9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – September 27th, 2021

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

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

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly) 

GS Paper 2

It can be symbolic of a new India that it will not let anyone starve in South Asia

Source: This post is based on the following articles “It can be symbolic of a new India that it will not let anyone starve in South Asia” published in Indian Express on 27th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Relevance: Understanding food diplomacy.

Synopsis: India has reported surplus good grain production. Given the food crisis in the world and our neighbourhood, India can utilize food diplomacy to strengthen its soft power.

Introduction

The article highlights how India can adopt the US method of grain diplomacy, which can be a game-changer for India.

What did the US do?

In the past, the US utilized food aid as powerful diplomacy to contain hunger-induced discontent that it feared can raise communist revolutions in underdeveloped countries. The US under its Food for Peace programme, also known as PL-480, transported food grains to India, Soviet Union and other countries.

India alone imported nearly 24 million tonnes (mt) of wheat under PL-480 during 1964-66. The rationale behind the Food for Peace programme was that to relieve grain surplus in the US and will also serve as a bulwark against communism. Also, exporting grain was cheaper than stocking food grains beyond two years.

Why should India adopt this model?

India has a stock of 90.41 Mt, which is the highest till date. This count will further increase with the new paddy arrivals. The “carrying cost”, interest, storage and other expenses of the excess buffer has been estimated at Rs 5,589 per tonne for 2021-22. So, it will be beneficial for India to use this surplus stock diplomatically, especially with our neighbouring countries, either through a barter system or by donating.

What is the present crisis?

Afghanistan is facing a massive food crisis because of the frequent droughts, regime changes and overall political instability. Sri Lanka too is facing similar problems, which have been further worsened by dwindling foreign currency reserves. Thus, India should utilize this opportunity to deliver the message that no one should starve in South Asia – by exporting the food grains to these countries.


How online education can give disabled children greater learning opportunities

Source: This post is based on the following articles “How online education can give disabled children greater learning opportunities” published in Indian Express on 27th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to education.

Relevance: Understanding the challenges in educating the disabled.

Synopsis:  Disabled people have often lagged behind in their educational achievements. But the advent of online education has the potential of bringing transformative changes.

Introduction

The article highlights the benefits online education is offering in the advancement of Persons with disabilities (PWD).

What is the global status of disabled people?

Globally- about 15% of the population lives with some form of disability. Of this, 80% live in developing countries. They have to face multiple hurdles which impact their day-to-day life.

Read More: Disability – policy and challenges
Literacy rate

Over the last 65 years, the overall global literacy rate has increased by 4 % every five years — from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2019. However, the global literacy rate for the disabled is as low as 3%, with just 1% for females. According to UNESCO, 90% of disabled children in developing countries do not attend school. Also, the school dropout rate is very high owing to various reasons like infrastructure, untrained teachers etc.

This lack of education also impacts the employability ratio of the disabled. According to the UN, in developing countries, 80 to 90% of PwDs are unemployed, whereas, in industrialized countries, it is between 50 to 70%.

What is the benefit of online learning?

Online learning offers various advantages to disabled students. They do not have to face any physical barriers like transportation etc and there is no need to attend physical schools. They can opt to study from their homes. Furthermore, they have access to lectures, libraries and resources without the need to physically navigate remote campuses.

It also offers the advantage of self-paced learning. With technological aids and assistive devices like technologies like screen readers, text magnifiers, speech recognition software, braille keyboards etc it is possible to train disabled children in various skills.

Another positive contributory factor is an increase in access to the internet. As of January 2021, there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide — almost 60% of the global population. In 104 countries, more than 80% of the youth population is online. Moreover, the prices of the internet have dropped by 50% over the last few years and broadband is now also accessible over mobile phones.

What should be the way forward?

Government and ICT have a great role to play in making quality education accessible to all, including the disabled. Given the need to achieve the SDG goal of inclusive education, there is a need to fast-track the education for the disabled.


Stopping short of social justice – Regarding NEET

Source: This post is based on the following articles “Stopping short of social justice published in The Hindu on 27th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to education.

Relevance: Understanding the issue of NEET in Tamil Nadu.

Synopsis:  The Justice AK Rajan Committee report does not provide answers to the crucial questions it engages with.

Introduction

Justice AK Rajan Committee report states that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) has adversely impacted the chances of less privileged students in gaining admission to government medical colleges in Tamil Nadu.

The committee has used various parameters in making its reports like family income, access to privileges, whether a student going to a government school or a private one etc.

Read more: National Entrance cum Eligibility Test(NEET) – Issues and Significance- Explained, pointwise
What are the issues with the report?

NEET and Coaching: The committee repeatedly asserts that NEET coaching skews the results of the medical exam. The report says that numerous disadvantages like geographical, linguistic etc. do not favour a common entrance exam. But, the committee failed to understand that the same can also be applied to common 10th and 12th standard exams.

As the marginalised and rural students do not have similar tuition and other coaching facilities available for urban students. For instance, prior to NEET, students from coaching schools in Rasipuram, Tamil Nadu occupy the majority of medical college seats of the state.

Higher Secondary school (HSc): This creates confusion as to who will be considered more meritorious – those who secured 98. 16 % (HSc) or those who secured ‘89.05% (HSc)’ and simultaneously 49.65% (NEET)? Committee says that such a comparison is difficult – like comparing apples to oranges.

But according to experts, NEET is the best assessor of students’ standards and abilities, because of its assessment and syllabus superiority.

Financial commitment: The driving factor behind the NEET was the high capitation and other fees of the medical colleges. So creating NEET alone without addressing the high fee would defeat the very objective of creating the NEET. The committee failed to observe this.

Read more: Inequity and injustice writ large – Regarding NEET 
What should be the way forward?

In conclusion, the truth is that school education in India, including in Tamil Nadu, is grossly inequitable. There is a range of inequity in education, with the government schools catering to the most underprivileged and private schools catering to the privileged.

Unless this inequity is addressed, nothing is going to change either with NEET or with the state’s board exams. So instead of complaining about NEET, the government should focus on improving the quality of government school education.


How China’s crackdown could benefit Indian tech

Source: This post is based on the article “HOW CHINA’S CRACKDOWN COULD BENEFIT INDIAN TECH” published in Live Mint on 27th Sep 2021.

Syllabus: GS2- Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

Relevance: Attracting FDI to India.

Synopsis: China’s move to bring its tech sector under political control has created opportunities for India to attract greater foreign investment inflows.

Introduction

Since late last year, China has been tightening the state’s grip on the Chinese private sector, which contributes over 60% to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the world’s second-largest economy.

Xi’s retaliation against the “disorderly expansion of capital” has steadily expanded since the Communist Party of China (CPC) silenced Alibaba founder Jack Ma last year.

As a consequence, more Chinese firms have lost over $1 trillion in valuations within months. Tencent alone lost $388 billion in market value, as Chinese firms have disappeared from the world’s top 10 stocks.

Owing to these recent crackdowns, foreigners are now cautious of investing in Chinese companies.

Why China is tightening its grip on the Chinese private sector?

Chinese Capitalism: To ensure that compared to the West, “capital cannot dominate the country” and it “must not influence politics” in China.

The economic and political rise of Chinese tech superpowers: The crackdown on digital economy firms now appears to be a case of China’s tech titans becoming too powerful. Such as e-commerce giant Alibaba and software giant Tencent.

China’s policy of making education inclusive: Beijing has been especially hard on China’s $100 billion edtech sector. The CPC is determined to make education more affordable and inclusive. Online tutoring firms are no longer allowed to make a profit, list overseas or receive foreign investments.

Issue of Politics: Xi wants to continue as the party supremo for another term and is clearing the road to power off his critics.

Why is India expected to Gain?

Firstly, India is relatively more stable and has a large alternative consumer base.

Secondly, India is also home to a fast-growing digital economy, with an estimated 750 million Indians already online, which includes about 360 million online learners.

Thirdly, The accelerated digitization of the Indian economy post-covid.

Fourthly, The ongoing decoupling of Sino-US ties.

Fifthly, India’s edtech sector has been booming recently.

What does the future hold?

Insiders predict that there will be greater investment opportunities for India over the coming years but emphasize that it’s too soon to make a definitive decision.

Whereas some experts are uncertain whether that represents a direct opportunity for India. They opine that, Opportunities emerge from our own innate strengths and don’t need a fillip from China.

While others have pointed out that China effect will take a year or two to become evident. American funds will invest less in China and more in India, while also diversifying to Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

What has been the impact on India’s Startup market?

Increasing Global investments: At least 104 of the 168 global investors in Indian fintechs this year were from the US and 40 were from Asia. In the past three years, US investor participation in Indian fintech startups went up by nearly 60%, Asian investor participation rose by 53%.

Increasing Investments in Indian startups: India in July 2021 surpassed China in monthly venture capital deals for the first time since 2013. Over two dozen new Indian unicorns were created this year.

Increasing Investments in India’s edtech sector: In edtech, Indian startups clocked over $2 billion in 2020 compared to $553 million in 2019. For instance, since last year, Byju’s has raised more than any other edtech firm in India. Following their path are firms such as Unacademy Group, an edtech firm that recently raised $440 million.


Identity and public policy

Source: This post is based on the following articles “Identity and public policy published in The Hindu on 27th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Relevance: Understanding the different approaches adopted by state governments for the development of backward classes.

Synopsis:  Identity-based public policy may not be as effective as one based on a Universalist approach.

Introduction

Political parties have been demanding caste-based census, i.e. to enumerate OBC’s as SC/STs are already counted. They argue that this data will lead to better evidence-based policy making for the weaker sections.

Read more: Caste based census in India – Explained, pointwise

For analysis of this argument, the author took the survey of states that have adopted different approaches for the development of backward classes. The author surveyed, Tamil Nadu which adopted caste-based mobilization (identity politics), and Kerala which adopted political programmes for ending deprivation through the social-democratic route, without resorting to identity politics.

What are the findings of the author on Tamil Nadu and Kerala?

The author’s survey is focused on three variables, adult literacy, infant mortality and consumption. It was found that:

Consumption: In absolute level, SCs of Kerala are better off than the SCs of Tamil Nadu on all three indicators. Scheduled Castes (SC) of Kerala are also better off than the general population of India.

Adult literacy: The gap between the general population and the SCs is greater in Tamil Nadu than it is in Kerala.

Women’s empowerment: Here, Kerala lags behind Tamil Nadu on labour force participation, the proportion of female legislators and judges and crimes against women.

Does India need Caste census?

Findings at all India level: It was found that for more than one indicator, the distance between the SCs and the general population is lower for the country as a whole. This can be analyzed better by the maximin principle.

According to it, that policy is better which maximises the position of the worst off in society. So going by this principle, Kerala (which does not resort to identity politics) will be chosen as a better-performing state.

In conclusion, Politics and not the availability of information drives public policy. So, instead of debating on the inclusion of caste (identity politics), the government can focus on improving public policy through its universalist approach (through the social-democratic route) like Kerala.


GS Paper 3

Tariffs & strategy: China can be countered by getting global value chains to shift here. But we have high trade costs

Source: This post is based on the article “Tariffs & strategy: China can be countered by getting global value chains to shift here. But we have high trade costs” published in TOI on 27th Sep 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Effects of Liberalization on the Economy, Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth.

Relevance:  Attracting FDI, Trade liberalisation

Synopsis: China can be countered by getting global value chains to shift here. But we have high trade costs

Introduction

Recently, the first in-person leaders’ summit of the Quad grouping was held. It resulted in a promising outcome that fits economic integration with the overarching strategic motive. India is an immediate beneficiary of this thrust.

The clean hydrogen partnership, a semiconductor supply chain initiative and telecommunications are three areas where India will potentially be presented with opportunities to make a technological and economic leap.

There will be more positive spin-offs if an increasing incidence of inflows locks the domestic firms into global value chains (GVCs). It will lead to diffusion of advanced technology and raise productivity across-the-board.

What are the issues that can discourage potential GVC investments?

An important factor influencing integration is the level of trade costs in India, through both tariff and non-tariff barriers. However, India’s trade policy in the recent past has pushed up costs through tariff increases.

For instance, WTO data shows that India’s simple average applied MFN (most favoured nation) tariff increased from 13% in 2014-15 to 15.4% in 2020-21.

Further, there’s been a marked shift towards protectionism that has on average increased trade costs. It will only discourage potential GVC investments.

What needs to be done?

Firstly, if the Indian economy is to benefit from the opportunity arising out of the realignment, private firms need enough incentive to invest here.

Secondly, the prevailing favourable strategic environment needs supportive trade policies that persuade GVCs to come here.

Thirdly, India should reorient its trade regime to draw in FDI that binds the Indian economy to GVCs extensively.


India should invest in ever more sophisticated cyber armaments

Source: This post is based on the article “India should invest in ever more sophisticated cyber armaments” published in Livemint on 27th Sep 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers and Challenges to Internal Security through Communication Networks

Relevance: Cyber warfare, cyber weapon

Synopsis: India’s offensive cyber capability appears to have increased but we should aim to achieve deterrence.

Introduction

The advent of the Cold War, nuclear weapons and proxy wars of the 20th century put an end to the custom of formal war declarations. In recent times, an incoming missile or fighter aircraft announces war.

What is ‘bitter APT’ episode?

Recently, media reports suggested that Indian government-connected entities have demonstrated some cyber capabilities of offensive nature.

For instance, hackers associated with the Indian government (designated ‘Bitter APT’ by the industry) used commercially available zero-day exploits to break into Chinese and Pakistani government-linked computers.

According to an Indian private cyber- security expert, these hackers most likely used indigenously-developed tools to exfiltrate data from target devices.

Why’s this development significant for India?

Increased offensive capabilities: The Indian cyber actors have moved up from using phishing methods to gain footholds in target devices to exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities. Now, they are exploiting unknown software bugs to gain entry into target computers.

Also, the highly-sophisticated software used to exfiltrate data appears to have been built indigenously and went unnoticed for several months before being detected in February 2021. From the information that is publicly available, the Bitter APT hack was used for cyber espionage, not for disruption.

Why India needs to develop credible offensive cyber capability?

Vast cyber space: India presents attackers with a vast sphere, large parts of which are unguarded and perhaps even unguardable. It is thus not feasible to rely solely on perimeter security.

Deterrence: Deterrence in information warfare is a multi-layered concept, but requires the possession of effective cyber weapons to be credible.

Global position: to ensure a place at the high table as a ‘cyber have’ so that countries eventually get down to negotiate digital arms control. The cyber generation must learn from its nuclear predecessor, when India was designated a non-nuclear weapon state in perpetuity for the only reason that it had held off testing a nuclear device before an arbitrary date.

Cyber warfare: cyber space has already been militarized. It is global and continues regardless of whether or not states are in armed conflict.

No political discussion: At least so far, the pursuit of politics through has avoided large scale bloodshed that characterized armed conflicts of the Industrial Age.

Reduce dependency: The American firm that sold the zero-day exploits has cut off the Indian government entity from its customer list for misusing its services.

Hypocrisy of commercial cyber weapon vendors: the righteous step of cutting off the Indian government entity from its customer list came from a company that provides zero-day exploits to the US government and its allies, which use it only for the anodyne business of updating their anti-virus software.

What is the way forward?

First, there is need for continuous investment in talent and technology in offensive cyber capability.

Second, there is a lot of urgent work that India must do to craft a national strategy for information warfare, no doubt, but the development of more advanced cyber weapons must take place in parallel.


Health, infra and fiscal stimulus will act as our economic panacea

Source: This post is based on the article “Health, infra and fiscal stimulus will act as our economic panacea” published in Livemint on 27th Sep 2021.

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

Relevance: Need of public expenditure and investment

Synopsis: Health, infra and fiscal stimulus are at the core of the government’s economic revival strategy as they hold significant potential to propel growth.

Introduction

The covid pandemic and subsequent restrictions, led to never-before economic turmoil of unprecedented proportions, sending most business plans and strategies into near chaos.

Hence, the right public policies and a zealous private intent are key to future growth.

What are the indicators of a revival in the Indian economy?

Vaccine: Over 800 million covid vaccine doses have been administered. Active cases are coming down. Deaths are fewer.

Getting back to normal: Restrictions are being lifted across the nation. The country’s workforce is returning to work. A good monsoon amid the kharif sowing season has brought on some cheer in rural India as well.

Consumer demand is slowly growing: Agriculture, forestry and fishing are already on the path of positive growth. India produced a bumper crop in the last kharif and rabi seasons, despite pandemic.

Construction is showing signs of a rebound. Electricity, gas, water and public-utility services and public administration, defence and other services are getting back to normalcy sooner than other sectors.

Financial and professional services: they are well on their way to recovery. The information technology sector has breached many ceilings, posting growth from work-from-home routines.

What steps were taken by the govt?

Investment multiplier: To revive activities in specific sectors with multiplier effects on growth, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced on-tap targeted long-term repo operations (TLTRO) with tenures of up to three years for a total amount of up to ₹1 trillion at a floating rate linked to its policy repo rate.

The central bank also decided to increase its special open market operations to ₹20,000 crore.

Fiscal stimulus: India’s finance ministry announced an economic package covering three broad areas viz pandemic relief, strengthening public health, and growth and employment.

Increasing credit supply: The availability of low-cost loanable funds increases credit offtake to be utilized in new economic activities, which results in heightened revival and growth.

Consumer demand: ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ can go a long way to revive flagging consumer demand and ensure food security for a majority of the population. After the migrant workers’ crisis during the 2020 lockdown, the focus shifted to reverse migration.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme has already been used by almost 100 million people, its highest-ever utilization since its launch in 2006.

Infrastructure is crucial to an economic revival: Efforts to attract manufacturers to India from China must be augmented with improvements in domestic infrastructure.

The recent launch of a ₹100 trillion integrated infrastructure scheme should help make India’s economy more competitive. This Gati Shakti initiative aims at breaking the silos between road, rail, air and waterways to reduce travel time, which is expected to improve industrial productivity and raise global competitiveness and generate employment.

This is a way to reduce companies’ logistics costs, which presently account for about 13% of their expenses.

What is the way forward?

First, expansion of MGNREGA to urban area is also necessary to help stabilize the economy.

Second, physical and social infrastructure spending can simultaneously create jobs, attract private investment and improve the economy’s competitiveness.

Third, stepping up the pace of vaccination is the most effective stimulus. Strengthening and augmenting health infrastructure, urban planning, roads, rural infrastructure and digital infrastructure are going to be key drivers of economic growth in the long run.

Fourth, reforming the financial system with strong resolution mechanisms under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to enable the creative destruction of haemorrhaging companies is a viable way forward.

Fifth, cultivating an open trade environment conducive to export-led, job-creating growth can provide long-lasting solution for the Indian economy.


Flood management that cannot be watered down

Source: This post is based on the article “Flood management that cannot be watered down” published in The Hindu on 27th September 2021. 

Syllabus: GS 3- Disaster and Disaster Management. 

Relevance: Flooding in Bihar, reasons behind it and possible remedies.

Synopsis: Various issues regarding Indo-Nepal Flood management system and the way forward.

Introduction 

Many of Bihar’s districts faces serious challenges with recurrent and massive flooding. This year also, they faced double problem of flooding and the novel coronavirus pandemic.  

Some of Nepal’s biggest river systems originate in the Himalayan glaciers which then flow into India through Bihar. During the monsoons, these river systems flood causing many problems for Bihar. Hence, we need process-driven coordination between the Centre and the Government of Bihar to handle the flooding in Nepal’s Terai and North Bihar (mainly Mithilanchal region). 

What are the challenges/issues with Indo-Nepal flood management? 

Detailed project report not prepared: As part of the long-term measures to address the problem of massive and recurrent floods in Bihar, the Joint Project Office (JPO), Biratnagar, was established in Nepal in August 2004 to prepare a detailed project report to construct a high dam on the Nepal side (on the Kosi, Kamla and Bagmati rivers). The Government of Bihar has raised the matter at regular intervals. A group of officers formed by the CWC has to work on various aspects of the detailed project report and propose an action plan for its early completion. The Water Resources Department, Bihar has repeatedly requested the MoJS to expedite the progress of the detailed project report. Despite the best efforts made by the Government of Bihar, the task remains unaccomplished even after 17 years.

Local resistance in Nepal: As in the existing India-Nepal Agreement on water resources, the State government of Bihar is authorised to execute flood protection works up to critical stretches inside Nepal territory along the India-Nepal border. In recent years, all such flood protection works have had to be carried out in the face of increasing local resistance.

Issues with Nepali administration: During the strengthening work proposed on the right marginal bund on the Lalbekia river, the local Nepali administration claimed that the said bund area fell in no man’s land. This is notwithstanding the fact that the embankment was built by India 30 years ago and there has not been any dispute regarding its maintenance all these years. Breach closure/protective work of right guide bund of the Kamla weir remains incomplete due to the lack of permission. However, resolution of the impasse is awaited. This is another important matter to be looked at.

What is the way forward? 

First, Nepal and India should restart the water dialogue and come up with policies to safeguard the interests of all those who have been affected on both sides of the border. 

Second, two countries should come together and assess the factors that are causing unimaginable losses through flooding every year.  

Third, optimisation of the infrastructure is important for flood management.  

Fourth, management of green cover and water cooperation is needed. 

Fifth, by controlling the flooding and using the water resources for common developmental uses such as hydroelectricity, irrigation and waterways, India-Nepal relations can be strengthened even further. 

Bilateral cooperation is the essential part of water sharing and water management between the two countries. Nepal must play its part in ensuring a sustainable way forward. For the sake of development and environmental protection, we need to turn the crisis into an opportunity through wisdom. 


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Govt.-industry panel drives policy to revive manufacturing

Source: This post is based on the article “Govt.-industry panel drives policy to revive manufacturing” published in The Hindu on 27th Sep 2021.

What is the News?

The meeting between the Minister for Commerce and the private Industry soon after the national lockdown was announced in 2020 has led to the setting up of the SCALE Committee.

What is the SCALE Committee?

SCALE Committee stands for Steering Committee for Local Value Addition, Manufacturing and Exports(SCALE)

It is a joint government-industry panel aimed at navigating Indian manufacturing away from the import-dependence pitfalls exposed by the pandemic.

The committee is looking at ways to increase localisation, component manufacturing and employment in various industries.

It is working on such ideas for 17 sectors — from toys, textiles, furniture and e-cycles to drones and even fisheries. 

How is SCALE Committee different from other committees?

First, it has no deadlines and drafts and no voluminous reports — all its proposals are laid out in a presentation at best. 

Second, it doesn’t just gather ideas from various sectoral players and splash them together for the government to consider, as usual, industry representations tend to be. 

Third, it follows a rigorous process of consultations to align different factions of the industry with varying agendas at multiple levels and tries to nudge an alignment of interests where differences seem intractable, before it takes up the relevant issues with the government.


CJI voices support for 50% representation for women in judiciary

Source: This post is based on the article CJI voices support for 50% representation for women in judiciarypublished in The Hindu on 27th September 2021.

What is the News?

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana has backed 50% representation for women in the judiciary.

Women and Judiciary

Women constitute only about 30% of the subordinate judiciary.

In High Courts, women judges constitute 11.5%.

In the Supreme Court, we currently have four women Justices out of the sitting 33. That makes it just 12%. 

Note: The Supreme Court has the highest ever number of women judges serving now. One of the women judges, Justice B.V. Nagarathna is set to be the first woman CJI in 2027.

Of the 1.7 million advocates, only 15% are women. 

Only 2% of the elected representatives in the State Bar Councils are women.

Reasons for Low Women Representation in Judiciary

The reasons that stop women from entering the judiciary as a profession includes: Lack of infrastructure, gender stereotypes and social attitudes, “Clients’ preference for male advocates, the uncomfortable environment within courtrooms, crowded courtrooms and lack of washrooms for women.

Must read: Issue of Gender Gap in Judiciary – Explained, Pointwise

What steps should be taken?

The basic facilities in the courts, especially for women, need to be addressed immediately.

Government should form a separate entity — National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation — to introduce inclusive designs for court complexes and create a more welcoming environment for them.


Beijing-Lhasa key road link completed

Source: This post is based on the articleBeijing-Lhasa key road link completed” published in The Hindu on 27th Sep 2021.

What is the News?

China has completed a Lhasa-Nagqu section of the Beijing-Lhasa expressway.

What is Beijing–Lhasa Expressway?
Source: TibetanReview

Beijing–Lhasa Expressway is part of the Chinese national expressway network.

It is planned to connect China’s capital Beijing to the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa.

It also connects China’s Central Theatre Command with the Western Theatre Command, which is responsible for the border with India.

The expressway will pass through seven major cities of China including Beijing, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai and Lhasa with an approximate length of 3,710 km.

Note: In June 2021, China had launched a high-speed bullet train connecting Lhasa with Nyingchi, a strategically located Tibetan town located close to Arunachal Pradesh.

What are the strategic implications of the Beijing–Lhasa Expressway for India?

The Beijing–Lhasa Expressway has enormous strategic implications for India.

Once the expressway gets completed, it would allow the Chinese army to comfortably cover the distance of 3,725 km from Beijing to Lhasa in four days or less during emergencies.

The expressway would also ensure a very smooth flow of convoy traffic without any bottlenecks or any additional burden on manpower.


IGNCA to start cultural mapping in 75 villages soon

Source: This post is based on the article IGNCA to start cultural mapping in 75 villages soonpublished in The Hindu on 26th Sep 2021

What is the News?

The Ministry of Culture has handed over the National Mission on Cultural Mapping to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts(IGNCA).

Note: IGNCA aims to complete mapping in 5,000 villages by the end of the financial year 2021-2022. It will start with a trial run in 75 villages in October 2021.

What is the National Mission on Cultural Mapping(NMCM)?

The NMCM was approved by the Ministry of Culture in 2017 to build a comprehensive database of artists, art forms and other resources from organisations under the Ministry.

Aim: To address the necessities of preserving the threads of rich Indian Art and Cultural Heritage, converting the vast and widespread cultural canvas of India into an objective Cultural Mapping. It also aims to create a strong “Cultural Vibrancy” throughout the nation.

It encompasses data mapping, demography building, formalising the processes and bringing all cultural activities under one umbrella for better results.

The work on creating a database for folk arts and mapping of the heritage of villages would be carried out over five years.

Teams of volunteers from the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghathan, the National Service Scheme and students of sociology and social work would be deputed to visit villages and collect data on the art forms and heritage of the areas.

About Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts(IGNCA)

IGNCA is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture. It is a centre for research, academic pursuit and dissemination in the field of the arts.


Union Minister of Home Affairs chairs review meeting in New Delhi on Left Wing Extremism

Source: This post is based on the article Union Minister of Home Affairs chairs review meeting in New Delhi on Left Wing Extremismpublished in PIB on 26th Sep 2021.

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Home Affairs chaired a review meeting on Left Wing Extremism in New Delhi.

What is Left Wing Extremism?

LWE organizations are the groups that try to bring change through violent revolution. They are against democratic institutions and use violence to subvert the democratic processes at the ground level.

These groups prevent the developmental processes in the least developed regions of the country & try to misguide the people by keeping them ignorant of current happenings.

Incidents of Left Wing Extremism at present
LWE incidents
Source: PIB

The incidents of Left Wing Extremism has come down by 70% from an all-time high of 2258 in 2009 to 665 in 2020. 

The resultant deaths have also come down by 82% from an all-time high of 1005 in 2010 to 183 in 2020. 

The area under Maoist’s influence was also restricted with the geographical spread shrunk from 96 in 2010 to just 53 districts in 2020. 

What are the government initiatives taken to curb Left Wing Extremism?

The National Policy and Action Plan was launched in 2015 to address the Left Wing Extremism (LWE). The significant features of the policy are zero tolerance towards violence coupled with a big push to developmental activities, so that benefits of development reach the poor and vulnerable in the affected areas.

Operation ‘SAMADHAN’: It is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)’s initiative to deal with the Naxal problem. The acronym SAMADHAN stands for Smart leadership, Aggressive strategy, Motivation and training, Actionable Intelligence, Dashboard Based KPIs (key performance indicators) and KRAs (key result areas), harnessing technology, action plan for each theater, and No access to financing.

Development Initiatives in Left Wing Extremism Areas

Special Central Assistance (SCA): for filling critical gaps in public infrastructure and services of emergent nature.

Road Connectivity Project for construction of 5,412 km roads.

New Mobile Towers have been installed, and 2542 additional towers will be installed in the next 18 months

Opening of Schools: For imparting quality education to the youth in areas affected by LWE, special focus is given to the opening of Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS). 

Financial inclusion- for ensuring the presence of banking facilities within 5 km to all citizens residing in LWE affected areas


SAUBHAGYA completes Four years of successful implementation

Source: This post is based on the article SAUBHAGYA completes Four years of successful implementationpublished in PIB on 25th Sep 2021.

What is the News?

SAUBHAGYA Scheme has completed four years of successful implementation.

What is the Saubhagya Scheme?

The SAUBHAGYA Scheme was announced by the Prime Minister in 2017. 

Objective: To achieve Universal Household Electrification in the country through last-mile connectivity and providing access to electricity to all un-electrified households in rural areas and poor households in urban areas.

Nodal Agency: REC Limited (Rural Electrification Corporation) has been designated as the nodal agency for the Saubhagya scheme.

What are the key features of the Scheme?

All DISCOMs including Private Sector DISCOMs, State Power Departments and RE Cooperative Societies shall be eligible for financial assistance under the scheme in line with Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY).

The prospective beneficiary households for free electricity connections under the scheme would be identified using SECC 2011 data. 

However, un-electrified households not covered under SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs. 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 instalments through electricity bill. 

The electricity connection to households includes the release of electricity connections by drawing a service cable from the nearest pole to the household premise, installation of an energy meter, wiring for a single light point with an LED bulb and a mobile charging point.

What is the present status of the Scheme?

As of March 31st, 2021 India has provided electricity access to 2.82 crore households as part of the Saubhagya scheme. Saubhagya Scheme will continue its work of providing a 24×7 quality power supply to all. 

All states have been requested to launch special campaigns in their respective states to identify any left out un-electrified households and subsequently provide electricity connections to them. A dedicated toll-free helpline has also been launched for that purpose.


Govt pulling out all stops for 150 GW RE capacity by 2 Oct

Source: This post is based on the article Govt pulling out all stops for 150 GW RE capacity by 2 Octpublished in Livemint on 27th Sep 2021.

What is the News?

The Indian government is planning to achieve renewable energy (RE) capacity of 150 gigawatts (GW) by 2 October 2021.

About India’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

India is the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China

India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) under Paris Agreement aims to do the following,

Reduce the emissions’ intensity of its GDP by 33% to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level.

Increase total cumulative electricity generation from fossil-free energy sources to 40% by 2030,

Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons through additional forest and tree cover.

How much renewable energy capacity does India have achieved so far?

India is the only major economy with actions in line to keep global warming below 2 °C of pre-industrial levels, 

India has reached 38.5% of its installed power capacity from non-fossil fuels, and this will go up to 66% by 2030. The country has also reduced its emissions by 28%.

Currently, India’s installed renewable energy capacity is 147.05 GW. Among these, solar and wind energy capacity stands at 100.68 GW and hydropower projects at 46.37 GW.

Moreover, as part of the efforts, more 2.2 GW is to be commissioned by 2nd October and another 2.32 GW by 31 October.


PM highlights importance of fintech, warns against covid

Source:  This post is based on the article PM highlights importance of fintech, warns against covid published in Livemint on 27th Sep 2021.

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has addressed the 81st edition of his monthly radio programme Mann ki Baat.

What are the issues he has talked about?
On Digital Inclusion Initiatives

Around 355 crore Unified Payments Interface (UPI) transactions took place in August 2021. On average, digital payments of more than ₹2 trillion are happening through UPI.

National Payments Corp. of India(NPCI) which oversees the digital payments ecosystem in the country has launched e-RUPI, a voucher-based payments system to promote cashless transactions.

On Namami Gange Programme

The Namami Gange programme was approved in 2014 for making river Ganga pollution-free and conserving and restoring it.

On Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav

Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav was launched to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence. The five pillars of the 75 week-long celebrations are the freedom struggle, ideas, achievements, actions, and resolve.


New Evidence Led To WHO’s New Air Quality Standard

Source: This post is based on the article “New Evidence Led To WHO’s New Air Quality Standard” published in TOI on 27th Sep 2021.

What is the news?

The World Health Organization(WHO) released the Global Air Quality Guidelines(AQGs) recently.

Why was a higher standard necessary?

Since the last global update in 2005, there has been a marked increase in quality and quantity of evidence that shows how air pollution affects different aspects of human health.

The evidence also shows that adhering to new levels could save millions of lives. It shows around 80% of deaths globally attributed to PM2.5 exposure could be avoided if countries attain the annual AQG (air quality guidelines) level.

Even the attainment of an interim target for PM2.5 (the 2005 level) would result in a nearly 48% decrease in total deaths.

So, the clear evidence of health benefits prompted the global health body to update its guidelines on air quality standards.

Note: The Particulate Matter (PM), primarily generated by fossil fuel combustion, is even classified as carcinogenic by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Must Read: WHO’s Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) – Explained
Where does India stand?

India always has less stringent benchmarks for almost all key pollutants compared to the ones set by the WHO.

The 2021 AQG has made India’s national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), set in 2009, look more relaxed. Most Indian cities had, in fact, failed to meet even the WHO 2005 AQG level.

Under 2021 AQG,

– new annual standard for PM2.5 is set at 5 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3 ) compared to 10 μg/m3 in 2005 whereas its 24-hour mean is now fixed at 15 μg/m3 compared to 25 μg/m3 in 2005.

On the other hand, the acceptable level for PM2.5 in India is much higher – 40 μg/m3 and 60 μg/m3 for annual and 24-hour mean, respectively.

Similarly, India’s annual acceptable level for PM10 is 60 μg/m3 which is four times higher than the new WHO standards.

Will India revise its NAAQS, taking into account the WHO 2021 AQG?

India has already started working on revising its air quality standards. Though the country is expected to make its NAAQS more stringent compared to its 2009 standards, it won’t be as stringent as the WHO 2021 AQG.

Experts will factor in local meteorological and topographical conditions for arriving at new NAAQS next year. Besides the six classical pollutants, India’s NAAQS basket has two more pollutants – benzene and ammonia.

What’s the global context of the new WHO standards?

Release of new air quality standards at this juncture is significant, especially when there has been a growing momentum to bring more and more countries on board to get pledges for deep emission cuts ahead of 26th session of the UN climate conference (COP26).

Since some air pollutants – particularly black carbon (a component of PM) and tropospheric (ground-level) ozone – are also shortlived climate pollutants, efforts to improve air quality by reducing or phasing out fossil fuel can enhance climate change mitigation.

Must Read: WHO’s new air quality standards underline the health-pollution link.

Bitcoin miners eye N-power as environmental criticism mounts

Source: This post is based on the article “Bitcoin miners eye N-power as environmental criticism mounts” published in Business Standard on 26th Sep 2021.

What is the news?

Amid a heated debate over Bitcoin’s environmental impact, two companies say they have an answer on mitigating some of the negative effects: Nuclear energy.

Two private companies are partnering to use advanced fission to the energy-intensive process of minting new coins.

Why such a move?

It’s an effort, the companies say, to

i). reduce fossil-fuel emissions from Bitcoin mining and;

ii). diversify energy sources used by the miners

chart

How is Crypto-mining related to energy use?

Crypto miners use vast sums of computing power and energy to verify transactions on the blockchain.

Their energy use is comparable to that of many developed countries and rivals the emissions from major fossil-fuel users and producers such as airlines and oil-services firms, according to an analysis by Bank of America Corporation.

Though some others dispute this finding, arguing it’s no worse than the carbon footprint of cars, power plants and factories.

How do companies intend to use nuclear fission?

Companies are developing smaller reactors that they say would be faster and cheaper to build than conventional nuclear plants. Such reactors could be small and would generate a lot of power without harmful emissions.

Some companies are offering fission-as-a-service, meaning it sells power and heat in a way that will make it easier for customers to be able to buy.


Statsguru: Seven charts explain India’s climate change challenge

Source: This post is based on the article “ Statsguru: Seven charts explain India’s climate change challenge” published in  Business Standard on 27 Sep 2021. 

What is the news? 

CoP26 meeting will held in the next month. As it is reaching near, the global community is calling for India to do more tow­ards green energy. 

What are some key issues/facts wrt climate change scenario in India? 

Dependence on thermal sources: India has made remarkable gains in renewable energy. The share of solar, wind, biomass in total installed power capacity has increased from 1.2 per cent to 24.7 per cent between 2001 and 2021. However, in terms of energy production, India mainly depends on thermal sources.

In 2019, thermal energy (coal, natural gas and oil) accounted for 76% of total production. The share of hydro was 17%.

Hence, India needs to do more. While 87 countries have revised their nationally determined contributions, India is yet to do so. The country is also yet to announce a net-zero target. 

India needs more resources: to achieve $400 billion worth of investment by 2030, India needs to step up and commit more resources. It also needs to revive the wind and solar sector to increase the capacity from both.

If capa­city additions do not keep pace, India will miss its 2022 target for renewable expansion.

A below 2 oC increase in tempera­tures by 2100 would erode 2.6% of India’s GDP

if temperatures rise to 4 oC, the GDP reduction would be six times more at 13.4%. 

Services sector will bear the brunt: India stands to lose $35 trillion by 2070, if tempera­tures rise by 3 degrees Celsius. A significant damage would be borne by the services sector, which would witness an economic loss of $11 trillion. 

India as the private sector is taking the lead in green energy. Adani Group recently announced that it would make $20 billion worth of investment in green energy within the next 10 years. Reliance Industries also committed an investment of $10 billion in three years.


What rising foodgrain output means for India

Source: This post is based on the article ” What rising foodgrain output means for India” published in The Livemint on 27th Sep 2021. 

What is the news? 

Farm sector saw a growth of 4.5% in the first quarter of FY22 and a record food grain production of 150.5 million tones (mt) during the kharif season.

It was due to the hard work of farmers and near normal monsoons.  

How important is food grain production? 

First, agriculture and its allied activities in FY21 contributed 20.2% to the Gross Value Addition (GVA) of India.  

Second, food grain production is the primary livelihood source for nearly 55% of the population.  

Third, it also contributes to the supply base of agri-based industries such as cotton, sugar, vegetable oil, tea etc.  

Fourth, it provides market support to agri-dependent industries like fertilizers, tractors etc. India is amongst the 15 leading exporters of agricultural products worldwide.  

Fifth, the agricultural sector helps provide employment, leads to mitigation of poverty and reducing inequalities by providing income generation and means of livelihood. 

What are the key reasons for the rise in production? 

A close to normal monsoon, irrigation, aggressive implementation of MGNREGA, crop insurance availability, uninterrupted supply of fertilizers and efficient sowing activities are some of the key reasons.  

What do the latest estimates represent? 

A reviving rural economy will help protect the Indian economy and drive the country back onto the economic recovery track.

Improving rural prospects will stimulate consumer demand for FMCG products, light motor vehicles, telecom products etc.

Increased income in the hands of the rural population will lead to higher consumption resulting in increased production levels and higher capacity utilization. 

In terms of inflation, rising food grain production will help bring down consumer price inflation.

Can rural economy consolidation happen? 

Consolidation of rural economy can be achieved through structural reforms, especially with the implementation of farm reform laws.

The strengthening of rural supply chains such as cold chains and refrigerated transportation, building of warehousing facilities, promoting of agro-based industries such as food processing industries, etc. will help build momentum.

It will lead to increased investments and production. 


 

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