We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
- We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
- Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
- It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
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Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
- Why Fortified food is no magic bullet
- What gives rise to the rural debt trap?
- The fund without a care for the RTI
- Quad v AUKUS: Anglos & Allies
- High levels of maternal, child under nutrition continue to plague India
GS Paper 3
- A lesson from China on gig workers’ rights
- We require a more inclusive financial inclusion index
- The big bank idea
- The IT Rules fail the test of constitutionality
- Ten months on, what lessons have we learnt from the farmers’ movement?
- Challenges like climate change call for farm research to take centre stage, just like during the Green Revolution
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
- Cabinet approves Continuation/Modifications of Centrally Sponsored National Scheme for PM POSHAN in School For five more years
- Probe shows use of toxic material in firecrackers: SC
- MSME Minister launches India Export Initiative and IndiaXports 2021 Portal
- Government approves Rs. 4,400 crore investment in ECGC Ltd. in 5 years to provide support to exporters as well as banks
- Explained: Dismantling the Ordnance Factory Board
- No Amarnath Yatra but highway construction work keeps Sonamarg abuzz
- Government approves continuation of the National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) scheme and infusion of Rs. 1,650 crore Grant-in-Aid over 5 years
- Ministry of Power Redesigns Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) Mechanism
- WHO releases new roadmap to defeat meningitis
- Landsat 9: NASA’s ‘new eye in the sky’ that will help study climate change
- Cause for optimism as our economy livens up
- HC: Breastfeeding inalienable constitutional right of a mom
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 2
Why Fortified food is no magic bullet
Source: This post is based on the article “Why Fortified food is no magic bullet” published in Livemint on 30th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 – Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
Relevance: Understanding various dimensions of food fortification
Synopsis: Fortification of food is not a panacea to India’s problem of malnutrition. Fundamental causes of inadequate dietary intake need to be addressed instead.
– Read this first: Food Fortification in India
Note: Please proceed further only after going through the above article. The points already covered in the above article have not been repeated here.
What are some problems with fortified foods?
The development of these foods has produced at least three undesirable results:
– a further blurring of the distinctions between foods, supplements, and drugs
– a further erosion of the ability of federal regulators to protect the public from harmful substances in foods; and
– most important, a further increase in public confusion about how best to achieve recommended diets
2010 National Institute of Nutrition dietary guidelines that formed the basis for fortification standards for daily intake of iron and vitamins was revised down sharply in 2020, meaning these deficiencies can be met through a normal diet.
What are some issues with iron-fortified foods?
Ideally, iron is best used as a supplement under medical supervision to targeted groups such as pregnant women and children. Iron-fortified food increases the severity of infection in tuberculosis and malaria patients.
Haemoglobin is not formed just by iron, but being a dense molecule, it requires proteins, copper, and magnesium, among others. And it’s not just about the synthesis of haemoglobin.
Even before iron reaches the bone marrow or the liver, absorption is a challenge, and this can only be improved by the consumption of animal or haem proteins (organ meats) or if an iron-rich diet is complemented with vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables, which can aid absorption.
To push iron into the body without this additional dietary support is a futile exercise.
Scale of fortification in India
According to FSSAI, 80 brands of edible oils (accounting for about 70% of the packaged oil market) now comes fortified with vitamin A and D. Likewise, 55 milk brands accounting for close to a third of the packaged milk sales have been fortified so far.
In addition, 12 wheat flour and two rice brands (amounting to 3.4 million tonnes of packaged cereals) are fortified with iron every year. At least 16 states and union territories are also supplying fortified rice via their food safety net program.
What is India consuming?
As per a 2017 study titled What India Eats by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Nutrition,
– Indian households consuming above recommended levels of cereals was a staggering 97% in rural areas and 69% in urban regions. Over 65% of the calories consumed in rural parts came from cereals compared to the recommendation of 45%.
– Increased availability of cheap cereals has reduced hunger, but at the expense of dietary diversity and the replacement of local foods. While not everyone is able to access (or afford) a diverse micronutrient-rich diet, foods that are high in salt, sugars, saturated and trans fats have become cheaper and are more widely available.
– For the elimination of all forms of malnutrition, there is an urgent need to create awareness among households for inculcating healthy dietary practices and improve (the) consumption of locally grown and available protective foods.
What gives rise to the rural debt trap?
Source: This post is based on the article “What gives rise to the rural debt trap?” published in Indian Express on 30th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors
Relevance: Significance of rural credit, All-India Debt and Investment Surveys (AIDIS)
Synopsis: A large proportion of the rural population is still excluded from institutional finance. Lack of marketable collateral, credit demand for consumption purposes and informational constraints are the primary reasons for it.
The All-India Debt and Investment Surveys (AIDIS), carried out by the National Statistical Office are among the most important nationally representative data sources on the rural credit market in India.
What does the AIDIS report published this month reveals?
Dominance of non-institutional sources: they have a strong presence in the rural credit market, notwithstanding the high costs involved in borrowing from them.
The incidence of indebtedness (IOI): As per the latest AIDIS report, the IOI is 35 per cent in rural India and 17.8 per cent of rural households are indebted to institutional credit agencies, 10.2 per cent to non-institutional agencies and 7 per cent to both.
Rural-urban divide: The share of debt from institutional credit agencies in total outstanding debt in rural India is 66 per cent as compared to 87 per cent in urban India. In non-institutionalised debt, professional and agricultural moneylenders remain the primary sources of credit.
What does the data revealed by AIDIS imply?
Reliance on non-institutional sources denotes vulnerability and backwardness: Continuing dependence on informal credit points to interlinkages between labour/input markets and the rural credit market.
High rate of interest: This is troubling, as the rate of interest charged on 45 per cent of institutional debt is between 10 and 15 per cent, whereas on 44 per cent of non-institutional debt it falls between 20 and 25 per cent.
Debt trap: The report shows that the top 10 per cent of asset-owning households have borrowed 80 per cent of their total debt from institutional sources, whereas those in the bottom 50 per cent borrowed around 53 per cent of total debt from non-institutional sources. Moreover, the Debt-Asset Ratio (DAR) of the bottom 10 per cent asset-owning households in rural India is 39, much higher than the DAR of 2.6 estimated for the top 10 per cent households.
This, coupled with higher borrowing from non-institutional sources, acts as a debt trap for households with fewer assets.
How socio-economic inequality shapes household indebtedness?
Institutional credit is taken mainly for farm business and housing in rural India: A significant portion of debt from non-institutional sources is used for other household expenditure.
The data indicates that better-off households have greater access to formal-sector credit and use it for more income-generating purposes.
Non-farm expenditure: The top 10 per cent of rural households in terms of asset ownership spend almost two-thirds of their institutional debt and 40 per cent of non-institutional debt on farm/non-farm business, whereas the bottom 10 per cent spend half of their total debt on household expenditure.
Social identities: The average asset ownership of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households in rural areas is one-third as compared to upper-caste households. The low asset ownership of marginalised social groups curtails their access to institutional credit.
What is the way forward?
First, access to affordable credit lies is the solution of the rural distress.
Second, the credit policy needs to be revamped to accommodate the consumption needs of the rural poor and to find alternatives for collateral to bring the rural households within the network of institutional finance.
The fund without a care for the RTI
Source: This post is based on the article “The fund without a care for the RTI” published in The Hindu on 30th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 – Good governance.
Relevance: Understanding the issues with PM CARES.
Synopsis: The PM openly seeks support for donations towards PM CARES. But given the non-transparent nature of this fund, it needs to be closely scrutinized.
Transparency is the cornerstone of any democracy. The government demonstrated it with the enactment of the RTI Act. However, recent incidents around the PM CARES fund raise many questions. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has consistently denied giving information of PM CARES under RTI Act.
What makes PM CARES unique from other such funds?
The funds like the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) have been created by the constitution. They are thus subject to parliamentary supervision and are audited by CAG. Moreover, their information can be available by RTI.
Another such fund is the statutorily constituted National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), which was established under the Disaster Management (DM) Act of 2005.
In addition to these, Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in January 1948, constituted the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF). The fund is recognized as a Trust under the Income-Tax Act and has the President of India and the Leader of Opposition also as trustees.
The Centre now created a new trust with the Prime Minister and his Ministers only for PM CARES. While all these funds are public authorities and thus open to public scrutiny, PM CARES is not.
What are the issues with the establishment of PM CARES?
PM CARES has not been established under any statuette or notification, so it does not come under the definition of public authority under RTI. But it still uses the designation of the Prime Minister, designated symbols of the nation like Ashok Chakra and the tricolour. The amount received by the Fund does not go to the Consolidated Fund of India and is thus beyond the reach of CAG.
The trust is neither owned nor controlled by the central government or any of the State governments. But the Prime Minister is the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees in PM CARES.
An ordinance was promulgated to amend Income Tax Act, 1961 and declare that the donations to the PM CARES Fund “would qualify for 80G benefits for 100% exemption“.
Driven by these inconsistencies, a petitioner/lawyer, filed a petition seeking PM-CARES fund to be declared as the State under Article 12 of the Constitution. In another plea, he had sought for the fund to be designated as a “public authority” under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
What is the current status of PM CARES?
After many people challenged PM CARES in the court of law, the Government has conceded it to be a public charitable trust, but still maintains that it is not a ‘public authority.
What should be the way forward?
If we seek a legal route, Section 19 of the Indian Trusts Act mandates the trustees should present full and accurate information about the amount that the trust has and receives. Because of this statutory access, all information about the PM CARES Fund should be accessible as per Section 2(f) of the RTI Act.
But beyond the legal curtain, the government should act as per its oath of transparency and make the PM CARES open and transparent.
Quad v AUKUS: Anglos & Allies
Source: This post is based on the article “Quad v AUKUS: Anglos & Allies” published in The Times of India on 30th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Relevance: To understand the concepts of the Anglosphere.
Synopsis: This article explains the Anglosphere and India’s approach in international relations.
The term Anglosphere includes a grouping of English-speaking countries. There is an aspect to the distinction between AUKUS and Quad that has not received adequate attention. AUKUS centres around the concept of an Anglosphere, but the Quad did not.
|Must read: AUKUS Security Alliance – Explained, pointwise|
How the Anglosphere creates a divide around the world?
While the US, UK and Australia have been able to maintain a relationship of trust that allows them to create an AUKUS, India and Japan still do not enjoy the required level of either trust or cultural affinity with the West that would give them access to defence-related nuclear technology.
English-speaking Africa is even more conflicted on relations with the US (English-speaking nations) and China than nations of Indo-China.
Singapore and Hong Kong were firmly within the Anglosphere earlier. But now they are busy redefining themselves (shifting away from Anglosphere) to deal with China.
|Must read: Quad Leaders’ Summit – Explained, pointwise|
Does India, a member of the Anglosphere?
English is the shared language in India, and there is a vast and growing diaspora of Indians in the English-speaking world. But, a shared English inheritance is not enough for India’s entrance into the strategic Anglosphere.
The notion that India is a natural member of the Anglosphere was buried long back when Britain shied away from the idea of an India-led Commonwealth. Britain has continued to retain its leadership and continuing its ‘divide and rule’ policy within the group.
Apart from that, India also shifted from the English-speaking 20th-century to the vernacular speaking 21st-century. India’s re-imagination of itself as a civilisational nation limits the relevance of the notion of an Anglosphere.
How Vernacular India is helping India to build its international relations?
Both China and Russia have for a very long time established stronger links with vernacular India than with English-speaking India.
Japan’s former Prime Minister not only visited Varanasi and watched Ganga aarti on the Dashashwamedh Ghat, but also invested in a cultural centre in the holy city.
The French and Germans have been late to understand the significance of this non-English outreach but are learning fast.
How India is moving ahead?
At present, India is in no mood to trust the Anglosphere any more than other non-English nations. India is giving equal importance to English and non-English nations on equal terms.
Further, India is also rediscovering India’s ancient links with the world. For example, the recent visit by External Affairs Minister to Mexico for participating in the republic’s bicentennial celebrations.
India’s relations with the world will continue to be defined by its own self-image as a civilisational entity.
High levels of maternal, child under nutrition continue to plague India
Source: This post is based on the article “High levels of maternal, child under nutrition continue to plague India” published in The Hindu on 30th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS 2 Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
Relevance: To understand the impact of Covid on the nutrition status of India.
Synopsis: Covid has heightened the risk of increasing malnutrition. Parts of progress made in the past may also get reversed because of Covid.
The article highlights the concerns of the head of nutrition, UNICEF India. He raised his concerns over women and children nutrition levels, especially during covid times.
What is the status of Malnutrition in India?
Comprehensive national Nutrition Survey: It highlights the emerging problems of overweight, obesity and micro-nutrient deficiencies.
National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4: It indicates about 1/3rd of children under five years of age in India are stunted, a third of them are underweight and almost two out of ten children are nutritionally wasted. Many of these children suffer from multiple anthropometric deficits.
Although, the Government of India launched many schemes focusing on nutrition programmes like Poshan Abhiyan. With the ongoing Covid period, there is a risk of increasing malnutrition levels among the disadvantaged section.
How does Covid affect nutritional interventions in India?
Global research in 2020 on the effect of COVID-19 estimated about a 14.3% increase in wasting globally. As the pandemic still continue, there is an increase in the challenge of food insecurities and nutrition. People tend to shift to cheaper food with low nutritional value, which will impact on cognitive development of children.
There is also disruption in Health and social services. Health workers are diverted from nutrition programmes. With the schools remain closed, there is a reduction in the supply of iron and folic acid tablets to children.
What is the biggest challenge?
With the focus presently on vaccinating the masses, there is pressure on the systems as the resources which earlier dedicated to health, nutrition and other social interventions are now diverted.
What should the government do?
Strong Leadership: It is required at all levels from national to district. It is essential to bring back focus to address food, income and nutritional security.
Universal coverage of essential evidence-based nutritional service: It should be ensured with a special focus on children below two years of age, pregnant women and adolescent girls.
Finance: India should ensure the delivery of high impact interventions, and additional financing will be required for ensuring food and nutritional security, especially for the vulnerable population groups.
Multisector Interventions: Health, nutrition and social protection schemes need to be delivered effectively. Special focus should be emphasized on migrant labourers and urban poor.
Indicator of Development: Nutrition should be retained as a key indicator for development.
GS Paper 3
A lesson from China on gig workers’ rights
Source: This post is based on the article “A lesson from China on gig workers’ rights” published in the Hindu on 30th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.
Relevance: Lessons from China in the Gig economy
Synopsis: Recently, the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court demanding that the Union government provide assistance to workers affected by the pandemic.
The petition has asked for ‘gig workers’ and ‘platform workers’ to be declared as ‘unorganised workers’ so they come under the purview of the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008.
Why this demand from gig workers?
Global practice: Owing to public pressure, two of its food delivery platforms in China committed to end the practice of forcing workers to register as ‘independent businesses’, which has long helped these platforms evade responsibilities as employers.
Invisible to frontline: pandemic has helped change the erstwhile ‘invisibility’ of delivery workers. Through 2020, a trend that spanned China, India, the U.S. and Europe saw ‘invisible workers’ being propelled to ‘frontline workers’.
In China, there was a clear transition of social discourse in favour of delivery workers. People’s Daily responded to public sentiment by ranking delivery work among the top 10 occupations.
Role of media in this transformation: a monthly Chinese magazine took an exhaustive look at the plight of delivery workers across the two food delivery platforms and the article was shared over 200 million times on the Chinese internet.
Similarly, in 2015, a TED-style talk on China’s pollution crisis got 100 million views across major video streaming sites within 48 hours of its release, resulting in policy change.
Pushback begun long before COVID-19: strikes in different parts of China have reflected this growing backlash. As food delivery platforms expanded through the pandemic period, growing massively in revenue and scale, strikes increased in numerous Chinese cities and have continued despite various barriers to collective action.
In early 2021, in successive strikes spanning over two months, delivery workers protested against poor working conditions.
What steps has China taken?
State control: The state is asserting “increased control” over major tech companies for allegedly abusing its dominant market position, via the new anti-monopolistic guidelines. In July, seven government agencies jointly passed guidelines directing online food delivery platforms that they should not set evaluation criteria based on optimisation algorithms.
Focus on common prosperity: the government now seeks to narrow a widening wealth gap that threatens the country’s economic rise. The government’s scrutiny over food delivery platforms has increased. The authoritarian context, a weak civil society and the absence of independent labour unions leaves gig workers in China with very little option but to go on strike or protest, despite the risks, to affect change.
Rights of workers: These platforms must respect the rights of delivery workers and ensure that they earn at least a minimum wage with social insurance. Many of these government initiatives have been public-driven.
What is the scenario in Indian?
Worker led movement: Any reform in this sector is led wholly by delivery workers, not the public. For 27 days in 2020, close to 3,000 delivery workers from Swiggy went on strike in Hyderabad to protest the slash in remuneration from ₹35 to ₹15 per order.
Role of Social media: This year, in the lead up to Zomato’s July IPO, several anonymous Twitter accounts set up by delivery workers called customers’ attention to what they deem as “exploitative practices” employed by platforms. The PIL in the Supreme Court is another major step in this regard.
What is the way forward?
First, Indians could make an effort to be better informed about the way platforms work by seeking out delivery workers and asking about their work conditions and the pressures they face.
Second, need to learn lesson from China that the swell of public opinion has led to government regulation and change in company policy. Similarly, India also needs collective action.
We require a more inclusive financial inclusion index
Source: This post is based on the article “We require a more inclusive financial inclusion index” published in Live Mint on 30th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Inclusive Growth and issues arising from it.
Relevance: Financial inclusion and poverty alleviation
Synopsis: Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) unveiled its newly conceptualized Financial Inclusion Index to “capture the extent of financial inclusion across the country”. For meaningful financial inclusion, we must have meaningful metrics in the public domain.
RBI recently announced the formation of a composite Financial Inclusion Index (FI-Index) to capture the extent of financial inclusion across the country.
The annual FI-Index for the period ended March 2021 stood at 53.9 compared with 43.4 for the period ended March 2017. The FI-Index will be published in July every year.
What are the outlines of the new Index?
A total of 97 indicators were used to make this index across three broad parameters:
– Access (35%)
– Usage (45%)
– Quality (20%).
In addition to banking services the index includes insurance, pension and digital payments. There is no base year. A score of 0 measures complete financial exclusion and 100 indicates full financial inclusion. Inequality at the district level is being mapped as one indicator of Quality.
At a conceptual level, this index aims to capture much more than the single table measuring the country’s progress on financial inclusion in RBI’s Annual Report.
Why RBI’s ‘financial inclusion index’ is much needed?
Currently, for tracking financial inclusion in India, there has been a high dependence on surveys, with the World Bank Findex and Financial Inclusion Insights. However, RBI is best placed to bring out a truly comprehensive national database, as much of the needed data is already being captured by the banking system, even though it is not placed in the public domain.
Why is data on financial inclusion important?
Financial inclusion is a policy objective with multiple benefits. Financial inclusion is among the most critical objectives for long-term equitable growth and a financially-stable economy.
A country like India where a large proportion of its population is excluded from the financial sector, is not only not equitable but will also have a relatively weak financial sector.
Given the heterogeneity of a country like India, more data, the more the insights and the easier it is to identify specific issues that affect different classes of consumers and appropriate solutions can be devised.
A good measure of financial inclusion, therefore, will help monitor and benchmark the performance of India as a whole and not just one stakeholder.
What more can be done to improve the index?
First, RBI should disclose details of the indicators it has used for each of the three categories, Access, Usage and Quality. As this can help service providers and India’s central and state governments focus their efforts more effectively.
Second, at the very least, district-level data on all indicators should be captured to understand where additional support is needed.
Third, a breakup across all categories for gender at the district level is crucial. India had pledged to close the gender gap in financial inclusion by implementing the Denarau Action Plan adopted in Fiji at the 2016 Global Policy Forum.
The first step towards this would lie in generating gender-wise data on financial services. India has a very wide gender gap, with some regions better than others, but there is hardly any official data. For instance, we do not know the number of active women business correspondents in each district.
Terms to know
The big bank idea
Source: This post is based on the article “The big bank idea” published in Business Standard on 30th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Banking sector reforms
Relevance: Economic growth & Relevance of efficient financial entities
Synopsis: India needs more efficient financial entities. Amalgamation of PSBs to create bigger banks, is not the ideal way forward.
Recently, Finance Minister, said that India needed four or five banks of State Bank of India’s (SBI’s) size to serve the growing and changing needs in the post-pandemic world.
The minister further argued that one of the driving reasons for amalgamations in public sector banks (PSBs), which happened before the pandemic, was to create scale.
But analysis of recent mergers point out that mergers have not created scale of any significance.
Why increasing the scale of banks will not aid infrastructure financing?
The government’s rationality could be that large banks will help finance India’s infrastructure needs more easily. But the fact is that banks are often reluctant to lend to infrastructure projects because of their basic nature of business. They typically have a long gestation period, which creates an asset-liability mismatch for banks.
Further, the government is setting up a development finance institution to cater to the infrastructure sector.
Additionally, longer-term debt should ideally be raised from the bond market and can be financed by insurance and pension funds.
Why government should not aim at increasing the scale of banks through mergers?
Firstly, at a broader level, large banks can create systemic risks and some will become too big to fail. It is relatively easier for the banking regulator or the government to intervene when banks in trouble are not very big. Since there has been virtually no movement on reforms in the way PSBs function, large banks would create bigger problems for the government.
Secondly, since rapid changes are happening in the area of financial technology, it may not be easy for large banks to adapt quickly.
What is the way forward?
The focus should be on improving efficiency rather than increasing size through mergers as was done with PSBs. Here, privatisation of PSBs is an option.
In terms of large lending to businesses, it is better to follow the consortium approach. It not only enables greater due diligence but also reduces concentration risk.
The objective of the State should be to provide an enabling environment with effective regulation. If provided, the banking sector, in general, will gain size with economic growth over time.
The IT Rules fail the test of constitutionality
Source: This post is based on the article “The IT Rules fail the test of constitutionality” published in The Indian Express on 30th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS3 – Awareness in the fields of IT
Relevance: To analyze the IT Rules
Synopsis: In this article, we will analyze the IT Rules 2021. How it poses danger to the freedom of speech and expression. We will discuss the various orders passed by the High Courts.
Recently, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were notified on February 25.
Today, there are more than 18 petitions challenging the constitutionality of the IT Rules in various high courts.
What are the various High Court orders wrt the rules?
The interim orders emerged in three cases.
1) Kerala High Court
The order of the Kerala High Court restrained any action against the petitioner. The order stays a regulation framed by the central government.
2) Bombay High Court
The Bombay High Court also stayed two core provisions sub-rules (1) and (3) of Rule 9 of the IT Rules that govern online news media platforms.
Rule 9 required compliance with a “code of ethics” that would be applied by a three-tiered structure presided over by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. As per the court, the provisions for media governance go far beyond the allowance permitted by the principal provisions of the Information Technology Act.
The court reasons that the compliances under the “code of ethics” either lack the force of law, or have a distinct statutory framework such as under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act.
Also, as per court, under IT Rules, people would be starved of the liberty of thought and feel suffocated to exercise their right of freedom of speech and expression.
3) Madras High Court
The court confirmed the pan-India effect of the earlier decision by the High Court of Bombay. Hence, today the IT Rules are broadly inapplicable to digital news media outlets.
What do the orders of the courts signify?
The interim orders show judicial consensus. According to the courts, the IT Rules conflict with our constitutional freedoms in two clear ways.
First, they lack statutory backing.
Second, they substantially harm the freedom of speech and expression of users of the internet.
This has resulted in an effective restraint on the provisions against online news portals and social media platforms.
How has Union Govt responded?
The Union government has filed a transfer petition before the Supreme Court. This would effectively transfer and bundle all existing challenges without serving “transparency, accountability and rights of users”.
The IT Rules achieve the very opposite of such goals. The best solution is to recall the IT Rules.
Ten months on, what lessons have we learnt from the farmers’ movement?
Source: This post is based on the article “Ten months on, what lessons have we learnt from the farmers’ movement?” published in Indian Express on 30th September 2021.
Syllabus: GS 3 Agricultural reforms.
Relevance: To understand the nature of ongoing farmer movements.
Synopsis: Farmer movement strengthened a new coalition of different interest groups and challenged the hegemony of agri-business.
The article highlights the nature of ongoing farmer protests which was held against the three farm acts passed by the government. It dismisses the Marxian Maxism view which discussed the capacity of mobilization.
Farmer movements instead combined their forces to challenge the agricultural policies. The movement now seeks to address not only issues of agricultural policy, but also that of the decline of democratic structures and processes.
|Read more: Significance and Issues associated with Farms laws|
What is the nature of farm protests?
Media Savvy: Farmers themselves have deployed their own media to disseminate information and represent themselves. This indicates that sharing information and open communication are key to democratic movements.
Ahimsa approach: Farmers’ movement is evolved on principles of non-violence and non-cooperation. They have also engaged in humanitarian acts even cases of violence that happen against them.
Women Participation and inclusion of young leaders: Women, who are the backbone of the Indian agricultural system, are actively participating in the movement. The movement also saw the emergence of some young women farm leaders on both the regional and national political front.
Coalition: Coalition of various groups like farmers, workers, students, Dalits, and civil society members is visible in the movement.
Global Media Attention: Farmer protests have been closely monitored by the global media houses. Most of the farm communities of other countries like in the US, Europe have extended solidarity to the movement. The movement has the ability to challenge the hegemony of corporate agriculture or agri-business and to find a way forward on its own terms.
What is the way forward?
The idea of a subsidy-based system or a purely corporate system has failed to lift agriculture in India. Leaders thus need to evolve an innovative approach that should consider growth, equity and sustainability.
It is time for all policymakers and farmers to recognize that neither populist policies, nor submission to corporate interests will resolve the deep problems that beset rural and agrarian India. There is a need to re-assign agricultural issues to the state level and to return agriculture to its constitutional status.
Challenges like climate change call for farm research to take centre stage, just like during the Green Revolution
Source: This post is based on the article “Challenges like climate change call for farm research to take centre stage, just like during the Green Revolution” published in Indian Express on 30th Sep 2021.
Syllabus: GS 3 – Major crops and cropping patterns in various parts of the country.
Relevance: To understand the present challenges in Agriculture.
Synopsis: Agriculture and climate change are too important at present. So, research should take centre stage and Agriculture has to be left only to generalist bureaucrats, economists and activists.
Recently, the Prime Minister has launched 35 different crop varieties with special traits. These Crop Varieties have been developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to address the twin challenges of climate change and malnutrition.
These include a new herbicide-tolerant rice variety, a drought-tolerant variety of chickpea, an early maturing variety of soybean, biofortified varieties of wheat, pearl millet, etc.
|Must read: PM dedicates to the Nation 35 crop varieties with special traits|
What is the need for these crops?
Indian agriculture’s major challenge in the initial decades after Independence was to increase crop production and yields at any cost. Today, it’s about boosting farm incomes, while simultaneously ensuring production that is cost-competitive, resource-use efficient and climate-smart.
What are the challenges India faced during Green Revolution?
The first challenge that India confronted, of feeding its population and achieving a modicum of grain self-sufficiency. But India overcame these challenges by using high-yielding semi-dwarf varieties bred during the 1960s and 1970s.
What are the present challenges of Indian Agriculture?
Climate change is impacting Indian Agriculture in unforeseeable ways. For example, average temperatures are rising, winters are getting shorter and the number of rainy days is falling even with overall “normal” monsoons.
Apart from that, extreme hot and cold or prolonged dry weather and intense downpours make growing crops and rearing animals difficult.
Farmers also facing problems of depleting water tables, soaring energy costs and the emergence of new pests and diseases.
How India can overcome these challenges?
Research on new breeding approaches: India requires new breeding approaches, including gene modification and editing technologies. India also should invest in low-input, high-output agriculture technologies.
This is significant as research may not yield political dividends or pay in the short run like subsidies. But the returns from farm research are more sustainable. For instance, Today, IARI varieties alone account for over 95 percent of India’s Rs 32,000-crore annual basmati rice exports and nearly half of India’s total wheat area.
Rely on generalists: Agriculture and climate change are too important to be left only to generalist bureaucrats, economists and activists.
Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)
Cabinet approves Continuation/Modifications of Centrally Sponsored National Scheme for PM POSHAN in School For five more years
What is the News?
The Union Cabinet has approved the continuation of the ‘National Scheme for PM POSHAN in Schools’ for five years from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
What is the National Scheme for PM POSHAN in Schools?
This scheme will replace the existing national programme for mid-day meals in schools or Mid-day Meal Scheme.
Aim of the scheme: To provide one hot cooked meal in Government and Government-aided schools from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
Type: Centrally-Sponsored Scheme
Coverage: It will cover all school children studying in Classes I-VIII of Government, Government-Aided Schools.
What are the Key Changes/Modifications made to the Scheme?
Extension of Coverage: The scheme is proposed to be extended to students studying in pre-primary or Bal Vatikas of Government and Government-aided primary schools, in addition to all the children from elementary classes.
TithiBhojan: The concept of TithiBhojan will be encouraged extensively. TithiBhojan is a community participation programme in which people provide special food to children on special occasions/festivals.
School Nutrition Gardens: Government is promoting the development of School Nutrition Gardens in schools to give children first-hand experience with nature and gardening. The harvest of these gardens is used in the scheme, providing additional micronutrients.
|Read more: How Poshan vatikas can help bridge the nutrition|
Social Audit of the scheme is made mandatory in all the districts.
Special provision is made for providing supplementary nutrition items to children in aspirational districts and districts with a high prevalence of Anaemia.
Cooking competitions will be encouraged at all levels, right from village level to national level, to promote ethnic cuisine and innovative menus based on locally available ingredients and vegetables.
Vocal for Local for Atma Nirbhar Bharat: Involvement of Farmers Producer Organizations (FPO) and Women Self Help Groups in the implementation of the scheme will be encouraged. Use of locally grown traditional food items for a fillip to local economic growth will be encouraged.
Field visits for progress monitoring and inspections will be facilitated for students of eminent Universities / Institutions and also trainee teachers of Regional Institutes of Educations (RIE) and District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET).
Source: This post is based on the following articles:
- “Cabinet approves Continuation/Modifications of Centrally Sponsored National Scheme for PM POSHAN in School For five more years” published in PIB on 29th Sep 2021.
- “24 lakh pre-primary students to get meals” published in TOI on 30th Sep 2021
- “Mid-day meal scheme is now ‘PM Poshan’, pre-primary children will be covered” published in Indian Express on 30th Sep 2021.
- “Mid-day meal plan is now PM Poshan” published in Livemint on 30th Sep 2021
Probe shows use of toxic material in firecrackers: SC
What is the News?
The Supreme Court has said that a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the firecracker industry, including in Tamil Nadu has revealed rampant violation of its ban on use of toxic ingredients like Barium and its salts.
What is the issue?
In 2020, the Supreme Court had ordered the CBI Joint Director in Chennai to conduct a detailed probe. The CBI was directed to examine the allegations of violation of the court ban in 2018.
Note: In 2018, the Supreme Court had banned the sale and production of firecrackers that are loud and toxic. It permitted only green or reduced emission firecrackers. Barium-based firecrackers were specifically banned.
What did the CBI find in its probe?
The probe by CBI has revealed rampant violation of the Supreme Court ban on the use of toxic ingredients like barium and its salts in firecrackers.
What did the Supreme Court say on the probe?
The Supreme Court has rejected the firecrackers manufacturers’ contention that thousands of employees earned their livelihood in the firecracker industry.
The court said that a balance needs to be made between employment, unemployment and the right to life and health of citizens. Hence, the court said that they cannot sacrifice the lives of many for a few.
Based on this, the court asked the manufacturers why contempt action should not be taken against them.
Source: This post is based on the article “Probe shows use of toxic material in firecrackers: SC” published in The Hindu on 30th Sep 2021.
MSME Minister launches India Export Initiative and IndiaXports 2021 Portal
What is the News?
The Union Minister for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises(MSMEs) has inaugurated the India Export Initiative and IndiaXports 2021 Portal of India SME Forum.
What is the India Export Initiative?
The initiative aims to support the growth of MSMEs exports by providing free of cost information and knowledge to MSMEs on the untapped export potential in existing tariff lines.
The initiative features an Info Portal which serves as a knowledge base for exports by Indian MSMEs. The portal has information related to the export potential for all the 456 tariff lines along with the potential markets as well as trends in exports, export procedures and lots more.
Apart from an export help desk, Instructor-led orientation will also be provided to MSMEs through a series of sessions for specific sectors, highlighting the opportunities in specific products in international markets.
What is the importance of MSMEs in Exports?
MSMEs have been contributing nearly 40% of overall India’s exports contributing to approx. 6.11% of the country’s manufacturing GDP & 24.63% of the GDP from the services sector.
Government has a target to increase MSME exports by 50% in 2022.
Moreover, the growth in MSME exports will also help the government achieve the target of 400 Billion USD by this fiscal and 1 trillion in exports by 2027.
Source: This post is based on the article “MSME Minister launches India Export Initiative and IndiaXports 2021 Portal” published in PIB on 29th Sep 2021.
Government approves Rs. 4,400 crore investment in ECGC Ltd. in 5 years to provide support to exporters as well as banks
What is the News?
The government of India has approved capital infusion of ₹4,400 crores to ECGC Ltd. (formerly known as Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd.) over a period of five years, i.e. from FY 2021-2022 to FY 2025- 2026.
About ECGC Ltd. (formerly known as Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd.)
ECGC was established by the Government of India under the Companies Act in 1957.
Aim: To promote exports by providing credit insurance services to exporters against non-payment risks by the overseas buyers due to commercial and political reasons. It also provides insurance covers to banks against risks in export credit lending to the exporter borrowers
Nodal Ministry: It functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and is managed by a Board of Directors comprising representatives of the Government, Reserve Bank of India, banking, and insurance and exporting community.
Performance of ECGC
ECGC is a market leader with around 85% market share in the export credit insurance market in India
ECGC insures around 50% of total export credit disbursement by banks, covering 22 banks (12 Public Sector Banks and 10 Private Sector Banks).
How will the capital infusion help ECGC?
ECGC plays a wider role in supporting exports from labour-intensive sectors and encouraging bank lending to enterprises of small exporters thereby leading to their revival.
Capital infusion in ECGC will enable it to expand its coverage to export-oriented industries, particularly labour-intensive sectors.
Source: This post is based on the article “Government approves Rs. 4,400 crore investment in ECGC Ltd” published in PIB on 30th Sep 2021.
Explained: Dismantling the Ordnance Factory Board
Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Dismantling the Ordnance Factory Board” published in Indian Express on 30th September 2021.
What is the news?
The government has decided to dissolve the Ordnance Factory Board (an umbrella body of 41 ordinance factories), which was set up in 1801. All of its units like staff, assets, others will be corporatized under 4 PSU’s.
|Must read: OFB Corporatisation” Approved by Cabinet|
About the defence committees and OFB
Various committees in the past were constituted for the purpose of defence reforms. Corporatization of OFB was recommended by TKS Nair Committee (2000), Vijay Kelkar Committee (2005), and Vice Admiral Raman Puri Committee (2015).
There is another committee under setup under Lt Gen D B Shekatkar, which did not suggest corporatization. Instead, it recommended regular audits of all ordnance units, considering past performance.
Why does the government favours corporatization of OFB?
According to Government, corporatization of OFB will lead to improvements in efficiency, make products cost-competitive, and enhance their quality. Further, It will also help to overcome various shortcomings in the existing system and provide these companies opportunities in the market, including exports.
What are the arguments against corporatization?
According to Employees, “corporatization was a “move towards privatization”. They expressed fears that a corporate entity would not be able to survive the unique market environment of defence products with its unstable demand-supply dynamics.
Also, the employees fear losing their job. Employees also argue that ordinance factories are innovative, and have repeatedly proven their worth as a “war reserve”. So, the government step towards corporatization is good news for private corporations and foreign arms manufacturers and not for Indian Ordinance factories.
No Amarnath Yatra but highway construction work keeps Sonamarg abuzz
What is the News?
The government is planning to complete the massive Zojila tunnel before Republic Day 2024.
About Zojila Tunnel
Zojila Tunnel is a 14.15 km long road tunnel under Zoji La pass. Once completed, it will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel.
This tunnel along with a 6.5 km long Z-Morh Tunnel will ensure year-long road connectivity between Srinagar and Kargil, which currently remains closed for about seven months due to heavy snowfall on the Zoji La pass.
Construction Agency: The Zojila Project is being executed by Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd. (MEIL), and Gurgaon-based APCO Infra under the tender process conducted by National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd.(NHIDCL).
About Zojila Pass
Zoji La is a high mountain pass in the Himalayas in the Indian Union Territory of Ladakh.
The pass connects the Kashmir Valley to its west with the Dras and Suru valleys to its northeast and the Indus valley further east.
The National Highway 1 between Srinagar and Leh in the western section of the Himalayan mountain range traverses the pass.
Source: This post is based on the article “No Amarnath Yatra but highway construction work keeps Sonamarg abuzz” published in Business Standard on 30th Sep 2021.
Government approves continuation of the National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) scheme and infusion of Rs. 1,650 crore Grant-in-Aid over 5 years
What is the News?
The Union Government has approved the contribution of Grant-in-aid (Corpus) of ₹1,650 Crore to the National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) over a period of five years, i.e. from FY 2021-2022 to FY 2025-2026.
What is the National Export Insurance Account(NEIA)?
National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) Trust was set up in 2006.
The trust aims to promote Medium and Long-Term (MLT) project exports by extending (partial/full) support to covers issued by ECGC to MLT/project export.
These projects should also be commercially viable and also strategically important.
Since its inception, NEIA has extended 213 covers with a consolidated project value of Rs. 53,000 crores, to 52 countries as of August 2021.
Its impact in enabling project exports has been most significant in Africa and South Asia.
How will the capital infusion help the NEIA?
The capital infusion in NEIA Trust will help the Indian Project Exporters (IPE) to tap the huge potential of project exports in the focus market.
Moreover, support to project exports with Indian content sourced from across the country will also enhance the manufacturing in India.
Source: This post is based on the article “Government approves continuation of the National Export Insurance Account (NEIA)” published in PIB on 30th Sep 2021.
Ministry of Power Redesigns Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) Mechanism
What is the News?
The Union Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy has given his assent to amendments in the existing Renewable Energy Certificate(REC) mechanism.
What is the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) mechanism?
The Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) mechanism is a market-based instrument to promote renewable energy and facilitate the compliance of renewable purchase obligations (RPO).
It is aimed at addressing the mismatch between the availability of RE resources in the state and the requirement of the obligated entities to meet the renewable purchase obligation (RPO).
What are the important changes made in the REC mechanism?
From now on, the validity of the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) would be perpetual, that is till it is sold.
The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) will have a monitoring and surveillance mechanism to ensure that there is no hoarding of RECs.
The renewable energy (RE) generators eligible for RECs will be eligible for the period of the power purchase agreement (PPA) as per the prevailing guidelines.
The RECs can be issued to obligated entities (including discoms and open access consumers) which purchase RE power beyond their renewable purchase obligation (RPO) compliance notified by the Centre.
No REC will be issued to the beneficiary of subsidies/concessions or waiver of any other charges.
Source: This post is based on the article “Ministry of Power Redesigns Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) Mechanism” published in PIB on 30th Sep 2021.
HC: Breastfeeding inalienable constitutional right of a mom
Source: This post is based on the article “HC: Breastfeeding inalienable constitutional right of a mom” published in Times of India on 30th September 2021.
What is the news?
A child was stolen from the maternity ward by a psychiatrist and later gave it to another couple by claiming it was their child born out of surrogacy. Police arrested the psychiatrist. Now the case went to the Karnataka High Court over the custody of the child by both the parents.
What is the court view?
HC said that breastfeeding is an inalienable constitutional right of a lactating mother, and the right of the infant needs to be assimilated with the mother’s right.
The court dismissed the plea of foster parents to remain the child with them. The court also dismissed another argument of foster parents that they do not have any children, whereas the genetic mother already has two children. So, custody should be given to them.
The court said that children are not an item to be shared between genetic mother and stranger on the basis of numerical abundance. They are the important part of the mother’s body and soul, so (genetic) mother treats all of them equally in spite of their count.
What rights provides under the constitution?
Motherhood is protected under the umbrella of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
|Read more: The benefits of breastfeeding|
WHO releases new roadmap to defeat meningitis
What is the news?
Recently, World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners launched the first-ever global strategy to defeat meningitis. Meningitis is a debilitating disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.
What is the aim of the strategy?
The strategy ‘the Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030’, aims to prevent infections and improve care and diagnosis for those affected.
It also aims to eliminate epidemics of bacterial meningitis (deadliest form of the disease) and to reduce deaths by 70 per cent and halve the number of cases.
The strategy could save more than 200,000 lives annually and significantly reduce disability caused by the disease.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It is predominantly caused by bacterial and viral infection. Meningitis caused by bacterial infection causes around 250,000 deaths a year and can lead to fast-spreading epidemics.
It kills a tenth of those infected mostly children and young people. It leaves a fifth with long-lasting disability, such as seizures, hearing and vision loss, neurological damage, and cognitive impairment.
Meningitis epidemics have occurred in the last decade in all regions of the world. But it is most common in the ‘Meningitis Belt,’ which spans 26 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
Is there any vaccine to protect against meningitis?
Several vaccines protect against meningitis, including meningococcal, Haemophilus influenzae type b and pneumococcal vaccines. But not all communities have access to them. Many countries are yet to introduce them into their national programmes.
Research is underway to develop vaccines for other causes of meningitis, such as Group B Strep bacteria.
What is the aim of the new roadmap?
First, achievement of high immunisation coverage, development of new affordable vaccines and improved prevention strategies and outbreak response
Second, speedy diagnosis and optimal treatment for patients
Third, good data to guide prevention and control efforts
Fourth, care and support for those affected, focusing on early recognition and improved access to care and support for after-effects
Fifth, advocacy and engagement, to ensure high awareness of meningitis, accountability for national plans, and affirmation of the right to prevention, care and after-care services
There is an urgent need for innovation, funding and research to develop more meningitis-preventive vaccines. Efforts are also needed to strengthen early diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for all those who need it after contracting the disease.
Source: This post is based on the article ” WHO releases new roadmap to defeat meningitis ” published in The Down To Earth on 28th Sep 2021.
Landsat 9: NASA’s ‘new eye in the sky’ that will help study climate change
What is the news?
Recently, a NASA satellite was successfully launched the earth monitoring satellite, Landsat 9. It is a joint mission of NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS).
The first Landsat satellite was launched in 1972. Since then, Landsat satellites have collected images of our planet and helped understand how land usage has changed over the decades. Images have also been used to study the health of forests, coral reefs, monitor water quality and melting glaciers.
How is Landsat 9 diff from prev Landsats?
Landsat 9 carries instruments similar to the other Landsat satellites, but it is the most technologically advanced satellite of its generation. It can see more colour shades with greater depths than the previous satellites. It can help scientists capture more details about our ever-changing planet.
What is the significance of LanSat?
Landsat 9 will help make science-based decisions on key issues such as impacts of wildfire, coral reef degradation, the retreat of glaciers, and deforestation.
How will the satellite help monitor climate change?
If a forest is affected by drought, it will be seen in Landsat images and can help the researchers decode the areas at risk.
Similarly during a wildfire, the Landsat images will capture the plumes of smoke and help study the extent of a burning.
The satellite images can also help recovery experts plan sites for replanting.
Landsat images can also help identify water bodies affected by potentially harmful algal blooms. According to NASA, scientists are now developing computer programs that would use Landsat and other satellite data to automatically warn lake recreation managers when blooms pop up.
Landsat images have helped glaciologists study the melting ice sheets of the Antarctic and Arctic regions. The images can help track cracks in the glaciers, movement of glaciers, and decode how further global warming will impact them
Source: This post is based on the article “Landsat 9: NASA’s ‘new eye in the sky’ that will help study climate change ” published in The Indian Express on 29th Sep 2021.
Cause for optimism as our economy livens up
What is the news?
Recent tax collections are reported to be bright enough for India’s government not to raise money from the market to honour its GST-gap funding commitment of almost ₹1.6 trillion to states. The Centre laid out a plan to borrow only ₹5.03 trillion in the second half of 2021-22, on top of the ₹7.02 trillion raised in the first six months. It is thus abiding by its budgetary target of ₹12.05 trillion for the full year.
What is the cause for optimism at this point?
Besides dropping covid cases, revival in economic activity reflected in our tax collection is the reason for optimism.
What are the indications of an economic revival?
– From a production perspective, the purchasing managers’ index in August went above its five-year average, as did growth in rail freight traffic.
– Our trade balance improved, labor-intensive exports rose, and India logged an import cover of 14.5 months, even as the rupee gained a bit on the dollar.
What is the status of India’s export and how we can improve it further?
First, India’s export is rising. It settled above $30 billion. There is post-pandemic surge of demand likely in rich export-markets and global moves underway to diversify supply chains away from China. Thus, we have a chance of export-led expansion that we must not miss.
Second, logistical and duty-related hurdles need to be done away with, processes eased and trade deals sealed. The export competitiveness is an edge that calls for enhanced quality-control by exporters and low-cost production in US-dollar terms.
A needlessly strong rupee, pushed up by investment inflows rather than an export surplus, could leave some ‘Made in India’ offerings out of reach and limit our ability to maximize overseas gains.
Third, our Central bank allows our currency to float but not allow volatility in its exchange rate beyond a point. This is consistent with market practices that meet US approval. Yet, conversion rates moved by capital flows, instead of imports and exports, interfere with trade adjustments. A promise of mutual benefit can justify action to achieve a stable export market.
Source: This post is based on the article “Cause for optimism as our economy livens up” published in Livemint on 30th Sep 2021.