven from an economic perspective, while India’s seeks more partnership at the geostrategic and geopolitical levels. The document has emphasized on implementing and enforcing the comprehensive trade agreements with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, etc but not with India.


How woman lawyers are kept out of litigation

Source: This post is based on the article “How woman lawyers are kept out of litigationpublished in Indian Express on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted for Protection & Betterment of These Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: Understanding reasons behind the low representation of women in the litigation.

Synopsis: While the bench is making slow yet definitive progress with regard to women’s representation, the Bar needs to do much more.

Introduction

Chief Justice of India raised his concern over women’s count in the judiciary. He observed that at least 50% of women should be there at all levels of the judiciary.

Justice D Y Chandrachud, in his 2012 speech, noted that, as of 2012, only 5 out of the 294 senior advocates in the SC were women, which counts to only 2%. However, the status of women is much better in corporate offices and law firms.

What are the reasons behind the low count of women in litigation?

Pay scale: In a study conducted by Sonal Makhija and Swagata Raha, it was found that clients choose female lawyers so that they can pay lesser amounts in fees. Independent women legal practitioners are forced into accepting a much lower remuneration, thereby making it a difficult profession to sustain in.

Flexibility: Litigation offers greater flexibility as one can decide a number of working hours and there is also an option of choosing fewer clients. This flexibility further pushes women out of the litigation space by trivialising them. So, they are rarely seen in the courtrooms and so fewer women in the litigation race.

No Reservation: There is a reservation for women in other sectors like colleges, public offices. But, there is no such requirement for the positions of government pleader or a public prosecutor.

Lack of facilities: Court complexes are often lacking in various services like lack of creches, usable restrooms, non-recognition of maternity leaves etc.

Limited areas: Most of the women are restricted to a particular area, like practicing family law or women’s rights law. There is a common perception that women are better mediators because of their emotional aspect and cannot understand clients from a financial and economic angle.

Less publicity: There is less coverage of women who score big in court battles. Eg Shally Bhasin, Ruby Ahuja and Misha, score big in the protracted court battle between Essar Steel India Ltd and ArcelorMittal. But, their stories are rarely publicized.

Read moreIssue of Gender Gap in Judiciary – Explained, Pointwise
What should be done to improve the women’s count in litigation?

Proper surveys should be done to improve the representation of women across the bench.

Media houses should take initiative to properly feature, give coverage and acknowledge women in the litigation process.

The court should be equipped with basic facilities and the working conditions of women should be improved.


Is the Indian foreign-policy ship changing course?: About India-Afghanistan relations

Source: This post is based on the article “Is the Indian foreign-policy ship changing course?published in Indian Express on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 Bilateral, Regional & Global Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests.

Relevance: Understanding India’s changing foreign policy.

Synopsis: India announced hosting a summit on Afghanistan. This opens up many opportunities and new dimensions to India’s foreign policy.

Introduction

Recently, India announced an international conference on Afghanistan in the second week of November. While India kept its relationship with the Taliban or Afghanistan under the wraps, this is certainly an unconventional step from India.

Read more: Regional powers and the Afghanistan question
Why this conference is significant?

It is for the first time that India’s National Security Council is wading into regional diplomacy. India has also invited two of its neighbours with whom the relations are frozen i.e. Pakistan and China.

Read more: Evaluating India’s options in Afghanistan
How does it impact India-Pakistan relations?

This invite puts Pakistan in a tough position. If Pakistan rejects the invite, it would be seen as Pakistan not seeking to amend its ties with India. If Pakistan accepts the invitation, then it would create a dilemma for Pakistan’s foreign policy regarding Jammu and Kashmir, as it would seem like Pakistan’s validation of India’s move in Kashmir.

What challenges led to this conference?

In the region that India lives in, Quad and AUKUS are of little help when it comes to Afghanistan. Pakistan and China are consolidating their positions in the Hindu Kush. Moscow and Beijing have erected concrete relations in Central Asia. So, India’s “influence” in Kabul is now significantly reduced.

India’s attempt to align with Iran seems to be coming to an end. India has swung to the other extreme by identifying a new Quad framework along with the UAE, USA, and Israel.

Coming to Afghanistan, India seems no more concerned whether Russia accommodates India in the “Moscow format” or the privileged grouping known as the Troika Plus (comprising US, China and Pakistan)

So, India has itself moved to the centre stage by announcing a new dialogue with Afghanistan in Delhi.

Thus, it can be said that India is adapting to the changes in geopolitical climate and making necessary changes in its foreign policy to ensure its internal security and continued growth.


One Nation One Ration Card: Good intention but implementation may be difficult

Source: This post is based on the article “One Nation One Ration Card: Good intention but implementation may be difficult” published in Down to Earth on 19th October 2021.

Syllabus– GS-2: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

Relevance: To understand the challenges and benefits associated with the One Nation One Ration Card scheme.

Synopsis: The One Nation One Ration Card scheme has many benefits, but it also has a few practical challenges that need to be addressed.

Introduction

Many welfare schemes are designed with good intentions but encounter many (expected and unexpected) hurdles at the time of their implementation. One such scheme is the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme initiated recently by the Government of India.

Read more: One nation, One ration card scheme
What are the benefits of the One Nation One Ration Card scheme?

A benefit to migratory labourers: Migratory labourers find it difficult to get a ration card in the state of residence even if they have one in their native states.

Even an employee of the organised sector is facing challenges to get a new ration card in the state they have migrated because of documentation requirements.

ONORC provide ration to all such persons without any documentation.

A benefit to migratory labourers families in the home state: This is one of the important benefits of the scheme. When a migrant labourer migrates to another state alone and gets a share of the ration from PDS shops there, the family can continue to obtain ration from the native state.

Reduce subsidy burden: The cross-verification across states with ONORC benefits will eliminate bogus cards and reduce the subsidy burden of the government.

What are the difficulties associated with the One Nation One Ration Card scheme?

Many practical difficulties are likely to surface during the implementation of the scheme. These include,

Does not account for the interstate variation in PDS: Due to historical, political and varying consumption habits, PDS across the country varies with respect to the items supplied through fair price shops to the below-poverty-line (BPL) card-holders. Even the quantity and the price of items supplied varies from state to state. For example,

Product difference: Maharashtra supplies only wheat to the BPL families, while Andhra Pradesh provides only rice. BPL households in a few states like Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are also given pulses.

Quantity difference: In Tamil Nadu, a BPL family gets 20 kilograms of rice, while in Karnataka a BPL household receives 5 kg of rice per member.

Cost difference: In Tamil Nadu, 20 kg rice is given free of cost while in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, it is provided at Rs 3 per kg.

All this resulted in the following challenges.

A Migrant labourer may not like the product which he/she received in the migrated state.

Price variation for the same item across the states involves a subsidy burden to the concerned state. So, the states will be hesitant to pass on the benefits to the migrated person from a different state.

What can be done to improve the One Nation One Ration Card scheme?

The government has to ensure some clarity on the items received by migrant labourers from fair price shops.

Elaborate logistics will have to be worked out if the migrant population is assured to be provided with the items supplied in his native state.

The Union government has assured financial assistance to all state governments willing to implement the scheme. The success of the scheme will greatly depend on the extent of the seriousness of all implementing agencies.


Explained: IMF outlook and status of jobs

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: IMF outlook and status of jobs” published in The Indian Express on 20th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations – Reports

Relevance: Findings of the latest World Economic Outlook Report

Synopsis: The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook has underlined that employment growth is likely to lag output recovery after the pandemic. Why has job growth been slow, and what are the concerns for India?

Introduction

Last week, the IMF unveiled its 2nd World Economic Outlook (WEO). The IMO comes out with the report twice every year — April and October — and also provides regular “updates” to it on other occasions.

As per the report, the global economic recovery momentum has weakened a little, largely due to the pandemic-induced supply disruptions.

But more than just the marginal headline numbers for global growth, it is the increasing inequality among nations that IMF was most concerned about.

World Economic Outlook, IMF outlook, WEO report, global economy, economic recovery, india economy, Indian Express

What are the key findings of the report?

i). Divergence in growth: Aggregate output for the advanced economy group is expected to regain its pre-pandemic trend path in 2022 and exceed it by 0.9 per cent in 2024. By contrast, aggregate output for the emerging market and developing economy group (excluding China) is expected to remain 5.5 per cent below the pre-pandemic forecast in 2024, resulting in a larger setback to improvements in their living standards. There are two key reasons for this: large disparities in vaccine access, and differences in policy support.

ii). Employment growth is likely to stay behind the output recovery: The gap between recovery in output and employment is likely to be larger in emerging markets and developing economies than in advanced economies. Further, young and low-skilled workers are likely to be worse off than prime-age and high-skilled workers, respectively.

What does this mean for India?

According to the data available with the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the total number of employed people in the Indian economy as of May-August 2021 was 394 million — 11 million below the level set in May-August 2019. To puts these numbers in a larger perspective, in May-August 2016 the number of employed people was 408 million. In other words, India was already facing a deep employment crisis before the Covid crisis, and it became much worse after it.

Impact on employment post-COVID: Projections of an employment recovery lagging behind output recovery, as made by the IMF in its latest report, could mean a large section of the population being excluded from the GDP growth and its benefits. Lack of adequate employment levels would drag down overall demand and thus slowing down India’s growth momentum.

Why could employment lag output growth in India?

There are several possible reasons.

i). India’s already existing massive unemployment crisis.

Experts cite a number of additional issues too.

ii). Different rates of recovery: India is witnessing a K-shaped recovery. That means different sectors are recovering at significantly different rates. Some sectors such as the IT-services sectors have been practically unaffected by Covid, while e-commerce industry is doing “brilliantly”. But at the same time, many contact-based services, which can create many more jobs, are not seeing a similar bounce-back. Similarly, listed firms have recovered much better than unlisted firms.

iii). Bulk of India’s employment is in the informal or unorganized sectors. Typically, it is expected that organised sector firms will provide formal employment. Recently, IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath pointed out that the number of people using the MGNREGA provisions was still 50-60% above pre-pandemic level. This suggests that the informal economy is struggling to recover at the same pace as some of the more visible sectors. A weak recovery for the informal/unorganised sectors implies a drag on the economy’s ability to create new jobs or revive old ones.

GS Paper 3

Expanding forest cover: On proposed amendments to Forest Act

Source: This post is based on the article “Expanding Forest cover” published in Business Standard on 20th October 2021.

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

Relevance: Balancing between forest expansion, environment protection, and economic development.

Synopsis: Proposed legal amendments to the Indian Forest Act are in the right direction.

Introduction

The environment ministry recently initiated the process to amend the existing forest legislation. It has been now put up in the public domain recently to invite stakeholders’ and state governments’ response.

Why was there a need to amend the Indian Forest Act?

An amendment to the obsolete Indian Forest Act has been due for a long while, especially since 1996, when a judgment by the Supreme Court changed the very fundamentals of the concept of forests and their governance.

The court had opined that any green patch that conformed to the “dictionary meaning” of the term “forest” be considered forest and governed accordingly. However, the judgement of the SC has become troublesome for some reasons.

With this, most kinds of land with a green canopy, regardless of their ownership, became “deemed forest”, requiring forest authorities’ prior permission before putting them to any use.

Public institutions like the railways and road departments, too, needed the forest ministry’s nod to utilise their spare land alongside rail tracks and roads if trees or other vegetation had come up there.

Strategically vital projects in border areas and elsewhere, too, had to go through the time-consuming process of getting necessary clearances.

What are the positives in the draft Indian Forest Act?

Firstly, the text does away with many of the contentious and thorny regulatory provisions of the previous drafts and can, with necessary changes, form the basis for the modification of this law.

Secondly, while decriminalizing minor offenses to reduce the load on public litigation, it proposes relatively high penalties for major infringements and also more stringent norms for forest conservation.

Thirdly, it seeks to introduce a novel concept of “pristine forests” where no non-forestry activity will be allowed under any circumstances.

Fourthly, the new draft seeks to introduce some significant and need-based reforms in the forest sector, which can potentially pave the way for forestry activities even on private lands. Most of the concerns related to curbs on harvesting, transit, and trade of the forest produce grown on private plots are proposed to be removed.

What are the contentious issues in the draft Indian Forest Act?

Exploring and extracting oil and natural gas from beneath the forest lands is proposed to be allowed by drilling holes from outside the forest areas without harming the underground water aquifers. This provision, however, may turn controversial as experts still differ on the efficacy of this technology.

The draft fails to lay due emphasis on promoting agro-forestry, which has a huge potential to expand green cover in rural areas, apart from generating additional income for the farmers.

What is the way forward?

Promoting tree plantations on private lands and agricultural farms has, indeed, become imperative now due to the lack of government or community lands for raising new forests.

Private participation is vital to meet the targets of covering 33% land with forests and creating a carbon sink to lock in 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide as stipulated under the Paris agreement on climate change.

The paramount need today is to strike a joint endeavour by the public and private sectors to achieve this key objective.


Devastation in coasts and hills underlines ecological fragility, calls for revisiting development paradigms

Source: This post is based on the article “Devastation in coasts and hills underlines ecological fragility, calls for revisiting development paradigms” published in Indian Express on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Disaster and Disaster Management.

Relevance: Development vs Ecology conservation

Synopsis: Whether in the Western Ghats or the Himalayas, there are pressing reasons for states to rethink development paradigms.

Introduction

This monsoon season has given ample evidence of extreme weather events. For instance,

In July, a fortnight of torrential rain left a trail of destruction in the mountains of north India and the coastal parts of Western India.

At least 20 people are feared to have lost their lives in another bout of floods in Uttarakhand.

In Kerala, incessant downpour in the past four days has swelled rivers and caused landslides, sweeping away homes, bridges and claiming at least 38 lives.

States require much more than emergency measures to address and mitigate such climate-related vulnerabilities.

Why hilly states are more vulnerable to climate changes?

The topography of most hilly regions makes them prone to landslides.

Deforestation, quarrying, road construction and other land-use changes that neglects ecology increase vulnerabilities of such areas during episodes of heavy rainfall.

That’s why several expert committees have advised utmost caution in implementing infrastructure projects in both the Himalayas and the Western Ghats.

– Madhav Gadgil committee: In 2011, the committee recommended that a roughly 1,30,000 sq km stretch spanning Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu be declared an environmentally sensitive zone. It called for strict regulation of developmental activities in this stretch.

– K Kasturirangan committee: It was a substantially diluted recommendations. It proposed to reduce the size of Western Ghats’ eco-sensitive zone by about half of what was earmarked by the Gadgil panel.

What was the response by the state governments?

None of the six states agreed with its recommendations. Kerala, in particular, objected to the proposed ban on mining, restrictions on construction activities and embargoes on hydroelectricity projects.

The substantially diluted recommendations of K Kasturirangan also did not get much traction in the Western Ghat states.

What needs to be done?

Greater coordination amongst forecasting agencies and reservoir management authorities: In recent years, state governments in most parts of the country have been criticised for taking disaster management decisions too late. For instance, opening up of reservoirs to avoid flooding. Dam operators blame the delay on not being alerted about extreme weather events in time. Hence, there’s a case for greater coordination amongst forecasting agencies and reservoir management authorities. This would ensure the timely opening of dam spillways and create holding capacity in the reservoirs to absorb excess rainfall.

Investments in disaster management systems: With studies and IPCC reports warning about more destructive floods caused by sea-level rise and high-intensity rainfall, India should not delay investments in disaster management systems.


India must keep the momentum of Air India’s privatization going

Source: This post is based on the article “India must keep the momentum of Air India’s privatization going” published in Livemint on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources,

Relevance: Disinvestment of PSE’s

Synopsis: Adopting policies that boost the market valuations of state-run companies will help government to keep the disinvestment momentum.

Introduction

After the successful disinvestment in Air India, many want the government to build on this and carry out more strategic disinvestment, i.e., sell more government companies, to the private sector. But that is a very obvious point.

The right way to carry the disinvestment momentum forth is to formulate policies that lead to the stock-market valuations of public sector companies going up in the years ahead.

How right policies will help the government to carry the disinvestment momentum?

Ensuring right Professional management practices in public sector companies will increase the stock-market valuations of PSE’s.

For instance, take the case of ICICI Bank, a private lender, and Punjab National Bank (PNB), which is state-run.

– Data from the Indian Banks’ Association shows that both banks are more or less similarly sized. As of March 2021, ICICI Bank had total assets worth ₹12.30 trillion, whereas PNB had total assets worth ₹12.6 trillion. However, PNB’s market capitalization was ₹46,852 crore that is less than a tenth of that of ICICI Bank, which was worth ₹5.04 trillion.

One reason for this lies in the higher non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans of PNB, at ₹1.04 trillion as of June 2021, whereas those of ICICI Bank were at ₹43,148 crore.

The difference in the two lenders’ market capitalization is not just because of the difference in their bad loans. The market feels that ICICI Bank is more likely to be run like a bank should be whereas it isn’t clear if the same can be said about PNB or other public sector banks (PSBs). Hence, the lower market value.

Government interventions and influence on PSE’s needs to be limited. For instance, public sector enterprises are also used by the government to fulfill its social-sector objectives. In the case of PSBs, there is always the danger of their being pushed to give loans to industrialists close to the government.

To correct this, the government needs to allow managers of public sector enterprises to run them like businesses. This will help improve the stock market valuations of these companies manifold.

Higher valuations mean that the government can keep selling some stake in these companies regularly to raise money. This money can then be used to fulfill the Centre’s social goals, including incentivizing banks and other companies to do what the government wants them to.


Changing economic order

Source: This post is based on the article “Changing economic order” published in Business standard on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources,

Relevance: Deglobalisation and declining international trade

Synopsis: In the absence of a focused approach to exports in the changing global environment, longer-term growth prospects are bound to suffer.

Introduction

India is on track to attain the $400-billion export target this fiscal year. Exports jumped to $33.44 billion in September, registering 21.35% year-on-year growth. India is clearly benefiting from a stronger-than- expected recovery in international trade.

But note that booming international trade may not sustain for long and the world is witnessing a trend of de-globalisation. Hence, India needs to adopt policies that could suit the changing global environment.

Why it is said that the world is witnessing a deglobalisation phenomenon?

International trade has been under pressure for several years and the pandemic has only exacerbated the fault lines.

Large economies are reconsidering their dependence on international supplies and would aim to build domestic capacity.

Corporations are also re-evaluating the resilience of supply chains. All this may affect global trade and growth over the medium term and hasten the trend of de-globalisation.

The trade openness index, which was steadily rising in the post-war period, for instance, started declining after 2008 financial crisis.

The growth of global value chains has stopped, and reforms are stalled all over the world according to an article on the de-globalisation trend last year by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

China, which has been a driving force for trade and growth in recent decades, started looking inward. Although it is still a dominant exporter, exports as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) have fallen from over 30 per cent in 2008 to under 20 per cent.

Trade tension between the US and China during the Donald Trump years also contributed to the process. Strategic rivalry between the two and the evolving geo-political environment would continue to undermine economic openness.

Institutions governing the global order are also under pressure.

How India needs to prepare for the future?

India should not get carried away by the current year’s export numbers. India will not be able to attain higher sustainable growth without higher exports and policy-making should be guided by this basic economic reality.

Need to review of the current trade policy. India has increased tariffs in recent years, which has direct implications for exports. According to the World Bank data, exports as a percentage of GDP have fallen from a high of 25% in 2013 to about 18% in 2020. This needs to be reversed.

India needs to tap more global markets. Recently, India decided to stay away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will affect longer-term trade prospects. India needs to reconsider such decision and it should negotiate better to get advantageous free trade pacts.


Health id needn’t cause any anxiety over data policy

Source: This post is based on the article “Health id needn’t cause any anxiety over data policy published in Livemint on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.

Relevance: Understanding the issues related to data privacy.

Synopsis: While there is a need to adopt the digital solution, at the same time it is also important to protect the data of people.

Introduction

Recently the government announced setting up a new digital health scheme with a digital Id. This again raises the issue of privacy, as was done by the Aadhaar issue earlier.

Read more: Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission – Explained, pointwise
What are the issues raised by health ID?

When the services were being provided physically, people did not complain about providing identity proof. But when the same is demanded digitally, people begin to raise issues.

This is because the digital health scheme raises apprehension that the new Health ID would result in health data being aggregated into large, centralized databases. This would make this intimate information prone to cyber-attacks. The issue is further complicated when there are issues of digital data breaches like the recent Aadhar issue.

How to solve the challenges in digital health ID?

Once the identity of beneficiaries has been established, their data should be hidden in such a way it would be difficult to use the same data for other transactional information. The data should also be encrypted so that in case of a data breach, the privacy of beneficiaries will not be impacted.

In case of beneficiaries availing of more than one public service, data should be cross verified in a privacy-preserving manner without actually exposing any core identity information.

There is a need to incentivize the use of privacy-enhancing digital identity solutions. Different methods should be adopted depending on the requirement. For Eg, one can generate tokens that serve as a proxy for identity while others can separate data flow from identity flow.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Union Minister says North East to be developed as India’s Bio-Economic Hub

What is the News?

During a visit to the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), the Union Minister for Science & Technology has said that the northeast is to be developed as the country’s bio-economic hub.

Note: Eastern Himalayan Region is one of the mega-biodiversity rich zones and is among the 34 biodiversity Hotspots of the world.

What is the Bio-Economy?

Bio-Economy is the production, utilization and conservation of biological resources to provide information, products, processes and services across all economic sectors. These resources include biological related knowledge, science, technology and innovation.

Bio-Economy and India

India’s Bio-Economy, in 2020, is valued at $70.2 billion. This is a 12.32 percent growth over 2019. The Bio-Economy in 2019 was valued at $62.5 Billion in 2019.

The Bio-Economy’s contribution to the national GDP in 2020 is at 2.7% of the GDP in 2020 

It is estimated that India’s bio-economy is on its way to achieve a 150-billion dollar target from the current 70 billion dollars by 2025.

What are the government initiatives to boost Bio-Economy?
Biotech KISAN

Biotech-KISAN is a scientist-farmer partnership scheme launched in 2017 by the Department of Biotechnology(DBT).

Aim: To connect science laboratories with the farmers to find out innovative solutions and technologies to be applied at the farm level. 

Under this scheme, so far 146 Biotech-KISAN Hubs have been established covering all 15 agroclimatic zones and 110 Aspirational Districts in the country.

About Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development(IBSD)

IBSD is an autonomous institute under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

It was set up in 2001 at Imphal, Manipur with an objective to develop and utilize rich bioresources of the North-East Region of the country through the application of modern tools of biology and biotechnology. 

Source: This post is based on the article Union Minister says North East to be developed as India’s Bio-Economic Hub published in PIB on 19th October 2021.


Union Minister launches Air Quality Early Warning System to coincide with Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsava

What is the News?

The Union Minister has launched a Decision Support System(DSS) that extends the ability of the existing Air Quality Early Warning System (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR.

Background

In 2018-19, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology(IITM) had launched an ‘Air Quality Early Warning System’ (AQEWS) to alert the citizens and the policymakers about the possible severe air-quality events about 7-10 days in advance. 

However, the policymakers needed more precise information on the potential sources responsible for the degraded air quality during a forecast severe air-quality event. 

Such information would help them monitor and control such emission sources and thus assist them in making decisions to manage air quality. 

Hence, realizing this need, IITM has launched AQEWS with a ‘Decision Support System’ (DSS) for air-quality management in Delhi. 

What information will the AQEWS with a DSS will provide?

DSS provides quantitative information about: 

  • The contribution of emissions from Delhi and the surrounding 19 districts to the air quality in Delhi, 
  • The contribution of emissions from 8 different emission sectors in Delhi to the air quality of Delhi, 
  • The contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighboring states to the degradation of air quality in Delhi, and 
  • The effects of possible emission source-level interventions on the forecast severe air-quality event in Delhi.

Hence, this information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degraded air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to the policymakers

Source: This post is based on the article Union Minister launches Air Quality Early Warning System to coincide with Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsavapublished in PIB on 19th October 2021.


Prime Minister to attend Abhidhamma Day programme at Kushinagar, organised on occasion of inauguration of Kushinagar International Airport

What is the News?

The Prime Minister will visit Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh to inaugurate an international airport and attend an event marking Abhidhamma Day at Mahaparinirvana Temple.

What is Abhidhamma Day?

The Abhidhamma Day marks the end of a three-month rainy retreat – Varshavaas or Vassa – for the Buddhist monks and nuns, during which time they stay at one place and pray.

What is the story behind Abhidhamma Day?

According to widely held belief, this is the day when Lord Buddha came back to earth from heaven.

​​He is believed to have gone to heaven to teach Abhidhamma Pitaka (a basket of ultimate things) to his mother. The teaching took three months after which Buddha came back to Earth. 

Hence, his followers too mark the three-month time by staying at one place and praying.

What is special about the event at Kushinagar?

According to a Culture Ministry, the highlight of the event is the exposition of the Holy Buddha Relic being brought from Waskaduwa Sri Subuddhi Rajvihara Temple in Sri Lanka by the Mahanayaka of the temple.

These relics are accepted as real relics (bone fragments, ashes, pieces of Jewels) of the Buddha.

These relics were found in Piprahwa, Siddharthnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, about 160 km from Kushinagar, in 1898. A part of the relics was sent to the King of Thailand and another part was sent to the King of Burma.

Read more: About the importance of Kushinagar and the Buddhist Circuit

Source: This post is based on the following articles 

  • Prime Minister to attend Abhidhamma Day programme at Kushinagar published in PIB on 19th October 2021.
  • Tourism Minister to address the conference ‘Tourism in Buddhist Circuits”  published in PIB on 19th October 2021.

Union Ayush Minister inaugurates ‘Ayush Van’ in Gandhidham

What is the News?

Union Minister of AYUSH has inaugurated Ayush Van.

What is Ayush Van?

Ayush Van is a dedicated forest for Ayurvedic plants. It is located at the Deendayal Port Trust (DPT) in Kutch, Gujarat.

The Ayush Van was set up in 30 acres of land allotted by DPT in a green-belt area The tree plantation is done to improve greenery in urban areas and increase the density of tree cover in the Kutch region.

The Ayush Van will help to realise the huge potential and benefits of the medicinal plants in India.

Read more: “Ayush Clinical Case Repository (ACCR) portal” and “Ayush Sanjivani App”

Terms to know:

ayush

Source:  This post is based on the article Union Ayush Minister inaugurates ‘Ayush Van’ in Gandhidham published in PIB on 19th October 2021.


Union Minister inaugurates 250mm Seer Water supply scheme in Kashmir and visited Martand Sun Temple

What is the News?

The Union Commerce and Industry Minister has inaugurated a 250 mm seer water supply scheme in Kashmir. He also visited the Martand Sun Temple in Kashmir.

About Seer Water Supply Scheme

The scheme aims to benefit around 10000 people in Kashmir and will be completed under the ambit of Jal Jeevan Mission within three months. 

About Martand Sun Temple
Martand Sun Temple 
Source: Wikimedia

Martand Sun Temple also known as Pandou Laidan is a Hindu temple dedicated to Surya (the chief solar deity in Hinduism). The temple is located in Jammu and Kashmir.

Note: Martand is another Sanskrit synonym for Surya.

The temple is one of the earliest known sun temples, much older than Konark and Modhera. The temple was built by the third ruler of the Karkota Dynasty, Lalitaditya Muktapida, in the 8th century CE. 

The temple was built on top of a plateau from where one can view the whole of the Kashmir Valley. 

However, the temple is now in ruins, as it was destroyed by the orders of Muslim ruler Sikandar Shah Miri.

But from the ruins and related archaeological findings, it can be said that the temple was an excellent specimen of Kashmiri architecture, which had blended the Gandharan, Gupta and Chinese forms of architecture.

Moreover, the Archaeological Survey of India has also declared the Martand Sun Temple as a site of national importance in Jammu and Kashmir.

Source: This post is based on the articleUnion Minister inaugurates 250mm Seer Water supply scheme in Kashmirpublished in PIB on 19th October 2021.

Terms to know:


India, Israel, UAE and U.S. launch quad forum

Source: This post is based on the following articles

  • “India, Israel, UAE and U.S. launch quad forum” published in The Hindu on 20th October 2021.
  • “‘New Quad’ lists areas of co-operation” published in Livemint on 20th October 2021.
  • “The other Quad: On virtual meet of Foreign Ministers of India, US, Israel and UAE” published in The Hindu on 20th October 2021.
  • “New Quad takes shape with focus on tech, trade, big data” published in Times of India on 20th October 2021.
What is the news?

Recently, the first meeting of the foreign ministers of the US, India, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took place virtually. After the meeting, India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have decided to launch a new quadrilateral economic forum.

Note: Indian foreign minister has been on a five-day visit to Israel. He and the Israeli counterpart joined the meeting from Jerusalem.

About the new quadrilateral economic forum

The quadrilateral builds on ongoing cooperation between the U.S., Israel and the UAE after the Abraham Accords and India. The forum is described as an international forum for economic cooperation.

Read more: The Abrahan Accord as India’s West Asia bridge

Aim: The aim of the new quadrilateral grouping is to establish an international forum for economic cooperation. The grouping will specifically look for the “possibilities for joint infrastructure projects” in transportation and technology.

Focus areas: The new quadrilateral grouping will “expand the economic and political cooperation in the Middle East and Asia, including through trade, combating climate change, technology cooperation including Big Data, energy cooperation, and increasing maritime security.”

The Quad will also focus on global public health and ways to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

Future of the new Quad: Each country will appoint a senior professional to a joint working group. This joint working group will formulate options for cooperation in the focus areas identified by the new Quad.

Apart from that, the four ministers also decided to convene an in-person meeting in Dubai soon.

During the meeting, they also agreed that the key to the success of the new quad depends upon how quickly the forum can move from ‘government-to-government’ to ‘business-to-business.

What are the advantages of the new quadrilateral economic forum?

The four countries have a “unique set of capabilities, knowledge, and experience” that can be used to create a new network of cooperation.

The countries also recognised that there are many overlapping interests between them. Especially in the field of energy, climate, trade, regional security. So, the new Quad format will help these countries to develop these areas further.

Read more: India and the new Quad in West Asia
Other key discussions of the meeting

The meeting focused on the shared issues of concern in the region. The four countries also “discussed expanding economic and political cooperation in the Middle East (West Asia) and Asia. The countries also agreed to launch talks for a free trade agreement.

The recent development of India, the UAE and Israel cooperation

India, the UAE and Israel have also been in talks for trilateral cooperation since diplomatic ties were established through Abraham Accords last year.

Business groups in India, the UAE and Israel have also been in talks for trilateral cooperation since diplomatic ties were established.

The International Federation of Indo-Israel Chambers of Commerce (IFIIC) has predicted that the potential for agreements backed by Israeli innovation, UAE funding and Indian manufacturing could cross $100 billion by 2030.

In the first such venture, a UAE project for robotic solar panel cleaning technology was signed by Israeli company EcoppExplained: What is Allium negianum?ia that has a manufacturing base in India.

Terms to know:


Explained: What is Allium negianum?

What is the News?

A team of researchers has discovered a new species of the genus Allium named “Allium negianum” from the Uttarakhand Himalayan region of India.

What is Allium?

Allium is one of the largest genera in Amaryllidaceae, a family of herbaceous, mainly perennial and bulbous flowering plants.

The genus has about 1,100 species distributed worldwide, including onion, garlic, scallion, shallot and chives.

The genus naturally occurs in dry seasons in the Northern Hemisphere and South Africa.

What about Allium in India?

The Indian Allium is distributed in different eco-geographical areas of the temperate and alpine regions of the Himalayas.

The Indian Himalayan region has two distinct centers of Allium diversity, the Western Himalaya (over 85% of total diversity) and the Eastern Himalaya (6%), covering the alpine-sub temperate region.

Where is the newly discovered Allium negianum found?
New Species of Onion
Source: phys.org

The specific name of Allium negianum honors Dr. Kuldeep Singh Negi, an eminent explorer and Allium collector from India

This plant is restricted to the region of the Western Himalayas. It grows in Malari region of Niti valley in Chamoli district and Dharma valley of Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand.

It grows at 3,000 to 4,800 m above sea level and can be found along open grassy meadows, sandy soils along rivers, and streams forming in snow pasture lands along alpine meadows.

Source: This post is based on the article Explained: What is Allium negianum? published in Indian Express on 18th October 2021.


Nebra Sky Disc: The oldest map of stars that will be displayed at British Museum

What is the News?

The British Museum in London will display an ancient object called the Nebra Sky Disc, which is thought to be the world’s oldest concrete depiction of stars.

What is a Nebra Sky Disc?
Nebra Sky Disc
Source: Indian Express

 

Nebra Sky Disc is an ancient object that is considered as the world’s oldest concrete depiction of stars.

The object is widely believed to be 3,600 years old, dating from the Bronze Age. However, the date of origin of the disc has been called into question by some archaeologists.

The disc measures about 30 cm in diameter and has a blue-green patina emblazoned with gold symbols representing the Sun, Moon, stars, solstices and other cosmic phenomena.

When was it discovered?

The disc was unearthed in Germany in 1999 and is considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century.

It was ritually buried along with two precious swords, two axes, two spiral arm-rings and one bronze chisel circa near Nebra in Germany. The burial of these objects is thought to be made as a dedication to gods.

What is the significance of Nebra Sky Disc?

The Nebra Sky Disc is considered to be one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century and has been associated with the Unetice culture that inhabited parts of Europe around 1600 BC. 

The Unetice culture comprised early Bronze Age communities in Central Europe, including in Bohemia, Bavaria, southeastern Germany and western Poland.

Source:  This post is based on the article Nebra Sky Disc: The oldest map of stars that will be displayed at the British Museum published in Indian Express on 19th October 2021.


Explained: Why global fuel prices are up, how India is impacted

What is the news?

The price of Brent Crude breached the $85 per barrel mark earlier this week reaching its highest level since 2018 on the back of a sharp increase in global demand as the world economy recovers from the pandemic.

Key oil producing countries have kept crude oil supplies on a gradually increasing production schedule despite a sharp increase in global crude oil prices.

The price of Brent crude has nearly doubled compared to the price of $42.5 per barrel a year ago.

Why the prices are up?

Slow production by OPEC+: OPEC+ had agreed to sharp cuts in supply in 2020 in response to Covid-19 global travel restrictions in 2020 but the organisation has been slow to boost production as demand has recovered.

Supply side issues in the US including disruptions caused by hurricane Ida

Lower than expected natural gas supplies from Russia amid increasing demand in Europe have raised the prospect of natural gas shortages in the winter.

What is the impact on India?

– Impact on fuel prices: High crude oil prices have contributed to the prices of petrol and diesel regularly setting new record highs across the country in 2021.

– Impact on domestically produced natural gas price: High international gas prices have led to an upward revision in the price of domestically produced natural gas.

The increase in gas prices has put upward pressure on the price of both Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) used as a transport fuel and Piped Natural Gas (PNG) used as a cooking fuel.

High international prices of coal have added to a coal shortage at India’s thermal power plants by forcing thermal plants using imported coal that could not pass on the higher price of coal to procurers to stop supplying power.

India and other oil importing nations have called on OPEC+ to boost oil supply faster, arguing that elevated crude oil prices could undermine the recovery of the global economy.

How has OPEC+ responded?

In its latest round of meetings, the OPEC+ group of oil producing countries reaffirmed that they would increase total crude oil supply by only 400,000 barrels per day in November despite a sharp increase in prices.

The output of the top oil-producing countries – Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, UAE and Kuwait — would still be about 14% lower than reference levels of production post the increase in November.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Why global fuel prices are up, how India is impacted” published in The Indian Express on 20th Oct 2021.

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