9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 26th, 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

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Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

We mustn’t lose time on enacting a data protection law

Source: This post is based on the article “We mustn’t lose time on enacting a data protection law” Published in “Livemint” on 26th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: Personal Data protection bill

Synopsis: India needs to pass its own data protection law as soon as possible in order to demonstrate our leadership at the global level in this newly-emerged but important field of jurisdiction.

What is the significance of Puttaswamy and Others vs. Union of India and Others case?

A 9-judge bench of India’s Supreme Court passed a historic judgement in the Puttaswamy and Others vs. Union of India and Others case.

It guaranteed informational privacy to each citizen of India as a fundamental right.

This right is now a part of the ‘basic features’ of the Constitution and therefore becomes fully justiciable.

Possibly, no other country in the world has the right to informational privacy as a fundamental right.

What constitutes ‘informational privacy’?

It is an amalgamation of several rights. The right to be left alone, the right to body, mind and soul, the right to control over one’s data and information related to one’s personal life, the right to one’s individuality, and the right to be forgotten etc.,

Privacy is not just an idea, but a way of life that enhances the scope of individual liberty, speech and expression. And this is also linked to the right to dissent in a democracy.

Why there is a need to enact data protection law for India?

Until right to privacy judgement, privacy and personal data were broadly regulated under Section 43A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Information Technology Rules of 2011.

With the rise of digitalization in the country and the rapid increase of technology-led services in the daily lives of people, led to the sharing of personal data at different levels. Hence, the need arose to evolve from a basic level of privacy to a more granular and comprehensive mechanism.

Also, other countries like Europe had already passed its General Data Protection Regulation in 2018. The broad idea of such reforms is to provide citizens ownership of their data.

What were the key recommendations of the of Justice B.N. Srikrishna committee?

Following the judgement of the Supreme Court, the government had set up a committee of experts in 2017 under the chairmanship of Justice B.N. Srikrishna.

The committee submitted a report titled, ‘A Free and Fair Digital Economy: Protecting Privacy, Empowering Indians’, a year later along with a draft Data Protection Bill.

Its focus was to ensure that citizens know how their data is processed, why it is being processed, for how long such data would be stored, where it’s being stored, how secure it would be, etc.

The major principles suggested by the committee are informed consent, data minimization, process limitation and the right to be forgotten embedded in the Bill

In addition, it featured ‘privacy by design’, a concept that puts privacy at the heart of systems and processes, taking privacy into account during the entire engineering and production processes of a data fiduciary.

Further, the panel’s focus was not confined just to protecting an individual’s right to privacy, but also extended to fostering an enabling environment for free and fair trade and industry. The latter was important, as it recognized the value of data in economic activity and nation-building.

What are the issues/Challenges present in the Personal Data Protection Bill?

It has drawn some criticism for blanket exemptions provided to the executive, with little or no judicial or parliamentary oversight. The Bill was sent to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) for assessment.

In its current form, the envisaged Data Protection Authority (DPA) does not have the autonomy of an ideal regulator and is largely executive-driven, with only minimal safeguards against political interference. Besides, its independence could be put at risk by a lack of technical competence.

What is the way forward?

In order to regulate the implementation of India’s new data protection law, we would need a strong DPA that protects citizens from any abuse of their personal data.


Clear regulations: On digital gold

Source: This post is based on the article “Clear regulations” published in “Business Standard” on 26th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.

Relevance: Role of SEBI

Synopsis: Address regulatory gaps for digital gold.

What is the issue?

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) issued an advisory, forbidding registered investment advisers from engaging in unregulated activities such as providing platforms for dealing in unregulated products, or otherwise facilitating such trades.

While assets like cryptocurrencies and non-fungible token (NFT) do fall in this category, the regulator specifically mentioned digital gold.

What is Digital Gold?

Digital gold consists of digital certificates issued against holdings of the physical metal. These assets can be traded digitally or redeemed in metal, as the holder chooses.

These are similar to gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and the government’s own sovereign gold bonds. But unlike sovereign bonds, private digital gold certificates and gold ETFs are not interest-bearing.

Households that are interested in precious metal holdings can accumulate digital gold in small quantities transparently instead of buying and holding the metal itself. Households that wish to liquidate gold holdings can also do so via this route.

Why SEBI should reconsider its decision on digital gold?

Firstly, unlike cryptocurrencies and NFTs, digital gold consists of assets backed by the physical metal.

Secondly, the players in this market are all well-known, organised entities, including government-owned entities.

Thirdly, there’s always greater activity in this segment at the festive season and instead of discouraging such trades, the regulator should consider letting them continue until such time as gold exchanges are established.

What are the concerns related to Digital gold?

Digital gold falls in a regulatory grey zone in certain key respects at the moment. The instrument itself does not come directly under the purview of any financial sector regulator, and it is not currently traded on recognised financial exchanges.

What is the way forward?

In August 2021, SEBI flagged deals in digital gold as a breach of the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Rules (SCRR), 1957.

In response to that ruling by the regulator, the National Stock Exchange instructed its members, including stockbrokers and wealth managers, to wind down trades in digital gold by September 10. This has led to an artificial thinning out of the market during the festive season, when demand is high.

Instead of this, the regulator should be looking to remove the grey areas, and to accelerate the transition to setting up full-fledged gold exchanges.

Sebi’s proposed framework for new gold exchanges will certainly help bring more clarity and transparency, once such exchanges are Set up.

Until such time however, the regulator should not discourage known entities from offering this instrument.


Heady reform: On cannabis use

Source: This post is based on the article “Heady reform” published in “Business Standard” on 25th October 2021.Syllabus: GS2 – Global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: To understand Indian and international rules on psychotropic substances.

Synopsis: Implementing UN resolution on cannabis can help sort out some issues and has its own benefits.

Introduction

The recent zeal of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in dealing with possession of cannabis in India and on the other hand, India’s voting with the majority in the UN to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from the list of most dangerous substances, has contradictions.

What are the laws and rules regarding drugs in India?

International Conventions on Narcotic Drugs‘ in December last year, ended a 59-year international regime under which cannabis was classified as a hard drug.

Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, whereby possession of cannabis continues to be a crime in India.

The Indian law forbid sale, production, and possession of ganja, the flowering and fruiting tops of the cannabis plant, and charas, the resin (also known as hashish). Interestingly, the NDPS Act excludes the seeds and leaves of the cannabis plant, though these are used in the making of bhang.

What are some issues with present laws?

Bhang, a common and fairly potent intoxicant imbibed during festivals in north India is part of the culture and religion. It is sold in licensed shops in states such as Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Cannabis seeds are also used in several eastern Indian cuisines.

The irony is that though the law has reduced ganja and charas in India to a moral issue, cannabis consumption in all its forms continues unabated.

Ambiguous terms like “conscious possession”, provides executive bodies with discretion to exert itself according to their own interpretations, leading to further victimization of the accused.

What are the reforms needed?

Compassionate approach– Users or Substance dependents should be treated as “victims” and not “addicts” and sent compulsorily to rehab and treatment centres instead of to prison.

In line with the UN resolution, government should decriminalise people in possession of small quantities of drugs for consumption.

What are the benefits of legalizing cannabis use?

It would free the NCB from exerting itself to define such legally ambiguous terms and focus its attentions on the real problem: The flourishing cross-border trade in heroin that is having such deleterious consequences for the youth in Punjab.

Legalizing cannabis for recreational use can also bring benefits to tax collection, as seen in case of US’s states like Colorado and Washington.


China’s Border Law: The Why, What & What Next

Source: This post is based on the articles “China’s Border Law: The Why, What & What Next” published in “Times of India” on 26th October 2021 and “Beijing’s Message” published in “Times of India” on 26th October 2021.Syllabus: GS2 – India and its neighborhood- relations.

Relevance: To understand the border relations between India and China.

Synopsis: The new land border law of China has its ramifications for India and therefore steps are needed to be taken by India.

Introduction

People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) passed a new law for strengthening China’s border security management, will go into effect by January 1, 2022.

Operationally, it enjoins the Chinese military to carry out border drills and provides state support for construction of border towns, strengthening of border defences and better integration of populations inhabiting border areas.

It standardises how China patrols its massive 22,100 km land boundaries and borders with 14 countries.

What led to the formation of this law?

First, the ongoing China-India military standoff in eastern Ladakh,“Go West” campaign in 1999-China has  improved its land and rail connectivity to support its border infrastructure.

Second, China is concerned about illegal migration from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, especially worried after US withdrew its forces from Afghanistan. UNSC’s report highlights that the ‘East Turkistan Islamic Movement’ fighters are also in Badakhshan province(northern Afghanistan) – next door to Xinjiang via the Wakhan Corridor. China worries about the possible spillover from Afghanistan, destabilising the restive Xinjiang Autonomous Administrative Region.

Third, China also worries about illegal immigration from Vietnam and Myanmar, which could perhaps bring more Covid-19 cases into the country.

What are the implications for India?

Impact on boundary dispute resolution – India-China border standoff resulting from Chinese encroachment of eastern Ladakh has little chance of bilateral resolution.

Demography of border areas – The new border law is in sync with the policy of settlement of Han Chinese in newly constructed Chinese border towns,which till now is dominated by ethnic minorities, cannot be ruled out. Such a development is bound to significantly change the border dynamics with India.

The land border law encourages Chinese border personnel to continue indulging in the use of force along the land borders – especially with India and Bhutan – with added legal protection and legitimacy.

What steps should be taken by India?

In short term:

The temporary on-ground adjustments like the establishment of the no-patrolling zone at Pangong Tso should be continued.

India needs to deploy its army along the LAC in sizeable strength and for extended durations to prevent further Chinese ingress.

China’s bordering countries – especially India and Bhutan – need to be cautious about the intensification of Chinese activities along the disputed borders and see the evolving role of different PLA services and border defence units under PLA’s new joint operational military guidelines.

In long term:

India should rethink the possibility of a ‘modus vivendi’ with Beijing as an aggressive, inflexible and belligerent China is here to stay.


Can quash SC/ST Act cases if ‘civil’ offence: Top Court

Source: This post is based on the article “Can quash SC/ST Act cases if ‘civil’ offence: Top Court” published in the Indian Express on 26th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: Understanding the SC/ST act.

Synopsis: The strict provisions of the SC/ST act are designed to protect the dignity of marginalized sections of society. But can a compromise be allowed under special circumstances?

Introduction

A recent case from Madhya Pradesh where a property dispute, essentially civil in nature, led to a casteist slur between the two parties. The two parties in question reached a settlement outside the court, and a petition of compromise was filed in the case.

Now the SC ruled that it can invoke its power of Article142 of the Indian constitution or HC under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to quash proceedings under SC/ST Act.

What is the need for special protection for SC/ST communities?

The SC/ST act was passed to ensure that marginalized segments of society are not targeted. It grants police the power to arrest without the need for a warrant from a magistrate.

The act was enacted keeping in view the constitutional safeguards enumerated in Articles 15, 17 and 21 of the Constitution. This serves a twin-fold objective of protecting the members of these vulnerable communities, as well as providing relief and rehabilitation to the victims of caste-based atrocities.

Read hereSC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act: New developments and Evolution

The Act is a recognition of the fact that the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes continue to be subjected to various atrocities at the hands of upper-castes. It was enacted to deter acts of indignity, humiliation and harassment against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Under what circumstances can the proceedings be quashed?

The court can exercise its powers to quash the proceedings under SC/ST law in the following circumstances:

-Where it appears to the court that the offence in question, is primarily private or civil in nature, or
-Where the alleged offence has not been committed on account of the caste of the victim, or
-Where the continuation of the legal proceedings would be an abuse of the process of law.

What should be the way forward?

Undoubtedly, the crimes which hurt the dignity of an individual should not have the provision of allowing a compromise. But if the nature of the dispute is civil and the parties have reached a settlement, courts have taken the right perspective to allow the case to be quashed.

Terms to know


A bubbles of Trust approach

Source: This post is based on the article “A bubbles of Trust approach” published in The Hindu on 26th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: Understanding the emerging role of Quad.

Synopsis: Given the economic and military strength of China, QUAD needs to adopt a collaborative approach to handle the emerging threats.

Introduction

Over the past few decades, asymmetric globalization favoured China. It allowed Beijing to attain power. Beijing is now using that power to undermine liberal democratic values around the world.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) or Quad is an informal strategic dialogue between India, the USA, Japan and Australia. The emergence of QUAD grouping is vital not just from the military perspective, but from the perspective of global geopolitics.

What should the Quad counties do?

To counter the Chinese threat,  Quad countries should focus on economic cooperation which is in consonance with their geopolitical interests. Every quad country is rich in a particular domain. For example, the USA is a global leader in intellectual property, Japan in high-value manufacturing, Australia in advanced niches such as quantum computing and cyber security, and India in human capital. A combination of all will offer numerous opportunities.

Quad should adopt a bubble of trust approach (all its members can trust each other). This will offer a middle path between the extremes of technological sovereignty and laissez-faire globalization. This approach will further help them expand organically, attracting new partners that share values, interests and economic complementarities.

Read more: Quad Leaders’ Summit – Explained, pointwise
How would the bubble of trust approach work?

Quad should adopt the Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group. This would allow the scope of the cooperation to be limited to information industries like semiconductors, network infrastructure and connectivity, etc. This will avoid the long and complex negotiations typical of trade agreements.

Moreover, trade blocks tend to be exclusive whereas bubbles tend to expand organically.

Read more: India, Israel, UAE and U.S. launch quad forum
What should be done to improve Quad?

The Quad cannot allow differences of approach to widen in fields such as privacy, data governance and the digital economy. The Working Group must seek to strengthen geopolitical convergences, increase faith in each member state’s judicial systems, deepen economic ties and boost trust in one another’s citizens.

This agenda cannot be about substituting China. Rather, the approach would allow Quad countries to manage their dependencies on China while simultaneously developing a new vision for the global economy.


The perils of an unresolved boundary

Source: This post is based on the article “The perils of an unresolved boundary” published in The Hindu on 26th October 2021.

Subject: GS2 – International Relations.

Relevance: Understanding the India-China border issue.

Synopsis: India–China border issue has a historical and geopolitical context that needs to be understood in its entirety.

Introduction

At the time of Independence, Tibet had the presence of the British Indian government in Lhasa. The British maintained Tibet as a buffer state between India and China. After the withdrawal of the British, the issue of Tibet and the subsequent issue of India China border came up.

Nirupama Rao, former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to China, in her new book “The Fractured Himalaya” traces the history of Tibet, the genesis of the McMahon Line, Communist China’s military takeover and domination of Tibet, and the border row between India and China

What was the Indian stand and Indian position?

The period from 1949 to 1962 was crucial, and Jawaharlal Nehru sought to establish a workable relationship with the Chinese. The negotiations on the issue commenced in December 1953.

India was of the firm view that any military attack on India from Tibet was not feasible. For India, the status of Tibet and Tibetan autonomy was the same as inherited from the British. India considered the McMohan line to be its boundary. India’s stand was thus firm and beyond dispute.

How did Indian diplomacy fail in this matter?

Mac Mohan line of 1914 only showed Tibet and India but did not demarcate Indian and Tibet boundary on the ground. So the Chinese set out a strategy to seek fresh acceptance or demarcation of every stretch of the border between the two.

Indian diplomats, like KM Panikkar, felt that the Chinese understood the Indian position and that the border issue would pose no difficulty. He felt that leaders like Zhou EnLai recognized the legitimacy of India in Tibet and only suggested some political changes. He was of the view that institutions like the telegraph, trade offices would slowly be normalized under normal consulate relations.

What was the Chinese strategy?

Chinese, while discussing the Tibetan issue with India, did not include the settlement of the Tibet-India border. They first sought to take over Tibet, and then negotiate a border settlement with India. In fact, administrators like Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai pointed out that this would be a flawed strategy.

How China was able to complicate the matter for India?

The Indian government had made it clear in Parliament that not only the direct frontier with Tibet, but also the frontiers of Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim, should remain unchanged.

However, Zhou Enlai made no reference to the frontier or borders in discussion with ambassadors of India. These cunning moves resulted in China taking over Tibet, without even settling the border dispute with India and then creating troubles at Indian borders.


Migrants Keep India Moving

Source: This post is based on the article “Migrants Keep India Movingpublished in Times of India on 26th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.Relevance: Understanding the problems faced by the migrants.

Synopsis: Migrants in India faces multiple challenges. So, India urgently needs an inter-state migration council.

Introduction

With incidents of killing migrants in Kashmir to poor handling of migrants during covid and recently introduced nativist laws reflects the poor status of migrants and difficulties faced by them.

Read more: Concerns associated with Local Reservation Laws
Some previous acts against migrants

There have been numerous instances of subnational nativism in the past like the Mulki rules in Nizam-ruled Hyderabad in the late 19th century who provided employment to locals for several decades, Anti-South Indian movements in Bombay in the 1960s, Sons of the soil movement in Assam and many others.

What is the problem faced by migrants?

Locals saw migrants as an outsider. They got blamed for stealing the jobs of locals. They are even accused of murders and rapes in cities.

Read more: Movers and shapers: On Migrant workers

Nativism is politically motivated in the destination states. Source states like Bihar provide migrant workers all across the country. Being less educated, legally aware, and less politically represented, they often face discrimination in the destination states. These movements are often politically motivated.

What is the way forward?

As internal migration in India is likely to surge in the coming decades, there is a need for an Interstate Migration Council to ensure the well-being of migrants. It should maintain up-to-date information of people residing in other states. The same council can also be used to ensure the effectiveness of the One Nation One Ration Card policy.

The creation of this council would further help to curb nativist sentiments that arise repeatedly on economic, linguistic and religious grounds.


GS Paper 3

India’s productivity challenge is especially steep in-service sectors

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s productivity challenge is especially steep in-service sectors” Published in “Livemint” on 26th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to Service Sector

Relevance: Significance of low-productivity services to India

Synopsis: While low-productivity services will continue to employ the majority of the country’s workforce, there is no clear-cut policy path to improve the productivity of workers in these sectors.

Introduction

It is known that productivity is the key to economic prosperity. But the policy solutions needed to raise the productivity of service workers remains one of the biggest challenges for India and hasn’t yet received much attention.

Why is this important?

First, low and medium-productivity service sectors (services except real estate, business and professional services) and construction account for over 70% of non-farm employment in India.

Second, while India aims to expand employment in manufacturing, there is no doubt that today’s low and medium-productivity services would continue to generate most jobs going ahead. For instance, in 2004-05, around 66% of those employed in India’s non-farm economy were working in construction, trade, transport and communication, hotels, restaurants and personal services, along with public administration and defence. By 2018-19, this proportion had increased to 72%.

Why India should develop suitable policies for low and medium-productivity service sectors?

One, Premature De-Industrialisation had limited the employment opportunities in India. India has been pushing for manufacturing expansion via its Make in India campaign. But manufacturing would not be able to generate jobs at scale across India the same way it did in other Asian economies like Japan, South Korea and China, given increasingly high levels of automation.

Two, high-skill services cannot absorb the large proportion of educated youth that remain unemployed in search of good-quality jobs.

Three, with a change in patterns of demand towards services and the emergence of new types of services via the shared economy, there is evidence that the structure of occupations is changing and labour markets may be polarizing further. This could lead to greater inequality, which has been the case in many developed countries as well.

Four, the current measure of labour efficiency by the time taken to deliver an order, for example, is not appropriate. Similarly, restricted working hours available for manufacturing and traditional retail sectors may not suit the working style of low and medium-productivity service sectors backed by technology.


2021: A hypersonic space odyssey that we must brace for

Source: This post is based on the article “2021: A hypersonic space odyssey that we must brace for” Published in “Livemint” on 26th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology

Relevance: Hypersonic technology

Synopsis: The increasing arms race has forced India to not just prioritize economic growth but keep pace on evolving technology in the defence sphere.

Introduction

Suddenly, the world finds itself at the beginning of a new military space race with China, the US and to a less extent Russia as the main participants.

It has been reported that China recently tested two hypersonic weapons that are potentially capable of evading missile defence systems that were built primarily to combat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The Chinese Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) follows the successful development of a similar program by Russia that tested its Avangard missiles over the last few years.

The newer Chinese version of the system is a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) and is capable of much lower orbital altitudes and far more flexible maneuvering.

What countries other than China are working on the development of Hypersonic technology?

The US has been working hard at developing this technology but its test of an HGV last week was not successful.

In addition to the US, Russia and China, Australia, India, France, Germany and Japan are said to be developing hypersonic technology for their own specific purposes.

Japan, for example, is building anti-ship hyper-velocity gliding projectiles to guard its Senkaku Islands from the threat of Chinese expansionism.

Australia and the US are jointly working on a hypersonic cruise missile prototype, expected to enter service in the late 2020s, a project that leverages work done over the last decade on scramjets, rocket motors and sensors.

Germany and France are working on a hypersonic defence system called Twister, which is short for Timely Warning and Interception with Space-Based Theater Surveillance.

What is hypersonic technology and what are its characteristic features?

The word ‘hypersonic’ refers to the ability of missiles to travel at or greater than five times the speed of sound (or Mach 5). The commonly-used technology underlying hypersonic missiles is an ‘air breathing scramjet engine’.

The glide vehicle innovation means it can continue to travel at hypersonic speeds at a lower trajectory and with greater maneuverability even after it separates from the rocket.

How the ongoing rivalry between big powers is different from Cold war era?

There are two major changes in big-power rivalry.

One, this is the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that the framework for this rivalry has shifted from minimum deterrence to an attempt to gain asymmetric power in some areas, such as HGVs, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cybersecurity;

Two, the theatre for this rivalry has moved from Europe and land/air- based technology to the Indo-Pacific and naval/air/space-based technology.

How India is faring in this arms race?

The Indian BrahMos cruise missile, built jointly with Russia, is considered the fastest anti-ship cruise missile in the world.

India is currently working on BrahMos II, expected to be delivered in the next five years, which will be a hypersonic cruise missile capable of a Mach 8 speed.

While the BrahMos missile can climb to space altitudes, India’s space-weapons programme has been limited to anti-satellite missiles, first pilot-launched in 2019.

The Indian government has repeatedly stressed that its space programme has only civilian aspirations.

Further, India and 34 other countries are signatories to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) that seeks to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology.


COP 26: Greening of polar ice should top agenda; here’s why

Source: This post is based on the article “COP 26: Greening of polar ice should top agenda; here’s why” published in DTE on 25th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: On the potential agenda for COP26 Glasgow meeting.

Synopsis: Greening of the poles must be a top priority for the upcoming COP26 meeting

Introduction

Researchers at NASA, using 29 years of data from Landsat satellites, have observed extensive greening around Alaska and Canada, which were snow-covered lands.

For the past several decades, the Arctic has been warming twice as quickly as the rest of the world and undergoing tremendous transformation.

Arctic Sea ice reduced by around 39% in the last 38 years. Over the same period, ice in Antarctica also reduced by 6.2%.

What is the reason behind greening of polar ice?

As per scientists, this is occurring because Arctic summers are getting warmer every decade.

Why is Arctic region is getting warmer?

Sea ice has a bright surface meaning about 80% of the sunlight that strikes it is reflected into space.

Melting of sea ice: The sea ice melts and exposes the deep, dark ocean water because of rising temperatures.

– Heating of sea water: Now, instead of reflecting 80% of the sunlight, the ocean absorbs 90% of the solar radiation. The seawater heats up and Arctic temperatures rise further, amplifying the rate of warming.

The resultant warmer air and soil temperatures provides a habitable climate turning the region greener.

Rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic have led to longer growing seasons and shifting soils for the plants.

What is the impact of greening?

Greening will convert the ‘net reflective’ ice caps to ‘net absorptive’, tampering with the global energy balance and accelerate polar ice melting.

Scientists have observed the grassy tundra transitioning to scrublands and shrubs becoming larger and denser. The Arctic faced several other adverse impacts in its zone because of climate-induced greening.

Impact on biodiversity: The reindeer populations declined with the increased growth of summer pastures. Many non-edible shrubs grew, which eventually led to the disappearance of the reindeer herds from the region, threatening the biodiversity of the region.

How is Antarctic region being impacted by greening of polar ice?

Like the Arctic, the Antarctic is also greening because of the irreversible melting of sea ice, which is green in colour.

In 2016, it was discovered that marine ice has 500 times more iron than the ice above it. This iron comes from the rocks under the Antarctic ice sheet which, when glaciers pass over them, are ground into a fine powder.

The ice-bound iron oxidizes in contact with seawater.

The resulting iron oxide particles take on a green hue as light scatters through them. The green ice only becomes visible when an iceberg capsizes and flips over from excessive melting and is disjointed from the main body.

Thus, melting of sea is leading to the greening of polar ice in both Arctic and Antarctic.

What is the way forward?

The effects of climate change (greening of the poles) are trans-boundary in nature. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the only solution could be integrated international negotiations and frameworks.

These are required to set standards for nations and businesses to achieve global average temperature standards at the earliest, before the warming crosses the tipping point.


Explained: Climate targets set, missed

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Climate targets set, missed” published in  The Indian Express on 26th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: On a lack of commitment from the developed world towards definitive climate action.

Synopsis: Response of the developed world to the climate change issue, the erosion of Kyoto protocol and impact of three decade long climate diplomacy in addressing challenges related to climate change.

Introduction

The annual climate meetings have succeeded in inspiring the world into taking collective action against climate change, but they have not been able to prevent the crisis from worsening in the last two decades.

Countries have missed their targets, gone back on promises made, and delayed their actions.

How has developed world responded to the problem of climate change?

Between 1990 and 2010, when climate change emerged as an issue, very little action was taken to curb growing emissions.

The first target, for the developed countries to return to their 1990 levels of emissions by 2000, was never taken seriously.

– Kyoto protocol: As per the Kyoto protocol 1997, a group of 37 rich and industrialized countries were to collectively achieve a modest 5% reduction in their emissions from 1990 levels during the ‘first commitment period’ of 2008-2012. The protocol couldn’t be operationalized until 2005 in the absence of the requisite number of ratifications. The US didn’t ratify it. Canada also, withdrew later.

Except for the European Union, and some of its individual member countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom (which was then in the EU), most of the countries did not achieve the target.

Data from the World Resources Institute show that the emissions of the US in 2012 were marginally higher than they were in 1990, meaning there was no reduction. However, the halving of emissions in Russia because of the collapse of the economy compensated for this to some extent.

Australia’s emissions went up by about 15%.

Global emissions went up by 40% between 1990 and 2012, mainly to the rapid rise of China and India.

China overtook the United States as the world’s leading emitter around 2007. Its current emissions are more than 4 times the 1990 levels.

India’s emissions have grown over 3.5 times from 1990.

What were the objections of developed nations against the Kyoto protocol?

Under Kyoto Protocol, developing countries like China, India, Brazil, were not given any emission reduction targets because over 90% of the accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the reason for global warming, had come from the rich and industrialized countries over the last 150 years.

This is what gave rise to the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC). But gradually there were demands from developed nations for dilution of the distinction between developed and developing countries when it came to mitigation commitments. This was driven largely by the huge three-fold increase in emissions from China between 1990 and 2010, making it the largest emitter of carbon.

Thus began a systematic effort to erode the Kyoto Protocol and replace it with an architecture that put some constraints on the emissions of India and China as well. It was achieved with the finalisation of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Further, it led to a shift from globally agreed commitments under the Kyoto protocol to nationally determined pledges. This was driven by the US, which could not accept treaty obligations that would require Senate approval. This political shift culminated in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

What has been the impact of climate diplomacy in addressing the challenges of climate change?

Rise in awareness: In 1990, there was ignorance and scepticism about climate change and the anthropogenic responsibility for it. That has changed and climate scepticism, though not gone, is treated as an exception. UNFCCC process that brought scientists from around the world, forged a consensus on facts and projections regarding climate change.

– Increased participation by pvt sector: This rising awareness has had a deep impact on the corporate sector with many large companies joining in a net-zero commitment.

– Increased research: It also played a role in driving research on renewables, which has led to such dramatic cost reductions that they now count for more in energy investment than fossil fuels. 

Spread of NGOs: Yet another consequence of rising awareness has been the rapid spread of global non-governmental organisations, which are adding greatly to understanding, information dissemination, and effective advocacy.


Gati Shakti can spur behavioural changes for superior governance

Source: This post is based on the article “Gati Shakti can spur behavioural changes for superior governance” published in “Livemint” on 25th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: To understand the role of Gati-Shakti plan in development of infrastructure.

Synopsis: Information sharing could reform our bureaucracy and raise efficiency in infrastructure creation through use of Gati Shakti plan.

Introduction

Gati Shakti besides being a master plan for infrastructure creation, is also the solution to the problem of information-sharing between ministries and government departments at the Centre.

It is a software element in the government’s infrastructure projects implementation.

How Gati Shakti is going to aid other projects?

Gati Shakti should be seen as a cog in India’s wheel of infrastructure creation that is important for the other three: the 10-year infrastructure development programme announced last year, National Monetisation Pipeline and privatization of public sector enterprises.

Governments in the world over operate on the basis of information being power. Therefore, a dashboard that allows all government stakeholders to access information pertaining to infrastructure projects can become a potential game-changer.

Given time, it could catalyse behavioural changes in the bureaucracy. That will constitute a big difference to governance.

It would facilitate citizen-monitoring and accountability

What more is needed to be done?

There are two other levels of software upgradation that need to be attained for infrastructure creation to be seamless and faster.

The extension of the information dashboard to state and local governments. They constitute the important last-mile elements of projects. That will also advance cooperative federalism.

The second aspect is the negotiation of contracts with the private sector for the monetization, creation and/or operation of existing assets. Simplicity of language and transparency of mutual obligations and expectations will help in avoiding costly re-negotiations, needless litigation and costly delays.

Must Read: PM Gati Shakti National Infrastructure Master plan

 

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Understanding dyscalculia and what it’s like to live with it

What is the news?

Dyscalculia is a well-established Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) and about 6% of school-age children might be affected. But it doesn’t get diagnosed easily.

What is Dyscalculia?

It is a learning disability in math. People with this disease have trouble with math at many levels. They often struggle with key concepts like bigger vs. smaller.

Causes: The causes include, Genetic and heredity reasons, challenges in brain development, etc.

Signs and symptoms: The common signs include facing challenges in grasping the meaning of quantities or concepts like biggest vs. smallest, challenges in remembering math facts in school, like times tables and challenges in calculating money or money-product exchange. 

Impact of the disease: An estimated 5 to 10% of people in the world might have dyscalculia. However, it’s not clear whether dyscalculia is as common in girls as in boys.

In India, About 6% of school-age kids may have dyscalculia, but even many teachers are unaware of the condition.

What are the associated difficulties of Dyscalculia?

It is more than just difficulty with math. Many times, dyscalculia comes with other learning disorders, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia.

Note: Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. It causes problems with reading, writing and spelling. Dysgraphia is a term that refers to trouble with writing.

With Dyscalculia, there may be problems with working memory, making it hard to keep track of multiple instructions such as those in a cooking video. Often there are spatial and visual orientation deficits, for instance, imagining different perspectives or following directions.

How one can treat Dyscalculia?

The only way to get a diagnosis is through an evaluation. This can happen at any age. Evaluators use different tests for adults than for kids.

Individualised Education Programme: In this programme, a special educator will work with Dyscalculia affected persons using audio and visual teaching aids to explain the math concepts at his own pace.

The school might also give accommodations (permitting calculators) to make learning math easier.

Source: This post is based on the article “Understanding dyscalculia and what it’s like to live with it” published in the Indian Express on 26th October 2021.


PIB Bhubaneswar along with State Culture Department organise a Joint Press Conference on Netaji’s Azad Hind Government

What is the News?

​​Press Information Bureau (PIB) Bhubaneswar in association with the Language, Literature and Culture Department, Government of Odisha organised a joint press conference at Netaji Birth Place Museum on the anniversary of the formation of Netaji’s Azad Hind Government

Background

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose arrived in Singapore on July 4, 1943. At that time, the Indian Independence Movement had already been launched in East Asia by the late Rash Behari Bose, a veteran nationalist exiled in Japan. 

The old leader handed over charge to the new arrival, Subhas Chandra Bose, who was acclaimed as ‘Netaji’. Netaji then took charge of the Indian National Army.

Formation of Azad Hind Government

On October 21, 1943. Bose announced the formation of the Provisional Government of Free India (PGFI) also known as Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, or in short, Azad Hind Government, an Indian government-in-exile. 

The Azad Hind Government started functioning from Singapore, with 11 ministers and eight representatives from the INA.

The Azad Hind Government had ​​its own currency, court and civil code.

The provisional government was also formed in the Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The islands were reoccupied by the British in 1945.

The provisional capital of the Azad Hind Government was Port Blair, while its capital-in-exile was Rangoon and Singapore.

Ministers in Azad Hind Government

The Provisional Government of Free India consisted of a Cabinet headed by Subhas Chandra Bose as the Head of the State, The Prime Minister and the Minister for War and Foreign Affairs.

Captain Doctor Lakshmi Sahgal was the Minister in Charge of the Women’s Organization.

S A Ayer headed the publicity and propaganda wing.

Rash Behari Bose was designated as the supreme advisor.

Who recognized the Azad Hind Government?

The Azad Hind Government was recognised by nine Axis-aligned countries: Japan, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Burma, Thailand, Philippines, Manchukuo (Manchuria), and the Republic of China (Wang Jingwei regime). 

How did the Azad Hind Government come to an end?

Bose’s death was seen as the end of the Azad Hind government. The Second World War, also, ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Axis powers.

Source: This post is based on the article PIB Bhubaneswar along with State Culture Department organise a Joint Press Conference on Netaji’s Azad Hind Governmentpublished in PIB on 25th October 2021.


‘CO2 emissions in 2020 above decadal average’

What is the News?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin Report ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, UK.

What are the key findings of the Report?
Source: The Hindu

Carbon Dioxide(CO2)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most significant greenhouse gas. It has reached 413.2 parts per million in 2020 and is 149% of the pre-industrial level. 

However, the increase in CO2 from 2019 to 2020 was slightly lower than that observed from 2018 to 2019 but higher than the average annual growth rate over the past decade. 

This is despite the approximately 5.6% drop in fossil fuel CO2 emissions in 2020 due to restrictions related to the pandemic.

Absorption of CO2

Roughly half of today’s human-emitted CO2 remains in the atmosphere and the other half is absorbed by oceans and land ecosystems, the Bulletin flagged.

However, the ability of land ecosystems and oceans to act as “sinks” may become less effective in future, thus reducing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and act as a buffer against larger temperature increases.

Methane

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas which remains in the atmosphere for about a decade. Methane accounts for about 16% of the warming effect of long-lived greenhouse gases.

Approximately 40% of methane is emitted into the atmosphere by natural sources (for example, wetlands and termites), and about 60% comes from anthropogenic sources (for example, ruminants, rice agriculture, fossil fuel exploitation, landfills and biomass burning).

Currently,  Methane (CH4) is 262% of the levels in 1750 when human activities started disrupting Earth’s natural equilibrium. 

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide is both powerful greenhouse gas and an ozone-depleting chemical. It accounts for about 7% of the radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases.

N2O is emitted into the atmosphere from both natural sources (approximately 60%) and anthropogenic sources (approximately 40%), including biomass burning, fertilizer use, and various industrial processes.

Currently, nitrous oxide (N2O)  is 123% of the levels in 1750 when human activities started disrupting Earth’s natural equilibrium. 

Source: This post is based on the article CO2 emissions in 2020 above decadal averagepublished in “The Hindu” on 26th October 2021.


Government sets up National Steering Committee for implementation of the NIPUN Bharat Mission

What is the News?

The Government of India has set up a National Steering Committee (NSC) for the implementation of NIPUN Bharat Mission.

What is NIPUN Bharat Mission?

Launched by: Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education

Full Form: National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy, (NIPUN) Bharat Mission.

Aim: To achieve the goal of universal proficiency in foundational literacy and numeracy for every child by grade 3, as envisaged by National Education Policy 2020.

Click Here to Read more about NIPUN Bharat Mission

About the National Steering Committee (NSC) for NIPUN Bharat Mission

The National Steering Committee(NSC) has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Union Education Minister.

Responsibilities of NSC: The following are the roles and responsibilities of the NSC: 

-To oversee the progress of the National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy and provide guidance on policy issues.

-To arrive at the target to be achieved nationally in 2026-27.

-To disseminate tools for the measurement of yearly progress in the form of guidelines.

-To prepare and approve a National Action Plan 

-To review programmatic and financial norms periodically to ensure they are synchronised with targets to be achieved.

-To develop the methodology of assessment to analyse the progress and provide feedback to States/UTs.

Read more: One year of National Education Policy – Explained, pointwise

Source: This post is based on the article Government sets up National Steering Committee for implementation of the NIPUN Bharat Missionpublished in PIB on 25th October 2021.


PM launches PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has launched the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission also known as Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PMASBY)

About Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission
Source: PIB

Objectives of the Scheme

To strengthen the critical healthcare network from village to block to the district to the regional and national level in the next 4-5 years. 

To develop health systems and institutions at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels and prepare them to respond effectively to pandemics and disasters.

To establish an IT-enabled disease surveillance system through a network of surveillance laboratories at block, district, regional and national levels.

Read more: Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission – Explained, pointwise
What are the key components of the Scheme?

There are three significant aspects of the programme:

First Aspect: Creation of elaborate facilities for diagnostics and treatment.

Under this, health and wellness centres are being opened in villages and cities, where there will be facilities for the early detection of diseases. Facilities such as free medical consultation, tests, and medicine will be available at these centres.

For serious illnesses, 35,000 critical care beds are being added in 600 districts, and referral facilities will be given in 125 districts.

Second Aspect: Related to the diagnosis of disease

This will involve the development of testing infrastructure. All 730 districts of the country will get integrated public health labs and 3,000 blocks will get public health units. Apart from that, five centres for disease control, 20 metropolitan units, and 15 BSL labs will strengthen this network.

Third Aspect: Expansion of existing research institutions to study pandemics. 

The existing 80 viral diagnostic and research labs will be strengthened, four new National Institutes of Virology and a National Institute for One Health are being established.

What is the need for this scheme?

According to the 2020 Index report by Oxfam India, India’s health budget is the fourth lowest in the world. Neighbouring countries Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh spent more than India on health. 

Moreover, India’s healthcare infrastructure is also deplorable. According to government data, India has 1.4 beds per 1,000 people, 1 doctor per 1,445 people, and 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India ranks 184 out of 191 countries in health spending.

Hence, this scheme has been launched to improve an entire ecosystem of services from treatment to critical research.

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

  • PM launches PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Missionpublished in “PIB” on 26th October 2021.
  • “How a new govt health scheme will benefit India” published in “Livemint” on 26th October 2021.
  • “PM Modi launches mission to bolster healthcare structure” published in “Livemint” on 26th October 2021.

Union Minister of Power & New and Renewable Energy launches the Green Day Ahead Market (GDAM)

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Power & New and Renewable Energy has launched the Green Day Ahead Market (GDAM).

What is Green Day Ahead Market(GDAM)?

GDAM is a marketplace that will enable electricity generation and distribution companies to buy or sell renewable energy through open access on a day-ahead basis.

How will GDAM operate?

Green Day-ahead market will operate in an integrated way with the conventional day-ahead market. 

The Exchanges will offer the market participants to submit bids together for both conventional and renewable energy through the separate bidding windows. 

The clearance will take place in a sequential manner – renewable energy bids will be cleared first in accordance with the must-run status of the renewables, followed by the conventional segment. 

This mechanism will allow renewable energy sellers to subsequently bid in the conventional segment if their bids remain uncleared in the green market. There will be separate price discoveries for both conventional and renewables.

What are the advantages of the Green Day Ahead Market(GDAM)?

Firstly, it will deepen the green market and will provide competitive price signals, besides offering an opportunity to the market participants to trade in green energy, in the most transparent, flexible, competitive, and efficient manner.

Secondly, it will provide another option to renewable generators to sell power as well as accelerate the renewable capacity addition.

Thirdly, it is expected to create a domino effect that will lead to a gradual shift from Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) based contracts to market-based models which will build and deepen the markets to the next level.

Read more: Ministry of Power Redesigns Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) Mechanism

Source: This post is based on the article “Union Minister of Power & New and Renewable Energy launches the Green Day Ahead Market (GDAM)published in “PIB” on 25th October 2021.


Explained: What astronomers learnt, and didn’t, from seeing a white dwarf ‘switch on and off’

What is the News?

An international team has reported a unique phenomenon where they saw the white dwarf losing its brightness in 30 minutes. These gaps in brightness have been previously reported, but the process usually takes place over a period of several days to months.

What is a White Dwarf?

White dwarfs are stars that have burned up all of the hydrogen they once used as nuclear fuel. 

A typical white dwarf is half the size of our Sun and has a surface gravity 100,000 times that of Earth

Formation of White Dwarf
Source: Secrets of the Universe

Main sequence stars including the sun are formed from clouds of dust and gas drawn together by gravity. However, once a star runs out of its fuel, it dies and becomes compact. The lifetime of a star depends on its mass.

The most massive stars with eight times the mass of the sun or more will never become white dwarfs. Instead, at the end of their lives, they will explode in a violent supernova, leaving behind a neutron star or black hole.

Smaller stars, such as the sun, will eventually swell up into red giants. After that, the stars shed their outer layers into a ring known as a planetary nebula. The core that is left behind will be a white dwarf, a husk of a star in which no hydrogen fusion occurs.

What is the Switch on and off Phenomena?

The white dwarf discussed here is part of a binary system called TW Pictoris, where a star and a white dwarf orbit each other. The two objects are so close to each other that the star transfers material to the white dwarf.

As this material approaches the white dwarf it forms an accretion disk or a disk of gas, plasma, and other particles around it.

As the accretion disk material slowly sinks closer towards the white dwarf, it generally becomes brighter. There are cases when the donor stars stop feeding the white dwarf disk. However, the reasons for this are still not clear.

When this happens, the disk is still bright as it “drains” material that was previously still there. It then takes the disk about 1-2 months to drain most of the material.

However, TW Pictoris drop in brightness in 30 mins was totally unexpected, and it may be due to the process called magnetic gating.

Note: Magnetic gating happens when the magnetic field is spinning so rapidly around the white Dwarf it creates a barrier, disrupting the amount of matter the white dwarf can receive.

What is the significance of these findings?

This discovery will help us understand the physics behind accretion – how black holes and neutron stars feed material from their nearby stars. 

Source: This post is based on the article Explained: What astronomers learnt, and didn’t, from seeing a white dwarf ‘switch on and offpublished in Indian Express on 25th October 2021.


Use anti-drug fund for de-addiction services, not just policing: Social Justice Ministry

What is the News?

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has recently recommended that the National Fund to Control Drug Abuse be used to carry out de-addiction programmes, rather than just policing activities.

What is the National Fund to Control Drug Abuse?

The National Fund to Control Drug Abuse was created in accordance with a provision of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

Purpose: The Act states that the fund would be used to combat illicit trafficking of narcotics, rehabilitate addicts and prevent drug abuse.

Funding: Under the NDPS Act, the sale proceeds of any property forfeited, grants made by any person and institution and income from the investments of the fund go towards the fund. 

Read more: Drug usage and the NDPS Act – Explained, pointwise
Data on Usage of Drugs

According to World Drug Report 2021, around 275 million people used drugs worldwide last year, while over 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders. Opioids continue to account for the largest burden of disease attributed to drug use.

In India, the number of drug users is in the crores. According to the Social Justice Ministry report on the magnitude of substance use in 2019, there were 3.1 crore cannabis users (of which 25 lakh were dependent users) and 2.3 crore opioid users (of which 28 lakh were dependent users).

Terms to know:

Source: This post is based on the article “Use anti-drug fund for de-addiction services, not just policing: Social Justice Ministrypublished in “The Hindu” on 25th October 2021.

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