9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 25th, 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

US-China missile rivalry opens up new opportunities for India

Source: This post is based on the article “US-China missile rivalry opens up new opportunities for India” published in “Livemint” on 25th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Relevance: To understand the arms race between major powers and its implications for India.

Synopsis: The power projection done by china has its own message and also a ground for others to fall into arms race. The scenario further presents an opportunity for India.

Introduction

In the past several years, China has tested its hypersonic missiles, publishing papers reporting their advances in such a sensitive field.

The US govt is obviously aware of this. Hence, US officials expressing shock at this development and comparing China’s hypersonic missile tests to a “Sputnik moment” do seem a bit of exaggeration.

Is this a new arms race?

Indeed, Washington’s open public message on China’s hypersonic missile tests, may well be a part of its defence establishment’s political-bargaining process, whereby US using it as an excuse to further speed-up its missile building process.

This can be seen in the recent context of US President reaffirming commitment to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

However, the new missiles that China and Russia are deploying are a response to Washington’s 2002 decision to withdraw from the ‘anti-ballistic missile treaty’ and invest in ballistic-missile defence.

What is the message that China wants to convey?

China, in showing up its capability to strike the US homeland with ICBMs and hypersonic missiles, helps in signalling US and others, that a confrontation with China can be problematic.

What are its implications?

Hypersonic missiles are certainly a technological advancement over plain old ballistic missiles as vulnerability to nuclear attack is the basis of ‘strategic deterrence‘ and ‘world peace’.

However, every additional warhead and delivery mechanism raises the risk of an ‘accidental nuclear war‘.

What does this mean for India?

Opportunities for India:

– India should reframe the issue from “non- proliferation” to “No-First use” policy of nuclear weapons. India is ideally placed to champion a Global No First Use (GNFU) treaty as the first step. Beijing, like India, has a no-first-use policy, and a post-Trump Washington is likely to be more receptive to the idea.

An independent ‘Space Situational Awareness(SSA)’ crucial for space defence, also it has the potential to become strategic technology that other countries will require. Indian companies can aim to acquire a competitive advantage in the tracking of space objects, both from the ground as well as from space.

India can take advantage of space reforms by focusing public investment in the physics, materials and engineering of anti-satellite and hypersonic systems.

Path for India:

India should stick to ‘minimum credible deterrence’ by having nuclear warheads so as to create detterence. India has wisely achieved strategic deterrence without getting into an arms race. We should stay the course.


Aiding Afghanistan: On both humanitarian and strategic grounds, India must provide succour to ordinary Afghans

Source: This post is based on the article “Aiding Afghanistan: On both humanitarian and strategic grounds, India must provide succour to ordinary Afghans” published in Times of India on 25th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India.

Relevance: Understanding the need of providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

Synopsis: India can opt two-track approach to managing Afghanistan relations under new circumstances.

Introduction

After India’s second official-level contact with the Taliban, the Taliban revealed that India has offered to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

What is the economic situation of Afghanistan?

The Taliban economy is already on the brink of collapse. Its foreign reserves were frozen by the US and IMF. The country is even unable to pay the civil servants and medics salaries for the last few months. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 90% of 2,300 health clinics across Afghanistan are at the risk of shutting down.

Why India should provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan?

India sending aid to Afghanistan is a complicated one as the Taliban government is still not internationally recognized. But India should provide assistance as if the humanitarian crisis worsens in Afghanistan, it will also have an impact on the neighbouring countries. These countries will not only have to deal with refugees but also the security situation in Afghanistan.

Read more: India’s humanitarian missions are guided by Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
What should India do?

India’s attempt to completely bypass the Taliban in aid delivery may not be possible. But it still sends a message that the Taliban needs to work hard to uphold human rights. This two-track approach where ordinary Afghans are helped and the Taliban is also incentivized is the best way forward.

Read more: Implications of the rise of Taliban for India – Explained, pointwise

India could take further steps like restarting the normal processing of medical and student visas for Afghans.


Step towards more LGBTQIA+ affirmative medical curriculum doesn’t go far enough

Source: This post is based on the article “Step towards more LGBTQIA+ affirmative medical curriculum doesn’t go far enough” published in the Indian Express on 25th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: Understanding the broad picture of NMC guidelines.

Synopsis: NMC guidelines should consider a larger picture into account and draft the changes accordingly in the medical education curriculum.

Introduction

Recently National Medical Commission (NMC) has issued an advisory to all medical universities and colleges. It asked them to bring changes in the teaching methods and in the competency-based medical education (CBME) curriculum. It also asked to opt for methods that are not derogatory to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Why do the NMC issue guidelines?

The NMC’s notification comes against the backdrop of several recent developments. A petition has been filed in the Madras High Court by a lesbian couple whose relationship was being opposed by their parents. In another incident, Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, a trans doctor, called out the rampant queerphobia in medical education.

Read moreMadras High Court guidelines for mainstreaming LGBTIQA+ community

Kerala High Court also passed an order asking for the removal of discriminatory and inhuman references to LGBTQIA+ people from MBBS textbooks. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 also aims towards the Social, economic and educational empowerment of transgender persons.

What is missing in the NMC guidelines?

Although the NMC advisory mentions necessary changes in the competencies of its CBME curriculum, there are no specifications on what these changes are. CBME curriculum itself mentions queerphobic things that are to be taught to students.

For example, being transgender, which is a normal variation, is called a disorder. Sodomy and lesbianism are called sexual offences, even though the Supreme Court has struck down Section 377.

This would also make future Indian doctors less empathetic in treating queer patients. NMC, by putting the onus on medical colleges and authors of books, is simply passing the responsibility.

Read moreNeed to ban the Conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community
Why the NMC guidelines alone is not sufficient?

In India, the medical syllabus focussed only on the binary of male and female, heterosexuality and cis-gendered lives. It excludes homosexuality, gender non-binary, queerphobic content and transgender issues. Even CBME curriculum 2019, continues to include a queerphobic syllabus.

There is rampant queerphobia prevalent in society. This scares LGBTQIA+ students in medical colleges and even queer faculty members. This in turn leads to practitioners staying away from queer-affirmative medicine, as queer patients hesitate to approach any professional.

What the NMC should do?

It should start by recognizing the flaws in its own CBME curriculum and need to make the necessary changes. Specific guidelines should be made to make healthcare queer-affirmative. The changes should not only be limited to forensic medicine and psychiatry, but also to other subjects also.

Further, the participation of different stakeholders is required towards the development of a queer-affirmative curriculum.


India’s Central Asian outreach

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s Central Asian outreachpublished in The Hindu on 25th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2  Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India.

Relevance: Understanding the importance of Central Asia on Indian perspective.

Synopsis: Afghanistan’s situation has thrown up challenges in the India-Central Asias relationship.

Introduction

The developments in Afghanistan have opened a new set of challenges for India’s regional and bilateral ties with Central Asia and the Caucasus.

What are Central Asian initiatives to resolve the Afghan crisis?

The re-emergence of the Taliban has exposed the weakness of coalitions like Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). It has largely been used by its member countries to meet their own regional, geo-strategic and security interests.

Read hereCan the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation be the regional body that stabilises Afghanistan?

As the SCO failed to collectively respond to the Afghan crisis, the Central Asian leaders met in Turkmenistan to voice their concerns over the Afghan situation. They raised their concerns over the presence of Central Asian terror groups within Afghanistan and along their borders.

What is India’s relation with Central Asian countries?

India’s Connect Central Asia policy is aimed at furthering India’s political, economic, historical and cultural connections with the region. India signed the Strategic Partnership Agreements (SPA) with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to stimulate defence cooperation and deepen trade relations.

Read more: India and Central Asia
Recent developments in India-Central Asia relations

To secure its interests in Afghanistan and push for an inclusive regime, India’s External Affair Minister (EAM) visited Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Armenia, which are India’s key partners in Central Asia and Eurasia.

Kyrgyzstan: India extended a credit line of $200 million for the support of development projects. It also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on High-Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP).

Kazakhstan: Indian EAM attended the 6th Foreign Ministers’ Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures(CICA). In this, he targeted China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)  and its method to promote parochial interests. He also criticized Pakistan for its support towards cross-border terrorism.

Armenia: Both countries agreed to enhance trade and cultural exchanges to boost bilateral relations. India also supported efforts for a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk group.

Read moreExplained: Why Armenia and Azerbaijan are at loggerheads over Nagorno-Karabakh

However, the unstable situation in Afghanistan and a highly problematic India-Pakistan relation have deprived India of the benefit of relations with Central Asia.


Transcending borders and boundaries

Source: This post is based on the article “Transcending borders and boundariespublished in The Hindu on 25th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections and Women related issues.

Relevance: Understanding women’s peace movements.

Synopsis: The work of feminist writers and women movements highlighted the core arguments behind women movements. The world should learn from them.

Introduction

The concept of peace-building and protest are usually seen as two distinct entities. But in the matter of women’s movements, particularly in South Asia starting with the 1980s and 1990s, these two were intertwined.

What are the contributions of feminist writers?

Kamla Bhasin, who wrote about women’s issues that transcend even borders, cultures and societies, reflects the issues of women, society and the state.

Women in South Asia face a continuum of violence – both structural and over it – which is inflicted by patriarchies, family structure, community and the state. This was very well depicted in Bhasin’s book with Ritu Menon, Borders and Boundaries, and Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side of Silence were both published in the 1990s. They gave the narratives of pain, loss, displacement and violence that the Partition of India had brought on women on both sides of the border.

Read more: The Indian women’s movement can only grow by being inclusive
Few prominent women movements in South Asia

Various ethnic conflicts in regions like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan enabled civil society to debate about issues of justice, rights, patriarchy, militarisation and nuclearisation. In recent decades, South Asia has witnessed collective actions of “disobedient women” fighting for peace and defying state-centric notions of security and order. For example,

-Various initiatives like the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) in Pakistan reached out to their sisters in Bangladesh to apologize for the atrocities of the Pakistan army in 1971.

-The Women’s Peace Bus undertaken by the Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA) from Delhi to Lahore in 2000 demanded a war-free South Asia.

-Women in Security Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP) brought young South Asians together in workshops on conflict transformation.

Persevered with the mission to expand constituencies for peace: This is visible in the mother’s movements in Sri Lanka, the Chipko, Narmada, Bhopal and Kudankulam movements in India.

What are the core arguments of women movements?

The movements highlight the tension between people’s security and so-called national security. They argue or oppose the war and cultures of militarism. They highlight how the discourses of hegemony and masculinity are designed to preserve power hierarchies nationally and internationally, and even in the world economic order.

The movements used numerous innovative methods and feminist concepts.

What should one learn from women movements?

The landmark United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR 1325) in 2000 had set the template for women’s peace and security agenda. But they should draw from experiences of the women’s movement carried out in South Asia to settle the debate between the notion of security and security of women.

Overall, the world needs to create a nurturing love for society, love for people and love for humanity. All this will ensure the security of everyone, including women.


GS Paper 3

In Glasgow, all eyes on 2030: On COP 26

Source: This post is based on the article “In Glasgow, all eyes on 2030” published in The Hindu on 25th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: On upcoming 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) at Glasgow

Synopsis: COP26 must focus sharply on reducing emissions till 2030, rather than on net zero 2050, which is too distant a goal.

Introduction

The stage is set for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, starting October 31. Major preparatory conferences and bilateral meetings have been held to persuade countries to raise their emission reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement. Some positive outcomes have been achieved. Yet, many high-emitter countries are woefully short of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to restrict global temperature rise to “well below 2°C” or even 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The loudest noise, however, is around net zero emissions by 2050 i.e., greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions equalling absorption by sinks such as forests.

What is a much better target than net zero?

Recently released AR6 report by IPCC, emphasised that to keep temperature rise within 1.5°C, global emissions should be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, on the way to net zero 2050.

What are the issues with the net zero target?

Net zero ignores CBDR: Net zero ignores the foundational principle of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) i.e. common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR).

CBDR entails that the developed countries are responsible for over 75% of accumulated atmospheric GHGs causing climate change. So, they should bear most of the burden for reducing emissions, while developing countries should do what they can, with technological and financial assistance from the former. Hence, if the goal is global net zero emissions by 2050, all countries cannot be obliged to reach that goal by the same year.

Net zero, therefore, deliberately diverts attention away from the urgent 2030 target that COP26 should focus on.

Why, the 2030 emission reduction target is more significant than net zero?

As per the UN NDC report that even after accounting for updated NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) targets, global emissions in 2030 are expected to be 16.3% above the 2010 level.

This is worrisome as the IPCC has called for 2030 emissions to be 45% less from 2010 levels for the 1.5°C goal.

Hence, 2030 emission reduction target is much more significant than net zero by 2050.

What is the carbon budget approach?

The gravity of the entire situation may be better appreciated through the more scientific metric of carbon budgets, as highlighted in IPCC AR6 and AR5 reports.

Carbon budgets represent the quantum of CO2 the atmosphere can hold for a given global temperature, best assessed through cumulative emissions and not annual flows.

Estimates based on carbon budgets should be used at Glasgow. As per the NDC report, reaching net zero is necessary to stabilise global temperature rise at a particular level, but limiting global temperature increase to a specific level would entail limiting cumulative CO2 emissions to within a carbon budget.

What is the way forward?

World

COP26 must focus sharply on achieving the 45% emission cuts from 2010 levels required by 2030 for limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.

India

India can raise its NDC pledge of reducing Emissions Intensity (ratio of emissions to GDP) by 33-35% from 2005 levels by 2030 to 38-40%. This is quite achievable since India has been averaging around 2% p.a. reduction in EI as per its own NDC.

India could also offer to achieve net zero by 2070-75, invoking CBDR.

If pressed on a peaking year, a 2040-45 guesstimate may not be far off the mark, especially if increasing forest and tree cover are stepped up.


Mitigating a crisis: On COP26 Glasgow climate meet

Source: This post is based on the article “Mitigating a crisis: On COP26 Glasgow climate meet” published in The Hindu on 25th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: On upcoming 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) at Glasgow

Synopsis: The COP can at best incentivize adaptation that aids a transition towards clean energy.

Introduction

In a week, heads of state from at least 120 countries are expected to convene in Glasgow for the 26th meeting of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP). The annual two-week-long exercise was disrupted last year due to COVID-19.

What is COP 26?

In 1992, countries agreed to an international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which set ground rules and expectations for global cooperation on combating climate change. It was the first time the majority of nations formally recognized the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming that drives climate change.

That treaty has since been updated, including in 2015 when nations signed the Paris climate agreement. That agreement set the goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), and preferably to 1.5 C (2.7 F), to avoid catastrophic climate change.

CoP26 stands for the 26th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC. The “parties” are the 196 countries that ratified the treaty plus the European Union. The United Kingdom, partnering with Italy, is hosting CoP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 through November 12, 2021, after a one-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why is COP26 significant?

The year 2020 was to have been an important year as most of the major economies were expected to review the actions undertaken so far in meeting voluntary targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015. However, the disruption has meant that these discussions will now move to Glasgow.

Moreover, the meet is also significant from US standpoint following its exit from the Paris Agreement under Trump administration. The Biden administration is making a concerted effort to commemorate the country’s return to the fold.

What are the targets toward which COP26 should aim for?

To limit global warming to 1.5°C consensus around following targets need to be achieved at COP26:

i). Achieving net zero emissions by 2050

ii). Cutting emissions drastically by at least 45% from 2010 levels

What are the issues that COP26 need to resolve?

Consensus at COP meetings is hard won because of different viewpoints of various stakeholders esp. the developed and developing countries.

– Developing countries argue that the climate crisis exists because of excess emissions by the developed West for more than a century. Hence, any attempt at solving the crisis should involve the western countries doing much more than what they have committed to and, at the very least, making good on promises already enshrined in previous editions of the COP.

Moreover, for developing countries, yielding to calls for ‘net zero’ also means that governments such as India will appear as having succumbed to international bullying.

– For developed countries, complying with the demand by developing countries to pay reparations means giving out sums of money unlikely to pass domestic political parameters.

What is the way forward?

The COP, therefore, can at best incentivize adaptation that aids a transition to clean energy.


COP26: The agenda for Glasgow

Source: This post is based on the article “COP26: The agenda for Glasgow” published in The Indian Express on 25th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: On upcoming 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) at Glasgow.

Synopsis: COP26, which begins next week in Glasgow after a year’s delay, will seek to finalize the rules for the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate. Why is this important, and what else in on the agenda?

Introduction

Negotiators from around the world are assembling in Glasgow, Scotland, from Monday next week for COP26 (or the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). It was scheduled to be held last year, at the same venue, but had to be put off for the first time in its history because of the pandemic.

Most of the discussions ahead of the meeting have been around an effort to get all countries to commit to a net-zero target by a specific year, somewhere around the mid-century. Net-zero is an extremely contentious subject, deeply dividing the developed and developing countries.

What is the agenda for COP26?

The official agenda of the two-week meeting is:

to finalise the rules and procedures for implementation of the Paris Agreement, which was supposed to have been completed by 2018.

Must Read: What are COP meetings and their significance?
What are some issues from Paris Agreement that are still pending?

Regarding Paris agreement, countries are yet to agree on some of the provisions related to the creation of new carbon markets.

Carbon markets are an important instrument to facilitate emissions reductions, and were an integral part of the Kyoto Protocol that has now given way to Paris Agreement.

Developed countries want more robust way to calculate carbon credits and this remains the last stumbling block in finalising rules and procedures of the Paris agreement.

Must Read: What is the carbon market issue?
What is the net zero issue?

An agreement on carbon markets would involve complex negotiations. Hence, the developed world is now pushing to shift the goalpost from what already has been agreed in the Paris agreement by calling for all countries to adopt Net Zero targets by 2050.

Incidentally, the issue of net-zero, or carbon neutrality, does not find a mention in the Paris Agreement, and therefore, does not form part of the process.

Ministers of 24 nations, which call themselves ‘Like Minded Developing Countries’, or LMDCs, denounced the efforts to force a net-zero target on everyone, saying it went against ‘equity’ and ‘climate justice’. India is a part of LMDC, and interestingly, so is China. Other members include Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The LMDC has stated that it was lack of adequate action on the part of rich nations that had led to worsening of the climate crisis and the net zero target runs counter to the Paris Agreement and is anti-equity and against climate justice.

Must Read: A timeline of various COP meetings

No heroes at COP: On COP26

Source: This post is based on the article “No heroes at COP” published in Business Standard on 24th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: On upcoming 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) at Glasgow.

Synopsis: If COP26 fails, it will be because of misplaced targets from the West and China, and a lack of ambition and imagination from India.

Introduction

A few months ago, one could reasonably expect that there would in fact be a significant increase in the global ambition to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions as a result of COP26 Glasgow conference.

Yet a combination of factors has unfortunately caused this optimism to appear misplaced.

What are the reasons behind this reduction in expectations from COP26?

Multiple nations are responsible for this reduction in expectations.

USA: Biden administration has made no attempt to change the price of carbon in the US economy, and the “build back better” bills barely add up to one-third of the emissions reductions that Mr Biden promised by 2030 and even then face serious objections in the US Senate.

European Union: The EU, meanwhile, has set more credible targets and taken more credible action. Yet its ambition is inward-focused: The “European Green Deal” would ensure a large amount of capital flows to climate-sensitive projects within the EU, but at the potential cost of funding more efficient carbon mitigation projects elsewhere in the world. It also proposes to levy a carbon tariff on goods entering its borders from 2026- in other words, steel from Indian plants, if it is produced in a more emissions-intensive process, will have to pay an additional price per ton to be sold in Europe. This has severely increased distrust with its potential partners on climate change, including India.

China: It has pledged to become net zero by 2060. This means there are no restrictions in effect on the announcement of new coal-fired thermal power plants, and China has continued to make such announcements even in 2021; in just the year’s first six months, the projected new plants would increase the country’s emissions by 1.5%.

What are India’s views and why they need to evolve?

India may be right to resist a meaningless net zero target but there is less justification for some of their other points.

On climate finance. In 2015, at the Paris Agreement, the developed world promised to mobilise $100 billion of climate finance to aid the green transition in emerging economies. Only a fraction of that money has materialised. India insists that any climate action should be predicated on the rest of that grant money being made available.

This viewpoint is not constructive, and not helpful even from India’s point of view. At best, India would get a small amount of incremental grant capital from this $100 billion. And even the total figure of $100 billion is extremely less than the trillions of dollars actually required by India and the rest of the emerging world over the next decade if greener infrastructure is to be built.

What is the way forward for India?

– Global agreement on climate finance: Govt should push for private-sector investment in green and frontier sectors. India’s government has isolated some of these sectors in its recent moves towards industrial policy — batteries, for example. This agreement on climate finance should cover such areas as risk mitigation, targeted investments, and project preparation assistance. And COP26 is the right location to move towards such a global agreement.

– South African model: India’s model should be South Africa (SA), a fellow coal-rich developing country that has had an even harder time imagining a development path that is greener than its current trajectory. Transitioning its debt-ridden state-run electricity company, Eskom, from coal-fired plants to renewables would be prohibitively expensive. That’s why the South Africans have put proposals out there which aim to make it easier to swap debt for green financing. These proposals, if approved, would clear up Eskom’s balance sheet on the condition that it begins greater investment in renewables.


More than a coal problem

Source: This post is based on the article “More than a coal problem” published in Livemint on 25th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: Understanding coal shortage in India

Synopsis: India’s primary coal producer can only be partly blamed for the coal shortage issue, other factors needs to be seen to avert current and further crisis.

Introduction

India is in the midst of a coal shortage and that has led to its power plants having very little coal. As per the report of the Central Electricity Authority, as of 21 October, the 135 coal linkage based power plants tracked had an average coal stock of 4 days.

Coal India Limited is being blamed for this crisis. But is it fair to just blame Coal India alone?

A brief history of coal sector in India

After independence, much of India’s coal production was privately owned. The growth in coal production was sluggish and was less than 2% per year before the 1970s.

Mainly for this reason, coal mining was nationalized between 1971 and 1973.

In 1993, the government decided to allocate coal blocks to both private sector and public sector companies for captive consumption.

The commercial mining of coal was allowed when the Parliament passed the Mineral Laws(Amendment) Bill in March 2020. Now, it is possible for a private company to produce coal andsell it commercially.

What has been the performance of “Coal India ltd.”(CIL)?

In 2020-21, the total coal produced by Coal India was around 83% of the total 716.1 million tonnes produced in the country, which came down marginally from 88.5% of India’s coal in 1980-81.

This monopoly of the Coal India firms has translated into huge operating margins(represents efficiency to generate profit). As per the Public Sector Enterprises Survey for 2019-20, the state-owned public sector coal firms had an operating margin of 37.1% in 2019-20.

What are the trends in demand and supply of coal?

Production/supply-The growth in coal production for the 10 year period ending 2019-20 stands at 3.4% per year on average.

The demand for coal on the other hand in the last 10 years has grown by around 4.8% per year.

Must Read: Coal shortage in India – Explained, pointwise

Will commercial mining of coal help?

Commercial mining of coal is allowed now under the Mineral laws (amendment) Bill passed by the Parliament in Mar 2020.

But, the issues is that the private miners will face exactly the same problems that Coal India does, when it comes to setting up a new coal mine.

Along with the systemic issues mentioned earlier for Coal India, the lack of human resources will also limit the ability of private miners.

Commercial mining of coal might work out well in the long-term, but in the short- to medium-term the importance of Coal India and import dependence is likely to continue.

Can renewable sources fulfill the gap?

In 2020-21, proportion of coal based power was 53%. In absolute terms, almost twice more coal-based power was produced in India in 2020-21 than in 2005-06.

This dependence on coal is unlikely to change in the years to come. Coal India annual report states that the share of coal in overall energy mix is expected to remain high at 48-54% even beyond 2030.

What can be done?

The government needs to support Coal India in sorting out issues related to land acquisition and environmental clearances for both coal India and private companies.

The managerial capabilities of Coal India should be made free social objectives of the government.


What PM Gati Shakti plan means for the nation

Source: This post is based on the article “What PM Gati Shakti plan means for the nation” published in The Indian Express on 25th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Relevance: Article details the importance of PM Gati Shakti plan.

Synopsis: The current state of infrastructure and how PM-Gati shakti will help in it.

Introduction

This fractionated style of policy-making and execution held back the economic development of India. The Prime Minister’s Gati Shakti plan is a step in changing the status of the progress of the nation by national Master Plan for Multi-modal Connectivity.

What is the current state of infrastructure and how Gati-shakti would address it?

Logistics– The cost of Indian logistics remains high at 13-14% of GDP compared to developed nations where they are 8-10 per cent. The plan will help India to cut down its logistics cost.

Freight transport– India’s modal mix is heavily tilted towards roads, with 60-65% of transport happening via road compared to 25-30% in developed countries, prompting higher costs.

PM Gati Shakti Master plan, we will increase India’s highway network to 2 lakh km and provision utility corridors for laying adjoining power and optical fibre cables, which will be a life-saver in times of natural disasters.

Rail freight business depends excessively on coal.

Domestic waterways face numerous challenges due to high first- and last-mile costs, unavailability of return load in most cases, high voyage costs for specialised vessels and high repositioning costs of domestic containers, among others.

The PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan will herald a new era of infrastructure development and multi-modal logistics.

Master plan will further augment urban infrastructure development by streamlining planning and approvals, and integrating civic amenities.

It is expected to increase the share of natural gas in the country’s energy mix to 15 per cent from the current 7 per cent.

Must Read: PM Gati Shakti – National Infrastructure Master Plan – Explained, pointwise

Decoding The Unicorn Nation

Source: This post is based on the article “Decoding the Unicorn Nation” published in the TOI on 25th October 2021.

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

Relevance: Digital transformation and its benefits

Synopsis: India’s demographic dividend may finally be realized through the digital dividend

How COVID helped in India’s digital transformation?

Though, Covid left indelible scars, but it propelled India to the top of the league of digitally connected nations.

Compelled to adapt their lives and livelihoods to a 4×5” smartphone screen, the virus forced the entire populace to embrace new habits and behaviours.

Covid ensured serious adoption of smart phones, making it a transaction device, penetrating every strata of our society.

Today, Indian citizens armed with just three things -a bank account, a smartphone and a digital identity can meaningfully transact online, find a job, learn a skill, invest money, take a loan or get access to online services anywhere.

How has India emerged as a destination for venture capital?

– Spread of e-commerce: India’s digital startups have seized this transformation opportunity. They no longer have to burn cash, shower discounts to create new habits.

Instead, there’s a massive surge in demand, and improved unit economics, as Indians are willingly paying for digital convenience and access.

UPI and QR codes, combined with efficient and speedy delivery logistics infrastructure, have brought e-commerce to every small town and village.

As a result, we today have over 700 million of our citizens connected, over 150 million transacting e-commerce customers, and digital aids like Whatsapp being used at mass-scale by small businesses.

India has an astounding total addressable market of 400 million of online orders for meal deliveries.

Given the enormous potential, it is no surprise, therefore, that India has emerged as an attractive destination for venture capital, with $30 billion (Rs 2,10,000 crore) expected just this year to give wings to unicorns.

How digitalisation will be beneficial for India?

Firstly, low transaction costs, high velocity of transactions, transparency and ease of discovery will all combine to create massive productivity gains in every sector.

For example, each time a Citizen’s charges his FASTag digitally, or use kirana store, or order a meal home via online UPI transfer, a tiny fraction of efficiency gets released, and someone gets productively employed.

Secondly, as the digital trails of economic transactions become shareable and auditable and usable, it will allow millions of small businesses to gain instant access to credit and move from being credit-starved to credit-rich.

Thirdly, India is now seen as the champion of the open and democratic internet, and a global hub for technology innovation and startups. Its mobile-first software development capabilities and deep local markets give it the experience and confidence to create digital products for the world.

Fourthly, the demand for digital talent is soaring, both domestically and internationally. Now “Code in India” should be our new paradigm to export our skills and capabilities to the world. Here the good news is already: Millions of young graduates are taking notice of the fact that learning how to code is the key to a great future.

What are the challenges that needs to be addressed due to increasing digitalisation?

Disruptions: Digitisation will leave no time for incumbents to react, especially since digital-first businesses have reset the equation. Unless legacy businesses learn to adapt, many of them will replaced by a digital upstart.

Monopolies: As digital platforms become more powerful, regulation will have to rapidly evolve to avoid monopolisation and cartelisation.

Denial of Labour rights: Platforms are already exploiting labour, categorising them as gig-workers and denying them employment benefits. This needs to be addressed.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

What Mauritius’ exit from FATF’s ‘grey list’ means

Source: This post is based on the article “What Mauritius’ exit from FATF’s ‘grey list’ means” published in the Livemint on 25th October 2021.

What is the issue?

Mauritius was placed in FATF’s grey list in February 2020, however, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), has moved Mauritius out of its grey list in the October 2021 plenary held last week.

FATF had in the June 2021 plenary agreed that Mauritius had completed putting into force an action plan designed to combat and strengthen the effectiveness of its activities to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism.

Must Read: What is FATF and what does it do?
What is FATF’s grey list and how does it work?

Countries are placed in the grey list for increased monitoring to counter money laundering and funding of terrorist activities and to address strategic gaps in their systems.

As many as 23 countries, including Pakistan and Cayman Islands, are in the list. While Mauritius and Botswana have been removed from the list this month, Jordan, Mali and Turkey have been added.

What were authorities in India worried about?

India’s foreign portfolio investments (FPIs) were largely routed into India via Mauritius, a tax haven country. It is the second highest source of FPI after the US as of January 2020.

Indian authorities are concerned about round-tripping of black money in the guise of FPI (through “participatory notes”) and terror funding getting routed via Mauritius.

Note: Round-tripping means rerouting illegal money that originates in India, back into the country through a tax haven.

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India subsequently levied investment curbs on foreign direct investments and FPI from Mauritius.

How should Indian authorities respond?

RBI and government should not be tempted by an opportunity of attracting more FPI and FDI. Prior to making a hasty move with immediate economic interests in mind, the government must look at long-term prospects of the economy and internal security.

Lesser scrutiny on ultimate beneficial ownership in investments originating from the tax haven should be contemplated with caution.


Punjab uses tech against illicit brewing

What is the News?

Earlier, Punjab’s Excise Department has launched Operation Red Rose to curb illicit liquor trading and excise-related crimes. The operation is bearing fruitful results.

What is Operation Red Rose?

Operation Red Rose was launched to ensure that there should not be illicit or illegal movement of liquor in Punjab. 

As part of the operation, Punjab Government has taken several measures such as 

  • Making the entire manufacturing process of liquor online, which is monitored in real-time
  • A separate control room for team members to monitor the quantity, brand of the liquor being processed at a given manufacturing unit.
  • Flow-meters in bottling plants
  • QR code-based passes
  • GPS-enabled transport vehicles and 
  • e-transit passes.
Read more: Why are the Governments in India relying on liquor sales so much ?
What is the significance of the operation?

The operation has curbed different modules of excise theft such as the direct supply of liquor from the manufacturing unit without paying excise duty; liquor smuggling from neighbouring States and preparing liquor in villages especially in the areas adjacent to rivers.

Moreover, the operation has also led to a rise in revenue and an increase in the number of FIRs and arrests, besides the rise in conviction rate.

Read more: Know about menace of illicit liquor/hooch in India

Source: This post is based on the article “Punjab uses tech against illicit brewing” published in The Hindu on ‘24th October 2021.’


G7 countries reach breakthrough on digital trade and data

What is the News?

The Group of Seven (G7) countries have agreed on a joint set of principles to govern cross-border data use and digital trade.

What is Digital Trade?

Digital trade is broadly defined as trade in goods and services that is either enabled or delivered digitally, encompassing activities from the distribution of films and TV to professional services.

What are the key provisions of the G7 Digital Trade Principles?

Open Digital Markets: Digital and telecommunications markets should be competitive, transparent, fair, and accessible to international trade and investment.

Cross Border Data Flows: To harness the opportunities of the digital economy, data should be able to flow freely across borders with trust, including the trust of individuals and businesses.

Safeguards for Workers, Consumers and Businesses: Labour protections must be in place for workers who are directly engaged in or support digital trade. They have to be provided decent conditions of work.

Digital Trading Systems: To cut red tape and enable more businesses to trade, governments and industries should drive forward the digitisation of trade-related documents. 

Fair and Inclusive Global Governance: Common rules for digital trade should be agreed upon and upheld at the World Trade Organization (WTO)

Data Encryption: Businesses should not be required or coerced to transfer technology or provide access to source code or encryption keys as a condition of market access. At the same time, governments must retain sufficient flexibility to pursue legitimate regulatory goals, including health and safety.

What is the significance of the G7 Digital Trade Principles deal?

The deal is a first step in reducing trade barriers and could lead to a common rulebook of digital trade.

The deal also sets out a middle ground between highly regulated data protection regimes used in European countries and the more open approach of the United States.

Source: This post is based on the articleG7 countries reach breakthrough on digital trade and data published in The Hindu on 24th October 2021.


152 SAKSHAM Centres (Centre for Financial Literacy & Service Delivery) launched in a week as part of Amrit Mahotsav

What is the News?

As part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, a total of 152 Centre for Financial Literacy & Service Delivery (SAKSHAM) Centres have been launched under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) of the Ministry of Rural Development

What are SAKSHAM Centres?

SAKSHAM Centres are also known as Centre for Financial Literacy & Service Delivery. They are a one-stop solution/single window system for the basic financial needs of Self-Help Group (SHG) households in rural areas. 

Read more: [Yojana September Summary] SHG-led Women Empowerment – Explained, pointwise

Objective: To provide financial literacy & facilitate delivery of financial services (savings, credit, insurance, pensions etc) to SHG members and rural poor. 

Managed by: These Centers will be managed by the SHG network, largely at the level of the Cluster Level Federations (CLFs) with the help of trained Community Resource Persons(CRPs).

Who will train CRPs? These CRPs will be provided residential training at Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs) established by the Lead Bank of the district. 

About SAKSHAM App

The SAKSHAM is a mobile & web-based application launched by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD).

Purpose: The app will be used by the community resource person of the Centre to know the penetration of various financial services for each SHG & village, identify major gaps and accordingly provide training and deliver the required financial services. 

The application will also measure the impact of the programme on regular intervals for mid-course correction in strategy if any.

Source: This post is based on the article152 SAKSHAM Centres (Centre for Financial Literacy & Service Delivery) launched in a week as part of Amrit Mahotsav published in PIB on 24th October 2021.


India, UK, Australia to launch IRIS at COP26

What is the News?

India along with Australia, the UK and small island developing states(SIDS) will be launching a new initiative named “IRIS (Infrastructure for Resilient Island States)” on the sidelines of the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, UK.

What is the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States(IRIS) Initiative?

The IRIS initiative is aimed at creating a coalition for putting in place infrastructure that can withstand disasters and lessen economic losses in island nations.

Under this initiative, Australia, India and the UK have committed an initial funding of $10 million. More countries including Japan are expected to contribute to the initiative.

What are Small island developing states(SIDS)?

Small Island Developing States(SIDS) are a distinct group of 38 UN Member States and 20 Non-UN Members/Associate Members of UN regional commissions that face unique social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities.

Why was the IRIS Initiative launched for the SIDS States?

According to a World Bank report titled ‘Climate and Disaster Resilient Transport in Small Island Developing States’, SIDS countries are highly susceptible to economic losses due to disasters, with average annual losses ranging from 1% to 10% of the gross domestic product(GDP).

According to the UN Global Assessment Report (2017), SIDS countries account for two-thirds of the countries in the world that suffer the highest relative losses due to disasters. These countries also have the highest multi-hazard risks relative to the size of their capital stock.

Hence, that’s why the IRIS Initiative is being launched to support the planning process, build capacity as well as infrastructure in an inclusive way that meets the needs of SIDS countries.

Source: This post is based on the article “India, UK, Australia to launch IRIS at COP26published in “Business Standard” on 24th October 2021.


Minister of State for Communications chairs 7th Meeting of BRICS Communications Ministers

What is the News?

India as the current BRICS Chair convened the 7th Meeting of BRICS Communications Ministers meeting.The meeting was presided by India’s Minister of State for Communications.

What are the key highlights of the 7th Meeting of BRICS Communications Ministers?

Firstly, the ministers supported the advancement in work of the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution(PartNIR).

Secondly, the ministers adopted the proposal to host the Digital BRICS Forum annually to facilitate sharing of information and knowledge, practices, and initiatives on agreed cooperation areas.

Thirdly, the ministers encouraged continuous cooperation in ICTs activities in international organizations and multilateral forums such as the International Telecommunications Union and other organizations.

What is Partnership on New Industrial Revolution(PartNIR)?

Partnership on New Industrial Revolution(PartNIR) is a programme of partnership among BRICS nations that will focus on Maximising the opportunities arising from the fourth industrial revolution/New Industrial Revolution. 

The partnership was formed at the 10th BRICS summit in 2018 at Johannesburg,South Africa.

Source: This post is based on the article “Minister of State for Communications chairs 7th Meeting of BRICS Communications Ministerspublished in “PIB” on 23rd October 2021.


India’s First Banni Buffalo IVF Calf Born

What is the News?

India’s first In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) calf of Banni breed of buffaloes was born at a farmer’s house in Gir Somnath district, Gujarat.

What are Banni Buffaloes?

Banni buffaloes are also known as “Kutchi” or “Kundi”. It is a breed of buffalo found primarily in the Kutch district of Gujarat.

This breed of buffaloes is usually bred and preserved by a local community found in Kutch, called the ‘Maldharis‘.

Banni Buffaloes has higher milk production potentials and is also more disease resilient when compared to other common breeds.

They are also well-adapted to survive extreme weather conditions such as water scarcity, frequent droughts, low humidity and high temperatures.

Read more: About Banni Grasslands
Why were Banni Buffaloes chosen for IVF?

Banni buffalo is known for its higher milk-producing capacity in an arid environment. Hence, they were chosen to help the country to multiply the population of genetically superior buffaloes, resulting in higher milk yield.

Read more: Odisha: Koraput’s Manda buffalo gets unique, indigenous tag
How was the IVF done?

An outstanding cow or buffalo in a Banni Buffalo herd was first identified as a donor following which its embryo is then matured artificially at a laboratory, fertilised with the best quality semen in test tubes and then transferred to a recipient cow or buffalo.

Source: This post is based on the articleIndia’s First Banni Buffalo IVF Calf Born published in PIB on 24th October 2021.’


Stockholm+50: International meeting to accelerate action towards a healthy and prosperous planet for all

What is the News?

The United Nations General Assembly has agreed on the way forward for plans to host Stockholm+50 at the highest possible level in Stockholm, Sweden in June 2022.

What is Stockholm+50?

Stockholm+50 is an international meeting to be hosted by the Government of Sweden and convened by the United Nations General Assembly in Stockholm, Sweden.

Theme: A healthy planet for the prosperity of all — our responsibility, our opportunity.

The meeting will commemorate 50 years since the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, which made the environment a pressing global issue for the first time.

What are the objectives of the Stockholm+50 meeting?

The meeting has the following objectives.

To reflect on the urgent need for actions towards a healthy planet and prosperity of all, 

To achieve a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,

To accelerate the implementation of the environmental dimension of Sustainable Development in the context of the Decade of Action.

What is the Stockholm Conference?

The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm was the first world conference to make the environment a major issue. 

During the conference, participants adopted the Stockholm Declaration, which placed environmental issues at the forefront of international concerns. The conference also marked the start of a dialogue between industrialized and developing countries on the link between economic growth, the pollution of the air, water and oceans and the well-being of people around the world.

One of the major results of the Stockholm conference was the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Source: This post is based on the articleStockholm+50: International meeting to accelerate action towards a healthy and prosperous planet for allpublished in UNEP on 22nd October 2021.


Global agricultural productivity not growing as fast as food demand: Report

What is the News?

Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP Report) 2021 has been released by Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture, US and Life Sciences.

Few basic Terms to Know

What is Agricultural Productivity? Agricultural productivity is measured as the ratio of agricultural outputs to inputs. Agriculture productivity increases when more agricultural products are produced with the same amount or fewer resources.

What is Yield? Yield measures output per unit of a single input, for example, consider a condition where the same amount of crops is harvested on a hectare of land. Yields can increase through productivity growth, but they can also increase by applying more inputs, called input intensification. Therefore, an increase in yield may or may not represent improvements in sustainability.

What is Total Factor Productivity(TFP)? TFP captures the interaction between multiple agricultural inputs and outputs. TFP growth indicates that more farmers generate more crops, livestock, and aquaculture products with the same amount or less land, labor, fertilizer, feed, machinery, and livestock. As a result, TFP is a powerful metric for evaluating and monitoring the sustainability of agricultural systems. 

What are the key findings of the GAP report?

Growth of TFP: Total Factor Productivity (TFP) is growing at an annual rate of 1.36% (2020-2019). This is below the Global Agricultural Productivity Index that has set an annual target of 1.73% growth to sustainably meet the needs of consumers for food and bioenergy in 2050.

Reasons for Low TFP Growth: TFP growth is influenced by climate change, weather events, changes in fiscal policy, market conditions, investments in infrastructure and agricultural research and development.

TFP Growth in Different Regions: Middle-income countries, including India, China, Brazil, and the countries of the former USSR, continue to have the most robust TFP growth rates. 

On the other hand, Low-income countries, home to many small-scale farmers, have a negative TFP growth rate of -0.31 percent annually. 

Impact of Human-caused Climate Change on TFP: Human-caused climate change has slowed global agricultural productivity growth by 21 percent since 1961. In drier regions of Africa and Latin America, climate change has slowed productivity growth by as much as 34 percent. 

What are the suggestions given by the GAP report?

The report suggested investing in agricultural research and development, embracing science-and-information-based technologies and improving infrastructure for transportation, information and finance.

The report also suggested cultivating partnerships for sustainable agriculture, economic growth and improved nutrition, expanding and improving local, regional and global trade and reducing post-harvest loss and food waste.

What does the GAP Report say about India?

India has seen strong TFP and output growth this century. The most recent data shows an average annual TFP growth rate of 2.81 percent and output growth of 3.17 percent (2010–2019.) 

However, the implications of climate change for India’s agricultural sector are profound. By the end of the century, the mean summer temperature in India could increase by five degrees Celsius. This rapidly rising temperature, combined with changes in rainfall patterns could cut yields for India’s major food crops by 10 percent by 2035.

In addition to the challenges for environmental sustainability, India’s small-scale farmers face significant obstacles to economic and social sustainability.

Source: This post is based on the article Global agricultural productivity not growing as fast as food demand: Report published in ‘Down To Earth’ on 22nd October 2021.


Furlough not prisoner’s right, says SC in Asaram son’s case

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has discussed the differences between ‘furlough’ and ‘parole’ and the principles relating to grant of them.

What was the case?

The Supreme Court made these observations while hearing an appeal filed by the State of Gujarat against a judgment of the Gujarat High Court. The Gujarat High Court granted two weeks’ furlough to a self-proclaimed godman and rape convict who is serving a life term imprisonment.

What did the Supreme Court say regarding furlough and parole?

The Supreme Court reversed the Gujarat High Court Order.

Further, the Supreme Court discussed the differences between ‘furlough’ and ‘parole’ and the principles relating to grant of them. The following are the differences:

Firstly, Furlough and parole envisage a short-term temporary release from custody

Secondly, while parole is granted for the prisoner to meet a specific exigency, furlough may be granted after a stipulated number of years have been served without any reason.

Thirdly, the grant of furlough is to break the monotony of imprisonment and to enable the convict to maintain continuity with family life and integration with society.

Fourthly, although furlough can be claimed without a reason, the prisoner does not have an absolute legal right to claim furlough.

Fifthly, the grant of furlough must be balanced against the public interest and can be refused to certain categories of prisoners.

Read more: System to track prisoners on parole

Source: This post is based on the article Furlough not prisoner’s right, says SC in Asaram son’s case” published in TOI on 22nd October 2021.


 

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