9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – September 24th, 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.
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Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly) 

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

A disease surveillance system, for the future

Source: This post is based on the following articles “A disease surveillance system, for the future “published in The Hindu on 24th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

Relevance: To study the disease surveillance system.

Synopsis Diseases and outbreaks are realities and a well-functioning system can help reduce their impact.

Introduction

The article highlights the importance of epidemiology in preventing and controlling infectious diseases.

What is epidemiology and disease surveillance?

Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution, patterns and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations. This is done either to prevent or stop the further spread, a process termed as disease surveillance.

However, in the last 19th or early 20th Century, with the advancement of medical science and discovery of antibiotics, the focus on disease surveillance system has been shifted especially in development countries.

It is again in the late 20th Century, with focus on eradicating smallpox and tackling re-emerging diseases, countries started to strengthen their disease surveillance system.

What is the status of disease surveillance in India?

India launched the National Surveillance Programme for Communicable Diseases in 1997. This programme was launched in the purview of the Delhi cholera outbreak and Surat Plague outbreak in 1988 and 1994 respectively.

Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP): It was launched in 2004. The focus of this programme was to increase government funding, strengthen laboratory capacity, train the health workforce and have at least one trained epidemiologist in every district of India.

It was on IDSP foundation that India tracked all the Covid related activity from deploying a team of epidemiologists to contact tracing, rapid testing etc.

What are the challenges?

The key tools in epidemiology are disease surveillance system and health data. However, in the ICMR Serological Survey , it was found that states have performed variably.

In a good disease surveillance system, any increase in the case of diseases can be identified quickly. For eg: Kerala, one of the best Disease surveillance systems in identifying covid and recently Nipah Cases in India.

Whereas states like UP and MP cases of dengue, malaria, leptospirosis etc received attention only when more than three dozen deaths were reported.

What should be done?

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Government of India and World Health Organization jointly reviewed IDSP in 2015. They jointly gave the following recommendations to strengthen the disease surveillance system in India:

Financial resource allocation: Focus should be on promoting health services and disease surveillance. For this, required resources should be allocated to the concerned department.

Trained human resources: Proper training should be given to the workforce in the primary healthcare system in both rural and urban areas.

 Strengthening laboratories: Labs should be strengthened to increase the ability to conduct testing for public health challenges and infections. A system should be designed where samples collected are quickly transported and tested, and the reports are available in real-time.

Emerging Outbreaks: Study of animal and human health should be linked to control the outbreak of various diseases like Nipah, avian flu etc. For this “One Health Policy” approach should be implemented.

Strengthening the system: Focus should be on strengthening the civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems and medical certification of cause of deaths (MCCD).

Coordination: Proper collaboration should be there between the Centre, State government and Municipal Corporation to develop joint action plans.

Although, we cannot avoid the emergence of new and old diseases, but with the well-designed surveillance system we can control the impact of these diseases.


Make departments smart, first

Source: This post is based on the following articles “Make departments smart, first “published in The Hindu on 24th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.

Relevance: To analyze how the smart city should be like.

Synopsis: E-governance holds the promise of improving local governance, but only if we pay attention to the basics.

Introduction

To have a smart city, there is a need to make all the departments of the city smart. In such cities, good governance is dependent on good service delivery. This requires good availability of data.

Thus, we need to develop ‘smart systems’ that generate data by default.

How departments can be made smart and efficient?

To make the departments work more smartly and efficiently, there is a need to use digital technologies across all three domains — processes, human resources, and citizen-centricity. We need to work on:

E Governance: There is a need to shift the work from regular copy pen format to digital format. This will also help us to save time, reduce errors and reduce manipulation in the system. For Example in Andhra Pradesh, ULB employees reported saving an average of 11 hours every week after a digital system was adopted.

Transition period: Administration should adopt phased targets to adopt new tools. It should also provide training to the employees for their effective use.

Citizen Centric: Changes should be done keeping the citizens in mind. It should be citizen-centric.

Collaboration: Collaboration should be there between various government departments and with non-governmental partners as well — to create a virtuous cycle of co-creation, learning, and efficiency.

This is how smart cities emerge, not from the top-down, but from an organic collaboration between departments, employees, and citizens, who are simply looking to do their own jobs more effectively.


How Poshan vatikas can help bridge the nutrition

Source: This post is based on the following articles “How Poshan vatikas can help bridge the nutrition “published in Indian Express on 24th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Relevance: About the Poshan Vatikas.

Synopsis: Self-reliance and the adoption of sustainable food systems to address nutrition security amongst women and children is needed to address the tackle the challenge of nutrition.

Introduction

In the backdrop of Poshan Maah in September 2021, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is keen to promote the establishment of “Poshan Vatikas” across the country.

What are Poshan Vatikas?

These are the Nutri-gardens which aim to provide a fresh supply of fruits, vegetables and even medicinal plants.

Nutri-gardens represent a global best practice that has the potential to address the multiple goals of diet diversity, nutrition security, agri-food cultivation, local livelihood generation and environmental sustainability.

What are the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) guidelines regarding it?

The main objective of introducing them is to encourage community members to grow local food crops in their backyards.

This will provide an inexpensive, regular and handy supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. This will also help in addressing the micro-nutrient deficiencies through access to diverse and nutritious diets. Moreover, it would also help in the generation of economic activity for local cultivators and village industries.

Land Space: It will identify land spaces used to set up vatikas including anganwadi centres, panchayat areas, government schools, vacant lands or any other patch of community/government land available in the locality.

It also mandates retrofitting of these gardens with backyard poultry and fishing as per the prevalent food culture. This can be particularly useful in addressing the protein requirements.

What are the benefits of the Nutri gardens?

Promote dietary behaviors:  Educate children about the need for the consumption of fresh food produce and promote messaging for healthy dietary behaviors amongst women.  For example, the government has been incentivizing a drive for the plantation of moringa at all anganwadi centres. Moringa or drumstick, is a native Indian plant, rich in beta carotene, iron, vitamins A, B2, B6 and C5.

Global Scientific research: A review of global evidence from USA and South Africa shows that setting up of nutri-gardens can significantly improve awareness about dietary diversity and a preference for the consumption of fresh food produce. In India, the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation has taken various steps for this like seed kits for growing green leafy vegetables, roots and saplings of fruit trees etc.

What should be the way forward?

The success of the national strategy depends on how the Poshan Vatika programme is implemented.

There is need to overcome the barriers like that availability of cultivable land, water, the skill of farmers etc. If all this can be implemented then Poshan Vatikas would become an opportunity to increase convergence between agriculture and nutrition policy for India.


Ex Gratia: Why GOI should pay, Compensating Death

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

The court mediated decision for COVID 19 death compensation will help the poorest”: published in the Times of India on 23rd September 2021

“Vital Relief” published in the Hindu on 24th September 2021.

“Ex Gratia: Why GoI should pay”: published in the Times of India on 23rd September 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

Relevance: To understand the impact of the loss of lives due to Covid.

Synopsis: The court mediated decision for COVID 19 death compensation will help the poorest.

Introduction

Recently, Centre on the suggestions of the Supreme Court has agreed to provide financial relief of ₹50,000 per deceased individual to families of those who died of COVID-19. It will also include those who were involved in relief operations or associated with preparedness activities. The assistance will be subject to the cause of death being certified as Covid’.

They will get the amount within 30 days of submitting the necessary documents.

Who will provide the relief amount?

The relief amount, proposed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), is to be paid out of the State Disaster Response Fund.

SDRF represents a dedicated facility to deal with notified disasters, including COVID-19.

Read more: Covid deaths: Centre okays ex-gratia, state funds to cover it

GoI will contribute 75% to each state’s SDRF except for hill states and NE states, where its share is 90%.

What is the concern?

Identification of beneficiaries: Given that many deaths during the covid wave were not certified as COVID deaths, identification of beneficiaries is a challenge in itself. Poorer citizens were most often the victims of this process. Ex gratia payments will most likely leave them out.

Financial Challenges: Though the government has provided Rs 29,983 crore corpus in addition to SDRF, the financial challenge will still remain. For example, we need to keep in mind that expenses related to recurring notified disasters such as droughts and floods will also have to be met.

Clarity: There is no clarity whether ex gratia should have been limited to poorer citizens like the other welfare benefits are. Or should extend to the richer section also.

Non-inclusion of other diseases: There’s also the question of why other disease-related deaths should not attract ex gratia payments. In a country with poor public health and extremely unequal access to quality private healthcare, Covid wasn’t the first and won’t be the last disease that can cause deaths on a large scale.

State finances: It is also important to recognise that states have been at the forefront in fighting the pandemic. But States also face severe funding crunch due to declining revenues. Therefore, pushing states to fund the ex gratia could severely dent resources for other disaster-related expenditures.

Already compensated: More than half of the states have already compensated beneficiaries even before the announcement of NDMA. They provided relief ranging from Rs 10 thousand to Rs 1 lakh. But that compensation was done from CM Relief Fund and not from SDRF.

What should be the way forward?

It is true that on its part, GoI has been proactive with various pandemic-related measures, and it has also allocated Rs 35,000 crore for vaccination. GoI should now work to cover the entire ex gratia cost.

This can be done through two ways. Either GoI can increase its share in SDRFs or it can pay directly through the Consolidated Fund of India.


GS Paper 3

The state of agriculture in India is only going from bad to worse

Source: This post is based on the article “The state of agriculture in India is only going from bad to worse” published in Livemint on 24th Sep 2021.

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

Relevance: Agrarian distress in India

Synopsis: Our agricultural sector has been in a state of perpetual decline after 2012-13 and is reeling under such shocks as back-to-back droughts, demonetization and the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest Situation Assessment Survey adds to findings that reveal worsening agrarian distress.

Introduction

Recently, the National Statistical Office released the Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of agricultural households for the 2018-19 agricultural year, which runs from July to June.

This is the 3rd survey of the SAS series; the earlier two were for 2002-03 and 2012-13 agrarian years.

The latest one holds importance, given the unprecedented crisis in India’s economy driven by declining demand and supply disruptions, and also in the context of an intensification of the farmer agitation against three farm laws.

What are the reasons behind the agrarian distress?

The crisis in agriculture has been developing for quite some time. Essentially, our agrarian economy has been in a state of perpetual distress after 2012-13 due to the following reasons:

a sharp slowdown in the economy and a rise in input costs driven by rising wages

faulty implementation of India’s fertilizer-subsidy reforms and higher fuel prices

The back-to-back drought in 2014 and 2015 added to the problems.

Demonetization caused disruptions that left many farmers unable to sell. Since then, the economy has experienced a sharp slowdown, followed by the covid pandemic.

What are the results SAS 2018-19?

i). Increase in wage income: The average income of an agricultural household from all sources—cultivation, livestock, wage earnings as well as non-farm incomes—increased in real terms from 6,436 in 2012-13 to 7,683 in 2018-19. However, this was mainly on account of higher wage incomes, which rose 6.7% per annum.

ii). Decline in cultivation income: More than 90% of farmers during July 2018-June 2019 reported being engaged in crop cultivation, and for a majority of them, real incomes from it declined 1.3% per annum. This decline was experienced not by any particular class, but by all farmers, from those with small and marginal to medium and large farms.

Why SAS 2018-19 results are worrying?

Due to the following reasons:

i). Incomes from non-farm sector are not reliable: A large proportion of rural households are still engaged in agriculture; and within agriculture, an overwhelmingly large proportion are dependent on crop production. While higher than average growth in wage labour may have protected agricultural households from a decline in real incomes, it is unlikely that the non-farm sector will continue to protect farmers’ incomes in the future.

ii). The country’s rural areas are suffering. The fall in real cultivation incomes has been partly responsible for a slow demand and economic growth even before the pandemic. But the fact that it has caused investment in agriculture to weaken points to further distress for our agricultural economy.

iii). Impact of COVID: These SAS estimates pertain to 2018-19, or two years before the pandemic struck the Indian economy. Events after 2018-19 suggest that the situation would certainly have worsened on account of a rise in input costs driven by energy and fertilizer prices.

iv). Declining and Stagnant prices: Data from the wholesale price index suggests that farm-gate prices for a majority of crops have either declined or remained stagnant.

v). Decline in real wages: With real wages declining in the last two years, even the cushion of wage incomes compensating for the loss of cultivation incomes may not be enough. Moreover, the recently released Periodic Labour Force Survey showed an actual increase in workers dependent on agriculture. This would result in a sharper reduction in real incomes per agricultural work.

What needs to be done?

The priority at this juncture for the government should be to protect the real incomes of farmers that they were getting before it assumed office.


A climate change narrative that India can steer

Source: This post is based on the article ” A climate change narrative that India can steer ” published in The Hindu o24th September 2021. 

Syllabus: GS 3- Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment, Disaster and Disaster Management. 

Relevance: To understand the effects of the climate change 

Synopsis: The Glasgow COP26 meet offers India a chance to update its Nationally Determined Contributions to meet climate targets.

Introduction 

Recently, Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) published a report titled “Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region”. This report reveals that India has warmed up 0.7° C during 1901- 2018.

What are the findings of the assessment?

The 2010-2019 decade was the hottest with a mean temperature of 0.36° C higher than average. 

Heatwaves continued to increase with no signs of diminishing greenhouse gas emissions despite lower activity since the novel coronavirus pandemic. Prolonged exposure to heat is becoming detrimental to public health. The poor people are unable to cope up with heat. 

As per the assessment, India may experience a 4.4° C rise by the end of this century. 

Flooding: Super cyclone “Cyclone Amphan” that hit India in 2020, cost monsoon flooding. It caused India’s heaviest monsoon rain in the last 25 years and the world’s seventh costliest. In early 2021, India suffered two more cyclones: Cyclone Tauktae hitting the west coast and Cyclone Yaas from the east. 

What is the reason behind rising internal displacement of population? 

As per Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, India’s Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs) are rising due to damaging climate events.

Heavy rainfall: Uttarakhand’s residents began deserting their homes after the Kedarnath floods in 2013 due to heavy precipitation that increases every year. Uttarakhand is the most affected state. Within 2050, rainfall is expected to rise by 6% and temperature by 1.6° C. 

Coastal erosion: India lost about 235 sq km to coastal erosion due to climate change induced sea-level rise, land erosion and natural disasters such as tropical cyclones between 1990-2016. This led to displacement. Around 3.9 million displaced in 2020 alone, mostly due to Cyclone Amphan. 

Droughts: India’s Deccan plateau faced severe droughts in the 21st century. Maharashtra and Karnataka are the most affected. 

What are some steps that India has taken to tackle the climate change?

India held the top 10 position for the second year in a row in 2020’s Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI). The country received credit under all of the CCPI’s performance fields except renewable energy where India performed medium.

India vowed to work with COP21 by signing the Paris Agreement to limit global warming and submitted the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

India cofounded with France at COP21, in 2015, the International Solar Alliance (ISA) which aims at mobilizing USD1 trillion in investments for the deployment of solar energy at affordable prices by 2030.

What are the issues with India’s global alliances and policies regarding climate change? 

Despite leading ISA, India performed the least in renewable energy according to the CCPI’s performance of India.

The problem: The question is, are these global alliances and world-leading policies being practised or are merely big promises with little implementation?

India is not fully compliant with the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal of the NDCs. There are risks of falling short of the 2° C goal. 

To achieve the Paris Agreement’s NDC target, India needs to produce 25 million-30 million hectares of forest cover by 2030. 

In reality, India has overpromised on policies and goals which is difficult to deliver. 

Why does the COP26 matter? 

The Glasgow COP26 offers India a great opportunity to implement Paris Agreement and update NDCs to successfully meet the set targets. 

Being an influential member of COP26, India has the ability to improve its global positioning by leading a favourable climate goal aspiration for the world to follow. India has the opportunity to save itself from further climate disasters and be a leader in the path to climate change prevention. 


Managing risks of a green economy

Source: This post is based on the article “Managing risks of a green economy” published in Business Standard on 23rd September 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to climate change and clean energy

Relevance:  Green transition and its impact on Indian economy

Synopsis: A rapid transition to renewable energy, which is necessary, will disrupt a number of businesses.

Introduction

Climate change will affect lives and livelihoods across the globe with some countries getting disproportionately impacted.

According to a recent report by the Swiss Re Institute, climate change could reduce global gross domestic product by 18% by 2050 if no mitigation action is taken. India would also suffer significantly.

A 2019 International Labour Organization study noted that productivity loss because of heat stress could be equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs globally in 2030.

Clearly, more needs to be done to contain the risk of climate change. However, the other side, that is, discussion on disruptions that a rapid transition to a green economy could entail has not started.

How transition towards clean energy will impact business and government?

Green business risks: A rapid transition to renewable energy, which is necessary, will disrupt a number of businesses. India, for instance, produces the bulk of its power through coal-fired plants and experts argue that it will need to build more such plants to meet its energy requirements in the next few years.

On coal plants: As India moves rapidly towards renewables, capacity utilisation in coal plants would decline, affecting return on investment. This will have implications for both debt and equity holders.

Automotive industry: Similarly, India has a large automotive industry base. As the business moves towards electric vehicles, the market will be disrupted with some legacy manufactures and component makers going out of business. Aside from financial losses, it could also affect employment. Since electric vehicles have fewer moving parts, they need less labour.

Monetary policy and central banking: Recently, former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel argued that not adjusting the central bank reaction functions to climate change will result in suboptimal policy choices. However, as another former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan has argued, they should stay away from such an objective as it is primarily a fiscal issue.

Shifting roles and responsibilities of Central bank towards climate change can affect financial stability, and price stability could also get affected.

Fierce fiscal risks: India’s transition to a green economy will pose serious fiscal risks, both at the central and state level. Both levels of government depend significantly on revenue from petroleum products. Theoretically, if petroleum products are replaced by other sources, this stream of revenue will be wiped out.

If part of the demand shifts to the power sector as incentives for electric vehicles aim, it would create even bigger fiscal complications.

India’s power sector is in problem. The debt of state-run distribution companies is likely to cross the Rs 6 trillion mark in the current year. The state of power distribution companies poses significant risks to state government finances.

Thus, a meaningful demand shift in the automotive sector from petroleum to power can create enormous complications for government finances.

What is the way forward?

First, both the central and state governments will have to reduce dependence on petroleum products for revenue generation. For this to happen, both direct tax and the goods and services tax system will need to be overhauled.

Second, the issues in the power sector will need to be fixed once and for all. It is important to recognise that consumers will have to pay.

If these two issues are not addressed immediately, any meaningful attempt to move towards a green economy would create serious fiscal, growth, and financial stability risks. This could eventually end up increasing climate risks and diminishing India’s global standing.


Human resources & regulatory autonomy

Source: This post is based on the article “Human resources & regulatory autonomy” published in Business Standard on 24th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to financial regulation in India

Relevance: Financial sector reforms

Synopsis: Statutory regulatory authorities need autonomy in staffing their organisations with specialists who have integrity and knowledge.

Introduction

Recently, the chairman of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) called for a “standalone legislation”. He stated that, in the interest of functional, financial and administrative autonomy of the NFRA, there is a compelling need for a standalone legislation on NFRA.

Why NFRA was established?

The need for establishing the NFRA had arisen on account of the requirement across jurisdictions in the world, in the wake of accounting scams.

Hence, government wants to establish independent regulators, for enforcement of auditing standards and ensuring the quality of audits, and thereby, enhance investor and public confidence in financial disclosures of companies.

Why a standalone legislation?

NFRA was constituted in 2018 under section 132 of the Companies Act, 2013.

The chairman said that this section does not provide comprehensive coverage of all the functions and powers that are required to constitute the NFRA as a corporate financial reporting regulator.

How regulators like NFRA  are created in India?

Regulation is defined more broadly as the intentional and direct interventions by public agencies in the economic activities of a target population usually in the private sector.

Regulators are created as a statutory regulatory authority (SRA) and vested with the powers of two or all three organs of the state, namely the legislative, executive and judiciary.

Why SRAs like NFRA need the flexibility to recruit?

SRA’s are required to develop the capabilities required to discharge functions in domains that require specialised and continuously updated knowledge. Example: the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its role as the banking regulator requires people with specialised knowledge of banking.

If there are adjudicatory activities associated with these then another arm of the regulator will also need to have the capacity to judge the violations of these measures and take remedial and penal actions.

Further, the normal governmental system of personnel does not deal with such specialised areas. Hence, SRAs need the flexibility to recruit, retain and substitute talent as dictated by developments in the markets they regulate.

What is hampering the recruitment of talented human resources  in regulator sector?

The government remuneration systems turn out to be inadequate to attract the right talent. This is mainly due to conditions specified in The General Financial Rules (GFR).

The General Financial Rules (GFR) of the government are applied to organisations that receive more than 50 per cent of their recurring expenditure in the form of grants-in-aid. According to GFR rules, such organisations need to formulate terms and conditions of service of their employees in a way that they are not higher than those applicable to similar categories of employees in government.

Another rule of the GFR requires that all proposals for creation of positions in such bodies shall be submitted to the sanctioning authority.

What is the way forward?

Given that India will need organisations which may not have a natural and direct source of income (like the NFRA and IBBI) the longer-term solution will lie in the direction of differential treatment of SRAs in the GFR.

The mandate and nature of the functions of the organisation, should be the basis of classification of organisations.

In this context, The Financial Sector Regulatory Reforms Commission recommendations to fully empowering the board of the SRA, along with appropriate changes in the GFR is the way forward. This will ensure SRA autonomy with accountability.


India’s consumer map is rapidly being redrawn by major trends

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s consumer map is rapidly being redrawn by major trends” published in Livemint on 24th Sep 2021.

Syllabus – GS3: Inclusive Growth and issues arising from it

Relevance: Growth in consumption

Synopsis: Companies must adapt to a market of rising incomes, digital innovations, new consumers and altered consumption curves.

Introduction

Pandemic shocks and aftershocks make the immediate economic outlook more uncertain. However, prospects for India’s consumption remain robust as incomes are projected to rise and millions more will experience growth in their spending power.

Which factors are responsible for shaping India’s consumer landscape?

Consumption preferences and behaviour.

Technological change.

Digital ecosystems such as ‘super app’ model in which a single app offers one-stop-shops for a range of digital services.

E-commerce, or communications.

What are the future predictions?

Consumption growth: one of every two upper-middle-income and above households is expected to be in Asia, and one of every two dollars of global consumption growth is likely to occur in the region.

India’s consumption growth: by 2030, 55% of India’s population could belong to ‘consuming class’, spending more than $11 a day in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms.

India’s income pyramid is expanding: The proportion of consumers in the two highest income tiers of the consuming class could double to 20% by 2030.

Despite the challenges, how India retains its large long-term growth potential?

Demographics: In India, two generations will come into focus over this decade: a generation of ‘online-first’ consumers, expected to account for at least half of all consumption by 2030, and those aged 60 and over, whose consumption could grow 1.6 times faster than that of India’s on the whole.

Spending pattern: The pandemic accelerated the shift and senior spending patterns are likely to shift increasingly online. Internet banking, ride-hailing and payment of utility bills are some of the most cited reasons why seniors use digital tools.

Economic empowerment of women: an estimated $1.4 trillion could be added to India’s economy by 2030 from increased female participation. This opportunity may not be easy to capture but we need to focus on narrowing gender gaps.

Digital empowerment: In India and South Asia, the gender gap in mobile internet access has narrowed by 16 percentage points since 2017. New digital models can help more women join the labour force as entrepreneurs.

What is the way forward?

First, companies serving the Indian market need to consider growing consumer segments that are becoming even more diverse in an era of rapid technological change.

Second, Innovation in business models needed. Technology is democratizing consumption, thereby opening up the market to a vast number of new consumers.


WHO’s new air quality standards underline the health-pollution link. It’s time policies take a holistic approach

Source: This post is based on the following articles

WHO’s new air quality standards underline the health-pollution link. It’s time policies take a holistic approach” published in Indian Express on 24th September 2021.

“Explained: What new WHO pollution norms mean for India” published in Indian Express on 24th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Environmental pollution and degradation.

Relevance: To understand the complexity of the issue of air pollution.

Synopsis: India’s air quality standards were way short of WHO norms even before. The new thresholds will sharpen these differences.

Introduction

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released the Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). These guidelines are not legally binding but advise to policymakers to shape their policies by prioritizing the health of the people.

Read here: WHO says air pollution kills 7 million a year, toughens guidelines
Where does the problem lie?

Pollution management: Short-term ad-hoc measures are often deployed to deal with the problem of air pollution in India, such as bans, fines and shutting down of power stations.

Collaboration: The issue of Air pollution is multi-faceted involving pollution, health, environment etc. But rarely any collaboration is seen between the Ministries of Environment and Health.

The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) does talk of inter-sectoral linkages, especially health and environment, and sets time-bound targets, but the success of the program will depend on how it can synergize different plans of various departments. In the absence of such concerted action, the NCAP could end up becoming another data-gathering exercise.

Updated data: India’s ambient air quality standards were last updated in 2009. It is high time that they are revised and WHO guidelines are inculcated into them.

Focused approach:  Quality of air is dependent on a variety of activities and therefore needs to be tackled at source. For example, one cannot expect clean air, when the surroundings are filthy, or the quality of roads are not good.

Conflict with other activities: There is direct conflict in efforts to improve air quality with some other objectives like to keep our industries competitive in the short term. That is the reason why we have seen repeated relaxations, extensions of deadlines, in implementing more stringent emission norms for certain industries.

Unsustainable construction: The construction site is not covered properly. Construction material or debris is kept in the open and transported in open trucks.

Roads: India’s roads don’t conform to basic construction sites. The corners of the roads are not properly paved, leading to the release of lots of very harmful particles. The sidewalks and road dividers are major sources of dust.

All this calls for multi stakeholder-approach to handle this complex problem.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Around 66% children below 2 years don’t get nutritious diet: UNICEF

What is the news? 

As per the report “Fed to Fail? The Crisis of Children’s Diets in Early Life” published by UNICEF, two in every three children between six months and two years didn’t get the nutritious diet needed for healthy growth. 

Policies and programmes to improve young children’s diets are not prioritised and are being further eroded by the COVID-19 pandemic. No country has a comprehensive set of policies, legal measures and programmes to improve young children’s diets.  

What are the findings of the report? 

First, around 27% of children aged six-eight months were not fed any solid food.  

Second, among children aged 6–23 months, around half were not fed the minimum number of meals or snacks.  

Third, overall, the diet of the world’s children below the age of two years has not improved in the last decade. 

Fourth, the quality of children’s diets varies widely among regions. As many as 62 per cent of children aged 6–23 months in Latin America and the Caribbean were fed a minimally diverse diet in 2020. In South Asia and two sub-Saharan African regions, the share was less than 25 per cent. 

Fifth, children in rural areas, poorer households and disadvantaged regions within countries have the least diverse diets. 

Sixth, around one in every three young children in Australia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Serbia and Sudan were fed at least one processed or ultra-processed food or drink daily. 

Seventh, nearly 83% countries reported considerable disruptions in the coverage of services to promote nutritious and safe diets for young children during 1st wave of COVID-19. 

What are the various recommendations of the report? 

To deliver a nutritious, safe and affordable diet to every child, the report recommended the following actions: 

First, increasing the availability and affordability of nutritious foods.  

Second, implementing national standards and legislation to protect young children from unhealthy processed food and drink. 

Third, ending harmful marketing practices targeting children and families. 

Fourth, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Gambia, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, have recorded significant improvements in the quality of young diets of this age group over the last 10 years. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Around 66% children below 2 years don’t get nutritious diet: UNICEF ” published in the Down to Earth on 23th September 2021. 


Rising CO2 concentration threatens all 17 SDGs, says WMO report

What is the news? 

As per the report released by World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the rising concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) will impact all of the 17 United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The WMO studied seven climate indicators — CO2 concentration, temperature, ocean acidification and heat, sea ice extent, glacier melt and sea-level rise. It found that rising CO2 concentration due to human activities was a key driver of global climate change. 

What are the consequences of the rising CO2 concentration? 

First, rising CO2 concentration and increasing global temperatures would negatively impact efforts to combat climate change under the SDG 13, if left unchecked. 

Second, uncontrolled rising CO2 emissions would be indirectly responsible for risks related to the remaining six climate indicators, namely temperature, ocean acidification and heat, sea ice extent, glacier melt and sea-level rise. 

Third, rising CO2 in water would cause ocean acidification, directly affecting SDG indicator 14.3.1 which addresses marine acidity. This would affect the global goal on tackling poverty, SDG 1. 

Fourth, this would also result in food insecurity (SDG indicator 2.1.2), particularly in low-income and rural areas dependent on local catch. 

Fifth, both food insecurity and loss of livelihood may drive conflicts related to resource management. It will threaten regional peace and stability (SDG 16.1). 

Sixth, ocean acidification caused by rising CO2 may threaten progress of several SDGs besides the SDG 14 about life below water. 

Seventh, extreme events attributed to rising temperature affect rainfall patterns and groundwater availability. This leads to a higher risk of water scarcity, directly affecting SDG 6 on access to water.  

What are the recommendations? 

With improved education (SDG 4), global partnerships (SDG 17) and sustainable consumption (SDG 12) we can mitigate climate risks.

The report aims to contribute to the sustainable development agenda and to inspire leaders to take bolder climate action. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Rising CO2 concentration threatens all 17 SDGs, says WMO report ” published in the Down to Earth on 23rd September 2021. 


MGNREGA could also help India sequester carbon: Study

What is the news? 

As per a study by IISc Bangalore, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) can help India meet its target to create an additional carbon sink to the extent of 2.5-3 billion tonnes equivalent of carbon dioxide by 2030. 

It is possible through improved forest and tree cover. 

The study calculated carbon sequestration by assessing biomass in plantations and carbon stored in the soil of work sites in villages across the country except for two agro-ecological zones: 

Western Himalayas, Ladakh and north Kashmir 

Andaman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep islands 

What are the findings of the study?  

The study illustrated that how MGNREGA scheme is helpful in carbon sequestration. Following are some key findings of the report:

First, scheme can help capture a total carbon of 102 million tonnes equivalent in 2017-18 through plantations and soil quality improvement works. It will increase the annual capacity for carbon sequestration to about 249 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030. 

Second, drought-proofing activities, including tree plantations, forest restoration and grassland development, captured the maximum carbon. It accounts for a little over 40 per cent of the total carbon sequestration under MGNREGS. 

Third, land development activities, including earthen bunding, stone bunding, land leveling and minor irrigation help in carbon sequestration.  

Fifth, as per one research, the activities implemented under MGNREGS become very important as the forest sector alone may not be able to meet the NDC carbon sink target of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030. 

What are some recommendations? 

First, incorporation of tree planting, especially fruit and fodder yielding trees into resource management activities under MGNREGS is recommended. It will generate alternate income and livelihood sources for people while carbon sequestration will be a co-benefit. 

Second, periodic monitoring and reporting of the carbon sequestration benefits will be required. It is also a requirement for adaptation communication under Article 7 of the Paris Agreement. 

Source: This post is based on the article “MGNREGA could also help India sequester carbon: Study” published in the Down to Earth on 23rd September 2021. 


Key trial of 5,000-km ICBM Agni-V in October

Source: This post is based on the articleKey trial of 5,000-km ICBM Agni-V in Octoberpublished in TOI on 24th September 2021.

What is the News?

India is set to conduct the first user trial of Agni-V Missile.

What is Agni-V?

Agni-V is a nuclear-capable InterContinental Ballistic Missile(ICBM). The missile has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

What are the key Features of Agni-V missiles?

Expected Range: The missile has a strike range of around 5,000 kms and can hit targets deep inside China, entire Asia and Europe and parts of Africa.

Weight: The missile weighs close to 50,000 kilograms. The missile is 1.75 meters tall with a diameter of 2 metres. It can carry a nuclear payload of 1,500 kg.

MIRV Technology: The most striking feature of Agni-V is its MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles) technology. In this technique, multiple weapons can be installed instead of one in the warhead mounted on the missile. That is, a missile can hit multiple targets simultaneously.

Satellite Guidance: The missile is equipped with a ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation system (NavIC) that works with satellite guidance.


Government e Marketplace bags prestigious CIPS Award

Source: This post is based on the articleGovernment e Marketplace bags prestigious CIPS Award published in PIB on 24th September 2021.

What is the News?

Government e-Marketplace (GeM) was announced as the winner in the “Best Use of Digital Technology” category at the CIPS Excellence in Procurement Awards 2021 (CIPS Awards).

What is CIPS Excellence in Procurement Awards 2021?

CIPS Excellence in Procurement Awards 2021 is given by the London based Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), a non-profit organization.

The awards are given to celebrate the best work and teams in the procurement profession. 

What is the Government e-Marketplace?

Government e-Marketplace is a 100% Government owned Section 8 Company set up under the aegis of the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Purpose: It is an online marketplace for the procurement of goods and services by Central and State Government organizations.

The procurement of goods and services by Ministries and the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) is mandatory for goods and services available on GeM.

What are the recent updates on GeM?

The Government of India has made it mandatory for sellers to enter the Country of Origin while registering all new products on GeM.

Moreover, GeM has also enabled a provision for indication of the percentage of local content in products. 

Hence, with this new feature, now, the Country of Origin as well as the local content percentage are visible in the marketplace for all items. 


Now, insulin can be kept without refrigeration

Source: This post is based on the article “Now, insulin can be kept without refrigeration” published in PIB on 24th September 2021. 

What is the News?

A team of scientists from Kolkata have developed a “thermostable” variety of insulin named “Insulock” which eliminates the need to keep it refrigerated. 

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that helps control the body’s blood sugar level and metabolism — the process that turns the food you eat into energy. The pancreas makes insulin and releases it into the bloodstream. Insulin helps the body to use sugar for the energy it needs, and then store the rest.

What is Insulin Injection used for? 

Insulin is used to control blood sugar in people who have type 1 diabetes (a condition in which the body does not make insulin and therefore cannot control the amount of sugar in the blood) or in people who have type 2 diabetes (a condition in which the blood sugar is too high because the body does not produce or use insulin normally).

What is the current procedure to store insulin?

Source: TOI

Currently, insulin has to be stored at 4 °C. Beyond 4 °C, the insulin molecules degenerate.

Artificial insulin becomes unfit for use after 12 hours outside the fridge.

What have the scientists developed?

Scientists have developed a thermostable variety of insulin which eliminates the need to keep it refrigerated. 

This new variety would be able to withstand a temperature of up to 65 °C.

This will help the vast rural and underprivileged population who have no refrigerators in their homes to store insulin.


₹7,523-cr. order for Arjun Mk-1A tanks

Source: This post is based on the following article

  • ₹7,523-cr. order for Arjun Mk-1A tankspublished in The Hindu on 24th September 2021.
  • MoD places supply order for 118 Main Battle Tanks Arjun Mk-1A for Indian Armypublished in TOI on 23rd September 2021.
What is the News?

The Ministry of Defence(MoD) has placed an order with Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Chennai for the supply of 118 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) Arjun Mk-1A for the Indian Army.

What is Arjun Mk-1A?

Arjun Mk-1A is a new variant of Arjun Tank designed and developed by the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) along with the other laboratories of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

What are the key features of Arjun Mk-1A?

Arjun Mk-1A is designed to enhance firepower, mobility and survivability. It can take on the enemy during day & night conditions and in both static & dynamic modes.

It has 54.3% indigenous content, against the 41% in the earlier model.

Furthermore, it is known as the “hunter-killers” as it is equipped with a massive 120 mm rifled gun and Kanchan armour, making it the most potent armoured system in the inventory of the army.

It also has a computer-controlled integrated fire control system with a stabilised sighting that works in all lighting conditions.


Supreme Court move to set up a panel to probe Pegasus is a vital and welcome step

Source: This post is based on the following article

  • “Supreme Court move to set up a panel to probe Pegasus is a vital and welcome step published in Indian Express on 24th September 2021.
  • Pegasus controversy: SC to set up probe panel, give formal order next week” published in Business Standard on 24th September 2021.
What is the News?

The Supreme Court has observed orally that it will set up a technical expert committee to inquire into the Pegasus snooping matter and pass an interim order next week.

Background

A collaborative journalism enterprise reported by The Wire in India has revealed that pegasus spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group is being used to snoop on politicians, journalists, civil liberties activists in India.

Must read: Pegasus spyware issue – Explained, pointwise

On this, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on critics and journalists.

Based on this petition, the ​​ Supreme Court asked the Centre to file an affidavit on whether the Pegasus software was used to allegedly spy on Indian personalities and if it was done lawfully.

However, the government expressed its unwillingness to file a detailed affidavit, citing national security. It had offered to set up a panel of experts to look into the allegations and submit a report to the court.

What was the Supreme Court response to this?

The Supreme Court has observed that there are serious concerns raised by journalists and others over violation of privacy in the Pegasus row.

Hence, it would set up a committee of experts to study the allegations of illegal surveillance using Pegasus spyware.

Significance of this judgement

The Supreme Court has been the custodian of personal freedoms and has been an alert watchdog whenever the executive and legislature have transgressed the red lines that separate the state’s authority from the domain of individual rights including the right to privacy. 

Hence, the court has rightly recognised that the likes of Pegasus pose a threat to core values of democracy as well as the autonomy and credibility of institutions and processes. 


Three IITs among world’s top 200 in QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2022

Source: This post is based on the following article

  • Three IITs among world’s top 200 in QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2022published in Business Standard on 24th September 2021.
  • IIT-B, IIT-D grads most employable in Indiapublished in TOI on 24th September 2021.
What is the News?

The QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2022 has been released.

About QS Graduate Employability Rankings

QS Graduate Employability Rankings is released by global higher education analysts Quacquarelli Symonds(QS).

Purpose: It is an innovative exercise designed to provide the world’s students with a unique tool by which they can compare university performance in terms of graduate employability outcomes and prospects.

Indicators: The rankings of institutions have been done based on five indicators: Employer reputation (30%), Alumni outcomes (25%), Partnerships with Employers per Faculty (25%), Employer/Student Connections (10%) and graduate employment rate (10%).

What are the key takeaways?
Rankings Related to India

Twelve Indian higher education institutions, including six Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), figured in the top 500 universities.

Among them, ​​IIT-Bombay has emerged as the best Indian Institute.

Source: TOI
Topped by

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has topped the rankings. It was followed by Stanford University and the University of California.


Centre, States outline plans to stem pollution

Source: This post is based on the following articles

  • Centre, States outline plans to stem pollution published in The Hindu on 24th September 2021.
  • Stress on bio-decomposer as a lasting solution to Delhi’s winter of discontentpublished in TOI on 24th September 2021.
What is the News?

The Union Environment Ministry has convened a meeting with representatives from Delhi and neighbouring States that see pollution levels soar during winter.

Background

Delhi and other neighbouring States see pollution levels rise during winter.

The reasons for the pollution levels rise include meteorological conditions that exacerbate pollution, emissions from vehicles, thermal plants and the burning of rice chaff in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh ahead of the winter sowing of wheat.

What was discussed at the meeting?

The meeting discussed the strategy to deal with stubble burning and pollution in the city in winter.

However, no new measures were announced during the meeting. But the focus appeared to be on strengthening existing programmes.

Measures that will be taken by States
Source: TOI

The Haryana government will be spending ₹200 crores to dissuade farmers from burning the rice stubble. 

Uttar Pradesh is deploying an organic chemical, a “decomposer”, that will dissolve the collected straw and turn it into manure. 

Other measures which are being reinforced are mandating the use of biomass with 50% paddy straw as a supplement fuel in coal plants in the National Capital Region (NCR) and setting up a committee that will look at ways to repurpose the stubble as fodder for cattle in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Moreover, the Commission for Air Quality Improvement in NCR and Adjoining Areas is also following up with these States to ensure that these plans have been strictly adhered to.


SC introduces FASTER system to send records

Source: This post is based on the article ”SC introduces FASTER system to send records” published in The Hindu on 24th September 2021.

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has approved the use of an electronic system named FASTER (Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records) for the transmission of e-authenticated copies of orders.

What is a FASTER System?

FASTER is a system by which crucial decisions including orders on bail and stay of arrest can be communicated electronically to prison authorities and investigating agencies through a secure channel.

What is the significance of the FASTER system?

Firstly, the FASTER system will ensure that undertrials are not made to wait for days on end behind bars to be released because the certified hard copies of their bail orders took time to reach the prison. 

Secondly, it would also prevent unnecessary arrests and custody of people even after the court had already granted them its protection. It may even communicate a stay on an execution ordered by the final court on time.

What is the progress on the implementation of the FASTER System?

The Supreme Court has directed all the States and Union Territories to ensure the availability of internet facilities with adequate speed in each and every jail. If there is no such connection then they have to take the necessary steps to arrange for internet facilities expeditiously. 

Till then, the communication is directed to be made through the Nodal Officers of the State Governments under the FASTER system.


 

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