9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 17th, 2022

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 
    6. Down To Earth
    7. PIB
  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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Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Friend in need: On India-Sri Lanka ties

Source: This post is based on the article “Friend in need: On India-Sri Lanka ties” published in The Hindu on 17th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Relevance: Understanding the importance of healthy India- Sri Lanka relations.

News: In the visit to Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister assured to help Sri Lanka to overcome economic and other challenges that occurred because of the pandemic.

What is the economic condition of Sri Lanka?

Sri Lankan economy is in big crisis with a credit crunch, a slump in GDP, foreign reserves that reduced from $7.5 billion in 2019 to $1.6 billion in 2021 and pending debt repayments of more than $7 billion.

Given these conditions, the Sri Lankan president has to make a tough decision in the coming weeks, whether to service debts to bonds with an instalment of $500 million or leave it to default for the first time ever.

Read here: Sri Lanka’s economic crisis: Challenges for India – Explained, pointwise
What are the issues in India-Sri Lanka relations?

1) Fisherman issue 2) Pending political solution for war-torn Tamil areas. 3) Concerns over Sri Lanka strategic ties with China.

Also read: China-Sri Lanka ties: Chinese Foreign Minister’s Sri Lanka visit highlighted Beijing’s relentless drive in Indian Ocean region, and India’s challenge
What steps were initiated by the Indian government to help Sri Lanka?

-India decided on a “four-pronged” initiative” which includes Lines of Credit towards the import of fuel, food and medicines, currency swap and debt deferrals from India to Sri Lanka.

– MOU has been signed on the Trincomalee project after a decade of delays.

– India has extended $400 million under the “SAARC currency swap” arrangement.

– India agreed to a partial deferral of a $500 million settlement from Sri Lanka by two months.

–  The $1.5 bn LoC for essential imports is in process.

ForumIAS is now in Hyderabad. Click here to know more

Early Harvest agreements: Explained: Why India is trying to seal a free trade agreement with UK

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Why India is trying to seal a free trade agreement with UK” published in Indian Express on 17th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Relevance:  Understanding the FTA.

News: India and UK have formally launched Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, with the aim of concluding an early harvest trade agreement over the next few months.

Read here: India’s FTA ambitions in perspective
What will be the benefit of FTA with the UK?

According to India’s commerce minister, this interim agreement aims to achieve up to 65% of coverage for goods and up to 40% coverage for services. Till the agreement has been finalized, it is expected that the coverage for goods goes up to 90 plus percentage.

Read here: Things to watch for as India, UK launch FTA talks

India is also negotiating a similar early harvest agreement with Australia.

What are Early Harvest agreements?

Early harvest agreements initiate bilateral trade by focusing on a restricted list of goods and services. They act as a precursor for a comprehensive FTA.

What are the challenges associated with the Early Harvest agreements?

-They can result in delaying a comprehensive FTA. For instance, with Thailand, India has signed a restricted trade agreement in 2004 but has been unable to convert this into an FTA. Similar case with Sri Lanka, where India was not able to conclude an agreement on services and investments.

-Early harvest agreements can be challenged in WTO, as only comprehensive FTA’s are exempt from WTO rules. Article XXIV.8(b) of GATT exempts only those deals which cover substantially all the trade between two countries.

-Expert notes that early harvest deals reduce the incentive from one side towards a full FTA.

-But in the case of India, early harvest deals also serve the function of keeping trading partners interested, as India had become known for long-drawn negotiations for FTA’s.

Also read: India’s ‘early harvest’ trade deals could run into trouble
What are the other trade pacts that are under negotiation?

India currently has 10 FTAs and six PTAs (preferential trade agreements). It is negotiating 16 new and expanding seven existing agreements, including with trading partners such as Canada, the EU, the US, alongside Australia and the UK.

Read here: List of India’s FTAs

A majority” of FTAs under negotiations are “comprehensive” and cover goods, services, investment, IPR, Non-Tariff Measures, regulatory procedures and trade facilitation etc. India is also simultaneously carrying out a review of the existing FTAs with South Korea, Japan and ASEAN on the ground of India’s rising trade deficit with these trading partners.

Challenge arbitration awards carefully

Source- This post is based on the article “Challenge arbitration awards carefully” published in Live Mint on 17th Jan 2022 

Syllabus- GS2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors. 

Relevance- Alternative dispute resolution, Project delays, Multiplier effect. 

News: Recent guidelines by the central government have asked its arms, including state-run firms to avoid appeal against every arbitration award, especially in the cases that have a low probability of success. 

These guidelines are released to avoid project delays. 

What are the implications of these project delays? 

Project delays and cost overruns cause a lot of harm to the exchequer. 

Government has to at the end pay a huge amount in the form of compensation and interest costs. 

This also negatively affects the image of government. 

What have been recent other government initiatives to avoid project delays? 

The latest guidelines have removed several hurdles in project management from conceptualization of a project to land acquisition and award of a contract. 

Budget 2021-22 enhanced capital expenditure by 34.5% to ₹5.54 trillion.  

The ₹111 trillion National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) is also expected to boost growth. 

What is the way forward? 

As Public expenditure is key to accelerating growth and creating jobs(multiplier effect), it is important that projects get completed on time. 

Both the parties in the dispute should be encouraged to resolve the issue through disputes through discussion and mediation instead of resorting to legal recourse. 

GS Paper 3

Taxing Cryptocurrency transactions

Source: This post is based on the article “Taxing Cryptocurrency transactions” published in The Hindu on 17th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Economy

Relevance: Challenges in taxation of Cryptocurrency

News: As many as 10 crore Indians may already have investments exceeding a total of $10 million in Cryptocurrencies.

This not only creates an avenue for generation of tax revenue, but also puts forth a huge challenge for the tax authorities who have to track and tax transactions involving cryptocurrencies.

What is the current legal framework for taxing Crypto transactions?

The Income Tax Act, 1961 does not specifically mention cryptocurrencies. Still, it has the following categories under which Crypto transactions can be taxed:

– Capital asset: Trading in cryptocurrency may be classified as transfer of a ‘capital asset’, taxable under the head ‘capital gains’.

– Business income: However, if such cryptocurrencies are held as stock-in-trade and the taxpayer is trading in them frequently, the same will attract tax under the head ‘business income’.

– Other sources of income: Even if one argues that crypto transactions do not fall under the above heads, Section 56 of the IT Act shall come into play, making them taxable under the head ‘Other sources of income’.

But, this is not sufficient for an effective Cryptocurrency taxation regime. Many challenges need to be overcome.

What are the challenges that need to be tackled with?

1) Absence of explicit tax provisions has led to uncertainty and varied interpretations related to mode of computation, applicable tax head and tax rates, loss and carry forward, etc.

For instance, the head of income under which trading of self generated cryptocurrency (currencies which are created by mining, acquired by air drop, etc.) is to be taxed is unclear.

2) Identifying tax jurisdiction: It is often tricky to identify the tax jurisdiction for crypto transactions, as taxpayers may have engaged in multiple transfers across various countries. Moreover, the cryptocurrencies may have been stored in online wallets, on servers outside India.

In such cases, it becomes difficult to pinpoint which jurisdiction’s tax laws would become applicable, especially when various nations have differing tax structures for crypto assets.

3) Anonymity provided by Cryptocurrency: Each crypto address comprises a string of alphanumeric characters and not the person’s real identity, giving tax evaders a cloak of invisibility. Tax evaders have been using this to park their black money abroad and fund criminal activities, terrorism, etc.

4) The lack of third party information on crypto transactions makes it difficult to scrutinise and identify instances of tax evasion. Crypto-market intermediaries like the exchanges, wallet providers, network operators, miners, administrators are unregulated and collecting information from them is very difficult.

5) Even if the crypto-market intermediaries are regulated and follow KYC norms, there remains a scenario, where physical cash or other goods/services may change hands in return for cryptocurrencies. Such transactions are hard to trace, and only voluntary disclosures from the parties involved or a search/survey operation may reveal the tax evaders.

What is the way forward?

Clear Income-tax laws pertaining to the crypto transactions with detailed statutory provisions.

Extensive awareness generation among the taxpayers

– Mandatory disclosure requirements in tax returns for both taxpayers and intermediaries (as is the case in the United States)

– Strengthening the existing international legal framework for exchange of information. This will enable collecting and sharing of information on crypto-transactions. This will go a long way in linking the digital profiles of cryptocurrency holders with their real identities.

Training officers in blockchain technology. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s ‘Cybercrime and Anti-Money Laundering’ Section (UNODC CMLS) has developed a unique cryptocurrency training module, which can aid in equipping tax officers with requisite understanding of the underlying technologies.

Authorities should have access to latest forensic software (such as Elliptic Forensics Software is being used by the USA Internal Revenue Service and GraphSense used in the European Union) which can analyse a high volume of crypto transactions at a time and raise red flags in cases of suspicious transactions.

The Cryptocurrency deception

Source: This post is based on the article “The Cryptocurrency deception” published in The Indian Express on 17th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 – Economy

Relevance: Need to scrutinise Cryptocurrencies

News: Cryptocurrencies are neither a currency, nor an asset. They are a fraud which needs extensive scrutiny by the government agencies.

Why Cryptocurrencies are not a currency?

For any instrument to classify as a currency, it must have the following features:

– One, it is a promissory note wherein the issuer is promising the bearer or the holder a value.

– Two, it is backed by a sovereign nation and, therefore, there is never a question of any default in executing the promise.

– Three, the printing of currency in either physical or digital form is always based on some tangible asset, like gold or a basket of goods.

From the above, it’s clear that cryptocurrency can never be a currency.

Why Cryptocurrency are not an asset?

An asset is something that has a tangible value. Even if its immediate utility is intangible, an asset should have some tangible benefits.

The cryptocurrencies are nothing but gaming points.

For instance: Whenever a discussion on cryptos takes place, promoters talk of blockchain technology. This technology is just a technique to account for transactions. It has nothing to do with cryptocurrencies, except that the cryptocurrencies’ digital exchange is being maintained in blockchain format. In other words, the points which are earned through a gaming application are stored and transferred through blockchain technology.

Therefore, cryptocurrencies have absolutely no value and cannot be considered an asset.

Must Read: Cryptocurrency in India: Ban or regulation? – Explained, pointwise

How do SDRs help maintain balance of payments?

Source: This post is based on the article “Surplus liquidity in the system: How it came and how it may go” published in Live Mint on 17th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – issues related to Balance of Payment

Relevance:  Balance of Payment, SDR, IMF

News:  In July-September 2021, India received $31.2 billion foreign exchange reserves. Out of this, $17.86 billion was by way of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) support received from the International Monetary Fund.

SDRs being one of the components of foreign exchange reserves (FER) of a country, an increase in its holdings is reflected in the BOP.

What is SDR? Read here: Special Drawing Rights

What are the key components of BOP?

BOP: It divides transactions of a country with the rest of the world into two accounts: the current account and the capital account.

Current account: it consists of net trade of exports and imports of products and services, net earnings on cross-border investments, and net transfer payments.

Capital account: constitutes a country’s transactions in financial instruments i.e., assets and liabilities constituting of direct investment, portfolio investment, loans, banking capital, and other capital.

International reserves and IMF transactions: IMF transactions are also a key component of the BOP.

What does the SDR support signify?

The present support of $17.86 billion in August 2021 by way of SDR indicates two things,

One, the domestic business environment is failing to attract foreign direct investment.

Two, FPIs move away from host countries such as India due to US Federal Reserve’s plans to increase interest rates.

Is dependence on SDR a matter of concern?

A BOP dependent on an SDR-dependent capital account surplus to cushion the country’s widening current account deficit is a matter of concern.

Because IMF support comes with conditions. For instance, in 1991, the support came with the condition that India has to initiate big-ticket economic reforms. It impacts India’s sovereign rights to design its policy strategy.

What has been India’s BOP position in recent years?

In the January-March quarter of FY20, the country’s current account had recorded a surplus on the back of a higher decline in imports.

However, In the July-September 2021 quarter, India’s current account slipped into a deficit of $9.58 billion as against a surplus of $6.57 billion in the April-June 2021

Account aggregators are ready to widen Indian access to credit

Source: This post is based on the article “Account aggregators are ready to widen Indian access to credit” published in Livemint on 17th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – issues related to financial inclusion.

Relevance:  Account aggregators framework, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna

News: Complementing the PMJDY, India recently unveiled the account aggregator (AA) network to overcome the challenges of access to micro-credit for individuals and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)

The AA network along with Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) would help India formalize credit and boost economic growth in the post-covid era.

What is the objective of PMJDY and how it has fared? Read here: https://forumias.com/blog/7-years-of-pm-jan-dhan-yojana/

What is an Account Aggregator (AA)? Read here: https://forumias.com/blog/account-aggregators-new-framework-to-access-share-financial-data/

What are the Benefits of Account Aggregator?

First, it is a paradigm shift from physical collateral to information collateral.

Second, it will unlock access to affordable credit in a streamlined and trustworthy way.

Third, it will reduce the transaction cost and time taken to sanction loans.

Fourth, it will make lower-sized loans more feasible for banks, and empower them to provide personalized loans and more innovative financial products.

How the account aggregator (AA) network privacy protection principles are different?

Protection of user privacy is ingrained in the network. For example,

-It requires the individual’s permission to share data with an FIU.

-The consent method is designed on the principles of Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA), a policy proposed by Niti Aayog.

-The data shared on the AA network is end-to-end encrypted. It is encrypted by the sender and can be decrypted only by the recipient.

-AAs are not allowed to store, process, and sell the customer’s data.

These design principles ensure that ownership of the data lies with individuals and is not monetized. So, no conflict of interest arises when data is shared across the AA platform.

What is the way forward?

First, there is a need to expand the adoption of the AA platform in India. All stakeholders in the AA ecosystem need to play a pivotal role in this. Only four Apps have operational AA licences. ( Finvu, OneMoney, CAMS Finserv and NADL)

Second, AAs should focus on marketing and create awareness of the services they provide.

Third, AAs should develop intuitive apps for feature phones. Because all four apps are available only on Android smartphones.

Fourth, the process to onboard other financial information providers (FIPs), like the goods and services tax network (GSTN), insurance companies, National Pension System, etc., needs to be fast-tracked. As of now, only 8 banks have joined the network.

Fifthly, any technical glitches on the platform should be quickly resolved to build trust in the AA ecosystem.

Search for tax evasion

Source: This post is based on the article “Search for tax evasion” published in Business Standard on 17th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – issues related to India’s fiscal policy

Relevance:  Tax evasion

News:  The tax department has conducted a record level of searches in the current fiscal year. As reported by Business Standard last week, so far, the department has found an undisclosed income of Rs 32,000 crore.

While it is encouraging that the tax department is working hard to make sure that everyone pays his or her share. However, the basic issues linked to tax collection have not been resolved.

What are the issues in India’s present tax regime?

First, the tax-to-GDP ratio in India remains low and stagnant. Consequently, weak revenue collection puts pressure on government finances and limits the capacity of both the Central and state governments to spend on developmental needs.

Second, the underperformance of GST has put more pressure on direct tax collection.

Third, The Finance Act, 2017, did away with the need for tax officials to declare to a court as to why in their opinion a search is necessary.

Tax officials have now been given the powers to search if, they believe to have credible information that income has escaped assessment over the last three years.

This has predictably increased the level of searches and will affect taxpayers.

What are the issues/challenges due to increased scrutinization?

First, only a small fraction of what the tax department has found, ultimately, reaches the treasury. For instance, in 2018-19, it filed over 3,500 cases for prosecution and got convictions only in 105.

Second, it has also resulted in numerous disputes with taxpayers. Many such disputes create an environment of fear and uncertainty. Further, it also burdens judicial capacity and significantly raises the implicit cost of tax collection.

What measures were taken by the government to reduce income tax disputes?

The government introduced the Vivad se Vishwas scheme in 2020 to settle direct tax cases with the disputed tax amount of about Rs 9.7 trillion in over 500,000 cases.

It is reported to have settled cases involving about Rs 1 trillion. However, most of these were disputes with relatively small amounts, and large taxpayers did not come forward.

What is the way forward?

With increasing digitisation, it should become relatively easy for the tax department to detect evasion.

At the policy level, India needs to broaden its tax base significantly.

Predatory pricing is prising Indian livelihoods apart

Source: This post is based on the article “Predatory pricing is prising Indian livelihoods apart” published in The Hindu on 17th Jan 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Issues related to New age companies.

Relevance:  Anti-competitive policies, Predatory pricing,

News: Recently, all consumer goods distributors in Maharashtra were protesting against Colgate’s alleged unfair treatment of traditional distributors with respect to B2B technology companies such as JioMart, Udaan, and others.

What is the issue?

The manufacturer, Colgate, sells its product to the distributor for ₹40 and the distributors sell Colgate toothpaste to retail stores for ₹45.

The kirana stores further sell a 100g tube of Colgate toothpaste to the consumer at an MRP of ₹55.

Whereas, the new age technology B2B companies (JioMart, Udaan) were able to supply Colgate toothpaste to the local store for ₹35, lower than the ₹45 charged by the distributor.

India’s distributors claim these are unfair practices and want manufacturers such as Colgate to stop supplying goods to the technology companies.

Colgate has refused to do so and, hence, the distributors have decided to boycott its products.

How B2B companies were able to sell at lower prices?

Creative disruption: B2B companies have developed technologies to connect directly to the retail stores through mobile phone apps, bypassing the intermediaries. This results in cost reduction. Also, the common citizen benefits from these lower prices at their local store.

However, this is not the only reason.

Predatory Pricing; These B2B companies are able to bear a 15%-20% loss on products they sell to the local stores. They deliberately offer their product at a price lower than what it costs them, to lure local stores away from the traditional distributors.

This predatory pricing becomes possible by the funds from big domestic and foreign venture capital firms. They are able to sustain huge losses for several years until they destroy existing market players and gain dominant market share. Also, this fund is available to only few

In other words, these technology companies rely not just on their mobile phone app innovation, but also steep price discounting and cheaper financing to win.

For instance, Udaan has suffered total losses of more than ₹5,000 crores in just five years and JioMart reports even greater losses.

What are the implications of this disruption?

Firstly, consumers may benefit from lower prices for a shorter period. However, as soon as, big techs are able to eliminate the competition, they start raising their prices.

Secondly, in India, the livelihood of more than 20 million families (100 million people) depends upon the role of intermediaries. Whereas foreign funding is available to a few selected firms, who eventually can displace the millions. It can result in enormous social unrest in the country.

Is it a problem in India only?

This is not just an Indian problem but a global one. For instance, social media companies such as Facebook give away their products for free and e-commerce companies such as Amazon sell at lower prices, benefiting consumers enormously, but also causing immense social strife and disharmony.

The new Chairperson of the Federal Trade Commission in America, Lina Khan, is seeking to frame new rules to check such anti-competitive behavior.

Why India needs a Green Deal

Source: This post is based on the article “Why India needs a Green Deal” published in Indian Express on 17th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Relevance: Understanding how the Indian Green Deal should work to address the present challenges

News: To address the pressing challenges of today like emission and equity, there is a need for political will and effective implementation of the Indian Green Deal.

What are the problems faced by India?

On the one hand, India is facing many extreme weather events like severe droughts in Maharashtra, incessant rains, and flooding in Chennai, and Delhi on a complete lockdown because of the pollution and many others. While on the other, dealing with an unprecedented economic crisis.

To overcome this crisis, India needs to adopt a sustainable, just, and inclusive path. If the Indian government judiciously implements the 10% of the GDP as the Atmanirbhar package for Covid recovery. If this amount is spent judiciously on Indian Green Deal (IGD), then India can stay ahead of the climate change curve.

What is the proposed Indian green deal, and how will it help?

For India to achieve net-zero targets by 2070, the beginning can be made by focusing on high carbon footprint sectors. So, 10% of the GDP should be split into three parts — 5% for infrastructure development, especially rural infrastructure; 3% for the care economy; and the remaining 2% for green energy.

Jobs: The IGD will help to absorb not only the unemployed but also have the potential to generate extra jobs. If the amount committed to green energy in IGD was spent on the fossil fuel sector, it would have generated only 2.4 million jobs. But the green economy is a Win-Win as that would have generated 8 million jobs.

Curb carbon emissions: The green energy programme would result in curbing India’s total carbon emissions by 0.8 gigatonnes by 2030 as compared to the projections based on the Stated Policies Scenario (STEP) by the International Energy Agency (IEA). This program has two components – efficiency and clean renewable energy. Energy efficiency is important as India’s energy intensity is very high and can result in a saving of almost one-third of the energy.

How should India finance the initiative?

The real challenge is financing, as making available 10% of GDP for 10 years is difficult for a developing country. There are two ways to finance this – taxing the elite or a global transition package from the greatest emitters.

For example, India’s carbon emission stands at 3% as compared to the USA is 25%. This global inequality can be addressed by the global carbon tax settlement process which may yield about $270 Bn for India.

At the national level, the richest 10% of Indians emit five times more than the poorest. This inequality can be addressed by making a revenue-neutral policy where taxes are increased on luxury items, belt and inheritance taxes, carbon tax etc. To compensate for the regressive nature of carbon tax, carbon dividends like free electricity, free ration can be given.

Urban governance and urban floods: Storm warnings of a megacity collapse

Source: This post is based on the article “Storm warnings of a megacity collapse” published in The Hindu on 17th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3: Disaster and disaster management.

Relevance: Understanding urban governance in managing urban floods.

News: Chennai witnessed 24 cm rainfall, a very high level, on December 30, 2021. This again raises questions on urban governance and management of urban floods.

What are the challenges in urban governance?

Like the 2005 Mumbai floods, there was community support and mobilization for change, but changes remained on paper.

Niti Aayog’s report on reforms in urban planning capacity in India, called four city’s to become healthy by 2030. Also, it recommended 500 priority cities to have a competitive framework, adopt participatory planning etc. But here, Urban aesthetics are prioritized over ecology and sustainability in urban planning.

The importance is given to technological tools, but not to democratically elected local governments. Their opinions are ignored.

Why is urban flood management a multidimensional problem?

All dimensions of the city from the city’s growth in affordable housing are important for adapting to future climate change. For example, 7933 urban settlements are being created across the country, but only less than half of the cities have master plans. These cities witness encroachment upon commons such as wetlands and river banks, like in Chennai and Mumbai.

There is the neglect of municipal councils, lack of empowerment, and failure to build capacity amongst municipal authorities. For example, in Chennai, after floods, the focus is on stormwater drain networks. But the commercial encroachment of marshlands is ignored. Mumbai also experienced a similar fate with encroachment on the Mithi River.

Loose metropolitan boundaries, an urban agglomeration, and unclear building regulations also create environmental problems. These lead to the problem in the management of wetlands, reservoirs, and watercourses.

What is the way forward?

A top-level department for climate change adaptation should be created which will unify all relevant departments like housing, urban development, transport, water supply etc.

There is a need for comprehensive city planning like Chennai’s plan to have a new master plan and a climate action plan.

So the need is not for a smart retrofit, but for sound, functional and a metropolitan city that can handle floods, heatwaves, pollution and mass mobility to keep the engines of the economy running.

Countering hate in the digital world

Source: This post is based on the article “Countering hate in the digital world” published in Indian Express on 17th January 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges.

Relevance: Understanding hate in the digital world

News: Recently controversial apps like “Bulli Bai” and “Sulli Deals” made news headlines in which prominent Muslim women were auctioned.  While it is under police investigation, it signals increasing levels of radicalization in the digital world.

What is the significance of this issue?

The issue highlights the issues associated with new media technologies and their evolution. These include a) impact on collective behaviour and identities, b) change in the scale and structure of human networks c) abundance and virality of information, impacting how groups influence each other. d) They also impact individual, political, social, and cultural identities.

How are digital space shaping identities and impacting individual?

The rise of social media is linked to the strengthening of personal social identities. There are also increasing divisions.

-Personalized feeds trap users in “echo chambers” reducing exposure to alternate views.

-People gravitate towards like-minded people on social media.

-The feedback loop of social confirmation and validation can result in violence.

Why hate speech is on the rise in society?

Digital users are prone to disinformation, hate speech, and radicalization. This has led to increasing levels of polarization and radicalization. Levels of social cohesion are also decreasing.

There can be many motivations behind these actions – like fear of missing out, or sinister intentions – like systematic and collaborative dissemination of propaganda or performative like a projection of power etc.

The information ecosystem – coined by Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner, is dysfunctional and linked to environmental pollution. According to this concept, people should be concerned with how hate spreads and not whether someone intended to pollute or not.

What should be done to address the hate speech problem?

-There is a need to focus not only on people who have a larger audience but on every big and small user of social media.

-The distinction between offline and online effects should be done away with as at the level of society both are equally harmful.

-The providers of platforms should implement means of regulating hate speech.

-There is a need for “counterspeech” to counter radicalization. This will include tactics to counter hate speech by presenting an alternative narrative. It should aim at building empathy by humanizing, enforcing social norms around respect, De-escalating a dialogue etc.

Social norms impact families, friends and education. Influencers and leaders can shape these norms. There is an urgent need to adopt de-radicalization at a societal level before hate speech can even enter the digital space.

India’s green cover has advanced far too slowly

Source– This post is based on the article “India’s green cover has advanced far too slowly” published in Live Mint on 16th Jan 2022.  

Syllabus– GS3- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation. 

Relevance– India state of forest report, Climate change, Mitigation efforts. 

NewsIndia State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 has reported very slow progress of afforestation over the past two years. India must aim for faster progress to adapt and mitigate the effects of worsening climate change.  

What are the details about the latest India state of forest report? 

Read here. 

Why slow progress is a cause of concern? 

India set a target of 33% forest cover under the Indian Forest Policy of 1988. 

Now, India has set an emission neutrality target for itself in CoP-26 summit held in Glasgow.  

Although very dense forests (with a canopy cover of 70% or more) have reported an uptick. But they make up less than a seventh of the 713,789-sq-km of India’s deemed forest. 

The ‘moderately dense’ forests, which have a higher share, are on decline. 

This becomes much more important in the light of the fact that forests themselves are vulnerable to the effects of a warming planet.  

Example- Ecologists have warned that the Himalayas’ leaf cover has already begun to display signs of stress at various altitude belts. 

What is the way forward? 

Government should prevent any changes in Forest Conservation Act of 1980 that may ease the diversion of forest land for other uses. 

The strategy of emission limit on the use of fossil fuels also has limitations and must be supported by a sound afforestation plan. 

Example-Globally, forests are said to absorb a net 7.6 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. 

If India has to achieve its target of having carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes by 2030 it needs to have a fast pace of forest expansion. 

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Year End Review: Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment

Source: This post is based on the article Year End Review: Ministry of Social Justice & Empowermentpublished in PIB on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has taken several initiatives in the year 2021.

Initiatives by Min of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2021 

Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan

SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise

Post –Matric Scholarship Scheme for SC students

National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation (NSKFDC): It was set up in 1997 and is a wholly-owned Govt. of India Undertaking under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (M/o SJ&E).

It aims for the all-around socio-economic upliftment of the Safai Karamcharis, Scavengers, and their dependants throughout India, through various loan and non-loan-based schemes.

Swachhta Udyami Yojna (SUY): It was launched by NSKFDC in 2014 with twin objectives of cleanliness and providing livelihood to Safai Karamcharis and liberated Manual Scavengers and their dependents. NSKFDC provides financial assistance to its target group for procurement of operation of mechanized sanitation-related equipment and vehicles.


Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS): It was launched in 2007 with the objective to rehabilitate manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations. The scheme has the following main provisions for providing assistance:

One Time Cash Assistance of Rs. 40,00/- to one identified manual scavenger in the family.

Skill Development Training of manual scavengers and their dependents up to two years with stipend @ Rs. 3,000/- per month during the training period.

Capital Subsidy up to Rs. 5.00 lakh for those who availed loans for Self  Employment Projects including sanitation-related projects. Capital Subsidy to be paid upfront and not back-ended.

Health insurance under Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) to the families of all the identified manual scavengers.

Vayoshreshtha Samman- National Awards for Senior Citizens

National Helpline for Senior Citizens named Elderline – 14567


SAGE portal

Scheme for Economic Empowerment of De-notified(DNT) Communities (SEED): It was launched for the welfare of De-notified communities. The scheme has the following four components:-   

To provide coaching of good quality for DNT candidates to enable them to appear in competitive examinations.

To provide Health Insurance to them.

To facilitate livelihood initiative at the community level; and

To provide financial assistance for the construction of houses for members of these communities.

Year End Review: Department of Sports

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Year End Review: Department of Sports’ published in PIB on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Department of Sports has taken several initiatives in the year 2021.

Initiatives by the Department of Sports

Achievements: India won a total 7 Medals in Olympics, 2020 which is the highest medal tally from India in any Olympic including 1 Gold, 2 Silver and 4 Bronze.

National Sports Awards: It is given every year to recognize and reward excellence in sports.The various categories are:

WADA Restores accreditation of NDTL

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA): It was established in 1999 as an international independent agency.

Its key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) – the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries.

It is headquartered in Montreal, Canada.

National Anti-Doping Bill 2021 

Central Athlete Injury Management System (CAlMS): It is a first-of-its-kind initiative by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for streamlining the sports medicine and rehabilitation support offered to the athletes.

Khelo India Programme

Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) 

Yogasana sport for both male and female categories was included in Khelo India Youth Games, 2021.

The Government recognized the National Yogasana Sports Federation (NYSY) as a National Sports Federation for the promotion and development of Yogasana as a competitive sport in the country. The recognition makes NYSF eligible for financial assistance for the conduct of national championships in all the categories and participation in international sporting events.

Fit India Movement

Sports Schools: At present, 9 Sports Schools have been approved across the country with a view to integrate sports with education and in the process, develop sports in the country and improve the overall profile and outlook of athletes.

Year 2021 has been a ‘Year of Major Transformation’ for Indian Railways

Source: This post is based on the article Year 2021 has been a ‘Year of Major Transformation’ for Indian Railwayspublished in PIB on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Railways has taken several initiatives in the year 2021.

Initiatives taken by Railways

Safety: Zero passenger fatalities since April 2019. Total 22 consequential accidents compared to 14 during 2020-21 & 48 during 2019-20 in the same period.

Infrastructure Progress: Highest ever Capital allocation has been made for infrastructure development during FY 21-22.

Gati Shakti Cargo Terminal Policy: Under this, different modes of transportation will be integrated seamlessly with the railway transportation network.

Kisan Rail: The first Kisan Rail Service was flagged off between Devlali (Maharashtra) and Danapur (Bihar)

RDSO becomes the first Standard Developing Organisation (SDO) in India 

HMIS (Hospital Management Information System) on IR

Bharat Gaurav- Theme Based Trains

Rani Kamalapati (WCR) station

Unified Vendor Approval Module (UVAM): It is a digitization initiative of Indian Railways through which all the activities related to the approval of vendors have been digitized.

End of Train Telemetry (EoTT): It is a cutting-edge technology for the operation of the train without Brake Van on an automated system. It will eliminate the requirement of the Brake Van (the last vehicle of a goods train meant for guard) and perform all safety functions, till now performed by Guard for safe operations of freight trains.

Open-source e-com platform in the works, says DPIIT’s Jain

Source: This post is based on the article ‘Open-source e-com platform in the works, says DPIIT’s Jain’ published in Livemint on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

According to the Secretary of the Department for the promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT), Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is expected to be launched soon.

What is ONDC?

ONDC is a network aimed at promoting open networks developed on open-sourced methodology, using open specifications and open network protocols independent of any specific platform.

It is an initiative of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Under this, all seller and buyer platforms will work through one open protocol and can connect through ONDC.

And even if one has to buy a product, ONDC will show all the options of various platforms for the product, and the consumer can choose what he or she wants.

Thus, the platform will help in creating new opportunities, curb digital monopolies and support micro, small and medium enterprises and small traders and help them get on online platforms. 

Click Here to Read more about ONDC:

How ONDC seeks to democratize digital  commerce

ONDC: Govt’s e-comm net in talks with companies

Click Here to see an Example of a Transaction using ONDC

Startups and Unicorns in India

India has more than 61,000 recognized startups spread across 55 industries, with 45% of them emerging from tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

India has around 82 unicorns(companies with $1 billion or more in valuation). It has produced more than 40 unicorns in 2021, which is more than double the number in China during the same period, which stood at 20.

Bilateral trade between India, China crosses 125 billion USD in 2021

Source: This post is based on the article Bilateral trade between India, China crosses 125 billion USD in 2021published in AIR on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

The bilateral trade between India and China has crossed 125 billion USD in 2021.

What is the Data on Bilateral Trade between India and China?

The two-way trade between India and China in 2021 stood at 125.66 billion USD, up 43.3% from 2020.

India was China’s 15th largest trade partner in 2021.

In 2021, China’s exports to India were 97.52 billion USD up by 46.2% while China imported 28.14 billion USD worth of goods from India up by 34.2%.

India’s biggest exports to China were iron ore, cotton, and other raw material-based commodities.

India imports from China include large quantities of electrical and mechanical machinery, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), auto components, and over the past two years, a range of medical supplies from oxygen concentrators to PPEs.

Trade deficit between the two countries remained in favour of China – at $69 billion. 

Why the trade deficit has widened?

The widening of India’s trade deficit with China can be attributed to two factors: 1) narrow basket of commodities mostly primary for exporting to China and 2) Lack of market access for most of India’s agricultural products and the sectors where India is competitive such as pharmaceuticals and IT.

What is the Data on Bilateral Trade between the US and China?

China and the US trade has increased by 28.7% and amounted to $755.6 billion in 2021.

Currently, the US is China’s third-largest trade partner following ASEAN and the European Union.

Goat Head Yogini: 10th century stone idol of Goat Head Yogini illegally removed from a temple in Lokhari, Banda, Uttar Pradesh being returned to India

Source: This post is based on the article 10th century stone idol of Goat Head Yogini illegally removed from a temple in Lokhari, Banda, Uttar Pradesh being returned to Indiapublished in PIB on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Culture has announced that the stone idol of Goat Head Yogini that had been illegally removed from a temple in Lokhari, Banda, Uttar Pradesh is being returned to India. 

What is Goat Head Yogini?
Source: PIB

Goat headed Yogini is a 10th Century Stone Idol. It originally belonged to a group of stone deities in sandstone and was installed in Lokhari temple. 

The idol had been illegally removed from a temple in Lokhari, Banda, Uttar Pradesh in the 1980s.

In October 2021, the idol was discovered in London. And now it is being returned to the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi.

Who are Yoginis?

Yoginis are a group of powerful female divinities associated with the Tantrik mode of worship. They are worshipped as a group, often 64 and are believed to possess infinite powers.

Read more: India to display relics of St. Ketevan

India to send a battalion for peacekeeping ops in Africa

Source:  This post is based on the article India to send a battalion for peacekeeping ops in Africapublished in TOI on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Indian infantry group with around 570 soldiers will be deployed under the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei(UNISFA) in the Abyei region in Africa, which is between northern and southern Sudan and is claimed by both.

Click Here to read about United Nations Peacekeeping forces

What are India’s Contributions to UN Peacekeeping?

Currently, the Indian Army is the world’s third-largest troop contributor to peacekeeping operations, after Bangladesh and Nepal.

Till now, the Indian Army has contributed over 2.58 lakh troops in 51 of the 71 UN missions since the first one for Korea in 1953-54, with 159 Indian soldiers have also laid down their lives in the operations. 

Moreover, the decision to send another infantry battalion comes amidst India’s ongoing two-year tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. This is the eighth time India has become a non-permanent member.

What is the significance of the deployment of the Indian Army at UN Peacekeeping?

Firstly, UN deployments will earn goodwill for India, especially in places like mineral-rich Africa where the new “great game” is now being played with China making major strategic inroads into the continent.

Secondly, UN assignments also give Indian battalions a much-needed break from being deployed along the “active” borders with Pakistan and China, as well as counter-insurgency operations in J&K and northeast.

Thirdly, hefty UN allowances in dollars given to the soldiers over and above their Indian rupee salaries are also more than welcome.

Design Linked Incentive(DLI) Scheme: IT Ministry seeks applications from domestic companies

Source: This post is based on the articles:

‘DLI scheme: IT Ministry seeks applications from domestic companies’ published in Indian Express on 17th January 2022.

Applications invited under the Design Linked Incentive (DLI) Scheme from domestic semiconductor chip design firms’ published in PIB on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has invited applications from 100 domestic companies, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as startups for incentives under the design linked incentive (DLI) scheme.

Read more: India Semiconductor Mission(ISM): Semiconductor mission launched by IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw
What is a Design Linked Incentive Scheme(DLI)?

Aim: To create a vibrant ecosystem for Semiconductor Chip Design in the country.

Target: To nurture at least 20 domestic companies involved in semiconductor design and facilitate them to achieve a turnover of more than ₹1500 Crore in the next 5 years.

Nodal Agency: C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing)

Eligibility: Financial incentives and design infrastructure support will be extended to domestic companies, startups and MSMEs engaged in semiconductor design for Integrated Circuits (ICs), Chipsets, System on Chips (SoCs), Systems & IP Cores and semiconductor linked design for over a period of 5 years.

Read more: Semiconductor manufacturing in India – Explained, pointwise

Components: The scheme has three components:

Chip Design infrastructure support: C-DAC will set up the India Chip Centre to host the state-of-the-art design infrastructure (viz. EDA Tools, IP Cores and support for MPW (Multi Project Wafer fabrication) & post-silicon validation) and facilitate its access to supported companies.

Product Design Linked Incentive: Under this, reimbursement of up to 50% of the eligible expenditure subject to a ceiling of ₹15 Crore per application will be provided as a fiscal support to the approved applicants who are engaged in semiconductor design.

Deployment Linked Incentive: Under this, an incentive of 6% to 4% of net sales turnover over 5 years subject to a ceiling of ₹30 Crore per application will be provided to approved applicants whose semiconductor design for Integrated Circuits (ICs), Chipsets, System on Chips (SoCs), Systems & IP Cores and semiconductor linked design are deployed in electronic products.

The approved applicants that claim incentives under the scheme will be encouraged to retain their domestic status (i.e., more than 50% of the capital in it is beneficially owned by resident Indian citizens and/ or Indian companies, which are ultimately owned and controlled by resident Indian citizens) for a period of three years after claiming incentives under the scheme.

Read more: Need of Indigenous Semiconductor Manufacturing Facilities in India – Explained Pointwise

Chips to Startup (C2S) Programme: MeitY invites applications under the Chips to Startup (C2S) Programme from academia, R&D organisations, startups and MSMEs

Source: This post is based on the article MeitY invites applications under the Chips to Startup (C2S) Programme from academia, R&D organisations, startups and MSMEspublished in PIB on 17th January 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information (MeitY) has sought applications from 100 academia, R&D organisations, start-ups and MSMEs under its Chips to Startup (C2S) Programme.

What is the Chips to Startup (C2S) Programme?


To train 85,000 qualified engineers in the area of Very-large-scale integration (VLSI) and Embedded System Design.

To develop 175 ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits), Working Prototypes of 20 System on Chips (SoC) and IP Core repository over a period of 5 years.

Participating Institutions: The programme would be implemented at about 100 academic institutions/R&D organisations across the Country (including IITs, NITs, Government/Private Colleges and R&D Organisations). Startups and MSMEs can also participate in the programme by submitting their proposals under Academia- Industry Collaborative Project, Grand Challenge /Hackathons/RFP.

Read more: Need of Indigenous Semiconductor Manufacturing Facilities in India – Explained Pointwise

Project Categorization: Under the Chips to Startup (C2S) Programme, based on the Institutions’ expertise, Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and design experience proposals are invited in three different categories: 

Design and Development of Systems/SoCs/ASICs/Reusable IP Core 

Development of Application Oriented Working Prototype of IPs/ASICs/SoCs and 

Proof of Concept oriented Research and Development of ASICs/FPGAs.

Nodal Implementing Agency: C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing).

Significance of Chips to Startup (C2S) Programme: The programme will be a step towards the Electronics System Design & Manufacturing (ESDM) space by way of inculcating the culture of SoC/ System Level Design at Bachelors, Masters and Research level and act as a catalyst for the growth of Start-ups involved in fabless design.

Read more: Semiconductor manufacturing in India – Explained, pointwise

Mains Answer Writing

Rise of deepfake-Threat to election integrity

Source-This post on Rise of deepfake-Threat to election integrity has been created based on the article “A deep threat to election integrity” published in “Business Standard” on 26 February 2024. UPSC Syllabus– GS Paper- 3- Challenges to Internal Security through Communication Networks, Role of Media and Social Networking Sites in Internal Security Challenges. News-The article… Continue reading Rise of deepfake-Threat to election integrity

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Government’s new grain storage plan to be executed by cooperatives

Source-This post on Government’s new grain storage plan to be executed by cooperatives has been created based on the article “Express View on government’s new grain storage plan: More in store” published in “The Indian Express” on 27 February 2024. UPSC Syllabus–GS Paper 3– Storage, Transport and Marketing of Agricultural Produce, Issues of Buffer Stocks… Continue reading Government’s new grain storage plan to be executed by cooperatives

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Democratizing Entertainment Industry

Source-This post on Democratizing Entertainment Industry has been created based on the article “Everyone should be able to watch TV — including those with disabilities” published in “The Indian Express” on 26 February 2024. UPSC Syllabus–GS paper 2-Social justice- Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States. News-The article highlights… Continue reading Democratizing Entertainment Industry

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Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS)- Explained Pointwise

The Government of India (GOI) has been placing its emphasis on the cooperative sector, particularly on the Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) for the rejuvenation of Indian Agricultural Sector. GOI, has crafted a central role for PACS, in the execution of the world’s largest grain storage infrastructure project of 700 lakh metric tons. Govt has… Continue reading Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS)- Explained Pointwise

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Reduction in poverty and income inequality in India

Source: The post reduction in poverty and income inequality in India has been created, based on the article “India’s development landscape has undergone a structural shift” published in “Live mints” on 27th February 2024. UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 1- Society-poverty and developmental issues. News: The article talks about the Indian government’s recently released Fact… Continue reading Reduction in poverty and income inequality in India

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Challenges of land reforms in India – An expansive land management policy is overdue

Source: The post challenges India faces in managing its land has been created, based on the article “An expansive land management policy is overdue” published in “The Hindu” on 27th February 2024. UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3 – environment- conservation News: The article discusses the challenges India faces in managing its land due to… Continue reading Challenges of land reforms in India – An expansive land management policy is overdue

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Issues with this traditional model of scientific conferences in India – Drop the ‘garland model’ to let science in India blossom

Source: The post issues with this traditional model of scientific conferences in India has been created, based on the article “Drop the ‘garland model’ to let science in India blossom” published in “The Hindu” on 27th February 2024. UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3 – Science and technology News: The article discusses how scientific conferences… Continue reading Issues with this traditional model of scientific conferences in India – Drop the ‘garland model’ to let science in India blossom

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Calling Name Presentation (CNAP)

Source-This post on Calling Name Presentation (CNAP) is based on the article “Who’s calling? True caller faces Indian challenge” published in “Live Mint” on 27th February 2024. Why in the News? Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended the introduction of the Calling Name Presentation (CNAP) Supplementary Service in the telecom network. What… Continue reading Calling Name Presentation (CNAP)

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EU sanctions Indian tech Firm-Si2 Microsystems for dual-use items

Source-This post on EU sanctions Indian tech Firm-Si2 Microsystems for dual-use items is based on the article “Government ‘examining’ Indian tech company in EU, U.S. sanctions list” published in “The Hindu” on 27th February 2024. Why in the News? The European Union (EU) has recently sanctioned Si2 Microsystems, an Indian tech firm, for its alleged… Continue reading EU sanctions Indian tech Firm-Si2 Microsystems for dual-use items

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Banihal-Sangaldan railway line

Source-This post on Banihal-Sangaldan railway line is based on the article “PM Modi flags off railway project in Jammu and Kashmir: Route, challenges, benefits” published in “The Indian Express” on 27th February 2024. Why in the News? PM Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the Banihal-Sangaldan section of the railway line which aims to connect Baramulla in… Continue reading Banihal-Sangaldan railway line

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