We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- 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:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- Down To Earth
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
- It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
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Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
GS Paper 2
- The challenge of going back to school
- NIRF ranking does not give full picture of higher education in India
- On Digital Health ID, proceed with caution
GS Paper 3
- Economic lessons for India from the Evergrande crisis in China
- Crackdown in China, hope in India
- Tarballs on India’s west coast: A tale of shifting responsibilities
- RBI microfinance proposals that are anti-poor
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- India’s school system faces acute shortage of teachers, says UNESCO report
- Dust Control & Management Cells set up in National Capital Region in pursuant to directions by Commission of Air Quality
- Climate change: 14% coral reefs lost since 2010, says study
- Some dope on law: Decriminalise cannabis, rework NDPS Act, for investigative focus on hard drugs supply
- Govt proposes changes to Forest Conservation Act
- Srei’s fall and the sorrysaga of shadow lenders
- 41 Industrial Parks identified as “Leaders” in the Industrial Park Ratings System Report
- Online system for aviation safety
- Detail in relief: On SC order on financial assistance to kin of COVID-19 families
- Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Launches Rewarding Scheme for Grant of Award to the Good Samaritan who has saved life of a victim of a fatal accident involving a motor vehicle
- Health Benefit Package under Ayushman Bharat revised
- Nobel physics prize goes to 3 for climate discoveries
- Bilateral exercises: JIMEX and EXERCISE MITRA SHAKTI
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
Why India needs a refugee law?
Source: This post is based on the article “Why India needs a refugee law” published in Indian express on 6th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS –1 Population and associated issues
Relevance: The article explains the importance of a refugee policy for India
Synopsis: India has always welcomed refugees during its history. However, it has still not codified any refugee law. Law is important to bring transparency and economic benefits.
India’s efforts towards welfare of refugees
Welcoming refugees lies at the core of India’s secular, spiritual and cultural values.
India has hosted people fleeing war, conflict, and persecution many times, in the past. It includes Zoroastrians from Iran, Sri Lankans in the 1980s, or Afghans during varied waves of displacement, including the current one.
Furthermore, India has taken part in 49 peacekeeping missions. It involves more than 195,000 troops from India and a significant number of police personnel assisting the UN and international NGOs in conflict-ridden lands.
However, still India does not have a national refugee framework. It is in contrast to the steps taken above.
What is the need for a refugee policy?
Ensure transparency: At present, refugee assistance in India is largely dependent upon interim policies and administrative decisions. A sustainable refugee policy will ensure transparency and predictability in our administrative actions.
Rule of law: Treatment of refugees must receive the same attention that other human rights protection issues receive — this is consistent with the constitutional emphasis on the rule of law.
National security: It is also very important to ensure national security and bureaucratic decisions cannot be relied upon to ensure it.
Ensure coordination between agencies: It will ensure role clarification of different concerned governmental, judicial, and UN agencies and will also lay down the procedures of coordination amongst them.
International relations: In the presence of law, other nations(like China) would recognise the move to grant asylum as a peaceful, humanitarian, and legal act, and not an arbitrary political gesture.
Economic benefits: Lastly, accepting refugees has been economically beneficial for India to an extent. Many refugees are thriving businesspersons today. Welcoming refugees generally imply an initial investment of public funds. Once refugees start working, this investment may harvest dividends.
However, their capability to contribute to the economy is also dependent on policies, laws and institutions of the host country.
Model State: India, with its traditional experience in managing refugee crisis, can serve as catalysts for global humanitarian action and asylum management.
What are the suggestions?
Firstly, the law should differentiate between various categories of refugees and migrants and assign each a relevant form of protection. It should protect the most vulnerable the most.
Secondly, India should utilize the present global refugee and economic crises as an opportunity to frame legislation immediately.
GS Paper 2
The challenge of going back to school
Source: This post is based on the article “The challenge of going back to school” published in The Hindu on 6th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to education.
Relevance: To understand the issues in the current learning system.
Synopsis: Guidelines on re-opening schools focus more on health measures than on addressing learning difficulties.
Covid pandemic has impacted severely the education of children. With the reopening of schools, governing students is more concerned with providing sanitation and safety measures. There is less focus on bridging the study gap.
What are the issues surrounding the school education system?
State policies: Despite the shock to the education system, a review of the State governments’ Standard Operating Procedures/guidelines on school re-opening shows that government emphasis is more on health and sanitation measures. There is very little discussion on the practical approaches required to ensure that every child returns to school and to address the learning difficulties that children will face.
Additional funding: A recent study by the World Bank and UNESCO shows that, in countries across the world, the average annual education budgets not only increased post-COVID-19 but increased at a higher rate than before COVID-19. But, in the case of India, it reduced its spending by over 9%. This came when there was already a 2% decline in education spending in India in the previous year. The share of spending on education in the overall budget also declined to 2.6%, while most countries either maintained or increased this share.
No proper planning: States only introduced bridge courses of approx 45 days, to quickly resume the textbook syllabus of current grade. Even the examination timetable has not been altered. This will further degrade the quality of student learning, as mentioned in the SCHOOL Survey.
Language Learning: Students are already struggling to learn in their native language. It was found that students learning in English medium schools are facing difficulties to learn in the English language. It is also because of the teacher’s less proficiency in English and no home exposure to that language.
Research from the U.S. during the early stages of the pandemic showed that the proportion of ‘English language learners’ obtaining ‘failing grades’ increased dramatically within just a few months of school closures and despite the provision of structured online learning
Mathematical Skills: Studies from other countries show that learning losses over the summer break of about two months are more severe in mathematics compared to reading (in the native language). This loss involved forgetting mathematics procedures rather than general concepts.
What approach should teachers adopt?
Teachers should adopt a coaching model instead of a mass teacher training programme. They should include additional learning materials, formative assessment tools and techniques to improve the quality of education. The focus should be more on language learning, core Mathematical skills and socio-emotional learning. If required, the government should mobilize retired teachers and volunteers also.
NIRF ranking does not give full picture of higher education in India
Source: This post is based on the article “NIRF ranking does not give full picture of higher education in India” published in Indian Express on 6th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to education.
Relevance: To understand the structure of NIRF ranking.
Synopsis: Recently released NIRF ranking showcased its limitation in comparison to other global rankings.
Ministry of Education has released National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2021. Various lacunas are visible in the structuring of this ranking, which makes the ranking impactless.
|Read more: Fund and Faculty count in higher education rankings|
What are the different ranking institutes worldwide?
There are at least 20 global ranking agencies that measure quality on various parameters.
The Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University: It maintains European and worldwide rankings of the top 500 universities based on the number and impact of Web of Science-indexed publications per year.
QS World University Ranking: It is published annually since 2004. In 2009, QS even launched the QS Asian University Rankings in partnership with the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in South Korea.
Ranking of Rankings: It is launched in 2017. It aggregates the results of five global rankings, combining them to form a single rank. It uses THE World University Ranking (22.5%), QS World University Ranking (22.5%), US News Best Global University (22.5%), Academic Ranking of World Universities (22.5%), and Reuters World Top 100 Innovative Universities (10%).
What are the issues associated with NIRF rankings?
Parameters: Present NIRF ranking missed the important parameters which need to be included in the list. For example, the ranking doesn’t include the financial health and size of the institution as a criterion. It also doesn’t include financial benefits accrued to the stakeholders, especially the students.
One size fits all approach: There is huge diversity in our education system. Universities are ranging in various levels like research-based, language-based, innovation-based technology social science institutes, etc. The boundary conditions in which they operate are also very different. But, the NIRF is making the same mistake that the global ranking system was once accused of i.e to rank all the universities on the same level.
Disengagement: Disconnect is clearly visible between the ranking and accreditation. Several universities have earned a National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) A Grade but figure poorly in the ranking system. NIRF should take into consideration both things.
Our Accreditation and ranking approach is not up to the mark. India can adopt the model of the USA i.e accreditation and Quality Assurance (QA). In it, stakeholders are allowed to sue the universities if they are not able to deliver what they claim. A Bill to introduce such accountability was introduced in 2011, but it never saw the light of day.
|Read more: Higher education in India & QS World University Rankings- Explained, pointwise|
What is the way forward?
There are two main factors that differentiate us from the global ranking systems are our lack of international faculty and students and the inadequacy of our research to connect with the industry. International students/faculty will come to India if they will see some quality in our institutions. Similarly, Industry connect will happen only when the research translates into improved or new processes and products
For this to happen, NIRF should bring top experts not only from India but from outside also in its core committees.
On Digital Health ID, proceed with caution
Source: This post is based on the article “On Digital Health ID, proceed with caution” published in The Indian Express on 6th Oct 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 – Health infrastructure in India
Relevance: Understanding various issues related to Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission (ABDM)
Synopsis: Government must weigh all pros and cons, learn from experiences of other countries to ensure that a good policy does not die due to poor implementation.
What are some potential benefits of ABDM?
– Well-organized data repositories that enable easy access to records can stimulate much-needed research on medical devices and drugs. This storehouse of patient data can be invaluable for clinical and operational research.
– Digital Health ID under ABDM can have a transformative impact in promoting ecosystems that function as paperless facilities. Direct electronic linkages between the patient registration process, doctor, laboratory and pharmacy will help in reducing delays and enhancing efficiencies.
What are the issues with ABDM implementation?
Investments required: While technology helps enhance patient experience, there is a cost attached. Investments have to be made upfront. In the immediate short run, DHID will increase administrative costs by about 20%, due to the capital investment in hardware and software development, technical personnel and data entry servers.
Studies of such reform undertaken in the US in 2009 showed that small and medium hospitals were generally reluctant to adopt EMRs, partly because of the upfront investments that they were required to make. This resulted in the federal government providing subsidies of about $30 billion as an incentive. Hence, any scaling up of this reform would require extensive fiscal subsidies and more importantly providing techno-logistical support to both government and private hospitals.
Lack of infrastructure: A large majority of facilities do not have the required physical infrastructure — electricity, accommodation, trained personnel. Cards getting corrupted, servers being down, computers crashing or hanging, and power outages are common in India. The inability to synchronise biometric data with ID cards has resulted in large-scale exclusions of the poor from welfare projects. Such a scenario in the case of health, will cause immense hardship to the most marginalised sections of our population.
|Must Read: Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission – Explained, pointwise|
GS Paper 3
Economic lessons for India from the Evergrande crisis in China
Source: This post is based on the article “Economic lessons for India from the Evergrande crisis in China” published in Live Mint on 6th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS –3 – Industrial policies of India
Relevance: This article highlights the issues facing India’s real estate sector.
Synopsis: China’s Evergrande issue has highlighted the importance of its real estate sector. India can take a few lessons out of this crisis.
Evergrande, the world’s most indebted real estate company in China, may collapse in the near future. It has worried the financial and economic world.
Read more – China’s ‘Lehman moment’
However, the big issue to highlight is China’s dependence for growth on its real-estate sector. Real estate makes up for around 29% of the Chinese economy, as per estimates in Peak China Housing, Kenneth S. Rogoff and Yuanchen Yang.
It has resulted in the mounting of the huge debt of real-estate companies and debt of consumers who have taken housing loans.
As per Fitch Ratings, Chinese household debt as of the end of 2020 stood at 62% of China’s gross domestic product (GDP). Any excessive debt-driven growth is not good for a country in the long run.
In the light of the events in China, we need to analyze the situation of the real estate sector in India and take lessons from this crisis in China.
India’s Real estate sector
Low Share in the GDP: As witnessed in China, the real-estate sector has huge multiplier effects. The real estate sector formed around 7% of the Indian economy in 2019-20. While in the Chinese case this figure was too high, in the Indian case, it is too low.
Multiplies effect: Real estate sector boosts other sectors, which provide inputs to this sector. For example – steel and concrete, from the manufacturing sector, labour input from the construction sector, capital input from the banking sector, etc.
Demographic dividend: Real estate sector creates more jobs, particularly at the semi-skilled and low-skilled levels. It will help in reducing disguised unemployment in the agriculture sector.
High intesrest rate and home prices: The Indian real-estate sector has been stagnant, primarily because of high-interest rates and high home prices. It is evident from the fact that priority-sector home loans given by banks as a proportion of overall housing loans have gone down from around 72.7% in September 2007 to an all-time low of 32% in August 2021.
Priority sector home loans are home loans of up to ₹35 lakh in metropolitan centres with populations of 1 million-plus. In non-metropolitan centres, they are home loans of up to ₹28 lakh. It is subject to the condition that the homes being bought should be priced up to ₹45 lakh and ₹30 lakh, respectively, in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas
The issue here is that the banks are largely financing homes worth at least ₹30 lakh in a country with an annual per capita disposable income of about ₹1.5 lakh.
Lessons from China
Firstly, homes in a price range of ₹10-15 lakh are required for real estate to become a major sector, it has been in the Chinese case.
Secondly, Land prices on the edges of cities and within cities need to come down. Land-usage norms should be reformed.
Third, running a real estate company needs to be made simpler than it actually is at present. It will resolve the issue of concentration of real-estate companies in few cities.
Crackdown in China, hope in India
Source: This post is based on the article “Crackdown in China, hope in India” published in The Hindu on 6th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 3 Industrial policies of India.
Relevance: To understand the impact of Chinese policies in India.
Synopsis: China’s sweeping overhaul of its tech sector could benefit India in the near future.
Last year China stopped Ant Group’s Initial Public Offering (IPO), which is Alibaba’s fintech arm. Recently, there is another high-profile crackdown on a Chinese tech company.
China has also imposed various regulations, antitrust and anti-monopoly lawsuits, cyber security probes, and algorithm controls on the entire tech segment, ranging from e-commerce websites, food delivery apps to e-learning portals. These restrictions are estimated to have wiped off over $1.5 trillion of value from Chinese tech stocks.
What is the China motive behind that?
China wants to ensure that no private company or competitive country should gain enough data that will impose challenges to Chinese Communist Party-led state dominance.
Also, China restricted the rules only to the commercial tech sector. State-supported those sectors which perceived to be of higher value like 5G/6G, semiconductor chips, artificial intelligence, biotechnologies, batteries, aviation and space tech. They want to maximize China’s geopolitical and geo-economic gains.
How these Chinese restrictions will benefit India?
The rate of digitization has accelerated during the pandemic in India. Start-ups in India raised a record $10.46 billion in the first half of this year alone. India’s tally of unicorns has crossed 60. This projected growth image will attract the companies fleeing from China because of their strict regulations.
|Read more: 1,600 new tech start-ups and 12 unicorns in 2020: Nasscom’s Indian Tech Start-up Ecosystem report|
What should India do?
India, while enhancing its internal capacity should also collaborate parallel with other friendly nations. The ongoing talks with Taiwan to bring in a semiconductor chip manufacturing plant to India is a step toward this direction. If successful, this could drive next-generation industries, including 5G devices and electric vehicle.
|Read more: Hello Taiwan: New Delhi should boost ties with Taipei not just because of Chinese threat. There are other benefits|
India’s first success in sectors like biotech and space shows that with concerted efforts in manufacturing. So, similar concerted efforts to develop indigenous manufacturing and hard technology are vital if India is to retain its strategic autonomy.
Tarballs on India’s west coast: A tale of shifting responsibilities
Source: This post is based on the article “Tarballs on India’s west coast: A tale of shifting responsibilities” published in Down to Earth on 4th Oct 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Relevance: environmental problems caused by tarballs
Synopsis: Tarballs, how they are formed, their impact on environment and judicial & legal provisions dealing with such issues.
Tarballs hit the news headlines recently when they started appearing on well-known beaches of Mumbai and Goa. These aquatic pollutants have flooded Anjuna, Morjim, Colva and Mandrem beaches in Goa as well as Juhu, Versova, Dadar and Cuff Parade shorelines in Mumbai.
What are tarballs and how are they formed?
Tarballs are dark-coloured substances formed from weathering of crude oil floating on the ocean surface. These are dropped off to shores by waves and sea currents. They accumulate in several sizes ranging from small globules to those as big as a basketball.
Discharge from municipal waste, oil-well blowouts, deliberate and accidental release of bilge and ballast water from ships are among the main factors driving the formation of these pollutants.
What are the challenges being posed by tarballs?
Bacterial threat: Tarballs can be hazardous to human life due to the presence of Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria whose entry through wounds could be fatal.
Marine biodiversity: These petroleum blobs also affect marine biodiversity in several ways, such as disturbing turtle habitats. This in turn, augments the impact on humans who consume marine fish.
Difficult to clean: The tarballs are difficult to wash off from the cleaning equipment thereby posing a challenge for authorities.
Why tarballs are being seen on the western coast of India?
The presence of tarballs can indicate oil spills.
Oil spills and circulation patterns: In addition to the big spills near Mumbai, the Arabian Sea experiences oil spills routinely as it is also a crowded oil transportation waterway, with western coast corporations like Bombay High, Panna-Mukta oil field, Tapti gas fields and Essar Oil.
All the oil spilled in the Arabian sea eventually gets deposited on the western coast in the form of tarballs during monsoon, when the wind speed and circulation patterns favour their transportation.
How have authorities responded to the problem?
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the Environment Ministry have not addressed the tarball crisis yet, maintaining that they do not have a legal mandate.
As per MPCB, it doesn’t have jurisdiction over the cleaning of beaches or in the deep oceans, where the oil leaks usually occur. It is also not authorised to control or produce guidelines for vessels and ships.
Who is liable for the tarball pollution?
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Apex Court, in several cases, have held the polluters liable for oil spills and other actions that have harshly impacted the marine environment.
– In the Ramdas Janardan Koli vs The Secretary to Govt of India, Union Ministry of Environment & Forest and Ors case, the NGT had given relief to 1,630 fisher families of Raigad district who were adversely affected by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust’s (JNPT) project. The tribunal held that the expansion of the port activities by JNPT was a threat to the environment. Also, the oil spill had added to the loss of ecology and environment and ordered compensation of the affected families.
– In the Samir Mehta vs Union of India and Ors, the NGT bench upheld the “precautionary principle” and the “polluter pays” principle, along with the fundamental right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The landmark judgement ordered a Panama-based shipping company, along with its Qatar-based sister concerns, to pay damages caused by the sinking of their ship off Mumbai’s coast in 2011.
|Must Read: What are some pre-existing legal provisions for environmental protection in India?|
What is the way forward?
Lawmakers must take up environmental concerns as a priority, apart from the collective efforts of the vigilant citizens, activists and environmentalists.
Government regulations on licensing, oil filling at designated ports must be thoroughly followed and commissions must be set up for specifically dealing with coastal management.
RBI microfinance proposals that are anti-poor
Source: This post is based on the article “RBI microfinance proposals that are anti-poor” published in The Hindu on 6th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS –3 – Financial Inclusion
Relevance: This article critically analyses the implications of Proposals of RBI’s consultative document for microfinance.
Synopsis: Proposals of RBI’s consultative document will reduce the availability of cheap loans to the rural poor.
In June 2021, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) published a “Consultative Document on Regulation of Microfinance”. The paper was to promote the financial inclusion of the poor and competition among lenders. However, if the recommendations of the document are implemented, it will result in credit at high rates of interest to the poor, due to the expansion of microfinance lending by private financial institutions.
What are the recommendations?
Current ceiling on the rate of interest charged by non-banking finance company-microfinance institutions (NBFC-MFIs) or regulated private microfinance companies needs to be done away with. It is because the ceilings are biased against one lender (NBFC-MFIs) among the many (commercial banks, small finance banks, and NBFCs.
It proposes that the rate of interest be determined by the governing board of each agency, and assumes that “competitive forces” will bring down interest rates.
RBI abandoned any initiative to expand low-cost credit through public sector commercial banks to the rural poor. The bulk of these beneficiaries were rural women.
it also proposes to de-regulate the rate of interest charged by private microfinance agencies.
Read more – RBI’s proposal for regulation of the Microfinance sector- Explained, pointwise
Trends in Microfinance Loans to the poor section
Microfinance is important in the loan portfolio of poorer rural households. The source and purpose of borrowing differ as per caste and socio-economic class.
Firstly, unsecured microfinance loans from private financial agencies (SFBs, NBFCs, NBFC-MFIs, and some private banks) are important for Poor peasants and wage workers, persons from the Scheduled Castes, and Most Backward Classes.
Secondly, these microfinance loans are used mainly for house improvement and meeting basic consumption needs, instead of any productive activity.
Third, the reported rates of interest of these loans were 22% to 26% a year.
Whereas, the public sector banks and cooperatives are providing loans at much lower interest rates. For example, Kisan credit card loans from banks were charged 4% per annum after interest subvention of 5%.
Furthermore, the effective cost of these microfinance loans is much higher. an “official” flat rate of interest used to calculate equal monthly instalments. It means in the first month, the simple interest on this loan is 15.6% per annum but by the end of the first year, the interest rate is 31%.
In addition, a processing fee of 1% is added, and the insurance premium is deducted from the principal.
Further, contrary to the RBI guideline of “no recovery at the borrower’s residence”, collection was at the doorstep.
How microfinance system has been commercialized?
In the 1990s, scheduled commercial banks used to provide microcredit to women’s self-help groups. But due to lack of regulation and scope for high returns, several for-profit financial agencies such as NBFCs and MFIs emerged.
By the mid-2000s, there were widespread accounts of the malpractices of MFIs (such as SKS and Bandhan). It also led to the crisis in some states such as Andhra Pradesh.
RBI took note of the crisis and, based on the recommendations of the Malegam Committee, a new regulatory framework for NBFC-MFIs was introduced in December 2011.
A few years later, the RBI permitted a new type of private lender, SFBs, with the objective of taking banking activities to the “unserved and underserved” sections of the population.
Now the NBFC-MFIs account for 31% of microfinance, SFBs account for 19% and NBFCs for 9%.
What are the Implications of RBI’s proposal?
As per the present trends, the current share of public sector banks in microfinance (the SHG-bank linked microcredit), of 41%, is likely to fall sharply.
RBI’s consultative document recommendations will lead to further privatization of rural credit. It will reduce the share of direct and cheap credit from banks to the poorer sections.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
India’s school system faces acute shortage of teachers, says UNESCO report
Source: This post is based on the following articles
- “India’s school system faces acute shortage of teachers, says Unesco report” published in Livemint on 6th October 2021.
- “Only 19% schools have access to internet: UNESCO report” published in Indian Express on 6th October 2021.
What is the news?
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recently released its 2021 State of the Education Report (SOER) for India: “No Teachers, No Class”.
About the State of the Education Report (SOER) for India
It is an annual flagship report of UNESCO New Delhi. So far, two editions have been released in the past and this is the third edition of the State of Education Report.
The UNESCO analysed two data sets for the preparation of the report. These are the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE+) 2018-19 round and the Periodic Labour Force Survey 2018-19.
What are the key findings of the State of the Education Report (SOER) 2021?
Lack of teachers: The data suggests that the teaching cadre is generally young, with over 65% of teachers aged less than 44 years. But, in about 15 years, 27% of the current workforce will need to be replaced. The workforce has a deficit of over 1 million teachers (at current student strength).
Apart from that, almost, 69% of teachers in India are working without job contracts in private schools.
Poor student-teacher ratio: The overall number of teachers (around 9.5 million) looks perfect to maintain a good pupil-teacher ratio. But there is a segmental disparity. For instance, the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) at senior secondary schools is 47:1 as against 26:1 of the overall school system.
Prevalence of single-teacher institutions: At the national level, 7% of schools are single-teacher schools, the percentage is far higher in several states. Around 10% to 15% of schools in several states were single-teacher institutions.
Women make half of the teacher workforce: Half of India’s 9.43 million school teachers are women. In some states and union territories (UTs) over 70% of teachers are women. These include Chandigarh (82%), Delhi (74%), Kerala (78%), Punjab (75%) and Tamil Nadu (75%).
Low retention rates: Overall retention is 74.6% for elementary education and 59.6% for secondary education in 2019-20.
Low access to the Internet: Access to the internet in schools is 19% all over India – only 14% in rural areas compared to 42% in urban areas.
Technological challenges: The use of technology in education has exposed a range of issues – lack of devices and Internet bandwidth for a significant proportion of students, lack of preparedness of teachers in the use of technology, and lack of resources in Indian languages.
What are the key recommendations of the SOER report?
The report recommended the following things,
a) Improve the terms of employment of teachers in both public and private schools.
b) Increase the number of teachers and improve working conditions in North-Eastern states, rural areas and ‘aspirational districts.
c) Increase the number of physical education, music, art, vocational education, early childhood and special education teachers.
d) Build teachers career pathways and provide meaningful ICT training to teachers.
Terms to know:
Dust Control & Management Cells set up in National Capital Region in pursuant to directions by Commission of Air Quality
Source: This post is based on the article “Dust Control & Management Cells set up in National Capital Region in pursuant to directions by Commission of Air Quality” published in PIB on 5th October 2021.
What is the news?
Earlier, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) had issued directions to the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), Rajasthan, Haryana and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to set up Dust Control & Management Cells in their respective states.
So far, 17 such Cells have been set up in the state of U.P., 11 in Delhi, 8 in Rajasthan and 2 in Haryana.
About the Dust Control & Management Cells
The cell will regularly monitor the compliance of road dust control measures by all road owning/ maintaining/ road construction agencies of the States. The cell will also keep track of the progress of measures undertaken by the authorities concerned.
The cell will also prepare exhaustive reports on a monthly basis that will help in the fight against dust pollution more systematically.
CAQM has formulated a 10-point dust monitoring parameter in this regard. This parameter involves a variety of measures that needs to be strictly adopted by the Dust Control & Management Cells. These include,
• Optimum utilization of road sweeping machines,
• Scientific disposal of dust collected in designated sites/ landfills,
• Water sprinkling to suppress dust, especially after mechanized sweeping,
• Proper management of roads to ensure potholes-free roads,
• Laying or repairing roads in a manner that extensively supports mechanized sweeping,
• Laying cemented roads over bituminous roads, especially in industrial areas,
• Identification of hotspots of road dust and target-specific implementation of road dust control measures.
What is the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM)?
The Commission was first formed by the “Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020”.
The CAQM will be a statutory authority. The Commission will supersede bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan. The commission is headquartered in New Delhi.
|Click here to read more about the CAQM and its powers and functions|
Climate change: 14% coral reefs lost since 2010, says study
Source: This post is based on the article “Climate change: 14% coral reefs lost since 2010, says study ” published in The Down to Earth on 5th October 2021.
What is the news?
As per a report, world lost its 14% coral reefs in last 10 years. The reason being ocean-acidification, warmer sea temperatures and local stressors such as overfishing, pollution, unsustainable tourism and poor coastal management.
The report by Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) was drawn from a global dataset gathered by over 300 members of the network covering four decades from 1978 to 2019.
What are the key findings of the report?
Coral reefs across the world are under relentless stress from warming caused by persistent rise of land and sea temperatures due to climate change. Coral bleaching events caused by rise in elevated sea surface temperatures (SST) were responsible for coral loss. Large-scale coral bleaching events were responsible for killing 8% of the world’s corals in 1998.
Decrease in hard coral cover: There has been a steady decrease in hard coral cover in the last four decades since 1978 when the world lost nine per cent of its corals. The worst-hit are the corals in South Asia, Australia, the Pacific, East Asia, the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman. The decrease is disconcerting because live hard coral cover is an indicator of coral reef health.
Increase in algae on coral reefs: Since 2010, the amount of algae on the world’s coral reefs has increased by about 20 per cent. Algal bloom on coral ridges are a sign of stress on the structures. Prior to this, on average, there was twice as much coral on the world’s reefs as algae.
This transition from live hard coral to algae-dominated reef communities impacts marine habitats, rendering them less biodiverse and also affects the ecosystem services provided by them.
What are some positive findings in the report?
Coral reefs in east Asia’s Coral Triangle accounts for more than 30 per cent of the world’s reefs but has been less impacted by rising sea surface temperatures.
Despite a decline in hard coral cover during the last decade, on average, these reefs have more coral today than in 1983, when the first data from this region were collected, the scientists noted.
In 2019, the world regained 2% of its coral cover in spite of a short interval between mass coral bleaching events in the last decade.
These instances mean that these critical ecosystems have the capacity to recover if pressure on them eases, the researchers noted. They can even resuscitate to their pre-1998 health in the next ten years, the report mentioned.
Why are corals significant?
Though corals occupy less than 1% of the ocean floor but over one billion people benefit directly from the reefs.
The value of goods and services provided by coral reefs is estimated to be $2.7 trillion per year including $36 billion from coral reef tourism.
As per some reports, the net economic value of the world’s coral reefs could be nearly tens of billions of dollars per year.
Some dope on law: Decriminalise cannabis, rework NDPS Act, for investigative focus on hard drugs supply
Source: This post is based on the article “Some dope on law: Decriminalise cannabis, rework NDPS Act, for investigative focus on hard drugs supply ” published in The Times of India on 6th October 2021.
What is the news?
The arrest and custodial interrogation of celebrity attendees of a cruise party has reopened the debate over criminalisation of cannabis.
What is the status of cannabis regulation in India?
India criminalised cannabis under American pressure in 1985 through the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
As per GoI surveys, even after three decades of criminalization of cannabis, ganja and charas usage remains high (1.3 crore consumers, and 2.2 crore for bhang).
America and many countries are now decriminalizing cannabis for medical or recreational use. But India refuses to change its stance regarding this.
What is the punishment under NDPS Act in case of using cannabis?
– NDPS Act prescribes up to one-year rigorous imprisonment for those involved in cannabis transactions of “small quantity”.
– 1-10 years for “quantity lesser than commercial quantity but greater than small quantity” and
– 10-20 years for “commercial quantity”.
What is the way forward?
Instead of following the above punishment procedure, NDPS must evolve a three-tier gradation of offences.
– Cannabis should be decriminalized.
– Those involved in manufacture, trafficking and supply of hard drugs like meth, heroin, cocaine etc must face the most prohibitive punishment.
– Those consuming these banned substances should be tried under civil law, not criminal law – a steep fine would be an appropriate punishment.
This will allow anti-narcotics authorities to concentrate on supply chains that feed the Indian underground narcotics market and the main players in that market. Raiding parties will not give us final result. Anti-narcotics investigators should be the first ones to ask for such a change in law and priorities as their resources are wasted going after small time users.
Govt proposes changes to Forest Conservation Act
Source: This post is based on the article “Govt proposes changes to Forest Conservation Act” published in The Indian Express on 6th October 2021.
What is the news?
The Centre has proposed an amendment to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, to liberalize forest laws.
The ministry sent all states a copy of the proposed amendments on October 2, seeking their objections and suggestions within 15 days. Sources said a draft proposal will be drawn and placed before Parliament once these suggestions have been taken into consideration.
What amendments have been proposed?
Deemed forests listed by state governments up to 1996 will continue to be considered forest land. Land that was acquired by the Railways and the road ministries before 1980, but on which forests came up, will no longer be considered forests. As of today, a landholding agency (Rail, NHAI, PWD, etc.) is required to take approval under the Act and pay stipulated compensatory levies such as Net Present Value (NPV), Compensatory Afforestation (CA), etc. for use of such land which was originally been acquired for non-forest purposes.
Environment Ministry also proposes adding a clause to make offences under the modified Act punishable with simple imprisonment for a period which may extend to one year and make it cognisable and non-bailable. They also propose provisions for penal compensation to make good for the damage already done.
Maintaining forest in its original condition where no non-forestry activity will be allowed under any circumstances.
What is the definition of forest land?
The Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA) was promulgated in 1980. Before the 1996 Supreme Court judgement in TN Godavarman Thirumulpad versus Union of India and Others, forest land was only that as was defined by the 1927 Forest Act.
But the court included all areas which are recorded as ‘forest’ in any government record, irrespective of ownership, recognition and classification.
What is the rationale behind introduction of draft amendment?
– SC’s judgement creates frequent problems as considering any private area as forest restricts the right of an individual to use his/her own land for any non-forestry activity. This is particularly problematic in the case of railways and roads. There is land that these ministries own, but they cannot use it without permission from the MoEFCC. And these permissions can take anywhere between 2-4 years, thus causing delays. Moreover, even plantations carried out along roads fall under the category of deemed forests, thus cutting off access to road amenities like petrol pumps. Hence, the amendment seeks to remove this provision.
– Also, the amendment would reduce the flow from foreign exchange for import of wood and wood derivatives to the tune of approximately Rs 45,000 crore by encouraging plantations and afforestation.
Srei’s fall and the sorrysaga of shadow lenders
Source: This post is based on the article “Srei’s fall and the sorrysaga of shadow lenders” published in Livemint on 6th Oct 2021.
What is the news?
After the 2018 collapse of IL&FS and 2019 collapse of DHFL, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has added the Kolkata-based Srei Group to the country’s list of failed non-bank lenders.
The regulator superseded the boards of two non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd and Srei Equipment Finance Ltd.
To manage them, RBI appointed an administrator, under whose charge it would like their insolvency to be resolved through India’s bankruptcy code, for which it has sought approval from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
Why RBI took this step?
RBI has cited governance concerns and defaults, for its latest decision.
As the effects of an economic slowdown after 2017-18 began to impact our financial system, several loans were bound to go bad and expose vulnerabilities that had stayed hidden. The collapse of infra-lender IL&FS impacted Srei too. Then the COVID struck, and project disruptions added to its problems. Presently, Srei owes about ₹30,000 crore to banks alone and then there are bond-holders too.
Moreover, as seen in earlier cases, a lender’s collapse could have a domino impact on the finances of others, which in turn can destabilize credit markets.
Hence, a pre-emptive call has been made by RBI to yield an acceptable outcome in this case as with DHFL, which faced similar action, and was eventually acquired by the Piramal Group.
What are the reasons behind the NBFC crisis in India?
At the core of our NBFC crisis has been a big mismatch in borrowing and lending tenures, with short-term funds deployed for longer-term loans.
Now that RBI has NBFCs under watch to a greater extent than before, assets and liabilities should not be allowed to get so badly misaligned again. Nor, for that matter, should favours be extended in the guise of loans.
41 Industrial Parks identified as “Leaders” in the Industrial Park Ratings System Report
Source: This post is based on the article “41 Industrial Parks identified as “Leaders” in the Industrial Park Ratings System Report” published in ‘PIB’ on 05 October 2021.
What is the news?
The 2nd edition of the Industrial Park Rating System (IPRS) Report was launched by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). All the States of India and 51 SEZs, including 29 Private, have participated in the IPRS 2.0 Report.
What are the key findings of the IPRS 2.0 Report?
The Report is an extension of the India Industrial Land Bank, which features more than 4,400 industrial parks in a GIS-enabled database to help investors identify their preferred location for investment.
|Read More: India industrial Land Bank System|
The report classifies different industrial parks into categories namely ‘leaders’, ‘Challenger’, ‘Aspirers’. IPRS 2.0 Report. Accordingly, there were 41 Industrial Parks that have been assessed as “Leaders“, 90 Industrial Parks have been rated as under the “Challenger” category while 185 have been rated as under “Aspirers“.
What is the significance of the IPRS 2.0 Report?
The IPRS 2.0 Report will enhance India’s industrial competitiveness and attract investment. The investors can remotely refer to this report to identify the suitable investable land area, as per the various parameters of infrastructure, connectivity, business support services and environment and safety standards and make informed investment decisions.
What is the Industrial Park Rating System (IRPS) exercise?
IPRS was organized as a pilot level exercise in 2018 with support from Asian Development Bank along with its knowledge partner PwC.
IPRS was conceptualized with an aim to enhance industrial infrastructure competitiveness and support policy development for enabling industrialization across the country.
Online system for aviation safety
Source: This post is based on the article “Online system for aviation safety” published in The Hindu on 06 October 2021.
What is the news?
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has introduced a Web-based system on the eGCA platform for voluntary reporting of incidents that pose a potential threat to flight safety.
About the Voluntary Safety Reporting System
So far, the Voluntary Safety Reporting System is available on e-mail and postal mode. Now, the DGCA introduced a web-based system on “eGCA” portal.
Anyone witnessing or involved or having knowledge of an occurrence, hazard or situation which he or she believes possesses a potential threat to flight safety could report the same to the contact details made available on the official website of the DGCA.
What is the Voluntary Safety Reporting System?
As part of the state safety programme, the DGCA had a voluntary safety reporting system. This is to facilitate the collection of information on actual or potential safety deficiencies that may not be captured by the mandatory safety reporting system.
The reporting system would be non-punitive and would protect the identity of the source. While anonymous reports would be accepted, the person may disclose his/her identity to enable contact if any part of the report needed clarification.
However, the Voluntary Safety Reporting System was not a substitute for Mandatory Safety Reporting System that would continue to function.
What is DGCA?
It is an attached office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. It is the regulatory body in the field of Civil Aviation primarily dealing with safety issues.
DGCA is responsible for (a) regulation of air transport services to/from/within India (b)enforcement of civil air regulations (c)air safety (d) airworthiness standards and (e) co-ordinates all regulatory functions with the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Detail in relief: On SC order on financial assistance to kin of COVID-19 families
Source: This post is based on the article “Detail in relief: On SC order on financial assistance to kin of COVID-19 families” published in The Hindu on 6th October 2021.
What is the news?
Supreme Court (SC) in the recent judgement gave detail for the payment of ex gratia financial assistance to the families of those who died of COVID-19. The court held that no State shall deny the benefit solely on the ground that a person’s death certificate did not specify the cause of death as due to the novel coronavirus disease.
|Read more: Covid deaths: Centre okays ex-gratia, state funds to cover it|
What is the issue?
Recently, the Centre on the suggestions of the SC has agreed to provide financial relief of ₹50,000 per deceased individual to families of those who died of COVID-19. According to the guidelines, Only a certified COVID-19 death should be eligible for compensation. This will limit the beneficiary to avail the compensation if the death certificate did not specify the cause of death.
|Read more: Ex Gratia: Why GOI should pay, Compensating Death|
What is the SC ruling regarding the Ex Gratia?
SC said that no State shall deny the benefit solely on the ground that a person’s death certificate did not specify the cause of death. It further held that if other documents are provided, the family shall be entitled to the ex gratia payment.
Court has also included those people who took their own lives under the shadow of the pandemic in the ambit of the scheme.
The court made clear that deaths occurring within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined a COVID-19 case shall be treated as eligible for the aid, “even if the death takes place outside the hospital/in-patient facility”.
The court has also created Grievance Redressal Committees at the district level. The committee has the power to call for records or information from the hospitals where the deceased were admitted. They can also issue amended official documents to certify COVID-19 deaths, as well.
This will help the affected benefits to claim the compensation easily without any technical hassle.
Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Launches Rewarding Scheme for Grant of Award to the Good Samaritan who has saved life of a victim of a fatal accident involving a motor vehicle
Source: This post is based on the article “Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Launches Rewarding Scheme for Grant of Award to the Good Samaritan who has saved life of a victim of a fatal accident involving a motor vehicle” published in PIB on 5th October 2021.
What is the news?
Recently, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has issued Guidelines for the Scheme for grant of Award to the Good Samaritan who has saved the life of a victim from a fatal accident involving a motor vehicle.
Who is a Good Samaritan?
A Good Samaritan is a person who voluntarily comes forward to administer emergency care to a person injured in an accident, or crash, or emergency medical condition, or emergency situation. He does this help without expecting anything, financial or otherwise, in return.
What is the Good Samaritan Law?
Good Samaritan Law protects Good Samaritans from harassment on the actions being taken by them to save the life of the road accident victims.
In 2016, the Supreme Court of India gave “force of law” to the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
What is the rewarding scheme all about?
It will award the Good Samaritan who has saved the life of a victim within the Golden Hour of the accident. Under this scheme, an individual Good Samaritan can be awarded a maximum of 5 times a year. The amount of award for the Good Samaritan(s) would be Rs.5,00/- per incident.
How the Good Samaritan will be selected?
The District Level Appraisal Committee will review and approve the proposals on a monthly basis based on the receipts of communication from the Police Station/Hospital. This appraisal committee consists of District Magistrate, SSP, Chief Medical and Health Officer, RTO (Transport Department) of the concerned District.
The committee would sanction and send the cases to the concerned State/UT Transport Depart for making the payment to the Good Samaritans.
There is another State Level Monitoring Committee. It consists under Chairmanship of Principal Secretary (Home), Commissioner (Health) and ADGP (Traffic & Road Safety) as Members and Transport Commissioner as Member Secretary. This committee will quarterly monitor the proper implementation of the scheme. This committee will also nominate the three most worthy proposals for national-level awards on yearly basis to the MoRTH for further consideration.
Based on the recommendation from state committees, the best ten Good Samaritans of the year would be selected at the national level. They will be awarded Rs. 1,00,000/- each along with a Certificate and trophy during National Road Safety Month (NRSM) in Delhi.
Health Benefit Package under Ayushman Bharat revised
Source: This post is based on the article “Health Benefit Package under Ayushman Bharat revised” published in The Hindu on 06 October 2021.
What is the news?
The National Health Authority (NHA), the apex body for implementing Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY), has revised the Health Benefit Package (HBP) Master under the scheme.
About the revised changes in the Health Benefit Package
In the revised version of the Health Benefit Package (HBP 2.2), new packages have been added to cover more disease conditions and regular rates of the packages are revised to provide better healthcare services.
Apart from that, one new additional medical management package related to black fungus has also been added. The revised packages for oncology will enhance cancer care for the beneficiaries in the country.
The rationalised HBP will further improve the uptake of schemes in private hospitals, leading to reduced out-of-pocket expenditure.
The HBP 2.2 is expected to be rolled out from November this year.
About Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY)
Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana(PMJAY) was launched in 2018, as per the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
It is an umbrella scheme under Ayushman Bharat. The scheme aims to provide health cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to over 10.74 crores of poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries).
|Read more: Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana|
Nobel physics prize goes to 3 for climate discoveries
Source: This post is based on the following articles
- “Nobel physics prize goes to 3 for climate discoveries” published in The Hindu on 06 October 2021.
- “Explained: First Nobel for climate science” published in ‘Indian Express’ on 06 October 2021.
What is the news?
Nobel Prize for physics 2021 has been awarded to scientists Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi. This is the first time climate scientists have been awarded the Physics Nobel.
About the discovery
Manabe and Hasselmann were cited for their work in “the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming”.
Manabe demonstrated how an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase global temperatures, laying the foundations for current climate models.
Hasselmann created a model that linked weather and climate, which helps us to explain why climate models can be reliable despite the seemingly chaotic nature of the weather.
Giorgio Parisi “built a deep physical and mathematical model” to understand complex systems in different fields – These are systems with a very high degree of randomness; weather and climate phenomena are examples of complex systems.
What is the significance?
This Nobel Prize would probably help in further mainstreaming climate science. Further, it will also convince people and governments, that are not convinced of the reality of the interconnectedness of anthropogenic activities and climate change.
Read – About Nobel Prizes
Bilateral exercises: JIMEX and EXERCISE MITRA SHAKTI
Source: This post is based on the articles
- “FIFTH EDITION OF JAPAN-INDIA BILATERAL MARITIME EXERCISE ‘JIMEX’” published in ‘PIB’ on 05th October 2021.
- “8th EDITION OF INDIA – SRI LANKA JOINT “EXERCISE MITRA SHAKTI COMMENCES AT AMPARA SRI LANKA” published in ‘PIB’ on 05th October 2021.
What is the news?
India take part in 5th edition of India – Japan Maritime Bilateral Exercise, JIMEX and 8th edition of India-Sri Lanka bilateral joint exercise Mitra Shakti this week.
About Mitra Shakti
8th edition of India-Sri Lanka bilateral joint military exercise Mitra Shakti has commenced in Ampara in Sri Lanka. The two-week-long exercise is being conducted from 04 to 15 October 2021.
Over the next few days, troops will train, share and rehearse tactical drills to undertake joint counter-terrorism operations in a semi-urban/rural environment under United Nations mandate.
5th edition of India – Japan Maritime Bilateral Exercise, JIMEX, between the Indian Navy (IN) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF), will be held in the Arabian Sea from 06 to 08 October 2021.
JIMEX-21 aims to develop a common understanding of operational procedures and enhance inter-operability through the conduct of a multitude of advanced exercises, across the entire spectrum of maritime operations.
Other exercises between India and Japan
Dharma Guardian– Joint Military Exercise that started off in 2018. The latest one was conducted in 2019 in Mizoram.
SHINYUU Maitri– It is a joint exercise between Indian Air Force and the Japanese Air Self Defence Force (JASDF).