9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 21st, 2021

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

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

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Geo-Economics Of Two Quads

Source: This post is based on the article “Geo-Economics Of Two Quads” published in Times of India on 21st October 2021.

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

Relevance: Understanding the impact of both the Quads on India.

Synopsis: Both Quads offer tremendous opportunities to India. But India has to be cautious and maintain its relations with non Quad countries in the region.

Introduction

Recently, the US, India, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) decided to launch a new Quadrilateral Economic Forum to have shared interests in West Asia. India is already a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) with the U.S., Australia and Japan, which have common concerns and shared interests in East Asia.

These East and West Asian groupings can multiply India’s trade possibilities via land and sea.

Read more: Quad Leaders’ Summit – Explained, pointwise
What are the benefits of both Quads?

Ensure regional peace and security: As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would often say, the principal objectives of our foreign policy should be to ensure regional peace and security and “create a global environment conducive to India’s economic development.” Both the East Quad and the West Quad seek to address these precise objectives.

Reinforce maritime economic and security: After 1991, India has re-established its maritime links with the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific regions. Almost all the Indian trade is now happening through the waters around the peninsula. This has recreated ancient maritime links, from Vietnam in the East to Egypt in the West, and has raised the profile of maritime security.

While both Quads reinforce these maritime economic and security interests across the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, India has been prevented from rejuvenating its land links with Eurasia by the China-Pakistan axis.

Read more: India and the new Quad in West Asia
What has to be done to improve both Quads?

First, both in East and West, the US may prefer the focus to be more on defence and military capability, while India should ensure that its economic interests are prioritised.

Second, India should reassure non-Quad countries in Southeast and West Asia, including Iran, that they remain important partners. India has to stay the course with its policy of multi alignment and multi-engagement in an increasingly multipolar world.


Why India needs an international development cooperation agency

Source: This post is based on the article “Why India needs an international development cooperation agency” published in Indian Express on 21st October 2021.Subject: GS 2- International relations.

Relevance: Understanding India’s developmental assistance.

Synopsis: Development assistance provided to other countries is an important component of India’s soft power. But there is an urgent need to restructure and institutionalize it.

Introduction

India, right from its inception, has assisted many small and developing nations on their path towards development. This has earned India tremendous goodwill. Providing monetary assistance as part of development assistance is an important component of India’s soft power.

However, there are often many challenges on the project delivery front. This calls for the need for a specialized agency for the efficient delivery of projects and outcomes.

History of India’s developmental assistance

India has been supporting development efforts in many African and Asian countries. India was among the first nation in 1952 to launch India Aid Mission (IAM) in Nepal. The IAM was soon converted into India Cooperation Mission (ICM). Unlike OECD countries that give aid, India partners other countries for developmental cooperation.

Coming to finance, India provides about $6.5 billion of assistance to other countries and receives about $6 billion as official development assistance from other countries. Thus, one can see that India’s development assistance to other countries has multiplied manyfold.

How has India’s institutional framework for developmental assistance evolved?

With India Development Initiative (IDI) in 2003, India made its first effort towards institutionalization. After this, the Indian Development and Economic Assistance Scheme (IDEAS) was launched in 2005 for managing credit lines. This was followed up with the creation of a development partnership division within the Ministry of External Affairs. In 2007, India even announced the setting up of the India International Development Cooperation Agency (IIDCA), but this could never take off.

How is India’s developmental assistance structured? 

India’s developmental assistance is composed of 5 main pillars – capacity building, concessional finance, technology sharing, grant and trade wherein duty-free and quota-free access to the Indian market is provided. India’s assistance is composed of a mix of these components. There have been instances, like in Mozambique (solar panel production) or Ethiopia (reviving sugar units), where all 5 components have merged.

What should the IIDCA provide?

In terms of financing, the agency could look at all the available means of financing. Many countries have sovereign and non-sovereign windows for promoting infrastructure financing abroad. For example, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Japan Bank for International Cooperation in Japan.

In terms of operations, the proposed new entity can also provide handholding to select performing Indian social enterprises to operate in other countries as well. These enterprises would further facilitate development partnerships between India and other countries.

In the post-pandemic era where the countries are exploring means and ways to secure development and finance, India can make the best use of opportunities to enhance its soft power. But all this requires India to institutionalize IIDCA for developmental and financial assistance.


Towards zero hunger

Source: This post is based on the article “Towards zero hunger” published in Business Standard on 21st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger.

Relevance: Food & Nutritional security

Synopsis: Food programmes must focus on nutrition

Introduction

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 places India at a lowly 101st position among 116 countries, below many of its smaller neighbors like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

The Global Food Security Index (FSI) 2021 puts it in a marginally better position. It ranks India 71st among 113 countries with an overall score higher than that of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.

However, the common inference from the two reports is that far more needs to be done to move towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030.

How affordability of food is guaranteed in India?

India has put in place a unique Right to Food Act under which highly subsidized food grains are being supplied to nearly two-thirds of the population.

This programme, moreover, is supported by several other free food distribution schemes, many of which have been scaled up due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These programmes  are also being supplemented by the distribution of raw and cooked food by innumerable social, religious and philanthropist organisations.

How India is faring w.r.t nutritional security?

While India has managed to surmount hunger, as normally manifested in starvation deaths, it has failed to do so in the case of malnutrition, which is still rampant.

Deficiency of protein and various key vitamins and minerals, which retards physical growth of children and causes ill-health among adults, is fairly common.

This is borne out by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 (2015-16) and revalidated by the NFHS-5 (2019-20).

The NFHS-4 had found that 38.4% kids below five had low height for their age (technically called “stunted”) and about 21 per cent had low weight for their height (dubbed as “wasted”).

The NFHS-5, while more or less endorsing these findings, goes a step further to conclude that the nutritional status of kids below five has actually tended to worsen in some states.

What are the reasons for poor nutritional security?

The genesis of poor nutrition can be traced in the flawed basic approach of most food-aid programmes. They aim primarily at filling the bellies rather than providing nutritionally balanced and healthy diets.

What needs to be done?

The need, therefore, is to diversify the meals supplied through welfare programmes by including non-cereals and nutrient-enriched fortified foods to make the meals nutritionally balanced and wholesome.

Even small, but well-advised, changes in the menus of these programmes can make a noticeable difference in the nutritional profile of the beneficiaries.


What is PLI for?

Source: This post is based on the article “What is PLI for?” published in Business Standard on 21st October 2021.

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

Relevance: Production-Linked Incentive scheme & Export promotion

Synopsis: The Production-Linked Incentive scheme must drive learning to compete, not manufacture.

Introduction

The Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme has arose fresh interest in investing in domestic manufacturing.

The scheme goes together with tariffs, on the finished product and often on the components involved. For example, Mobile phones have over the last three years been subject to an import duty of 20%. This has prompted most phones sold in India to be locally made, in one of the 270 mobile phone factories, up from two in 2014, in the country today.

What is the objective of the PLI scheme?

The PLI scheme aims to strengthen local supply chains with a subsidy on their components by providing a subsidy (typically 4-6 per cent of sales) for firms in 13 sectors to make a list of “desirable” end products, components or assemblies. It will cost Rs 2 trillion (around 1 per cent of gross domestic product, or GDP) over five years.

Over time scheme shall promote greater competitiveness in Indian industry.

What should be done to make PLI scheme a success?

Ensure that all conditions attached to the scheme such as export commitments are honored for the subsidy to be paid. Ignore, other industries asking for their own PLI scheme. In short, remove any further scope for bureaucratic discretion.

Make achievement transparent, and publish the results. Let all know which firms have won which contracts for what committed volume, and how each is doing in adhering to the terms of the contract.

Investment in R&D: Local production must lead to greater competitiveness, which in turn is about building technical capability. That requires learning how to manufacture efficiently, and learning how to further develop product technology. So, investment in R&D is essential to long-run competitiveness in these 13 technology-intensive fields.

R&D effort is essential, but it must be focused on innovation, not indigenisation. For instance, in 1970s an excessive focus on indigenisation led directly to a lack of competitiveness. Prime focus on indigenisation forced Indian industry to learn things that were both useful and useless. Ensuring that learning is useful means choices of which component to make in-house, source locally, or import must be made on purely commercial grounds by the firm itself.

Govt should be clear with the duration of the scheme i.e., for five years and there will be no extension. No company should have any doubt. Accompany that with a graded reduction in all tariffs on the finished product and the components going into it such that by 2025, all these products must be able to compete without protection.


GS Paper 3

Cat to the rescue: Govts, insurers must issue catastrophe bonds for citizens’ financial protection from weather events

Source: This post is based on the article “Cat to the rescue: Govts, insurers must issue catastrophe bonds for citizens’ financial protection from weather events” published in Times of India on 21st October 2021.Syllabus: GS3 Disaster and Disaster Management.

Relevance: Understanding the benefits of cat bonds.

Synopsis: With India prone to disaster activities, there is a need to launch the cat bonds or catastrophe bonds.

Introduction

Climate change has an adverse impact on the nature and environment. It led to a lot of devastating activities like floods, fire etc. India is also facing the brunt of these activities.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) estimates that 27 states and Union territories are disaster-prone. Under this aspect, there is a need that India should encourage the use of cat bonds.

What are catastrophe bonds or cat bonds? 

Catastrophe bonds or cat bonds provide options for insurers, reinsurers, global corporations and even governments as a way to protect themselves against natural disasters.

Read more: How does the cat bond work
What are the benefits of cat bonds?

Under these bonds, the investors are compensated by a rate of return that is higher than that of normal government or corporate bonds. This helps them get extra returns on investment, which in turn helps them to meet liabilities.

It is beneficial for both insurers and the government. It offers assurance to the insurer of cash payout to lower premiums and simultaneously offers coverage of extreme events. Governments can get extra cash to spend on relief and rehabilitation purposes.

What should India do?

Owing to the benefits provided by these bonds, the World Bank provides a cat bond market access facility for member countries. Jamaica, in the past, also issued cat bonds to provide financial protection of up to $185 million against losses from tropical cyclones.

India, which is a disaster-prone country, should also actively encourage the use of cat bonds.


Water governance reform

Source: This post is based on the article “Water governance reform” published in Business Standard on 20th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Irrigation systems storage.

Relevance: Understanding water governance in India.

Synopsis: Given the level of the water crisis in India, there is an urgent need to take a deeper look at water management and water governance in India.

Introduction

Ever since Independence, the governa­nce of water has suffered from at least three major issues or artificial divisions: between irrigation and drinking water, Surface and ground­water and Water and wastewater.

The new National Water Policy (NWP) suggests urgent action to overcome each of these divisions.

What are the challenges facing water management in India?

Hydro cycle: Critical inter-connections in the water cycle have been ignored, which have aggravated the water problems. For example, India failed to see the link between rivers drying up and over-extraction of groundwater, which reduces the base-flows needed by rivers to have water even after the monsoon.

Separation of Drinking and irrigation needs: Placing Drinking water and irrigation in separate silos has led to the drying up of aquifers, when used for irrigation purposes, and are unable to meet the requirements of drinking water.

Institutional issues: The Central Water Commission (CWC), set up in 1945 is India’s apex body dealing with surface water and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) set up in 1970 is the one handling groundwater.

Over several decades, even as ground realities and understanding of water have both changed, the CWC and CGWB have remained virtually unreformed.

Technical challenges: Government departments dealing with water resources include professionals from just civil engineering, hydrology, and hydrogeology. India never had a single river ecologist or ecological economist handling water issues anywhere in India.

Despite the fact that agriculture takes up most of our water, there is not even one agronomist within the water bureaucracy.

Community management: It is clear that water management needs community mobilization, but water departments have never included social mobilizers.

What are the suggestions offered by the National Water Policy?

The NWP has suggested the merger of the CWC and CGWB to form a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder National Water Commission (NWC). It includes the following divisions, which would work in close coordination with each other:

First, the Water Security Division to guide the fulfillment of national goals pertaining to drinking water.

Second, Irrigation Reform Division to effectively meet the national goal of “Har khet ko paani” (water to every farm).

Third, Participatory Groundwater Management Division to ensure sustainable and equitable management of water.

Fourth, River Rejuvenation Division to work towards the revival of India’s river systems.

Fifth, Water Use Efficiency Division to improve performance on this parameter in all economic activities.

Sixth, Urban and Industrial Water Division to meet emerging national challenges;

Seventh, Democratisation of Data Division to ensure the development of a 21st-century national water database, with user-friendly access to primary stakeholders of water.

Eighth, The NWP seeks to build partnerships with primary stakeholders of water. This must include farmers, water practitioners, academia, industry etc.

Ninth, The indigenous knowledge of our people, with a long history of water management, is an invaluable intellectual resource that must be fully utilized.

There is also an urgent need for an institutional mechanism to prevent water conflicts or at least find a time-bound resolution for existing disputes. The NWP suggests creating a new inter-state council or recasting and activating the existing National Water Resources Council.

Thus, a new water policy, if implemented, can be a great leap forward in addressing the water issues facing India.


The need of systems that’ll help tackle a crisis rather than deny it

Source: This post is based on the article “The need of systems that’ll help tackle a crisis rather than deny it” published in Live mint on 21st October 2021.Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources

Relevance: To understand the frequent economic crisis in India.

Synopsis: There is a frequent economic crisis in India like coal, onion, petrol, etc. This needs immediate attention for preventing it.

Introduction

India has a history of economic crisis. For instance, In 2006-07, India had a wheat crisis, onion and tomato crisis appeared almost every year. The prices increase in horticulture directly impacts the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The auto sector has been buffeted by a global shortage of chips. Then there is a constant issue associated with the crude oil prices.

Read more: Need of Indigenous Semiconductor Manufacturing Facilities in India – Explained Pointwise
Why the coal crisis is unique?

The coal story is quite unique. India has one of the highest reserves of coal and theoretically, India can mine as much as the country want. But when there is a shortage, it is not just about the price of coal going up, it will also cause collateral damage to the Wholesale Price Index. The problem can also translate into a power-generation crisis as companies run out of feedstock.

But ever during the crisis, the economy did not have any major shock and inflation targets are met constantly.

Read more: Coal crisis in India – Explained, pointwise
How the inflation targets are met without any major economic impact?

This is due to a lot of fine-tuning done by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and having a monetary policy review every two months ensures constant monitoring.

Similarly, under the Budget and its implementation, there are certain departments that track revenue and expenditure to spot deviations and ensure there are no economic shocks at the end of the year.

Why did RBI and government fail to spot the economic crisis?

There is not enough attention to prior detection of the crisis. For instance, before the escalation of the supply crisis in coal, the government and RBI failed to realise that the monsoon rains are not favourable for the industry.

The same holds for horticulture also. The horticulture department does not detect prior that the late withdrawal of the monsoon is deleterious to the onion crop.

What has to be done to prevent an economic crisis?

Not import only when there is a significant shortfall: There should be economic thresholds in place for ministries to fast-track imports automatically based on availability rather than cost. That threshold should be used again to bring back import restrictions automatically.

Improve market intelligence capability: All ministries should formally have an intelligence cell that monitors minute developments on a regular basis and put plans in place for corrective action before a crisis gets entrenched.

Market intelligence and import mechanisms can be combined by the government to make sure that no situation of scarcity goes out of control.

Terms to know:


India’s difficult transition from fossil fuels to net-zero emissions

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s difficult transition from fossil fuels to net-zero emissions” published in “Livemint” on 21st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3-Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment; Infrastructure: Energy.

Relevance: To understand India’s energy mix and the need of its diversification.

Synopsis: India faces many challenges in reducing dependence on coal and oil but the greater use of gas in our energy mix could ease the way.

Introduction

The coal crisis has forced the Indian government to ramp up domestic production and imports of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, while the world focuses on net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This irony reflects the reality that power generation and hence our economy is heavily dependent on coal, followed by petroleum.

What are the constituents of India’s energy generation basket?

Data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicate that non-renewable fossil fuels account for 70% of the current (2020) generation capacity of 462,3038 MW, followed by hydro/marine power at 11%, solar and wind power at 6% each, nuclear power at 5% and bio-energy at 2%.

The share of gas in primary energy supply and power generation have been stuck at only 5- 6% in India. India is ranked 29th in global production of gas at a little over 1 trillion MMcf per year and 14th in global consumption at around 2 trillion MMcf per year.

What are the challenges in India’s transition from fossil fuels to a net-zero?

Council for Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) report has highlighted challenges to India’s transformation.

Capacity-The technological know-how, managerial and regulatory capacity needed to manage this revolutionary transformation.

Finance-The transformation will involve massive high-cost, high-risk, long-gestation investments. There is little fiscal space for large public investment in renewables, while private investment in renewables at scale is just starting.

External support- Various climate agreements envisaged help from developed countries. However,the willingness of developed countries to make available adequate low-cost finance and required technologies remains uncertain.

Land- CEEW estimates that creating renewable power generation capacity for a net-zero economy could require between 4% to 6% of India’s land mass.

Political economy– Closure of coal mines, oil wells and power plants will be resisted by the owners of these assets as well as workers employed at these establishments.

If the cost of power based on renewables turns out to be higher than fossil-fuel-based power, even consumers will resist the transformation.

What is the future strategy needed for transformation to net-zero emissions?

CEEW report has explored the implications of a number of alternative net-zero scenarios, though whichever scenario plays out, it is quite clear that emissions will be rising for the next 30 to 50 years.

A two-pronged strategy of ‘accelerating renewable power‘ generation and the fossil-fuel basket in favor of gas could significantly reduce that period of transition.

What is the present and future scenario of the global energy market?

The case of Gas: International Energy Agency (IEA) projections indicate that gas will overtake coal as the second largest energy source after oil within this decade.

Emissions – Carbon dioxide and other emissions from gas are only a small fraction of emissions from oil, and especially coal.

Supply – Planned pipelines from Central Asia having floundered due to issues with Pakistan, our gas imports are still mostly from West Asia, especially Qatar.

Global gas supplies have grown dramatically following the shale revolution. Traditional supplier of Gas like Qatar besides the new ones like Australia and USA can ensure adequate and diversified supply of gas to India.

Market-The diversification of supply sources and the emergence of active spot and futures markets is transforming the global gas market.

Technology-Two recent technological developments, enabling liquefaction and re-gasification of LNG on board ships, will further disrupt the market and reduce costs.

Shale gas has seen revolution driven by ‘hydraulic fracturing‘ and ‘horizontal drilling‘ technologies.

Why India has not seen Shale Gas revolution?

Terrain- India may have gas reserves of over 100 MMcf, though only 40% of this is in accessible terrain and would be depleted within a couple of decades.

Cost to benefit-Given the high risks and costs of gas exploration and extraction, expected returns are low.

Distorted ‘administrative pricing‘ and ‘taxation‘ system, combined with a regulatory night-mare of multiple overlapping systems.

The result is neither public investment by GAIL nor private investment has been forthcoming.


Extending BSF’s powers won’t resolve policing problems, security threats

Source: This post is based on the article “Extending BSF’s powers won’t resolve policing problems, security threats” published in “The Indian Express” on 21st October 2021.Syllabus: GS 3 – Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Relevance: To understand the security issues and role of various forces in it.

Synopsis: Flaws in the security architecture and measures needed to fill the void.

Introduction

Union home ministry extended the jurisdiction of the Border Security Forces (BSF) from 15 to 50 kms, citing uniformity as the reason.

The decision appears to have been taken without consulting the states whose police forces are directly affected by it, and is seen as a step towards undermining India’s federal structure.

Can BSF’s extended jurisdiction help counter security threats?

There is no uniformity between coastal smuggling in Gujarat, cross-border infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, smuggling and drone drops in Punjab, or illegal migration to Assam. Hence, in the security context, argument about uniformity is not full-proof.

Tackling each one requires different capabilities, as our own experience in tackling such threats indicates.

BSF is likely to be overstretched by its new tasks that could weaken rather than strengthen the BSF’s security capabilities. It happened in case of CRPF over a decade ago.

Illegal migration requires coordinated action between India and its neighbours, first at the political and then at the security level, often found missing.

It raises the risk of civilian resentment, even clashes, given that the BSF is not trained to operate in residential and/or market areas, it will also undermine the state police forces’ morale even further.

What should be done?

The solution lies in putting police reforms on an emergency footing, not in extending the BSF’s jurisdiction.

Rather than extending jurisdiction area, exploring technologies that might improve the BSF’s intercept and destroy capabilities is needed.

When it comes to cross-border infiltration, intelligence is the key.

A government-to-government interaction over security, is a precursor to coordination of security agencies.

To tackle both smuggling and infiltration threats, coordination between our security agencies is needed.

State police forces have huge political interference. It is needed to insulate them from political misuse while holding them accountable for rule of law lapses.


The global tax revolution

Source: This post is based on the article “The global tax revolution” published in “The Hindu” on 21st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to economy.

Relevance: Understanding steps taken to boost global tax governance.

Synopsis: The OECD agreement on global tax on MNCs, its impact and benefits.

Introduction

International tax jurisprudence received a boost when 130 countries, on the proposal of OECD, agreed to introduce a new global tax regime for taxing multinational corporations (MNC’s) operating globally.

The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 forced all countries to change the international tax rules to prevent base erosion and profit shifting.

India, China, Russia, Germany and other countries have signed the agreement, which has to be implemented from 2023.

Must Read: Know all about Global Minimum Corporate Tax (GMCT)
How would the new global tax regime work?

A minimum global tax of 15% on profits would be introduced in all countries.

As per the agreement, MNCs would no longer pay taxes in the country where they register their headquarters for tax purposes, but would pay in the country where they generate their sales.

As per the agreement, countries where MNCs operate would get the right to tax at least 20% of the profits exceeding a 10% margin.

How were MNCs taxed till now and the associated issues with it?

For over a century now, the corporate tax system was based on the application of the twin principles of the ‘source rule‘ and the ‘residence rule‘.

All that a MNC had to do to avoid high tax in a country where they did business was to get registered in a tax haven.

Globalisation allowed MNCs to replace fears of double taxation with the joys of double non-taxation by exploiting mismatches between the tax laws of various countries and by cutting taxable profits.

A digitalised world made their task easier, with the rise of intangible assets, which could easily be shifted from one country to another.

What are the resultant impacts seen on countries?

Shifting of profits to low tax havens deprived poor countries of revenue by as much as 5% as compared to an alternative system, where profits are taxed based on the current location of companies, revenues, their employees and their wage codes.

Race to bottom” for corporate tax would see an end or atleast a decline.

OECD estimates that the proposal would fetch additional $150 billion per year and move taxing rights of over $100 billion in profits to different countries.

What are the challenges for India?

Countries like Belgium, Britain, India and Indonesia brought in ‘Digital Services Taxes’ on the local sales of foreign firms with online platforms. India would have to reconsider the ‘equalisation levy‘ taxed upon digital firms.

The ‘share of profit’ allocation and the scope of ‘subject-to-tax rules’, would have to be addressed.

The draft rules would reset the system for international taxation and subject MNCs to
new nexus and profit allocation rules.

Simultaneous implementation of the law by all the signatories to the agreement would be a great job. If achieved, it may herald the dawn of the ‘Golden Era’ of direct taxes.


Reform fuel pricing

Source: This post is based on the article “Reform fuel pricing” published in Business Standard on 21st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- issues related to Energy sector

Relevance: Fuel pricing reforms

Synopsis: Govt must follow a transparent fuel pricing mechanism.

Introduction

The government’s approval of the full privatisation of Air India has raised expectations that the disinvestment of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) may be carried out effectively and as planned before the end of this financial year

Yet there are broader questions about the management of the fuel economy. The biggest question surrounds the management of the prices of petrol, diesel, and liquefied petroleum gas or LPG.

A successful bidder for BPCL will want to set prices to maximize profits. They would be justified in expecting that the broader market for fuel is not being undermined by government policy towards the two other OMCs.

Hence, the disinvestment of BPCL is the right time to introduce the long-term tax and pricing reform.

What are the issues related to fuel pricing in India?

Government control: State-controlled oil marketing companies (OMCs) continue to be given pricing-guidance by the Union government, even after the administered price mechanism has been discarded. For instance, price changes have often been put on hold in times of political sensitivity, such as before a crucial Assembly election.

Problem of Under recoveries: Under recoveries denote an enforced per-unit loss on sale of petrol, diesel and LPG. At the moment, given the global run on the price of crude oil and high domestic taxes, the old problem of “under-recoveries” seems to have re-appeared.

Issue of subsidised fuel: OMCs are not only having to manage under-recoveries, according to reports, on every litre of petrol and diesel sold, but also have to deal with a loss of Rs 100 or so on every gas cylinder sold in the household retail market. The government yet to reimburse OMCs the sums they have lost under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which add up to Rs 3,000-4,000 crore.

High fuel tax: The government has, on the one hand, tried to maintain some elements of price control, while on the other hand it has turned to fuel taxes to fill the giant gaps in its revenue. Though a high tax on carbon is a good thing, but it should be logical and economy-wide and not imposed largely for fiscal reasons.

What needs to be done?

Direct transmission of global fuel prices to consumers, with OMCs competing on the margins.

A consistent fuel tax that is in keeping with the shadow price of carbon and is shared between the Union and the states

Direct subsidies, out of the Union Budget, for those sections of society that are most vulnerable to fluctuating or high prices for petrol, diesel and LPG.


The outlines of a national security policy

Source: This post is based on the article “The outlines of a national security policy” published in The Hindu on 21st October 2021.Syllabus: GS3- Challenges to Internal Security through Communication Networks

Relevance: About Cyber-technology and its impact on future warfare

Synopsis: Once cyber-technology becomes a key variable in the defence policies of a nation, land size or GDP size are irrelevant.

Introduction

In the 21st century, the world is moving to cyber weapons-based warfare. Therefore, after cyber-technology enters as an important variable in nations’ defence policies, the size of a country will cease to matter.

For instance, Sri Lanka, or North Korea, empowered by cyber-technology, will be equal to the United States, Russia, India or China, in their capability to cause unacceptable damage.

How Cyber technology is changing the warfare in 21st century?

Cyber warfare has vastly reduced the deterrent value with regards to size of a country since cyber weaponry will be available even to small island countries.

Warfare, therefore, will be not just be about mobilization of weapons or be dependent on the size of the armed forces of men. From remote controlled drones to artificial intelligence driven weapons systems, etc., the ability to deal damage will be independent of the size.

Each nation will have to prepare more for bilateral conflicts in the 21st century that are based on cyber warfare rather than in multilateral acts of conventional war or rely on military blocs for mobilization.

Hence, national security will encompass not merely the overt and covert operations. But, more crucially, electronic operations from a remote centre beyond the front lines of ground forces. Tracking those cyber warfare centres of the adversary will need a new national security policy.

What key elements should be given importance in India’s National Security Policy for 21st century?

National security at its root in the 21st century will depend on skills in the following four dimensions:

Objectives: the objective of the National Security Policy in the 21st century is to define what assets are required to be defended, the identity of opponents etc., Further, national security policy will have to address threats like Corona Pandemic in future by choosing a nation’s priorities.

Priorities: In scenarios of uncertainties about the future in the 21st century, national security priorities will require new departments for supporting several frontiers of innovation and technologies. These frontiers include hydrogen fuel cells, desalination of seawater, thorium for nuclear technology, anti-computer viruses, etc. This focus on a new priority will require compulsory science and mathematics education, especially in applications for analytical subjects.

Strategy: The strategy required for this new national security policy will be to anticipate our enemies in many dimensions and by demonstrative but limited pre-emptive strikes by developing a strategy of deterrence of the enemy. For India, it will be the China cyber capability factor which is the new threat for which it has to devise a new strategy. India should also look to build allies to boost cyber deterrence.

Resource mobilization: Lowering the interest rate on bank loans or raising the rates in fixed deposits will enable banks to obtain liquidity and lend liberally for enhancing investment for production. As a last resort printing of notes of currency can also be used as one way of facilitating resource mobilization.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Micro snail species discovered in Meghalaya’s Mawsmai cave

What is the News?

Researchers have recently discovered a micro snail species named Georissa mawsmaiensis from Mawsmai, a limestone cave in Meghalaya.

This is significant as the last discovery of the same genus was made in 1851. The species was named as Georissa saritta. It was collected and described from the Musmai (Mawsmai today) valley near Cherrapunjee by WH Benson.

About Georissa
Georissa
Source: Indian Express

Georissa is a genus of minute land snails. They are widely distributed across and reported from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific

However, they are confined to microhabitats consisting of limestone caves or karst landscapes formed by the dissolution of limestone.

They are also found in soil or subterranean habitats in lowland tropical forests as well as high altitude evergreen forests or on rock surface rich in calcium.

About Mawsmai cave
Mawsmai cave
Source: Wikipedia

Mawsmai cave is situated in the small village of Mawsmai, around four kilometres from Cherrapunjee (Sohra) in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya

The term ‘Mawsmai’ means ‘Oath Stone’ in the Khasi language. The Khasi people use the local term ‘Krem’ for the cave.

The cave is located at an altitude of 1,195 metres above sea level and is indirectly influenced by the streams of the Kynshi river originating from the East Khasi Hills.

Source: This post is based on the articleMicro snail species discovered in Meghalaya’s Mawsmai cavepublished in Down To Earth on 20th October 2021.


Indigenous knowledge shared by Gujarat based farmer can combat Mastitis, an ailment of dairy cattle

What is the News?

Based on the indigenous knowledge shared by a farmer from Gujarat, National Innovation Foundation(NIF) has developed a poly-herbal and cost-effective medicine named Mastirak Gel to treat Mastitis, an infectious disease of dairy cattle.

What is Mastitis disease in Cattle?

Mastitis is an infectious disease condition resulting in an inflammatory reaction in the mammary gland of the cow. 

Caused by: There are a variety of microorganism species that are known to cause mastitis. These range from viruses, mycoplasma, fungus and bacteria.

Symptoms: The clear sign of mastitis is inflammation of the mammary gland that turns into a red and hard mass. This affects farm productivity due to a fall in milk quality thus impacting income-generating activities. 

Treatment: The treatment usually involves antibiotics. But this poses a public health hazard.

How will the Mastirak Gel help in the treatment of Mastitis?

Mastirak Gel has been developed utilizing indigenous knowledge. Hence, it can be a sustainable alternative towards the treatment of mastitis with minimal use of antibiotic therapy.

Source: This post is based on the articleIndigenous knowledge shared by Gujarat based farmers can combat Mastitis, an ailment of dairy cattlepublished in PIB on 20th October 2021.


PM action plan: Single environment Act, birth certificate for citizenship, jobs clause in FTAs

What is the News?

The Government of India has prepared a comprehensive 60-point action plan following the Prime Minister’s marathon meeting with secretaries of all departments and ministries.

What are the key features of the 60 point action plan?

The plan is targeted at specific ministries and departments and mainly focuses on three areas. These areas are: 

Leveraging IT and Technology for Governance

The action plan aims to do the following.

-To streamline disbursement of scholarships,

-To bridge the digital divide for underprivileged students by developing indigenous tablets and laptops,

-To digitize all land records by 2023 under the central database called ‘Matribhumi.’ 

Improve Business Climate

Under this, the action plan aims to,

-Doing away completely with certain permissions and automatic notification of clearances,

-Reducing the cost of starting a business in 10 sectors and bringing it on a par with Vietnam and Indonesia,

-Incentives to states for timely land acquisition and forest clearances,

One comprehensive Environment Management Act that subsumes various laws in the sector,

-Using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping for decision making to increase the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product),

-Pushing for jobs while negotiating trade pacts.

Read more: GIS Enabled Land Bank gaining popularity
​​Upgrading the Civil Services

Under this, the action plan aims to do the following.

-Training of officers on various aspects of infrastructure in both the Centre and states, 

-Performance-based working, clear and specific targets for ministries and departments just like that for public sector undertakings, 

-Institutional mechanisms for addressing issues of states given their limited capacities,

-Departments and ministries can borrow from successes achieved by others. For instance, the Department of Sports has been asked to adopt the Odisha model for the promotion of sports at a national level.

Other Key Features of the Action Plan

Niti Aayog to target poverty eradication within five years. 

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to plan residential facilities for service staff engaged in construction to prevent the formation of slums. 

To use Aadhaar for bringing together beneficiary oriented schemes of different ministries

Source: This post is based on the article PM action plan: Single environment Act, birth certificate for citizenship, jobs clause in FTAs published in Indian Express on 20th October 2021.


Pandemic fuelled rise in child sexual abuse online: report

What is the News?

The Global Threat Assessment report 2021 has been released by WeProtect Global Alliance.

Note: WeProtect Global Alliance is a global movement of more than 200 governments, private sector companies and civil society organisations working together to transform the global response to child sexual exploitation and abuse online.

What is the purpose of the report?

The Global Threat Assessment report details the scale and scope of the threat of child sexual exploitation online and aims to encourage action on the issue to reduce the risk to children and prevent abuse before it happens.

What are the Key Findings of the Global Threat Assessment report?

Child sexual exploitation and online abuse: In the past two years, the reporting of child sexual exploitation and online abuse has reached its highest level. COVID-19 pandemic is one of the contributory factors behind the rise in reported incidents. 

Child Self Generated Sexual Material: There is also a rise in child ‘self-generated’ sexual material. According to Internet Watch Foundation, there is a 77% increase in child ‘self-generated’ sexual material from 2019 to 2020.

Study on Childhood Experiences: As part of the report, a global study of childhood experiences of more than 5,000 young adults (aged 18 to 20) across 54 countries was completed by Economist Impact. As per the study:

  • About 54% of the respondents had experienced at least one online sexual harm incident during childhood. 
  • Moreover, more than one in three respondents (34%) had been asked to do something sexually explicit online they were uncomfortable with during their childhood.
  • Respondents who identified as transgender/non-binary, LGBQ+ and/or disabled were more likely to experience online sexual harms during childhood.

Survey of Technology Companies: The report also featured a survey of technology companies that showed most were using tools to detect child sexual abuse material, but only 37% currently use tools to detect online grooming.

What are the recommendations of the Global Threat Assessment report?

Government must criminalise all offences relating to child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Prioritise prevention activities against abuse.

Create safe online environments for children.

Developers of online safety technologies should continue innovating to enhance the detection of child sexual abuse online.

All stakeholders involved in the response must educate communities on the risk and impact of child sexual abuse.

Source: This post is based on the article “Pandemic fuelled rise in child sexual abuse online: report” published in The Hindu on 21st October 2021.


Bhaskarabda to be added to official Assam calendar

What is the News?

Assam Government has announced that Bhaskarabda, a Luni-Solar Calendar, will be used as an official calendar.

Note: Currently, the official calendar of the Assam government is the Saka calendar and the Gregorian calendar. However, the Bhaskarabda calendar will also be used from now onwards.

What is Bhaskarabda Calendar?

Bhaskarabda Calendar is an era counted from the date of the ascension of a 7th-century local ruler, Bhaskar Varman to the throne of Kamrupa kingdom.

The calendar uses a lunisolar system, which is based on both the phases of the moon and the solar year. The gap between Bhaskarabda and Gregorian is 593 years.

Note: Bhaskar Varman was a contemporary and political ally of northern Indian ruler Harshavardhana.

What are the different types of Calendars in India

Gregorian Calendar: Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a minor modification of the Julian calendar. The calendar is based on the solar cycle.

Saka Calendar: Kushana king Kanishka is believed to have created a calendar that came to be known as the Saka Calendar. It is based on the lunisolar system. It was adopted as the National Calendar of India in 1957 after recommendation by a committee headed by eminent scientist Meghnad Saha.

Note: In the lunisolar calendar, months are lunar, but years are solar.

Hijri Calendar: Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 lunar months in a year of 354 or 355 days. It is used to determine the proper days of Islamic holidays and rituals, such as the annual period of fasting and the proper time for the Hajj.

Vikram Samvat Calendar: It is the historical Hindu calendar used in the Indian subcontinent. It is the official calendar of Nepal. In India, it is used in several states. The calendar uses lunar months and solar sidereal years. King Vikramaditya of Ujjain established the Vikrama Samvat era after defeating the Śakas.

Source: This post is based on the articleBhaskarabda to be added to the official Assam calendar published in The Hindu on 19th October 2021.


U.S. surgeons successfully test pig kidney transplant in human patient

What is the News?

For the first time, a pig kidney has been transplanted into a human without triggering immediate rejection by the recipient’s immune system. This is a potentially huge milestone in the quest to use animal organs for human transplants.

How was the transplantation done?

The Pig was genetically engineered so that its organ was less likely to be rejected. 

Then the surgical team attached the pig kidney to blood vessels outside the body of a brain-dead woman and observed it for two days. 

The kidney functioned normally—filtering waste and producing urine—and didn’t show signs of rejection during the short observation period. 

Hence, this could be seen as a turning point in organ transplantation.

A brief history of animal-to-human transplants

The dream of animal-to-human transplants — or xenotransplantation — goes back to the 17th century with stumbling attempts to use animal blood for transfusions. 

By the 20th century, surgeons were attempting transplants of organs from baboons into humans. The most notable example was that of American infant Baby Fae, a dying infant in 1984 who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.

However, with no lasting success and much public uproar occurred due to ethical reasons.

Why was the pig chosen for the transplantation?

Pigs are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs also have large litters, short gestation periods and organs comparable to humans.

Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. The blood thinner heparin is derived from pig intestines. Pigskin grafts are used on burns, and Chinese surgeons have used pig corneas to restore sight.

Hence, the pig was chosen for organ transplantation.

Source: This post is based on the articleU.S. surgeons successfully test pig kidney transplant in human patientpublished in TOI on 21st October 2021.


Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: Insurance Scheme for Health Workers fighting COVID-19 extended for a further period of 180 days

What is the News?

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP): Insurance Scheme for Health Care Workers Fighting COVID-19 has been extended for 180 days with effect from October 21,2021.So far, 1,351 claims have been paid under the scheme.

About Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package Insurance Scheme for health workers Fighting Covid-19

Launched by: It is a Central Sector Scheme launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2020.

Aim: To provide comprehensive personal accident insurance cover of Rs. 50 lakh to all healthcare providers who

-Lost their lives due to Covid-19

-Accidental death on account of COVID-19 related duty.

Coverage of the Scheme

-All government health centres, wellness centres and hospitals of Centre as well as States,

-Private hospital staff and retired/volunteer/local urban bodies/contracted/daily wage workers,

-Safai karamcharis, ward-boys, nurses, ASHA workers and other health workers.

Implementation: The scheme is being implemented through an Insurance policy from the New India Assurance Company(NIACL).

Certification Procedure: The District Collector in each case will be certifying that the claim is in accordance with SoP of the Scheme. On the basis of this certificate of the Collector, the Insurance Company will approve and settle the claims within a period of 48 hours.

Source: This post is based on the articlePradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: Insurance Scheme for Health Workers fighting COVID-19 extended for a further period of 180 dayspublished in PIB on 21st October 2021.


UNEP production gap report: Net-zero targets by countries are empty pledges without plans

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

  • “Global plans on increasing fossil fuel production a bad sign for warming world: UNEP report” published in Down To Earth on 21st October 2021.
  • UNEP production gap report: Net-zero targets by countries are empty pledges without plans” published in Down To Earth on 21st October 2021.
What is the news?

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has recently released the Production Gap Report (PGR). The released document is the 3rd assessment of the production gap report. This report highlights the discrepancy between countries’ planned fossil fuel production levels and the global levels necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C.

About the Production Gap Report

PGR was first introduced in 2019. The report tracks how governments worldwide are supporting fossil fuel production through their policies, investments, and other measures.

What are the key findings of the Production Gap Report?

Increase in Production: All the world governments are still planning to produce more than double the fossil fuels than what the world requires to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.

These projections would lead to around 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more gas in 2030 than global levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 °C.

Source: Down to Earth

More investment in fossil fuels: There is an increase in the capital flow towards fossil fuels in comparison to clean energy in the post-Corona recovery phase.

G20 countries have channelized $300 billion to fossil fuels since the beginning of the pandemic, and the sector is still enjoying significant fiscal incentives.

Findings related to specific countries

Oil and gas production: There is an increase in oil and gas production in the United States, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and China. But UK and Indonesia are going to decrease their oil and gas output. Denmark also decides to cancel all future licensing rounds for oil and gas, and completely phase out oil production by 2050.

Coal production: India and Russia are planning to increase their coal production. Although, China announced to end support for foreign coal plants.

Fossil Fuels: The G20 countries, have recently reduced financing for overseas fossil fuel projects.

What are the suggestions provided by the Production Gap Report?

To keep the temperature rise within limits, Global fossil fuel production must decline immediately. This should be accompanied by the decline of Global coal and oil.


Plugging the leak: On the GM rice controversy

What is the news?

Since June, the export of about 500 tonnes of rice from India has triggered an uproar in several European countries on the grounds that it was genetically modified (GM) rice.

This emerged during a check by the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed that was testing rice flour by the French company Westhove.

What is the GM Rice controversy?

In June, France issued a notification for unauthorised GM rice flour, identifying India as the point of origin, and alerting Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. as the possible destination of products made with the flour.

So in August, the American food products company Mars, fearing GM contamination, announced that it was recalling four of its product lines of ‘Crispy M&M’.

GM-free rice that is tagged as ‘organic rice’ is among India’s high-value exports amounting to 18 million tonnes worth ₹63,000 crore annually, and reach more than 75 countries.
What is the source of contamination?

India does not permit the commercial cultivation of GM rice, but research groups are testing varieties of such rice in trial plots. So the suspicion is that rice from some of these test-plots may have “leaked” into the exported product.

Commerce Ministry has denied this possibility alleging that the contamination may have happened in Europe “to cut costs” and that the case was a futile conspiracy to malign the image of India as a reliable food security provider.

However, India has indicated that it will commission an investigation involving its scientific bodies.

How likely is that contamination might have occurred in India?

If past events are looked at then a possibility does arise wherein the contamination might have happened in India.

For instance: Bt-cotton was widely prevalent in farmer fields before being cleared. Though they have not been cleared, Bt-brinjal and herbicide-tolerant cotton varieties too have been detected in farmer fields.

Though the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee is the apex regulator of GM crops, it is mandated that trials of GM crops obtain permission from States. State agriculture universities having close connections with farmers, are continuously testing new varieties of crops employing all kinds of scientific experiments.

Keeping in mind the challenges of ensuring that trial plots are strictly segregated from farms, there is a possibility that seeds may transfer within plots.

What steps must India take?

Because many Indian farmers are dependent on European imports, the Centre must take steps to reassure importers that India’s produce is compliant with trade demands.

India must also move to ensure that research into all approaches — GM or non GM — should not become a casualty in this matter of export-quality compliance.

Source: This post is based on the article “Plugging the leak: On the GM rice controversy” published in The Hindu on 21st Oct 2021.

Terms to know:


By 2030, early warnings on floods and droughts to be available for all: WMO

Source: This post is based on the article “By 2030, early warnings on floods and droughts to be available for all: WMO” published in “Down to Earth” on 20th October 2021.

What is the news?

At the ongoing World Meteorological Congress, World Meteorological Congress has endorsed the ‘Water Declaration’, wherein early warnings about floods and droughts will be available for people everywhere on the planet by 2030.

The Congress also endorsed the Water and Climate Coalition for promoting sharing and access to integrated hydrological, cryosphere, meteorological and climate information.

What is the significance of such a declaration?

The formation of the Coalition is significant at a time when just 40% of countries globally have operational early flood and drought warning systems.

The endorsements at the Congress are significant as more than half of the world’s population will be living under water-stressed conditions by 2030, according to the WMO, and will be more vulnerable to water-related disasters especially cyclones, floods.

Also, some 60% of WMO member countries lack hydrological monitoring capabilities, according to the organisation. Globally, more than three billion people have no quality management system for their water-related data in place.

This means close to half of the world’s population is at risk due to a lack of information on the state of their water resources including rivers, lakes, groundwater, according to the most recent UN estimates.

What are the expected benefits?

Some 107 countries are not on track to have sustainably managed water resources. Water and Climate Coalition aimed at accelerating the progress of water-related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG-6 (water and sanitation for all).

The coalition is thus, aims to boost resilient water adaptation to climate change as well as demographic and socio-economic development for the future.

Also, it will contribute to the new Sustainability Strategy for strengthening the Flash Flood Guidance System with Global Coverage (FFGS/WGC) approved at the World Meteorological Congress.


 

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