We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
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Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Building more inclusive, welcoming schools for LGBTQ+ children
- Complex count: On caste census
- India dithered over projecting naval power. Now it’s been pushed to the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific
GS Paper 3
- Missing skills: Low employability calls for academia-industry link
- The Unicorn Stampede
- When global firms disengage, employment suffers
- Why India must strengthen its public sector
- The trouble with containing China
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Urbanisation to blame for Chennai’s flood woes, integrated system need of the hour: Report
- Explained: Why has peace process for Naga Accord been stuck, what is the way forward?
- Sarkar’s Reform Mode: On various economic reforms by the govt.
- Sea level rose 3.1 mm each year between 1993 and 2020: Report
- Arctic ice is disappearing: How clouds interact with sea ice change
- United Nations Food Systems Summit: Need to transform food systems, say experts
- COVID-19: WHO recommends Regeneron antibody therapy for high-risk & seronegative patients
- Electronic polymer based low-cost sensor developed to detect explosives rapidly
- Flex-fuel engines to be mandatory soon: Gadkari
- What samples brought back by China mission tell us about Moon
- Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2021 Notified
- Scheme for “Promotion of Medical Device Parks”, a key initiative to support the medical devices, notified
- Government Notifies PLI Scheme for Automobile & Auto components
- Supreme Court sets aside Madras High Court remarks on EWS quota
- RBI permits lenders to sell fraud loans to ARCs, paves way for resolution
- China says all crypto-related transactions are illegal
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Building more inclusive, welcoming schools for LGBTQ+ children
Source: This post is based on the article “Building more inclusive, welcoming schools for LGBTQ+ children” published in Indian Express on 25th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
Relevance: Understanding inclusive education structure for transgender.
Synopsis: Not just infrastructure and process revamp, we also need reforms in curriculum and teacher education.
This article highlights the discrimination faced by the non-binary gender. Recently, during the Shiksha Parv conclave, PM also emphasized the need for inclusive and equitable education.
Recently, Kerala High Court brought attention to medical textbooks that described non-binary gender identities as “offensive perversions” and “mental disorders”. This is despite the fact that Kerala was the first state to adopt a transgender policy six years ago.
What is the status of the transgender community?
As per the 2011 Census, there are 4.8 million transgender persons in India. They have a literacy rate of just 46%, compared to 74% of the general population.
A study by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2017 found that over two-thirds of transgender children drop out of school before completing class 10 in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
In 2020, there were only 19 transgender candidates among the 18 lakh students appearing for the class 10 board exams.
What are the problems faced by the transgender community in the schools?
Discrimination by teachers and students: Children belonging to the transgender community often face problems of bullying, humiliation, sexual harassment. For example, in 2018, a reputed Kolkata school forced 10 of its female students to write a confession letter stating “I am a lesbian”. The consequences of such bullying and intimidation were often severe in terms of mental health as well as academic outcomes.
UNESCO survey 2018 in India: It revealed that 60% of transgender reported experiencing physical harassment in high school; 43% were sexually harassed in elementary school. Only 18% reported incidents of abuse and harassment attributed to school authorities.
What initiatives have been taken by Government to address the problem?
National Education Policy 2020: It recognizes transgender children as educationally disadvantaged. It recommended widening their educational access through a Gender Inclusion Fund.
However, all the initiatives are just limited to conditional cash transfers, distribution of bicycles, provision for sanitation and toilets and countering barriers of access. These steps cannot ensure inclusive classrooms and schools.
|Read more: Non Binary genders need more visibility in India’s Census 2021|
What can be done to remove the stigma?
Awareness and Acceptability: Focus should be on enhancing awareness and acceptability of the LGBTQ+ community through education. India can learn from Scotland, which became the first country to have an LGBTQ+ inclusive school curriculum in 2021.
Inspirational Stories: Stories of notable persons who identified themselves as LGBTQ+ should be included in the curriculum. Eg Story of Heather who had ‘Two Mommies’
Inclusive language: Focus should also be on inclusive language like using “partner” instead of “husband/wife” or “them” instead of “him/her”.
Teacher Participation: Teachers should play an important role to model inclusive behaviour and confirm that schools are safe, supporting places for LGBTQ+ students.
Comprehensive Sex Education: Comprehensive sex education must support young lives in exploring sexualities rather than viewing sexual minorities as a disease or disorder.
Complex count: On caste census
Source: This post is based on the following articles “Complex count: On caste census” published in The Hindu on 25th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Relevance: Understanding caste census.
Synopsis: A precise caste census is difficult, but the data will be useful to drive social policy.
This article talks about the complexities that are inherent in the caste census. There are challenges in conducting a caste census, but given the merit of such a census, should we go ahead with the census?
What are the challenges in the caste census?
India, which seeks to construct a casteless society, a caste census can deepen the caste divide. Further, such a census can be used by politicians to further their caste agenda. Some may intensify the demand for reservation, while others may justify the need to abolish caste reservation.
Apart from all this, there is a genuine administrative difficulty, which was also cited recently by the Government as the cause for not going ahead with the caste census. For example, in the 1931 census, there were a total of 46 Lakh caste names. And if we add the sub-castes, the number will rise exponentially. So, at present, it is hard to include all caste and sub-castes in the caste census. This challenge was also cited by the Government when 2011 SECC data was not released, citing “several infirmities”.
Given all these, the exercise may seem futile. But we also need to consider the benefits that may accrue from this.
How can we make the caste census data useful?
The data can be used for making evidence-based policies to strengthen affirmative action. This will further the goal of creating equitable opportunities in society. This will also confirm legal requirements, as courts had mandated quantifiable data for affirmative action and reservation policy.
|Read more: Caste based census in India – Explained, pointwise|
What should be the way forward?
We can begin with a preliminary socio-anthropological study that can be done at the State and district levels. This exercise can act as a pilot for other large-level exercises.
India dithered over projecting naval power. Now it’s been pushed to the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific
Source: This post is based on the following articles
- “India dithered over projecting naval power. Now it’s been pushed to the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific” published in Indian Express on 24th September 2021.
- “India is not a bystander in the AUKUS saga” published in The Hindu on 25th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Relevance: To know about India’s missed opportunities to improve international cooperation.
This article explains the opportunities that India missed, which ultimately led to the formation of the AUKUS alliance.
Recently, the US, UK, and Australia announced a new trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific named the AUKUS. Recently, the US has clarified that India or Japan would not be added to the AUKUS alliance.
|Must Read: AUKUS Security Alliance – Explained, pointwise|
What are the opportunities India missed which led to the formation of the AUKUS alliance?
Raja Menon is of the view that India’s missed opportunities led to the formation of the AUKUS Alliance. He mentions the following reasons to support that view.
India did not push the US to provide nuclear technology to India: One should remember that Australia is not the only country to seek nuclear technology from the US.
Indian efforts to expand nuclear submarines have been crippled by a lack of funding and the inability to access highly enriched uranium cores for the propulsion reactor.
Many Indian naval veterans have, on their visits to Washington, approached key figures in the US establishment about nuclear submarine technology for the Indian Navy. But the PMO and MEA did not support the naval veterans.
So the US rejected Indian requests that the US Navy is against transferring the technology to a non-aligned state.
India failed to materialise Quad: With the introduction of the Quad, India had an opportunity to operationalise the coalition and set up a Quad secretariat in India.
India could have easily pushed the Quad to focus on the maritime domain. But, India so far did not take the Quad beyond diplomatic talks and failed to push Quad into the areas of common interest. This led to the formation of AUKUS focusing on the maritime domain.
What is the result of India’s inaction?
India will not be a frontline state to tackle China: With nuclear submarine technology, Australia has now been catapulted into a frontline state against Chinese aggression, not India.
Erode India’s regional presence in the Indian Ocean: At present, the Indian Navy presently dominates the Indian Ocean, but its conventional underwater capability has been shrinking.
The AUKUS alliance could eventually lead to crowding of nuclear attack submarines (SSNs/submersible ship nuclear) in the Eastern Indian Ocean, eroding India’s regional pre-eminence.
What are the available options with India?
Documenting India’s strategic needs: the US office’s Net Assessment defines the evolving scenario every four years in a docket entitled “Global Futures” as a guide to government. At present, India has no such document, so India should document the evolving scenarios to understand our strategic needs better.
Focus on Navy: India will have to provide more attention on improving its naval capabilities, as this is the only instrument that gives us punitive capability against China.
Signing a nuclear submarine deal with France: With the formation of the AUKUS, France lost a billion dollars worth of submarine projects with Australia. So, India can use this opportunity and sign a technology transfer deal for Nuclear submarines like Project 75 ‘Scorpene’.
GS Paper 3
Missing skills: Low employability calls for academia-industry link
Source: This post is based on the article “Missing skills: Low employability calls for academia-industry link” published in Times of India on 24th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS 3 Indian economy – development and employment
Relevance: To understand the employability of Indian graduates
Synopsis: Given the poor employability of Indian graduates, urgent steps are needed to address the skill gaps.
The QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2022 were recently released. The report reveals that no Indian Higher Education Institution is in the top 100 and only 3 HEI can make a place in the top 200. This shows the employability crisis of Indian graduates.
|Read more: Three IITs among world’s top 200 in QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2022|
What is the employability status in India?
Employability report: A 2019 report by Aspiring Minds termed the challenge as “stubborn unemployability”. It concluded that the employability of Indian engineers has not changed since 2010. Only 3.84% of engineers are employable at software start-ups.
India Skills Report 2021: It estimated overall employability at 45.9%. It means least one of two graduates is not ready for the job market. In polytechnics, the employability level is as low as 25%.
GOI launched the National Education Policy (NEP) to address this problem.
What we can do further?
We can take inspiration from the models of Germany and Japan. Germany’s apprenticeship programme is a building block of its manufacturing prowess. Japan’s school system plays an important role in matching student skills with industry’s requirements
As the Indian market grows, the demand for more skilled workers will grow. So, India should invest in skilling its youth for meeting the demands of the future job market.
The Unicorn Stampede
Source: This post is based on the article “The Unicorn Stampede” published in Indian Express on 24th Sep 2021.
Syllabus – GS3: Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development
Relevance: Unicorns, investment in India
Synopsis: It would be wise for investors to take a deep breath before investing in India to make sure that the blessing of unicorns does not end up saddling India with a curse.
Unicorns are Start-ups with a billion dollar-plus valuations. There is Unicorn stampede in India and on the other hand there is fewer unicorn sightings in China which is ordinarily the biggest unicorn habitat outside the US.
Why unicorns are shifting base from China?
Crackdown: China’s tech industry contributed over 38% to the country’s GDP last year and was key to managing both Covid and the economy. Beijing has decided to crack down on the industry.
The crackdown began with the abrupt suspension of the much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO) of Ant Group, while founder, Jack Ma, the very face of Chinese tech worldwide, mysteriously went underground.
Industry-wide changes in China: The state’s shadow extends well beyond restricting capital markets access and tightening regulations. Weekends and holiday tutoring by private tutors are off-limits. Video games, on the other hand, can only be played on Fridays and weekends.
Why India is experiencing unicorn stampede?
Tiger Global Management: it topped the list in terms of greatest exposure to the risks created by China’s tech crackdown. Hence, Tiger’s interest in India has spiked which attracted attention of other investors. Tiger’s investment in Innovaceer, for example, has given India its first health-tech unicorn.
Venture deals increasing: China may have four times the number of unicorns as India, but this year for the first time since 2013, the value of venture deals in India surpassed that of China.
India is the world’s second-largest digital market: The use of the United Payment Interface has made digital payments easier in a society that was so tied to cash.
Opportune time: Many startups are in a hurry to capitalise on the boom with many investors looking to capitalise them. For example, ShareChat can get you into Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities over a vernacular social media platform.
Why this shifting may not be good for India?
Self-reinforcing cycle: The early investors draw in others who fear they are missing out, and more investors rush in, perpetuating the cycle. The cascading tranches of money over-capitalise startups by giving more money than what’s needed to get to necessary milestones.
Over-valuation: Each investor may over-value a company, far exceeding what is justifiable based on market fundamentals.
When global firms disengage, employment suffers
Source: This post is based on the article “When global firms disengage, employment suffers” published in the Hindu on 25th September 2021.
Syllabus – GS3: Investment, Inclusive Growth
Relevance: FDI vs Domestic Capital formation
Synopsis: Permanency of large foreign firms operating for decades is slowly on the decline. That is why, domestic capital formation and private investments should step in.
The most recent labour statistics, for August 2021, released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) shows that the unemployment rate has increased from around 7% in July to 8.3% for August 2021.
What does the analysis of CMIE data says?
Sectoral analysis shows that most of the jobs lost were farm jobs, while non-farm jobs did increase to absorb some of these. However, the quality of new jobs generated is a matter of concern.
Non-farm jobs increased by 6.8 million, mainly in business and small trade, but the manufacturing sector shed 0.94 million jobs. Thus, much of the labour shed by agriculture has been absorbed in low-end service activities.
Employment sustainability: The non-availability of sufficient jobs in manufacturing and higher end services could be the dampener for economic recovery in the subsequent quarters of the current fiscal year.
Driver of the manufacturing sector’s output and employment growth is the auto sector. The automobile sector employs 19.1 million workers, directly and indirectly.
Why there is difficulty in expansion of auto sector?
Aggregate demand in the economy is low due to pandemic.
The shortage of semiconductors continues to impact production even when customer sentiments are slowly turning positive.
What are some important issues/concerns associated with foreign investment?
Global corporate restructuring: the uncertainties of global corporate restructuring and changes in the economic environment in the lead firm’s home economy are factors to consider. For example, experience of Nokia was one of the world’s largest mobile phone plant, with 8,000 permanent employees working three shifts and exporting products to over 80 countries. But in 2014, Nokia halted its production operations from this location, disrupting the livelihoods of thousands of workers.
More frequent global production re-arrangements: these are becoming a part of the strategy of big firms in this phase of globalisation, as markets tend to be more volatile due to repeated demand fluctuations.
Recently, Citibank announced that it would shut India retail banking business as part of a global decision to exit 13 markets.
Creating a massive disruption in the local economy: Ford’s exit from India will affect about 4,000 direct employees. Estimates show that another 35,000 indirect employees would also be lost at various levels.
Emergence of modern transnational corporations (TNC): When TNCs emerge as key players in an industry, a proliferation of mergers and consolidations across national and international borders might be frequent.
How exit of high-profile firms’ impact job generation?
Creates apprehensions among potential investors: it generally lead to a ‘wait and watch’ approach, affecting private investments even if an economy claims to have the tag of investor friendliness. A downturn in private investments leads to slower employment growth.
Mismatch in labour supply: The process of the ‘destruction’ of jobs through exits creates mismatches in the labour market. There is a sudden release of high skilled workers which could block possible new entrants who have already invested in their skills. This leads to a levelling down of wages which occurs when high-end services firms exit.
Rise in unemployment: When large assembly firms exit there would be a big influx of low-skilled workers to other sectors as the same sector might not be able to absorb the workforce released. This churn in the labour market aggravates an existing unemployment problem.
What is the way forward?
First, raising the level of public investments which is the key to output and employment growth.
Second, attract domestic private investment. the economy has been waiting for private investments to flow in for quite some time, but their levels have been very low.
Why India must strengthen its public sector
Source: This post is based on the article “Why India must strengthen its public sector” published in Indian Express on 25th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to Privatisation of public sectors
Relevance: Significance of India’s PSEs, Drawback of Privatisation of PSEs.
Synopsis: The sale of giants like BPCL, BEML or SCI would undermine India’s “Atmanirbhar” goal. Privatisation compromises India’s sovereignty and economic freedom, threatening its energy security and strategic postion.
Today, 28% of the world’s largest and most powerful economic entities are state-owned, dominated largely by the Chinese State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
China today has 124 firms in the Fortune list, of which 95 are SOEs, compared to 118 from the US. Many so-called private Chinese firms like ZTE and Lenovo are known to be controlled by SOEs.
The next group of 26 SOEs are from the OECD countries, while emerging market countries like Brazil, India, Mexico add another 17 to make a total of 135 SOEs in the list.
How China’s state-owned industry is performing globally?
The last two decades have witnessed Chinese SOEs acquiring several American and European technology companies, from IT to oil fields, coal to strategic minerals, telecom to mobile phones and solar wafer to computer chips.
The rise of Chinese SOEs has far-reaching consequences for global competition and control over strategic technologies and resources.
How China was able to create a dominant state-owned industry?
The rise of Chinese SOEs in the global economy can be traced to the strategic vision and plan articulated in 1998 at the 15th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The reforms launched by the15th Congress were to restructure larger SOEs, “corporatise” them and list several on the stock market, making them profitable and competitive in global markets. Simultaneously, China set up 37 new SOEs in new emerging industries and technologies.
Also, China quickly let go of the small and shut down or privatised 90,000 enterprises, with little impact on the share of SOEs in total output.
|Must Read: What is the history of India is supporting growth of PSEs?|
What are the implications of privatizing India’s significant PSEs?
Reduces India’s potential in acquiring assets and resources abroad: For instance, Bharat Petroleum has assets in 17 countries and holds part of India’s strategic oil reserves.
Impact on Shipping industry: Declining support to SCI and Indian shipping has meant that the share of India’s maritime trade carried by Indian ships is today a minuscule 6%, down from 40% in 1989.
Impact on key industrial capabilities: The government’s refusal to support PSEs at critical moments has left wide gaps in key industrial capabilities. With the collapse of HMT, India is forced to import 80% of its machine tools, the bedrock of manufacturing.
Affects India’s self-sufficiency: The undermining of the pharmaceutical PSEs like IDPL and HAL, once India’s pride, makes it dependent on active ingredients from China.
Affects India’s leading role in future technologies: The government’s reluctance to support BHEL has flooded the Indian power sector with Chinese equipment. Moreover, India is largely absent in emerging technologies like solar wafers, computer chips or EV batteries.
Impact on Aviation: In the development of a civilian aircraft, India has lost a decade due to the ideological reservation about spending public money for developing anything outside defence.
What is the way forward?
India needs to imitate China in establishing new PSEs in strategic and emerging industries, which require patient capital and greater risk.
PSEs are important strategic assets to confront a rising China, more valuable than Rafale jets or leased Russian submarines.
The trouble with containing China
Source: This post is based on the article “The trouble with containing China” published in Business Standard on 25th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Globalisation and challenges arising from it
Relevance: China’s geopolitical significance
Synopsis: This article illustrates why it is difficult to contain China
China is mounting a robust challenge with its “wolf-warrior” diplomacy and the vastly ambitious One Belt One Road initiative and String of Pearls.
To counter aggressive rising China, the new alliance (AUKUS) between Australia, the UK and the US, is formed.
However, according to the author, it’s difficult to contain China unlike Russia. Further, any change in Political status of China will have global ramification.
How has China developed in to a super global power?
China, has actively encouraged the monetisation of science and technology capability. Over 80% of its R&D expenditure comes from corporate sources, and it has a huge number of home-grown, high-tech, mega-billion businesses.
China has the world’s biggest, most diversified manufacturing base. It is a monopoly or near-monopoly player in many sectors, and a leader in cutting-edge research in genetics, aerospace, consumer electronics, supercomputing, etc.
Just as it has encouraged entrepreneurs to tap every overseas market, it has also encouraged its best and brightest to study abroad to ensure it stayed abreast of developments in every field.
Why it is difficult to Contain China?
Firstly, China has developed a mighty human resource and technological capability, Hence, China cannot be driven into poverty by an arms race.
Secondly, China is fully integrated into global economy and if it does undergo any catastrophic political change, the global economic costs will also be high.
It was already visible on what could happen to supply chains when China went into lockdown for one quarter last year. Also, the latest real estate bubbles like Evergrande will lead to an implosion in a massively-leveraged economy.
If the PRC thrives, there’s a problem. If it collapses, there’s also a problem. It induces suffering in both, those who consume it and those who don’t.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Urbanisation to blame for Chennai’s flood woes, integrated system need of the hour: Report
What is the news?
If timely measures to put in place a flood management system are not taken, Chennai could see a rerun of 2015 floods, says Tamil Nadu government.
The state additional chief secretary had filed the report on the action taken by the government with regard to measures to prevent recurrence of flooding.
The report was in response to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) registering a suo motu case. The court had done, so after newspapers widely reported areas in the city being flooded in addition to an overflow of sewage November 30, 2020.
What are the findings of the report?
i). Encroachments, faulty drainage systems and tampering of natural course of water had made the megapolis prone to flooding every year.
ii). Rapid urbanisation of Greater Chennai and its peri-urban areas had led to massive changes in land use patterns, as residential areas had sprung up in farmlands.The changes in land use patterns were done without making the required changes for a proper drainage system to manage the flow of surplus water from traditional tanks as well as flood waters from catchment areas.
iii). Irrigation tanks in south Chennai were choked with waste, slush and debris, obstructing the flow of flood water. This also reduced the water-absorbing and groundwater recharging capacity of the marsh.
What are the recommendations?
The report has recommended an integrated flood management system consisting of:
– an integrated road and street side storm water drainage network
– straight cut diversion channels
– macro storm water drains
– check dams, barrages and anicuts
Source: This post is based on the article “Urbanisation to blame for Chennai’s flood woes, integrated system need of the hour: Report” published in Down to Earth on 24th Sep 2021.
Explained: Why has peace process for Naga Accord been stuck, what is the way forward?
What is the news?
Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi resigned as interlocutor for the Naga peace talks. The government is understood to be unhappy over the handling of the Naga peace process by Ravi over the past year and a half, during which time he disagreed openly with the insurgent group NSCN(IM).
Naga sources have said the NSCN(IM) views Ravi’s removal as Governor of Nagaland and interlocutor as a victory.
What is the Naga peace process?
It refers to ongoing talks between the Indian government and Naga insurgent groups, in particular the NSCN(IM), since 1997 with the aim to sign a Naga Peace Accord.
|Read this first: How has the Naga peace process evolved?|
What are the issues involved?
Sources in the security establishment say the enthusiasm with which the framework agreement was announced led to unreasonable expectations of an imminent Accord.
The Naga issue is very complex, and the NSCN(IM) is in a delicate position. It is led by a Tangkhul from Manipur, for whom it is difficult to abandon the demand for a Greater Nagalim. But India cannot accept that demand, and a middle path has to be found, which may take some time.
Ravi’s open criticism made the NSCN(IM) publicly harden its position.
The move to appoint Ravi as Governor too, did not go down well with the IM. And Ravi’s enthusiasm in matters of governance was taken by the state government as interference.
What is the way forward?
The government has appointed former IB officer Mishra as the new pointsperson for talks. He could be formally appointed the new interlocutor, and has been talking to Naga groups since January 2020.
It is important to understand that there cannot be an accord without the NSCN(IM). It continues to get young recruits and wields considerable influence in the region. The idea is to slowly bring them to accept what India can give.
One of Mishra’s tasks would also be to delicately close the gap between the IM and NNPGs, which shared a good relationship with Ravi.
Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Why has peace process for Naga Accord been stuck, what is the way forward?” published in The Indian Express on 25th Sep 2021.
Sarkar’s Reform Mode: On various economic reforms by the govt.
What is the news?
In the last few months, the government has become more aggressive towards reform as evidenced by several recent policy changes.
The post-Covid, or rather the living-with endemic-Covid world offers major opportunities for India to accelerate its economic growth momentum again.
This economic growth alone will get us out of the job crisis and increase incomes, both of which have taken major hits due to Covid.
What are the recent reforms undertaken by the govt to boost economic growth?
Scrapping of retrospective taxation laws: This change was universally welcomed by the investor and corporate community and this amendment alone signalled a new outlook towards private companies.
Asset monetisation programme: This programme aims to raise Rs 6 lakh crore, by letting private players harness public sector assets for a certain duration, without any transfer of ownership. Again, this reform signalled a move to make the government work ‘with’ the private sector, rather than ‘versus’ the private sector.
Reforms in the telecom sector: These include a four-year moratorium for companies from paying statutory dues, changing the definition of revenues on which levies are paid, allowing for 100% investment through the automatic route and permission to share spectrum. These reforms were directly targeted to provide immediate relief to the telecom sector companies, some of which have massive debt obligations due to statutory dues. Again, the attempt was to change the government attitude from ‘who cares’ for the private sector to ‘we care’ for the private sector.
Air India sale deal: Many plans have been made to sell the airline. However, due to unreasonable expectations from past governments, the deal remains a non-starter. This time, with debt guarantees and transfers, the government was able to get two real bids from the Tatas and SpiceJet. To sell a loss-making government airline is a challenge in the best of times, to be able to pull it off in the middle of a pandemic will be a major win.
Other Reforms: The Ambitious infrastructure plans, for example, The Delhi-Mumbai expressway also count as a major reform. Digitisation and online services projects done or underway in all major government departments also count towards reform.
Source: This post is based on the article “Sarkar’s Reform Mode” published in TOI on 25th September 2021.
Sea level rose 3.1 mm each year between 1993 and 2020: Report
What is the news?
Recently, Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service published a report “The Ocean State Report 5”.
As per the report the global ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and regulates the Earth’s climate and sustains life. Currently, global ocean is undergoing severe changes from natural variations, over-exploitation and anthropogenic influences.
These changes caused the sea level to rise by 3.1 millimeters each year on an average from January 1993 through May 2020.
What are the findings of the report?
First, warming ocean waters have caused many marine species to move towards cooler waters. This migration has led to the introduction of non-native and invasive species to different marine ecosystems.
Second, increasing temperatures in the eastern Mediterranean basin saw the lionfish (Pterois miles) entering the Mediterranean Sea from the Suez Canal to the Ionian Sea.
Third, a series of strong Acqua Alta (high water) events occurred in Venice in 2019. It was due to an unusually high mean sea level, a high spring tide and extreme local and regional weather conditions.
Fourth, around 50% of Earth’s oxygen production takes place in the ocean, sustaining marine life cycles. This is threatened by growing human activities leading to climate change and eutrophication. This deoxygenates the oceans and seas and has adverse consequences on the marine life.
Fifth, In the Arctic, sea ice is steadily decreasing; in September 2019, sea ice followed a decreasing trend of -12.89 per cent per decade — a record low in sea ice extent in the last two years.
Note: Eutrophication is the enrichment of a lake or other water body with chemical nutrients, typically compounds containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or both.
Source: This post is based on the article “Sea level rose 3.1 mm each year between 1993 and 2020: Report ” published in Down to Earth on 24th Sep 2021.
Arctic ice is disappearing: How clouds interact with sea ice change
What is the news?
The Earth is warming — some parts more rapidly than others. Temperatures in the Arctic, for example, have been rising much faster than the rest of the planet. Experts, for the longest time, have attributed the crisis to how clouds interact with sea ice, essentially frozen seawater.
Decades of research have pointed that losses in Arctic Sea ice cover allow for the formation of more clouds near the ocean’s surface.
A new research by the NASA has now shown that more heat and moisture is released through a large hole in sea ice called a polynya, which fuels the formation of more clouds. This traps heat in the atmosphere and hinders the refreezing of new sea ice.
The study was conducted over a section of northern Baffin Bay between Greenland and Canada known as the North Water Polynya.
What is polynya?
A polynya is an area of open water surrounded by sea ice. It is a patch of unfrozen seawater within the contiguous pack ice or fast ice.
What are the findings of the research?
First, low clouds over the polynya emitted more energy or heat than clouds in adjacent areas covered by sea ice. The polynya did refreeze, but only after the increased cloud cover and heat under the clouds persisted for about a week. It did not mean that conditions went back to normal easily. The extra clouds and increased cloud radiative effect to the surface remained for some time after the polynya froze.
Second, the sea ice acts like a cap or a barrier between the relatively warm ocean surface and the cold and dry atmosphere above. It leads to more heat and moisture from the ocean into the atmosphere. This warming slows down the growth of the sea ice.
Third, Arctic sea ice has declined at a rate of almost 13 per cent per decade in the last 30 years.
Fourth, Arctic’s warming is also due to the reduction of the surface albedo effect.
Fifth, rapid Arctic Sea ice retreat in the early 21st century was driven by several dynamic and thermodynamic feedbacks, such as ice-albedo feedback and water vapour feedback
Sixth, the response of the clouds to the polynya lengthened the time the hole remained open. They can create a thicker blanket and increase the amount of heat emitted down to the surface. The emitted heat helps keep the surface of the North Water Polynya a little warmer.
Seventh, opening of a polynya is a very strong, distinct forcing. If there’s not a cloud response to a polynya event, we cannot expect cloud response anywhere else.
Source: This post is based on the article ” Arctic ice is disappearing: How clouds interact with sea ice change ” published in Down to Earth on 24th September 2021.
United Nations Food Systems Summit: Need to transform food systems, say experts
What is the news?
Recently, United Nations Food System Summit took place in New York. In this summit, leaders emphasized that there is a need to achieve the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030 and address climate change in view of food production.
We must urgently move from incremental and siloed action towards a systems approach. The food system will not prosper until all sectors concerned work together. All stakeholders and people within the system play a crucial role through responsible and innovative practices in ensuring that everyone has access to healthy food.
What is food system?
According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food systems encompass the entire range of actors and their interlinked value-adding activities involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products.
Food systems comprise all food products that originate from crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture. They also constitute the broader economic, societal and natural environments in which these diverse production systems are embedded.
What kind of food system we need today?
World leaders need their commitments to more resilient, inclusive and sustainable food systems. The world is looking forward to a simpler and more inclusive food system.
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has already given the world a ‘One-Health’ vision. Food systems can drive the global recovery in three fundamental ways: For people, for the planet, and for prosperity.
What are the actions needed to realize the vision of 2030 agenda?
– nourish all people
– boost nature-based solutions
– advance equitable livelihoods, decent work and empowered communities
– Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses
– support means of implementation
Source: This post is based on the article ” United Nations Food Systems Summit: Need to transform food systems, say experts ” published in Down to Earth on 24th September 2021.
COVID-19: WHO recommends Regeneron antibody therapy for high-risk & seronegative patients
What is the news?
Recently, World Health Organization (WHO) approved the Regeneron antibody combination for treatment of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
What is Regeneron?
Regeneron is a combination of two drugs — casirivimab and imdevimab.
It has reduced mortality in seronegative patients with severe infections. The drug cocktail replicates the natural antibody response of human beings. Last year it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States.
What are the recommendations of WHO regarding this therapy?
As per UN health agency, giving drugs in veins may be difficult in outpatient scenarios. For such cases, it recommended application of drugs under the skin.
Specialised clinics, adequate amounts of antibodies and trained medical staff will be required for the therapy.
Source: This post is based on the article ” COVID-19: WHO recommends Regeneron antibody therapy for high-risk & seronegative patients ” published in Down to Earth on 24th September 2021.
Electronic polymer based low-cost sensor developed to detect explosives rapidly
Source: This post is based on the article ”Electronic polymer-based low-cost sensor developed to detect explosives rapidly” published in PIB on 24th September 2021.
What is the news?
For the first time, Indian scientists have developed a thermally stable and cost-effective electronic polymer-based sensor for rapidly detecting nitro-aromatic chemicals (NACs) used in high-energy explosives.
About the findings
Poly-nitroaromatic compounds in explosives generally require sophisticated instrumental techniques to detect them. But in the field, like military sites, extremists locations, they require simple, cheap, and selective field techniques which will be non-destructive in nature to make quick decisions.
But such Non-destructive sensing of nitroaromatic chemicals (NACs) is difficult. To overcome such disadvantages, a team of scientists has developed a layer by layer (LBL) polymer detector consisting of two organic polymers. The sensor device comprises three layers of polymers.
What is the significance of the invention?
The detection of explosives without destroying them is essential for protection, and criminal investigations. The tri-layer polymer matrix was found to be a very efficient molecular sensor for nitroaromatic chemicals. An electronic sensing device builds around a polymer gas sensor can quickly detect the explosive on-site.
The device can be operated at room temperature, has a low response time and negligible interference from other chemicals. So, it will help in the faster detection of NACs used in high-energy explosives.
Flex-fuel engines to be mandatory soon: Gadkari
Source: This post is based on the article ”Flex-fuel engines to be mandatory soon: Gadkari” published in The Hindu on 25th September 2021.
What is the News?
Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on Friday said the government would soon make it mandatory for all vehicle manufacturers to make flex engines (that can run on more than one fuel).
What are Flex Fuel Vehicles(FFV)?
Flex Fuel Vehicles(FFV) is a modified version of vehicles that could run on a blend of petrol and ethanol.
In these vehicles, both fuels are stored in a common tank. The resulting blend is burnt in the combustion chamber, generating power for the vehicle.
Advantages of Flex Fuel Vehicles
Reduced dependence on petrol/diesel and thus reduced dependence on oil imports.
Ethanol burns more cleanly than conventional petrol, which reduces the car’s carbon footprint.
Helps in addressing the problems of surplus food grains (These can be used in making Ethanol).
Less costly: Alternative fuel ethanol is Rs 60-62 per litre while petrol costs more than Rs 100 per litre in many parts of the country, so by using ethanol, Indians will save Rs 30-35 per litre.
Disadvantages of Flex Fuel Vehicles
Customer acceptance will be a major challenge since the cost of ownership and running costs are going to be very high compared with 100% petrol vehicles.
Engine damage: Ethanol can also, unfortunately, cause corrosion and damage to the engine, mainly because it absorbs dirt easily.
Flex Fuel Vehicles will cost more as they will require several engineering tweaks to new engines, with corrosion-resistant rubber hoses and pipes.
Less Fuel Efficiency: Ethanol evaporates faster, so it is much harder to store. It burns better, but it also burns quicker, which means compromised fuel efficiency. However, it has higher octane than petrol and therefore provides increased power and performance.
What samples brought back by China mission tell us about Moon
Source: This post is based on the article ”What samples brought back by China mission tell us about the Moon” published in Indian Express on 25th September 2021.
What is the News?
China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission has delivered to Earth nearly 2 kg of rocky fragments and dust from the Moon.
What is the Chang’e-5 lunar mission?
Chang’e 5 lunar mission is the Chinese National Space Administration’s (CNSA) mission to send a robotic spacecraft to the moon to collect samples and return them to Earth for scientific study.
The spacecraft landed on an area of the Moon (the ‘far side’) not sampled by the American or Soviet missions nearly 50 years ago, and thus retrieved fragments of the youngest lunar rocks ever brought back for analysis in laboratories on Earth. The rocks are also different to those returned decades ago.
What are the findings from the samples brought by Chang’e-5?
Around 90% of the materials collected by Chang’e-5 likely derive from the landing site and its immediate surroundings, which are of a type termed ‘mare basalts’. These volcanic rocks are visible to us as the darker grey areas that spilled over much of the nearside of the Moon as ancient eruptions of lava.
Yet 10% percent of the fragments have distinctly different, ‘exotic’ chemical compositions.
Why do these findings matter?
The distinct 10% fragments may preserve records of other parts of the lunar surface, as well as hints of the types of space rocks that have impacted the Moon’s surface.
Moreover, scientists have also looked at the potential sources of beads of rapidly cooled glassy material. They have traced these glassy droplets to extinct volcanic vents known as ‘Rima Mairan’ and ‘Rima Sharp’. These fragments could give insights into past episodes of energetic, fountain-like volcanic activity on the Moon.
Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2021 Notified
Source: This post is based on the article ”Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2021 Notified” published in PIB on 23rd September 2021.
What is the News?
The Union Government has introduced the Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2021.
What are the key features of Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2021?
Patent Fees for Educational Institutions Reduced
Educational institutions engage in many research activities, where professors and teachers and students generate several new technologies which need to be patented for facilitating commercialization of the same.
However, high patenting fees present a restrictive element for getting these technologies patented and thus work as a disincentive for the development of new technologies.
Hence, the Government has now decided to reduce the patent filing and processing fees charged on educational institutions by 80% at par with similar concessions provided to startups under the Startup India initiative.
What are the steps taken by the Government to increase patents?
The time taken for examination of patents has come down from an average of 72 months in 2015 to 12-30 months at present, depending upon technology fields.
Scheme for Facilitating Startups Intellectual Property Protection (SIPP) has been launched with an aim to provide facilitators to startups for filing and processing of their applications. The professional charges of such facilitators are reimbursed as per provisions under the SIPP scheme.
Hearing of cases in Patents through Video-Conferencing for speedy and contact-less proceedings.
Encouraging the digital process for applying & granting patents.
The mechanism to lodge feedback/suggestions/complaints in respect of issues related to the functioning of the IP offices has been set up in the IPO website for the benefit of stakeholders.
Scheme for “Promotion of Medical Device Parks”, a key initiative to support the medical devices, notified
Source: This post is based on the article ”Scheme for Promotion of Medical Device Parks, a key initiative to support the medical devices, notified” published in PIB on 23rd September 2021.
What is the News?
The Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has notified the Scheme for “Promotion of Medical Device Parks”.
What is the Scheme for Promotion of Medical Device Parks?
Under the scheme, medical parks will be developed to provide common infrastructure facilities in one place thereby creating a robust ecosystem for medical device manufacturing in the country and also reduce the manufacturing cost significantly.
Objectives of the Scheme
Easy access to standard testing and infrastructure facilities through the creation of world-class common infrastructure facilities for increased competitiveness. This will result in a significant reduction of the cost of production of medical devices, leading to better availability and affordability of medical devices in the domestic market.
Reaping the benefits arising due to optimization of resources and economies of scale.
Other Features of the Scheme
Duration: The total financial outlay of the scheme is Rs. 400 crores and the tenure of the scheme is from FY 2020-2021 to FY 2024-2025.
Financial Assistance: The financial assistance to a selected Medical Device Park would be 70% of the project cost of common infrastructure facilities.
In the case of the North-Eastern States and the Hilly States, financial assistance would be 90% of the project cost. Maximum assistance under the scheme for one Medical Device Park would be limited to Rs. 100 crores.
Government Notifies PLI Scheme for Automobile & Auto components
Source: This post is based on the article ”Government Notifies PLI Scheme for Automobile & Auto components” published in PIB on 25th September 2021.
What is the News?
The government of India has issued notification regarding Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Automobile & Auto components.
What is the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Automobile & Auto components?
Aim: To overcome the cost disabilities of the industry for the manufacture of Advanced Automotive Technology products in India.
Key Features of the Scheme
Eligibility: The scheme is open to existing Automotive companies as well as new Non-Automotive investor companies (who are currently not in the automobile or auto component manufacturing business).
Duration: The scheme will be implemented over a period of five years starting from FY 2022-2023.
Components: The scheme has two components viz
Champion OEM Incentive scheme: It is a ‘sales value linked’ scheme, applicable to Battery Electric Vehicles and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles of all segments.
Component Champion Incentive Scheme: It is a ‘sales value linked’ scheme, applicable on pre-approved Advanced Automotive Technology components of all vehicles. Pre-approval of the eligible products will be done by Testing Agency.
Base year: Financial Year 2019-20 shall be treated as the Base Year for calculation of Eligible sales. An approved applicant shall be eligible for benefits for 5 consecutive Financial Years.
Any eligible product will be incentivized only for once – Component level or Vehicle level.
|Read more: Production-Linked Incentive or PLI Schemes and its challenges – Explained, pointwise|
Minimum 50% domestic value addition will be required to avail incentives under the scheme.
The incentive will be applicable on the Determined Sales Value, which is defined as the incremental eligible sales of a particular year over the base year.
Supreme Court sets aside Madras High Court remarks on EWS quota
Source: This post is based on the article ”Supreme Court sets aside Madras High Court remarks on EWS quota” published in The Hindu on 25th September 2021.
What is the News?
The Supreme Court has set aside the observations in the Madras High Court’s order, which said that the reservation for Economically Weaker Sections(EWS) in the NEET-All India Quota can be implemented only with the approval of the Supreme Court.
Recently, the Government of India had announced a 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in All India Quota (AIQ) scheme for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) medical/dental courses from 2021-22 onwards.
After this, a petition was filed in the Madras High Court challenging the 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the All India Quota (AIQ) scheme.
On this, the High Court said that the reservation for EWS in the NEET-All India Quota can be implemented by the Central Government only with the approval of the Supreme Court.
This is because the 10% EWS quota introduced under the 103rd Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019 is being examined by a Constitution Bench of five judges of the Supreme Court.
After these observations, the Central Government moved the Supreme Court saying that it was unnecessary for the High Court to make such remarks.
What did the Supreme Court say on this?
The Supreme Court has set aside the Madras High Court observation that the Centre should not have provided a 10% reservation for EWS society in the all India quota medical seats without obtaining the express approval of the Supreme Court.
The apex court said that the Madras High Court observations were outside its jurisdiction. However, the court refrained from making any comment about the merits of the EWS quota issue.
RBI permits lenders to sell fraud loans to ARCs, paves way for resolution
Source: This post is based on the article ”RBI permits lenders to sell fraud loans to ARCs, paves way for resolution” published in Business Standard on 25th September 2021.
What is the News?
The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has permitted lenders to transfer the loans that have been classified as fraud to asset reconstruction companies(ARCs).
What is the current procedure?
Currently, RBI norms require banks to make 100% provisions for the entire amount classified as fraud.
Note: As per RBI’s annual report, lenders have declared loans worth Rs 1.37 trillion as a fraud in FY21. In FY20, the amount was Rs 1.81 trillion and in FY19 it was Rs 64,539 crore.
However, RBI did not allow Banks to sell loans classified as fraud to asset reconstruction companies (ARCs).
What has changed now?
RBI has now permitted Banks to transfer the loans that have been classified as fraud to the ARCs.
But the transfer of such loans does not absolve the lender from fixing the staff accountability as required under the extant instructions on frauds.
Significance of this decision
This opens up significant opportunities not just for banks but also for asset reconstruction companies who could probably buy these assets at a greater discount than regular bad loans.
But there is also a possibility that the ARCs may not show much interest because the resolution of loan accounts tagged as frauds is very difficult.
China says all crypto-related transactions are illegal
Source: This post is based on the following article
- “China says all crypto-related transactions are illegal” published in Indian Express on 25th September 2021.
- “China says all Bitcoin or crypto transactions are illegal, may ban crypto currencies” published in India Today on 25th September 2021.
What is the News?
China has said that all crypto currency transactions in China, including transactions using Bitcoin, will be deemed illegal.
China and Cryptocurrency
China has been one of the world’s largest crypto-currency markets.This is despite the fact that trading in crypto-currency has officially been banned in China since 2019.
However, the recent announcement by China’s central bank that all cryptocurrency-related transactions are illegal and must be banned sends the strongest signal yet on its determination to crack down on cryptocurrency.
But for now, it seems that holding Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency is not illegal in China. Only their use is illegal.
Why is China cracking down on Cryptocurrency?
No Legal Backing: Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are not backed by any government or bank. Hence, they cannot be used as legal tender.
Harmful to Environment: China considers crypto-currencies harmful to the environment because bitcoin mining requires a lot of computing resources and that in turn increases power use. There are reports noting that the entire power consumption of computers and server farms used to mine Bitcoin exceeds the power use of a country like Switzerland.
To stop Illegal activities: Cryptocurrencies bypasses official institutions and the anonymity that it offers makes it a flourishing business for illegal activities.
To avoid Financial Risk: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies cannot be traced by a country’s central bank, making them difficult to regulate. Hence, China has acted on cryptocurrencies to prevent and control financial risks.
To launch its own Digital Currency: China is planning to introduce its own digital currency. Its aim is to allow China to conduct transactions in its own currency around the world reducing dependency on the dollar which remains dominant internationally.