9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 27th, 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.
  • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
  • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 1

The challenge that lies before the farmers’ agitation

Source: This post is based on the following articles “The challenge that lies before the farmers’ agitation “published in Indian Express on 27th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS1- Social movements in India

Relevance: Farmers protest, sustaining social movements.

Synopsis: The Farmers’ agitation must overcome not only the momentary challenge caused by the Singhu killing but the larger challenge of becoming a robust movement.

Introduction

Agitations can turn into movements due to the rigidness of rulers. But even as agitations transform into movements, they run many risks. For instance, the lynching and murder that took place at the Singhu border is symptomatic of what agitations must try to avoid.

The killing of a Dalit protester allegedly by a group of Nihang Sikhs or the Lakhimpur Kheri incident signifies the nature of complex challenges such mass mobilisations need to address.

What are the risks involved when an agitation transforms into a movement?

All agitations, when they extend temporally or in terms of social bases, begin to reflect the larger society. Internal dynamics of participating communities get interchanged into the functioning of the movement.

This also means a movement will become home to prejudices and wrongs that inhabit society in general. In other words, the movement and its participants begin to look almost like the larger social system.

How can long-drawn agitations and movements-in-the-making ensure that they do not fall into this trap of being abused?

There are at least three pathways that the farmers’ agitation can adopt.

Firstly, Agitations simply cannot afford to be entirely leaderless or so loosely organised that there is no coordination. There must be leadership and it must steer the agitation by balancing the agency of the participants and the demands of coordination to keep anarchy at bay. Leader must be acceptable to all sections and beyond the limited territories of his popularity.

Secondly, an agitation to grow into a movement requires organisation and planning. When an agitation extends into weeks and months, it also requires the building of a cadre that will be ideologically and organisationally trained to retain a degree of influence over the followers.

Thirdly, there is need for a larger vision to relate the agitation to ongoing socio-political processes. For instance, the farmers’ agitation did attempt this by encouraging Jat-Muslim unity in parts of UP. But beyond that, it has remained singularly focused on the three farm laws and matters related to MSP.

Case Study: During the Shetkari Sanghatana movement in Maharashtra, Sharad Joshi made sure that a diverse set of intermediate leaders would gain acceptability, that ordinary farmers were educated on many issues and that the agitation touched upon broader issues like women’s empowerment.

What is the way forward?

First, for an agitation to transform itself into a movement, it needs to aspire to leave behind the prejudices among its adherents rather than allowing them to remain passive participants unwilling to change themselves.

Second, it will have to evolve a broader vision and include larger masses beyond territorial and occupational boundaries.

GS Paper 2

Cost of Doing Business

Source: This post is based on the article “Cost of Doing Business” published in Indian Express on 27th October 2021.

Syllabus– GS2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors

Relevance: Ease of doing business vs Cost of doing business

Synopsis: Governments must focus on lowering prices and reducing regulatory constraints rather than focusing on ease of doing business.

Introduction

Recently, the IMF’s executive board expressed confidence in the leadership of Kristalina Georgieva in the Doing Business survey controversy that raised doubts over the integrity of Ease of the Doing Business (EoDB) rankings.

What are the efforts made by India in improving ease of doing business?

India has made considerable progress on ranking since 2016.

For instance, the cut in corporate tax rates, the launch of Gati Shakti, the sale of Air India as part of an aggressive asset monetisation plan, the scrapping of retrospective taxation, the PLI scheme and labour reforms are likely to provide a boost to the manufacturing sector.

Why India should focus on cost of doing business?

Focus on the Cost of Doing Business (CoDB): the pandemic has made countries inward-looking in terms of their supply chain and domestic capacities. This may affect global trade and growth over the medium term and make countries extremely selective on costs and competitiveness.

Energy costs: Diesel prices in India are 20.8 per cent higher than those in China, 39.3 per cent higher than in the US, 72.5 per cent higher than Bangladesh and 67.8 per cent higher than in Vietnam. This is largely because of heavy taxation.

Case of electricity: prices for businesses in India were higher by around 7-12 per cent vis-à-vis those in the US, Bangladesh or China and by as much as 35-50 per cent as compared to those in South Korea or Vietnam prior to the recent coal/energy crisis. Coal accounts for more than 70 per cent of electricity generation in India is also pricier vis-à-vis other countries leading to higher electricity prices.

This, in turn, leads to a competitive disadvantage for sectors such as auto, durable goods and construction, which consume these intermediate goods.

GST regime: In the case of the petroleum sector, government levies account for nearly half of the prices paid by coal consumers. And coal producers cannot claim input tax credit because electricity is not under GST. Further, coal freight costs are amongst the highest in the world as high freight rates are used to cross-subsidise passenger fares by the railways.

Outsized regulatory levels: A Teamlease report highlights that a small manufacturing company with just one plant and up to 500 employees is regulated by more than 750 compliances, 60 Acts and 23 licences and regulations. Hence, most of them choose to remain in the informal sector.

What is the way forward?

First, cleaning up the power distribution sector, which is largely state-controlled, could potentially lower electricity prices for businesses.

Second, the Centre could leverage the “carrot and stick” framework. Using fiscal incentives to nudge the states to act and disincentivise them from maintaining the status quo. It must prioritise reducing the cost of energy and compliances for businesses.


Clearing the air on water: On Parambikulam Aliyar Project

Source: This post is based on the article “Clearing the air on water” published in The Hindu on 27th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

Relevance: Inter-State Water disputes

Synopsis: With political will, Kerala and Tamil Nadu can overcome hurdles to renew the Parambikulam Aliyar Project agreement.

What is Parambikulam Aliyar Project?

It provides for the diversion of 30.5 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) annually from Kerala to Tamil Nadu. This major project with an outlay of ₹138 crore was completed in 1972. The project is also an example of co-operative federalism.

Background: The PAP agreement was signed between Kerala and Tamil Nadu on May 29, 1970, with retrospective effect from November 1958.

The agreement ensures Kerala’s riparian share in the Sholayar and Chittoorpuzha sub-basins as a guaranteed annual entitlement without applying the distress-sharing formula. It also ensures four months’ flow (from the Northeast monsoons) from the Upper Nirar for Kerala’s exclusive use in the Periyar basin.

Except for the Kerala Sholayar dam, the Parambikulam, Peruvaripallam and Tunacadavu dams are situated inside Kerala territory but are controlled and operated by Tamil Nadu.

Aims and objective: Using inter-basin diversion, the project irrigates drought-prone areas in the Coimbatore and Erode districts of Tamil Nadu. The project paved the way for surplus waters from eight west-flowing rivers to irrigate eastern Tamil Nadu.

What is the issue?

Kerela’s reservation: Kerala has reservations on the non-realisation of its share of 2.5 tmc of water from the Parambikulam group of rivers for the exclusive use of Chittoorpuzha valley.

The failure of Tamil Nadu: Tamilnadu failed in giving Kerala what it is entitled to at the Manacadvu weir and Sholayar dam in low-yield years from the reservoirs under its control and construction of some structures in the project area without Kerala’s concurrence.

New constructions: Tamil Nadu regrets the non-realisation of the anticipated yield of 2.5 tmc from the proposed Anamalayar project and the expected yield of four months of flow from the Upper Nirar. It also proposes new constructions to augment its share which have not got Kerala’s consent.

Inconclusiveness: The deliberations are so far inconclusive because both States have focused on the total average yield and are not exploring furthering the utilisable yield from the available yield. There is huge variation between the actual yield, the anticipated yield, and also the yield available for utilisation.

What does a closer look at the project hydrology reveals?

Loss of water: Of the last 20 years, the Chalakudy basin experienced overflow from PAP in 12 years. Similarly, a sizeable portion of the water is lost through Manacadavu as unutilisable flows.

Poor storage and the skewed inflow pattern: Kerala had consented to the diversion in the 1960s, anticipating enough storage spaces in both the Periyar and Chalakudy basins to meet its needs, but most of those storage reservoirs were subsequently denied environmental approval.

What is the way forward?

First, experts of both States could analyse and create working tables based on the observed flow regime to see how much additional water can be made available in the system through new reservoir systems and how that can be shared.

Second, it is imperative that proper checks and balances be agreed upon to ensure the guaranteed entitlements at Sholayar and Manacadavu. The political leadership can deliberate on the principles of sharing to review the agreement.


Our children don’t need a ‘deshbhakti’ curriculum

Source: This post is based on the article “Our children don’t need a ‘deshbhakti’ curriculum” published in the Indian Express on 27th October 2021.

Subject: GS 2- Education

Relevance: Understanding the Deshbhakti curriculum.

Synopsis: The proposal to introduce a Deshbhakti curriculum for patriotism needs to be carefully analyzed.

Introduction

Recently New Delhi government announced a proposal to introduce a curriculum for patriotism for school children. The suggestion is definitely welcome as loyalty towards the nation is important for the survival of any nation.

But in the current age of competitive hyper-nationalism and demonstrative patriotism, it needs to be carefully analyzed.

What is nationalism, and why does India need it?

Nationalism means close affinity with the territorial/geographical and socio-cultural landscape people live in. The love for geography, the love for history and freedom fighters, the love of cultural heritage stretching from Gautam Buddha to Vedanta are all parts of nationalism.

As the love for country is natural, it is only natural that the children should learn about it and love the country too. But India needs to be watchful of hyper-nationalism or excessive nationalism.

Read more: UGC’s new Learning Outcomes-based Curriculum Framework (LOCF) -Explained, Pointwise
What are the risks of hyper-nationalism?

The government has to urge students not to be a bhakt (attachment or fondness) of any particular deity, be it a nation, a political doctrine, or an organized religion. A Bhakt often loses the ability to decondition his mind, expand his horizon, and even critique what appears to be “sacred”.

India has many historical examples to demonstrate this. For example, fondness of Nazism, totalitarian socialism gave us racial hatred and world wars. Bhakts of greedy capitalism, religious fundamentalism and militaristic nationalism has given a world filled with nuclear weapons, technologies of surveillance and terrorism.

So a “Desh bhakti curriculum” goes against a pedagogy that encourages awakened intelligence, reflexive thinking, ethics of love and critical awareness.

Read more: PIB Bhubaneswar along with State Culture Department organise a Joint Press Conference on Netaji’s Azad Hind Government
On what should the government focus more on?

The government should not focus on children mechanically reciting patriotism. Instead, the government should focus on the value systems that make the country the best.

India needs a learning methodology that cultivates qualities like empathy, compassion and ethics of care. The students should not just focus on the IIT-IIM-America path, but also aim at becoming good human beings.

For that, India needs emancipatory education characterized by critical thinking and guided by love and understanding.

Read more: New panel to devise school curriculum

Regulatory capture of a different kind

Source: This post is based on the article “Regulatory capture of a different kind” published in the Business Standard on 27th October 2021.

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

Relevance: Understanding the role of Regulatory bodies.

Synopsis: Three-fourths of India’s top regulators are retired government officers. This trend must change.

Introduction

Regulatory bodies are government bodies set up to supervise different sectors of the economy. While most of the regulatory bodies are working independently, there are some that still operating as an extension of the government, like the Regulator for civil aviation.

Their work is to protect the consumer’s interest, frame the policies and ensure that both the public and private sector players followed those policies. But there are certain problems associated with India’s regulatory framework.

What is the composition of regulatory bodies?

Almost three-fourths of these regulatory institutions are headed by retired government officers. The majority is from Indian Administrative Service, Indian Audits and Accounts Service, Indian Railway Service or the Indian Cost Account Service.

What are the problems associated with regulatory bodies?

Selection of non-experts: The selection of non-experts to lead the regulatory bodies may bring a lack of efficiency in the functioning of such bodies.

Bureaucracy and political nexus: A regulator’s independence can be compromised if that person has served the government in key positions before being appointed. So, senior government officials joining regulatory bodies as their heads could give rise to a nexus, thereby defeating the purpose behind regulation.

Conflict of interest: A professional regulator, with relevant experience of the industry, is a boon for regulation. But there is a serious problem of the preponderance of senior government officials playing the role of regulators. There can be conflicts of interest between professional regulators and government officials.

What should the government do?

The government has begun the process of monetization of government assets. This makes it even more important for the government to reduce the stranglehold of civil servants on regulatory bodies. This is because a regulator, who is friendly to the government, may undermine regulation at the cost of consumers’ interest and may even perpetuate government interference in various sectors.

This is counter-productive for an economy that is trying to grow fast, improve its competitiveness and ease of doing business. Thus, the government should look at an industrial model which is aimed at creating professionals who can become regulators in the future.

Read more: The end of Ease of Doing Business Rankings: Reasons and implications – Explained, pointwise

GS Paper 3

Why India shouldn’t sign on to net zero

Source: This post is based on the article “Why India shouldn’t sign on to net zero” published in The Hindu on 27th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: On net zero emission reduction target

Synopsis: India should not declare a net zero target. Instead it should stake a claim to a fair share of global carbon budget.

Introduction

The developed world is building up pressure on India to declare a net zero target at the upcoming COP26 meeting at Glasgow.

But, reaching net zero by a specific time period is irrelevant.

Instead, as per the latest IPCC report, if we are to limit the increase in the world’s avg temp from pre-industrial levels to those agreed in the Paris Agreement, then we need to cap global cumulative emissions of CO2 at the global carbon budget.

Why the timeline to reach net zero emission reduction target is flawed?

Neither the Paris Agreement nor climate science requires that net zero be reached individually by countries by 2050.

Claims that the world must reach specific goals by 2030 or 2050 are the product of specific economic models for climate action. These are designed to achieve the Paris goals by the lowest cost methods, without equity and climate justice.

They put uneven burden of emission reduction requirements on developing countries, despite their already low emissions, to buy time for the developed world for its own transition.

Less than a fifth of the world has been responsible for three-fifths of all past cumulative emissions, the U.S. and the EU alone having contributed a whopping 45%.

Promises of net zero in their current form further this hugely disproportionate appropriation of a global commons, while continuing to place humanity in harm’s way.

chart

Why India must not declare a net zero target?

India’s contribution to global emissions is so disproportionately low that any sacrifice on its part can do nothing to save the world.

India is responsible for no more than 4.37% cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial era, even though it is home to more than a sixth of humanity.

India’s per capita emissions are less than half the world average, less than one-eighth of the U.S.’s, and have shown no dramatic increase like China’s post 2000.

Cannot trust promises of the developed nations: Nor can it proceed with the expectation that the developed world and China would limit their emissions further in the future. The failure of the developed world to meet its pre-2020 obligations along with its refusal to acknowledge this provides little confidence for the future.

Why India must claim its fair share of the global carbon budget?

It enables the responsible use of coal, and oil and gas. This will help India to come out of the lower middle-income economy status and eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition for good.

Small Industry sector needs expansion: India’s resource-strapped small industries sector, which provides employment and livelihoods to the majority of the population outside agriculture, needs expansion and modernisation.

Agri sector is in need: The agriculture sector, the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions for India after energy, needs to double its productivity and farmers’ incomes and build resilience.

All of these will require at least the limited fossil fuel resources made available through a fair share of the carbon budget.

What is the way forward?

Even if India were to enhance its short-term Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement in some fashion, unnecessary as of now, it should do so while staking a claim to its share of the global commons.

This will ensure that its efforts will not further enable the free-riding of the developed world and protect its access to this strategic resource, vital to India’s industrial and developmental future.


The perils of natural experiments and randomized controlled trials

Source: This post is based on the article “The perils of natural experiments and randomized controlled trials” published in
Livemint on 26th Oct 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Economy
Relevance: On Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) in economics

Synopsis: The RCTs that have swept economics and won Nobel recognition remain rather unreliable in comparison with clinical trials. We should be sceptical about the policy conclusions of randomized control trials used in economics and social sciences.

Introduction

Randomized Clinical Trials have revolutionized medicine and led to many life-saving treatments, drugs and vaccines. But, we should be cautious before applying conclusions based on Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) to economics and social science fields.

Must Read: 2021 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences – Explained, pointwise
What are the issues with applying RCTs in economics and social sciences?

i). The fallacy of composition: The human body, the object of clinical trials, is a very complex but generally closed system. The impact of a trial drug on one person is independent of its impact on others.

The fallacy of composition occurs when one assumes that if something is true of members of a group or collection, it is true of the group as a whole. In simple words, under this fallacy it is falsely assumed that just because something is true at an individual, firm, industry level, so it must be true for the whole economy.

The results of a randomized clinical trial for, say, a vaccine, after it has gone through the quality checks of three phases, can be safely applied to the whole population.

Not so in the case of a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT).

This is so because in economics, individuals are part of a complex and open system, their decisions and interactions are dependent upon one another. Thus, at the economy-wide level the impact on one individual may not be extrapolated to be applied on the whole population.

Example:

Rise in minimum wage: A rise in the minimum wage in one district or industry may not have an adverse impact upon employment and costs and prices, since firms invariably have some margin of profits to absorb the hike. But an economy-wide minimum wage rise may push up prices, unless the central bank tightens policy to offset that.

Education subsidy: A certain subsidy leading to more education for some individuals may benefit them, but nationally, it may not.

ii). Accuracy of data: The second vital matter is the accuracy of the data that researchers generate by conducting surveys to conduct their RCTs. In their pioneering 1994 study (for which Card recently got Nobel in Economic Science), David Card and Krueger generated their own data from phone interviews. Given ideological biases, researcher- generated survey data is intrinsically suspect.

What is the way forward?

The academic debate continues. The question to ask is:

Of all the studies using RCTs published in the top 10 economics journals in the past two decades, how many generated their own data versus used publicly-available data? – This would broadly indicate the reliability of non-medical RCTs that have swept the field.


How Punjab can shine again with nutritional security and climate-friendly agriculture

Source: This post is based on the article “How Punjab can shine again with nutritional security and climate-friendly agriculture” published in the Indian Express on 25th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country and issues arising out of it.

Relevance: Crop diversification, sustainable farming.

Synopsis: Adjusted for land holding, the Punjab farmer is doing poorly, and the culprit is paddy. By shifting from rice to maize and diversifying to fruits and vegetables, farmers in Punjab and Haryana can earn more, while practicing sustainable farming.

What are key findings of the latest Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of agri households?

As per the findings of SAS survey conducted by NSO,

– An average Indian farmer earned Rs 10,218 per month in 2018-19 (July-June).

– Across states, the highest income was received by a farming household in Meghalaya (Rs 29,348) followed by Punjab (Rs 26,701), Haryana (Rs 22,841), Arunachal Pradesh (19,225) and Jammu and Kashmir (Rs 18,918)

– The lowest income levels were in West Bengal (Rs 6,762), Odisha (Rs 5,112) and Jharkhand (Rs 4,895).

Why farmers in Punjab and Haryana need to diversify their crops?

On normalising the incomes of agri-households by their holding sizes as per SAS survey, Punjab’s ranking on per hectare income falls from 2nd to 11th and Haryana goes down from 3rd to 15th.

– This simply means that per hectare income of the farmers in Punjab and Haryana are lower. And the farmers in Punjab and Haryana are earning higher incomes primarily because the size of their landholding is greater compared to their counterparts from other states.

Whereas, farmers belonging to states such as Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh  earn better income from cultivating fruits and vegetables, spices, and livestock. These are high value in nature, not linked to MSPs, and market and demand-driven.

How can farmers in Punjab and Haryana augment their incomes with more sustainable agriculture?

Punjab’s former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had recently approached the Centre with an idea to create a fund of around Rs 25,000 crore to help farmers switch from paddy to maize. Centre should give this idea a serious thought with the following modifications.

One, the fund should be under a five-year plan to shift at least a million hectares of paddy area (out of a total of 3.1 million hectares of paddy area in Punjab) to maize.

Two, the corpus should have equal contributions from the Centre and state.

Three, since Punjab wants that farmers be given MSP for maize, an agency, the Maize Corporation of Punjab (MCP), should be created to buy maize from farmers at MSP. This agency should enter into contracts with ethanol companies. Much of this maize can be used to produce ethanol as the poultry and starch industries will not be able to absorb this surplus in maize once a million hectares of paddy area shifts to maize.

Fourth, maize productivity must be as competitive as that of paddy in Punjab and the best seeds should be used for that purpose. This is to ensure that ethanol from maize is produced in a globally competitive manner. The GoI’s policy for 20 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol should come in handy for this purpose.

What would be the consequential benefits?

Sustainable water source: Punjab will arrest its depleting water table as maize needs less than one-fifth the water that paddy does for irrigation.

Savings in Power subsidy: Punjab will save much on the power subsidy to agriculture, which was budgeted at Rs 8,275 crore in the FY2020-21 budget, as paddy irrigation consumes much of the power subsidy.

Climate mitigation: this could result in a win-win situation for all (farmers, the Government of Punjab and the country) as there will be lesser methane emissions and less stubble burning. Moreover, ethanol will also reduce GHG emissions in vehicular pollution.

Nutritional security: Will help Punjab to produce more nutritious food and raise on the nutritional security front with sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture.

Doubling farmers income: Punjab farmer’s income on a per hectare basis will increase more sustainably.

What more needs to be done?

Other parts of the diversification strategy should include,

  • Increasing the area under fruits and vegetables
  • More focused policy to build efficient value chains in not just fruits and vegetables but also livestock and fisheries.
  • Agri-sector needs to be backed by proper processing, grading and packaging infrastructure to tap its full potential.

The awkward grant of patents to artificial intelligence

Source: This post is based on the following articles “The awkward grant of patents to artificial intelligence “published in Livemint on 27th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Relevance: Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Rights

Synopsis: This article elucidates why patents cannot be granted to artificial intelligence (AI) programs.

Introduction

In April 2020, the South African patent office granted a patent to an artificial intelligence (AI) program called DABUS (‘Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience).

DABUS used fractal geometry to come up with a better design for food containers that both improves grip as well as heat transfer.

However, it has to be noted that, before DABUS was finally granted a patent in South Africa, the DABUS application was been rejected by patent offices in the US, Europe and the UK.

On a similar account, last year the Indian Copyright Office registered a copyright over an artwork in the name of an artificial intelligence application called RAGHAV (Robust Artificially intelligent Graphics and Art Visualizer).

Why other countries refused to grant patent to an artificial intelligence (AI) program?

The European Patent Office (EPO) pointed out the following issues

One, the law designates a natural person as the inventor of a work in order to preserve their moral right over the invention as well as to secure for her the economic rights made available by the patent. AI does not fall under the classification of natural person.

Two, the programs are doing little more than just following the broad instructions of the humans who designed them. In order to be entitled to the economic benefits, an inventor needs to have actually performed the creative act of invention.

Three, AI still lack an autonomous will, self-awareness and personality in the way that humans have. At this point they can only mimic what passes for intelligence using clever tricks of pattern recognition and complex sentence completion.

Why AI algorithms cannot be treated as an inventor in the first place?

Firstly, Patent holders are granted a limited monopoly over their invention so that they can monetize their work and exercise the right to prosecute those who copy their inventions.

In order to be able to exercise the benefits that this legal monopoly offers, an inventor needs to have the ability to negotiate the complex commercial terms of a patent licence.

In case of patent infringement, the inventor needs to be able to understand the nature of the infringement as well as the various pros and cons of prosecuting the infringer.

Human inventors have little trouble understanding the relevant issues, and, with a little guidance from patent lawyers, are able to take appropriate decisions based on their own particular social and economic context.

Artificial intelligence algorithms, on the other hand, will find it hard, if not impossible, to even place all the relevant data points in an appropriate context.

Secondly, any patent granted to an artificial intelligence algorithm would, for all practical purposes, be exercised by the inventor of that algorithm. So, there is no point in calling the algorithm an inventor in the first place.

Thirdly, all these algorithms are little more than prediction machines designed to take information we have and use it to discover information we do not. Their abilities are constrained to generate outcomes within the narrow domains in which they are trained.

Terms to know


A mammoth project to help endangered species and planet

Source: This post is based on the article “A mammoth project to help endangered species and planet” published in “Business Standard” on 26th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Relevance: Bio-technology and its link with the preservation of bio-diversity.

Synopsis: A US based company has taken a project to introduce a hybrid of extinct Mammoth and Elephants.

Introduction

A US bio-startup “Colossal” launched a project to regenerate the extinct woolly mammoth, or rather to create an elephant-mammoth hybrid with mammoth characteristics, through gene-sequencing and gene-splicing technology, CRISPR.

The mammoth went extinct around 1650 BCE — less than 4,000 years ago. Since mammoths lived in cold, permafrost areas, well-preserved mammoth DNA is available. Mammoths were related to Asian elephants, with 99.6 per cent of DNA in common.

Must Read: Bringing woolly mammoths back from extinction might not be such a bad idea – ethicists explain
How the experiment will be done?

If the genes unique to mammoths are inserted into Asian elephant DNA, a viable hybrid embryo may result. The gene splicing technology, CRISPR, which allows easy cut-and paste insertion (and deletion) of genes may be capable of the delicate editing necessary.

What is the expected outcome?

Experiment claims it could create “a cold-resistant elephant with all of the core biological traits of the Woolly Mammoth” — thick woolly coat, fat deposits, small ears, curling large tusks to push through frozen ground to access buried vegetation.

It may lead to insights that may help prevent modern elephant extinction, and also advances in multiplex CRISPR editing, as well as possibly establishing links between genetics and climate change.

It can help reverse climate change”, “help endangered species”, and “upset existing ecosystems”.

What are the concerns and challenges?

It is being expected that if the hybrid could be introduced in large numbers, it would disrupt the current ecological balance by uprooting trees, and thus return the Tundra to the grasslands of 4,000 years ago. This would mean better carbon absorption and limit damage from global warming, which is now leading to a massive unfreezing of the Arctic. However, this might be an exaggeration as it presupposes the hybrid could be introduced in large enough numbers to change the ecosystem and also that it wouldn’t have negative consequences on other species.

Size differences- Another challenge is the size difference. Female Asian elephants are smaller in height and weight than the mammoth. Female African elephants are larger than Asian elephants, so the hybrid em­bryo transferred to an African elephant, is more suited to carrying a larger foetus to term.


Pandemic Stimulus Backfired

Source: This post is based on the articles “Pandemic Stimulus Backfired” published in “Times of India” on 26th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Relevance: To understand the after-effects of fiscal stimulus on country’s economy.

Synopsis: The world reacted to downturn of economy by spending in different bands. The results are not the same even in same band of stimulus owing to various reasons listed.

Introduction

The data on aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus of the top emerging and developed markets and the strength of the ensuing recovery showed no direct relationship.

Emerging markets which stimulated most aggressively got no payoff in a faster recovery, owing in part to
the downsides of overindulging.

How much did India spend and what are the results?

India went into the crisis with a large deficit, which limited how big it could go on stimulus. Its package amounted to 10% of GDP, mid-size compared to its peers. But its payoff for moderation was one of the strongest recoveries in emerging markets.

A moderate spender, India suffered mixed backfire effects. A relatively little negative impact on its inflation and interest rates, but a relatively large impact on its currency value. A deficit of 11% of GDP, highest among major emerging markets, but this condition existed before the pandemic.

Why is stimulus showing unclear benefits, and even backfiring in many emerging markets?

The stricter the lockdown and the slower the vaccine rollout, the bigger the hit to growth.

Emerging country overwhelmed by factors unique to the pandemic, including the global impact of massive stimulus in the US and other developed countries, and the fight against the virus.

Developing nations lack the financial resources and the institutional credibility to ramp up spending without unbalancing the economy, and end up getting impacted by global markets.

The logic of stimulus campaigns may have more to do with politics than economic conditions. The populist measure of spending huge may have backfired them.


Global inequality: New drugs go the way of vaccines

Source: This post is based on the article “Global inequality: New drugs go the way of vaccines” posted in the Times of India on 27th October 2021.

Subject: GS 3- Issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Relevance: Understanding health inequity

Synopsis: As the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed, there is an urgent need to work on health inequity to ensure that everyone has access to affordable medicine.

Introduction

Recently, many countries, including India, moved a proposal at World Trade Organization (WTO) for waiving the intellectual property rights on critical medicines and technologies related to the Covid-19 pandemic. This highlights health inequity on critical medicines.

What is the level of health inequity during the pandemic?

Countries in the developed world have produced, consumed and stockpile about 75% of the total vaccines manufactured. Some developed countries are even providing booster shots after completing vaccination. While only 3% of the people in developing countries have received the vaccine. This clearly shows the prevalent inequity in access to critical medicines.

Why is the supply of Covid-related items constrained?

The core of the issue of this inequity lies in intellectual property (IP). Companies making drug discoveries protect IPR’s very aggressively. So even at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, patients and governments were struggling to get equipment like masks, testing kits, critical drugs due to intellectual property rights concerns.

Read more: Intellectual Property Rights(IPR) and Universal Vaccination – Explained, Pointwise

The crisis deepened further as there was a breakdown in the global supply chains. This followed the stocking of equipment and an artificial increase in prices.

Now the countries do have medicines that can help in reducing the viral load, but given the cost of these medicines, there is a need to provide a waiver for critical medicines.

What attempts have been made towards health inequity during the pandemic?

India and South Africa, at the World Trade Organization, raised the concern for waiver of intellectual property rights for critical medicines in COVID-19 treatment. This proposal was then backed by nearly a hundred countries. However, EU, Switzerland and UK have stalled this proposal. They argue that this proposal will discourage innovation.

But if it is accepted under TRIPS, it would facilitate technology transfer of Covid-19 therapies. Biotech companies and generic producers will be able to mass-produce COVID-19 vaccines and therapies and make them available to developing world countries like Bangladesh, sub-Saharan Africa.

What should be the way forward?

There is a need to come to an agreement in WTO. Compulsory licensing, if granted, leads to pressure and legal harassment between the companies and countries.

So health activists urge the MNCs to share the formula which can be used to quickly ramp up the manufacturing of vaccines and therapies. This step towards global collaboration can be vital in thwarting the next health threat.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

World temp set for 2.7°C rise on current emission pledges

Source: This post is based on the article “World temp set for 2.7°C rise on current emission pledges” published in “Livemint” on 27th October 2021.

What is the news?

Ahead of the scheduled ‘COP26‘ summit of ‘UNFCCC’,the annual emissions gap report has stated that Current commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions put the planet on track for an average 2.7 degrees Celsius temperature rise this century.

What are the findings of the report?

– Target is to limit warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and ideally to 1.5°C.

– Global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions could breach 1.5°C in the next two decades.

– The updated pledges will only reduce forecast 2030 emissions by an additional 7.5%, compared to the previous commitments. If continued throughout this century, this would lead to warming of 2.7°C.

– China and India, which are together responsible for around 30% of global emissions, have not yet made enhanced pledges.

Must Read: UNEP Production gap report: net zero targets by countries are empty pledges without plans
What is needed to be done?

A 30% cut is needed to limit warming to 2°C for which additional 13 Gt cut in annual emissions is needed by 2030, and a 55% cut is needed to limit to 1.5°C.


Draft rules seek to make airports disabled-friendly

Source: This post is based on the articleDraft rules seek to make airports disabled-friendly” published in “The Hindu” on 27th October 2021.
What is the News?

The Government of India has released the Draft Rules to make airports Disabled friendly.

Why were these Draft Rules to make airports Disabled friendly released?

The Draft Rules follows the Rights of Person with Disabilities Rules, 2017 under which the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is required to frame harmonised guidelines for accessibility standards for persons with disabilities.

Moreover, the draft guidelines were also released following an incident in which a lady was asked to remove her prosthetic leg during the security check at the airport. This is despite security norms being amended four years ago, which require prosthetics or wheelchairs to be put through an X-ray only on sufficient reason or justification.

What are the key provisions of the Draft Rules to make airports Disabled friendly?

Infrastructural Requirements: The draft guidelines details various infrastructural requirements that an airport must provide. These include:

  • Reserved parking space for the differently-abled which is connected to the entrance of the passenger terminal through an accessible route and a tactile path
  • Designated seating spaces, bigger lifts, ramps and handrails with Braille indicators and 
  • Aisle chairs on flights longer than three hours for in-flight use.

Prior Information: Disabled passengers should inform the airline about their complete requirement 48 hours before the scheduled departure so that the carrier can make necessary arrangements, it mentioned.

Disabled Awareness Training: Airlines should ensure that disability awareness training is conducted for new hires and ensure periodic refreshers are conducted for all staff to reiterate policies and standard operating procedures on customer assistance with different types of disabilities.

Service Animals on Flights: Passengers should check with the airline on the specific requirements of bringing service animals on flights. For example, Air India allows small and inoffensive domestic pets such as dogs, cats and birds, accompanied by valid health and rabies vaccination certificates, on domestic flights in the cabin or in the cargo hold.


Film screening, bird watching, trekking: How Arunachal celebrated 15 years of Bugun Liocichla

Source: This post is based on the articleFilm screening, bird watching, trekking: How Arunachal celebrated 15 years of Bugun Liocichlapublished in “Down To Earth” on 27th October 2021.
What is the News?

A five-day Bugun Liocichla Utsav is being organized at Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh. The festival was held to commemorate 15 years of the bird’s discovery.

What is Bugun Liocichla?
Source: eBird

Bugun liocichla (Liocichla bugunorum) is a bird species. It was first spotted in 1995 in Arunachal Pradesh.

However, the bird was first described in 2006 after being discovered in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh by an astrophysicist, Ramana Athreya.

Named After: The bird has been named in honour of the efforts of the Bugun community of Singchung village in West Kameng district in conserving the wildlife and forest of the area.

Significance: Bugun liocichla was the first bird discovered since India’s Independence.

Habitat: The bird occupies a 3-4 square kilometre area in the temperate forest within the traditional lands of Singchung village in Arunachal Pradesh. It is mostly seen in select pockets of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and Singchung Bugun Village Community Reserve (SBVCR).

Note: SBVCR won the India Biodiversity Award 2018 in the ‘Conservation of wildlife species’ category for its efforts to conserve Bugun Liocichla.

Conservation Status: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature(IUCN) has classified this species as critically endangered.


Atmospheric river storms can drive costly flooding — and climate change is making them stronger

Source: This post is based on the article “Atmospheric river storms can drive costly flooding — and climate change is making them stronger” published in “Down To Earth” on 26th October 2021.

What is the News?

According to recent research, Atmospheric Rivers cause an average of $1.1 billion in flood damages yearly in the western U.S.

What are Atmospheric Rivers?
Source: NOAA

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands of moisture in the atmosphere that extend from the tropics to higher latitudes. These rivers in the sky can transport 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River.

When that moisture reaches the coast and moves inland, it rises over the mountains, generating rain and snowfall. 

Do all Atmospheric Rivers Cause damage?

Not all atmospheric rivers cause damage; most are weak systems that often provide beneficial rain or snow that is crucial to the water supply, particularly in the western United States.

However, those atmospheric rivers that contain the largest amounts of water vapor and the strongest winds can create extreme rainfall and floods.

Where does the Atmospheric River occur?

Atmospheric rivers occur globally, affecting the west coasts of the world’s major landmasses, including Portugal, Western Europe, Chile and South Africa.

A well-known example is the “Pineapple Express,” a strong atmospheric river that is capable of bringing moisture from the tropics near Hawaii over to the U.S. West Coast.

Atmospheric Rivers in Dry and Wet Conditions

In dry conditions, atmospheric rivers can replenish water supplies and quench dangerous wildfires. 

In wet conditions, they can cause damaging floods and debris flows, wreaking havoc on local economies.

A study on the damage caused due to Atmospheric Rivers

According to a study, Atmospheric rivers cause an average of $1.1 billion in flood damages yearly in the western U.S.

The study has also predicted that like hurricanes, atmospheric rivers are projected to grow longer, wider and wetter in a warming climate. This could lead to significantly larger economic impacts.


INDO-PACIFIC REGIONAL DIALOGUE 2021

Source: This post is based on the articleINDO-PACIFIC REGIONAL DIALOGUE 2021published in “PIB” on 26th October 2021.

What is the News?

The Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) 2021 is being held from 27th to 29th October 2021.

What is Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue(IPRD)?

Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) is the apex international annual conference of the Indian Navy. The dialogue was first conducted in 2018.

Aim:  To review both opportunities and challenges that arise within the Indo-Pacific.

The organiser of the dialogue: National Maritime Foundation is the navy’s knowledge partner and chief organiser of each edition of the dialogue.

The theme for 2021: “Evolution in Maritime Strategy during the 21st Century: Imperatives, Challenges, and, Way Ahead”. 

About National Maritime Foundation(NMF)

NMF was established in 2005 as India’s first maritime think-tank for conducting independent and policy-relevant research on ‘matters maritime’. 

It is an autonomous think-tank. But its intellectual and organisational development is supported by the Ministry of Defence and the Indian Navy. It is Located in New Delhi.


Inauguration of Go-Quant Camp – a unique educational competitive programme for students from premier business schools of India

Source: This post is based on the articleInauguration of Go-Quant Camp – a unique educational competitive programme for students from premier business schools of India published in PIB on 26th October 2021.
What is the News?

The Go-Quant Camp programme has been launched by Bloomberg in collaboration with GIFT City under the aegis of the International Financial Services Centres Authority(IFSCA).

What is the Go-Quant Camp programme?

The Go-Quant Camp is a unique educational competitive programme for students from premier business schools of India.

As part of the programme, participating students will be trained on the fundamentals of Quantum Computing with a self-assessment component following which they will compete on the Quant models/solutions that they would have built. 

A panel of industry experts will select the best ideas and models to identify the winners, who will get a chance to showcase the models to the global investment community.


Security ink based on nano-materials that spontaneously emits light can combat counterfeiting

Source: This post is based on the articleSecurity ink based on nano-materials that spontaneously emits light can combat counterfeiting published in PIB on 25th October 2021.

What is the News?

Indian Scientists have indigenously developed a highly stable and non-toxic luminescent security ink from nano-materials that will help combat counterfeiting of currency notes, medicine, certificates, documents and branded goods.

What is Counterfeiting?

Counterfeiting means to imitate something authentic with the intent to steal, destroy or replace the original for use in illegal transactions.

Counterfeiting of branded goods, banknotes, medicines, certificates, currency and other important documents is very common all over the world.

How is counterfeiting tackled currently?

Currently, Luminescent ink is used as covert tags to combat counterfeiting.

Most of the security inks available today are based on luminescent materials that absorb a high-energy photon and emit low-energy photons, technically called downshifting. This covert tag is invisible under daylight, and it becomes visible under UV light.  However, these single emission-based tags are prone to replication. 

To overcome this, luminescent ink with excitation-dependent luminescent properties (downshifting and upconversion) is advised. 

This is because increasing the number of parameters required to decode the tag decreases the possibility of decoding and replication.  

However, most of the materials reported recently for this purpose are based on fluorides, which are less stable and highly toxic.

What have the Indian Scientists developed?

To address the above challenge, Indian Scientists have developed a luminescent security ink from nano-materials. This ink is highly stable, less toxic and has excitation-dependent luminescent properties.

Hence, this ink has huge potential to combat counterfeiting and the common man can find out easily whether the document or product is original or fake.


India lost $87 bn last year due to natural calamities: WMO

Source: This post is based on the article “India lost $87 bn last year due to natural calamities: WMO” published in Livemint on 27th October 2021.

What is the News?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released a report titled “State of the Climate in Asia report”.

What are the key findings of the State of the Climate in Asia report?

Impact of Natural Disasters: Natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts have cost India around $87 billion in 2020.

India was the second most affected nation from the impact of global warming on lives and property after China, which lost $238 billion. Droughts remained the single largest extreme event in 2020 to hit these two countries.

Temperatures: Asia had its warmest year on record in 2020 with the mean temperature 1.39 °C above the 1981–2010 average. Many places suffered extreme heat, including a record of 38 degrees Celsius in Verkhoyansk in Russia, the highest known temperature anywhere within the Arctic Circle.

Cyclone Amphan: Cyclone Amphan was one of the strongest storms ever. It hit the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest straddling India and Bangladesh, displacing 2.4 million and 2.5 million people respectively.

Indian Ocean: The Indian Ocean is also warming up rapidly, along with the Pacific and the Arctic. Sea surface temperatures in and around Asia are increasing three times more than the global average, particularly in the Arabian Sea.

Sea level: Global average sea level has risen at a rate of 3.3 mm per year since the early 1990s. The North Indian Ocean and the Northwest Pacific Ocean are experiencing sea-level rise significantly higher than the global mean.

Glacier Retreat: Glacier retreat is accelerating, and it is projected that glacier mass will decrease by 20% to 40% by 2050, affecting the lives and livelihoods of about 750 million people in the region.

Food Security: The progress on food security and nutrition has also been slowing globally. In 2020, 48.8 million people in South-East Asia, 305.7 million in South Asia and 42.3 million in West Asia were undernourished. 


Trigonopterus corona: A beetle species named after coronavirus

Source: This post is based on the articleTrigonopterus corona: A beetle species named after coronaviruspublished in Indian Express on 27th October 2021.

What is the news?

Scientists have discovered a new species of beetle named Trigonopterus corona on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Note: It is not the only insect species to be named after the pandemic. In April 2021, a new species of caddisfly (a moth-like insect) was collected near a stream in Kosovo and named Potamophylax coronavirus.

What is Trigonopterus?
Source: Wikipedia

Trigonopterus is a genus of flightless weevils placed in the Cryptorhynchinae of Curculionidae.

Note: Weevils are beetles, known for their elongated snouts. They are usually small and herbivorous. Many weevils are considered pests because of their ability to damage and kill crops.

Habitat: Trigonopterus species are distributed in Australia, Indonesia and Melanesia.

Significance: Trigonopterus inhabit primary tropical forests, both on foliage and edaphic in the litter layer. They have a marked tendency to endemism, with many species only known from a single locality.


Framework to manage drone traffic notified

Source: This post is based on the articleFramework to manage drone traffic notified published in The Hindu on 25th October 2021.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified a Traffic Management Policy Framework for Drones.

Why is Traffic management for drones required?

The traffic management system for drones in India has become necessary as the number of drones being used in India is all set to increase after the latest liberalized drone regulations.

Hence, it has become important to safely manage the interplay between manned and unmanned aircraft, particularly at low-level airspace where the drones fly.

What are the key features of the Traffic Management Policy Framework for Drones?

Allows Public and Private Players: The framework allows both public and private third-party service providers to manage unmanned aerial vehicles in lower airspace.

Unmanned Traffic Management Service Providers(UTMSP): Under the framework, UTMSPs will be established to extend automated, algorithm-driven software services instead of voice communication as in the traditional Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. They will primarily be responsible for segregating and separating a drone from other drones and manned aircraft in the airspace below 1,000 feet in the country.

Supplementary Service Providers(SSPs): The traffic management providers will be assisted by SSPs who will maintain data about the terrain, weather, location of manned aircraft and provide services such as insurance, data analytics and drone fleet management.

Integration of UTMSP and ATM: The policy also requires integration of UTM with ATM so that flight plans and real-time location of manned aircraft can be recorded as well in order to continuously separate manned and unmanned aircraft from each other.

Access to Law Enforcement Agencies: Law enforcement and security agencies will have access to some information in the UTM ecosystem on a need-to-know basis.

Service Fee: The policy allows UTMSPs to levy a service fee on users, a small portion of which will also be shared with the Airports Authority of India.


Union Minister for Education and Skill Development inaugurates phase-II of Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship

Source: This post is based on the article “Union Minister for Education and Skill Development inaugurates phase-II of Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowshippublished in PIB on 25th October 2021.

What is the News?

The government of India has launched phase II of the Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship under SANKALP (Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion) programme.

What is the Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship Programme?

Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship is a two-year-long fellowship programme conceived to create opportunities for young, dynamic individuals to contribute to enhancing skill development at the grassroots.

Objective: The Programme ​​seeks to combine classroom sessions by academic partner IIMs, with an intensive field immersion at the district level (District Immersion) to create credible plans and identify barriers in raising employment, economic output and promoting livelihoods in rural areas.

Eligibility: Fellows have to be in the 21-30 years age group, have a graduation degree from a recognized university and be citizens of India.

Three years of work experience after secondary schooling in the social/non-profit sector with an interest in working in rural areas is preferred. However, individuals with no work experience and a strong motivation to work in this area may apply.

Proficiency in the official language of the state of fieldwork will be mandatory.

Phases:

MGNF Phase-I (Pilot): Launched in 2019 with IIM Bangalore as Academic Partner. Under this, 69 Fellows are currently deployed in 69 districts across 6 States.

MGNF Phase-II (National Roll Out): Being launched in October 2021 with 661 MGNFs who will be deployed across all districts of the country. 8 more IIMs have been boarded, taking the total to 9 IIMs.

About SANKALP Programme

SANKALP is a World Bank loan assisted program. It was launched by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in January 2018.

Purpose: SANKALP engages with District Skill Committees (DSCs) to effectively reduce the mismatch between the supply and demand of skilled manpower in the country, thereby creating decent opportunities for the youth to work and earn.


 

Print Friendly and PDF[social_warfare]