9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – September 18th, 2021

Dear Friends,
We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
  • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
  • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly) 

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Breaking the Glass Walls: On gender equality

Source: This post is based on the article “Breaking the Glass Walls” published in Indian Express on 18th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Protection and Betterment of Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: Gender equality in India

Synopsis: We need to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in science. Barriers that these biases enforce for women must be knocked down at every level.

Introduction

Gender equality is a moral, business and an intellectual imperative. It is non-negotiable and independent of profession or affiliation or gender. Gender equality benefits both men and women.

What are the impacts of gender bias?

Inequity: Stereotypes related to gender brilliance or gender-based intrinsic aptitude generate inequity which remains unnoticed.

Less opportunities: Due to deep-rooted biases, it is difficult for women to access many experiences and networks that are easily accessible to men.

Societal barriers and norms: Personal barriers include notions of compromise and sacrifice that are ingrained in women. This feeds into how women present themselves. External barriers and cultural cues reinforce how men and women “ought” to behave.

Less self-confidence: Our socio-cultural constructs reflect absolute patriarchy causing even women to be sceptical about their abilities, to accept the roles set for them in the household.

Gender segregation and glass walls: more men in strategic functions and women in support functions.

These “glass walls” occur through a combination of unconscious biases in career and recruitment processes, benevolent sexism which prevent women from certain occupational choices.

How the problem in India is different from the problem in the West?

Higher enrollment in India: many girls in India study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, but the number of women who stay on and pursue higher degrees and then go on to higher positions are fewer.

No decision-making power: a woman’s well-being and dignity are not necessarily in her hands.

A strange paradox: There are women in powerful positions in many fields but, at the same time, several women have minimal rights.

For instance, In New Delhi, there have been many powerful women. However, the high rate of crimes against women, including murder, rape, and female infanticide, in the nation’s capital shows that political power and intellectual presence are not transferred.

What is the way forward?

First, it is essential to create awareness of inherent injustice and biases. There has been a very gradual change in the representation and the status of women globally. The rate of change definitely needs to increase by several orders of magnitude.

Second, fostering equality requires overcoming social, economic and cultural barriers, and implicit biases at the grassroots.


Explained: The AUKUS agreement to equip Australia with n-subs – About Nuclear Submarines

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: The AUKUS agreement to equip Australia with n-subs, and why it has upset France” published in The Indian Express on 17th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Important international groupings.

Relevance: To Understand the difference between conventional and nuclear-powered submarines.

Synopsis: This article explains the difference between conventional and nuclear-powered submarines. Further also explains India’s nuclear-powered submarines.

Introduction

Recently a new Trilateral Security Partnership grouping has been formed between the US, UK and Australia (AUKUS) for the Indo-Pacific. As part of this, Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines with help from the U.K. and the US within 18 months.

Only a handful of countries possess nuclear-powered submarines. These include the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, and India. With the AUKUS partnership, Australia will also join these elite countries.

Note: India is the only country outside the P-5 (US, UK, France, Russia, China) to possess a nuclear-powered submarine.

Read more: US, UK, Australia form new partnership
What are the disadvantages of diesel-engine submarines?

Conventional diesel-engine submarines have batteries that keep and propel — though not very fast — the vessel underwater. The life of these batteries can vary from a few hours to a few days.

The newer Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarines have additional fuel cells that allow them to stay underwater for longer and move faster than the conventional vessels. However, the fuel cells are used only at strategic times, when the endurance to remain submerged is required.

Both conventional and AIP subs need to come to the surface to recharge their batteries using the diesel engine. However, the fuel cells of AIP can only be charged at on-land stations, not while at sea.

What makes nuclear submarines so important?

A nuclear-powered submarine is classified as an “SSN” under the US Navy hull classification system, wherein ‘SS’ is the symbol for submarine, and ‘N’ stands for nuclear. A nuclear-powered submarine that can launch ballistic missiles is called Strategic Strike Nuclear Submarine or “SSBN”.

The great advantage of a Nuclear-powered Submarine is that its nuclear-powered propulsion gives the submarine a near-infinite capacity to stay dived. Since it is propelled by a nuclear-powered engine rather than by batteries, it does not have to emerge on the surface at all, except to replenish supplies for the crew.

Further, They are also able to move faster underwater than conventional submarines. Added together, these advantages allow a navy to deploy these submarines quicker and at farther distances.

So, they can go long distances without being detected. This provides an option to the country to protect its interests far from its shores.

About the Nuclear-powered Submarines of India

India has had this capacity since it got the Soviet-built K-43 Charlie-class SSN in 1987. It was commissioned with the Red Fleet of the USSR in 1967, and it was leased to the Indian Navy. In India, it was rechristened INS Chakra. The submarine was decommissioned in 1991.

In 2012 India got another Russian SSN on a 10-year lease, called INS Chakra 2.

In the meantime, India was working on building its own SSN, and the first Indian nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant, was commissioned in 2016.

A second Arihant-class submarine, INS Arighat, was secretly launched in 2017, and is likely to be commissioned soon.

India also demonstrated the capability to launch nuclear weapons in 2018, the INS Arihant is now classified as a Strategic Strike Nuclear Submarine or SSBN. This is significant, as INS Arihant completes India’s nuclear triad.

Note: Nuclear Triad means that the country has the capacity to launch nuclear missiles from land, aircraft, and submarine.


Dominance by default: How China was handed East Asia on a platter

Source: This post is based on the article “Dominance by default: How China was handed East Asia on a platter” published in the Business Standard on 18th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Effect of Policies & Politics of Developed & Developing Countries on India’s interests.

Relevance: To understand China defence architecture in relation to other countries.

Synopsis: Anyone within range of China’s expanding navy will have to build capabilities faster and/or work more closely with the US.

Introduction

The article highlights how China, over the years, has strengthened its military capabilities while other countries are lacking behind.

What is the defence expenditure of various countries in comparison to China?

USA: In 2000, China’s defence expenditure in relation to the US outlay was 1:11. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), by last year, that ratio had changed to 1:3.

Japan: China’s defence outlay multiplied six-fold, while Japan’s stayed where it was. It spends less than 1 per cent of its GDP on defence.

Australia: Its defence expenditure has increased, but spending is still less than doubled.

Other East Asian Countries: The smaller countries with whom China contests ownership of various islands in the South China Sea did better, roughly tripled their combined defence outlay. But none matched with China.

European powers: They have raised their defence outlays by less than 20% over 20 years.

All these countries in the region, taken together, spent only two-thirds of what China did on defence last year. They mostly rely on the US for a security umbrella. But when the USA is non-committal on providing security cover to Taiwan, this support can no more be relied on.

In context to navy

China: It took nearly 30 years to first upgrade its navy. Now it is undertaking an expansion of its fleet.  Now it has the capability to deploy its entire navy in its regional waters and the Western Pacific in contrast to the USA, which can deploy only a part of its fleet in the area.

India: It has done better than others in increasing defence outlays. But the number of front-line ships and submarines has not increased much.

Chinese has developed advanced long-range missiles. They are a threat to the navy’s surface ships. On the other hand, India struggles to develop even a mid-range, sub-sonic cruise missile — the Nirbhay.

USA: It has fewer front-line naval ships (under 300) than China. On the Ship to ship category, the US is still superior, but China has been commissioning new ones at twice the US rate.

This explains why the USA is looking for a limited goal of deterrence. It is in need of alliances to secure its dominance. This explains the recent announcement of AUKUS. The USA has strengthened its military hold over the region by providing nuclear submarines and technology to Australia. If Japan can take similar steps, the USA will have a formidable presence in the region.

What is the way forward?

This is the time for hard choices. The USA needs to make hard choices to strengthen the military of its allies. And the neighbouring counties need to make hard choices of either aligning with the USA or increasing their defence expenditure to match China.


Act and Friction: On appointment to tribunals

Source: This post is based on the article “Act and Friction” published in The Hindu on 18th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Relevance: To understand the tussle between Judiciary and Parliament over the tribunals.

Synopsis: A national commission is essential to make appointments to tribunals.

Introduction

There is friction between government and judiciary over the powers and limitations of law-making on the recently passed Tribunal Reforms Act. It contained provisions that had been struck down by the Supreme Court earlier.

Read more: Supreme Court remarks on tribunal law is latest flashpoint between legislature, judiciary

What did the government do?

Cherry-picking of names: Initially, there were delays by the Government in picking the names for judicial and administrative members. After the court’s notice, the Government picked the names and SC noticed that names were picked on basis of favouritism rather than merit.

Cut short of tenure: The government cut short the tenure of the Acting Chairperson of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) by 10 days. The Government justified by saying that it was acting as per the latest law.

This was strongly objected to by the SC, after which the government allowed the acting Judge of NCLAT to complete his tenure.

Issue of tribunals: Government vs courts

Government and courts have often disagreed on numerous factors. They range from eligibility criteria and conditions of service. While the government has tried to alter conditions of service in its favour, the courts, on the other hand, has often struck them down under judicial review.

What should be done?

While the reason for having tribunals is justified. They are small, manned by domain experts and not tied by cumbersome judicial process. But there is an urgent need to ensure the independence of tribunals so that they can effectively meet their desired goal. This can be done through a separate national commission which will make appointments to tribunals.


GS Paper 3

National Monetisation Pipeline shows promise — and limits

Source: This post is based on the article “National Monetisation Pipeline shows promise — and limits” published in The Indian Express on 18th Sep 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance: various issues related to National Monetisation Pipeline project.

Synopsis: Article focuses on two issues – How much should the government expect to raise from the Asset Monetisation plan? And, whether the plan likely to increase the efficiency of the economy?

Background

– Read here: National Monetisation Pipeline – Explained, pointwise

How much should the government expect to raise from the Asset Monetisation plan?

The amount of money raised shall depend on the bidding amount.

And the biggest uncertainty in the calculation of bidding amount is regarding the cash flow on these public assets.

Estimates of Rate of return on public capital in the US have been estimated to be upwards of 15%.

However, in India with its various uncertainties regarding pricing, bill collection, asset quality, regulatory framework as well as policy reversals the returns are likely to be lower than the US estimates.

Even in the most optimistic scenario, revenue generated by the plan is unlikely to exceed 5% of the government’s overall infrastructure investment target of Rs 111 trillion.

Hence, its revenue potential is limited.

Will the plan enhance the efficiency of the economy?

The NITI Aayog believes that the private sector is better at managing and operating the identified public assets than the public sector. There is certainly scope for efficiency gains. However, there are significant efficiency barriers too.

Usage fees: One set of efficiency issues involve usage fees. Can the lessee freely choose the price of the services from the asset? If so, could we end up seeing significant increases in prices?

Cartelisation and concentration of ownership: A second factor related to efficiency is the effect of the plan on competition. Could the plan induce the cartelisation of key segments of the infrastructure landscape?

The identified assets belong to core sectors of the economy including transport, energy and communication. Sectors like telecoms and ports have already seen rising concentration of ownership in recent years. An acceleration and extension of this trend to other segments of the infrastructure landscape would be seriously worrying.

Financing of lease bids: A third set of efficiency-related issues surrounds the financing of the lease bids. If bidders finance their bids using domestic savings, there is a clear opportunity cost of the plan, since these savings would otherwise have been invested in alternative projects.

The way around this is to welcome foreign investors to bid for the assets. But this will require serious political will since entrenching foreign influence on Indian public assets will generate controversy. On this aspect too, the announced plan is low on details.

What is the way forward?

The NITI Aayog should come up with a white paper that addresses some of these efficiency-related issues. Without that, the monetisation plan, while intriguing, is incomplete.


Private 5G networks: The next battle call

Source: This post is based on the article “Private 5G networks: The next battle call” published in Business Standard on 18th Sep 2021.

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

Relevance: regarding private 5G networks.

Synopsis: Should India enable the private 5G networks? A brief look at the issues involved.

Introduction

Private 5G networks, where the infrastructure is used exclusively by devices authorized by the end-use organization, such as those within factory premises, are becoming a growing business in the global telecom landscape.

Last year, Germany issued 5G private licences to over 33 companies to run exclusive networks.

In France, airport operator ADP Group and French electricity company EDF have joined the same bandwagon.

And the UK, the US and Australia are putting in place policies to enable private 5G networks.

So can India, which is expected to roll out 5G sometime next year, be far behind?

What is the present situation in India?

A battle has already begun over government policy to permit such networks.

Telcos want 5G private networks to operate on the same terms as they do. This means operators of 5G private networks should buy spectrum through auctions and pay for licences.

Technology players, on the other hand, want spectrum to be offered at an administrative price, as Germany has done.

Should govt auction spectrum for private 5G networks?

Let’s have both sides of the argument:

No. Spectrum should not be auctioned:-

A private network with limited coverage is of interest only to that enterprise.

– Spectrum required is also small, between 50 and 100 MHz, and it is a closed user group not connected to any external public network with no commercial communication services involved. So there is no reason to auction spectrum, administrative allocation is the way.

Moreover, a lack of interconnection with external public networks precludes the need for a licensing regime similar to that of commercial telecom service provi­ders.

A light-touch licensing regime would work just as well.

Yes. Govt should auction the spectrum:-

Telecom companies vehemently oppose any suggestion that spectrum should not be auctioned.

– One reason is that they want a level playing field. If they pay for spectrum for 5G, how can private networks get it free?

– Two, private networks should also get a universal access service licence to operate the same services just like they do and pay the same price.

Why there’s a difference of opinion?

Telcos: Currently, enterprise acc­ounts for less than 10% of telco revenues. This is expected to go up to over 40% with the advent of 5G since the use of 5G increases in factories and other premises.

Tech players, like Fb, Google, Microsoft etc., on the other hand, will have an exp­anded market; they can offer network as well as end-to-end enterprise solutions to corporate customers directly. Currently, they have to tie up with operators to serve their customers.

Hence, everyone wants a share in the 5G enterprise services sector, which will be far bigger than 4G.

Should India enable private 5G networks?

Arguments in favor:

It would be detrim­en­tal for enterprises to wait for the roll-out of large public networks of 5G, with early roll-outs expected only in 2023 and that too in a few cities. The process has already been delayed by two or three years. But that should not mean that Indian enterprises should lose valuable time modernising their operations. Hence, private 5G networks should be permitted to be deplo­yed immediately to garner wide benefits and kick-start manufacturing and industry 4.0.

Arguments against:

Lack of expertise: Many small and medium-sized enterprises lack the expertise or resources for their own network deployment.

Security issues: Also, in many countries, unlicensed spectrum earmarked for private networks is raising serious security issues.

Cost: Telcos say the new technology enables them to provide a company an equally robust and secure private network at a lower cost. Obtaining these services from telcos and focusing on their core business is much more cost-effective for companies.


A Job to do: On unemployment in India

Source: This post is based on the article “A Job to do” published in The Indian Express on 18th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors

Relevance: Unemployment in India

Synopsis: Employment opportunities need to expand in areas where labour is deployed to deliver higher productivity for enterprise and higher returns to labour.

Introduction

India’s unemployment rate in August was 8.3 per cent and, it signifies very high unemployment rates.

What are some concerns regarding unemployment in India?

High unemployment rate: Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) highlighted a 45-year-high unemployment rate of 6.1% in 2017-18 (July to June). Today, an unemployment rate of 7-8% seems to be the norm.

India still provides 9.2 million jobs less than it provided before the pandemic. It fell by nearly 2 million from 399.7 million in July 2021.

Unemployment rate is not an input into policymaking: Between inflation and unemployment, it is inflation that wields political power.

High inflation rates can upset financial markets, that in turn exert pressure on regulators to keep inflation in control. The unemployment rate does not have such an influence.

Unemployment directly impacts only the unemployed: A 7% unemployment rate impacts less than 3% of the population. The society perceives being unemployed as an individual shortcoming, and not an outcome of a macroeconomic malaise.

What is the impact of rising unemployment?

Demands for jobs reservations: The dearth of employment opportunities lends potency to reservations as a political tool.

Low labour force participation rate (LFPR): In India, very often people do not look for jobs in the belief that none are available. Hence, India’s LFPR is at around 40% when the global rate is close to 60%.

Poor quality formal jobs: In a country of over a billion adults, there are less than 80 million salaried jobs. So, questions arise that where would the remaining 920 million go to find employment?

Reverse-migration: In August, even the farms could not absorb the excess labour spilling out from factories and offices. Labour moved to providing odd services to the household sector and into retail trade presumably as delivery boys.

What is the way forward?

Definitions of employment: We should not reduce its meaning into a relaxed definition, as the official system does. For instance, India uses CMIE’s definition of employment that requires a person to be employed for a better part of a day to qualify.

Increasing investments: the investment climate needs to be business-friendly and government interventions must shift away from supply-side support to spurring demand.


Bad bank will help clean up balance sheets, but credit culture must change for healthier financial system

Source: This post is based on the article “Bad bank will help clean up balance sheets, but credit culture must change for healthier financial system” published in Indian Express & “Focus now on faster NPA resolution to ensure NARCL’s success” published in Business Standard on 18th Sep 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to Banking sector

Relevance: IBC, resolution of stressed assets, bad banks and NPA’s

Synopsis: Issues and challenges that may impact the performance of the National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd.

Introduction

The balance sheets of banks show stressed loans worth Rs 2 lakh crore.

To address this problem the government had envisaged the formation of National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd (NARCL) referred to as the bad bank within a period of five years.

Cabinet recently cleared a ₹30,600-crore guarantee programme for securities to be issued by the National Asset Reconstruction Company Limited (NARCL) for taking over and resolving non-performing assets (NPAs).

How the NARCL will function?

As the buyer of these bad loans, NARCL, through its operational entity, India Debt Resolution Company, will be tasked with the resolution of these assets.

The NARCL will acquire stressed assets of about Rs 2 trillion in phases, and these soured loans would be transferred by paying 15 per cent cash to lenders and the remaining 85 per cent would be paid through security receipts.

These security receipts issued by the NARCL would be backed by a government guarantee of up to Rs 30,600 crore.

How it will be beneficial?

Faster resolution of stressed assets: this may lead to better outcomes as consolidating loans from multiple banks into a single entity may lead to a more effective, and timely resolution process.

Provide Liquidity for banks: the upfront cash payment will aid cash flows of banks.

What are the issues and challenges involved?

Price discovery: the price at which NARCL buys the stressed loans from the banks might prove to be challenging, even though the transaction involves the public sector as both buyer and seller.

Uncertainty over the Response from secondary market: Banks though will have the freedom to sell the security receipts. But to what extent a secondary market for such securities evolves is debatable.

Uncertainty over the yield: Considering that these loans have been written down by banks, it is difficult to gauge what this will yield. For instance, Historically, banks see about 10 per cent recovery from written-off loans.

Lack of Buyers: The absence of buyers as reflected in the IBC process, the extent to which financial creditors have had to take haircuts on their admitted claims, all raise questions over the market appetite on both sides of the transaction.

NARCL may become another repository for bad loans: The creation of a bad bank could help clean up bank balance sheets though in the absence of a successful resolution it may end up being a repository for bad loans.

Net impact on NPA’s is negligible: While it will reduce gross non-performing asset (GNPA) ratios of public sector banks (PSBs), the reduction in net NPA (NNPA) will be limited to the extent of un-provided exposure.

Does not address the underlying cause of the bad loan problem in India: Only by reforming the banking system in India, especially the public sector banks, can the financial system be made more efficient.

Delays in resolution: Resolution of NPAs is a long-drawn process in India as it is difficult to find buyers and any delay will only lead to value destruction.

May incur losses for banks in the longer run: Upon extinguishment of government guarantee on Security receipts (after five years), banks will have to bear the loss on the un-redeemed Security receipts.

What is the way forward?

NARCL will have to be equipped with talented and passionate management and will require government and regulatory oversight to succeed.


Thailand’s approach for sustainable development and building back better

Source: This post is based on the article “Thailand’s approach for sustainable development and building back better” published in The Hindu on 15th September 2021. 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Relevance: Understanding Thailand’s SEP approach 

Synopsis: Thailand’s SEP offers a practical path towards achieving sustainable development in the post-pandemic world. 

Introduction 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused severe social and economic disruption and also changed the living standards of the people. It has also slowed down the global effort to drive forward sustainable development and achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

To achieve global sustainability, Thailand came with homegrown development approach of “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy” (SEP). This approach can serve as an alternative approach to achieve the SDGs and building back better without leaving no one behind in the Covid-19 pandemic. 

What is Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP)? 

SEP is a philosophy that guides one’s inner thinking to immunize oneself from external shocks. Under sufficiency economy, one can consider going beyond one basic need as long as one’s existing means and capacity are not exceeded.  

What is the purpose of SEP? 

The purpose of SEP is to encourage oneself to be sensible and realistic. SEP can be applied to any sectors and any areas of operations and at all levels, i.e. family, local community, business and public organizations. 

SEP serves as a foundation, and compass for sustainability, based on three principles and two pillars.  

First, moderation, which entails producing and consuming within one’s capacity and avoiding overindulgence.  

Second, reasonableness, which is using one’s mental faculties to examine the causes and consequences of actions on one’s well-being, household and community.  

Third, prudence, which refers to risk management in order to be prepared for impacts from any disruptions.  

What are the two pillars? 

The two pillars are:

First, knowledge. It enables effective planning and execution of developmental activities. 

Second, ethics and values. It enhances human development by emphasizing honesty, altruism, and perseverance, with creating active, engaged citizens, and promoting good governance as the ultimate goal. 

What is New Theory Agriculture? 

To strengthen development efforts based on SEP, in the rural areas the “New Theory Agriculture” has been introduced. The initiative is to divide the land into sections for multiple purposes such as crops cultivation, livestock farming, fisheries, and water resources.  

Advantages: This ensures sufficient resources for household consumption and reducing reliance on food imports. It has increased agricultural productivity, income generation, and living standards. It has improved the livelihoods of communities nationwide. 

What are the applications of SEP in times of COVID-19? 

SEP has succeeded in alleviating Thailand to overcome many crises in the past and during COVID-19. Many people were able to continue their way of lives in unprecedented times through self-immunity. 

SEP has inspired numerous projects around the world. Thailand’s SEP-based development models are designed to assist developing countries to tackle the issue of excessive dependence on foreign aid. The objective is to build resilient communities by enhancing productivity in income and resources.  

What is the way forward?

Thailand used SEP to overcome the effects of COVID-19 pandemic and achieve the SDGs. Hence, SEP provides a practical and worthy development path that other nations can adapt to their specific contexts.

Thailand is ready to work with partners worldwide on cooperation for development and share the benefits of the application of the SEP as Thailand’s gift to the world.

 

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

UN faces $100-trn shortfall in fight against inequality

What is the news?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) face a financing gap that has soared to up to US$100 trillion in the wake of COVID-19 and other urgent global challenges.

These are the findings of a new report ‘The Capital as a Force for Good by Force for Good in collaboration with the UN and other organizations.

What are the key findings of the report?

Funding shortfall: Global goals tackling poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change face a $100 trillion funding shortfall and are likely to be missed unless 10% of global economic output is directed to the UN targets every year to 2030.

Funding requirements: Adding the costs of financing the global transition to a low-carbon economy to limit global warming, and total funding out to 2050 comes in at $200-$220 trillion.

Imbalances in investment: After a slow start, the world’s finance industry has begun to do more, with $9.5 trillion committed to 2030 and a record $2.1 trillion deployed in 2020. However, there are imbalances in the way the money is being invested.

While climate change-related goals represented 20% of the funding gap, the theme was currently attracting 44% of the committed capital. By contrast, human, economic and social-related goals made up more than half of the funding gap but were taking in just 32 per cent of current funding.

Conflict risk: While more than 1.1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, failure to accelerate efforts on the SDGs risked fuelling conflict and crises.

What is the way forward?

Closing the funding gap will require not only more funding, but also a broadening of investment portfolios to place far greater emphasis on investments in people and human security. This should include direct investments in the social inclusion, education, welfare, and well-being of human beings

Source: This post is based on the article “UN faces $100-trn shortfall in fight against inequality” published in Business Standard on 17th Sep 2021.


5G spectrum auction to allot airwaves may not happen before 2023

What is the news?

According to internal consultations in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the 5G spectrum auctions will be held in the last quarter of the financial year 2022-23 (FY23).

The 5G auction would include 3,300 MHz to 3,600 MHz bands along with the milimetre waves. The base price for the 5G spectrum is around Rs 3.63 trillion.

How the spectrum allocation process is initiated?

Usually, the telecom department, after internal consultations, sends the proposal to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) seeking its views on the subject. The regulator, after rounds of consultations with the various stakeholders, sends its recommendations to DoT.

These recommendations are then vetted by the Digital Communications Commission, the apex decision-making body in the telecom sector.

After seeking approval from the Union Cabinet, the notice inviting applications is floated by the telecom department.

Source: This post is based on the article “5G spectrum auction to allot airwaves may not happen before 2023” published in Business Standard on 18th Sep 2021.


Climate crisis may destroy aquatic food systems — and livelihoods, economies

What is the news? 

As per recent study published in Nature Food, Climate change can destroy the marine and freshwater systems of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Indo Pacific. This may destroy livelihoods and economies of countries in the regions, if appropriate measures are not taken in time to mitigate the crisis. 

What are the findings of the report? 

First, India, along with other South Asian countries, is at a ‘high’ risk to its aquatic food systems under a high-emissions, no-mitigation scenario. 

Second, countries with high climate vulnerability may face risk in the food system outcomes, either in marine fisheries or in freshwater and deltaic fisheries and aquaculture.  

Third, with a larger magnitude of warming on large continental land masses than in the ocean, freshwater fisheries in some countries are projected to face ‘very high’ hazards by the mid-twenty-first century, especially in water-stressed areas such as northern Africa and the Middle East.

In terms of nutrition this equates to a reduction in aquatic food access and limit essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids leading to nutrients deficiency. 

What are the recommendations? 

First, there is urgent need to support the long-term sustainability, resilience, and equity of aquatic food systems.  

Second, we need to reduce actual climate hazards, greenhouse gas emissions reductions. 

Third, we need farming climate-tolerant species with reduced feed dependence and building barriers and restoring coastal ecosystems to protect against storms.  

Fourth, reducing dependence on climate-sensitive aquatic foods and sectors and vulnerability through investments that benefit human development irrespective of climate change. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Climate crisis may destroy aquatic food systems — and livelihoods, economies” published in the Down to Earth on 17th September 2021. 


UNESCO declares world’s first 5-country biosphere reserve in ‘Amazon of Europe’

What is the news? 

Recently, UNESCO designated Mura-Drava-Danube (MDD) as the world’s first ‘five-country biosphere reserve. 

The biosphere reserve covers 700 kilometres of the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers and stretches across Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia. The total area of the reserve — a million hectares — in the so-called ‘Amazon of Europe’, makes it the largest riverine protected area on the continent.

Mura-Drava-Danube - World's First 5-Country Biosphere Reserve!

Why MDD was designated as a biosphere reserve? 

It will advance the protection and revitalisation of the Mura-Drava-Danube area and boost sustainable business practices. It will also enhance cross-border cooperation. 

The aim is to revitalize 25,000 km of rivers and protect 30 per cent of the European Union’s land area by 2030. 

Why is MDD significant?

Firstly, the reserve is home to floodplain forests, gravel and sand banks, river islands, oxbows and meadows. 

Secondly, it is home to continental Europe’s highest density of breeding white-tailed eagle, as well as endangered species such as the little tern, black stork, otters, beavers and sturgeons.

Thirdly, it is also an important annual resting and feeding place for more than 250,000 migratory birds, according to WWF.

Fourthly, the reserve is inhabited by almost 900,000 people too.

Source: This post is based on the article “UNESCO declares world’s first 5-country biosphere reserve in Amazon of Europe” published in the Down to Earth on 16th September 2021. 


Explained: Why ‘black tigers’ sound a warning

What is the news?

Recently, scientists resolved the genetic mystery of Simlipal’s so-called black tigers. Single genetic mutation in these tigers caused black stripes to broaden or spread into the tawny background. 

Must Read: Scientists unravel mystery behind Odisha’s ‘black tigers’
What is pseudo-melanism? 

Tigers have a dark stripe pattern on a light background of white or golden. A rare pattern variant, distinguished by stripes that are broadened and fused together, is also observed in both wild and captive populations. This is known as pseudo-melanism.

It is a condition characterised by unusually high deposition of melanin, a dark pigment. Truly melanistic tigers are yet to be recorded. 

Why black tigers are rare? 

Firstly, mutants are genetic variations which may occur spontaneously, but not frequently, in nature. Pseudo-melanism is caused by a recessive (hidden) gene. A cub gets two copies of each gene from both parents, and a recessive gene can show up only in the absence of the dominant one.

So, two normal-pattern tigers carrying the recessive pseudo-melanism gene will have to breed together for a one-in-four probability of giving birth to a black cub.

Secondly, recessive genes are rare, and it is unlikely that two unrelated tigers will carry the same one and pass it on together to a cub. Hence, succession of black tigers is rare. 

What are the recommendations to revive the situation? 

Overall, such populations have a high chance of extinction. Hence, studies like the recent one will provide help in safeguarding the futures of endangered species

Introduction of fresh genes in an isolated pool, depending on the number of migrants, frequency of influx and population size, can also reverse the damage over time.   

Restoring natural connectivity between forests: Due to human-induced habitat fragmentation, populations of tigers become isolated within a particular area, resulting in inbreeding and reduced chances of survival. Hence, we should also focus on restoring or maintaining natural connectivity between tiger forests in the long term.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Why ‘black tigers’ sound a warning” published in The Indian Express on 18th Sep 2021.


World Bank discontinues Doing Business rankings

Source: This post is based on the article “World Bank discontinues Doing Business rankings” published in The Hindu on 18th September 2021.

What is the News?

The World Bank Group has recently decided to discontinue publication of its ‘Doing Business’ rankings.

About the Doing Business Report

Doing Business report measures regulations across the 190 economies in 12 business regulatory areas to assess the business environment in each economy.

Read more: World Bank’s Doing Business Report

What led to the decision?

In August 2020, the World Bank paused the publication of Doing Business reports following a number of irregularities were reported regarding changes to the data. The irregularities had affected four countries: China; Saudi Arabia; United Arab Emirates; and Azerbaijan.

The World Bank has later confirmed that the changes were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

An independent probe of data irregularities cited “undue pressure” by top bank officials, including the World Bank’s former CEO, to boost China’s ranking in 2017. This raised ethical matters involving former bank staff and board officials in calculating the rankings.

Why the report is important?

The World Bank’s annual report matters to several nations, especially developing ones. The report greatly influences investor decisions by releasing a ranking of economies based on how easy it is to open up, and operate, a business.

On the other hand, many governments criticized the rankings for their methodology that inaccurately captured the realities on the ground.

What will be done in the future?

The World Bank has now said that a new approach will be worked out to assess countries‘ business and investment climates.


Recommendations of 45th GST Council Meeting

What is the News?

The Finance Minister has chaired the 45th Goods and Service Tax (GST) Council meeting. This was the first in-person GST meet since the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are the key recommendations made at the GST Council meeting?

Concession on Medicines

Life-saving drugs Zolgensma and Viltepso used in the treatment of Spinal-Muscular Atrophy are exempted from GST when imported for personal use.

Extension of existing concessional GST rates on certain COVID-19 treatment drugs upto 31st December 2021.

No Petroleum Products under GST

The Council discussed the proposal to bring petroleum products under the GST. Earlier, Kerala High Court had issued a directive mentioning petrol and diesel should be included in GST considering the high rates. However, the council has decided to keep the proposal out of its ambit for now.

GST Compensation Cess

There will be no GST Compensation mechanism for states from June 2022 as mandated under the law.

Note: As per the GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017, states are guaranteed compensation for revenue loss on account of implementation of GST for a transition period of five years (2017-2022).

However, the levy of compensation cess will continue from July 2022 onwards till March 2026 to service the borrowing which had been resorted to in order to bridge the compensation gap in the years 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Read more: Analysis of GST regime in India – Explained, Pointwise

Zomato, Swiggy under GST

From 1st January 2022, food delivery apps will have to collect and deposit 5% GST with the government, in place of restaurants, for deliveries made by the platforms. 

This transfer of responsibility was proposed by the government with the aim of bringing several restaurants that had not been paying taxes under the GST net.

​​Formation of two Group of Ministers(GoMs): 

The GST Council has decided to set up 2 GoMs to examine the issue of correction of inverted duty structure for major sectors and for using technology to further improve compliance, including monitoring.

Note: Inverted tax structure simply refers to a condition where the tax rate on inputs used is higher than the tax rate on the outputs for sale or finished goods.

Source: This post is based on the following articles

  • GST Council not for inclusion of petroleum products: Finance Ministerpublished in The Hindu on 18th September 2021.
  • ​​Recommendations of 45th GST Council Meeting” published in PIB on 17th September 2021.

On Prime Minister’s birthday, KVIC launches series of schemes to empower artisans in Varanasi

What is the News?

Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has launched a Scheme called SPIN (Strengthening the Potential of India). It has also set up a pottery cluster under SFURTI Scheme.

What is the SPIN Scheme?

The scheme is aimed at bringing self-sustainability in the Indian pottery sector.

Under the scheme, KVIC will facilitate the registered potters to get easy loans from banks under the Pradhan Mantri Shishu Mudra Yojana This will help them in diversifying their activities and enhance their income.

Key Features of SPIN Scheme

It is a no-subsidy program. So, there is no financial burden on the exchequer

Beneficiaries can repay the loans in easy instalments.

What is Kashi Pottery Cluster?

It was the first pottery cluster in the Varanasi district set up by KVIC under the SFURTI Scheme. 

The cluster is equipped with modern equipment like furnaces, electric pottery wheels, blunger machines, pugmills and other modern equipment for higher production of clay pottery.

About Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI)

Launched by: Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises(MSME)

Aim: To organize traditional industries and artisans into clusters to make them competitive and increase their income.

KVIC is the nodal agency for the promotion of Cluster development for Khadi as well as for Village Industries products.

Source: This post is based on the article On Prime Minister’s birthday, KVIC launches a series of schemes to empower artisans in Varanasipublished in PIB on 18th September 2021.


PM calls on SCO to act against radicalization

What is the News?

The annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) was held in Tajikistan’s capital city of Dushanbe.

What are the key highlights of the summit?

Dushanbe Declaration: At the summit, the countries adopted the Dushanbe Declaration. The declaration called for an inclusive government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious, and political groups of Afghan society. It also reaffirmed the need to step up joint efforts to prevent terrorism and its financing.

India Prime Minister on Afghanistan: Indian Prime Minister has raised concerns about the situation in Afghanistan. The important concerns raised by him are:

Firstly, the change of power in Afghanistan is not inclusive and has taken place without negotiation. This raises questions about the acceptability of the new system.

Secondly, if instability and fundamentalism continue in Afghanistan, it will lead to terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world. Other extremist groups may also be encouraged to seek power through violence.

Thirdly, developments in Afghanistan could lead to an uncontrolled flow of drugs, illegal weapons, and human trafficking. A large amount of advanced weapons remain in Afghanistan. Due to these, there will be a risk of instability in the entire region. 

Fourthly, the concern is about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, where India is ready to help and be part of any regional or global initiative to help Afghan society.

Read more: Implications of the rise of Taliban for India – Explained, pointwise

Source:  This post is based on the following articles

  • “PM calls on SCO to act against radicalization” published in Livemint on 18th September 2021.
  • “PM on Kabul: Questions on acceptability, think together on recognition” published in The Indian Express on 18th September 2021.

Biden unveils plan to cut methane emissions

What is the News?

The US President has announced the Global Methane Pledge at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate(MEF).

What is the Global Methane Pledge?

Global Methane Pledge is a joint US-European Union(EU) pledge to cut global methane emissions by nearly 30% in the next decade.

The pledge will be formalized at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021.

What is the significance of this pledge?

Methane is the second most abundant human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) and is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over 20 years in the atmosphere, and 34 times more powerful over 100 years. 

Because it exists for a relatively short time in the atmosphere, cutting methane provides a quick benefit in terms of limiting near-term temperature rise.

Most human-caused methane emissions stem from three sectors: agriculture (40%), energy (35%) and waste (20%). 

Studies estimate that ambitious actions to reduce methane can avoid 0.3C of warming by 2050. 

Read more: “Global Methane Assessment” :The UN Report on human-caused methane emissions
What is the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF)?

MEF was launched in 2009. It is aimed at facilitating candid dialogue among major emitting countries, both developed and developing, to garner the political leadership needed to advance efforts against climate change.

Source: This post is based on the article Biden unveils plan to cut methane emissionspublished in The Hindu on 18th Sep 2021.


New research: Scientists attempt to turn edible plants into vaccines

What is the News?

Scientists and Researchers at the University of California are studying whether they can turn edible plants like lettuce into mRNA vaccine factories.

What is the purpose of the project? 

The project aims to demonstrate whether they can convert plants like spinach and lettuce into mRNA vaccine factories.

What is the key element in this project?

The key to making this project work are chloroplasts. These are small organs in plant cells that convert sunlight into energy the plant can use.

They’re tiny, solar-powered factories that produce sugar and other molecules which allow the plant to grow. Hence, they are an untapped source for making desirable molecules.

What is the significance of this project?

Messenger RNA or mRNA technology works by teaching our cells to recognize and protect us against infectious diseases. 

One of the challenges with the mRNA technology is that it must be kept cold to maintain stability during transport and storage.

Hence, if this new project is successful, plant-based mRNA vaccines — which can be eaten — could overcome this challenge with the ability to be stored at room temperature.

Source: This post is based on the article New research: Scientists attempt to turn edible plants into vaccinespublished in Indian Express on 18th September 2021.


Phase 2 of Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme launched by IT Minister

What is the News?

Union Minister of Electronics & Information Technology launched Phase II of the Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme.

What is Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme?

Launched by: Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in 2014

Aim: To enhance the number of PhDs in Electronics System Design & Manufacturing (ESDM) and IT/IT Enabled Services (IT/ITES) sectors in the country.

What are the phases under the Scheme?

Phase 1

Under Phase 1, PhD seats were allocated to 97 institutions (IITs, NITs, Central & State Universities etc.) in 25 states and 4 Union Territories.  

Phase II

Under Phase II, the scheme aims to support 1000 Full-Time PhD Candidates, 150 Part-Time PhD Candidates, 50 Young Faculty Research Fellowships and 225 Post-Doctoral Fellowships.

Source: This post is based on the article Phase 2 of Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme launched by IT Ministerpublished in PIB on 18th September 2021.


Meghalaya Enterprise Architecture Project (MeghEA) launched by IT Minister and CM Meghalaya

What is the News?

Meghalaya chief minister and Union Information and Technology (MeitY) Minister has jointly launched ‘MeghEA- Meghalaya Enterprise Architecture’.

About MeghEA- Meghalaya Enterprise Architecture

Aim: To improve service delivery and governance for the people of Meghalaya using the power of digital technologies.

Pillars: MeghEA initiative is spread across 6 pillars namely:  Governance, Human Resources, Entrepreneurship, Primary Sector, Infrastructure and Environment.

Significance of the Project: With this, Meghalaya becomes the first state to implement India Enterprise Architecture (IndEA) as MeghEA and promote Enterprise Architecture to digitize Governance Process.

Note: IndEA is an initiative of the Government of India to promote digital governance in the country and expedite the delivery service system in the government process.

Source: This post is based on the article “Meghalaya Enterprise Architecture Project (MeghEA) launched by IT Minister and CM Meghalaya” published in PIB on 17th Sep 2021.


Exercise Peaceful Mission-2021: India takes part in SCO joint military exercise in Russia

What is the News?

India has participated in the 6th edition of Exercise Peaceful Mission being hosted by Russia.

What is an Exercise Peaceful Mission?

Exercise Peaceful Mission is a Multilateral Exercise that is conducted biennially as part of military diplomacy between Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states. 

Aim: To foster close relations between SCO member states and to enhance the abilities of the military leaders to command multinational military contingents. 

The focus of the exercise: The scope of the exercise includes professional interaction, mutual understanding of drills & procedures, the establishment of joint command & control structures and elimination of terrorist threats.

India’s Participation: The Indian military contingent comprising an all arms combined force of 200 personnel including 38 personnel from the Indian Air Force is participating in the 2021 Exercise.

Source: This post is based on the articleExercise Peaceful Mission-2021: India takes part in SCO joint military exercise in Russia published in India Today on 16th Sep 2021.


Major restructuring of railways on anvil

Source: This post is based on the article “Major restructuring of railways on anvil” published in The Hindu on 18th September 2021.

What is the news?

A panel was set up under the Principal Economic Adviser gave recommendations for Rationalisation of Government Bodies and Proposal for the Ministry of Railways. Recently, Cabinet Secretary asked about the actions taken on the rationalisation plan.

What are the recommendations of the panel?

Closure: Panel calls for winding up the Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE), the Central Organisation for Modernisation Of Workshops (COFMOW), Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) and Indian Railways Organisation for Alternative Fuel (IROAF).

Merger: Panel recommended RailTel should be merged with IRCTC. Railtel is one of the largest telecom infrastructure providers in the country. It focuses on modernising operations and safety systems through optic fibre networks that exist along railway tracks.

It is also recommended for the merger of Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) with the Indian Railway Construction Limited (IRCON), as both works in the same field of infrastructure.

Transfer of functions: The panel recommended transferring the CRIS functions like passenger ticketing, freight invoicing, passenger train operations, etc. to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

Schools: Panel recommended the merger of railway schools with Kendriya Vidyalayas or handing them over to the respective State Governments. This was recommended because out of the 7.99 lakh children of railway employees in the 4-18 age group, less than 2% were enrolled in railway schools.

Factories under CPSE: Panel recommended to establish a Central Public Sector Enterprise to bring eight production units under its fold.

Private Participation: Panel proposed to upgrade the National Rail and Transportation Institute into a Central University and an Institute of National Importance. The panel also recommended merging Central Training Institutes with it. This will help bring in private participation and investment. This will also improve the healthcare facilities for the railway employees.

What is the significance?

It is a welcome move that the Indian railways are heading for reforms. These reforms will help in the modernisation of railways and bring much-needed efficiency to the operations.  Government has already started to work on these recommendations with the recent closure of IROAF.


The town of Wooden toys

Source: This post is based on the article “The town of Wooden toys” published in Livemint on 18th September 2021.

What is the news?

Recently, a Welfare Association of wooden toymakers named Ambasamudram Bharani Mara Varna Kadasal Artisans has applied for the Geographical Indications tag for  Choppu Samaan.

What is Choppu Samaan?

It is a traditional toy for kids. It is a kitchen set that is made up of fine wood with polished edges. Furthermore, it is painted with harmless natural colours, so it is safe for children. Originally, artists used teak and rosewood, but now there is more use of eucalyptus and rubberwood.

How it is made?

The wood is seasoned by the method of air drying. It is then cut into smaller cylinders to fit onto a lathe (machine for shaping wood). The toys are shaped on that lathe with standard carpentry tools. After manufacturing, the products are either lacquered on a wooden lathe or simply painted with colours. Lacquer is prepared by mixing lac with pigments. Screw-pine leaves are used to polish the finished toys. These are also known as Kadasal toys.

What is a GI tag?

A GI tag is a sign used on goods that have a specific Geographical Indications origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are specific to that origin.

The tag can be awarded for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine, handicrafts, and industrial products.

A GI tag is a part of the intellectual property rights that comes under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Once a product is accorded a GI tag, it is protected by various legislations, such as legislations by the World Intellectual Property Organization(WIPO).


Print Friendly and PDF