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
- 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 2
- Regulatory limbo: Digital markets are fast expanding. We need an umbrella law for platforms
- How to boost financial inclusion
- Women self-help groups: Funding alone does not work; the government needs to listen in
- COVID-19, kidney injury and need for vaccine shot
- Political incentives for populism could let India’s democracy down
- Can the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation be the regional body that stabilises Afghanistan?
- Archakas of all hues : About reforms in Temples
GS Paper 3
- Cybersecurity can be made agile with zero-shot AI
- Urban safety net: On urban-MGNREGA
- Criticism of the IBC’s recovery record is unwarranted
- BRICS: 2021 vs 2013: About Taper Tantrum and Economy of BRICS nations
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Climate change could cause 216 mn to migrate: World Bank
- Not just groundwater, fluoride has poisoned agricultural soil, crops in Bengal
- Saline gargle RT-PCR test tech transferred to MSME Ministry
- Centre should direct States to use bio-decomposer: CM
- India and US launch the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD)
- India–Africa Defence Dialogue to be held alongside every DefExpo
- Govt. curbs funding for 10 climate change, child labour NGOs
- Explained: Can thawing permafrost cause another pandemic?
- T+1 settlement system: how it works, and how it will help investors
- New research: Tech based on CRISPR to control growth of mosquitoes
- SC urges company law tribunals to clear IBC cases fast
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Source: This post is based on the article “Regulatory limbo: Digital markets are fast expanding. We need an umbrella law for platforms” published in Times of India on 13th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 – Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors
Relevance: Regulation of digital markets.
Synopsis: India needs to speed up its regulatory architecture in line with the pace of adoption of digital marketplaces.
One consequence of lockdowns imposed across the world during COVID was the quickening pace of economic transactions shifting from physical to digital marketplaces.
Eighteen months since the pandemic hit, societies have moved towards more engagements online. However, regulatory architecture hasn’t kept pace. It has large gaps when it comes to dealing with digital markets.
Now, we have reached a stage where this slow pace may have an adverse impact on the nature of digital markets.
Why a new regulatory architecture is essential?
Digital markets have a set of unique features that make the need for a new regulatory architecture essential.
Economies of scale: They offer otherwise unavailable economies of scale where, following a high initial cost, incremental customers can be added at practically no cost. This makes for the so-called network effect: an Increase in the number of participants concurrently enhances the value of a service.
Huge amount of data: Also, the ability to accumulate huge amounts of data on users offers economies of scope inconceivable for a dominant firm in a traditional industry like steel or cement. To illustrate, Amazon started as an online bookstore less than three decades ago and is now among the world’s top five firms by sales.
First mover advantage: Unique features of digital markets also confer a set of advantages to first movers that can potentially kill competition. In this context, the danger comes from large digital platforms that start off as mere intermediaries, but later also compete against businesses using their platform. There’s an inherent conflict of interest in simultaneously being player and referee.
What is the way forward?
The inaction in regulatory space means that early-mover advantages available to some firms may weaken the competitive nature of the market. Temporary regulations covering platforms in standalone areas such as e-commerce may create new distortions. A sector-specific approach is a bad idea.
What India needs is a comprehensive umbrella legislation to cover digital platforms. A delay could lead to irreversible distortions.
Source: This post is based on the article “How to boost financial inclusion” published in Indian Express on 14th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 -Growth, Development and Employment.
Relevance: Financial inclusion and formalization of MSMEs.
Synopsis: Greater flexibility in financial products will lead to greater inclusion of nano-enterprises, a segment which is critical to the growth of our rural economy.
There are 63.4 million MSMEs in India, 99% of which are micro enterprises with less than Rs 10 lakh in investment. These tiny businesses are run by nano-entrepreneurs, a growing segment that is absolutely critical to the growth of our rural economy.
For daily wage earners such as vegetable sellers, loan flexibility is given only by the moneylender and not by the bank.
What is the present situation wrt formalization of nano-enterprises?
If we assess our progress against the definition of “financial inclusion” i.e. accessibility of banking and availability of credit, we have made significant progress.
However, if we question the adequacy of the financial products that they find access to, we fall short. Financial inclusion is not the same as financial integration.
The journey from inclusion to integration is not only about making products available and accessible, but also about making them relevant, applicable, and acceptable.
What are the associated challenges?
Supply side issues
Risk associated and no customer-centric products: limited risk appetite, lack of data on customers and challenging regulatory oversight and agile capital makes it difficult to design bespoke products.
Apathy of bankers: Bankers and private financial institutions believe that a poor person takes a microcredit loan because she cannot save. In reality, they are able to save because of village postal agents who collect their savings from their doorstep.
One-size-fits-all is no longer viable: Products must be designed and delivered intelligently to meet the customer where they are, and by keeping in mind that they use products to reach their goals.
In the traditional financial system, the design, expensive technology development and brick-and-mortar infrastructure, distribution cost on financial products contribute to an impractical model.
Consequently, financial service providers are not attempting to reach rural and financially excluded areas.
Demand side issues
Financial literacy and technology readiness: Financial education assists people in making sound financial decisions. These are not just challenging of the Indian market, but other economies too.
What is the way forward?
First, tailoring the products to the needs and income profile of the customer, including being cognisant of their environment, geography, and demography.
Second, use the power of machine learning and cloud infrastructure to lower operating costs while offering customers affordable, bespoke financial products that help them reach their goals.
Source: This post is based on the article “Women self-help groups: Funding alone does not work; the government needs to listen in” published in the Down to earth on 13th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 – Development Processes and the Development Industry: the Role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
Relevance: Strengthening women-SHGs
Synopsis: Women-run SHGs form the backbone of our country. In order to help them to sustain for a long period, government needs to frame proper policy and provide ecosystem to the SHGs other than providing funding to them. As a whole, institutional support is needed to fully exploit their potential.
Women-run SHGs form the backbone of our country. During the pandemic, they manufactured essential medical products such as masks, sanitisers, protective equipment and ran community kitchens, provided financial support to the vulnerable and communities.
The World Bank gave $750 million in financial support to National Rural Livelihoods Mission whose aim is to eradicate poverty in India.
A lot more needs to be done.
How SHGs sustained during COVID-19 pandemic?
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic derailed several growth initiatives in India. Despite COVID-19-induced difficulties and socio-political pressure, women-run SHGs successfully established social well-being in their communities.
Financial initiatives: The government of India announced financial support to over 0.4 million under the Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) programme. The central government has provided financial support to Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PMFME) and Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) as well.
Government initiatives have also encouraged women citizens to have a bank account, which has made it easier to procure loans for SHGs. SHGs, in turn, have shown satisfactory results by bringing down banks’ non-performing assets.
What are the challenges faced by the women-SHGs?
Despite scopes and capability, some SHGs are unable to develop into full-fledged organisations because of the following reasons:
i). Lack of understanding about core values of business
ii). A loss of interest in doing business due to socio-cultural pressure
iii). Poor presentation skills
iv). Zero knowledge transfer
v). Poor financial knowledge
vi). Feeble management framework
vii). Lack of understanding on importance of United-Nations mandated Sustainable Development Goals
viii). Poor marketing and promotional skills
How we can alleviate the problems faced by the SHG?
i). Large-scale projects should be implemented
ii). The government should work on creating a gender-neutral ecosystem for women entrepreneurs, develop adequate infrastructure, provide training and destroy red-tapism.
iii). Specialised training should be given on climate change, clean energy, disaster management, water, etc
iv). Women SHG members should be inspired to explore other sectors as agriculture, handicrafts, renewables, watershed development, alternative tourism, finance, education
v). CSR support, international funding, multilateral bank support should be given to SHGs so that they can shape themselves into a corporate entity
vi). Innovative ideas should be incubated by the top-most institutes of India
vii). A dedicated grievance resolving mechanism should be set up
viii). Assessment and livelihood support plan will help stakeholders to support women SHGs
ix). Integrated common facility centre will help promote activities
Source: This post is based on the article “COVID-19, kidney injury and need for vaccine shot “published in The Hindu on 14th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS-2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to health.
Relevance: To study the impact of corona on the kidneys.
Synopsis: Covid-19 pandemic has long-term effects on internal organs. This article deals with issues with its impact on Kidney.
COVID-19 damages many organs including the lungs, heart and kidneys. A severe form of the disease is seen in older adults and people with chronic heart, kidney and lung diseases, diabetes or other conditions that render the immune system weak.
What is the impact of Covid-19 on kidneys?
Kidney injury: More deaths are reported in those who have acute kidney injury. Research, in Southern India, reported prevalence of kidney injury was 7% in a study of 2,650 patients admitted to a large hospital.
A USA Study reported kidney injury in as many as 46% of 3,993 hospitalised patients, of whom 19% required dialysis.
What were research findings on the impact of the pandemic on the Kidney?
Researchers have been doing the study to understand the microscopic changes in kidneys in people infected with Coronavirus. They have found that:
Thrombi or blood clots, as seen in the lungs and heart, may also be seen in the kidney. They have also found Inflammation (influx of white blood cells) in the kidney.
Mayo clinic research: It showed that Kidney damage may occur due to a strong immune response in the kidney. The immune response was seen in all parts of the kidney tissue, including the small blood vessels and in the glomerulus (filtering unit of the kidney). This was mostly seen in those with severe cases of COVID-19.
What are the experts’ suggestions?
Experts suggested that the kidney injury in severe COVID-19 behaves similar to kidney injury from sepsis, which is the body’s extreme response to an infection.
How can we manage the impact of Covid-19 on other body parts?
First, use the patient specimens collected during the pandemic and gather and store data for current and future use.
Second, A study of COVID-19 associated tissue injury has to be conducted among different populations to understand the issue further.
Third, by using state-of-the-art technology tools, we can analyse the body’s immune response and the impact of Covid-19 on various body parts.
Taken together, the severe kidney injury seen in COVID-19 further supports the need for widespread vaccination to protect everyone from this viral infection.
Source: This post is based on the article “Political incentives for populism could let India’s democracy down” published in Livemint on 14th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 – Good governance.
Relevance: To understand how democracy switches between populism and reforms.
Synopsis: A democracy claims to represent the majority or the will of the people. However, often it seems to represent the will of a well-organized minority.
The struggles of democracy to meet the conflicting demands of the electorate are well known. This was on display in 2018 in Goa when taxi drivers came head to head with the government decision to open doors for Uber and Ola.
About the issue
Taxi drivers dominate the local transport in Goa. Even the public was tired of bullying. Driven by these issues Government decided to open the doors for Ola and Uber. However, soon the issue turned political. The entire state came to a stand-still and the Government had to concede the demands of the taxi drivers.
This shows that Government responds more to a well-organized minority than responding to a loosely aggregated majority. Such responses have the potential to block the reforms as the general or larger public loses out.
How reform-oriented leaders can shape the policy?
In the ’90s, despite criticism by crony capitalist and socialist factions, Mr PV Narsimha Rao went ahead with economic reforms. These reforms helped propel India on a growth path and also lifted 200 million people out of poverty.
Reform vs populism
Reforms are the only means to institutionalize development. However, democracy has the potential of responding positively to well-organized minorities.
When the self-interest of citizens gets impacted by the government decision, they tend to respond keeping their self-interest in mind. When everyone does this, it will lead to an inefficient and incompetent governance system.
How the Chinese system escapes this?
In China, the reforms are based on economic performance and growth. Thus, Chinese politicians cannot be influenced by a minority electorate that seeks to hold the system.
What does prospect theory say about the loss to the government?
Prospect theory is a theory of behavioural economics and behavioural finance. It states that losses and gains are valued differently, and thus individuals make decisions based on perceived gains instead of perceived losses. This theory helps in the process of decision-making under conditions of risk.
Prospect theory shows that the impact of loss is twice as powerful as the potential gain. This political calculation allows a small minority to hold state and reforms to ransom. The response of leaders to such scenarios is what separates populist leaders from pragmatic policy-oriented leaders.
What should be the way ahead?
Democracy, instead of representing the will of the people, tends to represent the will of the vocal people. So, we should have a proper system where the well-considered will of the majority is promoted.
Source: This post is based on the article “Can the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation be the regional body that stabilises Afghanistan?” published in the Indian Express on 14th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS-2 Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Relevance: This article explains the reasons for the failure of SCO.
The crisis in Afghanistan presents a major opportunity for the SCO to realise its regional ambitions.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation‘s (SCO) importance for Afghanistan seems self-evident if one can see its member and observer nations.
Its founding leaders are the two great powers of the east — Russia and China. Its other initial members were Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan to the north and northeast of Afghanistan. India and Pakistan were inducted as full members in 2017. Besides Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia are observers.
|Read more: Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)|
The Shanghai Five and SCO
The SCO was preceded by the creation of a “Shanghai Five”— Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The purpose of the Shanghai Five was to stabilise this frontier, as well as build on the shared Sino-Russian interest in preventing American meddling in Central Asia.
What are the issues associated with the SCO?
Did not deepened regionalism in Central Asia: Two decades after its formation the institutional promise of the SCO remains just as promise.
Different interest among Russia and China in Central Asia
For providing security: While military confidence building measures have grown under the SCO banner, Russia had its own security organisation for the region named Central Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).
Members of CSTO include three members of SCO (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) and Armenia and Belarus.
Russia sees itself as the sole protector of the former Soviet Republics and may not be ready to share that role with China.
For trade relations: Russia prefers the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) under its own leadership to promote trade integration in Central Asia.
|Read more: Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU)|
China is not a member of either CSTO or EAEU. This is one reason for the weakness of SCO regionalism.
Quarrels within other members on regional security challenges
Uzbekistan seems open to a cautious engagement with the Taliban.
On the other hand, Tajikistan and Iran, due to the ethnic and linguistic links with the Tajiks in Afghanistan, has been critical of Kabul’s evolution under the Taliban.
India and Pakistan, needless to say, are poles apart on the Taliban.
What should India do?
Given this divergence, it is unlikely that the SCO can come up with a “regional solution” for the Afghan crisis.
So, in the upcoming SCO Summit, India should remind other leaders of the “three evils” that the SCO set out to defeat — terrorism, extremism and separatism. Further, India should focus on finding common ground with those members of the SCO who do share India’s concerns about Afghanistan.
Source: This post is based on the article “Archakas of all hues” published in The Hindu on 14th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS-2 mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Relevance: To Understand the reforms made in temples and their Judicial observations.
Synopsis: The reforms made by the Tamil Nadu government in Temples and their acceptance in Court is paving a way for reforms in Temples throughout India.
Recently, the Tamil Nadu government appointed 24 trained archakas (priests) in temples across the State which come under the control of the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE).
State and the legislation
The Tamil Nadu HR&CE Act, 1959, is the governing law on the administration of Hindu temples and religious institutions. The State made the amendments to abolish hereditary of priesthood and to appoint sufficiently trained Hindus irrespective of their caste as archakas. The Supreme Court upheld the law and the amendments.
Judicial observations on discrimination
In Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal v. Govt. of Tamil Nadu case, the SC observed that “the constitutional legitimacy, naturally, must supersede all religious beliefs or practices”. The Court further stated that any appointment that is not in line with the Agamas will be against the constitutional freedoms enshrined under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.
In Indian Young Lawyers’ Association v. State of Kerala (the Sabarimala case) and Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018) cases the Supreme Court reiterated the need to eliminate “historical discrimination which has pervaded certain identities”’, “systemic discrimination against disadvantaged groups”, and rejected stereotypical notions used to justify such discrimination.
In Sabarimala case, the court held that, “in the constitutional order of priorities, the individual right to the freedom of religion was not intended to prevail over but was subject to the overriding constitutional postulates of equality, liberty and personal freedoms recognised in the other provisions of Part III”
What is the way forward?
In future, apart from men, women and trans persons can also be appointed as archakas. This will help us to attain a vision of a just, equal and dignified society.
GS Paper 3
Source: This post is based on the article “Cybersecurity can be made agile with zero-shot AI” published in Livemint on 14th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Awareness in the fields of IT
Relevance: Role of AI in providing robust Cybersecurity
Synopsis: Zero shot AI model can help to develop a robust and adaptive cybersecurity defence against new attacks.
What makes AI a reliable tool in cybersecurity?
The ability to learn from large volumes of data and find patterns of abnormal behaviour makes AI and particularly machine learning (ML) attractive in cybersecurity.
ML algorithms can be used to find anomalies in different parts of the enterprise like application logs, network flows, user activities and authentication logs.
As enterprises adopt models like zero-trust, augmenting these with ML algorithms to monitor user behaviour patterns becomes critical.
How Zero shot AI is better than traditional systems?
Traditional supervised approach: The traditional approach to applying ML is supervised, where data points are used to train models to make predictions. While this is useful, these models can only learn from previously known attacks. So, a human would need to annotate the network flow for the attack data and feed it to build the model.
Unsupervised approach: The other approach becoming popular is unsupervised, where models learn to observe “normal” behaviour and flag any anomalies. This approach can highlight unknown attack patterns but only provide anomaly information to the security analyst.
One approach to tackle this is an upcoming research area in AI/ML called Explainable AI (XAI). Here, the models are either redesigned or enhanced to provide an explanation along with the prediction. So, when the model predicts an anomaly, it will also mention which feature values made it make that decision.
For example, let’s take an ML model that monitors network traffic in an office network. Say, it flags a data transmission above 100MB happening from a network computer to a Google drive account as an anomaly.
If we show the security operation centre analyst additional parameters that made us flag this as anomaly, like size of data files and destination domain, this information can save the analyst valuable time in classifying this as a data exfiltration attack.
The system can further take feedback from the analyst and start auto-labelling new such attacks as data exfiltration.
What are its advantages?
Zero-shot learning can save hours of valuable time spent by analysts in searching.
Potential enough to detect new and novel tactics adopted by hackers.
XAI and zero-shot learning can be applied to different areas of a cybersecurity ecosystem.
Terms to know:
Source: This post is based on the article “Urban safety net” published in Business Standard on 14th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Inclusive Growth and issues arising from it.
Relevance: MGNREGA for urban poor.
Synopsis: Instead of going forward with the ‘urban-MGNREGA’, the government needs to focus on coming up with new ideas to alleviate the condition of the urban poor.
Recent data from both the private and public sector has revealed that there is considerable distress within India’s labour force. This distress has manifested in an increase in the agricultural workforce.
This is also indicative of the distress faced by urban poor due to various blows to the urban sector compounded by the pandemic.
In this context, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on labour, has recommended for putting in place an employment guarantee programme for the urban workforce in line with the MGNREGA. This is the first time it has received such a backing.
What are the issues with employment guarantee prog for the urban workforce?
According to various reports, it was judged to be both an unmanageable fiscal burden and to present severe implementation difficulties across regions.
Substantive differences in the pattern of work and distress: There are substantive differences in the pattern of work and distress across rural and urban areas of India that make designing a MGNREGA for urban areas difficult.
– For example: rural employment can often be seasonal. This means that there is scope for a 100-day supplement of seasonal wages in periods when there is no seed to be sown or harvest to be taken in. Whereas, Urban employment does not always exhibit this feature.
It is also true that many of those who are in distress due to the pandemic in urban areas may be in work that does not involve manual labour unlike, casual agricultural workers, the primary target of MGNREGA. Thus, the work in an urban job guarantee scheme may not find as many takers.
Design of welfare programmes: Too many welfare programmes are connected to specific locations, and in particular “home” villages. This leads to migrants to cities and towns experiencing an unusual problem of existence. The demand for “one nation, one ration card” during the pandemic revealed the need to design welfare systems that are transferable and mobile.
There are, in addition, other source of problems that need to be addressed, including the shortage of affordable housing. If daily wage earners need constant work in order to not be rendered homeless, then they will of course not be able to stay in towns and cities through crises of any sort.
What is the way forward?
Some states have already started experimenting with urban wage support programmes. These should be examined for lessons, and new pilot programmes should be started to evaluate how an urban safety net can be designed and implemented.
Finally, like the MGNREGA itself, an urban safety net cannot be a permanent solution. Structural solutions like up-skilling and lifelong learning need to be put in place.
Source: This post is based on the article “Criticism of the IBC’s recovery record is unwarranted” published in Livemint on 14th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors
Relevance: Success and failures of IBC.
Synopsis: The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), which was promoted as a panacea to the problem of bad loans, has been attacked as being ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. It requires a more nuanced debate.
In recent months, a landmark economic reform of the last decade has come under criticism from various quarters.
However, a reform as radical and complex as this deserves a more objective and data-intensive evaluation.
Why the criticism of IBC is unwarranted?
Arbitrary assumptions: In any bankruptcy process, recoveries are impacted by a host of macroeconomic and firm-specific factors. According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data, for the three years, recoveries averaged around 45%. Many have criticized the IBC by arbitrarily declaring this number as low.
Biased opinions: To truly evaluate the IBC on recoveries, one would require a diversified data set about several industries and business cycles. Since such data is not available yet, an evaluation of the IBC on recoveries is likely to be biased.
Absolute numbers are meaningless: Critics must be reminded that, every process can have a distribution of outcomes.
Wide variation in recovery rates is true for any bankruptcy process: Journal of Financial Economics, 2007, find that for US corporate bankruptcies between 1982 and 1999, the average recovery rate was 51.1% and the standard deviation of this rate was a large 36.6%.
A, special report by Moody’s shows that the average recovery rate in US bankruptcies between 1982 and 2010 was 59.6% for first-lien bank loans, 37.4% for senior unsecured bonds and 25.3% for senior subordinated bonds.
Poorly incentivized banking system: Most loans in India are issued by uninformed and poorly incentivized ‘sarkari’ bankers, and the issuance of such loans often based on political influence and corruption.
What is the way forward?
Using benchmarks: First, for robustness, we can use several benchmarks to evaluate recoveries under the IBC and arrive at a less biased estimate of its effectiveness.
Second, use recovery proportion under alternate mechanisms as benchmark. As RBI data shows, average recoveries for asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) under SARFAESI Act surpassed those under IBC just once in the 17-year period, and have largely languished under 30% during this period.
Therefore, to the extent that data is available, IBC recovery rates have not been abnormally low, but in fact higher than historical averages of alternate resolution mechanisms.
Source: This post is based on the article ”BRICS: 2021 vs 2013” published in Times of India on 14th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
Synopsis: The BRICS is better equipped to handle financial turbulence. Now, the focus must be on growth.
For two years, the focus of the BRICS has largely been on the economic impact of Covid. The BRICS nations are also concerned about when the US Fed will begin to taper its asset purchases again.
|Read more: About BRICS and time to build BRICS better|
What is a Taper Tantrum?
After the 2007-2009 global financial crisis and recession, the US Federal Reserve started a bond-buying programme (known as quantitative easing) to infuse liquidity. With these funds, the investors started investing in global bonds and stocks.
In 2013, the US Federal Reserve decided to reduce (taper) its quantum of a bond-buying programme that led to a sudden sell-off in global bonds and stocks.
As a result, many emerging market economies, that received large capital inflows, suffered currency depreciation and outflows of capital. This is called globally as a ‘taper tantrum‘.
How the BRICS countries faced ‘Taper Tantrum’ in 2013?
China and Russia are Current Account Surplus(CAS) countries, while India, Brazil and South Africa are Current Account Deficit (CAD) economies.
During the 2013 Taper Tantrum, three of the “Fragile Five” – Brazil, India, South Africa – were BRICS economies. They witness unsustainability in external imbalances, “sudden stop” of capital inflows, created a sharp balance of payments pressures, wreaked havoc on the country’s currencies, and forced an abrupt tightening that hurt growth.
The 2013 “Taper Tantrum” started a multi-year trauma for these economies, resulting in local bond returns contracting 33% peak-to-trough across three years.
How things are different this time for BRICS countries?
Exports: Many BRICS economies are benefiting from strong exports.
Domestic demand in BRICS nations is also recovering slowly.
Current account deficit: It is estimated to be just 1% of GDP in 2021 as compared to 4.5% in 2013. Also, all BRICS-CAD (Brazil, India and South Africa) economies will be running “basic balance” (CAD+Foreign Direct Investment) surpluses in 2021 compared to large deficits in 2013.
Inflation: The BRICS nations were averaged 7% inflation for years when they were heading into 2013 taper. But, the Inflation is much lower than in 2013.
Foreign Reserves: Reserve Adequacy (foreign currency reserves to short-term debt and the current account) has improved in all BRICS-CAD economies compared to 2013.
Fiscal Deficit: In 2012, the fiscal deficit was 2% of GDP in BRICS economies. Before Covid, it was recorded almost 6% of GDP and then surged to 11% of GDP during the pandemic. So, there is a need to address fiscal and public debt pressures.
Where should be the focus on?
There is a need to focus on growth. It was seen as a slow-down before the pandemic and further pressured low because of the pandemic.
China may have reached upper-middle-income status and can broaden its macro objectives.
The other BRICS nations should prioritise lifting growth potentials. There is a need to create jobs, improve livelihoods and secure debt sustainability in a post-pandemic world.
Thus, there is a need to invest in infrastructure, health and education, financial sector, diversifying exports and increasing trade, exports etc
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Source: This post is based on the articles “Climate change could cause 216 mn to migrate: World Bank” published in The Hindu on 14th September 2021 and;
“Climate change can force 216 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050” published on the Down to Earth on 13th September 2021.
What is the news?
As per the report of the World Bank, climate change could push more than 200 million people to leave their homes by 2050 and create migration hot spots unless urgent action is taken to reduce global emissions and bridge the development gap.
Climate change is a powerful driver of internal migration because of its impacts on people’s livelihoods and loss of livability in highly exposed locations.
The World Bank’s updated Groundswell report was released September 13, 2021.
|Must Read: Climate-induced migration – Explained, pointwise|
What are the findings of the report?
As per the report:
Climate migration: Impacts of slow-onset climate change, such as water scarcity, decreasing crop productivity and rising sea levels, could lead to millions of “climate migrants” by 2050 in six world regions. Those regions are Latin America; North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; South Asia; and East Asia and the Pacific.
Under the most climate-friendly scenario, with a low level of emissions and sustainable development, the world could still see 44 million people forced to leave their homes.
Sub-Saharan Africa to be worst hit: In the worst-case scenario, Sub-Saharan Africa — the most vulnerable region due to desertification, fragile coastlines and the population’s dependence on agriculture — would see the most migrants.
In South Asia, Bangladesh is particularly affected by flooding and crop failures, accounting for almost half of the predicted climate migrants.
Why is the report significant?
The report is a stark reminder of the human toll of climate change, particularly on those who are contributing the least to its causes, i.e. the world’s poorest.
It also clearly lays out a path for countries to address some of the key factors that are causing climate-driven migration.
Source: This post is based on the article “Not just groundwater, fluoride has poisoned agricultural soil, crops in Bengal” published in the Down to earth on 13th September 2021.
What is the news?
A new study has pointed out that crops and vegetables that use fluoride-contaminated groundwater have been contributing to an increase in consumption of fluoride among locals in Bengal.
The study investigated the magnitude of fluoride contamination in agricultural land soil and food crops in two districts of Western Bihar, as well as its adverse impact on the health of locals.
West Bengal has been fighting with groundwater contamination for decades. About 12% of the population in eight of the state’s 23 districts is impacted by water contaminated by fluoride. The contamination is higher in western parts of the state.
What are the findings of the study?
Firstly, farmers in the investigated districts use groundwater contaminated by fluoride to cultivate crops during summers.
Secondly, the concentration of fluoride in groundwater is above the permissible level that contributes to the accumulation of fluoride in agricultural soil and crops. It is leading to increase in consumption of fluoride among locals.
Thirdly, accumulation was higher in leafy and non-leafy vegetables than in pulses and cereals from both districts.
Fourthly, it was also found that children were the most vulnerable to fluoride contamination due to their low body weight.
What are the three stages to fluoride toxicity?
First, the groundwater used for agricultural purposes deposits a good amount of fluoride in the soil.
Second, this fluoride is absorbed by crops.
Third, it enters the food chain system, causing harm to the human body.
What are the harmful effects of the Fluoride contamination?
Fluoride is an essential micronutrient and has both beneficial and detrimental effects on human health. However, exposure to high levels of fluoride causes dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis and non-skeletal fluorosis.
Fluoride is not carcinogenic like arsenic. It attacks the calcium in the body. It leads to painful and stiff joints.
Ligaments calcification, liver and kidney dysfunction, nerve weakness, developmental disorder, organ tissue damage, bending of legs etc., are some commonly seen health issues.
As a result of fluoride contamination, pregnant women show a lower birth rate.
What are the methods to control fluoride contamination?
Nano technology and electro-coagulation methods can be used to filter out the contaminated water.
Rainwater harvesting is also useful as it will lead to less dependence on groundwater.
Water pipelines need to be installed in affected areas to provide large scale water supply.
Constant monitoring of the fluoride-endemic regions is needed.
Proper watershed management through treatment of surface water is another solution.
What is the News?
The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute(NEERI) has transferred the indigenously-developed saline gargle RT-PCR technique to the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises(MSME).
About Saline gargle RT-PCR Technique
Saline gargle RT-PCR is a technique that will be used for testing Covid-19 samples.
Developed by: National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
How does it work?
The method is non-invasive and simple enough for a patient to collect his/her own sample for testing. A simple collection tube filled with a saline solution is used. The patient gargles with the solution and rinses it inside the tube.
The sample is then taken to a laboratory where it is kept at room temperature in a special buffer solution prepared by NEERI. An RNA template is produced when this solution is heated, which is further processed for the RT-PCR test.
Benefits of the Technique
The technique is simple, fast, cost-effective, patient-friendly and comfortable.
It provides instant test results and is well-suited for rural areas with poor connectivity, given its minimal infrastructure requirements.
Source: This post is based on the article “Saline gargle RT-PCR test tech transferred to MSME Ministry” published in Business Standard on 13th September 2021.
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Delhi Chief Minister has said that a third-party audit conducted by WAPCOS — a PSU under the Union Jal Shakti Ministry — has found the Pusa bio-decomposer, a microbial solution to turn crop stubble into manure is “highly effective”.
Note: In 2020, the Delhi government had given Pusa bio-decompose for free to all city farmers.
|Read more: Pusa Decomposer|
WAPCOS Survey on Farmers using Pusa Bio Decomposer
The auditors surveyed 79 farmers in 15 villages spread across four districts in Delhi. The key findings were:
Firstly, 90% of the farmers said that the stubble decomposed within 15-20 days, whereas it would previously take 40-50 days.
Secondly, after using Pusa-bio decomposer, the soil needs to be ploughed only once or twice, opposed to earlier 6-7 times.
Thirdly, the organic carbon content in the soil increased to 40 per cent as the stubble ended up becoming manure.
Fourthly, the soil-nitrogen levels increased by 24%, helpful bacteria content increased seven times and fungal content increased threefold.
Source: This post is based on the article “Centre should direct States to use bio-decomposer: CM” published in The Hindu on 13th September 2021.
What is the News?
India and the United States of America (USA) have jointly launched the “Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD)”.
About Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD)
CAFMD is one of the two tracks of the India-U.S. Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership launched at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April 2021.
|Read more: Leaders’ Summit on Climate|
Purpose of CAFMD
To help both the countries move towards decarbonising economies in sync with their respective commitments to deal with climate change.
The dialogue would have three pillars:
Climate Action Pillar: Under this, India and the US will develop proposals together which can contribute to curbing emissions.
Finance Mobilisation Pillar: It would involve collaborating on attracting finance to deploy 450 GW of renewable energy and demonstrate at scale clean energy technologies.
Note: India has increased its renewable energy target to 450 GW by 2030 from 175 GW by 2022. Currently, India has already achieved the target of 100GW
Adaptation and Resilience Pillar: Under this, the two countries will collaborate in building capacities to “measure and manage climate risks’. They would include setting out a roadmap to achieving the 450GW in transportation, buildings and industry.
Source: This post is based on the following articles
- “India and US launch the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD)” published in PIB on 13th September 2021.
- “India, U.S. to tie up on green energy” published in The Hindu on 14th September 2021.
- “Kerry visit marks India, US shifting gears for clean energy partnership” published in Business Standard on 13th September 2021.
- “India, US launch joint climate action platform” published in Times of India on 14th September 2021.
What is the News?
India has announced that it will hold the India-Africa Defence Dialogue alongside DefExpos once every two years.
First India-Africa Defence Dialogue
The first-ever India Africa Defence Ministers Conclave (IADMC) was held in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in conjunction with DefExpo in 2020.
It was co-organised by the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs.
A Joint Declaration, ‘Lucknow Declaration’ was adopted after the conclusion of IADMC 2020 as an outcome document.
What has India proposed now?
India has proposed to make the India-Africa Defence Dialogue a regular event by holding it along with the DefExpo military exhibition, which is held every two years.
The dialogue will help build on existing partnerships between African countries & India and will explore new areas of convergence for mutual engagements.
Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses shall be the knowledge partner of the India-Africa Defence Dialogue.
Who will host the upcoming India-Africa Defence Dialogue?
India’s Defence Minister will host the next India – Africa Defence Dialogue on the sidelines of the DefExpo that is scheduled to be held at Gandhinagar, Gujarat in March 2022.
The broad theme of the Dialogue will be ‘India – Africa: Adopting Strategy for Synergizing and Strengthening Defence and Security Cooperation’.
Source: This post is based on the article “India–Africa Defence Dialogue to be held alongside every DefExpo” published in PIB on 13th September 2021.
Source: This post is based on the article “Govt. curbs funding for 10 climate change, child labour NGOs“ published in The Hindu on 14th September 2021.
What is the news?
Recently the government curbed the funding for a group of ten American, Australian and European NGOs dealing with environmental, climate change and child labour issues.
A similar incident also happened in the past when the government restricted Greenpeace (The International NGO) from receiving foreign funds.
What were the instructions given by the Government?
The government specified the number of foreign entities to be placed on the “Prior Reference Category” (PRC list) using the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010. These norms were tightened in September 2020. These norms made both banks and chartered accountants accountable for any unauthorized funds that are channelled to NGOs.
The RBI has instructed that any fund flow from the (specified) donor agencies to any NGO/Voluntary organisation/ persons in India should be brought through the Ministry of Home Affairs. This would ensure that the funds are credited to the recipients only after clearance/ prior permission from the MHA’s Foreigners Division of the FCRA wing,”
How have the parties responded to these Restrictions?
Government: According to the MHA’s responses in Parliament, between 2016-2020, the government cancelled the FCRA licences of more than 6,600 NGOs and suspended those of about 264.
NGO: A UK-based NGO, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has taken the government to court for suspending its FCRA licence. It won temporary relief in the Delhi High Court, allowing it to access 25% of its funds.
Terms to know
What is the News?
The recent IPCC report has warned that increasing global warming will result in reductions in Arctic permafrost. This will result in releasing of greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.
What is Permafrost?
Permafrost is any ground that remains completely frozen—32 °F (0 °C) or colder—for at least two years straight.
Permafrost covers about 15% of the land area of the globe. They are most common in regions with high mountains and in Earth’s higher latitudes—near the North and South Poles.
What is Permafrost made of?
Permafrost is made of a combination of soil, rocks and sand that are held together by ice. The soil and ice in permafrost stay frozen all year long.
Near the surface, permafrost soils also contain large quantities of organic carbon—a material leftover from dead plants—that couldn’t decompose, or rot away, due to the cold. Lower permafrost layers contain soils made mostly of minerals.
A layer of soil on top of permafrost does not stay frozen all year. This layer is called the active layer. This layer thaws during the warm summer months and freezes again in the fall. In colder regions, the ground rarely thaws—even in the summer.
How Does Climate Change Affect Permafrost?
As Earth’s climate warms, the permafrost is thawing. That means the ice inside the permafrost melts, leaving behind water and soil.
Thawing permafrost can have dramatic impacts on our planet and the things living on it. For example:
Firstly, many northern villages are built on permafrost. When permafrost is frozen, it’s harder than concrete. However, thawing permafrost can destroy houses, roads and other infrastructure.
Secondly, when permafrost is frozen, the plant material in the soil—called organic carbon—can’t decompose, or rot away. As permafrost thaws, microbes begin decomposing this material. This process releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
Thirdly, when permafrost thaws, so do ancient bacteria and viruses in the ice and soil. These newly-unfrozen microbes could make humans and animals very sick. Scientists have discovered microbes more than 400,000 years old in thawed permafrost.
NASA’s Mission to monitor Permafrost
NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive(SMAP): The mission orbits Earth, collecting information about moisture in the soil. It measures the amount of water in the top 2 inches (5 centimetres) of soil everywhere on Earth’s surface. It can also tell if the water within the soil is frozen or thawed.
Source: This post is based on the article “Can thawing permafrost cause another pandemic?” published in Indian Express on 14th September 2021
What is the News?
Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has introduced T+1 (Trade plus 1 day) settlement cycle for stocks on an optional basis in place of T+2 settlement. The new rule will come into force on January 1,2022.
What is a T+1, T+2 Settlement?
T+1 (T+2) are abbreviations that refer to the settlement date of security transactions. The “T” stands for transaction date, which is the day the transaction takes place.
T+1 means settlements will have to be cleared within one day after the actual transaction takes place. This means the trades executed on Monday gets settled on Tuesday, the next working day.
On the other hand, T+2 means if an investor sells shares on Tuesday, settlement of the trade takes place in two working days (T+2). The broker who handles the trade will get the money on Thursday, but will credit the amount in the investor’s account only by Friday. In effect, the investor will get the money only after three days.
What are the benefits of T+1 Settlement?
Firstly, a shortened cycle not only reduces settlement time but also reduces and frees up the capital required to collateralise that risk.
Secondly, it will provide liquidity to the investors as they get their funds for the shares sold/ credited to their account earlier.
Thirdly, it reduces the number of outstanding unsettled trades at any instant, and thus decreases the unsettled exposure to Clearing Corporation by 50%.
Lastly, a shortened settlement cycle will also help in reducing systemic risk.
What are the concerns associated with T+1 trade?
Foreign investors have raised concerns as they would face issues while operating from different geographies — time zones, information flow process and foreign exchange problems.
Source: This post is based on the article “T+1 settlement system: how it works, and how it will help investors” published in Indian Express on 13th September 2021.
What is the News?
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have created a new system named precision-guided Sterile Insect Technique(pgSIT) that restrains populations of mosquitoes.
What is the Sterile Insect Technique?
The sterile insect technique is a method of biological insect control whereby overwhelming numbers of sterile insects are released into the wild.
The released insects are preferably male as this is more cost-effective and the females may in some situations cause damage by laying eggs in the crop, or, in the case of mosquitoes, taking blood from humans.
The sterile male insects compete with wild males to mate with the females. Females that mate with a sterile male produce no offspring, thus reducing the next generation’s population.
What is the precision-guided Sterile Insect Technique(pgSIT)?
It is a new scalable genetic control system that uses a CRISPR-based technology to engineer deployable mosquitoes that can suppress populations.
Males don’t transmit diseases, so the idea is to release more and more sterile males. The population of mosquitos can be suppressed without relying on harmful chemicals and insecticides.
Hence, this technique basically alters genes linked to male fertility—creating sterile offspring—and female flight in Aedes aegypti.
PgSIT mechanistically relies on a dominant genetic technology that enables simultaneous sexing and sterilization. Thus facilitating the release of eggs into the environment ensuring only sterile adult males emerge.
pgSIT eggs can be shipped to a location threatened by mosquito-borne disease or developed at an on-site facility that could produce the eggs for nearby deployment.
Once the pgSIT eggs are released in the wild, sterile pgSIT males will emerge and eventually mate with females, driving down the wild population as needed.
Source: This post is based on the article “New research: Tech based on CRISPR to control growth of mosquitoes” published in Indian Express on 14th September 2021.
What is the News?
The Supreme Court has said that the “judicial delay” was the main reason for the failure of the insolvency regime in India prior to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC),2016 came into force. Hence, it has urged the company law tribunals to “strictly adhere” to the timelines under the IBC and clear pending resolution plans.
Note: IBC mandates a 330 -day outer limit for the conclusion of the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP).
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs Standing Committee on Finance(2020-2021) has released a report titled ‘Implementation of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code- Pitfalls and Solutions’.
The report has said that more than 71% of the insolvency cases have been pending before the NCLT (National Company Law Tribunal) and NCLAT (National Company Law Appellate Tribunal) for over 180 days.
What has the Supreme Court said on judicial delays in Insolvency cases?
The Supreme Court has said that judicial delay should not become a reason for the failure of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code(IBC) regime.
The court said that the major reasons for judicial delays include NCLT taking the considerable time in admitting corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP), multiplicity of litigation and appeals to the NCLAT and the Supreme Court.
These inordinate delays cause commercial uncertainty, degradation in the value of the corporate debtor, and makes the insolvency process inefficient and expensive.
Hence, it has urged the NCLT and the NCLAT to strictly adhere to the timelines stipulated under the IBC and clear pending resolution plans as early as possible.
Source: This post is based on the article “Don’t let judicial delays fail IBC: Supreme Court” published in The Hindu on 13th September 2021.