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.
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
GS Paper 2
- Trade multilateralism at risk
- The motherhood penalty employers must eliminate
- Use the latest research to combat child under-nutrition
- A strategy for India in a world that is adrift
- The Indian women’s movement can only grow by being inclusive
- The pandemic is a reminder of education being a public good
- Right to protest in and on Lakhimpur Kheri needs to be protected, the legal quibble can come later
GS Paper 3
- The recent QES estimates are unreliable
- WHO’s stark message on air quality — and what India must do
- World Is Entering A New Moon Age
- Road accidents can be reduced
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021
- Sensing heat: On 2021 Nobel for Physiology or Medicine
- Government has approved setting up of 7 Mega Integrated Textile Region and Apparel (PM MITRA) Parks
- Explained: What is Mosquirix, the first malaria vaccine to get the WHO’s backing?
- Government allows 100% FDI in telecom sector
- U.S. expresses unease over S-400 deal
- Two day meeting of 30 range countries of Central Asian Flyway begins
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
Source: This post is based on the article ” Why India needs an urbanization policy?” published in the Indian Express on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 1 Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Relevance: Understanding the future of India’s Urbanisation.
Synopsis: Cities are drivers of economic growth. As India urbanizes, it must ensure that its cities offer a decent quality of life and facilitate job creation.
According to UN projections, from a population of 377 million in 2011, Indian cities are projected to house 870 million people by 2050.
However, cities face several challenges today. Because of Inadequate affordable housing, almost one-sixth of the urban population lives in slums. Then there are other challenges like water supply, waste disposal, climate change, infrastructure and services. Given the importance of urbanization, it is important that the right policy steps are taken to address the needs of urbanization.
What policy steps are needed?
First, India needs to decide the size of cities. Whether India needs a large agglomeration of 30 to 40 million or small manageable cities 2 to 3 million. Larger cities have the advantage of economies of scale, but they are difficult to manage.
Second, finance is a big hurdle in creating quality infrastructure. The requirement is beyond the provisions of the budget. Tapping the capital market would require making the services costly. So one way could be monetizing the land assets. India can also explore utilizing the private sector for the provision of services.
Third, India should take lessons from the historical organizations of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro and start to focus on plant organization rather than just construction.
Fourth, city planning should go beyond its political boundaries and include areas of economic and geographical linkages to make viable urban agglomeration.
Fifth, given the challenge of climate change, city’s should focus on green infrastructure, energy-efficient buildings, sustainable solutions to problems of energy and infrastructure.
Sixth, India should utilize technology to alter the working patterns like work from home or remote working to reduce the burden on transport infrastructure.
What should be the way forward?
A sound urbanization policy can guide how the growing urban population lives, works, and plays in India’s cities of the future. Such a policy is the need of the hour and cannot be delayed.
GS Paper 2
Source: This post is based on the article “Trade multilateralism at risk” published in The Hindu on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2- Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate.
Relevance: crisis with WTO’s appellate body.
Synopsis: About WTO’s crisis, various challenges faced by WTO and the way forward.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the global trade body. Currently, it is facing a serious existential crisis. The upcoming WTO ministerial meeting which will be held in Geneva, provides an opportunity to save this institution.
What crisis WTO is facing today?
The crisis is related to the vacancies in the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Appellate Body (AB), the highest instance of the WTO dispute settlement, is part of the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism. Since December 2019, the AB has stopped functioning due to rising vacancies. It has led to an increase in number of pending appeals.
Over the years, the U.S. has consistently blocked the appointment of AB members resulting in the present crisis.
The U.S. even rejected the proposal to find a solution to this and also denied the proposal of the European Union to establish an alternative interim appellate arbitration mechanism. With this, countries now have an option not to comply with the WTO panel decisions.
As the Appellate Body is unable to hear new appeals, no disputes can now be resolved at the highest instance, causing widespread concern in the context of escalating global trade protectionism.
What are the challenges that WTO currently faces?
On public stock holding: WTO failed to find a solution of public stockholding for food security purposes as decided in 2015 Nairobi meeting. This is a concern for countries like India that use Minimum Support Price (MSP)-backed mechanisms to procure food grains. The WTO rules allow countries to procure, stock and distribute food. However, if such procurement is done at MSP that is higher than the external reference price, then the budgetary support provided shall be considered trade-distorting and is subject to an overall cap. With rising prices and the need to do higher procurement to support farmers and provide food to the poor at subsidised prices, India might breach the cap. Countries have agreed that legal suits will not be brought if countries breach the cap.
Waiving TRIPS agreement for COVID medical products: The WTO member countries continue to disagree on the need of waiving the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for COVID-19 related medical products. This waiver would increase the accessibility of COVID-19 medical products, including vaccines.
Regulation of irrational fishing subsidies: WTO is close to signing a deal on regulating irrational subsidies provided for fishing. These subsidies have led to the overexploitation of marine resources by countries like China. This deal should provide a balance between conserving ocean resources and the livelihood concerns of millions of marginal fishermen.
Plurilateral agreements: The deadlock at the WTO has led to the emergence of mega plurilateral trade agreements like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. These plurilateral agreements not only hamper the global governance on international trade but also push the multilateral order to the danger.
What is the way forward?
On public stock holding: In long term, we need to find a permanent solution such as not counting MSP as trade-distorting.
On TRIPS waiver: The WTO needs to adopt a waiver in the upcoming ministerial meeting.
On regulation of fishing subsidies: India and other developing countries should insist on an effective special and differential treatment provision that requisite policy space.
On plurilateral agreements: We need rule based global order. Institutional multilateralism is the remedy to unilateralism and economic nationalism.
Despite many flaws, WTO is the only forum where developing countries like India can push for evolving an inclusive global trading order.
Source: This post is based on the article “The motherhood penalty employers must eliminate” published in LiveMint on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Social Issues and Social Justice.
Relevance: To understand the status of working women in India.
Synopsis: Government intervention is needed to bring women equal to men.
Women in India often faced a lot of discrimination owing to the patriarchy. It does not only impact her social life but takes a toll on her professional one also.
What is the status of women in India?
The gender gap in India has widened by 62.5%. Low gender parity can be seen in different spheres like political, economic etc.
The difference is also visible in the pay rate in spite of the same jobs with equivalent qualifications. There is a gap of 34% in gender pay.
India, as of 2020 has the lowest female labour force participation rate among South Asian nations with many of them neither working nor looking for jobs.
India has also slipped 28 places in Global Gender Gap, 2021 since 2020, and is currently ranked at 140/156 nations.
The recent pandemic has further worsened the gender divide among women, especially mothers. The mothers are facing more discrimination than non-mothers. The main reason behind that is to do the household chores, elderly and child care especially with the closing of the school.
According to National Sample Survey Organisation, it was found that women spent nearly 4.5 hours on child care and other responsibilities, while men only 0.88 hrs.
What is the motherhood penalty?
It is the situation where working mothers faced discrimination compared to other employees. It is because of the misconception that they are less professional and incompetent. Also, they faced discrimination on various grounds like less pay rate, rare promotions, less hiring etc.
For this notion to be removed, there is a need to reorient workplace norms to make them more gender-equal.
What does the government do?
The government made the amendment to Maternity Benefit Act in 2017. It increased the maternity paid leave from 12 to 26 weeks. In spite of the good efforts, this amendment further strengthens the notion that caregiving is the primary onus of women. So, it raises the risk of women being subjected to the motherhood penalty. Still, there is no similar law for paternity benefits.
What should India do?
India should adopt the policies of other International governments:
Iceland’s policy: Iceland makes the mandatory provisions for firms with more than 25 employees to prove every three years that they provide equal pay. Firms get certified according to that. If not certified, they have to pay the daily fine.
Ireland: It asks companies with more than 250 employees to publish data on disparities between average and median hourly wages and bonuses for both genders.
Source: This post is based on the article “Use the latest research to combat child under-nutrition” published in LiveMint on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted for Protection & Betterment of These Vulnerable Sections
Relevance: To understand the status of child health.
Synopsis: Better child health policies are required to improve the malnutrition status of children.
Children are future assets for any nation. Thus, it is important to take care of their development. In India, where several children are malnourished, it is important to study the research carefully and then frame the policies according to that.
How has the definition of nutrition changed over the years?
Since the 1940s: Micronutrient deficiency was considered the primary cause of childhood undernutrition.
Till the mid-1950s: Caloric deficiency was considered as a primary cause of child under-nutrition.
During the 1970s: Research until the 1950s concentrated on various vitamin deficiencies. In the mid-1970s, the research also included protein deficiency. From the late 1970s, it was discovered that child malnutrition is more than caloric and micronutrient deficiency, so it adopted multi-sectoral nutritional planning.
In 1984: Freedom from Hunger and malnutrition was recognized as basic human rights. This recognition led to the ratification of a set of goals for UN countries.
1992: UN developed a conceptual framework for child malnutrition. This was to understand the multi-sectoral factors that affect child health beyond calorific and micronutrient deficiencies.
This framework acknowledged that inadequate dietary intake and diseases are the immediate causes of child malnutrition. There are another set of causes referred to as Basic Causes. It includes basic socioeconomic characteristics like wealth, religious practices and resources available to children.
2010: A paediatrics journal highlights the importance of 1st 1000 days of child health. It showed that the phenomenon of growth faltering (Child grow slower than prescribed WHO standard) is more in starting first two years of child life. This led to irreversible cognitive and physical damages and also passed on to the next generations also.
Also, National Family Health survey 4 found that nearly 40% of Indian children were stunted in 2015-16, the highest in the world. This led to the start of India’s Poshan Abhiyan, launched in 2018, with an aim of eradicating malnutrition by 2022.
What are Poshan Abhiyan and the problems associated with it?
|Read here: Poshan Abhiyan and challenges associated|
What needs to be done?
A study in Lancet predicted that a decline of 10-20% in coverage of essential and maternal child health interventions and a 10% increase in wasting of children over 6 months would lead to an additional 250,000 child and 12k maternal deaths. So, it is time that India should update its health policies with up-to-date research.
Source: This post is based on the article “A strategy for India in a world that is adrift” published in The Hindu on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Foreign policy of India.
Relevance: Understanding India China relations in NAM 2.0.
Synopsis: As the global order shifts with the rising of China and the relative decline of the USA, India must act resolutely to secure its place in the global order.
During the 90s, tectonic shifts in global politics prompted the dialogue on Non Aligned Movement 2.0. Today, again, India stands on a global politics which is in transition. But the principles of NAM still hold relevance today.
The multipolar world
Today’s world is not bipolar like in the Cold War days. It is neither unipolar like in the 90s. Today’s world can be called a world in transition. This is evident in the failed collective response of the world towards the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also seen in the failure of the world to come together on tackling climate change.
This has also created many challenges like rising of China, reverse globalization, formation of regional trade blocks, stalling of initiatives on climate change And an uncertain global order.
What are the challenges & opportunities for India?
Close cooperation in security with the other countries could lead to the strengthening of relations in the field of economy, energy, trade and investment. This could also help in cooperation at the global level in the fields of climate change and emerging technologies.
Today, in the maritime domain, India has great strength in the Indian Ocean. This could enable India to project itself as a strong, reliable partner in this region. India can strengthen this further by the creation of a maritime initiative like the Bay of Bengal commission.
How reviving SAARC will be beneficial for India?
Given India’s central position, India can act as a hub of regional integration and consolidation by reviving SAARC. SAARC suffers from over securitisation of national security, which has led to neglect of trade and connectivity.
Strengthening trade relations with SAARC can reduce the dependence of India with China and also ensure that our neighbouring countries do not fall prey to Chinese predatory economics.
What is the way forward?
It is based on the core strategic principles in Non-Alignment 2.0 which is still relevant: independent judgement, developing our capacities and creating an equitable and enabling international order for India’s transformation.
However, self-reliance is the key to India’s continued growth and prosperity. India should focus on developing its economy and critical technologies to lead the world and secured its place in the global order.
Source: This post is based on the article “The Indian women’s movement can only grow by being inclusive” published in Indian Express on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 social Justice and social issues.
Relevance: Understanding the change in the feminist movement.
Synopsis: While learning from previous generations, feminists today must continue to make room for the concerns of persons from different backgrounds and social groups.
Recently, Kamala Bhasin, an Indian developmental feminist activist, has passed away. One of her renowned quotes is the “definition of gender means the socio-cultural definition of a girl and boy, man and woman, it doesn’t mean caste, it doesn’t mean race.” This has opened the various debate on how to perceive these words.
What is the difference between the Feminist movement of past and present?
Movement in the 1970s and 1980s: Priority was to make women the focus of politics and demands for justice in various contexts. Their important goal was to show that women had certain common experiences due to patriarchal social structures.
Today: Women of different social backgrounds experience the world differently. So, they connect with others according to their views. Among the many ways, most popular today is intersectionality.
In the words of critical race scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, it is how black women’s experiences were shaped by them being Black and women and were different from the experiences of both Black men and non-Black women
In India also, the same structure has been followed. Therefore, to understand this feminist ideology, India has to understand how it is shaped by other social structures.
What are the different shifts seen in the feminist movement of India?
During the last few decades, it was seen that feminists are organizing around particular issues and identities rather than simply as “women”. For example, Dalit and Muslim women have formed their own organizations and networks. It could be because they understand their issues well.
Over the time, it has been realized that people of all backgrounds and social groups need and deserve equal attention from the feminist movement. It is contradictory to Bhasin’s comment that feminism is about getting rid of patriarchy and that transgender and ecological issues are separate from it.
Source: This post is based on the following articles
- “Teacher, you learn too: Filling school vacancies is essential. So is doing this professionally rather than politically“ published in Times of India on 6th October 2021.
- “The pandemic is a reminder of education being a public good“ published in Livemint on 7th October 2021.
- “Learning disabilities“ published in Business Standard on 7th 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: Indian school education system faces various challenges like large vacancies of teachers, vulnerable private schools, etc. The government must act to improve the public school education system.
The recent UNESCO report State of the Education Report (SOER) for India: “No Teachers, No Class”, highlighted various challenges associated with school education in India.
|Click here to know more about the State of the Education Report (SOER) for India: “No Teachers, No Class”|
What are the challenges associated with Teachers and their performance?
Vacancies skewed towards states: The UNESCO report highlighted that India’s school system is facing an acute shortage of teachers. According to the UNESCO report, the bulk of the vacancies are in rural schools. But these shortages are skewed towards states with relatively fast-growing populations. For example, Uttar Pradesh, with a shortage of 3,30,000 teachers, Bihar 2,20,000 and West Bengal 1,10,000.
This implies that a large cohort of India’s future workforce will be insufficiently educated at a time when technological transitions in both services and manufacturing demand a high minimum standard of education.
Teachers and their non-teaching activities: Teachers are involved in several non-teaching activities too such as coordinating midday meals, registering children for Aadhaar, election duty and vaccination drives.
Interstate differences in recruitment and transfer of teachers: Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand see rules of recruitment being changed year to year, suggesting political influences, while Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have “a systematic, technology-based, transparent system of recruitment, employment and transfer”.
Further, the spread of teacher eligibility tests is helping to improve standards, but these tests only do subject testing, not teaching practice of individuals.
What are the lessons learned from the pandemic on school education?
The pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of private schools. Not all private schools are bad. Many are of good quality and are truly bothered about the education and welfare of their students. But an overwhelmingly large proportion of private schools are run only for commercial purposes.
For example, running a private school is a business in India. During the past 18 months, they have done nothing to engage children. But they have always demanded fees.
On the other hand, many government schoolteachers have often reached homes and communities to teach students. So, these schools have lost all trust and a few have even collapsed. This has boosted enrolment in the government (public) school system.
|Read more: Long term Impacts of School Closure – Explained, pointwise|
What needs to be done to improve school education?
There is no substitute for an equitable, strong and vibrant public education system. So, the energy in the public-school system with this rising enrolment must be effectively harnessed.
India now needs to incentivise smart young people to take up the teaching profession and train them well. Apart from that, India also needs to upskill the existing teachers.
Source: This post is based on the article “Right to protest in and on Lakhimpur Kheri needs to be protected, the legal quibble can come later” published in Indian Express on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Indian Constitution— features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Relevance: To understand the issues surrounding right to protest.
Synopsis: The court can question the legal validity of the Acts, but that does not mean that the Right to protest can be halted from implementation.
Earlier, the Supreme Court questions the farmers’ protests against the Centre’s farm laws on grounds that the matter is sub judice(under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited). The court has also asked whether the right to protest is an absolute right.
|Must read: Law is clear, road blockades can’t go on endlessly, says Supreme Court|
Recently, In Lakhimpur Kheri a minister’s convoy ran over protesting farmers, killing four of them, and setting off retaliatory violence that killed four more.
These two events again highlighted the issues surrounding the Right to protest.
About Right to protest in India
The right to protest is not a separate right in the Indian Constitution. It is implicit in Article 19(1)(a), which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression, and in Article 19(1)(b), the right to assemble peacefully.
It is integral to the right to protection of life and personal liberty enshrined in Article 21.
All rights are subject to reasonable restrictions. The right to protest is not just necessary in and of itself — it is also inalienable from the articulation and assertion of other rights and freedoms.
|Read more: Right to Protest in India|
Why the Supreme Court’s decision to question right to protest is ill-judged?
Infringes with Article 32: Questioning the Right to protest will came in conflict with Article 32, the right to constitutional remedy. Protest, dialogue and debate, challenge before courts — these are not at odds or mutually exclusive. Taken together, they help to secure the citizen against an arbitrary or transgressing state.
Against its own judgment: In Ram Lila Maidan Incident vs Home Secretary, Union of India and Others, 2012, the court had said: “The people… have a right to raise their voice against the decisions and actions of the government or even to express their resentment over the actions of the government… The government has to respect and in fact encourage exercise of such rights.”
Cannot be held as sub judice: The court held that farm laws are under judicial consideration and therefore protests are prohibited. But this is not the right interpretation. Many cases like the constitutionality of electoral bonds to the abrogation of Article 370 are pending before the court. But this does not mean that the people across the country should give up their constitutional right to speak out on these issues.
So, the right to protest needs to be protected, the legal questions on the laws can come later.
Terms to know:
GS Paper 3
Source: This post is based on the article “The recent QES estimates are unreliable” published in The Hindu on 7th October 2021. Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.
Relevance: Recent QES estimates and its shortfalls
Synopsis: New Quarterly Employment Survey, its key findings, various challenges associated with the survey and the way forward
Recently, the Ministry of Labour and Employment released the results of a new Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) for April-June 2021 for the organized (formal) sector.
It represents establishments employing ten or more workers. The surveyed sectors were manufacturing, construction, trade, transport, education, health, accommodation and restaurant, Information Technology/Business Process Outsourcing (IT/BPO), and financial services.
What are the key findings of the survey?
First, it estimated a growth of 29% in the total employment in the nine selected sectors as compared to Sixth Economic Census (2013-14).
Secondly, employment fell post the lockdown on July 1, 2020. But 24 lakh jobs that was lost during the lockdown in 2020 came back by the first quarter of 2021.
What are the various issues/concerns associated with the survey?
The new QES will help generate timely employment estimates for the larger units. However, the analysis suffers from various issues and calls for caution in its interpretation.
Limited coverage- formal establishments account for a small proportion of all non-agricultural establishments (merely 1.66% as per the Economic Census (EC) of 2013-14). Also, a large share of workers (81.3% as per the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS, 2018-19)) worked in the unorganized sector. With its limited coverage, the QES based on data for formal sector enterprises cannot provide a total picture of employment dynamics.
Major deviation from the other reports– Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed that during April 2020, 12.1 crore workers lost their jobs (mostly informal workers). 9.1 crore job losses occurred amongst small traders and casual labourers. The unemployment rate by current weekly status in urban areas increased from 9.1% (before the lockdown) to 20.8% (Post lockdown).
Methodological shortcomings– The new QES data suffers from methodological shortcomings like outdated sample frame (QES used EC-2013 sample frame), non-comparability of employment numbers and differences in methods used for gathering the information. Hence, instead of rushing to produce new QES based on outdated sample frame, it was required to wait for the release of the newly updated frame in the EC-2020.
– Sample frame: The list of units (e.g., persons, households, businesses, etc.) in the survey population
Did not include latest units- the new QES has a sample of approximately 11,000 establishments. But sample frame implies that QES does not include units set up after 2013.
Primarily a telephonic survey- which shows lack of verification of responses of establishments
Sample collected with a short reference period– The questionnaire of the QES asks establishments about employment details for a specific quarter. In contrast, the EC-2013 questionnaire asks establishments about the number of persons working on the last working day prior to the date of fieldwork in the establishment.
Conceptual problem- in comparing employment numbers of the Economic Census (EC) with the QES. Although the former asks questions about the number of persons working in an enterprise, it is not a good instrument for estimating the size of the workforce or for analysing employment trends as the principal objective of the EC is generating a frame, not estimating employment.
What is the way forward?
We need to produce quarterly employment data for selected industries in the organised sector. Simultaneously, we cannot compromise on data quality and its reliability, in a rush to generate high-frequency estimates.
Source: This post is based on the article “An Expert Explains: WHO’s stark message on air quality — and what India must do” published in The Indian Express on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS3- Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Relevance: Air pollution in India
Synopsis: Air pollution is worsening in India. We need to raise our air quality standards in line with recently released WHO guidelines and ensure strict compliance while transitioning to a cleaner energy model.
In its recent air quality guidelines (AQGs), the WHO said that the impact of poor air quality on public health is at least twice as bad as previously estimated.
Globally, it is estimated that exposure to PM2.5 kills 3.3 million people every year, most of them in Asia.
India has 37 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities. Still, India’s air quality standards are not strict. For instance, its standards for PM2.5 and PM10 are 60 and 100 µg/m3 respectively (over 24 hours), while the WHO’s new standards are 15 and 45 µg/m3 (over 24 hours).
Why India should be concerned about air pollution?
Worst mortality rates: India’s air pollution-influenced mortality rates are among the worst. The Global Burden of Disease estimates that India lost 1.67 million lives in 2019 directly as a result of breathing polluted air, or because of pre-existing conditions exacerbated by air pollution.
– Uttar Pradesh had the biggest share at 3.4 lakh, Maharashtra had 1.3 lakh, and Rajasthan 1.1 lakh.
Lower life expectancy: The average life expectancy in Delhi is 6.4 years lower than the national average of 69.4, and the number is starting to fall for even coastal cities like Mumbai and Chennai.
What are the harmful effects of the air-pollution?
-The health impacts of PM2.5 exposure include lung cancer, cerebrovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease and acute lower respiratory illness, besides exacerbating ailments like depression.
-Exposure to ozone has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
-Prolonged exposure to air pollutants affects newborns and babies still in the womb. Mothers may have to deal with the trauma of premature deliveries and stillbirths. Foetuses face increased risk of being born with lungs that are not yet developed to function properly, and congenital defects that can impact the rest of their lives.
On economy – A 2019 study found that India’s poor air quality erased 3% of its GDP for the year and caused a loss of nearly Rs 7 lakh crore (~USD 95 billion). The reason being employees failing to show up at work, far fewer people stepping out to buy goods, and foreign tourists staying away after health warnings. Official figures indicate a loss of 820,000 jobs in the tourism industry and 64% of businesses squarely blame air pollution.
On infrastructure- Air pollution affected solar panels as ground-level smog and the particulate matter chokes their power output.
On agriculture– Several studies have noted a 25% drop in crop yield for wheat and rice after prolonged exposure to PM and ozone.
What is the way forward?
– India needs to revisit its National Ambient Air Quality Standards, revise them down to WHO levels, and implement them without exception.
– We need to conduct nationwide studies and gather raw health data on air pollution to get a picture of how many Indians, regardless of age, gender and occupation, are suffering under bad air.
– The China example- China handled the issue by prioritising zero-emissions transport, staggered use of internal combustion engine vehicles, and by enforcing prevention on point sources of pollution with few exceptions.
-Cleaner energy- India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) can help to find solutions. States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Telangana have introduced policies to speed up their market shares, and Electric Vehicles’ year-on-year sales are increasing.
-Better monitoring– We need to expand the country’s air quality monitoring network. We can use new low-cost monitors instead of CPCB monitors which are costly. The new monitors capture readings for not only PM2.5 and 10 but also gases like NO2, SO2, methane, and secondary volatile organic compounds. The Centre and state governments must boost the density of the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS) network to fully inform the science behind the corrective measures.
Source: This post is based on the article “World Is Entering A New Moon Age” published in The Times of India on 6th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS3- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights.
Relevance: Artemis programme and India’s stance
Synopsis: About NASA’s Artemis programme, various consequences of India joining the programme and how India needs to tackle all this.
On September 7, 2019, India’s Chandrayaan-2 Moon Lander crashed in a cloud of lunar dust no human would witness. It had experienced a “hard landing” on a desolate patch of the lunar surface. It shows the difficulties of the operation and ‘optimism and determination’ that go into India’s spacefaring aspirations.
Why there is attraction of Moon?
Firstly, Moon is barren, lifeless and lethal to humans. However, its proximity to Earth and its low gravity makes it a potential launching pad for future missions into interplanetary space,
Secondly, it enables us to explore the inner solar system as well as the vast, largely uncharted expanses that lie beyond the Asteroid Belt.
Third, The Moon is also believed to hold natural resources that could help fuel those future expeditions. For instance, the water discovered on the lunar surface by India’s previous Moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, could provide both hydrogen for fuel, and oxygen for breathing.
What is NASA’s Artemis programme?
NASA’s Artemis programme is the most ambitious lunar exploration undertaking since the Apollo missions. It plans to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in the coming years. It will also include a massive technological effort to build new launchers, spacecraft and ground-based facilities as well as putting a gateway module in orbit around the Moon, to act as a stepping stone for further space exploration.
What is India’s dilemma regarding Artemis?
Partnering with the Artemis programme would make it much easier for India to ramp up its own lunar projects.
However, as a precondition for joining the programme, India would have to sign up to a set of NASA-defined rules called the Artemis Accords, which 11 countries have signed including Australia, Japan, Brazil, South Korea and the UK. Most of these are not harmful and related with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, to which India is also a party.
The most problematic Artemis principle is the one that allows for the extraction and use of resources in space. While the Outer Space Treaty prohibits claims of sovereignty in space, it says nothing about private ownership and leaves open the possibility of using lunar resources.
As US dominates the global commercial space industry, it will harvest the greatest benefits. For instance,
-In 2015, the US Congress passed a bill enabling private entities to use the mineral resources of other celestial bodies.
-In 2020, then President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing US diplomats to “develop joint statements, bilateral agreements and multilateral instruments” that would make the use of space resources an international norm.
Artemis Accords are a direct outcome of this effort.
Russia-China problem: India’s choices are also complicated by the existence of the rival Russia-China International Lunar Research Station project. Further, Russians and Chinese are also slated to come up with their own version of Artemis Accords by the end of 2021
So, we have three options – join Artemis Accords, join ILRS, or go solo.
What are the consequences of these three options and what should India do?
India may lose out on major opportunities if it seeks to explore space by itself. ILRS attractions are spoiled by the presence of China. So, the least bad option for India would be to join the Artemis programme.
Instead of agreeing to all US demand, India must
– insist on mechanisms for sharing technology and space infrastructure.
– use informal fora, like the newly set up Quad working group on space to push for more detailed norms governing activities on celestial bodies.
– India must continue to pursue bilateral space cooperation with Russia, which may even allow it to benefit from some of the capabilities developed for the ILRS project. The time for active space diplomacy is now.
Source: This post is based on the following articles
- “Recognising altruism: On rewarding Good Samaritans on road” published in The Hindu on 7th October 2021.
- “Road accidents can be reduced” published in The Hindu on 7th October 2021.
Syllabus: GS –3 Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Relevance: To understand the need for proper road safety mechanisms in India.
Synopsis: India road accident status highlights the importance of road safety in India.
Recently, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways decided to award Good Samaritans who save the lives of road accident victims with the cash prize.
|Read more: 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|
What is the present status of road accidents in India?
At present India ranked third among 20 nations that have the highest number of accidents. India cases to fatalities ratio, with 415 deaths each day, is much worse compared to the U.S. and Japan, which have more recorded crashes but fewer deaths.
The Madras High Court recently struck down the 2018 notification of the Union Government wherein the speed limit was hiked to 120 and 100 km/hour on expressways and highways, respectively. This was done as 66.7% of accidents was attributed to overspeeding in 2017, 55.73% in 2018 and 64.4% in 2019.
In 2019, according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, More than 1.5 lakh persons were killed and more than 4.5 lakh were injured in road accidents across the country.
National Highways (NHs) and State Highways, which account for about 5% of the total road length, claimed 61% of the deaths related to accidents.
During 2020, even with severely disrupted mobility due to COVID-19, National Crime Records Bureau data show 1,33,715 lives were lost in 1,20,716 cases attributed to negligence relating to road accidents.
|Read more: “Traffic Crash Injuries and Disabilities” -World Bank report on road accidents in India|
How government is ensuring adequate safety on the roads?
Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019: The Act has a motive of bringing down the death rate due to road accidents by 50% by 2020. The Act has a dedicated chapter to sensitise police forces and hospitals regarding Good Samaritan.
Note: Recently, the government shifted the deadline under the Act to 2025.
National Road Safety Board: The board mandate include the formulation of standards on, among other things, safety and trauma management, building capacity among traffic police, and put the crash investigation on a scientific footing.
United Nations Brasilia Declaration: The declaration was adopted at the second global high-level conference on road safety held in Brazil in 2015. It lays down recommendations on strengthening existing legislations, adopting sustainable transport, strengthening the post-crash response, etc. India is a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration.
Various initiatives of states
Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of accidents in 2017. Tamil Nadu government introduced a model to identify and removing Black spots in the road. At present, they have reduced road accidents by 38% and deaths by 54%.
The Accident Research Cell of the Delhi Traffic Police carried out an analysis of accidents and created a database that facilitates the formulation of policies to prevent accidents.
|Read more: The issue of Road Safety in India – Explained pointwise|
What are the steps India needs to do to reduce accidents?
Achieving a reduction in mortality on Indian roads need determined action on several factors. Such as
i) Scientific road design and standards, and identification of black spots that are prone to accidents,
ii) Deploying an adequate number of police personnel, particularly during peak hours,
iii) Zero-tolerance enforcement of the Motor Vehicles Act,
iv) Highway patrols with police personnel trained in first aid and ambulances every 10 km could also help save precious lives,
v) Educating citizens about the impact of accidents on the kin of the victims through public discourse will help in reducing accidents.
National Crime Records Bureau
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
What is the news?
Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 has been awarded to German scientist Benjamin List and Scotland-born scientist David WC MacMillan “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.”
What is asymmetric organocatalysis?
Catalysts are substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions, without becoming part of the final product. For example, catalysts in cars transform toxic substances in exhaust fumes into harmless molecules.
Our bodies also contain thousands of catalysts in the form of enzymes, which chisel out the molecules necessary for life.
In the past, it was believed that there are just two types of catalysts available: metals and enzymes. Now, there is a third type of catalyst i.e., asymmetric organocatalysis.
These new catalysts are thus fundamental tools for chemists and many research areas and industries are dependent on chemists’ ability to construct molecules.
A new generation of small-molecule catalysts is more friendly for the environment and cheaper to produce.
Source: This post is based on the article “Duo win Chemistry Nobel for developing tool to build molecules” published in Times of India on 07 October 2021.