9 PM Daily Brief – December 9, 2020

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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GS 1

Sanitation in India- Cultural stigma

GS 2

Lessons for the health sector

GS 3

Mismatch between the supply and demand

The state of farmers

AI moment in India

The dangers of misplaced optimism

9 PM for Preliminary examination


Sanitation in India- Cultural stigma

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 1 – Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India, Poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

Context- The problem with sanitation in India is not lack of infrastructure but the social and cultural stigma attached to it.

What is the state of sanitation in India?

  1. Lack of proper toilets– the lack of proper restrooms makes long distance journeys an ordeal for women.
  • However, NHAI maintains one restroom every 40-50 Km, but their hygiene standards are not monitored.
  1. A high proportion of the population does not have access to “improved sanitation”.
  • Improved sanitation is defined as facilities that “ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact”.
  1. Work related discrimination-Sanitation workers are compelled to travel to their workplaces in garbage trucks, standing next to the very garbage they clean and collect.
  • Neither users nor the sanitation workers feel equal.
  1. In spite of a well-funded programme such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in operation, little attention is devoted to this aspect of sanitation.

What are the issues related to scavenging in India?

  1. Caste system– Caste hierarchy still exits and it reinforces the caste’s relation with occupation.
  • Only country that not only differentiates spaces as pure and impure but also its people.
  • The social status of this section has been permanently fixed.
  • Government discussions and policies hardly address this stigma.
  1. Lack of physical resources– Adequate machinery to clean septic tanks, protective gears and flush toilets are not available.

What are the steps taken by the government to address this problem?

  1. Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act
  2. Prohibition:The act prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines.
  3. Rehabilitation:It seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment.
  • The act ensures the rehabilitation of manual scavengers to be identified through a mandatory survey.
  • Mechanized cleaning of septic tanks is the prescribed norm.
  • The act also directed the government to pay a compensation of 10 lakh rupees to the family members of those killed in acts of manual scavenging since 1993.

Way forward-

  • Adopting technology to end manual scavenging– Government’s move to use machines is a first step towards according dignity and respect to sewer workers.  However, technology’s emancipatory powers will be realized at their fullest only when the states stop living in denial about manual scavenging.
  • Direct allocation of funds– Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry said that it would directly transfer funds to ‘sanitation workers’ to buy cleaning machines, instead of contractors or municipal corporations.

Lessons for the health sector

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- Health

Context: It has been only nine months since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, but the world has changed in previously unimaginable ways.

Discuss the challenges put forth by the pandemic.

  • Health systems: The health systems in many of the wealthy countries struggled; some were overwhelmed due to inadequate beds, supplies and healthcare workers who struggled with infection, fatigue and stress, recognising their inability to care for everyone who needed it.
  • Damage by virus: Outside the healthcare system, the information epidemic (termed an “infodemic”) in society led to fear, stigma and discrimination that added to the damage caused by the virus.
  • Learning: The closure of schools affected the learning of children, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds struggling to cope and frequently giving up.
  • Accessibility: Access to non-COVID-19 essential health services was affected, the impact of which will be fully understood in the time ahead.
  • Business activities: Reduction in business activities caused massive losses of both formal and informal employment and a fall in economic growth.

How did the countries tried to cope up with the challenges?

  • Health services: COVID-19 related health services including hospital beds, intensive care unit (ICU) and ventilator beds were increased even as research on drugs and vaccines kicked off at an exceptional rate.
  • Vaccines: Vaccines have moved even faster than drugs with over 300 vaccine candidates being developed, nearly 40 of them undergoing clinical trials.
  • The accredited social health activists: ASHA who visited hundreds of households repeatedly during the pandemic to ensure that every possible case is identified as early as possible.

What did the other countries which handled the pandemic successfully do?

  • The countries which handled the pandemic best: Thailand and Vietnam have well-functioning health systems designed to deliver primary healthcare services.
    • These countries also have strong preventive and promotive health services as well as a dedicated public health workforce.
  • The role of community health workers: In recognising, referring and motivating individuals for therapy was remarkable.
    • Community trust and participation is essential for implementation of non-pharmacological interventions.
    • Dharavi in Mumbai is an example of the difference community participation can make.
  • The response to the pandemic was multi-sectoral: Health staff, policy makers and technical experts in multiple domains worked together to identify and implement solutions.
  • Quality data: The need for timely and quality data in a health information system was recognised again during the pandemic.

Way forward

  • Investments in scientific research:  The solutions that have brought us hope have come from long-term private or public investments in scientific research and developments. It is self-evident that we need to emphasise what is feasible when resources are available.
  • National health policy: All we need is commitment and that is outlined in the recent National Health Policy 2017 and reiterated in the report of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, which for the first time has a dedicated chapter on health.
  • This is an opportunity and should use the challenge posed by the pandemic to accelerate long pending initiatives for health system reforms, accelerating towards universal health coverage, the central goal of the National Health Policy 2017.

Boosting Farmers Income

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 3 – Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, – different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

Context- Policies designed for an India on the edge of starvation don’t fit the India of today.

What is the history of supply and demand of wheat crop in India?

The genesis of the current state of affairs stems from policies initiated over half a century ago-

  1. Starvation period– It dates from the 1960s, when India that did not grow enough to feed itself and had to rely upon imports under PL-480 as aid from the US.
  2. New PDS and government policy-Then, Indian policymakers shifted to setting a minimum support price.
  • Wheat-paddy crop rotation was encouraged in Punjab and Haryana to make India self-sufficient in food grain production.
  • The system guarantees farmers a set price for their output, while their inputs – water, power, fertilizer, seeds – are free or subsidized.
  • Wheat is then stored in the warehouses of the state-controlled Food Corporation of India and distributed at a subsidized price to the population.
  1. Policy result was a resounding success for the production and procurement of rice and wheat,  which was the focus of the PDS and government policy
  • However, India produces too much grain, which is now rotting in government granaries.
  1. In today’s time, the subsidies for rice and wheat caused too few farmers to plant vegetables, which are subject to major price fluctuations.

How crop rotations can be beneficial for farmers and the challenges associated with that?

Rice wheat cycle- In Punjab and Haryana region

  • Rice-wheat rotation by far the most value creating crop cycle.
  • Better varieties of rice – superior basmati rice in the kharif season that have lower yield, lower water and nutrient requirement but are exportable and highly priced, could possibly be better crop options in the region.
  • In the Rabi season wherein the only superior alternatives to wheat in the rice-wheat rotation are vegetables and higher qualities of wheat.
  • However, the chances of success in wheat are lower.

What are the issues in current procurement policy?

  1. High incurred cost by the FCI– Cost of procurement and distribution of food grain has increased manifold.
  2. The quality of grains has been ignored.
  3. There was no initiative for identifying high-quality wheat strains for increasing their production for local and foreign markets.

What is the way forward?

  1. Shift production from normal rice to basmati and other exportable varieties and to give a boost to wheat for substituting rice via sooji, rava and noodles.
  2. A boost for infrastructure to increase the production of vegetables in the wheat belt and its transport for the healthy growth of agriculture.
  3. The government needs to reduce the institutional costs and move towards a more remunerative cropping pattern.
  4. And must make transparent efforts to push exports consistently.

The state of farmers

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-3- Agriculture

Context: While the farmers demand a repeal of the three new farm laws, the government insists the reforms are “farmer-friendly”.

What is the aim and impact of the new farm laws?

  • Aim of farm laws: The farm laws seek to introduce the neoliberal notion of “choice” into the production and sale of agricultural produce through deregulation. It tries to give a push to private traders and agricultural corporations.
  • Impact on small farmers: Small and marginal farmers, a section that constitutes 85 per cent of farm landholdings are likely to be worst hit, with the lowest bargaining power and highest level of precarity.

What are the problems faced by farmers?

  • The scale of land acquisition: It has increased exponentially since the nineties, with the estimate for all displaced people up from approximately 25-30 million by 1990 to 60 million by 2004.
  • Policy framework: A policy framework shaped by the needs of capital which needs land but not the people, creates a system that renders survival cultivators unnecessary or surplus to development initiatives of the state.
  • Survival cultivation: Where many small and marginal farmers engage in survival cultivation, sale of agricultural produce is limited to the need for cash or an assured surplus.
    • In 2018-19, the consumption of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertiliser in Maharashtra, UP, Assam and Jharkhand was 125.95 kg/hectare (ha), 170.09 kg/ha, 73.69 kg/ha and 59.79 kg/ha respectively (Agricultural Statistics at a Glance, 2019).
  • The state-wise scale of indebtedness of agricultural households: The All-India Report on Agriculture Census 2010-11 shows the level of indebtedness toebtedness to be 57.3 per cent in Maharashtra , 43.8 per cent in UP , 17.5 per cent in Assam and 28.9 per cent in Jharkhand.
    • These figures are representative of the increased cash dependence of agriculture in commercially significant states as Maharashtra and UP, and a significantly lower level of debt in states like Jharkhand and Assam.
  • Land arrangements: Several informal land arrangements are being stripped away constantly, leaving subsistence peasants more dependent on cash for meeting everyday requirements of life and propelling them deeper into an unequal market that constantly reproduces their position at the margins.

Mention a few state policies that seeks to establish powers of state over land?

  • The new Land Acquisition Law 2013: It has introduced significant changes from the colonial 1894 Law, it serves to firmly keep in place the principle of eminent domain by which the state retains excessive powers over land and, thereby, facilitates the process of land acquisition in the long run.
  • New strategy: The constant expansion of forest lands is itself the latest strategy to bypass mandated procedures for land acquisition under the new Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.
  • The latest Environmental Impact Assessment Draft Notification 2020: It seeks to facilitate ease of doing business by clearing “obstacles” for businesses such that permissions are simpler to get and grievances harder to file.

Way forward

  • For a healthy farm sector, the state must strengthen and protect the position of the cultivator.

AI moment in India

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology.

Context: The importance of AI economy to India

What is the significance of AI economy to India?

  • Data and AI services are expected to help boost India’s economic growth in a big way. For example, according to NASSCOM, data and AI will contribute $450 billion-$500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, which is around 10% of the government’s aspiration of a $5 trillion economy.
  • With more opportunities created, there will be a net positive effect on employment generation. For example, it is estimated to create over 20 million technical roles.
  • AI can create niche solutions to specific problems that banks and other service providers are deploying, such as speeding up loan application processing or improving customer service.
  • it can provide solutions for better governance and social impact. For example, during the lockdown, the Telangana police used AI-enabled automated number plate recognition software to catch violations.

What are the prospects for India?

  • India has a thriving AI start-up ecosystem with cutting-edge solutions being developed in areas such as cancer screening, smart farming and conversational AI for the use of enterprises.
  • Our skilled human resource in AI/ML is fast growing, with over 5,00,000 people working on these technologies at present.

What are the steps taken to Promote use of AI in India?

  • NITI Aayog’s national strategy for AI envisages ‘AI for all’ for inclusive growth, and identifies healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and smart mobility and transportation as focus areas for AI-led solutions for social impact.
  • The Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments, among others, have announced policies and strategies for AI adoption.
  • Technology companies have established AI centres of excellence to create solutions for global clients.

What needs to be done?

  • Skill Development: In 2019, we nearly doubled our AI workforce to 72,000 from 40,000, however the demand continues to outpace the supply. That means our efforts to develop talent must pick up speed.
  • Data usage policy: We need a robust legal framework that governs data and serves as the base for the ethical use of AI.
  • Speed up Digitalization process: though the use of digital technologies has increased, the level of digitisation continues to be low. This poses a big challenge for organisations in finding the right amount of training data to run AI/ML algorithms, which in turn affects the accuracy of the results.
  • Clean Data sets: Organisations need to invest in data management frameworks that will clean their data before they are analysed, thus vastly improving the outcomes of AI models.

The future for AI looks promising but to convert the potential into reality, India will need better strategies around talent development, stronger policies for data usage and governance, and more investments in creating a technology infrastructure that can truly leverage AI.

The dangers of misplaced optimism

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Context: The government’s economic recovery hype is off track and this is not a time for fiscal conservatism.

What is current economic scenario?

  • India’s economy contracted by 7.5% in the second quarter of financial year 2020-21 was, as news, both good and bad.
  • It is far lower than the 23.9% contraction registered in the first quarter of this financial year.
  • 5% second quarter contraction is high with most similarly placed countries.
  • Relaxation of lockdown restrictions during that quarter has not ensured automatic recovery.

What is government stance?

  • Based on the evidence, the Finance Ministry’s Monthly Economic Report, for November, speaks of a V-shaped recovery reflective of “the resilience and robustness of the Indian economy”.

Why slowdown in contraction is not sign of recovery?

  • Lockdown has affected employment, income and demand:
    • Now since lockdown are relaxed, production must rise, not just to meet demands backed by the available purchasing power but also to restore inventories to normal levels across the distribution chain.
    • Demand must return to and rise above pre-crisis levels for production to recover and grow.
  • Burden on economy: The lockdown increased indebtedness and the bankruptcies. Lockdown induced affects are to be felt well after restrictions are relaxed.
  • Decline in consumption: the decline in private final consumption expenditure at constant prices, which accounts for 56% of GDP, has come down but still remains high.
  • Lack of consumer confidence: net incomes and consumer confidence are not at levels that can even restore last year’s levels.
  • Less recovery in investment: the decline in fixed capital formation has fallen from a high minus 47% in the first quarter to minus 7% in the second, however, investment is still falling year-on-year.
  • Half-hearted stimulus: Government Final Consumption Expenditure, which rose by 10% in the first half of 2019-20, relative to the corresponding period of the previous year, declined by 4% in the first half of 2020-21.

What government should do?

  • Shun fiscal conservatism: Lockdowns limit production and result in a rundown of inventories.
  • Government’s responsibility: the tasks of providing safety nets, reviving employment and spurring demand become crucial. The market cannot deliver on those fronts that is why state action facilitated by substantially enhanced expenditure is crucial.
  • Increase borrowing: since government revenues shrink during a recession expenditure need to be funded by borrowing.
  • GDP movements: need to understand the dynamic of the post-COVID-19 economy.
  • Increase allocations for welfare expenditures: for example, subsidised food to minimal guaranteed employment.

What are the impacts on States?

  • Squeezing expenditure at the State level: As per Office of the Controller General of Accounts, the total expenditure of the central government stood at 55% of what was provided for in the Budget for 2020-21, which was woefully inadequate even for normal times.
  • Shortfall in spending: The shortfall in spending was sharper in the case of capital expenditure, with 48% of that budgeted being spent over April to October. The corresponding figure for 2019-20 was 60%.
  • Fall in GST revenues: the government has decided not to compensate for the shortfall, as promised under the GST regime.

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Click on “Factly articles for December 9, 2020


Other Important News:

Source: Climate Change Performance Index(CCPI)

News: Climate Change Performance Index(CCPI) 2021 has been released.


  • Released by: The index has been developed by not-for-profit organisations Germanwatch and NewClimate Institute (Germany) together with the Climate Action Network(CAN International).
  • Objective: It is an important tool to enhance transparency in international climate politics and enables comparison of climate protection efforts and progress made by individual countries.
  • Parameters: The index is prepared by assessing performances of 57 countries and European Union in four categories – GHG emissions (40%), renewable energy (20%), energy use (20%) and climate policy (20%).

Key Takeaways:

Key Takeaways

  • Top ranking: Sweden (4th place) remains an international frontrunner in climate protection for the fourth year in a row.
  • India: India has dropped by one position from ninth in 2019 to 10th in 2020. However, India’s journey towards climate protection has been consistent with it improving its ranking from 31st in 2014.
  • China and US:The biggest current emitter of greenhouse gases(GHG) China figures at 33rd rank while the largest historical polluter USA appears at the bottom (61st) on the list.
  • G20: Only two G20 countries – the UK and India – are among the high rankers while six others – the USA, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Russia (52nd) – are at the bottom of the index.
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