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

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

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

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly) 

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Politics vs governance (On Urban Cooperative Banks)

Source: This post is based on the article “Politics vs governance” published in Business Standard” on 9th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Governance

Relevance: Separation of power, Cooperative sector in India

Synopsis: The Madhya Pradesh High Court’s decision to stay the Reserve Bank of India’s circular may delay the shift towards better governance in Urban Cooperative Banks (UCBs).

Introduction

The RBI had in June this year said that Members of Parliament, Assemblies, municipal corporations, municipalities, or other local bodies could not hold the corner-room post, or be a whole-time director on UCBs. Thus, the circular barred elected representatives from being appointed to the boards of urban co-operative banks (UCBs).

The persons engaged in any other business or vocation; directors of companies and partners of firms that carry on any trade, business or industry, having a substantial interest in any company or working as director, manager, managing agent, partner or proprietor of any trading, commercial or industrial concern will not be eligible to be on the board of a UCB.

Why such circular by RBI?

Prevent misuse: This was done to prevent political interference in banks and the possible abuse of governance standards. It has extracted a heavy cost. For example, Punjab and Maharashtra Urban Co-operative Bank.

To cut down the room for regulatory arbitrage: The amendment to the Banking Regulation Act, notified was to give more muscle to the banking regulator for the oversight of UCBs.

What are some associated issues?

Friction between Centre and states: The states have held the view that some of the RBI’s moves were in conflict with the provisions of State Co-operative Societies Act.

Concentration of power: The powers bestowed on the RBI to deal with matters pertaining to the issuance and refund of share capital, appointment, or disqualification of directors, constitution of the board of management, appointment of CEOs, and audit obligations were excessive in nature.


India’s presidency of the UNSC fortified our role in world affairs

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s presidency of the UNSC fortified our role in world affairs” published in Livemint on 9th September 2021.

Syllabus:  GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance: To understand India’s performance as a UNSC President.

Synopsis: With the month-long UNSC presidency, India showcased our role in world affairs.

Introduction

India has just concluded its presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for August. India managed to achieve almost all of what we set out for, and also successfully handled the expected and unexpected challenges that came our way.

Initiatives of UNSC under India’s Presidency

During India’s presidency, we had 14 ‘outcome documents’, five of which were UNSC resolutions. Three signature events were held by India on priority issues. These include maritime security, UN peacekeeping and counter-terrorism.

About the signature events

Maritime security event: It was chaired by the Prime Minister himself which saw participation from several world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was also the first Security Council (SC) meeting chaired by an Indian PM.

Event on UN peacekeeping: During this event, a resolution on Protecting the Protectors was adopted, which seeks to safeguard UN Peacekeepers. It was the first UNSC resolution piloted by India in over four decades, and it had the co-sponsorship of all 15 members. During this event, India also signed an MoU with the UN Peacekeeping Institute in Entebbe, Uganda.

Event on counter-terrorism: In this event, the threat posed by the Islamic State/Daesh. The UNSC members agreed on a press statement highlighting, inter alia, threats posed by the IS-Khorasan and other regional groups to Asia and parts of Africa.

About the developments in Afghanistan

This was the important highlight of India’s presidency at UNSC. The UNSC held three meetings on it, issued three press statements and adopted one resolution(UNSC Resolution 2593).

Read more: About the UNSC Resolution 2593 and Noble intentions: About the UNSC resolution on Taliban
Other initiatives of UNSC under India’s Presidency

Regarding Palestine: India’s Foreign secretary chaired a session on the Palestine Question, which has been a priority focus of the UNSC’s work.

Africa-related issues: An unscheduled meeting on Ethiopia has occurred. Apart from that, Resolutions on the UN assistance mission in Somalia and sanctions on Mali were also adopted.

There is no doubt that our presidency of the UNSC has once again reinforced the fact that India continues to play an important role in world affairs.


A questionable quota policy

Source: This post is based on the article “A questionable quota policy” published in The Hindu on 9th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Relevance: To understand the reservation policy.

Synopsis: Instead of providing reservations for government school students, the government should improve the quality of government schools.

Introduction

Recently, the Odisha government has proposed a 15% reservation for government school students in medical and engineering colleges. The aim is to reduce “inequity arising” from the lack of physical and economic access to coaching institutions.

What does this proposal imply?

This looks like an admission of the government that it has failed in providing quality education in schools. This shows that instead of focusing on improving the schools, the government is adopting the policy of reservation.

Read more: Maratha Reservation and the Reservation Policy in India – Explained, Pointwise
What do the statistics say?

About 62% of students attend government and government-aided schools in India.

38% goes to private institutions, some of which belong to the elite category.

Thus, it can be argued that these 38% may have access to better teachers, tuitions and classes. This, according to the government, it creates inequality.

How can the quality of education in government schools be improved?

Capacity building Programmes: Introduce programmes for teachers to implement new pedagogic practices. There should be an emphasis on language learning.

Fill vacant Posts: Teachers and staff vacancies should be filled as soon as possible.

Mindset: Change in the mindset among people and policymakers that government schools are typically backward and inferior to private schools.

Change in policies: The policy of automatically promoting the students to higher classes without passing examinations should be scrapped.

State responsibility: The state should take responsibility for improving education in government schools.

What can be the way forward?

Government should address the root cause, which is focused on school education. It should focus on improving education as part of affirmative action.


Practice of reserving cadre posts for certain services is exclusionary, must be reconsidered

Source: This post is based on the article “Practice of reserving cadre posts for certain services is exclusionary, must be reconsidered” published in the Indian Express on 9th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Role of civil services in a democracy.

Relevance: To understand the drawbacks of the cadre system.

Synopsis: The cadre system, part of British legacy systems, needs to be reformed if we are working towards good governance.

Introduction

Recently, the Haryana government issued an order, appointing an IPS officer as principal secretary (transport) — a cadre post of the IAS. This opened up the debate of cadre posts in the Indian Administration System.

What is the present Indian system?

Certain posts, both at the Centre and in states, are reserved for certain services by declaring them as cadre posts.  For example, a collector in any district has to be from the IAS. Similarly, a superintendent of police will always be from the IPS. The same procedure has been adopted for the state administrative services.

What is the demerit of the present system?

Glass ceiling Effect:  It acts as a glass ceiling for all the members of the service. For most of the officers, the top post will remain out of reach. This acts as a de-motivator.

Fewer choices: Since officers from a particular service have to be posted to a particular post, the selection pool is smaller.

Promotion based on service:  It creates anomalies as batch mates from the same examination are promoted slower or faster just because they belong to different services, not because they are less or more competent.

Less use of talent: It prevents the government from optimally utilizing the talent it possesses. This has also compelled the Government to fill the gap by hiring from the private sector.

Skill limitation: Every service has a core role for which it has been trained. For example, a customs officer is trained differently than a police or income tax officer. However, some people may grow beyond their core functional areas and pick up new skills. But the cadre system ensures that they cannot fully express the skills that they may have developed.

Poor Human Resource Management: It does not seem to be good human resource management (HRM) practice, as it reduces the available choices.

What do we need to do?

It is time to examine whether the concept of cadre posts has benefitted the nation or has been counter-productive. We can adapt the practices like:

Training: It may not be advisable to completely do away with the cadre system. We need specialized and trained departmental officers at lower and middle levels to keep the governance running.

Cadre Neutral posts: We can make the posts cadre-neutral. Or we can at least make multiple services with relevant experience eligible for the posts. This will lead to widening the talent pool available for the cadre post.

India needs to realize that such archaic, rigid and limiting governance models have outlived their utility. In the light of new and emerging HRM policies, we should also review our governance models, guided by the notion of good governance.


Ideas of propriety must not be used by courts to control and silence lawyers

Source: This post is based on the article “Ideas of propriety must not be used by courts to control and silence lawyers” published in the Indian Express on 9th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Structure, organization and functioning of the judiciary.

Relevance: To understand the Ideas of propriety and its impact on the Judiciary.

Synopsis: The relationship between the bar and bench has gone from one of mutual respect and equality to the one between ruler and ruled.

Introduction

Propriety or conformity to established norms can be very dangerous. In the past, it led to evils like child marriage, slavery and the holocaust. Now this propriety has reached the Judiciary, with the relation between them turning from that of mutual respect to one between ruler and ruled.

How can one know that the Ideas of propriety exist in Judiciary?

In Judiciary, practices like improper roster management, unfair collegium recommendations, blatant bias in favour of select counsels and conflict of interest in hearings fall in the zone of propriety. It affects the dispensation of justice, but it does not have a formal mechanism of redressal.

They are not challenged because the legal profession is largely regulated by norms of propriety, and these norms are often controlled by the bar. It prevents the bar from challenging any actions of the bench.

So, in the present system, obedience is rewarded. While independent thought is seen as a threat to the system. This is a bad example to the next generation of lawyers.

Why lawyers are accepting the Ideas of propriety?

They accept due to the significant control on a lawyer. As a lawyer’s license can be denied due to “ungentlemanly conduct” under the Bar Council rules.

A lawyer can also be denied designation as a senior advocate, despite merit and integrity.

Even the recognition can be withdrawn from those lawyers that have been designated as a senior.

How does this constitute misuse of power?

There have been instances of the use of criminal contempt against members of the bar. This may vary from something as small as a tweet to actions as big as strikes. All these are clubbed with conduct that is considered scandalizing or that ‘lowers the authority of any court‘.

This is done without scrutinising whether the authority of the court was being exercised within the confines of legality and whether the intent of the members of the bar was to scandalise or lower the authority of the court.

How does the Judiciary can course-correct it?

The Ideas of propriety do not improve the perception of the Judiciary amongst the people, because respect cannot be demanded; it must be commanded.

The Court’s authority is built by its judgements, and this cannot be lowered by critics. So the Judiciary should allow an open exchange of views and function more democratically.


A reality check for higher education dreams

Source: This post is based on the article “A reality check for higher education dreams” published in the Indian Express on 9th September 2021.

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

Relevance: To understand the challenges of flexibility in the present education system.

Synopsis: The proposed academic bank of credits, multiple entry-exit options will require infrastructure, manpower and budget that the Indian education system simply does not possess

Introduction

The article highlights the changes that are required in National Education Policy (NEP) to make our present education system more effective.

What are the observations of the National Education Policy (NEP)?

NEP observes that the education delivery system in India is too structured, rigid and expensive. The main reasons for student’s dropout are lack of relevance, inability to sustain interest and affordability.

Read more: National Education Policy
How this could be removed?

The government released the following initiatives to remove the student dropout.

Academic Bank of Credits: It adopts an interdisciplinary approach and provides a flexible curriculum framework.

Read more: PM to roll out academic credit bank

Multiple Entry and Exit: It facilitates students to choose their learning path to their respective degrees with multiple entry-multiple exit options.

What are the lacunae in the system?

Select the courses:  It would be difficult for young students to select the best courses or combination of courses which will be beneficial for their future. Even if the student opts for the best courses, the control of the degree rests solely with UGC (University Grants Commission).

Flexibility:  Students have little flexibility in choosing the subjects of their choice as 50 percent of the curriculum is carried out within the degree-granting institute.

A similar concept of a “Meta University” was attempted in 2012. This project failed to take off despite a UGC regulation, due to the reluctance and ego hassles of the heads of institutions.

Multiple Entry/Exit: Although it is a great concept but difficult to implement. If a student chooses to drop a year or two into a degree programme, the issue of his employability remains unresolved.

Limited Courses: There is a limited course available on the portals like SWAYAM, NPTEL, V-Lab, etc, for credit transfer and credit accumulation. This defeats the purpose of offering quality education to everyone.

 Read more: Students can now get 40% of university credits from e-courses

Use of technology: Technology and proper infrastructure is required to authenticate and store digital records in a distributed system.

As our present academic is already struggling in fulfilling demands like providing migration certificates from one university to another, giving transcripts etc. there is a need to upgrade the system.

Budgetary allocations: Huge budgetary allocations are required in terms of improving the teacher-student ratio from the present 1:30 to 1:5. Along with manpower, funds are required for the IT infrastructure for various activities like record maintenance, transfer of credits, credit assessment and others.

What needs to be done?

To achieve the objectives of NEP, there is a need for holistic development with the help of various stakeholders like teachers, non-faculty and others. It is time we implement the concept of Virtual University, where universities and other institutions in India become collaborators, creating their own or sourcing content from SWAYAM, EdX other similar providers.


A new Vajpayee moment for the troubled Indian telecom sector

Source: This post is based on the article “A new Vajpayee moment for the troubled Indian telecom sector” published in Livemint on 9th September 2021.

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

Relevance: Issues associated with telecom sector and way forward

Synopsis: There is a need to maintain a robust telecom sector for country-wide access to citizens and for accelerating economic growth.

Introduction

India opened up the telecom sector to private investment in 1994. But, aggressive bidding by companies to get licences led to financial stress, including defaults.

Reforms introduced in 1999 by the A.B. Vajpayee government show that the policy interventions can have a multiplier effect across the economy.

What reforms were brought by Vajpayee govt in telecom sector?

New Telecom Policy: The government allowed telecom companies that held licences under the earlier auction to exit the contracts they had signed.

The New Telecom Policy sought to transform in a time-bound manner the telecommunications sector to a greater competitive environment in both urban and rural areas providing equal opportunities and level-playing field for all players.

Steps taken in that direction were easing of entry restrictions and strengthening the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Adjusted gross revenues (AGR): Companies were allowed to shift from paying fixed licence fees to paying the government a share of their adjusted gross revenues (AGR).

Telecom companies also agreed to withdraw the multiple cases that had led the entire telecom sector into a legal mess.

What is the present scenario in telecom sector?

Present state of affairs in the telecom sector require govt’s intervention.

Interventions by SC: The Supreme Court instructed telecom companies to share core telecom revenues with the government, and also take into account promotional offers to consumers, income from the sale of assets, bad debts and dealer commissions.

SC has asked to pay excess AGR dues to the government in ten annual installments to ease their immediate burden, raising concerns about the financial stability of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

Inability to charge customers: Tariff hikes to generate extra revenues to meet AGR commitments will hurt consumer access. It means that the three-player telecom market becomes a duopoly, through either a firm’s failure or acquisition.

What steps should govt take?

Govt must issue zero-coupon telecom bonds

-No immediate interest costs to telecom companies: It would ease pressure on cash flows without tariff increases, and telecom companies will have no immediate interest costs.

-Tradable instruments: These zero-coupon telecom bonds should be tradable instruments, so that the government does not necessarily have to hold on to them till maturity.

-Accompanying voucher: The zero-coupon bonds should be accompanied by a voucher which gives the government an option to get a 10% equity stake in the issuing companies.

Set up an independent committee:

The government should also set up an independent committee of experts to calculate the excess AGR dues to be paid based on a transparent formula.


GS Paper 3

Central banks must stop pussyfooting on climate

Source: This post is based on the article “Central banks must stop pussyfooting on climate” published in Business standard on 9th Sep 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 -Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation,

Relevance: Climate change and relevant monetary policy

Synopsis: Ignoring climate risks will complicate macroeconomic management, just as overlooking financial risks eventually led to the global financial crisis.

Introduction

Economic activity, is strongly integrated with emissions that contribute to climate change. Output and Greenhouse gases (GHGs) go hand in hand, and will continue to do so.

After a drop in 2020 due to the great lockdown, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will grow this year and, again, in 2022.

According to the International Energy Agency, 2023 is projected to be the year with the “greatest levels of carbon dioxide output in human history”.

Given the tight relationship between economic activity and emissions, central banks need to explicitly internalize the aspects of climate change that affect the output gap “block”.

What is the issue with current policies of central banks towards combating climate change?

Decades after climate change became important in public discourse, climate change-induced considerations seem to be ignored in monetary policy of central banks.

If sustainability is a defining characteristic of potential output, then it has to incorporate climate considerations.

In other words, high inflation can no longer be the only symptom of macroeconomic instability if central banks are serious about the subject. Integrated assessment models have to be explicitly incorporated in central bank work that informs monetary policy.

What needs to be done?

The following five dimensions should be taken into account:

Firstly, effect of rising temperature and climate variability on short-term economic activity stemming from, disruptions due to extreme floods;

Secondly, National commitments made in Paris are akin to an additional constraint to maximising national output consistent with climate-neutral real-economy outcomes;

Thirdly, Feedback loop from economic growth to higher GHGs;

Fourthly, Implications of rising temperatures, in the absence of requisite adaptation, on long-term economic capacity as emissions thresholds are breached, with resultant consequences for labour productivity, degradation of capital stock, and, even vitiate capability of the atmosphere to repair itself; and

Fifthly, Expected changes in carbon-related tax and subsidy arrangements.

What is the way forward?

While no single country may have an appreciable impact on total global emissions, climate change is a damaging permanent shock to potential output.

Ignoring climate risks will complicate macroeconomic management. Therefore, monetary policy will have to adjust, otherwise “conduct as usual” by central banks can undermine climate goals.


Where’s The V-Shaped Recovery?

Source: This post is based on the article “Where’s The V-Shaped Recovery?” published in Times of India on 9th Sep 2021.

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

Relevance: Economic recovery

Synopsis: Govt should recognize the evidence of distress and job loss in India. V-shaped recovery is still far away.

Introduction

According to the government, India’s economy is bright and strong since headline GDP grew 20% in the recent quarter after falling 24% in the same quarter last year.

However, it is important to evaluate the true health of a nation’s economy through its peoples’ incomes and livelihoods, rather than shallow indicators like stock market indices or startup unicorns.

Why it’s said that there is no economic recovery?

Record number seeking employment under MGNREGA: Around 64 million are families employed under MGNREGA. It is more than ten times the total number of people employed by all the companies listed on India’s stock exchanges combined. We should remember that citizens utilize MGNREGA only when the situation is extremely dire and there are no other alternative sources of income. Currently, 18 million families are dependent on MGNREGA, roughly the same number in August last year. Clearly, there is no economic recovery, ‘V’ or otherwise, for these millions of families.

So, while stock markets are booming to all-time highs, a record number of Indians are seeking employment from MGNREGA for a bare minimum income.

Manufacturing, construction and services in bad shape: Manufacturing, services and construction are the real economic activities that generate good quality jobs and incomes for the vast majority of people. However, these are not in good state. Latest CSO data shows that manufacturing activity in June 2021 is at the same level as four years ago in 2017, construction activity is at the level of five years ago in 2016, and trade/transport services activity is at the level of six years ago in 2015 (at constant prices).

Lack of consumption: When people do not have sufficient incomes, it affects their consumption too. This is evidenced in the fact that private consumption in the June 2021 quarter is at the same level as in 2017.

Fixed Capital formation is lagging: When private consumption is weak, businesses refrain from undertaking new projects and investment falls. This is seen in fixed capital formation being stuck at 2017 levels.

Finally, it is argued that easy money from the United States is finding its way to other countries, pushing up asset prices and financial market valuations. Neither does this help improve livelihoods for the vast majority of people, nor will this last long. It is thus futile to showcase foreign flows or stock market indicators as a sign of the robustness of India’s economy.

What is the way forward?

Even before Covid hit, India’s textile and leather goods production, the sectors that create the greatest number of jobs, was lower than back in 2014-15. Covid has only made it acutely worse.

Promote labor intensive sectors: Government needs to support such labour-intensive sectors to increase employment.

Export growth: The lone bright spot in the economy is exports growth, which if sustained can create jobs.


Wildfire burn scars can intensify and even trigger thunderstorms, here’s how?

Source: This post is based on the article “Wildfire burn scars can intensify and even trigger thunderstorms” published in Down to Earth on 9th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Disaster management – wildfires

Relevance: Article highlights issues associated with wildfires.

Synopsis: As per a research study, wildlife burn scars due to wildfires can increase thunderstorms. It increases the risk both of flooding and of lightning in the region.

Introduction

Wildfires burn millions of acres of land every year. It leaves behind Wildfire burn scars on the land with little vegetation and a darker soil surface, which cannot absorb the water. It makes the land more susceptible to flooding and erosion. Even small rainfall is sufficient to trigger flooding and debris flow.

Furthermore, burn scars can also increase thunderstorms and the risk of lightning that could spark more fires in the surrounding region.

What are factors that contribute to thunderstorms in burn scars?

3 factors contribute to thunderstorms in the burn scars: 1) lack of vegetation, 2) reduced soil moisture, 3) lower surface albedo (the amount of light or radiation the surface is able to reflect back).

Note: charcoal has an albedo of about 0.04 and fresh snow is nearly the maximum of 1.

How the factors result in increasing thunderstorms?

When soil is burned, it becomes darker. The darker surface absorbs more energy from the sun. It results in higher temperature in burn scars compared to surrounding regions.

Temperature difference result in low air pressure in the burn scars and high pressure in the surrounding regions, causing convection (rising hot air and humid air from surrounding areas rush to fill the space). It further results in formation of cumulonimbus clouds and even thunderstorms.

Example: In Australia, in 2003, a flash flood occurred. Scientist found that albedo in the burn area had fallen from 0.2 to 0.08. Scientists further found that if the land hadn’t been burned, just over a tenth of an inch of rain would have fallen.

Studies also found that the potential of burn scars to trigger rain decreases with the regrowth of vegetation.


How India’s food systems must respond to the climate crisis

Source: This post is based on the article “How India’s food systems must respond to the climate crisis”, published in Indian Express on 9th September 2021.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Crops and Cropping Patterns, sustainable agriculture

Relevance: Article highlights the importance of food system.

Synopsis: India’s food system requires reforms, to make more sustainable and inclusive.

Introduction

UN Secretary-General will soon convene the Food Systems Summit with an aim to transform the global food systems. The objective will be to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

There are five action tracks to achieve the objectives: –

  1. Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all
  2. Shift to sustainable consumption patterns
  3. Boost nature-positive production
  4. Advance equitable livelihoods
  5. Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress

What are food systems?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), “food systems encompass the entire range of actors involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products that originate from agriculture, forestry or fisheries, and parts of the broader economic, societal and natural environments in which they are embedded”.

What are the issues in food system in India?

After green revolution, India became a country self-sufficient in food, from the food deficit country. However, it resulted in the problems like water-logging, soil erosion, groundwater depletion and the unsustainability of agriculture.

India’s present policies have not changed much, focused primarily on 3 crops (rice, wheat and sugarcane). These crops are using 75 to 80 per cent of irrigated water.

Diversification of cropping patterns towards millets, pulses, oilseeds, horticulture is required for sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture.

At present India’s food system need improvements to make it inclusive and sustainable for higher farm incomes and nutrition security.

What are the suggestions to make food system inclusive?

Small Farmers: Small farmers require support like technological and institutional innovations. Farmer producer organizations (FPOs) can help small farmers to get better prices for inputs and outputs. Further technological innovation like ITC’s E-Choupal is an example of technology benefiting small farmers.

Women: Women’s cooperatives and groups like Kudumbashree in Kerala would be helpful. One of the successful examples of a value chain that helped small holders, women and consumers is Amul (Anand Milk Union Ltd) created by Verghese Kurien. Such innovations are needed in other activities of food systems.

Social protection: Inclusive food systems need strong social protection programs. India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, public distribution system (PDS), nutrition programs like ICDS, mid-day meal programs should be further strengthened. Non-staples like pulses and oils, and bio fortified cereals for better nutrition needs to be included in PDS.

What are the suggestions to make food system sustainable?

Climate resilient cropping: As present, food sector emits around 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. This questions the sustainability of the food system at a time, when world is trying to contain the impact of climate change.

Climate-resilient cropping patterns have to be promoted. Instead of giving input subsidies, cash transfers can be given for farmers for sustainable agriculture.

Non-agriculture solutions: Income from agriculture is not sufficient for smallholders and informal workers. Thus, Strengthening rural MSMEs and food processing can reduce pressure on agriculture.


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

New report suggests how land-use for renewable energy in India can be environmentally sustainable

Source: This post is based on the article “New report suggests how land-use for renewable energy in India can be environmentally sustainable” published in Down to Earth on 8th September 2021.

What is the news?

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has recently released a report titled “Renewable Energy and Land Use in India by Mid-Century“.

According to the report, India will use significant stretches of land by 2050 to install renewable energy generation capacities, and the land-use increase may have an impact on the environment.

What are the key findings of the report?

Pressure on land: In India, electricity generation has to compete with alternative uses for land such as agriculture, urbanization, human habitation, and nature conservation, unlike Europe or the United States of America.

The study shows that the land use for renewable energy may put a strain on a variety of ecosystems.

Land use for renewable energy: Around 50,000-75,000 square kilometres of land will be used in 2050 for solar energy generation and for an additional 15,000-20,000 sq km for wind energy projects.

Net carbon release: The resulting land cover changes, including indirect effects, will likely cause a net release of carbon up to 50 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour (gCO2 / kwh).

But the amount of carbon release will depend on the region, the scale of expansion, solar technology efficiency, and land management practices at solar parks.

Comparison to coal-based plants: Unlike coal-based power, renewable energy generation does not fundamentally change the character of the land.

What are the suggestions provided by the report?

Reduce land use: Minimising total land-use requirements for renewable energy by promoting offshore wind, rooftop solar, and solar on water bodies.

Identification and assessment of land for renewable generation by limiting undue regional concentration and developing environmental and social standards for rating potential sites.

Attention on Indian Agri-Voltaics sector: India needs to provide benefits to farmers and incentivising agrivoltaics uptake where crops, soils, and conditions are suitable and yields can be maintained or improved.

Note: Agri-Voltaics is a way of co-developing the same area of land for both solar photovoltaic power and for agriculture.

Protect Open Natural Ecosystems (ONEs): In India, ONEs has been classified as wastelands. They cover around 300,000 sq km (10 percent) of India’s land surface. The largest stretches are found in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

These have the “highest densities and diversity of large mammalian fauna” and also support the livelihoods of local populations. So, the government should exclude these habitats when considering the location of renewable energy projects.


Government approves Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Textiles

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

  • “Government approves Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Textiles” published in PIB on 8th September 2021.
  • “Cabinet approves ₹10,683 crore incentive scheme for textile sector” published in The Hindu on 9th September 2021.

What is the News?

The government of India has approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Textiles.

Must Read: About Production-Linked Incentive(PLI) Schemes

About the PLI Scheme for textiles

Objective: 

  1. To ​​attract investments in the production of in-demand textile products like man-made fibre (MMF) fabric, garments and technical textiles.
  2. To make Indian textiles more competitive in international markets.

Duration of the Scheme: Five Years

Features of the PLI Scheme for textiles

Incentives: Under the scheme, two types of investment are possible with a different set of incentive structures:

  1. First Type: Any person, (which includes firm/company) willing to invest a minimum of ₹300 Crore in Plant, Machinery, Equipment and Civil Works (excluding land and administrative building cost) to produce products of Notified lines (MMF Fabrics, Garment) and products of Technical Textiles, shall be eligible to apply for participation.
  2. Second Type: In this, any person, (which includes firm/company) willing to invest a minimum of ₹100 Crore shall be eligible to apply for participation.

Priority Areas: Under the scheme, priority will be given for investment in Aspirational Districts, Tier 3, Tier 4 towns and rural areas. Hence, industries will be incentivized to move to backward areas.

Significance of the PLI Scheme for textiles

The scheme will lead to a fresh investment of more than Rs.19,000 crore and will create additional employment opportunities for more than 7.5 lakh jobs in this sector.

The scheme will promote the production of high-value MMF fabrics, Garments and Technical Textiles in the country.

The scheme will positively impact especially States like Gujarat, UP, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, AP, Telangana and Odisha

Moreover, the textiles industry predominantly employs women, therefore, the scheme will empower women and increase their participation in the formal economy.


Union Minister presents the 8th INSPIRE – MANAK Awards during a virtual ceremony

Source: This post is based on the article Union Minister presents the 8th INSPIRE – MANAK Awards during a virtual ceremony published in PIB on 8th September 2021.

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Science & Technology has presented the 8th INSPIRE – MANAK Awards during a virtual ceremony.

About INSPIRE-MANAK Awards

The INSPIRE-MANAK Awards is one of the components of the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Scheme.

Aim: To motivate students in the age group of 10-15 years and studying in classes 6 to 10 to become future innovators and critical thinkers.

Nodal Agencies: The award is being executed by the Department of Science & Technology(DST) with the National Innovation Foundation – India (NIF), an autonomous body of DST.

Coverage: Under this, students will be invited from all government or private schools throughout the country, irrespective of their educational boards (national and state) to send original and creative technological ideas/innovations.

Prize: The winning students will be awarded Rs.10,000 which will be disbursed directly into bank accounts under the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme.

About INSPIRE Scheme

INSPIRE is an innovative programme sponsored and managed by the Department of Science & Technology for the attraction of talent to Science. 

 

Objective: To communicate to the youth of the country about the excitement of the creative pursuit of science, attract talent to the study of science at an early age. Thus, build the required critical human resource pool for strengthening and expanding the Science & Technology system and R & D base.

Significance: A striking feature of the programme is that it does not believe in conducting competitive exams for the identification of talent at any level. It believes in and relies on the efficacy of the existing educational structure for the identification of talent.

Programs: The scheme covers students in the age group of 10-32 years and has three programs and five components. They are a) Scheme for Early Attraction of Talents for Science (SEATS), b) Scholarship for Higher Education (SHE) and c) Assured Opportunity for Research Careers(AORC).


Detecting Fragile X Syndrome

Source: This post is based on the article “Detecting Fragile X Syndrome” published in The Hindu on 8th September 2021.

What is the News?

In 2017, a man affected by autism underwent his first DNA blood test at the age of 40. He tested positive for Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). This shows the lack of awareness and appropriate training in diagnosing FXS.

About Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X syndrome(FXS) is a genetic disorder. It is also known as Martin-Bell syndrome or Marker X syndrome.

The syndrome is the leading inherited cause of autism in 4% of the population worldwide. Boys often have a more serious form of it than girls.

Caused by: The syndrome is caused by changes in a gene called FMR1, which makes an important protein (FMRP). This protein is required for brain development. Children with Fragile X syndrome make too little or none of it.

Symptoms: The symptoms are learning difficulty, speech delay, aggressive behaviour, hyperactivity, attention deficit, problems in motor skills, etc.

Passed on from A mother who is a carrier of FXS has a 50% chance of passing the mutated gene to her children, who will either be carriers or have FXS. Men who are carriers do not pass the pre-mutation to their sons, but only daughters, who become carriers

Estimated cases of Fragile X Syndrome in India: It is estimated there are 4 lakh individuals who have been identified with mutated FMRI in India and 40 lakh undiagnosed carriers of the gene.

Diagnosis: The simplest tool for timely detection of Fragile X Syndrome is a DNA test.

Treatment: The disorder cannot be cured, but early therapy can improve the individual’s quality of life. 


Jharkhand clears Bill for 75% quota for locals in private jobs

Source: This post is based on the articleJharkhand clears Bill for 75% quota for locals in private jobspublished in The Hindu on 8th September 2021.

What is the News?

The Jharkhand Assembly has passed the Jharkhand State Employment of Local Candidates in the Private Sector Bill, 2021. 

Must read: Job reservation in private sector for locals 

Key Provisions of the bill

Reservation for Local Candidates: The Bill provides for 75% reservation to local residents in private sector jobs with monthly salaries up to Rs 40,000.

Definition of Private Sector: The bill treats shops, establishments, mines, enterprises, industries, companies, societies, trusts, Limited Liability Partnership firms and any person employing 10 or more people in the private sector as an entity.

Designated Portal: The Bill says that employers need to register themselves on a designated portal about employees who are receiving a gross monthly salary or wages not more than Rs 40,000 within three months after the Bill is enacted.

Definition of Local Candidate: The Bill defines a local candidate as a person who belongs to Jharkhand and is registered on the designated portal.

Significance of the bill:

Once enacted,  Jharkhand will become the third state — after Andhra Pradesh and Haryana — having a law providing for reservation in private sector jobs for local residents.


Panel set up to draft Bill on drugs, cosmetics and medical devices

Source: This post is based on the articlePanel set up to draft Bill on drugs, cosmetics and medical devicespublished in The Hindu on 8th September 2021.

What is the News?

The Union government has constituted a committee for framing legislation regarding new drugs, cosmetics and medical devices. 

About the Committee

Headed by: The committee is headed by Drugs Controller General of India V.G. Somani. 

Mandate: To undertake pre-legislative consultations and examine the present Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940, examine previously framed Drugs and Cosmetics Bills and submit a draft document for new Drugs, Cosmetics and Medical Devices Bill.

What is the need for the new law?

Currently, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940 regulates the import, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs and cosmetics. Through a recent amendment, the law incorporated regulation of medical devices as well. 

However, the provisions of this act are limited to govern the rapidly expanding segment which has sophisticated and innovative products entering the market.

Hence, the proposed new law will replace the existing Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940. It will comprehensively address areas like medical devices, hospital equipment, e-pharmacy, emergency use authorisation as well as clinical trials etc.

Read more: INDIAN PHARMACEUTICAL SECTOR CHALLENGES AND REFORMS

About the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940

It is the central legislation that regulates India’s drug and cosmetic import, manufacture, distribution and sale. The Act clearly defines spurious drugs, adulterated drugs and misbranded drugs.
This also established the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO). The Act also establishes regulatory control over the manufacture and sale of drugs.
The State Health department has to regulate the manufacturing, sales and distribution of drugs.  Drug Inspectors will control the implementation at ground level.


Merchants, companies can’t store card data from Jan 1: RBI

Source: This post is based on the article Merchants, companies can’t store card data from Jan 1: RBI published in Indian Express on 8th September 2021.

What is the News?

Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has directed that no entity or merchant, other than card issuers and card networks, should store card details — or card-on-file (CoF) — from January 1, 2022. Simultaneously, it has also extended the tokenisation of CoF by card issuers.

Reasons for RBI’s Ban on Storing card data

The merchants, payments aggregators, and even payment gateway players who get to store the card data are not registered with the RBI

Hence, the objective of the RBI’s decision is to create a better security framework for digital transactions, which have accelerated post the pandemic.

What is the solution then?

RBI has permitted authorised card networks to offer card tokenization services to any token requestor. This will make the card transactions more safe, secure and convenient for the users. 

Read more: RBI permits card-tokenization services in a bid to make card transactions more safe

RBI’s Guidelines on Tokenization

The facility of tokenisation will be offered by the token service providers(TSPs) only for the cards issued by or affiliated with them.

Tokenization of card data shall be done with explicit customer consent, requiring additional factor authentication by the card issuer.

What is a Card on File(CoF) Transaction?

Card on File(CoF) Transaction is a transaction where a cardholder has authorised a merchant to store the cardholder’s Mastercard or Visa payment details.


The great immunity debate of vaccines vs infection antibodies

Source: This post is based on the article “The great immunity debate of vaccines vs infection antibodies” published in the Live Mint on 8th September 2021.

What is the news?

Recent studies showed that immunity induced by Pfizer shot waned quickly. This led to comparisons between immunity induced by the vaccine shot and the immunity induced by COVID infection.

The comparison between vaccine immunity and infection-induced immunity

Doctors say that the immunity induced by the vaccine lasts longer. Doctors also say that this condition is not applicable to all diseases.

The US Centres for Disease Control told people in early August that vaccine-induced immunity is better than immunity acquired from past infection.

But, the data from Israel show that the people who had two Pfizer shots were about 27 times more likely to get symptomatic covid, and eight times more likely to be hospitalized than people who’d been infected(Natural immunity).

Read more: Effectiveness of vaccines

The new data also show that the immunity induced by some vaccines like Pfizer weakened rapidly. While people who had Covid-19 infection showed higher levels of antibodies.

This also explains why the recurrent waves in developed countries have been less catastrophic. As the infected persons have generated strong immunity, even against the Delta variant.

Does it mean vaccine is not needed?

However, this cannot be taken as an argument for skipping the vaccine doses. It has been clinically established that vaccines also build strong antibodies, reduce the risk of hospitalization and save lives.

What should be the approach going forward?

We can take the approach adopted by France, Italy and other countries, where we give one shot to people who have been infected and continue with two shots for others. As Israeli data show that a single shot can boost post-infection immunity to even higher levels.


 

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