9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 22nd, 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

Engaging the Taliban

Source: The post is based on the article “Engaging the Taliban” published in The Hindu on 22nd October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Relevance: Understanding the impact of the regime shift in Afghanistan on India.

Synopsis: India and regional powers should ensure that the Afghan rulers respect their people’s rights.

Introduction

Recently India participated in a meeting with Afghanistan along with 10 other nations in Moscow. The signing of a joint statement indicates a new shift in India’s policy towards Islamist groups.

Why engagement with the Taliban is vital for India?

India earlier took a strong stand towards any kind of engagement with the Taliban. Taliban has close ties with anti-terror groups such as Let.

In the past, when it came to power, India witnessed an increase in violent incidents in Kashmir and other activities like the hijacking of an Indian plane to Kandahar.

Read more: India’s future Afghan policy – Explained, pointwise

But now with the changing scenario, India changes its stance. This is the first time that India is holding a meeting with the Taliban delegates. Taliban also makes the commitment not to let use its territory for any terror organization.

Read more: Evaluating India’s options in Afghanistan
Why is Taliban signalling a change in its policies?

Taliban economy is already on the brink to collapse. So, it is keen to engage with its regional neighbours and countries to help in reviving its economy. Moscow 10 format, which includes China, Pakistan, Iran and the Central Asian republics, has some leverage.

Read more: Regional powers and the Afghanistan question
What is the way forward?

But for this to happen, it is important for the Taliban to form an inclusive government in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Taliban has shown no such inclination.

So while the regional countries should help Afghanistan economically, they should use their political weight to ensure that Taliban implements its promises of an inclusive government.


The process is the punishment

Source:This article is based on the post “The process is the punishment” published in the Business Standard on 22nd October.

Subject: GS 2- FR

Relevance: Understanding the issue of bails and undertrials.

Synopsis: The right to Liberty is a fundamental right as enshrined in our constitution. But given the number of people denied bail, this needs closer scrutiny.

Introduction
Recently in the Aryan Khan case, the courts denied the bail again. Earlier only the poor were victims of denials of bail. Now it looks like jail and not the bail has become the norm.

What do the judgements say about the matter of bail?
In a recent judgement in the Arnab Goswami case, SC remarked that liberty survives in the cacophony of media and courts which uphold the rule of law.
SC also referred to the Justice Krishna Iyer Judgement (Rajsthan vs Balchand) where he had put that rule is bail, not jail.
Earlier, Justice Bhagwati had remarked that the right to Liberty is enshrined in our constitution and thus must be upheld in every case.

What is the condition in India?
There are about 91,568 bail pleas pending in High Court and about 1.96L in district courts. Moreover, government agencies look people up on flimsy grounds, government lawyers oppose every bail plea in principle. This often leaves the poor and vulnerable with no way out other than rotting in jail.
In these matters, while Supreme Court seems to uphold the right to Liberty, lower courts seem to have forgotten their duty.

What should be the way forward?
Justice Bhagwati worried about the poor. But now it seems even the rich have no options when government agencies are targeting them as was seen in Rhea Chakraborty case and Aryan Khan case. The solution lay in courts acting the first line of defence by upholding the constitution.


GS Paper 3

Will privatisation take off after the Air India sale?

Source: This post is based on the article “Will privatisation take off after the Air India sale?” published in The Hindu on 22nd Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: Privatisation of Air India and related issues

Synopsis: Implications of the sale of Air India for the future of India’s public sector.

Introduction

Recently, the Tata Group emerged as the winning bidder for Air India, the debt-laden national carrier. Further, in this year’s Budget, the government unveiled a bold new disinvestment policy for even the strategic sectors.

The government is also pursuing the sale of its entire stake in public sector firms such as BPCL, Shipping Corporation of India, IDBI Bank, two other public sector banks and one general insurance company this financial year alone.

What would be the likely impact of Air India’s privatisation wrt divestment?

– Positive signal: In the last 18 years, irrespective of the government in power, there’s been share sales or transfer of shares from one pocket to the other but no genuine privatisation. Hence, this is certainly a long-awaited positive signal regarding the public sector, and more so for domestic and foreign investors.

That the DIPAM (Department of Investment and Public Asset Management) has found a mechanism for the strategic sale of a loss-making unit like Air India is also a positive, because it’s easy to sell something like BPCL that will attract buyers based on its enterprise value and profits.

– Clarity of thought: The real value in this Air India sale is that there is clarity of thought. The government feels that whether it’s a loss-making or a profit-making Central PSU (CPSU), it is willing to make a strategic exit.

But, since the general elections are coming up in 2024, so the window of opportunity for either this kind of disinvestment or for monetisation is, at best, 18 to 20 months.

What is the way forward?

There is a possibility that as and when profitable PSUs are sold, there will be stronger ideological battles and questions. It’s far more difficult to justify those kinds of sales; it would be easier to justify the loss-making sales.

Government needs to clearly articulates its policy on what it wants to sell and what it wants to retain. This shall ensure a general consensus across the political spectrum that the public sector need not be a prominent player in the economy.

While people may object for the sake of objecting, as long as the process is run in a very transparent manner, there will not be too much objection.

Also, India should not conduct those kinds of sales which happened in certain countries where oligarchs came and just lapped up all the public sector assets and then became billionaires at the cost of the social good.

Must Read: Privatisation of Air India – Explained, pointwise

Uttarakhand Floods: Respect Himalayan landscape if you want to preserve it, say experts

Source: This post is based on the article “Uttarakhand Floods: Respect Himalayan landscape if you want to preserve it, say experts” published in Down to Earth on 21st Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Disaster and Disaster management

Relevance: Preserving Himalayan Biodiversity

Synopsis: To save biodiversity-rich places the governments of Uttarakhand and the entire Himalayan region must preserve their forests and reflect on their infrastructure model.

Introduction

The latest floods in Uttarakhand caused terrible damage to life and property are a warning about the climate tragedy that is building up in the Himalayas.

If the mountain range’s rich natural wealth is to be saved for the future, govt will have to respect the landscape.

Why Himalayas need to be preserved?

The Himalayas are home to many rare and endemic species of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. The Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau are also the water tower of South Asia.

Moreover, much of the region’s population, cutting across political boundaries is poor.Hence, steps need to be taken to preserve the region.

What steps can be taken to preserve Himalayan biodiversity of India?

Key to protecting Himalayan biodiversity, climate mitigation as well as livelihood generation are:

‘Forests’ and ‘infrastructure’.

i). Forest conservation is the only way to protect the rare species, for slope stabilisation as well as climate mitigation and providing better livelihoods to people.

The first step should be to focus on forest restoration in both Himachal and Uttarakhand. The forest cover should be of hardwood mixed deciduous type. Because chir pine are not capable of stabilising the slopes. Pines are very shallow rooted. They are also more prone to fire.

ii). Infrastructure: The second important step to prevent a climate catastrophe in the Himalayas was to focus on infrastructure. The planning of infrastructure has to be much more sensitive to the fragility of these slopes. Even before the Uttarakhand floods, there were huge landslides along the Char Dham route. It was an old historic route which was just doing fine. But the doubling of its width without paying attention to geological and technical considerations has caused havoc.

Lessons from Bhutan: The Bhutanese have recognised that their future wellbeing depends on healthy forests. They have a specific land use plan in which areas have been demarcated for forests which are not to be used for tourism or construction. India needs to take similar steps. States such as Uttarakhand needed to have a very strict and scientifically-designed land use plan too,

What is the way forward?

Himalayas span political boundaries, so India needs to take the lead and set an example towards developing a more sustainable Himalayan landscape.

India is a leader in south Asia having the money and technical expertise that poorer countries such as Nepal and Bhutan do not.


Can biomass co-firing offer a viable solution to coal shortage and stubble burning?

Source: This post is based on the article “Can biomass co-firing offer a viable solution to coal shortage and stubble burning?” published in Down to Earth on 21st Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: Tackling the coal crisis with biomass co-firing.

Synopsis: Co-firing policy floated by the government for the thermal plants is a win-win solution for farmers and environment.

Introduction

India’s economy is on the path to recovery since the second wave of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The first half of October saw a 4.9% increase in electricity consumption compared to September. However, coal supply fell short of demand by 1.4%. The government reported a shortage in coal supply despite abundant reserves.

As one of the measures to tackle the coal shortage, the Government of India (GoI) has made it mandatory for thermal power plants in three categories to use a 5% blend of biomass pellets and coal. The policy will come into effect in October 2022, with a requirement to increase the blend to 7% within two years for two categories of plants.

The co-firing policy will be in effect for 25 years or till the useful life of the thermal power plant, whichever is earlier.

Must Read: Coal crisis in India – Explained, pointwise
What is the contribution of the coal-based power to CO2 emissions in India?

India still relies heavily on coal-based power generation to meet most of its electricity demand.

The power sector contributes nearly 50% of the sector-wise carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Coal and coal-based power is the single-largest contributor of CO2 emissions in India, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Why India needs to move on from Coal-based power?

Energy security: In India, the government is committed to ensuring that all grid-connected households have 24×7 access to reliable power. The result will be a significant increase in coal-fired power generation and CO2 emissions. Resultant increase in coal imports will give rise to energy security concerns.

Meeting Paris target: India also needs to reduce coal-based GHG emissions rapidly to meet the Nationally Determined Contribution goals for 2030 (NDC). For that, coal plants with higher emissions will have to be shut down and replaced with cleaner ones.

Hence, India needs to move on from the coal based power. Biomass Co-firing offers an alternative.

Must Read: Scale of crop residue generation in India
What are the benefits of Biomass co-firing?

Co-firing biomass pellets with coal in India is a promising strategy for reducing GHG emissions from coal-based power plants.

i). Biomass co-firing has been shown to reduce coal power plant carbon footprint in Europe, the US and the United Kingdom, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Biomass pellets made from agricultural waste have equivalent calorific value to that of Indian coal, based on estimates from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA).

ii). Reduction in pollution due to drop residue burning: Around 85 to 100 million tons of crop residue have been burnt in recent years, despite various government policies aimed at reducing crop burning. Biomass co-firing in places where agro-residue burning is prevalent, this can result in a reduction of coal dependence and a sharp decline in pollution levels.

iii). NOx and SO2 emissions decrease with an increase in blending percentage.

iv). Source of earning: After deducting the labour and transport costs, farmers can earn between Rs 500-Rs 1,500 per tonne of crop residue. In addition, pellet manufacturing, storage, handling and transportation create jobs in rural areas.

An effective method to address pollution and mitigate climate change is to identify older units that are operating efficiently and to promote their co-firing with biomass.


International trade is not a zero-sum game

Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Indian economy – International Trade

Source: This post is based on the article “International trade is not a zero-sum game” published in Indian Express on 22nd October 2021.

Synopsis: Trade protectionism is increasing in India. It may harm India’s trade relations with other countries.

Introduction

During the recent G-20 ministerial meeting in Italy, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal stated that India is deepening trade ties with several countries.

India is indeed negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with several countries. However, rising trade protectionism in India could hinder this progress.

Is India’s trade protectionism rising?

There are many examples of increasing trade protectionism in India.

Firstly, as per Arvind Panagariya, India’s average tariff has increased by almost 25 per cent to 11.1 per cent in 2020-21, from 8.9 per cent in 2010-11. This policy is against the political consensus on tariff liberalization that India followed since 1991. It was also admitted by Former finance minister Arun Jaitley in his 2018 budget speech that India is making a “calibrated departure” from the policy of cutting tariff rates.

Secondly, India is the highest initiator of anti-dumping measures, even compared to US, EU and China. These measures are aimed at shielding domestic industry from import competition.

Third, India recently amended Section 11(2)(f) of the Customs Act of 1962. This amendment empowers the government to ban the import or export of any good if it is necessary to prevent injury to the economy. Earlier, this provision was applicable for just gold and silver. This amendment is inconsistent with consistent with India’s WTO obligations.

WTO rules on the import ban

WTO allows countries to impose restrictions on imports in case of injury to domestic industry, not to the “economy”. However, it is subject to certain conditions. — for example, if there is a sudden, significant and sharp increase in imports that is causing serious injury to the domestic industry. India already has laws to impose these trade remedial measures.

Additionally, countries can also impose restrictions on trade on account of balance of payment difficulties and national security purposes. However, section 11(2)(f) of the Customs Act does not talk about any of these grounds to restrict trade, thus is unnecessary.

Fourth, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech of 2020 claimed that FTA benefits are harming the domestic industry. Subsequently, India amended the rules of origin requirement under the Customs Act. Rules of origin determine whether a product is originated in an FTA or a non-FTA country. The products from FTA countries attract preferential tariff rates, while non-FTA attract the most favored nation rate. The burden of compliance is imposed on importers, which discourages imports.

Lastly, the Prime Minister appealed to the public to be “vocal for local” (giving preference to domestically made goods). It has created an atmosphere against imports.

India’s experience with trade protectionism in the decades before 1991 was disastrous. Thus, lessons should be taken from history to not repeat the same mistake.


The carbon markets conundrum at COP26

Syllabus: GS Paper 3- Environment – Climate change

Source: This post is based on the article “The carbon markets conundrum at COP26” published in The Hindu on 22nd October 2021.

Synopsis: Article 6 of the Paris Agreement needs special attention in the upcoming climate summit. It may help in encouraging carbon mitigation efforts in developing countries.

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement for the carbon market would be at the center of discussion in the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26). It has been a most contentious unresolved issue of the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

What is the issue linked to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement?

Developing countries, particularly India, China, and Brazil have benefitted immensely from Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol. India alone has been issued total carbon credits known as Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) worth U.S.$2.55 billion.

However, with the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the rules have changed. Now even developing countries are required to have mitigation targets. Now developing countries can either sell their carbon credits in return for lucrative foreign investment flows or use these credits to achieve their own mitigation targets.

Why CDM is beneficial for developing countries?

The new market mechanism is beneficial to promote sustainable development and assist climate change adaptation in developing countries.

It encourages private sector participation and attracts foreign investments to support low carbon development.

It is the developed countries that rely upon market mechanisms to meet their NDC(Nationally Determined Contributions) goals, whereas countries like India, aim to rely on domestic mitigation efforts.

What are the issues that require attention in the upcoming COP26?

-Projects under CDM have gone through due diligence and credits have been issued under UNFCCC oversight. Therefore, due credit should be ensured for these projects to keep the trust of private investors in UNFCCC commitments. If the decision regarding the transition of CDM is not favorable, it could lead to a loss of billions of dollars’ worth of potential revenue to India alone.

-At the present stage, India need not undertake the economy-wide emission reduction targets. Thus, all mitigation efforts of India will not fall under the purview of its NDC.  India can sell emission reductions that lie outside its NDC. Robust accounting will ensure that there will be no double-counting of emission reduction. Thus, the argument of developed countries that it will discourage raising ambition levels is flawed, as India will only sell additional efforts.

-Adaptation Fund remains severely underfunded compared to financing for mitigation activities. It is necessary for adaptation for developing countries.

Thus, Climate discussions should ensure equitable sharing of carbon and developmental space. Climate justice demands that developing countries get access to their fair share of global carbon space.


The poor conditions of protectors

Source: The post is based on the article “The poor conditions of protectors” published in The Hindu on 22nd October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Relevance: Understanding the need of giving more facilities to our protectors.

Synopsis: Despite the difficult nature of their duties, the police are neglected a lot.

Introduction

There have been many instances where our forces lost their lives in the line of duty. To pay tribute to those forces, October 21 is celebrated as Police Commemoration Day.

What is the story behind October 21?

On October 21, 1959, Chinese troops threw grenades and opened fire at twenty Indian soldiers in Ladakh. Out of them, ten brave police personnel attained martyrdom while seven others sustained injuries in that incident.

Their cremation was held at the Hot springs in North Eastern Ladakh, with full Police honours. Since then, October 21 is observed as “Police Commemoration Day”

What are the various issues with govt policy wrt the police personnel?

In spite of the demanding nature of their job, police personnel are neglected a lot. The government pays them fewer salaries. They are often deprived of basic services and have a poor quality of life.

Those who joined forces in 2004 or after are not even eligible for pensions.

Even the Central police canteens are not exempted from GST.

What should the government do?

Government should adopt policies which boost the morale of our forces. Their sacrifices should not be let in vain.

Government should bring uniformity in the ex-gratia amounts given to the next of kin of the police who are killed. It is observed that some states like Tamil Nadu, Delhi offers 1 crore while other don’t even pay half.

Government should also ensure that the family of the deceased should not be deprived of decent living.


Indian Railways likely to become world’s first ‘net-zero’ carbon emitter by 2030

Source: This post is based on the articleIndian Railways likely to become world’s first ‘net-zero’ carbon emitter by 2030 published in Down To Earth on 21st October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Relevance: To understand challenges associated with Indian Railways ‘net-zero’ carbon emission plan.

Synopsis: Indian railways announced a grand plan to achieve net-zero carbon emission. But the plan might face a few challenges in implementation.

Introduction

Indian Railways has recently announced ambitious plans to become a ‘net-zero’ carbon emitter by 2030.

Read more: What is net zero target? How fair and realistic these targets are?
About Indian Railways and its carbon emissions

Indian Railways is the world’s fourth-largest railway network in terms of size. It is also one of the largest electricity consumers in the country.

It transports 24 million passengers every day — slightly less than Australia’s population. In addition, Indian Railways also sends 3.3 million tonnes of freight per day — 1,200 million tonnes in 2020/21. Therefore, Indian Railways has a massive carbon footprint.

India’s transport sector contributes to 12% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions with the railways accounting for about 4% of these emissions.

What are Indian Railways plans to become a net-zero emitter? 

Indian Railways goal is to become a ‘net-zero’ carbon emitter by 2030. And it has ambitious plans to accomplish this goal. The plan includes:

Electrify Entire Rail Network: Indian Railways plans to electrify the entire rail network by December 2023. Electric trains are considered less polluting than trains that run on diesel since they do not directly emit carbon dioxide.

Shift to Solar Energy: Indian Railways plans to use solar power to meet its electricity needs. It plans to install 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar for both traction loads (trains) and non-traction loads (offices, railway stations etc).

Read more: Net Zero Emissions Target for India – Explained, Pointwise
What are the projects launched by Indian Railways to achieve the Net Zero Emissions?

Indian Railways has built a 1.7-MW solar power plant in Bina, Madhya Pradesh in 2020. It is the first solar energy plant in the world to directly power railway overhead lines, from which locomotives draw traction power.

The Ministry of Railways has started a 2.5-MW solar project in Diwana, Haryana, with state transmission unit connectivity. The 50 MW of power generated by the plant will be used to power trains. 

The Ministry of Railways has also installed solar panels at over 960 stations and is using solar power to meet railway station energy needs.

Challenges faced by the Indian Railways in terms of solar plant proliferation

No-objection certificate for open access: Open access has been granted as a deemed licensee in 11 states and the Damodar Valley Corporation area. However, no objection certificate (NoC) for open access to electricity flow for railways in some states has not been operationalised due to regulatory challenges.

Wheeling and banking provision: Full deployment of solar potential will become more feasible if states provide wheeling and banking arrangements.

What can be done to achieve Indian Railway plans?

According to a study by Niti Aayog, by shifting freight to rail and optimising truck use, India can reduce logistics costs from 14-10% of Gross Domestic Product and carbon dioxide emissions by 70%  by 2050 compared to a business-as-usual scenario. 

So, Indian Railways can implement operational steps toward last-mile linkage to raise its ambition beyond the official target of 50% freight share by 2030, up from its current share of 33%.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Cabinet approval sets the implementation of PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan (NMP) in motion

What is the news?

Recently, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved PM Gati Shakti- National Master Plan. It includes an institutional framework for rolling out, implementation, monitoring and support mechanism for providing multi-modal connectivity.

Implementation framework further includes Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGOS), Network Planning Group (NPG) and Technical Support Unit (TSU) with required technical competencies.

Read more: PM Gati Shakti – National Infrastructure Master Plan – Explained, pointwise
How would the implementation mechanism work?

EGOS: It will be headed by Cabinet Secretary and consists of members of different ministries and the Head of Logistics Division as Member Convenor. Their job is to review and monitor the implementation of the scheme to ensure logistics efficiency. They can also prescribe framework and norms for undertaking any subsequent amendments to the NMP.

Their job is to synchronize various activities and ensure that these activities will be part of the common integrated digital platform. EGOS will also look at the interventions required to meet the demand side and to transport bulk goods on the requirement of various Ministries like Steel, Coal, Fertilizer, etc.

NPG: It will consist of heads of the Network Planning wing of respective infrastructure ministries. Its job is to assist the EGOS.

TSU: It will consist of domain experts from various infrastructure sectors as Aviation, Maritime, Public Transport, etc. TSU will also have Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as Urban & Transport Planning, Structures (Roads, Bridges & Buildings), Data Analytics, etc.

Source: The post is based on the article “Cabinet approval sets the implementation of PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan (NMP) in motionpublished in PIB on 21st October 2021.


School students to prepare projects on lives of gallantry award winners under ‘Veer Gatha’ initiative

Source: This post is based on the article School students to prepare projects on lives of gallantry award winners under ‘Veer Gatha’ initiativepublished in “Indian Express” on 21st October 2021.

What is the News?

The Government of India has launched the Veer Gatha Initiative.

What is the Veer Gatha Initiative?

Under the initiative, school students across the country will prepare projects in the form of poems, paintings, essays or multimedia presentations on the lives of gallantry award winners.

Aim of the Project

The aim of the project is to make school students aware of the gallantry award winners and to honour the acts of bravery and sacrifice of India’s brave hearts. The initiative also aims to celebrate the valiance and courage of armed force officers and personnel.

Ministries Involved: Ministry of Education along with the Ministry of Defence

Eligibility: Students of Class 3rd to 12th can participate in the initiative.

After preparation, the projects will be first vetted by the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERTs) following which a committee will be appointed by the Ministry of Education. The committee will pick 25 best entries at the national level, which will get awards on the coming Republic Day.


Launch of NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission Digi-Book Innovations for You Sector in Focus – Health Care

What is the News?

NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) has launched – “Innovations for You”.

About Innovations for You 

Innovations for You is a digital book that aims to showcase the success stories of Atal Innovation Mission’s Startups in different domains. 

These startups have worked to create new, disruptive and innovative products, services and solutions that can pave a path for a sustainable future.

Atal Innovation Mission and its Initiatives

Atal innovation mission(AIM): It was set up by NITI Aayog in 2016 to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship by creating institutions and programs that enhance innovation in schools, colleges, and entrepreneurs in general.

Atal Tinkering Labs(ATL): It aims to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds and inculcate skills such as design mindset, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing among others.

Atal Incubation Centres(AICs): These centres have been established at universities, institutions and corporates to foster and support world-class innovation, dynamic entrepreneurs who want to build scalable and sustainable enterprises.

Atal New India Challenge: It is an initiative aimed at supporting innovators to create products/solutions based on advanced technologies in areas of national importance and social relevance through a grant-based mechanism.

​​Atal Community Innovation Centers: They have been launched to encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship in the underserved/unserved regions of India by providing enabling infrastructure and facilitating an environment for innovation.

Atma Nirbhar Bharat ARISE-ANIC program: It is a national initiative to promote research & innovation and increase the competitiveness of Indian startups and MSMEs.

Source: This post is based on the articleLaunch of NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission Digi-Book Innovations for Your Sector in Focus – Health Carepublished in PIB on 21st October 2021.


Govt sets up ‘war room’ on movement of fertilisers

What is the News?

The Department of Fertilizers under the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers has set up a war room on the movement of fertilizers.

What is the issue?

The international prices of fertilisers and inputs have increased to their highest since 2008-09. Due to this, there is an unprecedented shortage of fertilisers both domestic and globally.

What is the Government doing to overcome the shortage of fertilizers?

Earlier, the Government of India used to simply send fertilisers to states based on the month-wise requirements.

But now, the Department of Fertilizers are finding out district-wise requirements and the crops, where sowing is taking place on a real-time basis. The field demand thus assessed is then sought to be addressed by sending fertilizers to those locations.

What are a few important fertilizers used in India?

Urea: Urea is the most widely consumed fertiliser having 46% nitrogen content. It is generally given first around three weeks after sowing, when the crop is in vegetative and tillering stages.

Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP): DAP is the second most commonly used fertiliser in India, after urea. Farmers normally apply this fertiliser just before or at the beginning of sowing, as it is high in phosphorus (P) that stimulates root development.

Click Here to Read about the Issue of Fertilizer Subsidy in India

Source: This post is based on the articleGovt sets up ‘war room’ on movement of fertilisers published in Indian Express on 21st October 2021.


Explained: Why a peak in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is now named after Manipur

What is the News?

The Government of India has renamed Mount Harriet of Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands to Mount Manipur

Why was Mount Harriet named as Mount Manipur?
Source: Research Gate

Mount Harriet is the third-highest island peak in the A&N Islands. It is the place where Manipur’s Maharaja Kulchandra Singh and 22 other freedom fighters were imprisoned during the Anglo-Manipuri war(1891).

Hence, Mount Harriet has been renamed as Mount Manipur to pay tribute to those freedom fighters of Manipur.

About Anglo Manipur War

The Anglo-Manipur War was an armed conflict between the British Empire and the Kingdom of Manipur. The war lasted between 31 March and 27 April 1891, ending in a British victory.

What was the reason for the Anglo Manipur War?

In 1886, Surchandra inherited the throne from his father Chandrakirti Singh. During this time, the kingdom of Manipur was not under British rule but had links with the crown through different treaties.

However, Surchandra’s ascension to the throne was controversial and his younger brothers – Kulachadra, Tikendrajit – revolted against him.

The 1890 coup by the rebel faction removed Surchandra, and proclaimed Kulachandra, the next oldest brother, the king. Surchandra fled to Calcutta seeking British help to reinstate him.

After this, the British dispatched James Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of Assam, with an army to Manipur. His mission was to recognise Kulachandra as the king under the condition that they are allowed to arrest the coup leader Crown Prince Tikendrajit and deport him from Manipur.

This aggressive imposition of British law in a sovereign state was rejected by the king, precipitating the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891.

Who won the war then?

In the first phase of the war, the British surrendered and their officers – including Quinton – were executed in public.

In the second phase, the British attacked Manipur from three sides and finally captured the Kangla Fort in Imphal. Prince Tikendrajit and four others were hanged by the British, while Kulachandra, along with 22 others, was deported to the Andaman Islands.

What is the significance of the Anglo Manipur War?

In India, this war was viewed as being part of the general uprising against British rule in the country, soon after the Revolt of 1857.

Moreover, this war also led to Manipur officially becoming a princely state under the indirect rule of the British crown.

Source:  This post is based on the article Explained: Why a peak in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is now named after Manipurpublished in Indian Express” on 20th October 2021


Gene editing guidelines facing delay

What is the News?

The Government of India is delaying in approving the Guidelines for Safety Assessment of Genome/Gene-Edited Plants.

What is Gene Editing?

Genome editing, also called gene-editing, is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.

Read more: Gene Editing: An Analysis
What is the problem created due to the delay in the approval of Gene Editing Guidelines?

Scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute(IARI) had previously worked on golden rice, a traditional GM variety that inserted genes from other organisms into the rice plant. But the trials of golden rice was lasted over five years ago due to agronomic issues.

Then the IARI scientist moved to newer technologies such as Site-Directed Nuclease (SDN) 1 and 2 to develop resilient and high-yield rice varieties.

However, the proposal for Indian regulators to consider the SDN 1 and 2 technique as equivalent to conventional breeding methods has been pending with the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee(GEAC) for almost two years.

Why are scientists calling SDN 1 and 2 techniques equivalent to conventional breeding methods?

SDN 1 and 2 techniques are equivalent to conventional breeding methods since it does not involve inserting any foreign DNA. These techniques basically aim to bring precision and efficiency into the breeding process using gene-editing tools such as CRISPR.

Under this technique, scientists just tweak a gene that is already there in the plant, without bringing in any gene from outside. This is just like nature does a mutation.

Moreover, this technique is also much faster and far more precise than natural mutation or conventional breeding methods which involve trial and error and multiple breeding cycles.

Source: This post is based on the articleGene editing guidelines facing delaypublished in The Hindu on 22nd October 2021.


System to track prisoners on parole

What is the News?

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued directions to all the states and the Union Territories on a system to track prisoners on parole.

What are the directions given by the Centre to track prisoners on parole?

Firstly, States should update recent photographs of prisoners released on parole/ furlough/premature release in the “ePrisons” and Interoperable Criminal Justice System database”. This will generate immediate alerts and facilitate easy tracking in the event of their violating the law.

Secondly, States should review the existing practices and procedures governing grant of parole, furlough and premature release to inmates as per provisions under the Model Prison Manual, 2016, and guidelines issued by the Home Ministry, National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court.

Thirdly, States should ensure that the inmates released on parole, furlough and premature release do not violate the law. For this, systems must be put in place for monitoring and follow-up of each such case.

Fourthly, Prison departments should update the details of any escape from the prison/custody on ‘ePrisons’ on a real-time basis. Quick availability of this information would facilitate police and other authorities concerned in nabbing the escapee/absconder.

Fifthly, appropriate systems should be put in place for monitoring and follow-up of each case of an inmate released on bail, parole, furlough and premature release etc. so that they do not indulge in criminal activities.

Read more: State of Prisons in India – Explained, pointwise
What is Parole?

Parole is a system of releasing a prisoner with the suspension of the sentence. The release is conditional, usually subject to behaviour, and requires periodic reporting to the authorities for a set period of time.

In India, parole (as well as furlough) are covered under the Prisons Act of 1894. Prisoners convicted of multiple murders or under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) are not eligible for parole.

Since prisons are a State subject in the Constitution, the Prisons Act of each state government defines the rules under which parole is granted in that state.

Read morePrison reforms in India

What is Furlough?

This is a concept broadly similar to parole, but with some significant differences. Furlough is given in cases of long-term imprisonment. The period of furlough granted to a prisoner is treated as remission of his sentence.

Furlough is given merely to enable the prisoner to retain family and social ties and to counter the ill effects of prolonged time spent in prison.

Source: This post is based on the articleSystem to track prisoners on parolepublished in “The Hindu” on 22nd October 2021.


‘Double-dip’: La Nina has formed for second year in a row, says NOAA

What is the News?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has declared that La Niña has re-developed. 

What is Double Dip La Nina?

La Nina is one part of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. But when two La Ninas happen one after the other (with a transition through ENSO neutral conditions in between) is not uncommon. This is usually referred to as a ‘double-dip’. 

In 2020, La Nina developed during the month of August and then dissipated in April 2021 as ENSO-neutral conditions returned.

What is La Nina?

La Niña is a weather pattern that can occur in the Pacific Ocean every few years. 

Source: NASA

In a normal year, winds along the equator push warm water westward. Warm water at the surface of the ocean blows from South America to Indonesia. As the warm water moves west, cold water from the deep rises up to the surface. This cold water ends up on the coast of South America.

Source: NASA

In the winter of a La Niña year, these winds are much stronger than usual. This makes the water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator a few degrees colder than it usually is. Even this small change in the ocean’s temperature can affect weather all over the world.

Impact of La Nina

La Niña results in heavy or better monsoon rains in India, droughts in Peru and Ecuador, heavy floods in Australia, and high temperatures in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. 

What’s the difference between El Niño and La Niña?

Both events start in the Pacific Ocean, but they are opposites in almost every other way. La Niña causes the water in the eastern Pacific to be colder than usual. In the same region, El Niño can cause the water to be warmer than usual. So, areas that are hit with drought during La Niña years can get lots of rain in El Niño years!

Source: This post is based on the article‘Double-dip’: La Nina has formed for second year in a row, says NOAApublished in Down To Earth on 22nd October 2021.

 

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