9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – July 4th, 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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Current Affairs Compilations for UPSC IAS Prelims 2022

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Breather for NGOs

Source: This post is based on the article “Breather for NGOs” published in The Indian Express on 3rd Jul 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – Govt policies and interventions

Relevance: Regulation of NGO sector and related issues

News: The Centre has recently amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) rules. These modifications are a welcome step after the escalation of restrictions on the NGO sector since 2015.

What are the modifications introduced?

The government extended to September 30 the validity of FCRA entities whose five-year permits would lapse between July 1 and September 30 and had applied or would apply for renewal in this period.

The home ministry has also raised the limit that entities can receive from relatives abroad from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh without informing the government and has extended the disclosure period for donations above that from 30 to 90 days.

The time limit for applying for FCRA registration or prior permission to receive donations has been extended from 30 days to 45 days.

The requirement on declaring details of foreign donors every quarter has been reduced to once a year. And the stipulation that only 20% of foreign funds could be used for administrative purposes has been extended to 50%.

What are the issues with the changes introduced?

Although these relaxations will go some way towards easing the regulatory burden for NGOs, they do not significantly improve the ease of operating environment for NGOs, which are prey to arbitrary rules.

The relaxation of the donation threshold, for instance, from foreign “relatives” is inadequate, given the scale of funds that NGOs, especially rights-based ones, need to function efficiently.

Way forward

NGOs and civil society play an important role in a country like India in defending the interests of the poor, the hungry, and the disenfranchised.

Hence, rules that run contrary to the commitments to free speech and the defence of democratic rights are counter-productive for a country’s polity.


There Are Cracks In Brics & Trouble For India

Source: This post is based on the article “There Are Cracks In Brics & Trouble For India” published in Times of India on 4th Jul 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations (IR) – Organizations and Groupings

Relevance: BRICS and related issues

Context: Amid the evolving geopolitical situation, the BRICS mechanism appears to be undergoing an identity crisis. There is a deepening contradiction at the heart of the grouping, which is likely to result in extremely difficult choices for Indian foreign policy.

What are the major pillars of BRICS?

Historically, the group’s agenda was not just economic, but also political. The addition of South Africa, the only African economy in the G20, to the BRICS in 2010 further underscored this.

Officially, BRICS cooperation has expanded to be premised on the three pillars: a) political and security, b) economic and financial, and c) cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

In practice, it is the economy and finance pillar, however, that has done the heavy lifting.

This is most evident in the establishment of the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement.

In contrast, the political and security pillar has largely under-delivered. Of course, there have been annual meetings of Brics foreign ministers and security advisers since 2009. But those have generally been about reaffirming shared perspectives on global governance issues and coordinating positions on shared concerns.

What is the future outlook for BRICS?

Beijing-Moscow recalibration

Beijing and Moscow appear to be keen to readjust the dynamic between the economy and security pillars. Each of the key points in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the summit underscored this.

He said that China would like to work with BRICS partners to operationalize the Global Security Initiative (GSI). This is an initiative that Xi outlined in April, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The principles that GSI espouses and comments by Chinese officials clearly indicate that it is framed in opposition to what China believes is an increasingly coordinated effort at containment by the West, led by the United States.

After the events of the last few months, it is little surprise that this effort has Moscow’s support.

India’s dilemma

In contrast to those two, the comments by the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa suggested that the three countries largely continue to view BRICS from the prism of development as opposed to security.

In the long run, however, India faces the possibility of isolation in this regard. This situation could be exacerbated with the addition of new members.

As a leading developing country, India cannot appear to be unsupportive of the aspirations of developing countries. At the same time, an expanded BRICS with an evidently anti-Western agenda, as envisioned by Xi and Putin, would likely dilute India’s influence.

Further, it shall make India’s multi-alignment strategy even more untenable. 


Technology is no panacea for custodial deaths

Source: This post is created based on the article “Technology is no panacea for custodial deaths”, published in The Hindu on 4th July, 2022.

Syllabus: GS Paper 2, Social Issues, Criminal Justice system and issues linked to a vulnerable section in India

Context: Technology has been proposed as a silver bullet against custodial deaths by many. However, these solutions are not as effective as they were intended to be.

A recent increase in the custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu has brought the issue of custodial deaths into the limelight.

Between 2001 and 2018, 1,727 persons died in police custody, but only 26 policemen were convicted for such deaths.

Although a huge time and money have been spent on training police personnel to embrace scientific methods of investigation, custodial deaths are still common.

Technological solutions have been suggested as a prevention measure against custodial deaths. Let’s see how effective have been these solutions.

What are the technological solutions?

Body cameras could hold officers liable.

Deception Detection Tests (DDTs), such as polygraph, narco-analysis, and brain mapping could detect if the person is hiding some truth.

Among the DDTs, the Brain Fingerprinting System (BFS) has proved helpful for solving crimes, identifying perpetrators, and exonerating innocent suspects.

Robots are being used increasingly for surveillance and bomb detection.

Robotic interrogation: Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researcher Joseph Weizenbaum concluded that suspects might be more receptive to opening up to automated conversational counterparts than the police. Thus, many robotic interrogators are being favored for interrogating suspects.

AVATAR system: Researchers at the University of Arizona have created automated interrogation technology called The Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time (AVATAR). The Canadian Border Services Agency tested AVATAR last year. The HCI system uses visual, auditory, near-infrared and other sensors to scrutinize a suspect’s eye movements, voice, and other qualities throughout an interaction. The aggregation of information and its analysis by the system have been highly accurate.

AL and ML: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are emerging as tools for interrogations. ML can in real-time alert superiors when police are meting out inhumane treatment to suspects.

What are the issues with technological solutions?

In 2010, the Supreme Court, in Selvi v. the State of Karnataka, made the evidence inadmissible as the state cannot perform narco analysis, polygraph, and brain-mapping tests, on an individual, without his consent. However, if consent has been acquired, BFS tests can be part of the evidence.

AI or robot interrogations can be subject to the risk of bias, misuse for surveillance, and targeting of individuals and communities.

Although technological solutions might provide comfort and transparency, they can never address the underlying issues that lead to custodial deaths.

What can be done?

Formulation of a multi-pronged strategy by the decision-makers. Which covers legal enactments, technology, accountability, training, and community relations.

Implementing the Law Commission of India’s proposition in 2003 to change the Evidence Act to place the onus of proof on the police for not having tortured suspects.

Implement the Supreme Court’s judgment in the in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) case. In this judgment, SC held that the use of third-degree methods by police is illegal and should not be used to extract the information from the accused.

Revive and Implement Draft bill on the Prevention of Torture, 2017.


Strains on India-Russia defence cooperation

Context: The status of India-Russia defense cooperation is under doubt, due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Syllabus topic: GS Paper 2, International Relations

Context: Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, India-Russia defense cooperation is under threat.

When the war started in Feb., the Indian armed forces had stocks of spares and supplies for eight to ten months. They expected that war would be over soon and supply from Russia will be resumed, however, it didn’t happen. Now, there are apprehensions about Russia’s ability to adhere to the timelines for both spares and new deliveries.

India is dependent on Russia in the area of air defense, rockets, missiles, and certain tanks.

Indian defence officials have stated that due to delays in timelines, there would not be any dent in the Army’s operational preparedness along the borders, especially the Line of Actual Control. However, India is looking for certain alternative mitigation measures and identifying alternate sources from friendly foreign countries.

Status of India-Russia defense cooperation

The defence trade between India and Russia has crossed $15 billion since 2018. It includes some big deals like the $5.43 billion S-400 long-range air defense systems, construction of four additional stealth frigates in Russia and India, and AK-203 assault rifles among others.

Many other deals such as MiG-29 fighter jets, SU-30 MKI aircraft, and K-226T utility helicopters are under consideration as well.

How India-Russia payment system is working after the SWIFT ban?

India and Russia have agreed to conduct payments through the Rupee-Rouble arrangement. This mechanism is being used for making small payments. However, work is on to resolve larger payments.


Why is defection a non-issue for voters?

Source: The post is based on an article “Why is defection a non-issue for voters?” published in the “The Hindu” on 4th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 Important Provisions of the Constitution of India;, Functioning of the Legislature

Relevance: Anti-Defection Law

News: Recently, India has seen a political drama in Maharashtra in which 37 Shiv Sena legislators were involved in defection.

Anti-Defection Laws in India

It is not new to Indian politics, and has been around for a long time. It is a routine exercise in Indian politics.

There have been several attempts to strengthen laws to curb this menace of defection in politics.

The bill for this menace was first introduced in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1967. However, it became a law as the Anti-Defection law in 1984. Further, the act was amended in 2003 to strengthen the legislation.

What are the causes of such a high level of defection in India?

Indian voters do not have concern about candidates defecting from one political party to another.

There is a party-centred approach in voting in India.

For example, a large majority of Indian voters vote for the party and not for the candidate.

Further, such a voting pattern is prevalent amongst both uneducated and educated voters, amongst urban and rural voters and amongst voters with various degrees of media exposure.

Many legislators defect to other parties for purely personal gains.

For example, there would be greater chances of win if elections are contested on the ticket of any “popular” political party. It is the party’s ticket and the popularity of its leader that helps them win the election.

Indian voters are divided on what kind of representatives they would prefer to vote for.

For example, 48% voters are happy to vote for an honest but inaccessible candidate, 24% voters are happy to vote for a candidate who is corrupt but accessible and 36% voters are ready to vote for a candidate with criminal background, but gets works done etc.

Way Forward

If voters take into consideration the merits and demerits of candidates, then many defectors and candidates with questionable records would fail to make it into Parliament or the Assemblies of different States.

Voters should decide to choose the candidate rather than the party during elections. It would push the MLAs/etc. to do work instead of just switching to parties just for electoral gain.

There is a slight increase in candidate-centred voting amongst Indian voters during the last few years.

As per the Lokniti-CSDS’s the National Elections Studies, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 58% voters mentioned voting for the party while 33% said they voted for the candidate. However, findings of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, says, 52% voted for the party and 37% voters preferred voting for the candidate.


After Ukraine, the new energy disorder

Source: The post is based on an article “After Ukraine, the new energy disorder” published in the Indian Express on 4th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – Effects of the policies of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Relevance: New Energy Disorder, Impact of the Russia-Ukraine war

News: The Ukrainian crisis has radically altered the contours of the global energy landscape. It has created a tangle of relationships and issues for India.

What are the issues involved?

The petroleum market is tight and prices are ratcheting up. For example, Oil prices are close to $120/bbl.

India is now a major purchaser of Russian crude. It is now our largest provider of crude oil surpassing Saudi Arabia and Iraq. India ramped up its imports from Russia because Russia offered price discounts and provided an opportunity as a measure of good economics and energy security.

Russia and China have signed a “no limits” partnership. Therefore, China expanded its purchase of Russian oil and gas. Russia has become the largest supplier of petroleum to China. There are doubts, it can act as a client state instead of being politically autonomous, if India’s relations deteriorate on its border with China.

Our, India’s long-standing “friend” (Russia) is now in the bad books of our other friends (the US and Europe) and in a deepening relationship with our adversary (China).

At present, there is no executive authority responsible for energy in India. There are ministries responsible for components of energy policy. There is no formal mechanism to align their separate approaches.

Way Forward

The Gulf Countries have a lot of importance in the reordered post-Ukraine energy landscape.

For example, The US and several other European leaders are looking towards the Gulf for a promise of higher production to lower oil prices and to negotiate gas supply deals to offset the shortfall out of Russia.

Therefore, India should also engage with the Gulf producers for supply security.

The Gulf countries should stay outside both orbits, neutral and opportunistic, instead joining the Russia/China group, or moving back into the Western fold.

India should create a mechanism for the development and execution of an integrated energy policy.

The Niti Aayog is well-placed to provide the intellectual basis for designing and developing relevant new institutions. It can play an important role in preparing the road map for developing institutional mechanisms for facilitating a “whole of the system approach” to energy policy.


The WTO’s leaky boat may be our best hope in a storm

Source: The post is based on an article “The WTO’s leaky boat may be our best hope in a storm” published in the Live Mint on 3rd July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 International Organizations

Relevance: The Ukraine War and the Rules based International Order

News: In recent months, Russia’s incursion into Ukraine’s sovereign territory has led to new arrangements in the geo-economic and geopolitical arena.

What are the new arrangements or consequences?

The Western academics are arguing that the war spells the end of a liberal world order regime that was established since the fall of the Berlin Wall and break-up of the Soviet Union,

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has reactivated many fault-lines that lay dormant in the global economy.

There may be a renewed contestation between the West and poor nations, or even civil wars in poverty-stricken nations because the notion of trade in the US and EU is still rooted in an outdated economic orthodoxy.

What are the reasons for such re-arrangement?

(1) A report of the FAO and the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), titled Hunger Hotspots, predicts that around 20 countries will be facing a heightened food availability crisis over the next three months.

(2) Although the world was already facing a food emergency before The Ukraine War, due to the pandemic and climate change during 2020 and 2021. However, the Russian aggression has worsened the case and triggered a major global food crisis“.

(3) India and 29 other countries have banned wheat exports after the grain prices skyrocketed globally. India saw wheat production falling short of forecasts and total food grain stocks dipping

What are the challenges to India’s wheat export ban decision?

Seven WTO members—including the US, Japan, the EU and UK, have raised concerns over India’s export bans at the WTO’s first agriculture meeting after MC12.

The Western leadership has undermined India’s attempts to ensure food security for its citizens. This food security is done through subsidies at both the production and consumption stages at the WTO forum. For example, The US Congressmen want to register formal objections at the WTO against India’s trade-distorting agricultural policies.

The formula being used to determine whether these subsidies are within permissible limits is based on outdated data.

All attempts made by India and other developing countries to seek a permanent solution have failed so far.

Other related challenges

These advanced nations put private profit ahead of public health in times of global crisis.

For example, rich nations refused to relax intellectual property rights (IPR) for global vaccine distribution at the height of the pandemic when India and South Africa proposed such a covid occasioned relaxation.

Way Forward

The WTO’s role has become non-negotiable, given the severe food crisis confronting the planet. Therefore, the multilateral platforms like the World Trade Organization (WTO) hold out the best chance of confronting these challenges for the sake of developing countries.

At the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference, or MC12, it agreed that India and the others will supply wheat to the WFP, while being allowed to meet their domestic food security needs.

At the MC12, the developing countries were allowed to produce and sell patented vaccines, both in the domestic and international markets

India should continue to defend India’s decisions at plurilateral meetings, including in the media.

India’ should create a coalition of developing nations on multilateral platforms in order to oppose the resistance..

GS Paper 3


Explained: How Kerala has struggled to identify buffer zones around its protected forests

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: How Kerala has struggled to identify buffer zones around its protected forests” published in The Indian Express on 4th Jul 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Environmental regulation

News: For over a month now, Kerala farmers living along the Western Ghats have been protesting a June 3 directive of the Supreme Court for setting up buffer or eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) for all protected forests in the country.

What is the Supreme Court order?

The SC in its order has said national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and such protected forests must have an ESZ of minimum 1-km from their boundaries.

The court said the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment on 9 February 2011, which have either banned or regulated a bunch of activities within the ESZ, should be strictly adhered to.

The banned activities are mining, running of saw mills, polluting industries, commercial use of fire woods, mega hydel-power projects and manufacturing of hazardous objects.

Mining would be allowed only for local use, the guidelines said.

The regulated or restricted activities in the ESZ are felling of trees (only with permission from authorities), establishment of hotels and resorts as per approved master plan, drastic change in agricultural systems, etc.

The permissible activities are ongoing agricultural and horticulture practices, rain water harvesting, organic farming and adoption of green technology for all activities.

What are the implications for Kerala?

The Kerala government does not have a clear picture about how the life and livelihood of people would be impacted by the declaring of the ESZ.

The opposition has said the verdict would affect one lakh families, 2.50 lakh acres of agricultural land and two dozen townships. Farmers are concerned as inclusion of human settlements with ESZ would hit their life and economic activities.

ESZ idea and its evolution

It was in 2002 that the national board of wildlife adopted a national wildlife conservation strategy that looked at a buffer zone for activities outside the sanctuaries and national parks. The board backed a 10-km buffer zone.

A month later, in February, the wildlife board adopted the conservation strategy, and the Centre directed all states to list out such areas. Some states raised concern over applicability of 10 km range.

In 2005, the wildlife board re-examined the issue and decided that the delineation of the ESZ would have to be site specific and relate to regulation, rather than prohibition, of specific activities.

Several reminders were sent to states to submit the ESZ proposals. But many, including Kerala, did not respond.

Acting on a PIL, the SC intervened in December 2006 and directed all states to submit their proposals for declaration of ESZs.

In 2010, the Supreme Court, while considering a separate case related to construction of a park near Okhla bird sanctuary, directed the Centre to formulate guidelines for declaring ESZ.

An expert committee set up by the Union government to frame the guidelines to facilitate the states and UTs for declaration of ESZs identified parameters for the same.

Subsequently in February 2011, the ministry directed all states to list out ESZ, within 10 km from the boundaries of the protected forests and furnish proposals for their notation as ESZ, under the Environment Protection Act 1986.


Don’t count hybrids out of the race to go greener

Source: This post is based on the article “Don’t count hybrids out of the race to go greener” published in Livemint on 4th Jul 22.

Syllabus: GS3 – Energy and Infrastructure

Relevance: Electric vehicles and related issues, transition to clean energy

Context: Maruti Suzuki’s chairman recently said that hybrid technology, natural gas and biofuels offer a better path towards a cleaner future than fully-electric cars.

Globally, many electric models have hit the streets. Even in India, MG Motors, Hyundai and Tata Motors offer vehicles that liberate users from petrol or diesel refills.

However, both India’s and the world’s largest carmakers, Maruti and Toyota, have stayed in the slow lane.

Does it mean that hybrid technology might be the way forward?

What are the issues with EV ecosystem in the country?

Problems with infra: India’s government favors a rapid EV transition, which requires an ecosystem to recharge or swap batteries.

Home set-ups for overnight charging can’t be installed for everyone. Also, long-distance travel makes roadside options a must.

Further, charging stations must attain a critical mass of reach for ‘network effects’ to kick in, multiplying its utility as it expands.

Without a more robust private-public effort, EV sales may not pick up speed.

High prices of EVs: Given the premium pricing of EVs, there are two other sticky issues that also need to be tackled. a) their eco-friendly credentials in a country that runs largely on coal-fired energy remain unclear. And this summer’s wet-bulb heat and power shortfalls raised doubts about the Indian grid’s pace of carbon reduction. b) confidence in their safety was shaken by reports of battery fires.

Geopolitical issues: The Ukraine war has made battery-making inputs costlier, and, with both Russia and China key players in this value chain, geopolitical factors beyond India’s control could continue to get in the way of cost reduction.

Way forward

Regulators and engineers should work together to credibly minimize the “thermal runaway” risk of EV power-packs before a small likelihood gets a chance to turn into a big deterrent.

Though an electric recharge can cost as little as one-tenth of a petrol refill for the same distance driven, the on-road prices of EVs also need to decrease vis-a-vis fuel equivalents for bulk buyers to be lured.

Should cars powered by hybrid tech make leaps on fuel efficiency, they could impress buyers with a palpable impact on carbon emissions. Indian policy envisions EVs as the future, but let’s not count hybrids out of the race for cleaner mobility


Wake-up call – on Landslides in Manipur

Source: This post is created based on the article “Wake-up call – on Landslides in Manipur”, published in The Hindu on 4th July, 2022.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3- Disaster Management

News: One of the severest natural disasters in Manipur happened recently. The incident led to the death of around 37 people.

What has happened?

A landslide accident happened in Manipur, leading to deaths and many people trapped below the debris.

The disaster compounded due to the accumulation of debris on the pathway of Ijei River. It could result in inundation of low-lying areas if the “dam”-like structure is breached.

The place, where this disaster occurred, is a railway construction site in a landslide-prone area. This should stir a review of the project for development planners and government officials in the State.

The Environment Ministry has acknowledged that the disasters were “anthropogenically” induced, caused by:

  1. Modification of slopes for construction,
  2. Fragile lithography,
  3. Widening of roads,
  4. Quarrying for construction materials,
  5. Complex geological structures and heavy rainfall

The area was identified as susceptible areas in the State through the National Landslide Susceptibility Mapping project. Still, it was not taken seriously before selecting the site.

What should be done?

The state government must evaluate whether sufficient soil and stability tests were done before choosing the site for railway construction. Researchers have confirmed that the area falls under very high, high, or moderate hazard zones.

An early warning system for landslides is still being developed and refined by the Geological Survey of India. Early implementation of the system could help reduce the scale of such disasters, once deployed across vulnerable States.

Although States in the Northeast are accelerating connectivity projects to uplift a relatively economically backward region, they should consider the ecological challenges seriously.


We need an urgent national plan on electrical safety

Source: This post is created based on the article “We need an urgent national plan on electrical safety”, published in The Hindu on 4th July, 2022.

Syllabus topic: GS Paper 3, Infrastructure – Power sector

News: With the increasing access to electricity, the issue of electricity accidents must be addressed. National or State policies or programs do not provide targets or specific resource allocation for safety, at present.

Nearly all households have an electricity connection, as per reports. However, a small portion of the allocation to the electricity sector is spent on safety kits or training of staff.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau data, the rate of deaths (per lakh population) due to electric shocks and fires has steadily increased from 2,957 deaths and 0.36 deaths per lakh population in 1990 to 15,258 deaths and 1.13 deaths per lakh population in 2020.

Central Electricity Authority (CEA) data also suggest the same findings as above.

In many developed countries, the number of deaths has been reducing over the years and the deaths per lakh population is around 0.03 or lower.

Over 90% of the people who die due to electrical accidents are the general public. Thus, the safety of the general public must be the top priority.

What are the major factors behind electricity shocks?

  1. Most fatalities occur at distribution networks (specifically 11 kV and Low-Tension systems) and Low-Tension consumer locations and therefore need higher attention.
  2. Accidental contact with live conductors is the immediate cause of accidents.
  3. Electrical faults, due to Poor design, construction, inadequate maintenance, etc. account for around 12% of the accidents.
  4. There is no mechanism to ensure that safety regulations prepared by the CEA are followed. For example, distribution companies are expected to have safety officers and conduct periodic safety audits.
  5. Revenue collection and fault repairs are given higher priorities by the companies.
  6. Electrical inspectors are supposed to conduct inquiries on accidents, but they are heavily understaffed.
  7. The focus of safety professionals is on industrial safety, and not on safety aspects of the rural public.
  8. Many well-meaning grass-root organizations focus on ensuring ex gratia for accident victims, not on accident prevention.

What should be done?

Electricity safety can be handled only through coordinated action involving all stakeholders.

The current safety regulatory mechanism can be strengthened through the following provisions:

  • Better data collection,
  • Introducing safety aspects in national programs,
  • Strengthening safety institutions,
  • Developing safety metrics for distribution companies,
  • Involving the public and professionals in safety initiatives and
  • Utilizing technological innovations

A national program to reduce electrical accidents in the distribution sector should be implemented, with sufficient resource allocation.

There should be sufficient resource allocation and robust monitoring and verification mechanism.


Ashok Gulati and Ritika Juneja write: Why rice and wheat bans aren’t the answer to inflation

Source: The post is based on an article “Why rice and wheat bans aren’t the answer to inflation” published in the Indian Express on 4th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 Indian Economy; Issues and Challenges pertaining to food security and PDS

Relevance: Food Inflation

News: Earlier, the government banned wheat exports to check the potential rise in prices in the face of low procurement. But now, there are reports that the government is mulling a ban on rice exports to tame inflation.

The wheat and rice exports ban was also done in 2007-08, in the wake of the global financial crisis.

What are the other possible measures that the government of India might also undertake?

There are chances of imposing stocking limits on traders for a host of commodities, suspending futures trading in food items, and there can even be conduct of income tax raids on traders of food.

What are the issues in the export ban?

All these extreme measures in the name of taming inflation only expose the hollowness and lack of understanding within the government about functioning of the market economies and the reason behind high inflation.

Export bans on food items is irresponsible behaviour at the global level. This cam only be resorted in case of major calamity.

Abrupt export bans inflict high costs on poorer nations, and many millions fall below the poverty line as a result of such actions.

The recently concluded WTO ministerial meeting as well as the G-7 meet expressed concerns about food security in vulnerable nations.

Let us take the case of rice first.

India exported 21 million metric tonnes (MMT) of rice in 2021-22 (FY22) in a global market, i.e., about 41% of global exports of about 51.3 MMT. Such large volumes of rice exports brought down global prices of rice by about 23%, when all other cereal prices were going up substantially in global markets.

If India exports more than about 25% of the global trade in rice. It would have a dampening effect on global prices.

What are the suggestions?

India needs to impose for “optimal export tax”, say, a 5-10% tax on rice exports, instead of a ban on rice exports, to recover the large input subsidies that India gives for rice cultivation.

The reasons being:

(1) Such agricultural subsidies create an artificial competitive advantage for Indian rice in global markets.

(2) The government should recover a part of the subsidy like urea, from rice exports by imposing an optimal export tax.

Can imposition of optimal tax will help tame inflation at home?

No. India can’t tame inflation because more than 95% of CPI inflation is due to items, other than wheat and rice. For example, inflation in vegetables contributed 14.4% to CPI inflation, which is more than three times the contribution of rice and wheat combined.

Way Forward

The Agri-trade policies need to be more stable and predictable, rather than a result of knee-jerk reactions.

In perishable commodities like vegetables, India needs to build efficient value chains and link these to processing facilities. So that people can switch processed form of food in case of high prices of vegetables.

India needs to take our food processing industry at priority because India industry is way behind the curve compared to several Southeast Asian nations.

If India wants to be a globally responsible player, it should avoid sudden and abrupt bans.


Govt’s move to tax fuel export will impact policy change in energy sector

Source: The post is based on an article “Govt’ move to tax fuel export will impact policy change in energy sector” published in the Business Standard on 4th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 Indian Economy; infrastructure; Energy Sector

Relevance: New Taxation on Fuel Export

News: Recently, the government has imposed export taxes on fuels, and a cess on domestic crude production.

Background

Lower domestic prices have incentivised refiners to export products at higher prices, resulting in domestic fuel shortages.

Before announcements, the fiscal deficit was tracking around Rs 2.2 trillion. It was above budget estimates due to higher subsidies and cuts in fuel excise duty.

Objectives

As per the FM statement, the taxes will improve the supply of diesel and petrol in the domestic market. At present, the private refiners concentrate on serving Europe and Asia.

The new fuel taxes could improve the already worsened fiscal condition in this FY

About the new taxation

The government slapped an export duty of Rs 6 a litre each on overseas sales of petrol and aviation turbine fuel.

The government has imposed Rs. 13 a litre on high-speed diesel, translating into 10-23% of current crude prices.

In addition, exporters must declare that 50% of the exported quantity in each shipping bill will be supplied domestically in the fiscal.

There would be a cess of Rs 23,250 a tonne, or $40 a barrel on domestic crude production.

The levies will be open-ended, and further, will be reviewed every fortnight.

What are the issues in these measures?

This is turning into the unease of doing business in India, at least, as far as the energy sector is concerned. For example, for Indian explorers, refiners, and prospective marquee investors led by Saudi Aramco, Adnoc, Exxon, Total and Shell.

There are concerns whether the new tax applies to exports from special export zone (SEZ) facilities run by private refiners, such as Reliance and Nayara.

The imposition of increased export duties on petroleum products is expected to impact export volumes in the short term. At present, Oil products contributed 16% of India’s total merchandise exports of $422 billion in 2021-22.

The government wants the foreign investors to invest in India’s energy sector because India is 85% dependent on foreign oil. India requires foreign technology and capital to tap into our production and exploration potential to stop ever-growing dependence on imports. However, the move will discourage foreign investors.

It will impact India’s aim to increase India’s petroleum exports to $1 trillion by 2030.

Further, India’s overseas oil dependence will increase to 90% in the next few years as it plans to double its refining capacity by 2030.

Such policy flip flops impact the overall image of the country in the medium to long-term.

Way Forward

The measure should remain temporary, say for three to six months because it can scare new players and investors, if the new taxes remain there for a longer duration.

India needs consistent, business-friendly policies and investor-friendly policies

The impact on investments would be limited because at present, the gross refining margins (GRM) are high which are unlikely to sustain for long. Further, most investment decisions assume more normalised GRM through the cycle.

Most private refineries are implementing capex towards crude-to-chemicals rather than crude-to-petroleum products.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

The Functioning of the National Investigation Agency(NIA)

Source: The post is based on the articleThe Functioning of the National Investigation Agency(NIA) published in The Hindu on 4th July 2022.

What is the News?

The National Investigation Agency(NIA) has taken over the probe into the terrible beheading of a person in Udaipur.

What is the National Investigation Agency(NIA)?

NIA was constituted under the National Investigation Agency(NIA) Act, 2008.

Mandate: It is a Central Agency mandated to investigate all the offences affecting:

– Sovereignty, security and integrity of India,

– Friendly relations with foreign states,

– Offenses under the statutory laws enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organizations.

Note: The offences include terror acts and their possible links with crimes like smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders.

Powers: NIA has the power to search, seize, arrest and prosecute those involved in such offences.

Headquarters: New Delhi

NIA Jurisdiction: The law under which NIA operates extends to the whole of India. It also applies to: 1) Indian citizens outside the country, 2) Persons in the service of the government wherever they are posted, 3) Persons on ships and aircraft registered in India wherever they may be and 4) Persons who commit a scheduled offence beyond India against the Indian citizen or affecting the interest of India.

Scheduled Offences: The schedule of the Act specifies a list of offences which are to be investigated and prosecuted by the NIA. These include: 1) Explosive Substances Act, 2) Atomic Energy Act, 3) Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 4) Anti-Hijacking Act, 5) Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 6) SAARC Convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 7) Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 8) Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act and 9) Relevant offences under the Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and Information Technology Act.

In 2020, the Centre empowered the NIA to also probe offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that are connected to terror cases.

How does the NIA take up the probe?

As provided under Section 6 of the Act, State governments can refer the cases pertaining to the scheduled offences registered at any police station to the Central government (Union Home Ministry) for NIA investigation.

– After assessing the details made available, the Centre can then direct the NIA to take over the case. State governments are required to extend all assistance to the NIA.

– Even when the Central government is of the opinion that a scheduled offence has been committed which is required to be investigated under the Act, it may, suo motu, direct the agency to take up/over the probe.


Targeting GI tag, Mayurbhanj’s superfood ‘ant chutney’ set to find more tables

Source: The post is based on the article Targeting GI tag, Mayurbhanj’s superfood ‘ant chutney’ set to find more tables” published in The Hindu on 4th July 2022.

What is the News?

Tribals of the Mayurbhanj district in Odisha are seeking a Geographical Indications(GI) tag for Kai Chutney.

What is Kai Chutney?

Kai Chutney is a food item made from Kai (Red Weaver Ant) in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district.

This chutney is rich in valuable proteins, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, copper, fiber and 18 amino acids and is known to boost the immune system and keep diseases at bay.

How is Kai Chutney made?

Weaver ants scientifically called Oecophylla smaragdina are abundantly found in Mayurbhanj throughout the year. They construct nests with the leaves of host trees. 

The chutney is made by maxing ants with ingredients such as grinding salt, ginger, garlic and chilly.

Why do people consume Kai Chutney?

The tribes of Mayurbhanj consume Kai chutney or soup to get rid of flu, common cold, whooping cough, to increase appetite, and enhance vision and eyesight naturally without corrective eyewear among others.

What are the other uses of Kai (Red Weaver Ant)?

The tribal healers prepare medicinal oil by dipping the collected Kais in pure mustard oil. 

Moreover, Kais are also bio-control agents. They are aggressive and prey on most arthropods entering their territory. Due to their predatory habit, Kais are recognised as biological control agents in tropical crops as they are able to protect a variety of crops against many different insect pests. 


National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS): MSDE launches DBT scheme to extend direct monetary support to apprentices

Source: The post is based on the articleMSDE launches DBT scheme to extend direct monetary support to apprenticespublished in PIB on 3rd July 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship(MSDE) has announced that the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) will be a part of Direct Beneficiary Transfer(DBT) Scheme providing direct government benefits to all apprentices.

What is the significance of this decision?

Earlier companies used to pay apprentices the entire amount and then seek reimbursement from the government. 

Now with NAPS becoming part of the DBT scheme, the government will directly transfer its contribution to the bank accounts of apprentices through National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

What is the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS)?

Click Here to read 

Note: Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) implements “National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS)” and the Department of Higher Education (DHE), Ministry of Education (MoE) implements “National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS)”. 

However, both schemes are not overlapping as there is a clear demarcation in the target group of beneficiaries. 

The Ministry of Education(MoE) administers the apprenticeship scheme for freshly passed-out engineering graduates, diploma holders, those students who are studying degree and diploma level courses in a sandwich program of engineering and general stream graduates. 

On the other hand, MSDE administers apprenticeship programs for the rest of the categories of apprentices.


Measuring India’s Plastic Problem

Source: The post is based on the article “Measuring India’s Plastic Problem” published in The Hindu on 4th July 2022.

What is the News?

India has banned ​​certain single-use plastics(SUP) from July 1,2022 across India. These items include ice cream sticks, thermocol, plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, straws, trays, wrapping or packaging films and cigarette packets. 

India’s Plastic Waste Problem

Plastic Waste Generation in India: India is generating about 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually and the per capita plastic waste generation has almost doubled over the last five years.

India’s Plastic Waste Share: According to the State of India’s Environment 2022 report, 35% of India’s plastic waste is in the form of multi-layered packaging which are non-recyclable. 

Plastic waste in India
Source: The Hindu

Poor recycling of Plastic Waste: India recycled 12% and burnt 20% of the 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste it generated in 2019-20. There is no information on the remaining 68% of plastic waste, which most likely ends up in dumpsites and landfills.

Mismanaged waste: Mismanaged waste is material which is at high risk of entering the ocean via wind or tidal transport, or carried to coastlines from inland waterways. According to OurWorldinData in 2019, India produced an estimated 9.5 kg of mismanaged waste per person.

Must read: Ban on Single-Use Plastic – Explained, pointwise

India-EU conclude 1st round of negotiations for India-EU Trade and Investment Agreements

Source: The post is based on the article India-EU concludes 1st round of negotiations for India-EU Trade and Investment Agreementspublished in PIB on 3rd July 2022.

What is the News?

India and the European Union have concluded the first round of negotiations for India-EU Trade and Investment Agreements including the Geographical Indicators (GI).

About India-EU Trade Talks

India started negotiations for a trade pact with the European Union(EU) in 2007. But the talks stalled in 2013 as both sides failed to reach an agreement on key issues, including customs duties on automobiles and spirits, and the movement of professionals.

Now the talks have resumed again. The negotiations for a balanced and comprehensive trade pact shall be split into three agreements on Trade, Geographical indications(GIs) and Investment.

Read more: Why India-EU trade pact is still difficult to achieve?
What is the current bilateral trade between India and the EU?

India’s bilateral trade with the EU amounted to USD 116.36 billion in 2021-22. Despite the global disruptions, bilateral trade achieved impressive annual growth of 43.5% in 2021-22.  

Currently, the EU is India’s second-largest trading partner after the US and the second-largest destination for Indian exports. 

Significance of Trade Agreement with EU

The trade agreement with the EU would help India in further expanding and diversifying its exports of goods and services, including securing the value chains. 

Read more: India and EU comprehensive free trade deal to be finalized by 2024

Asia’s largest cities, including Delhi, lack water security

Source: The post is based on the article “Asia’s largest cities, including Delhi, lack water security” published in Down To Earth on 27th June 2022.

What is the News?

Researchers have found that urban water security in Asian cities including Delhi is in decline, forcing them to find new ways to manage this precious resource.

Water Scarcity in Asian Cities

The global mega cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Delhi are the symbol of the rise of the new Asian century as they are the three biggest in the world, engines of economic growth, producing billions in economic activity for their residents and the world.

But they have a serious problem i.e. there is not enough fresh water available per person for their daily needs.

Why is there water scarcity in Asian Cities?

Less Freshwater: In Asia, there is half as much freshwater as there is globally. For example, over-exploitation in Bangkok, Thailand, has severely reduced groundwater levels causing land to subside.

Low Water Efficiency: Despite the comparatively large amount of water used in agriculture production, water efficiency in Asia is among the lowest in the world and low water productivity results in low crop yields.

Environmental Degradation: Population and economic growth have led to environmental degradation. Existing water supplies simply can’t keep up with the growing needs. The issue is exacerbated by climate change where extreme weather events such as drought and floods are becoming more common.

– For example, Hanoi, Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing cities in terms of GDP growth, contributing more than 19% of the country’s total GDP. The repercussions of this growth are felt directly in its polluted lakes and rivers due to wastewater from residential and industrial areas.

What are the suggestions given by experts to overcome water scarcity in Asia?

Adopt Water Assessment Framework: Integrated urban water security assessment framework can be used to assess the full spectrum of a city’s urban water security by considering the driving forces that can impact it.

Incentives for Water management: Cities can embrace new ways to manage water. For example, Bangkok has adopted incentives for water management to include the treatment of wastewater at the household level before being released into public water sources.

Stop Water Supply loss: There is an urgent need for plans to stop water supply losses due to leaking pipes which will also increase productivity. These include enhancing financial sustainability through water tariffs, installing new metering devices, attempting to detect unauthorized usage in water pipelines, and using monitoring systems.


India’s largest floating solar power project commissioned

Source: The post is based on the article India’s largest floating solar power project commissionedpublished in PIB on 1st July 2022.

What is the News?

India’s largest floating solar plant is now fully operational at Ramagundam in Telangana’s Peddapalli district.

About Ramagundam Floating Solar Project

It is a 100-megawatt(MW) floating solar power photovoltaic project commissioned by the National Thermal Power Corporation(NTPC). 

Features:

The project is endowed with advanced technology and Environment-friendly features.

The solar modules are placed across 500 acres on floaters manufactured with high-density polyethene material that keeps floating irrespective of water-level fluctuations

This project is also unique in the sense that all the electrical equipment including inverter, transformer, HT panel, and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) are also on floating Ferro cement platforms.

What are the benefits of the project?

Less Land Required: The most obvious advantage is the minimum land requirement mostly for associated evacuation arrangements.

Reduced Water Evaporation Rate: The solar panels floating on the water surface will reduce the evaporation rate and thereby help water conservation

Reduced Co2 Emission: The water body underneath the solar modules helps in maintaining their ambient temperature, thereby improving their efficiency and generation. Similarly, while coal consumption of 1,65,000 Tons can be avoided per year; Co2 emission of 2,10,000 tons per year can be avoided.


World Cities Report 2022: India’s urban population to stand at 675 million in 2035, behind China’s 1 billion

Source: The post is based on the articleWorld Cities Report 2022: India’s urban population to stand at 675 million in 2035, behind China’s 1 billion” published in The Hindu on 30th June 2022.

What is the News?

United Nations-Habitat(UN-Habitat) has released the World Cities Report 2022.

What are the key findings of the report?

World Urban Population

The urban population is expected to continue to grow naturally through rising birth rates, particularly in lower-income countries.

Globally, the urban population is forecast to grow from 56% of the global total in 2021 to 68% by 2050.

India’s Urban Population

By 2035, the percentage of the population in India at mid-year residing in urban areas will be 43.2% (675 million). This will be the second-highest behind China’s one billion.

What are the challenges faced by urban areas?

Urban poverty and inequality remain one of the most intractable and highly complex problems confronting cities.

Further, cities especially those in warm climates or low-lying coastal areas face existential threats due to the risks and impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

What are the suggestions given by the report?

The ​​report calls for greater commitment by national, regional and local governments and encourages the further adoption of innovative technologies and urban living concepts such as the “15-minute city.”

Note: “15-minute city concept” was popularized in Paris, Melbourne and other places. It envisages that residents can meet most of their daily needs within a 15-minute journey.


Government’s new announcements for the labor market

Source: The post government’s new announcements for the labor market has been created, based on the article “Govts have limited impact on jobs: Policy reforms would work better than programmes or projects” published in “Business standard” on 24th July 2024 UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper3- Economy- Employment Context: The article discusses how government programs aimed… Continue reading Government’s new announcements for the labor market

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How has India lowered its fiscal deficit estimate to 4.9% of GDP

Source: The post how has India lowered its fiscal deficit estimate to 4.9% of GDP has been created, based on the article “Deficit numbers signal: PRUDENT PATH” published in “Live Mints” on 24th July 2024 UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper3- Indian Economy – Fiscal Consolidation in India Context: The article discusses how Finance Minister Nirmala… Continue reading How has India lowered its fiscal deficit estimate to 4.9% of GDP

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India’s plans for energy transition

Source: The post India’s plans for energy transition has been created, based on the article “For clean energy, govt rolls: OUT POWER TOOLS” published in “Live Mints” on 24th July 2024 UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3-infrastructure-energy Context: The article discusses India’s plans for a balanced energy transition, including policies for green finance, renewable energy… Continue reading India’s plans for energy transition

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Focus of the India’s budget 2024-25

Source: The post focus of the India’s budget 2024-25 has been created, based on the article “An overdue pivot to human capital and employment” published in “Live Mint” on 24th July 2024 UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper3- Economy-budget Context: This article discusses the first of Narendra Modi’s third term. It emphasizes job creation, small business… Continue reading Focus of the India’s budget 2024-25

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Agricultural Initiatives in the 2024-25 Union Budget

Source-This post on Agricultural Initiatives in the 2024-25 Union Budget has been created based on the article “To tackle climate risk, agri gets A RESEARCH RESET” published in “Live Mint” on 24 July 2024. UPSC Syllabus-GS Paper-3- Government Budgeting. Context– The 2024-25 Union Budget introduces ambitious agricultural initiatives alongside modest financial allocations. It highlights research,… Continue reading Agricultural Initiatives in the 2024-25 Union Budget

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Research and Development in Agriculture

Source-This post on Research and Development in Agriculture has been created based on the article “Neglect of agriculture R&D in budget risks India’s food security and growth” published in “The Indian Express” on 24 July 2024. UPSC Syllabus-GS Paper-3- Government Budgeting Context – Nearly two-thirds of India’s population resides in rural areas, where agriculture employs… Continue reading Research and Development in Agriculture

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Social Sector Allocations in Budget 2024

Source-This post on Social Sector Allocations in Budget 2024 has been created based on the article “For the social sector, it is old wine in an old bottle” published in “The Hindu” on 24 July 2024. UPSC Syllabus-GS Paper-3- Government Budgeting. Context-The Budget 2024 continues the trend of previous years regarding social sector allocations, despite… Continue reading Social Sector Allocations in Budget 2024

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Union Budget 2024-25- Analysis- Explained Pointwise

The Union Budget for 2024-25 was presented in the Parliament yesterday by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Finance Minister asserted in her budget speech that the focus of the government remained on serving the four ‘castes‘- poor, women, youth and farmers. It was also stressed by the Finance Minister that this year’s Budget… Continue reading Union Budget 2024-25- Analysis- Explained Pointwise

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Employment-Linked Incentive Schemes

Source- This post on the Employment-Linked Incentive Schemes has been created based on the article “Five new schemes to aid job creation” published in “The Hindu” on 24 July 2024. Why in the news? The Union Budget allocates ₹2 lakh crore for employment and skilling schemes. About Employment-Linked Incentive Schemes 1. The Centre will implement… Continue reading Employment-Linked Incentive Schemes

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Road Map for ‘Hard to Abate’ Industries

Source- This post on the Road Map for ‘Hard to Abate’ Industries has been created based on the article “Emission standards may be imposed on polluting industries” published in “The Hindu” on 24 July 2024. Why in the news? Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget speech indicated that “hard to abate” industries such as iron, steel,… Continue reading Road Map for ‘Hard to Abate’ Industries

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