9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – September 7th, 2021

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

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

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Inside the unfolding healthtech revolution

Source: This post is based on the article “INSIDE THE UNFOLDING HEALTHTECH REVOLUTION” published in the Live Mint on 7th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Relevance: Digitalization in health services

Synopsis: Growth of Digitalisation in India is catalysing the growth of innovative Healthtech startups and this gives India an opportunity to address the issues plaguing India’s Public health care.

What are the issues plaguing India’s public health care?

COVID has put the focus back on India’s inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which has been affected by issues of accessibility, affordability and availability.

Inadequate spending: At 1.26% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the government’s spending on healthcare has been very low.

Poor quality of services: When it comes to the quality and accessibility of healthcare, India’s rank is poor (145 out of 195 countries), according to the Lancet’s global disease burden study.

Issues related to health resources: Besides low public investment, there are also issues of efficiency, absenteeism, and availability of specialists in government facilities. Further, there are both manpower and infrastructure shortages.

Lack of accountability: The biggest bottleneck the Government health centres face are attitudinal issues. There is an accountability crisis. There are very limited implications for poor performance and outcomes

Narrow outlook: Government healthcare, focused on women and children in primary care, must also accord attention to other areas that deserve attention, such as diabetes.

Lack of coordination: Entire machinery is fragmented and works in silos. There are different programmes for different diseases, from HIV to TB. And there are two parallel systems, one funded by the state governments and the other centrally funded under the National Health Mission, which often do not coordinate with each other.

Note: Digitization means to convert something into a digital format, and usually refers to encoding of data and documents. Digitalization means to convert business processes over to use digital technologies, instead of analogue or offline systems such as paper or whiteboards.

How growing digitalisation is helping revolutionise health sector?

Health is being prioritized: COVID has accelerated the digitization wave everywhere, including in health. And state governments as well as the Centre are finally prioritizing the health sector.

Unified Health Interface (UHI): Plans are underway to build a digital backbone for healthcare. The National Health Authority is building a unified health interface or UHI as part of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). UHI will help connect patients and healthcare service providers, aiding them in discovery, payments and access to health services across applications. It is also working to digitize and standardize patient health records to ensure easy access and interoperability.

Increased use of digital platforms: The government is increasingly using digital (platforms/services) to act as a force multiplier. This is catalyzing the growth of healthtech startups and venture capital investments in healthtech startups.

With over 5,000 healthtech startups, health industry is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39% to touch $5 billion by 2023.

Case study: How Bidar in K’tka handled 2nd COVID wave with the help of a healthtech startup?
What is the way forward?

First, intent and investments, must increase sharply to help millions of poor people access better healthcare services.

Second, instead of one size fits all, policies and models must be customized to specific geographies to make it more effective.

Third, at a policy level, India needs a more flexible, practical and modular approach to train and upskill healthcare professionals. In Ethiopia, nurses can train to upgrade themselves to become surgeons. India could do the same with ASHA workers.


Data regulation is undergoing a significant revolution

Source: This post is based on the article “Data regulation is undergoing a significant revolution” published in Livemint on 7th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS2- Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors

Relevance: Techno-legal approach to data regulation.

Synopsis: Technology businesses are most effectively regulated through a judicious mix of law and technology. To regulating technology, we cannot have one without the other.

Introduction

At a high-level ministerial meeting recently, seven countries came together to endorse a techno-legal approach to data regulation.

The participating delegates committed to exploring how technical frameworks such as Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA) could be incorporated into the EU’s Data Act and Australia’s Consumer Data Rights policy to enable more effective outcomes.

Must Read: Positives and inadequacies of DEPA
How a revolution is going on in data regulation?

Data sovereignty: A number of countries have been looking to extend their existing data protection frameworks to ensure that users have more effective control over their data.

Free flow of data: In Australia, Consumer Data Right, is shaping up. It will allow consumers in Australia to require any business with which they have a commercial relationship to transfer that data to any other business of their choice.

The European Union (EU) has begun to put in place a series of legislative proposals that allow users more efficiently transfer data from one data business to another.

Data Governance: The EU’s proposed Data Act is intended to implement measures that will create a fairer data economy by ensuring better access to and use of data.

The EU has also drafted a Data Governance Act, which when enacted will govern the data exchanges and platforms that will form the infrastructure through which data holders will be connected to data users.

What do these initiatives imply?

Efficient utilization of data: The range of regulatory initiatives of different countries seems to suggest that it is not enough to protect data if you cannot also ensure that this data is effectively utilized either for the benefit of the person to whom it pertains or society as a whole.

Need of tech-based regulations: laws and regulation simply cannot keep pace with changes in technology. If the only weapon we are using to regulate technology is the law, we will be doomed.

What is India’s approach on data regulation?

DEPA: It is being implemented sector-wise through a set of open, interoperable protocols. This framework, better known as the Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA).

Technology-based solution: allowing users to transfer their data from data businesses that currently hold them to those that want to use them. For example, Account Aggregator framework.

However, India still does not have a data protection regulation and implementing a technological solution for data transfers in the absence of a legal framework could bring problems.


A Taliban-led Afghanistan and the Chinese conundrum

Source: This post is based on the following articles

  • A Taliban-led Afghanistan and the Chinese conundrum” published in The Hindu on 7th September 2021.
  • From fighters to rulers” published in The Hindu on 7th September 2021.
  • “Pakistan has opened the Pandora’s box in Kabul” published in The Indian Express on 7th September 2021.

Syllabus:  GS 2 – India and Neighbourhood relations.

Relevance: To understand the recent development in Afghanistan.

Synopsis: This article explains the impact of US exit from Afghanistan on Pakistan and China.

Introduction

After postponing the announcement twice, Taliban spokesmen have said that they expect to have a new government in Afghanistan this week. The Taliban announced this after they captured the Afghan capital Kabul more than three weeks ago.

The real reason for the delay appears to be differences within various Taliban factions over the government’s structure, composition and cabinet portfolios.

How Pakistan impacted from the US exit?

Pakistan has to deal with an enormous refugee crisis.

Due to the poor fiscal condition of Afghanistan, the key assistance that Afghans will expect in terms of food, fuel and power will have to come from Iran and Pakistan. Iran has already signed a deal and is allowing export of its oil in exchange for cash.

Pakistan is facing awful economic situations due to restrictive IMF conditions. So, the Pakistan will find it exceedingly difficult to send supplies to Afghanistan.

Pakistan was already in FATF grey list. So, any activity of Pakistan to promote terror could jeopardise its attempts to exit the FATF grey list.

Read more: Afghan immigrants and India’s refugee policy – Explained, pointwise
How Chinese benefitted from the US exit?

The Chinese have the technology to extract the rare-earth metals and huge deposits of copper in Afghanistan.

China is also engaging with the Taliban, to complete the new Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investment.

Why does China make huge investments in South East Asia and Africa?

First, the cost of production is lower in Southeast Asia. So, the Chinese firms could gain more by shifting their production bases outside China.

Second, investing in these regions meant access to bigger markets for Chinese firms and more uniform regional development. For instance, the relatively underdeveloped Kunming region in Yunnan province became a commercial hub due to these investments.

Third, Chinese firms could evade protectionist measures targeted at their exports. For instance, by investing and start exporting from Africa and South East Asia to other developed nations the Chinese companies can evade protectionist measures on Chinese goods and services.

Fourth, reduce some of China’s energy requirements: Investments in these countries enable China to access cheaper foreign energy (oil and power) and minerals. For example, Chinese firms have constructed hydropower plants and a thermal power station in Myanmar, invested in copper processing activities in Vietnam.

Read more: Implications of the rise of Taliban for India – Explained, pointwise
How Afghanistan is different from South East Asian countries?

Afghanistan and Pakistan are not comparable to the economic potential of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. For instance, Pakistan is unable to repay a China-funded energy project, built under the BRI. Business decisions in Pakistan are not economically driven but are motivated by vested interests with the army. 

The Taliban are known to have a soft corner for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement — a militant group active in the Uighur province of China.

The Taliban ruling groups are far from united, making it impossible to make any reliable domestic and international policy predictions.

Further, The dependence on opium export makes Afghanistan vulnerable to world mafias and corruption.

Hence, the Chinese investments in Afghanistan and Pakistan will constantly face a risk of interruption.


Karbi Anglong peace deal points the importance of addressing small insurgencies that scar Northeast landscape

Source: This post is based on the article “Karbi Anglong peace deal points the importance of addressing small insurgencies that scar Northeast landscape” published in the ” Indian Express” on 7th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Internal security.

Relevance: To understand the Karbi-Anglong deal.

Synopsis: The recent Karbi Anglong agreement gives hope for peace in the northeast. But we need to look beyond peace deals for long-term peace in the region.

Introduction

The Government of India has signed a tripartite Karbi Anglong agreement with five insurgent groups to put an end to years of violence and bring peace and prosperity in the state of Assam.

Read more: Karbi Agreement – another milestone in PM’s vision

What is the background of these insurgencies?

The Northeast has numerous insurgent groups spread across many states. The Naga insurgency has acted as an inspiration for all the separatist movements in this region. ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) was guided by the desire for Assamese nationalism. Similarly, many smaller groups have fought to protect their distinct ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity from being subsumed within a broader Assamese identity.

Read more: Naga Peace Accord and Naga Insurgency

How do these groups work and operate?

They make wide-ranging demands, ranging from a separate nation-state to statehood within the Indian Constitution and autonomy under the state government.  This has forced the center to adopt various policies to counter the insurgency.

What is the centre’s approach?

The centre adopted a double-barrelled approach: First, it offers autonomy under the Constitution. Second, it uses security forces to crush the militancy.

Center beings with by accommodating insurgents who negotiate for peace. They are accommodated in state legislatures or Autonomous Councils. This approach has had varying degrees of success, in Mizoram, Tripura, the Bodo areas.

How Assam’s case is different?

In Assam’s hill districts of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong, separatist movements have rejected Sixth Schedule status. This transformed into a demand for an autonomous state under Article 244(a) of the Constitution.

Thus, it can be said that the Karbi Anglong agreement promises more autonomy than currently enjoyed by the Autonomous Council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

What should be the way forward?

The peace deal alone cannot ensure peace, as Autonomous councils are often captured by ex-militants who use fear and intimidation to assert themselves. So we must look beyond peace deals towards transitioning society into a democratic construct.

Terms to knowArticle 244(a)


Grow up, states: CMs should know central resource transfer won’t go up. They must fix their own finances

Source: This post is based on the article “Grow up, states: CMs should know central resource transfer won’t go up. They must fix their own finances” published in Times of India on 7th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Government Budgeting: Fiscal resources.

Relevance: Improving the financing of the States.

Synopsis: States have no option but to be fiscally aatmanirbhar.

Introduction

Recently, TN released a white paper that talked about the state fiscal condition is not good and the state is in deep debt. This document blamed the Central government and previous state government policies for the present condition.

How has Fiscal federalism changed over time?

States are at a disadvantage as they face challenges in raising revenue to match their expenditure needs. The entire scheme of centre transfer to states is premised on correcting that imbalance. Importantly, the resource transfer to states, and in the matter of autonomy of their use, has over time shifted substantially in the favor of states.

Eg In the original constitution: States only got a share of two central taxes i.e Personal Income Tax and Union excise duties. Later, this was changed through the constitution amendment in 2000 where states got a share in total taxes collected by the centre.

With the abolition of the Planning Commission, the state’s autonomy has increased. Earlier, the Centre decides how much money to transfer to the states and for what purpose. Now States get that money as part of statutory transfers with full discretion over where they want to spend it.

What is the issue between Centre and States?

Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS): States see CSS as an assault on their autonomy. The state wishes to have full autonomy on finances and how it is used, as they know the local needs better.

GST: It is a central initiative. It is argued that the State compromised its power under it. But it is to be noted that Centre also did the same.

Cess and Surcharge: Center is increasingly resorting to these instead of raising the taxes. This is advantageous to the centre as this amount is not shared with the States.

What should be the way forward for the states?

The reality is that States will not get much financial help from the centre in future. So they have to set their finances right if they are to achieve the goal of fiscal autonomy.


Spirit of federalism lies in the constitution

Source: This post is based on the article “Spirit of federalism lies in the constitution” published in The Hindu on 7th September 2021

Syllabus: GS 2 Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.

Relevance: To understand the issues related to the Concurrent list.

Synopsis Legislation in a federal setup needs careful consideration while dealing with laws in the concurrent list.

Introduction

Recently, various State governments raised concerns about Central unilateralism in the enactment of critical laws on subjects in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. This may undermine federal principles in India.

What are the issues raised by various state ministers?

Kerala Chief Minister: He stated that unilateral legislation on the subjects in the Concurrent List is not in the essence of federalism.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister: He also raised the issue by calling on other Chief Ministers against the Union government usurping powers under the State and Concurrent Lists.

What laws were made by the Union government without the consent of states?

Farm Laws: Parliament passed the farm laws without consulting the States. The laws, essentially, relate to Entry 14 (agriculture clause) and belong to the State List. Parliament passed these laws without proper consultation by citing Entry 33 (trade and commerce clause) in the Concurrent List. This has led to massive farmer protests in India.

Read more: Farmers protesting on Farm bills

Major Ports Authorities Act, 2021: Goa objected to the law, stating that it would lead to the redundancy of the local laws, including the Goa Town and Country Planning Act, the Goa Municipalities Act, the Goa Panchayat Raj Act and various other local laws.

Draft Indian Ports Bill, 2021: It proposes to change the status quo by transferring the powers related to planning, developing and regulating the non-major ports to the Maritime State Development Council (MSDC), which is controlled by the Union government. Various coastal States like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and others have objected to the Bill as it proposes to seize the power of the State government with respect to non-major ports.

According to the Indian Ports Act, 1908, which presently governs the field related to non-major ports, the power to regulate and control the minor ports remained with the State governments.

Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020: The field related to electricity is traceable to Entry 38 of the Concurrent List. The power to regulate the sector was vested with the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs). However, the proposed amendment seeks to change the regulatory regime.

Read more: Draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill 2020

About the Center’s power to enact laws under the Concurrent list

Under the Government of India Act, 1935, certain subjects were put in the Concurrent List by giving the Union and the State Legislatures concurrent powers regarding them. State’s power to legislate on these subjects was to be shared with the Union so that there is uniformity in laws across the country.

What is the Supreme Court (SC) judgement?

State of Bombay vs F.N. Balsara case: The SC ordered in case of conflict between centre and state, after employing the doctrine of “pith and substance”, the laws of the State Legislature must prevail.

S.R. Bommai vs Union of India case: The SC told that the States are not mere appendages of the Union. The Union government should ensure that the power of the States is not trampled with.

What are the commission/committee recommendations?

Sarkaria Commission:It recommended that there should be mutual consultation, guided by coordination in all areas of concurrent or overlapping jurisdiction.

It was further recommended that the Union government, while exercising powers under the Concurrent list, should limit itself to the purpose of ensuring uniformity in basic issues of national policy and not more.

National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), or the Venkatachaliah Commission: It recommended that individual and collective consultation with the States should be undertaken through the Inter-State Council established under Article 263 of the Constitution.

So, the essence of cooperative federalism lies in consultation and dialogue, and not in unilateral legislation.


Its time for national conservation on how to live with the virus

Source: This post is based on the article “It’s time for a national conversation on how to live with the virus” published in the Indian Express on 7th   September 2021.

Syllabus: GS -2 Health.

Relevance: Understand the role of vaccines.

Synopsis: The goal is not to eliminate the infection, but to reduce sickness and mortality.

Introduction

This article highlights the impact of Covid on people’s lives and what can be expected in the future. Given that virus is constantly evolving, how we shape our policies is crucial for a healthy society.

What are the limitations of the vaccination process?

Not properly immune: Vaccination does not eliminate our chance of being infected. The current regime of vaccination offers neither “herd immunity” nor long-term protection.

Variants with the vaccinated and non-vaccinated person: Even after the vaccination, it was found that a person affected with delta variant has similar viral loads as persons who are not vaccinated.

The threat of further transmission and mutation: New study shows that delta variant can spread even in the absence of symptoms. And so, vaccination will not stop further transmission and there will be the threat of new mutations taking place.

Waning immunity with time: It now appears that vaccine-induced immunity wanes with time. A recent example is of Israel, which was once lauded for achieving very high levels of vaccination coverage, but is now experiencing another wave.

What will be the way forward?

Prioritize public resources for vaccinating only the vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with co-morbidities, and all frontline workers

Investment: Government should invest in infectious disease surveillance, community-based supportive care and peripheral hospital critical care.

It is time for collective and collaborative action where all the stakeholders/experts like social scientists, political leaders, representatives of civil society etc should come up together to find the right path towards fully reopening our society.


Non Binary genders need more visibility in India’s Census 2021

Source: This post is based on the article “Non-binary genders need more visibility in India’s Census 2021 ‘published in the Down to Earth on 7th September 2021.

Syllabus:  GS 2 – Protection & Betterment of Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: To understand the gender dimensions in Census data.

Synopsis: Separating sex and gender in the country’s biggest socio-economic survey is necessary.

Introduction

Census data is important as it acts as a base for many other surveys in the country.  This is because the census data is a better enumeration of categories of gender. But still, the Census is far from perfect.

About the Census 2011

It was the first census to incorporate the number of ‘trans’ population of the country. The survey provides sex-related data in a binary male / female format. It tagged the rest as ‘other’ and assumed them to be ‘trans’. Those with transgender, intersex and other non-binary identities are excluded from the representation.

What were the findings of this report?                                                      

The report estimated that 4.8 million Indians were identified as transgender.

Who is considered a transgender and non-binary person?

Transgender: It is an umbrella term that includes transmen and transwomen. It refers to someone who does not identify with their sex assigned at birth.

Non-Binary: It is a diverse term of expression. For example, it may refer to transgender, intersex people, demi gender, mulitigender and others.

What are the problems associated with transgenders/Non-Binary people?

Access to toilets: They face problems in accessing public spaces like toilets according to their choice as the existing infrastructures mostly recognise ‘male’ and ‘female’.

In 2017, the Centre issued guidelines under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), making it mandatory for transgender people to be allowed into public toilets designated for both men and women, depending on their choice. But still, access has been denied to them or they are often bullied.

Inadequate amount of data: We only have data on “others”. There is a need to have data on every subgroup for providing solutions.

Sex is biologically determined, but gender is a social construct. Data collection has been sex-focused and not gender-focused.

According to a private report India for the Big Data for Development Network, Gender-disaggregated data does not reflect the reality of all gender minorities. So, the report mentioned that these types of data cannot be used to make development decisions, especially for the inclusion of transgender and intersex persons, who are often misrepresented or absent in this data.

Scarcity of information: We do not have proper information on how many intersex people live with their families, the percentage of Trans people who are homeless, their education and employment structures, types of housing they live in, migration rates and others.

What will be the solution to these problems?

To follow a non-binary approach: Government should clearly segregate data between gender and sexualities. First, the respective options for gender could be man, woman, transman, transwoman, non-binary or other. This will give much more clear information as compared to before.

Redress the existing used terminologies: Male and female (which stands for sex) also need to be replaced with terminologies like man, woman (which stands for gender).

Awareness: It was found out that during the 2011 Census, much of the population was not even aware of this third category in options to gender.

E.g. Delhi, alone had 30,000 hijras (transwomen) in 2005, according to the All India Hijra Kalyan Sabha in 2005. This contradicts the 2011 Census data which mentioned that Delhi has 4,213 Trans people.

Add categories: Census should also include a ‘doesn’t want to disclose’ category for those who don’t want to associate with any gender trait or doesn’t want to divulge gender information.

Gender is not a binary construct, like human emotions it has many shades. So, our census or data collection should reflect this reality.


GS Paper 3

Drone’s Economic Impact Will Match Internet’s

Source: This post is based on the article “Drone’s Economic Impact Will Match Internet’s” published in Times of India on 7th Sep 2021.

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

Relevance: Implications of recently notified drone rules 2021

Synopsis: The recently released new drone rules 2021 are centered around light-touch governance. The resultant progressive ecosystem will lead to opportunities in multiple sectors of the economy.

Background

Read here: Drone Rules 2021 – Explained

Must Read: How new drone guidelines can give wings to drone startups?
Where will drones work?

Once drones take off in full force, opportunities in the areas of manufacturing and drone services will be unlocked. Its potential as an economic force multiplier, however, will be unleashed on the back of a diverse value chain of industries that comes into play.

Hardware: In the manufacturing sector itself, there are hardware components which form the skeleton of a drone.

Software: Far more critical is the brain of the drone i.e. the software, which tells the drone where to go and what to do while flying from point A to B. Each of these components needs to be designed differently depending on the kind of drone application. For example, the algorithms for drones used in land mapping will be different from those of say, using drones for medicine delivery.

Post-flight analytics: Then comes a whole array of post-flight analytics of drone footage, for instance – advising farmers on yield improvement or developing digital property cards under the landmark SVAMITVA Scheme.

The economic benefits, therefore, can be unprecedented, given that by developing the drone industry, we also develop an entire ecosystem creating a positive impact on multiple sectors.

What are the positive spin-offs?

The emerging ecosystem would also trigger a multiplier effect in employment, as new job opportunities shall arise across the value chain, including but not limited to drone manufacturing, sales, insurance, pilots, counter-drone systems, drone repairs and so on.

It is worth noting that the impact will be widespread, employing people with varying levels of education. Even a 12th grader with a remote pilot licence could earn up to Rs 30,000 per month or more depending on her skill-set!


Hidden costs of renewable power in compulsory purchases of RE for discoms

Source: This post is based on the article “Hidden costs of renewable power in compulsory purchases of RE for discoms” published in Business Standard on 6th Sep 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

Relevance: challenges associated with a shift towards renewable energy

Synopsis: As India is pushing towards its renewable energy target, it also needs to look at the way the new capacity is being added and the existing power purchase mechanisms.

Introduction

India’s renewable power programme, with tariff bids for solar power hitting new lows every few months, is coming up at the cost of thermal power. The idea is to do exactly that and replace the dirty carbon-fuelled coal power generation with green options. But the manner in which this is being achieved is raising costs for renewable power purchases.

Why coal-generated power is still necessary?

The importance of coal-generated power lies in providing the base load for a country as big as India.

Base load implies the bare minimum needed to keep the power grids functional and supply reliable, which is a challenge for renewable power.

For instance: In India, the base load necessity for coal was reflected in the recent crisis that gripped the power sector in August-end, with power stations reporting bare minimum coal stocks. The Union government instructed power producers to immediately go in for coal imports.

This experience during the receding monsoon season puts a question mark on whether the country’s increasing reliance on renewable energy can improve the power supply situation for India.

Moreover, discoms have to  pay more for green power.

Why the overall cost of buying green power is more?

Certain utility-scale renewables enjoy a “must-run” status. Must-run status means that power distribution companies (discoms) are obligated by regulation to pay for green power even if they do not need or use it. But this, in turn, means that a discom has to ask the thermal plant to back down. This translates to paying for renewable power and also paying the fixed cost for thermal power; so there is an enhanced cost for buying renewable power.

This reality behind the purchase of renewable power makes the overall cost of buying green power higher than the tariff at which it was agreed to be bought.

Note: ‘Must-run status’ means that utilities, state load dispatch centres (SLDCs) and distribution companies (discoms) have to prioritise the evacuation of the generated power from renewable energy.

What are the challenges?

States command leverage: The states feel that they should not pay a higher price when they have agreements with thermal units tied up for 25 years. Therefore, each time the discovered tariff for solar is lower than earlier, some discoms do not honor earlier green power purchase agreements (PPAs).

States also do not want to give up thermal Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) signed even when they are trying to meet the country’s target of 175 GW of renewable installed capacity. The reason being the cost it would entail because of contractual obligations.

The challenge at this stage of renewable power induction, therefore, is to see whether the low tariffs are truly reflective of the cost that state discoms additionally pay for thermal power they are not using.

What is the way forward?

A universal look at generation capacity addition and power purchase mechanisms is needed rather than just a source-based approach to power sector planning.


The long and the short of the NMP

Source: This post is based on the article “The long and the short of the NMP” published in The Hindu on 7th Sep 2021.

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

Relevance: On National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP)

Synopsis: Pertinent questions, in the light of the recently announced NMP, have been raised in the article. Questions are related to the impact of NMP on ordinary citizens, whether NMP was the only option before the govt, and whether public sector enterprises are actually inefficient.

Background

Read here: National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) project – Explained

How will NMP impact the citizens of India?

Double taxation: With private companies getting the sole responsibility of running all these assets, from highways and railways to all the major utilities such as power, telecom and gas, the citizens of India would be double-taxed. First, they paid taxes to create the assets, and would now pay higher user charges. Private sector is geared towards profit maximisation, not social benefit. Therefore, as the Government prepares to transfer “performing assets” to the private companies, it has the responsibility to ensure that user are not charged very high prices. This critical dimension has not clearly been spelt out even in the NITI report.

Was asset monetisation the only option?

Since the proposed asset monetisation has resulted from the resource shortage faced by the Government, a pertinent question is whether there were other avenues that it could have been tapped for plugging the resource gap.

Increase tax revenue: One possibility was to increase the tax revenue. At 17.4% in 2019-20, India’s tax to GDP ratio was relatively low, as compared to most advanced nations. Improvements in tax compliance and plugging loopholes have long been emphasized as the surest way to improve tax revenue, but little has been done, on this front.

Example: Since 2005-06, the Government has been providing data on the profits declared and taxes paid by companies that file their returns electronically.

This data reveals that in 2005-06, 40% of these companies had declared that they were not earning any profits, and this figure had increased to over 51% in 2018-19.

Further, the share of the reporting companies earning profits of ₹1 crore or less was 55% in 2005-06; this figure had declined to 43% in 2018-19.

These numbers show that India’s large companies have been exploiting the loopholes for reporting lower profits and to escape the tax net.

Are public enterprises inefficient?

According to NITI Aayog, the “strategic objective of the Asset Monetisation programme is to unlock the value of investments in public sector assets by tapping private sector capital and efficiencies”.

The NITI Aayog objective assumes that public sector enterprises are inefficient, which is contrary to the reality. In 2018-19, while 28% of these enterprises were loss-making, the corresponding figure for large companies was 51%.

So is it realistic to assume that the asset monetisation programme would deliver efficiencies?


The e-Rupi could take us a long way towards financial inclusion

Source: This post is based on the article “The e-Rupi could take us a long way towards financial inclusion” published in the Live Mint on 7th September 2021

Syllabus: GS3: Inclusive Growth and use of innovative technology to achieve it.

Relevance: Digital Payment systems

Synopsis: The payment-voucher system’s (e-RUPI) features make it ideal for programmes aimed at bridging the digital divide in India.

How has India progressed wrt digital payment ecosystem?

India has emerged as a leader in digital payments, with a manifold increase in such transactions in recent times. There are not many countries that allow digital transactions worth as low as one rupee.

The Universal Payments Interface (UPI), which was launched in 2016 to allow payments round the clock 365 days a year, has been very successful.

Recently, the UAE became the third country after Bhutan and Singapore to accept UPI payments outside India, which is an indication of the ease and efficiency of this system.

Must Read: What is e-RUPI?
What is hampering India’s vision of financial inclusion?

Despite a vibrant digital payment network, financial inclusion faces some bottlenecks in India:

Rural-urban divide both in terms of technology and access to banking infrastructure. For instance, a large gap still exists in terms of internet access. As per the latest data available from TRAI, there are 34.6 rural internet subscribers per 100 people in the country, as opposed to 104 in urban areas (as on end December 2020).

Digital disparity among states: Internet penetration also varies widely across states. Internet subscribers per 100 persons ranges from 210 in Delhi and 87.6 in Punjab to 40.8 in Uttar Pradesh and 32.9 in Bihar.

Inadequate banking facility to rural areas: Further, of the country’s total bank branches, 33.5% are located in rural areas, 27.5% in semi- urban, 19.3% in urban and 19.7% in metropolitan zones, as on end-June 2021. There are around 190 million unbanked citizens in our country, residing mostly in rural parts.

As the existing digital payment methods require a bank account and internet/smartphone, until these gaps are filled, complete financial inclusion will remain a developmental challenge.

Must Read: How e-RUPI can transform government’s welfare schemes?
What is M-pesa and how it helped to tackle the issue of financial inclusion?

Most developing countries face similar challenges, and some of them have successfully tackled these through the innovative use of technology.

One such example is M-Pesa in Kenya, where ‘M’ stands for mobile and ‘Pesa’ for money. M-Pesa was introduced in Kenya as an initiative for financial inclusion geared towards its unbanked or under-banked population.

This is a virtual banking system that provides services through a SIM card with no requirement of internet access and bank accounts. It started as a means to buy airtime and make micro-loan repayments using the network of Safaricom airtime resellers.

M-Pesa later expanded to many other counties, and over time, it became a big player in the market for transferring or withdrawing money, saving or borrowing money, making merchant payments and paying bills.

Transactions worth half of Kenya’s gross domestic product are carried out over M-Pesa, as reported by its central bank, and this platform claims over 49 million customers across Africa.

Must Read: How e-RUPI can make welfare payments easier?
How e-RUPI, similar to M-Pesa, can become a game changer for India?

Similar to what M-Pesa did in Kenya, e-Rupi has the potential to significantly boost financial inclusion in India. It is a solution to the twin problem outlined earlier.

No need of an internet connection: The e-Rupi system allows transfers of purpose- specific prepaid vouchers that need no debit card, credit card, mobile bank application, internet connection, etc, to be used. As envisaged, all that a person would need is a mobile number.

An e-Rupi voucher will be sent to the user as an SMS (for non-smartphone users) or QR Code (for smartphone users). This will enable particular digital payments, not just from phones to digital recipients, but also from digital senders to offline payees.

This contactless payment system is expected to be easy, safe and secure, as it promises to keep the details of beneficiaries completely confidential. The entire process is both reliable and fast, as these vouchers are preloaded with money.

Further, e-RUPI could be developed further to serve various other ends as well. The decision of Mswipe to include e-Rupi as a mode of payment, for example, is a step towards building a financial ecosystem based on it.

Other areas of application of e-RUPI: Read from here: https://blog.forumias.com/how-e-rupi-can-transform-governments-welfare-schemes/


India’s digital architecture: From infrastructure to superstructure

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s digital architecture: From infrastructure to superstructure” published in Livemint on 7th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS3- Inclusive Growth

Relevance: Financial inclusion, ease of doing business for MSMEs

Synopsis: To support our ecosystem for financial inclusion, we need to factor in the enablers and account aggregation.

Introduction

India’s asset monetization initiative, the National Monetisation Pipeline has garnered attention but other two recent initiatives which are far more substantive did not get their fair share of it.

One was the Factoring Bill amendments and the second is Account Aggregator platform.

What is the significance of factoring?

Benefits to MSMEs: It will enable thousands of non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) to buy receivables from Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Removing threshold: Conditions for NBFCs to engage in this business have been removed.

What is the significance of Account Aggregator platform?

Aggregator platform: Account Aggregators (AAs) are ‘data access fiduciaries’ who act as the front end of its Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA).

Empowerment of user: Financial data is secured and can be accessed only with the consent of the user and for purposes the user had consented to. The data in AAs hands will be encrypted and can only be decrypted by FIUs.

AAs are trustees of data: With user’s consent they can pass on data from financial information providers (FIPs) to financial information users (FIU).

Ease of doing business: To establish credit worthiness, AAs will collect data. Such as bank statements, insurance policies, mutual fund holdings, etc. Due to lack of information, lenders stick to collateral-based lending. With AA platform, that will change.

Financial inclusion: AAs can become agents of financial inclusion

How’s govt acting as an enabler of Digital revolution in India?

Digital public goods: It started with the PM Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Aadhaar. Recently, the Nasscom had brought out a report on India’s digital public goods.

As per PwC, the Unified Payments Interface has taken the Indian payment ecosystem by storm. RBI notes that its Digital Payments Index rose 2.7 times in just three years after March 2018.

Citizen-centric services: In the West, Digital goods are in private hands and have become monopolies. Nasscom added that our digital platforms were developed at low cost and are inter-operable.

The Goods and Services Tax Network has been given in-principle approval to become a Financial Information Provider (FIP) on the AA network. The GST network is a huge repository of information that its being part of data network is a big plus for MSMEs to access finance.

Way forward

Now, GSTN and TReDS should make it automatic that if a buyer accepts an invoice for claiming input tax credit, then the invoice shall be deemed accepted for TReDS purposes too.

Lastly, the only thing that would be pending is an amendment to India’s MSME Act to allow MSMEs to retain their classification until both sales turnover and investment criteria are exceeded, rather than any one of them. That will serve as a strong foundation for durable and long-lasting economic growth.


Protect Digital India: About the challenges associated with banning VPNs

Source: This post is based on the article “Protect Digital India” published in the Business Standard on 7th September 2021.

Syllabus:  GS 3 – Challenges to internal security through communication networks.

Relevance: To understand the benefits of VPNs.

Synopsis: Understand the issues associated with banning VPNs.

Introduction

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs discovered that VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) might conceivably allow anonymous activity online. So, the committee recommended that the Ministry of Home Affairs collaborate with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to develop a coordination mechanism to block VPNs.

What are VPNs?

A virtual private network (VPN) provides online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs mask a person’s internet protocol (IP) address, so the online actions are virtually untraceable.

VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.

For example, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, etc.

What are the challenges associated with these recommendations?

Against governance: If India banned VPNs, it would join the ranks of countries such as Russia, China, Belarus, Venezuela, Turkey, and the Gulf states. All these countries are not role models in terms of governance or freedom.

Economically disastrous: VPNs are essential to the proper functioning of many modern businesses, particularly in the high-value-added services sectors. The VPNs enable branch offices to be properly plugged into corporate networks and allow for employees to conduct transactions and approvals with proper data security.

Many proprietorial trading platforms require the use of in-house VPNs to connect and make trades.

Negative effect on telecom efficiency: Other countries with state capabilities that have tried banning VPNs have seen a big negative effect on overall telecom efficiency. For example, Iran’s internet is slow due to its attempts to inspect internet traffic for anything that might be going through a VPN.

Against global practice: Attempts to block VPNs are not trivial efforts. Even the People’s Republic of China, with a vast and well-trained bureaucracy dedicated to maintaining the Great Firewall, can only block VPNs with low reliability.

Against government practice: Over the past year, the Department of Telecommunications has successively liberalised the norms governing “other service providers”. This enabled the service centres to properly integrate with international call and data networks using VPNs. This was expected to reduce costs and increase the competitiveness of the service sector.

So, the notion that criminals alone use VPNs is deeply fallacious, and the committee should reconsider its suggestions or the government can ignore the Parliamentary standing committee recommendations.

 

 

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Out of Africa flashback: Is the world witnessing a migration wave due to lack of water?

Source: This post is based on the article “Out of Africa flashback: Is the world witnessing a migration wave due to lack of water?” published in Down to Earth on 6th Sep 2021.

What is the news?

A recent World Bank report titled Web and Flow: Water, Migration and Development, analysed the “largest dataset on internal migrants” assembled from 64 countries and 189 censuses during 1960-2015.

Findings are listed below.

What are the findings of the report?

Firstly, the report argues that water scarcity is a major reason for internal migration in the contemporary world.  The recent anthropogenic changes have made us more prone to water scarcity than five million years ago.

Secondly, low rainfall events account for 10-11% of the increase in migration between 1970 and 2000.

Thirdly, the water scarcity-driven waves of migration have been more eminent in developing and poor countries.

Fourthly, while dry spells or lack of water ranked just below education as a reason for migration, in many countries, this has become a more decisive driver of migration.

Fifthly, in the last three decades, an average 25% of the world’s population suffered abnormal rainfalls annually.

Sixthly, increasing dry spells, as predicted in a changed climate scenario, would fasten the rate of migration. The poorest in a region would be left behind to fend for themselves in areas ravaged by deficit rainfalls. It says that 80% of the poorest population would not be able to migrate out even though left with no adequate water as migration involves costs and also certain skills.

Must Read: Climate-induced migration – Explained

Air gun surrender could be conservation’s silver bullet

Source: This post is based on the article “Air gun surrender could be conservation’s silver bullet” published in The Times of India on 7 September 2021.

What is the news?

Auranchal Pradesh has initiated the program ‘Air gun Surrender Abhiyan’ to check the killing of birds and animals in the region.

What is ‘Air gun Surrender Abhiyan’?

In Auranchal Pradesh, hunting was a seasonal activity and limited primarily to tribal rituals. Post the proliferation of air guns and rifles, found freely in the market, hunting has increased manifold in the state.

To control hunting and conserve wildlife, ‘Air gun Surrender Abhiyan’ was launched to surrender the air guns. Overall, 2,000 weapons have been given up voluntarily since its launch. In return, the person got a certificate of appreciation.

What is the aim of Air gun Surrender Abhiyan’?

The aim is to spread awareness about conservation and check the killing of birds and animals in their state.


Sukhet’s villagers trade waste for wellness, get free LPG refills

Source: This post is based on the article “Sukhet’s villagers trade waste for wellness, get free LPG refills” published in The Hindu on 7 September 2021.

What is the news?

The rising price of LPG cylinders was making life difficult for women in rural areas. The instalment of Sukhet model in the village has brought ease to the household. The program was lauded by Prime Minister Modi in his latest episode of ‘Mann ki Baat’.

What is Sukhet’s model?

It is an initiative by Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agriculture University (RPAU) at Pusa.

It allows women to get their LPG cylinders refilled every two months in exchange for cow dung and farmyard waste.

Furthermore, it provides four-fold benefit: ensures a pollution-free environment at home, waste disposal, monetary assistance for LPG cylinders, and availability of organic fertilisers to the local farmers.

How does Sukhet’s model work?

Under Sukhet’s model, two local workers visit households that have cattle to collect dung and farmyard waste and bring it to a vermicomposting yard.

Criteria to avail the benefit: A family has to provide 1200 kgs of cow dung and wet garbage waste every two months to get their LPG gas cylinders refilled for free. The family needs to meet the target of 20 kg of cow dung and garbage waste every day.

What are future plans?

The target is to take this model to 100 households in the villages in the first phase, currently, 44 households are availing the benefit.

RPAU is going to emulate the Sukhet model in seven more places in Bihar- East Champaran, West Champaran, Siwan, Saran, Gopalganj, Vaishali and Samastipur.

Significance of the Sukhet model

Implementing the Sukhet model in various districts of Bihar will also generate employment for the local youth and to make village soil nutrient self-sufficient.

Villagers get good quality vermicompost which is cheaper than the market price.

Suggestions to improve the Sukhet model

The government can treat Sukhet model as a micro-industry. The government can consider providing contract works under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme. Further, the increased CSR funding by industries on Sukhet model will improve its coverage and performance.


Priests can’t be owners of temple deity’s land, says Supreme court

Source: This post is based on the article “Priests can’t be owners of temple deity’s land, says Supreme court” published in The Times of India on 7 September 2021.

What is the news?

The Supreme Court has ruled that priests cannot become owners of the land vested in deities. The ruling also stopped the government from becoming owners.

About the Maharashtra government notification

Earlier, the Maharashtra government issued a notification to delete the names of priests from revenue records as owners of temple land. Instead, the ownership is vested in the Collector name.

This notification aims to protect the temple properties from unauthorised sale. Further, the notification makes the government as owner of temple property. 

What has the Supreme court ruled?

The Supreme Court ruled that,

The priest cannot be treated to be the owner. Further, they have no right with the temple property which could be protected under any of the provisions of the Code.

The court also stopped the government from becoming owners. This is because the name of the Collector as a manager cannot be recorded in respect of property vested in the deity as the Collector cannot be a manager of all temples unless it is a temple vested with the state.

Instead, the court said that the name of the deity alone is required to be mentioned, as the deity being a juristic person is the owner of the land.


Tamil Nadu tables Bill to ensure seating facilities for employees at shops

Source: This post is based on the articleTamil Nadu tables Bill to ensure seating facilities for employees at shopspublished in The Hindu on 7th September 2021.

What is the News?

The Tamil Nadu Government has tabled a bill in the State Assembly that recognizes workers ‘right to sit’. 

Note: Kerala is the only other State to have legislated on the ‘right to sit’ in 2018.

What is the Bill?

The bill seeks to amend the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947.

The amendment makes it mandatory for business establishments to provide seating arrangements for their employees who stand for long hours.

What is the significance of the Bill?

The bill, if passed, will ensure a chair to each worker and a whole lot of dignity besides helping the employees avoid the discomfort and health issues that arise from standing throughout the day.


Why Moderna’s mRNA candidate brings new hope for an HIV vaccine

Source: This post is based on the articleWhy Moderna’s mRNA candidate brings new hope for an HIV vaccinepublished in Indian Express on 7th September 2021.

What is the News?

Moderna has announced the human trials for two HIV vaccines, namely mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1644v2-Core.

About the two HIV Vaccines

The two vaccines are based on the same platform — mRNA — as Moderna’s Covid vaccine. 

Working: The vaccine is expected to work similar to the Covid-19 vaccine — by getting the body’s cells to produce the HIV’s spike protein triggering an immune response.

Why is it difficult to make an HIV Vaccine?

HIV has a spike-shaped virus protein known as Env or the envelope protein.

HIV tends to change its envelope so rapidly that it is difficult to provide any antibody cover. Additionally, the envelope proteins are covered by a sugar coating that affects the generation of an immune response.

Moreover, even when antibodies are made, by the time they are produced, the virus rapidly evolves and the antibodies do not neutralise the virus. This rapid mutation allows the virus to escape the antibody response.

Hence, because of this, previously inactivated forms of the virus and adenovirus vector-based vaccines have been tried but have not worked.

Expected Benefits of m-RNA Vaccine:

mRNA-based vaccines are believed to be a promising alternative because they do not involve the use of a live virus, can be made relatively easily, can be quickly deployed and safely administered.

Global HIV burden

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV has claimed 36.3 million lives so far. There were an estimated 37.7 million living with HIV at the end of 2020.

However, there is still no cure for HIV. But with increasing access to effective prevention, diagnosis and care, HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition in recent years.

HIV burden in India

According to the National AIDS Control Organization’s India HIV Estimation 2019 report, there were an estimated 23.48 lakh people living with HIV in 2019. 

Overall, the estimated adult (15-49) HIV prevalence trend has been declining in India since the peak in 2000 and has been stabilising in recent years.


Indian scientists studying garlic extracts for potential covid treatment

Source: This post is based on the article Indian scientists studying garlic extracts for potential covid treatment” published in Livemint on 7th September 2021.

What is the News?

Indian scientists are studying garlic extracts for treating covid-19.

About the Study

The study is being conducted by the Centre of Innovative and Applied Bioprocessing, Mohali and the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad.

They are jointly researching natural garlic essential oil as a potential inhibitor of ACE2 protein.

ACE2 is a receptor that serves as the entry point for coronaviruses into human cells and the amino acids in the virus.

About Garlic

Garlic is a common spice for flavouring food. It is also used in traditional medicine prescriptions against common colds and influenza. 

The essential oil of garlic is known to possess organosulfur compounds that exhibit strong antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer and antimicrobial properties.

Moreover, according to scientists, the daily dietary intake of garlic and its derived products as an adjuvant therapy may decrease side effects and toxicity due to the main drugs being used to treat a disease.

Note: Adjuvant therapy is a therapy that is given in addition to the primary or initial therapy to maximize its effectiveness. 


Chandigarh’s first Pollen Calendar can help identify potential allergy triggers and guard sensitive people from exposure

Source: This post is based on the articleChandigarh’s first Pollen Calendar published in PIB on 6th September 2021.

What is the News?

Chandigarh has got its first pollen calendar. This can identify potential allergy triggers and provide a clear understanding for clinicians as well as allergy sufferers about their causes to help limit their exposure during high pollen loads.

What is Pollen?

Pollen is a fine yellowish powder released by plants. They are essential for the sexual reproduction of flowering plants and plants that produce cones. Each pollen grain contains male gametes necessary for fertilisation. 

Pollen and Allergies

Pollen produced by plants are considered major outdoor airborne allergens responsible for allergic rhinitis, asthma, and atopic dermatitis in humans.

In India, about 20-30% of the population suffers from allergic rhinitis/hay fever and approximately 15% develop asthma.

What are Pollen Calendars?

Pollen calendars represent the time dynamics of airborne pollen taxa in graphical form in a particular geographical area. 

They yield readily accessible visual details about various airborne pollen taxa present throughout the year, with their seasonality in a single picture. They are also location-specific, with concentrations closely related to locally distributed flora.

What is the significance of Pollen Calendars?

Pollen Calendars will help prepare early advisories and disseminate them through media channels to the citizens so that they can use protective gear during the period when the concentration of allergic pollen will be high. 

It is also a preventive tool for sensitive people to diminish exposure when the levels of aero-pollen are high during specific periods.


ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY AND INDIAN NAVY COMMENCE BILATERAL EXERCISE – ‘AUSINDEX’

Source: This post is based on the articleROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY AND INDIAN NAVY COMMENCE BILATERAL EXERCISE – ‘AUSINDEX” published in Indian Express on 6th September 2021.

What is the News?

The Navies from Australia and India have commenced the bilateral maritime exercise named Exercise AUSINDEX 2021.

About Exercise AUSINDEX

AUSINDEX is a bilateral maritime exercise between India and Australian Navies. It was started in the year 2015. This is the fourth edition of the exercise.

Aim: To provide an opportunity for both Navies to further bolster interoperability, gain from best practices and develop a common understanding of procedures for Maritime Security Operations.

From India, Indian Naval Ships Shivalik and Kadmatt are participating in the exercise.

About Indian Naval Ships Shivalik and Kadmatt

Indian Naval Ships Shivalik and Kadmatt are the latest indigenously designed and built Guided Missile Stealth Frigate and Anti-Submarine Corvette respectively. 

They form part of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet based at Visakhapatnam under the Eastern Naval Command.


Why health journals have called for climate action

Source: This post is based on the article “Why health journals have called for climate action” published in Indian Express on 7th September 2021.

What is the News?

Editors of more than 220 leading health journals from all over the world have published a joint editorial asking governments to take immediate and more ambitious climate action to hold global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5°C from pre-industrial times.

Purpose of the Joint Editorial

The joint editorial in health journals comes ahead of COP26, the 26th edition of the annual UN climate conference, in Glasgow, UK. Before that, a similar UN meeting on biodiversity is scheduled in Kunming, China. 

Hence, the editorial is part of the exercise to create momentum for concrete and ambitious decisions at these meetings.

What are the concerns highlighted by the editors?

Climate change has several adverse health impacts both direct and indirect. Heat-related diseases triggered by extreme heat events are an example of the direct health impacts of climate change. 

Changing crop patterns, declining yields, water scarcity, and extreme precipitation are expected to have health consequences as well.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 250,000 excess deaths are likely to be caused by climate change-induced factors — malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress — between 2030 and 2050.

What should be done to stop this impact?

Governments should take immediate and more ambitious climate action to hold global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5°C from pre-industrial times. 

They should treat climate change with the same kind of urgency that was shown in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.


Survey: 37% poor rural students not studying at all

Source: This post is based on the following articles

  • Survey: 37% poor rural students not studying at all published in TOI on 7th September 2021.
  • 75% kids see literacy loss as most schools remain shut, says surveypublished in Business Standard on 7th September 2021.

What is the News?

A Survey named School Children’s Online and Offline Learning(SCHOOL) was conducted to understand the impact of the prolonged closure of schools due to the pandemic.

About the Survey SCHOOL

The survey was conducted in 15 states and Union Territories(UTs). It focused on relatively deprived hamlets and ‘bastis’(slums), where children generally attend government schools. 

Four states — Delhi, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh — accounted for half of the sample.

What are the findings of the Survey?

Students Studying Online: Around 37% of the sample students were not studying at all. On the other hand, only 19% ​​in urban areas and 8% in rural areas were studying online regularly.

Reasons for Limited reach of online classes: Many sample households (about half in rural areas) have no smartphone. But even among households with a smartphone, the proportion of children who are studying online regularly is just 31% in urban areas and 15% in rural areas.

Impact of Limited Access to Online Classes: Due to limited access to online classes, 48% of the surveyed poor children in rural areas weren’t able to read more than a few words while in urban areas, the figure was at 42%.

Shift from Private to Government Schools: Around 26% of the households had switched from private to government schools for lack of funds, while mid-day meals had been discontinued in all sample schools.

Marginalised communities were the worst affected. For instance, only 4% of rural scheduled caste and tribe children were studying online regularly compared with 15% among other rural children. 

Parents on Online Education:  Around 75% of parents feel their child’s reading ability has massively declined and almost all of them want physical classrooms to immediately.


Account Aggregators: new framework to access, share financial data

Source: This post is based on the articleAccount Aggregators: new framework to access, share financial datapublished in Indian Express on 7th September 2021.

What is the News?

State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, IDFC First Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, HDFC Bank, IndusInd Bank and Federal Bank have joined the Account Aggregator(AA) network that will enable customers to easily access and share their financial data.

What is an Account Aggregator(AA)?

Account Aggregator is a non-banking financial company that simply facilitates sharing of financial information in a real-time and data-blind manner between regulated entities.

The licence for Account Aggregators(AAs) is issued by the Reserve Bank of India(RBI).

How does it work?

​​Account aggregator systems will act as an intermediary to collect data from Financial Information Providers (FIP) like Bank, NBFC, mutual funds that hold the consumer’s personal financial data. They share that with Financial Information Users (FIU) like the lending bank that wants access to the borrower’s data to determine if the borrower qualifies for a loan. Banks can play a dual role – as a FIP and as an FIU.

However, for sharing customer data, the bank or financial institution will have to take the customer’s consent.

Benefits of Account Aggregator

Customers: AA framework allows customers to avail various financial services from a host of providers on a single portal based on a consent method under which the consumers can choose what financial data to share and with which entity.

Less Physical Interaction: AA creates secure, digital access to personal data at a time when Covid-19 has led to restrictions on physical interaction. 

Reduction in Frauds: It also reduces the fraud associated with physical data by introducing secure digital signatures and end-to-end encryption for data sharing.


Chief Ministers Conference on initiatives and schemes for farmers welfare

Source: This post is based on the articleChief Ministers Conference on initiatives and schemes for farmers welfarepublished in PIB on 6th September 2021.

What is the News?

The Union Agriculture Minister has addressed the Chief Minister’s Conference on initiatives and schemes for farmers welfare.

The objective of the Conference

To highlight the salient features of Atma Nirbhar Krishi and to enable States to enhance farmers income. It was also an occasion to share innovative initiatives undertaken by the States. 

Key Highlights from the Conference

National Farmers Database: The Ministry of Agricultural and Farmers Welfare is creating a national farmer database by taking data from existing schemes like PM-KISAN, soil health card and PM Fasal Yojana. The database will have connectivity to the State land records database.

Currently, the database of 5.5 crore farmers is ready. It will be increased to 8 crore farmers by December 2021.

Palm Oil Mission: Indian Council of Agricultural Research(ICAR) has conducted a study on the areas in which oil palm cultivation can be expanded. The need to make India self-reliant in edible oils and palms was stressed and the role of the States was discussed.

Modifications in Agriculture Infrastructure FundThe eligibility for credit under the scheme has been extended to State Agencies/APMCs, National & State Federations of Cooperatives, Federations of Farmers Producers Organizations(FPOs) and Federations of Self Help Groups (SHGs).

The eligible activities under the scheme include community farming, assets, post-harvest management projects and primary processing.  


 

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