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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 9th September 2021

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  • September 9, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Jharkhand House clears Bill for 75% quota for locals

Part of: Prelims and GS – II – Policies and interventions 

Context The Jharkhand Assembly passed a Bill, which provides 75% reservation for locals in private sector jobs with a monthly salary of up to Rs. 40,000. 

  • Once notified, Jharkhand will become the third State, after Andhra Pradesh and Haryana, to pass such a law.

Key takeaways 

  • ‘The Jharkhand State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2021’ was tabled in the House in March but was later referred to a six-member select committee.
  • It was named ‘The Jharkhand State Employment of Local Candidates in Private Sector Bill, 2021’. 
  • The monthly salary cap was increased from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000. 
  • Every employer shall register such employees receiving gross monthly salary as wages not more than Rs. 40,000 on the designated portal

Concerns with regard to the bill

  • If skilled personnel are not available for the jobs at hand, these industrial units cannot ‘import’ labourers from elsewhere; the burden of imparting the requisite skills to, and of employing, locals will fall on the units.
  • It will almost certainly push up the cost of doing business in such geographical entities that embrace this policy, and make a mockery of the concept of the ‘Indian Common Market’, which rests on the foundational premise of unfettered labour mobility.
  • Significantly, a reservation for local populations is also a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right of every citizen to work, live and move freely within the country.

News Source: TH 


PLI plan for India’s textile sector

Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Economy 

Context The Union Cabinet recently approved a Rs. 10,683 crore Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the textile sector

  • Objective: To help India regain its historical dominant status in global textiles trade.

Key features of the scheme

  • The incentives shall encourage investment in new capacities in man-made fibre (MMF) apparel, MMF fabrics, and 10 segments or products of technical textiles. 
  • The scheme shall help attract investment of more than Rs. 19,000 crore, creating an additional 7.5 lakh direct jobs.
  • There will be two levels of investment with different sets of incentives. 
    • In the first category, any person or firm can invest a minimum Rs. 300 crore in plant, machinery, and civil works to produce the identified products to ensure eligibility for the PLI.
    • In the second category a minimum investment of Rs. 100 crore would make an individual or firm eligible to apply for the incentives.
  • Priority would be given for investment in aspirational districts, tier-three, tier-four towns and rural areas. 
  • The scheme is expected to benefit States such as Gujarat, U.P., Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Andhra, Telangana and Odisha.
  • Applicants would have two years as investment period and 2024-2025 would be the ‘performance’ year. The incentive flow would start in 2025-2026 and extend for five years.

Significance of the Textiles Sector

  • Textiles & garments industry is a labour intensive sector that employs 45 million people in India. 
  • It is second only to the agriculture sector in terms of employment.
  • It contributes 2.3% to Indian GDP, 7% of Industrial Output, 12% to the export earnings of India and employs more than 21% of total employment.
  • India is the 6th largest producer of Technical Textiles with 6% Global Share, largest producer of cotton & jute in the world.
  • Technical textiles are functional fabrics that have applications in industries such as automobiles, civil engineering and construction, 
  • India is also the second largest producer of silk in the world and 95% of the world’s hand woven fabric comes from India.
  • Two-thirds of India’s textile exports now are cotton based whereas 66-70% of world trade in textiles and apparel is MMF-based and technical textiles. 

What are Major Initiatives by India in the textile sector?

  • Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS): For technology upgradation of the textiles industry (2015)
  • Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks (SITP): To assist small and medium entrepreneurs in the textile industry to clusterize investments in textile parks by providing financial support for world class infrastructure in the parks.
  • SAMARTH (Scheme For Capacity Building In Textile Sector): To address the shortage of skilled workers. 
  • North East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS): This is a scheme for promoting textiles industry in the NER by providing infrastructure, capacity building and marketing support to all segments of the textile industry.
  • Power-Tex India: It comprises new research and development in power loom textiles, new markets, branding, subsidies and welfare schemes for the workers.
  • Silk Samagra Scheme: It focuses on improving the quality and productivity of domestic silk thereby reducing the country’s dependence on imported silk.
  • Jute ICARE: This pilot project launched in 2015 is aimed at addressing the difficulties faced by the jute cultivators by providing them certified seeds at subsidized rates, and by popularizing several newly developed retting technologies under water limiting conditions.
  • National Technical Textile Mission: It aims to position the country as a global leader in technical textiles and increase the use of technical textiles in the domestic market. It aims to take the domestic market size to USD 40 billion to USD 50 billion by 2024.

News source: TH 


Assam to phase out fossil fuel-based vehicles by 2030

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- III –  Environment; Economy 

Context The Assam government has unveiled an electric vehicle (EV) policy for phasing out vehicles running on fossil fuels by 2030. 

Key features of the scheme

  • The mission entails converting all government vehicles and fleet of public buses to electric and deploying 2 lakh EVs within the next five years. 
  • The policy also offers a set of incentives for people to switch to EVs. 
  • These include 100% exemption on registration charges and road tax. 
  • Entrepreneurs setting up EV charging stations have been assured of 90% exemption of electricity duty.

About Electric Vehicles (EVs)

  • An electric vehicle uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion.
  • An electric vehicle may be powered through a self-contained battery, solar panels or an electric generator to convert fuel to electricity.

Why is there a need for EVs in India? 

  • Climate change: EV are less polluting in nature.
  • Rapid urbanization:  India is home to 14 out of 20 most polluted cities in the world. EVs will help in tackling this problem by reducing local concentrations of pollutants in cities.
  • Energy security: EVs can reduce dependence on imported crude oil promoting India’s energy security. 
  • Employment: Promotion of EVs will facilitate employment growth in a sun-rise sector.

What are the Government Initiatives? 

News Source: TH 


Right to Sit

Part of: GS Prelims and GS- II –  Indian Constitution 

Context Recently, the Tamil Nadu government has tabled a bill to amend Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947.

  • The bill sought to add a subsection to mandatorily provide seating facilities for the employees.

Key Highlights of the Bill

  • Proposed Amendment: The proposed Section 22-A to the Act reads that the premises of every establishment shall have suitable seating arrangements for all employees so that they may take advantage of any opportunity to sit.
  • Need of the Bill: Persons employed in shops and establishments are made to stand throughout their duty time resulting in varied health issues.
  • Significance: It would benefit thousands of employees of large and small establishments, particularly those working in textile and jewellery showrooms.
  • Similar Legislation: A few years ago, workers of textile showrooms in Kerala had gone on a protest demanding the ‘Right to Sit’.
    • This prompted the Kerala government to amend the Kerala Shops and Establishments Act in 2018 to provide seating arrangements for them.

News Source: TH 


India, Australia to hold 2+2 meet

Part of: Prelims and GS – II – International Relations 

Context India and Australia will hold the inaugural ‘2+2’ Ministerial meeting in New Delhi. 

  • The meeting will be part of Australia’s engagements with regional partners as the Ministers will visit Indonesia, India, South Korea and the United States for Indo-Pacific consultations. 
  • These inaugural 2+2 discussions are a cornerstone of the Australia-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which is founded on a shared commitment to a secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. 
  • The discussion will cover economic issues, cyber security, climate change, critical technology and supply chains.
  • The defence cooperation related meeting will also be held with the Indian Defence minister. 

Bilateral economic and trade relationship between India and Australia 

  • The India-Australia economic relationship has grown significantly in recent years.
  • India’s growing economic profile and commercial relevance to the Australian economy is recognized, both at the federal and state level in Australia.
  • India’s exports to Australia stood approximately at US$ 4.6 billion (A$6.1 bn) in 2016 while India’s import from Australia during the same period stood at US$ 11 billion (A$14.6 bn). 
  • India’s main exports to Australia are Passenger Motor Vehicle & machinery, Pearls, Gems and Jewellery, Medicaments and Refined Petroleum while India’s major imports are Coal, Non-monetary Gold, Copper, Wool, Fertilizers and Education related services.

News Source: TH 


Miscellaneous

River Bhogdoi

  • The rampant coal mining in Nagaland, coupled with waste discharge from tea estates and encroachment are contaminating waters of River Bhogdoi in Assam.

    • In 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change declared Bhogdoi as one of the most polluted rivers in Assam and 351st among the polluted rivers in the country.
  • The river originates from Mokokchung in Nagaland where it is also known as Tsujenyong nullah and is the south bank tributary of the River Brahmaputra.
  • It is an inter-state river (flowing between Assam and Nagaland) and joins Dhansiri river near its confluence with Brahmaputra.
  • Other Tributaries of Brahmaputra: Dihing River, Dibang River, Lohit River, Dhansiri River, Kolong River, Kameng River, Manas River, Beki River, Raidak River, Jaldhaka River, Teesta River, Subansiri River.

(News from PIB)


PMGDISHA campaign for 100 percent digital literacy in Digital Villages launched 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

In News: The Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) drive for 100% Digital Literacy of all digital villages has been launched under PMGDISHA scheme, a flagship Digital Literacy scheme of the Government for rural areas.

  • Under the campaign, a three day certification drive for rural citizens especially women and disadvantaged communities will be conducted. 
  • Post that, a certification  drive for PMGDISHA scheme will be conducted in a similar manner.
  • Apart from this Common Service Center (CSC) also proposed to make all the Digital Villages 100 percent Digital Literate. 

PMGDISHA and CSCs have emerged as the enablers for digital literacy and they are important in realizing the vision of transforming lives of common people and to bridge the gap between government and citizens through digital technology. 

About PMGDISHA Programme

  • Envisages to make six crore persons in rural areas, across States/UTs, digitally literate, reaching to around 40% of rural households by covering one member from every household where there is no digitally literate person.
  • Digitally literate persons: Digitally literate persons would be able to operate computers/digital access devices (like tablets, smart phones, etc.), send and receive emails, browse internet, access Government Services, search for information, undertaking cashless transactions, etc. and hence use IT to actively participate in the process of nation building.

News Source: PIB


FOSS4Gov Innovation Challenge

Part of: GS Prelims 

In News: A virtual roundtable discussion ‘Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in Government’ was organized by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to increase awareness about the usage of FOSS in governance and government functioning, and adoption of FOSS, MeitY.

  • On the occasion of 7-year anniversary of MyGov, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) launched #FOSS4Gov Innovation Challenge to accelerate adoption of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in Government and build Indian FOSS Ecosystem
  • Through this challenge, various innovators, start-ups, working professionals, academics and students in India are invited to showcase their existing FOSS based innovations and/or build new, implementable, open-source product innovations in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) with possible applications for Govtech in Health, Education, Agriculture, Urban Governance etc. The winners of the Challenge will receive cash rewards and incubation support to scale their products for listing on Government e Market (GeM).

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


EDUCATION/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources 
  • GS-3: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

A reality check for higher education dreams

Context: The UGC will soon implement its two recent regulations — the Academic Bank of Credits and Multiple Entry and Exit.

Significance of these two regulations

  • Promotes flexibility of curriculum framework
  • Promotes interdisciplinary and academic mobility for students across higher education institutions.
  • Facilitates students to choose their own learning path to attain a degree, diploma or certification with multiple entry-multiple exit options. 
  • Education will be student-centric learning, customised for each student’s strengths, needs, skills, and interests. 
  • Addresses the criticism that Indian education is too structured, rigid and expensive
  • Helps in student retention & increasing enrolment. Students tend to drop out because of lack of relevance & unable to sustain their interest.

The regulations are, therefore, being showcased as star recommendations of NEP and game-changers for higher education. At theoretical level these look good, but there are challenges in making it a reality.

Concerns

  • Maturity of Student: A young student of 15 or 16 may not be in a position to meaningfully select the best courses or combination of courses to suit her aptitude.
  • Nomenclature of Degree: Even if she selects the courses, she may not be able to tailor her degrees as she wishes. This is because the control over the nomenclature of the degree rests solely with the UGC. 
  • Not a full-fledged flexibility: Regarding flexibility in the choice of subjects, if 50 per cent of the curriculum must be carried out within the degree-granting institute, then there is actually little flexibility left for the student
  • Previous Experience: A similar concept of a “Meta University” was attempted in 2012 that failed to take off despite a UGC regulation, primarily due to the silo mentality and lack of coordination among institutions.
    • National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) has similar enabling provisions (multiple entry & Exit) for vocational education but has nothing tangible to show for it.
  • Limited Options: If flexibility with quality were the basis, government shouldn’t limit courses only to those available on SWAYAM, NPTEL, V-Lab, etc, for credit transfer and credit accumulation. Foreign Credits can also be tapped into.
  • Employability Factor: If a student chooses to drop a year or two into a degree programme, the issue of his employability remains unresolved. Similar argument was used while pulling down Delhi University’s Five-Year UG Programme in 2014.
  • Bureaucracy Constraints: Given the challenges a student faces in getting migration certificate or transcript due to bureaucratic processes, there are apprehensions with smooth implementation of these initiatives.
  • Training Manpower: The faculty will need to be reoriented to become guides and mentors, from just teachers. 
  • Funds: Implementation of these initiatives requires funds both for IT infrastructure & manpower (teachers).  However, the total central education budget has been falling constantly by 4.14 per cent in 2014-15, 3.4 per cent in 2019-20.

Way Ahead

Great commitment will be required from every stakeholder, from the Centre and UGC to VCs, faculty and non-faculty staff to make these innovative ideas a success.

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ INTERNATIONAL

  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Semi-Conductor Shortage

Context: The global shortage of semiconductor chips has started making its effect felt in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector in India.

  • As Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) slow down production, smaller players are being impacted as their business orders & hence the revenues drying up.

Reasons for Semiconductor Shortage

  • Rise in Covid-19 cases in supplying countries, especially those in Asia, led to disruption of production (shutdown of factories) thereby causing the current shortage.
  • An atrocious winter storm in Texas shutdown semiconductor factories, and a fire at a plant in Japan caused similar delays.
  • Also, relatively low margins of Substrate manufacturing have led to its underinvestment and added to the pain of a global chip shortage 
    • Substrates connect chips to the circuit boards that hold them in personal computers and other devices. 
    • Made up of thin copper wire sandwiched in resin, substrates help transmit user instructions to a computer’s chips and relay the answers. 
    • They are necessary because the ultrathin wiring that comes out of chips can’t tolerate a direct soldered connection to a circuit board
    •  Substrate Manufacturing is therefore seen as a backwater of the global chip supply chain.
    • Supplies of substrates is very tight and small disruption in this underinvested sector is causing big worries to chip manufacturers
  • The chief executives of Intel and IBM have both said recently that the chip shortage could last two years.

Semiconductor chips and Automobile sector

  • Semiconductor chips are integral parts of the power train, chassis, safety systems, advanced driver assistance systems, and other parts of automobiles. 
  • They are used more in passenger vehicles compared to commercial vehicles or two-wheelers
  • The move to electric vehicles has led to increased demand of chips. For example, a Ford Focus typically uses roughly 300 chips, whereas one of Ford’s new electric vehicles can have up to 3,000 chips
  • With supply of semiconductor chips slowing down, the production in automobile sector is also adversely impacted.

Consequences of chip shortage on automobile sector:

  • Due to longer lead time — the time between when the order is placed and the shipment is delivered — the automobile sector has been forced to cut down on its production.
  • The slowing down of production by big automotive players has led to reduction in new orders being placed to MSME vendors (who supply parts)
  • The MSMEs who are vendors and sub-vendors of the automobile industry are now working just 8 hours instead of the 12 hours they normally do. This has not only affected their earning but is also making them to migrate to other sectors. 
  • While the local MSME industrial sector was slowly coming back to normal after the second wave of Covid-19, the recovery has been hampered by the high price of raw material and low orders.

What is being done to address the situation?

  • Firms like Samsung, Tata Group are sinking huge investments into semi-conductor production
  • The US, Europe and China have committed billions in subsidy to on-shoring production.
  • Long-term supply contracts are being signed by automakers

How can India play its role?

  • Since, chip fabrication is capital-intensive (an average sized facility costs $7-10 billion) with long gestation and rapid technology, it is difficult for India to strive for self-sufficiency on chip fabrication.
  • But, government-owned semi-conductor facilities already operated by ISRO and DRDO can be expanded and upgraded
  • Government can attract global manufacturers by showcasing skilled talent pool in R&D, low labour costs, large market and policy support (Production-linked incentive scheme)

Connecting the dots:


ORF – India and Sri Lanka: https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/charting-a-new-trajectory-in-india-sri-lanka-relations/

GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: India and its neighbour – Sri Lanka

Charting a New Trajectory in India-Sri Lanka Relations

Context: India and Sri Lanka have enjoyed a cordial and relatively stable relationship since their independence. In the post-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) era, the neighbours align over key security and economic objectives, which includes maintaining freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean region, combating the threat of terrorism, and working together towards a more prosperous South Asian neighbourhood. Yet the relationship is in need of a fresh impetus. 

Over the years, Sri Lanka has drifted towards China for economic support and views her as a more reliable partner in enabling domestic economic development. This has generated concern in New Delhi over the state of the bilateral relationship between the two countries, which views Beijing’s proximity to its neighbours as undermining India’s influence in the island nation.

Why is India concerned?

  • Sri Lanka’s drift towards China as a more reliable partner in enabling domestic economic development
    • Sri Lankans continue to be suspicious about India’s motives vis-a-vis the Tamil cause. 
    • India’s slow bureaucratic processes that delay approvals incite suspicions of India’s commitment to Sri Lanka. Last year, the Indian government took five months to approve a loan moratorium sought by Colombo while Beijing approved an additional US $500 million loan from its development bank in no time. China’s quicker decision making, and its far larger assistance makes them a more attractive partner.
    • However, Sri Lanka has been forced into a debt trap, and has had to sell its strategic assets though debt-equity swaps leading to creation of zones where its own sovereignty has been negated. This is bad news for Sri Lanka and a lesson to accord higher priority to diversity and balance in its foreign policy and international relations.
  • Killing of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy
  • The cancellation of the East Container Terminal port contract to India 
  • The Sri Lankan government led by the Rajapaksa family are historically known to be closer to China than India.
  • China is also set to commence the construction of a US $13 billion city on Sri Lanka’s seafront close to Colombo, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.

India’s Strengths: In education, healthcare, and tourism, India is a far stronger partner than China. Under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Scheme and the Colombo Plan, Sri Lankan nationals can benefit from 400 slots for short- and medium-term training courses in a variety of technical and professional disciplines. Since 2017, students from the island nation can also appear for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and IIT JEE (Advanced) exams.

Therefore, despite the convergence of objectives and interests, there is an urgent need for India and Sri Lanka to carefully and deliberately reinvigorate their bilateral relationship.

The Way Forward

  • India can build on the existing educational exchanges by establishing an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT in Sri Lanka’s planned education zone). In the country’s northeast, India can set up technical and English language training centres like the Sri Lanka-India Centre for English Language Training (SLICELT) in Kandy. 
  • In addition, India and Sri Lanka  should look forward to extensive cooperation in pharmaceutical manufacturing, as announced in the joint statement issued during Jaishankar’s visit earlier this year.
  • In the technology sector, India could create job opportunities by expanding the presence of its information technology companies in Sri Lanka. These organisations can create thousands of direct and indirect jobs and boost the island nation’s service economy. Aside from a special economic zone (SEZ) for pharmaceuticals, the two sides could also look into similar provisions for information technology and education, among other sectors.
  • As Sri Lanka embarks on the arduous project of drafting a constitution, India can lend its own experience in managing minority rights and diverse populations. It can help Sri Lanka draft policies ensuring linguistic and cultural freedom, access to grievance redressal, and reservation in representative bodies.
  • India and Sri Lanka must look for ways to boost people-to-people contacts. The island nation’s greatest number of tourists come from India, but the scope of religious tourism is yet to be explored. Through Prime Minister Modi’s US $15 million grant for promotion of Buddhist ties with Sri Lanka announced last year, the two countries can look to create a Buddhism knowledge and tourism corridor
  • Finally, the grandeur and prevalence of cricket in both countries ought to be leveraged. Expanding the Indian Premiere League (IPL) to Sri Lanka in partnership with Lanka Premier League (LPL) will encourage people-to-people contact and boost tourism.

Cooperation in these sectors does not diminish concerns on issues where the two neighbours might not align: Tamil minority rights and China’s importance in Sri Lanka’s economy. However, history, cultural closeness and the constraints of geography poise India and Sri Lanka as natural and permanent partners to tide over these issues and explore synergies in new avenues to further their respective economic and developmental aspirations jointly.

Can you answer this question now?

  1. What are the major issues of convergence and confrontation between India and Sri Lanka? Examine.
  2. Sri Lanka has immense strategic importance for India. Do you agree? Comment in the light of the evolving geopolitics in the Indian Ocean region.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1 Which of the following is the largest number of freshwater riverine islands formed by the River Brahmaputra?

  1. Majuli
  2. Dibru Saikhowa
  3. Srirangam
  4. Bhavani Island

Q.2 Consider the following Statements About Electric Vehicles (EVs):

  1. An electric vehicle may be powered through a self-contained battery, solar panels or an electric generator to convert fuel to electricity.
  2. FAME II scheme of the Indian government was launched to build a sustainable electric vehicle ecosystem in India.

Select the correct statements:

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 Which of the following countries is the largest producer of jute in the world?

  1. Bangladesh
  2. India
  3. China
  4. Pakistan 

ANSWERS FOR 8th Sept 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 C
3 C

Must Read

On Green Hydrogen:

The Hindu

On India’s Food System:

Indian Express

On Biodiversity:

The Statesman

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