Thursday, 11th February 2021

Table of contents

1   News Snapshot


World Sustainable Development Summit 2021


Excessive Use of Fertilizer


India to witness fastest rise in energy demand by 2040: IEA

2   Featured News


Special Series – Budget, Survey and Finance Commission


Draft Electricity Amendment Bill

3   Terms & Concepts


Dickinsonia - Edukemy Current Affairs


Immunity Passport

4   Editorial of the day


Disinformation is a cybersecurity threat – The Hindu


Fine ­tuning the State­ of­ the ­app technology – The Hindu


Denying women the right over their bodies – The Hindu

5   Case Study of the Day


SOLAR MAMAs power up women’s development

.... Show less Show more
News Snapshot

World Sustainable Development Summit 2021

In News

Prime Minister inaugurated World Sustainable Development Summit 2021. This year’s theme is - ‘Redefining our common future: Safe and secure environment for all’.


About World Sustainable Development Summit

·         It is the annual flagship event of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). Instituted in 2001.

·         The Summit series has established itself as a responsible and an effective platform for mobilizing opinion-makers to identify and advance pioneering actions to address some of the most relevant issues concerning sustainable development.

·         WSDS now strives to provide long-term solutions for the benefit of global communities. 


Main Highlights from PM’s address

·         The PM emphasized on climate justice for fighting against climate change.

o   Climate justice is inspired by a vision of trusteeship- where growth comes with greater compassion to the poorest.

o   Climate justice also means giving the developing countries enough space to grow. When each and every one of us understands our individual and/ collective duties, climate justice will be achieved.

·         The Prime Minister pointed out that often discussions on sustainability become too focused on green energy but green energy is only the means. The destination we seek is a greener planet.

o   Our culture's deep respect for forests and green cover is translating into out-standing results.

o   Our mission to achieve sustainable development also includes special attention towards animal protection. He shared that in the last five to seven years, the population of lions, tigers, leopards and Gangetic river dolphin has gone up.

·         The PM said that sustainable development is incomplete without equitable access. In this direction too, India has made good progress.

·         Our human centric approach could be a force multiplier for global good.

News Snapshot

Excessive Use of Fertilizer

In News

Investigations were carried out under All India Coordinated Research Project on ‘Long Term Fertilizer Experiments’ over five decades at fixed sites.


Major Findings

·         Continuous use of nitrogenous fertilizer alone had deleterious effect on soil health and crop productivity showing deficiencies of other major and micro nutrients.

·         Even with recommended doses of NPK and more, deficiency of micro and secondary nutrients has become yield limiting factors over the years.

·         Deficient nutrient may also affect plant growth and cause plant physiological disorders.

·         There is also possibility of nitrate contamination in groundwater above the permissible limit of 10 mg NO3-N /L due to excessive/over-use of nitrogenous fertilizers, particularly in light textured soils that has consequence on human/animal health if used for drinking purpose.


ICAR recommendation to ameliorate the effects

·         Soil test based balanced and integrated nutrient management through conjunctive use of both inorganic and organic sources of plant nutrients

·         Split application and placement of fertilizers,

·         Use of slow releasing N-fertilizers and nitrification inhibitors,

·         Growing leguminous crops

·         Use of resource conservation technologies (RCTs)


Government Initiatives

·         National Mission on Soil Health Card to promote soil test based balanced fertilizer application.

·         Organic farming promotion under Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD-NER).

·         Trainings and demonstrations organized through ICAR institutions including Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), and agricultural universities to educate farmers on all these aspects.

News Snapshot

India to witness fastest rise in energy demand by 2040: IEA

In News

International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a report titled “The India Energy Outlook 2021”.


Major Findings

·         It has forecast India’s energy demand to grow at the fastest pace globally over the next two decades in line with the country’s economic expansion.

·         Rapid expansion of solar power combined with favourable policies is transforming India’s electricity sector.

·         Additional funding of $1.4 trillion will be needed in clean-energy technologies to place India on a sustainable path over the next two decades.

·         India’s combined import bill for fossil fuels is projected to triple during the period with crude oil as the largest component.

·         Domestic production of oil and gas continues to fall behind consumption trends and net dependence on imported oil may rise above 90% by 2040, up from 75% at present.


About IEA

·         It is an international intergovernmental organization that was established in 1974. It was founded in response to the 1973 oil crisis, in which the supply chain for oil temporarily broke down.

·         Its stated mandate is to maintain the stability of the international oil supply, although its mission has expanded in recent years to emphasize on renewable energy and initiatives focused on environmental protection and stopping climate change.

·         The IEA operates within the broader framework of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

Featured News

Special Series – Budget, Survey and Finance Commission

Topic – 7 Sovereign Credit Rating


As per the economic survey India’s fiscal policy should be guided by considerations of growth and development rather than be restrained by biased and subjective sovereign credit ratings as they do not reflect the Indian economy’s fundamentals.


What are Sovereign Credit Ratings?

·         Sovereign credit ratings seek to quantify issuers’ ability to meet debt obligations. When favourable, these can facilitate countries access to global capital markets and foreign investment.

·         Sovereign credit ratings broadly rate countries as either investment grade or speculative grade, with the latter projected to have a higher likelihood of default on borrowings.

·         The threshold of Investment grade is considered to be BBB- for S&P and Fitch and Baa3 for Moody’s.


India’s Sovereign Credit Ratings

·         India’s sovereign credit rating downgrades during 1998-2018 are mainly confined to the 1990s on account of the post-Pokhran sanctions in 1998.

·         India’s sovereign credit ratings upgrades have mainly been witnessed in the 2nd half of 2000s, due to the higher economic growth prospects and strengthened fundamentals of the economy.

·         During most of the 1990s and mid-2000s, India’s sovereign credit rating was speculative grade.


Does India’s sovereign credit rating reflect its Fundamentals?

India’s sovereign credit ratings do not reflect its fundamentals.

·         Within its sovereign credit ratings cohort (countries rated between A+/A1 and BBB-/Baa3 for S&P/ Moody’s), India is a clear outlier on several parameters, i.e., it is rated significantly lower than mandated by the effect on the sovereign rating of the various parameters like GDP growth rate, Consumer Price Index (CPI), General government gross debt (as % of GDP), Cyclically adjusted primary balance (as % of GDP), current account balance (as per cent of GDP), Investor protection, Political stability, Government effectiveness, rule of law, control of corruption, Partial capital account convertibility, reserves adequacy ratio.

·         This outlier status remains true not only now but also during the last two decades.


Credit ratings map the probability of default and therefore reflect the willingness and ability of borrower to meet its obligations.

·         India’s willingness to pay is demonstrated through its zero sovereign default history.

·         India’s ability to pay can be gauged not only by the extremely low foreign currency denominated debt of the sovereign but also by the comfortable size of its foreign exchange reserves that can pay for the short-term debt of the private sector as well as the entire stock of India’s sovereign and non-sovereign external debt.

·         India’s forex reserves in January were greater than India’s total external debt (sovereign and non-sovereign). In corporate finance parlance, therefore, India resembles a firm that has negative debt, whose probability of default is zero by definition.

Note: India’s sovereign foreign denominated debt is met through India’s forex reserves. Since India has partial capital account convertibility, this implies that private foreign denominated debt also needs to be met by either private export earnings or India’s forex reserves.


Effect of sovereign credit rating changes on various indicators

·         Past episodes of rating changes have no or weak correlation with macroeconomic indicators like GDP growth, fiscal deficit, general government debt, inflation, current account deficit.

·         These have also not had major adverse impact on select indicators such as Sensex return, foreign exchange rate and yield on government securities.


Policy Implications for India

·         India’s fiscal policy should be guided by considerations of growth and development rather than be restrained by biased and subjective sovereign credit ratings.

·         While sovereign credit ratings do not reflect the Indian economy’s fundamentals, biased credit ratings damage FPI flows.

·         Sovereign credit ratings methodology must be amended to reflect economies’ ability and willingness to pay their debt obligations by becoming more transparent and less subjective.

·         The pro-cyclical nature of credit ratings and its potential adverse impact on economies, especially low-rated developing economies must be expeditiously addressed.

·         India has already raised the issue of pro-cyclicality of credit ratings in G20. In response, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) is now focusing on assessing the pro-cyclicality of credit rating downgrades.

Model Question - What are Sovereign Credit Ratings? Examine whether these ratings reflect Indian economy’s fundamentals and its consequent policy implications for India.


Featured News

Draft Electricity Amendment Bill

In News

An overhaul of The Electricity Act 2003 has been proposed with Draft Electricity Amendment Bill.


Need for amendments

·         Many provisions of the 2003 Act are now archaic, given the sector’s rapid evolution, and this has resulted in several inefficiencies and challenges creeping in, hampering further growth.

·         India is currently the world’s third-largest producer of electricity with an installed capacity of 371 GW. Going ahead, rapid growth and urbanisation will drive up the demand for electricity manifold, necessitating a healthy, efficient and consumer-centric power sector.

·         For a transition from fossil fuels to cleaner sources such as renewables, and the power sector must be future-ready to handle the interplay of distributed energy resources, storage, electric vehicle (EV) charging requirements and other emerging technologies.

·         While these technologies have set the stage for next-generation technology reforms, legislative reforms are required to boost the sector’s viability while promoting transparency and accountability.

·         Cash-strapped distribution sector is the weakest link in the value chain.

o   Most distribution companies (discoms) today are beset with operational inefficiencies and acute financial crunch, with high Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses (averaging around 22%).

o   Unsustainably designed tariff structures coupled with collection inefficiencies have played havoc with discoms’ cash flows, leading to their delaying payments to generators and also curtailing power purchase, both dampening investments in the sector.


Draft Electricity Amendment Bill (2020): Analysis

·         It aims to help discoms by mandating determination of tariffs purely on costs basis, without taking into account subsidies, which would be directly paid to consumers.

o   This could solve discoms’ chronic cash-flow woes, enabling them to invest in improving infrastructure and clear outstanding dues.

o   This will also boost transparency, as discoms will no longer be able to mask their inefficiencies.

o   In parallel, rationalisation of tariff will ease the burden on industries making them competitive and support the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.

o   Billing at cost reflective tariffs will also promote adoption of energy efficient measures by the consumers.

o   The amendments will continue to protect economically weaker sections of consumer through transfer of subsidy under the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) by the State Government.

·         The strengthening of the regulatory ecosystem for dispute resolution is also a welcome step.

o   The proposal to bolster the strength of the appellate tribunal along with the 60-day window for adopting tariffs post bidding will help in speedy resolution of cases.

o   Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA) with civil court powers will help uphold contract sanctity, and should inspire confidence among private investors hamstrung by delayed payments, unilateral tariff and renegotiations on power purchase agreements, and random curtailments in offtake.

o   However, to avoid complexities, the jurisdictional boundaries of Electricity Regulatory Commission and the proposed Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority need to be clearly defined.

·         Enhancing private sector participation in the distribution sector by allowing sub-licensees.

o   It will help attract capital, boost efficiency and improve service delivery.

o   The private participants will also bring in technology advancements and improve quality of supply to consumers.

o   However, further clarity is required on structure, responsibilities and compensation mechanisms, and there must be adequate grievance redressal avenues to handle friction arising from possible rent-seeking behaviour.

·         Announcement of the National Renewable Energy Policy

o   It will provide impetus to clean energy transition by creating a conducive investment climate and enabling market mechanisms.

o   This will usher in a uniform, unambiguous regulatory ecosystem across the nation for promoting renewables at the state-level that is fully aligned to the Centre’s vision.

o   High penalties for dishonouring Renewable Purchase Obligations should improve compliance and accelerate renewables’ adoption.

o   As a next step, the government should consider an integrated National Clean Energy Policy focusing on resources and technologies including storage, energy efficiency, EVs and grid integration.


The proposed reforms can infuse much-needed momentum into the power sector if properly implemented and this needs the Centre and states to work in unison. This is an opportunity for the central and state governments to bury political motives and cooperate in the larger national interest for a vibrant power sector.

Terms & Concepts

Dickinsonia - Edukemy Current Affairs

·         It is the Earth’s ‘oldest animal’ dating back 570 million years.

·         India’s first fossil of a Dickinsonia has been discovered on the roof of the ‘Auditorium Cave’ at Bhimbetka, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

·         Bhimbetka is believed to date from the Mesolithic period (around 10,000 years ago), through the Chalcolithic (Microlithic) into medieval and recent periods.


Terms & Concepts

Immunity Passport

·         In a bid to ease travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, countries like Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Chile, UK have announced a new ‘immunity passport.’

·         They are the recovery or release certificate or a document attesting that its bearer is immune to a contagious disease.

·         They can be used as a legal document granted by a testing authority following a serology test demonstrating that the bearer has antibodies making them immune to a disease.

·         Certain ethical issues have been raised against these passports - compromising privacy, promoting profiteering, non-transparent guidelines.


Editorial of the day

Disinformation is a cybersecurity threat – The Hindu

Essence - The storming of the U.S. Capitol by right­wing groups on January 6, 2021, spreading of false information by QAnon about the U.S. 2020 presidential election and conspiracy theorists (in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus and Belgium) burning down 5G towers are some of the recent instances of disinformation campaigns. In this context this article analyses Disinformation as a major cybersecurity threat and proposes solutions for the same.

Why should you read this editorial?

·         A brief on Cyberattacks and Disinformation campaigns and their modus operandi.

·         Threats from disinformation and computational propaganda vis-à-vis cyber threats such as cognitive hacking, Deep Fakes, etc and their related impacts.

·         Lessons to learn from cybersecurity to counter and intervene in computational propaganda and infodemics.

·         Developing disinformation defence systems and defense­in­depth strategy, Information sharing, education and awareness as solutions for prevention of disinformation.

Link -

Editorial of the day

Fine ­tuning the State­ of­ the ­app technology – The Hindu

Essence - The issue of privacy is crucial for government technology platforms and services as governments typically have a monopoly in providing public services, unlike the private sector. In this context the article examines government technological platforms such as COVID 19 mobile apps.

Why should you read this article?

·         Know about two commonly accepted principles of data privacy — necessity and proportionality.

·         Identify issues like digital exclusion, data privacy, inconsistency in terms of the features, functionalities, and frequency of information updates, etc.

·         Solution like the adoption of an API­based microservices architecture and federated database structure with an appropriate governance framework, functional helplines, and other channels to ensure that the digitally restricted have access to the same information as the digitally empowered, etc.

Link -


Editorial of the day

Denying women the right over their bodies – The Hindu

Essence- Unsafe abortions are the third largest cause of maternal deaths in India. The MTP Act of 1971 was framed in the context of reducing the maternal mortality ratio due to unsafe abortions. However, as the article argues, the law is framed not to respect a woman’s right over her own body but makes it easier for the state to stake its control over her body through legal and medical debates. The article further argues that recently proposed Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (MTP Bill) will not translate into greater autonomy for women over their own bodies. 

Why you should read this article?

·         To understand the issues associated with the Amendment Bill and how it compromises women’s control over their own bodies.

·         To get a grasp of the abortion issues in general and understand how it is linked to women’s empowerment and their reproductive rights.

Link -

Case Study of the Day

SOLAR MAMAs power up women’s development

     Due to lack of electricity, everyday household tasks become exhausting, time-consuming.

Many households depend on kerosene oil for lamps or cooking, potentially exposing themselves to future respiratory or sight problems.

     Barefoot College in Rajasthan teaches rural women from India and Africa to fabricate solar panels, lights and Photovoltaic circuits known as SOLAR MAMAs.

     SOLAR MAMAs have provided light and power to over 1,200 villages and 5,00,000 people worldwide.

     Initiatives has helped women develop leadership skills and they are able to challenge, with greater confidence, the discriminatory gender stereotypes that once handicapped them.

     Many of these women, despite having never set foot inside a classroom themselves or learning to read, now watch their children peacefully do their homework in the evening

     What is for sure is that with Solar Mamas, life is now looking a whole lot brighter for rural communities in India and across the world.

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