9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 29th, 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 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Grant the focus back on Early Childhood education

Source: This post is based on the article “Grant the focus back on Early Childhood education” published in The Hindu on 29th October 2021.

Source: GS 2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

Relevance: Understanding the need for Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Synopsis: Early Childhood Education (ECE) is vital for a child’s overall development and growth.

Introduction

ECE is crucial to the overall development of children, as it impacts their learning and even earning capabilities throughout their lifetimes. In India, for the vast majority of the poor, ECE is provided through 14 lakh anganwadis spread across the country.

Read moreImportance of good early childhood education
What are the challenges associated with the ECE?

Poor availability of teachers and consequent loss of interest in learning from the side of students.

Low parental engagement with Children: Parents do not prioritize ECE enough, as was revealed by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. It states that 45% of the 650+ households surveyed in urban Maharashtra reported that they prioritize their older child’s education over ECE.

Why parental engagement is low in ECE?

The socioeconomic background of households determines access to preschools and the ability to invest in ECE.

Poor households often have parents working overtime to make economic ends meet, consequently, ECE gets ignored out of economic compulsion.

What can be done to overcome these barriers?

The government can take many short-term and effective measures as envisaged in the NEP 2020. (The NEP envisages a greater parental engagement and talks about a changed mindset).

A decentralized approach, with teachers at the heart of the ECE initiative, can yield better results.

The E-paatshala programme in Balwadis and Akanksha schools in Mumbai and Pune were able to demonstrate financial support to parents can yield higher levels of parental engagement with Children. So, there is a need to empower households economically.


Should the NDPS Act be amended?

Source: This post is based on the article “Should the NDPS Act be amended?” published in The Hindu on 29th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors.

Relevance: To understand the proposed amendments to the NDPS Act.

Synopsis: The recent proposal to the NDPS Act does not address the issues in enforcement, instead it compounds them.

Introduction

The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has proposed certain changes to some provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985.

What are the major recommendations to the NDPS Act?

Decriminalise the possession of narcotic drugs in smaller quantities for personal purposes and treat the persons as victims.

Using the National Fund to Control Drug Abuse to carry out de-addiction programmes, rather than just policing activities.

Must ReadDrug usage and the NDPS Act – Explained, pointwise
What are the challenges that the police face in curbing drugs?

Drug peddling is an organised crime, so, it is difficult to check narcotic drugs transportation. Also, the police cannot stop each and every vehicle on Indian roads.

The police cannot go beyond the State jurisdiction for finding the source of narcotic substances and destroy them.

Securing conviction for the accused in drugs cases is another challenge due to frequent delays in court procedures.

Read more: Pendency of Cases and Rising Vacancies in the Judiciary – Explained, Pointwise
What are the challenges associated with the proposed recommendations?

Like the US, decriminalising smaller quantities might result in the proliferation of drugs. Drugs consumption is directly linked to issues such as absenteeism in schools, loss of jobs, income, increase in crime rate, depression, and suicide.

India does not have enough rehabilitation centres and faces an acute shortage of psychiatrists and counsellors to rehabilitate drug users.

Despite a High Court order, many traders sell whiteners to children below 18 years of age. There are also many children who use glue, painting chemicals, etc as drugs. There is no focus on such children becoming victims of drug use.

What should be done?

There should be a clear distinction between a drug supplier and an end-user. A drug user needs to be seen as a patient.

Civil society and governments will have to work together to create an enabling environment to address the drug menace.

Read moreIndia signed 26 pacts to fight drug menace

 


GS Paper 3

Carbon removal and phasing out of coal

Source: This post is based on the following articles

Agenda for CoP26: How to achieve net zero‘, Agenda for CoP26: Why the phasing out of coal won’t be decided in a jiffy‘ published in Down to Earth on 27th Oct 2021.

An inclusive climate deal is what CoP-26 must deliver‘, ‘How India plans to make its stand clear at COP26published in Livemint on 29th Oct 2021.

Why India’s net-zero commitment matters for the world‘ published in Indian Express on 29th Oct 21.

A climate dividend, ‘The Glasgow climate test‘ published in The Hindu on 29th Oct 21.

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

Relevance: Regarding emissions reduction from coal-based sources

Synopsis: Possibility of phasing out coal, challenges involved and major issues with carbon removal technologies.

Why phasing out of coal is necessary?

Among fossil fuels, coal has the highest contribution to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Of the 36.44 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 emitted from the burning of fossil fuels in 2019, almost 40% came from coal-fired power plants and industry.

Coal production also releases methane (CH4), a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. It accounts for 35% of CH4 emitted by all fossil fuel-related sources, says IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

What are the global coal CO2 emission trends?

According to the AR6 report,

– fossil CO2 emissions have slowed down in the past decade. CO2 emissions from coal use grew at 4.8% per year in the 2000s but slowed to 0.4% per year in the 2010s.

– The global pipeline of proposed coal power plants has collapsed by 76 per cent since the Paris Agreement in 2015 and 1,175 GW of planned coal-fired power projects have been cancelled in this period.

Who are the major consumers of coal?

Despite the progress, coal still accounts for 34% of the world’s power production in 2020.

China: China alone contributed 50 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions from coal in 2019 and runs over half of the world’s operating fleet, which is still growing.

Other major consumers of coal are Japan, South Africa, Russia and South Korea. None of them have a target date to phase out coal.

Within the EU-27, Germany has the largest coal fleet — its phase-out target is 2038, with added effort to advance the date to 2030.

Asia-Pacific: As a result, today Asia-Pacific is the highest consumer of coal. Within the region, China, now a global superpower and developed nation, uses the lion’s share; in 2020, it accounted for 68 per cent of the 33,604 terawatt-hours (TWh) of coal power generated in the region.

India still gets over 70 per cent of its energy from coal

USA: While it has drastically reduced the use of coal since the early 2000s due to a boom in shale gas, its coal consumption in 2020 was about 2,556 TWh, compared to India’s 4,871 TWh. Thus, India does use twice as much coal but with a population four times larger than the US.

UK: UK’s energy mix is still heavily dependent on oil and gas — natural gas is not a “clean energy source. Moreover, UK, has recently turned its coal-fired power plants back on because of record high nature gas prices.

So, there is still a long way to go before the world can meet to discuss climate crisis and the light bulbs are not powered by coal.

What are some issues with the carbon removal technologies?

The best-known technologies are:

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

Direct Air Capture and Storage (DACS)

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): CCS captures waste CO2 from large sources such as factories or fossil fuel power plants and stores it underground.

– Issues: There’s little role for CCS in the future as electricity production needs to be largely shifted to renewable sources by 2050. Despite its existence since the 1970s, CCS is yet to scale up to levels adequate to meet IPCC’s goals.

Direct Air Capture and Storage (DACS) technology, as the name suggests, sucks CO2 directly from the air. Among the various carbon removal technologies, DACS is the only one that can remove carbon at climate-significant scales.

– Issues: If it is run on renewable energy, it could deliver negative emissions. However, it consumes large amounts of electricity, making the technology expensive.

Bio-Energy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), captures CO2 from biomass-based power plants.

– Issues: Economic viability of the technology is also highly uncertain — the cost is estimated at $15-400 per tonne CO2e. Besides, BECCS threatens food security by promoting diversion of land for biofuel production. It is estimated that rolling out BECCS at scale will require up to 3,000 million hectares — about twice the land currently under cultivation globally.


Who is my regulator?: On RBI’s recent actions against auditors

Source: This post is based on the following articles “Who is my regulator? “ published in Business Standard on 29th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Role of Financial regulators and issues arising out of it

Relevance: Institute of Chartered Accountants of India vs National Financial Reporting Authority

Synopsis: RBI’s recent actions against auditors highlight the need for role clarity as well as coordination among regulators

Introduction

Recently, the RBI had issued an order debarring a firm of chartered accountants from undertaking any type of audit assignment in any RBI regulated entity for a period of two years.

This action has been taken, on account of the failure on the part of the audit firm to comply with a specific direction issued by the RBI with respect to its statutory audit of a systemically important non-banking financial company.

Similarly, in the past, SEBI has also banned a CA firm for their involvement in the accounting scam in a large listed company. These orders are now in appeal before the Supreme Court (SC).

What are the roles and responsibilities of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)?

Objective: The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is a body established by The Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, for regulating the profession of chartered accountancy.

Composition: The ICAI is managed by a council of 40 members of whom 32 are elected by chartered accountants and the remaining eight are nominated by various public authorities.

Core functions of the ICAI:

– Regulating the profession of accountancy,

– Formulation of accounting standards

– Prescription of standard auditing procedures

– Disciplining and taking action on misconduct by auditors

The ICAI, like other regulators of “professions”, is thus structured as a self-regulatory organisation (SRO).

While ICAI has the power to Discipline and take action on misconduct by auditors, why RBI and SEBI needs to intervene?

Over the years, ICAI’s record in disciplining errant members has not been noteworthy. As a consequence, there has been a growing tendency among sectoral regulators to discipline the auditors.

Why National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) was constituted?

In the wake of some large corporate accounting and auditing scandals in the late 1990s, many OECD countries established bodies to oversee the audits of public companies. This was aimed to protect investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate, and independent audit reports.

In line with this global development, the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) was constituted by the Government of India on October 1, 2018, under the new Companies Act of 2013.

What are the powers given to National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA)?

Broadly, the NFRA has the power to

– Monitor and enforce compliance with accounting and auditing standards,

– Oversee the quality of service

– Undertake investigation of the auditors of a class of companies.

These include companies whose securities are listed on any stock exchange in India or outside. Large unlisted public companies with a paid-up capital or annual turnover or debt above prescribed thresholds, all insurance & banking companies are within the NFRA’s jurisdiction.

For the balance class of companies, the ICAI continues to be the regulator of the profession.

How the accounting and auditing fraternity responded after the constitution of NFRA?

It was unhappy with the dilution of its self-regulatory role. In November 2018, the Northern India CA Federation had challenged the constitutional validity of powers given to the NFRA. A similar petition has been filed by another CA which is pending before the Madras High Court.

What is the way forward?

The present situation offers an opportunity to put in place a clear regulatory framework and machinery for the conduct of the accounting and auditing profession.

First, If the twin regulatory model continues, this should ideally be in one consolidated legislation with clarity on the respective roles of ICAI and NFRA.

Second, the disciplining arm of the ICAI will need to be restructured and strengthened to improve its effectiveness and credibility.

Third, both ICAI and NFRA have representatives of sectoral regulators on their key decision-making bodies. These will need to be fully energised to become robust mechanisms for sectoral inputs as well as operational regulatory coordination and co-operation.

Finally, as the economy becomes more complex, India will need to strengthen the regulatory frameworks in other similar cross-cutting domains like data protection and competition.


The New Economic Scrabble

Source: This post is based on the article “The New Economic Scrabble” published in Indian Express on 29th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth

Relevance: Jio, UPI, GST supporting startup ecosystem

Synopsis: India’s start-up ecosystem is radically breaking from its past in company valuations, unicorn numbers, funding round sizes, foreign interest, and growth.

Introduction

The three acts of entrepreneurship from five years ago — Jio, UPI, and GST have converged to accelerate startup ecosystem. This triad of private, nonprofit, and government courage demonstrates the economic upsides of a better balance between the three sectors.

How economic development is like a game of scrabble?

The Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann suggests economic development is like a game of scrabble.

Goods and services are made by stringing together productive capabilities such as inputs, technologies, and tasks just as words are made by putting letters together.

Countries with a greater variety of capabilities can make more diverse and complex goods, just as a scrabble player who has more letters can generate more and longer words. If a country lacks a letter, it cannot make the words that use it.

In Hausmann’s framing, the government provides the vowels and the private sector provides the consonants.

The 1955 Avadi resolution poisoned India’s economic scrabble by restricting constants and shrinking the state’s resources to provide vowels.

How triad helped entrepreneurs?

JIO: India’s per GB internet data costs are just 3 per cent of those in the US. A bold and risky $35 billion bet made by a private company transformed Indians from being data deprived to data-rich.

Increased consumption: it has jumped 15 times because costs fell by over 90 per cent.

The addition of millions of consumers and smartphones: Jio’s delightful five-year disruption of the market has exploded the most important universal metric in startup valuation.

UPI is a public good: Google’s letter to the US Federal Reserve suggesting America learn from India’s Universal Payments Interface (UPI) run by the National Payment Corporation of India. UPI’s mobile-first architecture is a key pillar of the paperless, presenceless, and cashless framework of the Aadhaar-seeded India Stack.

UPI reduces friction and costs for entrepreneurs and consumers in low-value payments.

GST: informality bred corruption and low-productivity enterprises with low-paying jobs, whose business model of regulatory arbitrage and tax evasion made formal enterprises noncompetitive. GST incentivised law-abiding supply and distribution chains.

The doubling of indirect tax registered enterprises since GST creates a virtuous economic cycle of higher total factor productivity for enterprises and employees.

How UPI, GST and JIO helped startups?

India now has the highest ratio of unlisted to listed companies with a $1 billion valuation. Initial public offering documents filed by early startups like Nykaa, Paytm, Zomato and PolicyBazaar roughly average a 10x valuation rise since the triad went live.

Estimates suggest India’s startup ecosystem valuation will explode from $315 billion today to $1 trillion by 2025.

What is the lesson of this economic scrabble?

A government does more when it does less. In the post-1947 economic policy, consonants were restricted and vowels were misclassified or missing.

The recent episode of Air India is the start of righting the historical wrong of misclassifying many private consonants as government vowels.

What is the way forward?

First, India needs a healthy balance between the state, entrepreneurs, and foreigners. The triad reinforces each element to drive inclusion and prosperity by enabling billions of people and millions of enterprises to do billions of sachet size transactions with low or no cost.

Second, Gandhiji’s notion of democracy, where the weakest have the same opportunity as the strongest is only possible when entrepreneurs have all the consonants and vowels.


Differential treatment: On fisheries subsidies issue at WTO

Source: This post is based on the following articles “Differential treatment “ published in Business Standard on 29th Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – issues related to fisheries sector

Relevance: Roles and responsibilities of WTO in ensuring fair global trade practices.

Synopsis: India must protect its interests in WTO on fishery subsidies

Introduction

The issue on fishery subsidies was first raised during the WTO’s Doha ministerial meet in 2001.

The basic objective of the global pact on fisheries subsidies, was to discipline or eliminate subsidies that encouraged illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The provision of special but differential treatment for developing countries was decided to be ingrained in it.

Recently, India has moved amendments to the draft of the proposed agreement on fisheries subsidies in WTO. It is meant to make the accord more balanced by curbing in huge grants being given out by rich nations for exploitative fisheries.

Also, it will give space to other countries to consolidate their fisheries sectors.

What was the proposal given by India?

The present text, which tends to safeguard the commercial interests of the developed countries, is unacceptable to India because it fails to uphold the much-needed sustainability of fisheries.

Going by the estimates put out by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), nearly two-thirds of the $35-billion subsidies go to enterprises engaged in commercial fishing.

On the other hand, the developing countries’ subsidies, just a fraction of it, are aimed mostly at facilitating livelihood security for the fisheries-dependent coastal communities.

To correct this imbalance, New Delhi has proposed that the rich countries stop subsidising fishing in distant waters beyond their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) for 25 years. This would give time to the other countries to build their own sustainable fisheries capabilities.

Why there was a need for global pact on fisheries subsidies?

Unsustainable resource Exploitation: The urgency of a binding accord on fisheries subsidies is evident from the FAO’s estimates that about 34 per cent of the world’s marine resources are already over-exploited.

Threat to Fisherman’s livelihood: Considering that the extent of overfishing was hardly 10 per cent in 1970 and 27 per cent in 2000, this trend, if continued, would deplete the fish stocks, threatening the livelihood of traditional fisherpersons.

How has WTO responded to India’s Proposal?

The WTO’s response to the Indian proposal seems fairly positive. This was clear when WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stated at the end of her recent New Delhi visit that the Indian plea “deserved to be heard”.

She also promised to place it on the negotiation table though, understandably enough, its adoption by the negotiators could not be guaranteed.

Why fisheries subsidies hold significance for India?

For India, the issue of fisheries subsidies has special significance.

Positive impact on Livelihood: The country has about 16 million fisher-persons relying almost solely on fishing for their subsistence. Many more are engaged in the value chain.

Increase Marine fish production: Almost the entire growth in fish production is coming from the inland fisheries (aquaculture). A favourable outcome of the global deal on fisheries subsidies is, therefore, imperative for the growth of Indian marine fisheries.

Increases Competitiveness: The subsidy given by the government to this sector is quite meagre, barely around Rs 770 crore. It meets only a part of the cost of diesel and essential fishing gear. Consequently, most Indian fisher-persons are unable to operate beyond the coastal waters.


Gati Shakti: Connecting the silos

Source: This post is based on the following articles “Gati Shakti: Connecting the silos“ published in Business Standard on 28th Oct 2021.

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

Relevance: To understand the present working of infrastructure sector.

Synopsis: Gati shakti master plan would help India converge its infrastructure spending, however few challenges need to be seen.

Introduction

Gati Shakti National Master Plan seeks to enhance multi-modal linkages, increase competitiveness and provide a linked platform for rolling out various infrastructure projects as part of a grand master plan.

It is a platform based on geographic information system or GIS that will connect all economic zones and clusters in the country.

The platform has been developed by the Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics (BISAG-Gandhinagar-based autonomous scientific society under Meity).

Network Planning Group (NPG) will have the responsibility of ensuring proper functioning of the platform and providing user assistance.

Must Read: PM Gati Shakti – National Infrastructure Master Plan – Explained, pointwise
What are the key benefits of PM Gati Shakti?

Breaks the silo culture: Typically, each ministry or department rolls out its own plans and programmes irrespective of the linkages with others. Gati Shakti ensures that different ministries are working in sync with each other.

Integrative approach: It forces an integrative approach. To achieve synchronisation and compatibility it now mandates all state entities to compulsorily enter their planned projects into the Gati Shakti platform. For this purpose, a fresh administrative architecture has been created alongside

Optimum use of finances: It ensures optimum use of available finances. Currently, there are no inter-linkages by which the Ministry of Finance provides sanctions and resources. Standalone projects get cleared because of their own perceived viability. Henceforth, clearance by Network Planning Group (NPG) is expected to be the key determinant for considering sanction.

What are the challenges involved?

Team-work: Ministries and government departments are notorious for being inward-looking and holding on to their turf. Clever ways be found to beat the system and bypass the integrative requirements.

States participation: Without this the integration at the Central level may be sub-optimal.

Technology: Will the technology deliver in practical terms to configure and review projects, and will the platform indeed be the wonder-tool it is expected to be?

Administrative framework: Each economic cluster should have dedicated development commissioners instead of district magistrates and collectors with many other diverse responsibilities.


People may now be ready for a renewable revolution

Source: This post is based on the article “People may now be ready for a renewable revolution” published in Livemint on 29th October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 –  Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Relevance: Coal shortage in India, Renewable energy sector in India

Synopsis: Cheap, reliable and clean energy are means to fulfil the energy demand and these will determine the success of the global climate action movement.

Introduction

The random power cuts that last 5-7 minutes hurt commercial operations more than the long-scheduled cuts.

This is especially true for small-scale industrial outfits with basic operational setups (like power loom shacks) that employ a vast majority of workers in India.

What is the reason behind increased power cuts?

The post-covid boom in economic demand: it is coupled with flooding in coal-producing regions. It has led to major shortages of coal at power plants across the country.

High dependence on coal: By October, some coal plants had dangerously low stocks of only two days. Given the global energy supply crunch, the precarious situation of coal plants in India could prevail for the next six months.

Government interventions to mitigate the pressure on coal supply: temporary closure of some power plants and reduced electricity supply, particularly across rural India.

Must Read: Coal crisis in India – Explained, pointwise
What has led to decreased production of coal?

Increased investment in renewable energy (RE) technology: This is partly because the economics of new coal plants does not make sense. Most of the 33 gigawatts (GW) of coal power generation capacity under construction and the 29GW in pre-construction stage will end up as stranded assets.

No new coal plants: According to a report authored by Kashish Shah, there have been no new coal plants announced and no movement on the 29GW of pre-construction capacity in the last 12 months.

Which factors are responsible for the growth of RE sector in India?

Cost of electricity: coal-fired power cannot compete with the ongoing cost reductions of renewables. Solar tariffs in India are now below even the fuel costs of running most existing coal-fired power plants.

Favourable investment climate in the renewable energy sector: India has set a target of 450GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. The government has been taking sustained steps to attract foreign investment partnerships, partly as an antidote to the weak debt financing ecosystem.

Policy support: Existing regulation allows 100% foreign direct investment in renewable energy projects, without prior government approval. A $600-million incentive scheme for new solar power projects will boost the production of polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules over the next five years.

Economic, environmental and moral imperatives for foreign investment: India is the third largest carbon emitter after the US and China. However, its per capita energy consumption is a third of the world average.

What is the way forward?

First, the government must read the headwinds and introduce fiscal incentives like tax breaks and excise relaxations for research, development and production of renewable energy technology, particularly off-shore wind and hydro power.

Second, future elections could be fought over power, but this time, it could be the public making the power cuts.


It is time to move on to next phase of power reforms

Source: This post is based on the article “It is time to move on to next phase of power reforms” published in “Down To Earth” on 28th October 2021.

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

Relevance: Power sector reforms in India.

Synopsis: Electricity Act, 2003 has its own achievements and limitations. The new rules are aimed at taking the sector to a new high.

Introduction

The Union Ministry of Power recently notified the rules under Electricity Act, 2003 in the interest of electricity consumers and other stakeholders.

What are the achievements under “Electricity Act 2003”?

The 2003 Act allowed for the delicensing of generation and transmission, which resulted in capacity additions of 50,000 MW in 11th and 88,000 MW in 12th plan period, up from 20,950 MW in the 10th Plan(2002–03 to 2006–07).

Our per capita power consumption has increased almost 2.3 times since 2003.

The country’s installed capacity has increased to 388 gigawatt. Renewable energy capacity (solar, wind and other renewables, excluding hydropower) surpassed 102 GW.

It paved the way for a long series of other reforms that followed.

Why is there a need for new rules?

The Electricity Act was notified in 2003. To remain effective over time it has to continually adapt to the changing needs and desires of consumers in all sectors of economy, including electricity.

The need for a continuous, round-the-clock supply of energy in homes, businesses and industries is set to rise. Hence, the strain on electrical distribution will simultaneously grow. This necessitates the implementation of a new framework for DISCOM’s.

Innovative technologies will play a larger role in the future. Batteries, other creative storage technologies, electric vehicles and distributed supply are all likely to cause big structural changes.

What new rules have been notified?

These include Electricity (Timely recovery of costs due to change in law) Rules, 2021, and rules on promotion of renewable energy generation by dealing with Must-Run matters and other matters, 2021.

Delicensing of the distribution sector with content (electricity) and carriage (wire) separation is planned.

A framework will be put in place to allow customers the option of choosing from multiple distribution companies. There is also a proposal to allocate Rs 305,984 crore over 5 years for a revamped, reforms-based and result-linked power distribution scheme.

The tariff policy was also amended to improve payment security for power supplies, and to reduce losses and cross-subsidies.

What are the challenges in efficient growth of Electricity sector?

Distribution sector-The debt owed by DISCOM’s to electricity producers is huge,Rs 116,127 crore. DISCOMs haven’t been paying GENCOs on time which mostly affects the coal industry.

Average AT&C loss level of rated discoms: It has been hovering around 21%.


India’s Clean Molecule Bet: On Green Hydrogen

Source: This post is based on the articles“India’s Clean Molecule Bet” published in “Times of India” on 29th October 2021.

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

Relevance: Importance of Green Hydrogen for India.

Synopsis: Green hydrogen has the potential to alter the present fossil fuel dominated energy basket. Still, there are challenges for scaling this technology, that needs to be worked upon first.

Introduction

India, being the second most vulnerable country to climate change, is now leading the climate war with a clean molecule-green hydrogen.

COP-26 in Glasgow presents India with an opportunity to present its decarbonisation strategy based on renewable energy, storage and green hydrogen to the world.

India presently imports $160 billion worth of fossil fuel energy and is likely to double it in the next 15 years.

How can hydrogen help India?

Sectors that utilise solid and liquid fuels cannot be powered by electricity due to technical factors. Hydrogen will help India and the world to decarbonise sectors such as steel, copper, fertiliser, cement, oil refining and long distance transport.

Green hydrogen can help to build scale and export capabilities in high-value green products such as green steel, green ammonia and high-tech components.

Must Read: Green Hydrogen: Potential, Issues and Solutions – Explained, pointwise
What is the way forward for India?

Reduce costs – Power costs including generation and transmission contribute to more than 70% of green hydrogen cost.

Initiatives such as transmission and distribution waivers, surcharge waivers and low taxes/duties will help reduce green hydrogen costs by enabling the electrolysis facilities to be set up closer to demand centres.

Additional capacity -India must ensure that a large proportion of the upcoming new hydrogen capacity should be green in addition to mandating a fraction of existing capacities to go green.

Additional demand – Long distance transport sector can also provide additional demand in the form of hydrogen-derived ethanol or hydrogen fuel cells.

Export capabilities – Preparing sunrise sectors like green steel for green hydrogen is critical for creating vibrant clean export capabilities in India.

Innovation capabilities – As a nascent field, R&D investments become critical to the success of the Indian electrolyser industry, where the roles of venture capital and academia-industry partnerships are imperative.

Green ammonia synthesis – Scaling it in the Indian coast can be a historical opportunity to export energy. A well-designed alliance with Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan will enable win-win partnerships.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Troop of ‘Blue Langurs’ spotted in Gujarat’s chemical paradise Ankleshwar

What is the news?

A troop of Gray or Hanuman langurs with their fur/hair coloured blue, due to exposure to chemical-based dyes, was spotted in an industrial neighbourhood of Ankleshwar in Gujarat recently.

What is the reason for their blue-colored fur/hair?

The town of Ankleshwar is well-known for its industrial units manufacturing dyes and intermediates. The industrial activity in and around Ankleshwar has led to much of its environment, including its air and water sources, being polluted.

Norms set by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, Central Pollution Control Board as well as the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health are usually not followed.

What is the impact?

Many of the chemicals used in the industrial units are carcinogenic and have been reported to cause skin ailments as well as cancers among workers.

About Gray or Hanuman Langur (Semnopithecus entellus)

Distribution: They are found across South Asia. Its 16 subspecies’ range extends from the Himalayas in the north to peninsular India in the south.The bulk of the gray langur distribution is within India. In the Indian Subcontinent, their distribution is reported in Bhutan, northern India and Nepal.

Presence in India: Hanuman Langurs are found in almost all the parts of India. They are easily spotted in the Bandhavgarh National Park and Sariska Tiger Reserve.

Habitat: It is found both in forests and near human habitations. They prefer tropical, dry thorn shrub, pine and alpine forests as well as urban areas.

Conservation status

IUCN red list = LC (Least Concern)

CITES = Appendix -I

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 = Schedule I

Source: This post is based on the article “Troop of ‘Blue Langurs’ spotted in Gujarat’s chemical paradise Ankleshwar” published in Down to Earth on 26th Oct 2021.


Explained: Agni (ICBM) vs China’s Hypersonic missile

What is the News?

Recently, India has successfully test-fired Agni-V Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Moreover, China has also recently tested a new hypersonic Glide missile.

What is Agni V?

Agni-V is a surface-to-surface nuclear-capable InterContinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).

Click Here to Read more about Agni V

What is a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle that China tested?

A hypersonic glide vehicle is launched by a rocket that moves in the Earth’s lower orbit. It is launched at more than five times to 25 times the speed of sound. 

The vehicle is capable of carrying nuclear payloads, which gives the launching country the strategic capacity to attack almost any target across the world.

Read more: China tested ‘nuclear capable hypersonic missile’, says report
How is a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle different from an ICBM?

ICBM follows a parabolic trajectory, which means it goes up and then comes down in a high arc—like throwing up a ball.

On the other hand,  hypersonic glide vehicles orbit the earth at a lower height and are manoeuvrable. The ability to change track or target, mid-trajectory, along with the speed, makes them tougher to track and defend against.

Moreover, hypersonic missiles can travel approximately 5,000 to 25,000 km per hour, which makes them six to over 25 times faster than modern commercial aircraft.

Hence, the mix of the high altitude, high speed and manoeuvrability of hypersonic missiles can potentially provide them to use in-flight updates to attack a different target than originally planned.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Agni (ICBM) vs China’s Hypersonic missile” published in “Indian Express” on 28th October 2021.


Prime Minister co-chairs the 18th India-ASEAN Summit

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has participated in the 18th India-ASEAN Summit.

About 18th India-ASEAN Summit

The 18th ASEAN-India Summit was held via video conference. The Summit was chaired by the Sultan of Brunei, the current Chair of ASEAN.

What are the key highlights of the summit?

Firstly, the summit highlighted the milestone of the 30th anniversary of the India-ASEAN Partnership. It announced the Year 2022 as India-ASEAN Friendship Year.

Secondly, building upon the synergies between ASEAN Outlook for the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative(IPOI), PM and ASEAN leaders welcomed the adoption of the India-ASEAN Joint Statement on cooperation for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Thirdly, to further strengthen India-ASEAN cultural connectivity, the Prime Minister announced India’s support for establishing the ASEAN Cultural Heritage List.

Fourthly, on COVID-19, the PM highlighted that India has contributed medical supplies worth USD 200,000 to ASEAN’s humanitarian initiative for Myanmar and USD 1 million for ASEAN’s Covid-19 Response Fund.

Lastly, on trade and investment, the PM underlined the importance of diversification and resilience of supply chains for post-COVID economic recovery and in this regard, the need to revamp the India-ASEAN FTA.

Source: This post is based on the article Prime Minister co-chairs the 18th India-ASEAN Summitpublished in “PIB” on 28th October 2021.


MeitY to organise “AI Pe Charcha” on “AI for Date Driven Governance” theme

What is the News?

National e Governance Division(NeGD) of the Ministry of Electronics and IT is organising AI Pe Charcha (AI Dialogue).

What is AI Pe Charcha (AI Dialogue)?

AI Pe Charcha is a series of panel discussions involving various global and domestic leaders from the Government and industry, researchers and academicians sharing their views & experiences and challenges around Artificial Intelligence.

Theme: AI for Date Driven Governance.

What is the National e-Governance Division?

National e-Governance Division was created in 2009 by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology as an Independent Business Division under the Digital India Corporation.

Mandate: To support the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology in Programme Management and implementation of e-Governance projects and initiatives undertaken by Ministries/ Departments, both at the Central and State levels.

What is Digital India Corporation?

Digital India Corporation is a not for profit company set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under Section 8 of Companies Act 2013. 

Purpose: It provides strategic support to Ministries/ States for carrying forward the mission of Digital India by way of Capacity Building for e-Governance projects, promoting best practises, etc.

Source: This post is based on the article MeitY to organise “AI Pe Charcha” on “AI for Date Driven Governance “ published in “PIB” on 28th October 2021.


EAC-PM: 3 new members inducted

What is the News?

The Government of India has reconstituted the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) under the leadership of Dr Bibek Debroy for a period of two years after its term came to an end in September 2021.

What is the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister(EAC-PM)?

EAC-PM is a non-constitutional, non-permanent and independent body constituted to give economic advice to the Government of India, specifically the Prime Minister.

Aim: To highlight key economic issues facing the country to the government of India from a neutral viewpoint.

Note: For administrative, logistic, planning and budgeting purposes, the NITI Aayog serves as the Nodal Agency for the EAC-PM.

What are the Terms of Reference of EAC-PM?

To analyze all critical issues, economic or otherwise, referred to by the Prime Minister and advising him thereon.

To address issues of macroeconomic importance and present views thereon. This could be either suo-moto or on a reference from the Prime Minister or anyone else.

CompositionThe EAC-PM is chaired by a Chairperson and consists of eminent economists as members.

Reports by EAC-PM: It publishes 2 major reports: 1. Economic Outlook: It is an annual publication, 2. Review of the Economy.

Source: This post is based on the article EAC-PM: 3 new members inductedpublished in “Indian Express” on 28th October 2021.


Unesco World Heritage forests: India’s Sundarbans among 5 sites with highest ‘blue carbon’ globally

What is the News?

Researchers at UNESCO, the World Resources Institute and the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) have released a new assessment of greenhouse gas volumes emitted from and absorbed by forests in UNESCO World Heritage sites.

What are the key findings of the report on UNESCO World Heritage Forests?

The researchers have assessed the gross and net carbon absorbed and emitted by 257 UNESCO World Heritage forests between 2001 and 2020.

They found that these 257 sites stored approximately 13 billion tonnes of carbon. If all this stored carbon were to be released into the atmosphere as CO2, it would be akin to emitting 1.3 times the world’s total annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

The researchers have found that 10 of 257 forests emitted more carbon than they captured between 2001 and 2020 due to different anthropogenic disturbances and pressures.

The reasons for emissions to be greater than sequestration included clearance of land for agriculture, the increasing scale and severity of wildfires due to drought, as well as extreme weather phenomena such as hurricanes.

What about Indian Sundarbans?

According to the research, India’s Sundarbans National Park is among five sites that have the highest blue carbon stocks globally.

The other four sites are the Bangladeshi portion of the Sundarbans, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Everglades National Park in the United States and the Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritania.

Note: Blue carbon is an organic carbon that is mainly obtained from decaying plant leaves, wood, roots and animals. It is captured and stored by coastal and marine ecosystems.

What are the suggestions given by the report?

Strong and sustained protection of UNESCO World Heritage sites and their surrounding landscapes to ensure their forests could continue to act as strong carbon sinks and stores for future generations.

Maintaining and strengthening ecological connectivity through improved landscape management. 

Integrating the continued protection of UNESCO World Heritage sites into international, national and local climate, biodiversity and sustainable development strategies.

Source: This post is based on the article Unesco World Heritage forests: India’s Sundarbans among 5 sites with highest ‘blue carbon’ globallypublished in Down To Earth on 27th October 2021.


Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Sarthak’ dedicated to the Nation

What is the News?

Director-General of Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has commissioned the indigenously built Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Sarthak’ at a ceremony held in Goa.

What is ICGS Sarthak?

ICGS Sarthak is an indigenously built Offshore Patrol Vessel(OPV) by the Goa Shipyard Limited.

Note: Offshore patrol vessels(OPVs) are patrolling vehicles that are deployed by Indian coast guards to patrol the maritime boundary of India.

What are the key features of ICGS Sarthak?

Firstly, the vessel is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment, machinery, sensors and weapons which enable it to undertake duties such as search and rescue, combating maritime crimes and preserving & protecting the marine environment.

Secondly, it is capable of carrying a twin-engine helicopter, four high-speed boats and one inflatable boat for swift boarding and Search & Rescue operations.

Thirdly, it is also capable of carrying limited pollution response equipment to undertake oil spill pollution response at sea.

Where will ICGS Sarthak be deployed?

The vessel will be based at Porbandar (Gujarat) and operate on India’s Western Seaboard.

It will be deployed extensively for EEZ surveillance, Coastal Security and other duties as enshrined in the Coast Guard charter of duties, to safeguard the maritime interests of the Nation.

Source: This post is based on the article Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Sarthak’ dedicated to the Nationpublished in PIB on 28th October 2021.


New non-toxic organic photocatalyst can efficiently capture CO2 and convert it into methane

What is the News?

Indian Scientists have designed a cost-effective metal-free catalyst to convert carbon dioxide to methane by absorption of visible light.

What is the process used by scientists to convert CO2 to Methane?

Scientists used the photochemical process to convert atmospheric CO2 into methane.

Note: A photochemical reaction is a chemical reaction initiated by the absorption of energy in the form of light (photons), which results in certain products. 

What is the mechanism behind this method?

Currently, there are several methods for CO2 reduction such as photochemical, electrochemical, photochemical and photothermal. But most of these methods contain catalysts that are toxic and have expensive metal counterparts.

To overcome this challenge, the scientists designed a catalyst that has a metal-free porous organic polymer called the Conjugated Microporous Polymer (CMP).

This polymer can uptake CO2 onto its surface due to its high CO2 intake capability at room temperature, converting it into methane as a value-added product.

What is the significance of this method?

Besides reducing the atmospheric CO2, this method will yield methane that can be widely used in vehicles. Methane can be used as the cleanest burning fossil fuel and can directly be used in fuel cells as a hydrogen carrier.

It is also the main component of natural gas and has the potential to replace coal for electricity generation and furnishing flexible supply to reinforce intermittent renewable generators.

Source: This post is based on the article New non-toxic organic photocatalysts can efficiently capture CO2 and convert it into methane” published in “PIB” on 28th October 2021.


Chief Election Commissioner of India visits Uzbekistan as an International Observer for Presidential Elections

What is the News?

On the invitation of the Chairman, Central Election Commission of Uzbekistan(CEC-U), the Chief Election Commissioner of India visited Uzbekistan in order to observe the conduct of Presidential elections.

Has the Election Commission of India earlier deployed observers in other countries?

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has been deploying observers in many countries for years.

The observers are deployed after getting invitations from the host country. However, ECI sends its observers to countries only after looking at their bona fide and their ability to conduct credible polls.

These observers primarily aim to assess the conduct of an election process on the basis of national legislation and international election standards. 

Note: Observers do not directly prevent electoral fraud, but rather record and report instances of suspicious practices.

Source: This post is based on the article Chief Election Commissioner of India visits Uzbekistan as an International Observer for Presidential Electionspublished in “PIB” on 28th October 2021.


Explained: What is the climate vulnerability index released by CEEW?

What is the news?

Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) has released its first-of-its-kind district-level climate vulnerability assessment or Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI). The index has analyzed 640 districts in India and found that 463 of these are vulnerable to extreme floods, droughts and cyclones etc.

What are the key findings of the Climate Vulnerability Index?

There are 183 hotspot districts that are highly vulnerable to more than one extreme climate event. Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar are most vulnerable to extreme climate events such as floods, droughts and cyclones in India.

North-eastern states are more vulnerable to floods

South and Central Indian states are most vulnerable to extreme droughts.

59% and 41% of the total districts in the eastern and western states, respectively, are highly vulnerable to extreme cyclone

Unsustainable landscape and infrastructure changes’’ are the prime reasons for vulnerability to climate risks

Which states are most and least vulnerable?

The CVI has ranked 20 states out of which Assam and Andhra Pradesh are the most vulnerable to extreme weather events, and Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal are the least vulnerable.

Kerala and West Bengal have performed well because they have stepped up their climate action plans and preparedness to handle an extreme weather events.

What are the recommendations that have been made?

Develop a high-resolution Climate Risk Atlas (CRA) to map critical vulnerabilities at the district level.

Establish a centralised climate-risk commission to coordinate the environmental de-risking mission.

Undertake climate-sensitivity-led landscape restoration focused on rehabilitating, restoring, and reintegrating natural ecosystems as part of the developmental process.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: What is the climate vulnerability index released by CEEW?” published in the Indian Express on 28th October 2021.

Print Friendly and PDF[social_warfare]