Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 10 February 2023

Legality of the Northern Ireland Protocol

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

The United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled that the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is a post-Brexit agreement that created a trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, is lawful. The apex court unanimously rejected appeals filed by pro-Brexit activists and former leaders of Northern Ireland’s largest unionist parties, who argued that the protocol breached the 1800 Act of Union and the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

  1. After Brexit, Northern Ireland remained the UK’s only constituent that shared a land border with an EU member, the Republic of Ireland. EU and UK having different product standards, checks would be necessary before goods could move from Northern Ireland to Ireland.
  2. However, the two sides have had a long history of conflict, with a hard-fought peace secured only in 1998 under the Belfast Agreement, also called the Good Friday agreement.
  3. Fiddling with this border was thus considered too dangerous, and it was decided the checks would be conducted between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This was called the Northern Ireland Protocol.
  4. Under the protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market, and trade-and-customs inspections of goods coming from Great Britain take place at its ports along the Irish Sea.

What are the changes that the UK wants in the protocol?

  1. The UK government has proposed the creation of a ‘green lane’, which would have fewer checks and customs controls only for goods going to Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, a more stringent ‘red lane’ would be for goods going on to the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.
  2. The plan also includes that changes in tax rules, such as spending and tax policies for Northern Ireland be decided only by London, and a proposal that businesses in Northern Ireland be allowed to choose between UK or EU standards.
  3. The UK also seeks “an independent body to settle disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol, rather than the European Court of Justice.”


Turkey with the aftershocks

GS Paper - 1 (Geography)

Turkey and Syria can’t catch a break. Since devastating quakeaftershocks have ripped through the region. Altogether, nearly 8,000 people have been announced dead so far. The number is expected to rise because countless people are still trapped below the rubble — and because continued aftershocks will cause already-unstable buildings to collapse.

What is an aftershock?

  1. Large earthquakes are almost always followed by small earthquakes called aftershocks. They are generally strongest in the 48 hours following the main quake and can last weeks and even years in some cases.
  2. Typically, the magnitude of aftershocks starts around one degree less than the initial event — so, for example, if the quake has a magnitude of 7, seismologists might expect an aftershock of 6.
  3. That’s the average occurrence but it sometimes happens that it isn’t like that at all.
  4. Sometimes you get an aftershock that’s actually larger than the main shock. So as a seismologist, you always have to be prepared to be surprised by what the Earth throws at you.
  5. In the Turkey-Syria border region, the aftershocks have been almost as strong as the initial quake.
  6. An earthquake is considered an aftershock and not an individual quake when it occurs between 1 and 2 fault lines away from a preceding earthquake. Generally, aftershocks are the result of the Earth’s tectonic plates trying to shift back into place along a fault line.
  7. More than 100 aftershock earthquakes have occurred since the initial earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Aftershocks may not occur if the initial earthquake is very small. But in the case of larger earthquakes, they are a given.

When do aftershocks occur?

  1. This depends on the size of the initial earthquake. Although the more intense aftershocks will probably stop around two days after the initial quake, it is possible for the aftershocks to gradually decay, but not completely cease until a year after the main quake.
  2. Other research suggests that in some areas, like the New Madrid fault in the US state of Missouri, small aftershocks can continue for centuries after the initial shock.


India’s big millets push

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Union Budget has accorded high priority to millets — grains such as jowarbajraragi — citing their health benefits. “We are the largest producer and second largest exporter of ‘Sree Anna’ (millets) in the world… The Indian Institute of Millet Research-Hyderabad will be supported as the Centre of Excellence for sharing best practices, research and technologies at the international level,” the Finance Minister said.

India’s millets push

  1. Two years ago, the UN General Assembly adopted India’s resolution to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
  2. Through the year, several central ministries and government organisations will work towards promoting this “nutri cereal”. Delegates at G20 meetings will be given a “millet experience” through tasting, meeting farmers, and interactive sessions.
  3. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has said that food regulator Food Safety and Standards Association of India (FSSAI) will formulate guidelines to include millets in the food menu of schools, hospitals, and government canteens. Hospitals such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences are working to set up a “millets canteen” to produce millets-based foods from March onward.
  4. The Youth Affairs Ministry has done webinars and conferences with leading athletesnutritionists, and dieticians on millets through the Fit India app.
  5. The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has organised millet fair-cum-exhibitions in Andhra PradeshBihar, and Madhya Pradesh; the diversity of Indian millets will be showcased at international trade shows.
  6. Indian embassies in more than 140 countries will organise exhibitions, seminars, and cooked millet dish competitions.
  7. The government also intends to increase procurement of these grains under the public distribution system.
  8. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said last year that it was time for public distribution programmes to focus on a more diverse food basket to improve nutritional status.

What are the benefits of millets?

  1. Millets are both eco-friendly and healthier than more commonly consumed grains. They require much less water than rice or wheat, and can be grown in rain-fed areas without irrigation.
  2. Belonging to the grass family, millets tend to be more tolerant to drought and extreme weather, and can grow in poor soil and in hilly areas.
  3. Millets can be a healthier option to keep lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes at bay.
  4. Switching out the regular grains can be especially beneficial in India, which is considered to be the diabetes capital of the world.
  5. It is projected that the country will have 69.9 million diabetics by 2025. Indians are also at a high risk of cardiovascular diseases at a young age.
  6. Millets have a much lower glycaemic index — a measure of how much blood sugar levels spike after consuming a food item — than processed rice or wheat. A low glycaemic diet can help in controlling weight and blood sugar levels, consequently reducing the risk of heart disease or even cancers.
  7. Millets are also high in fibre content that is known to improve gut microbiota. They result in satiety faster and keeps people fuller for longer, thereby reducing the amount of food consumed.
  8. Millets also contain niacin, which is linked to lowering triglycerides and increasing HDL or good cholesterol. Millets contain no gluten and suit people with gluten allergy and irritable bowel syndrome.


RBI Lifts Loan Costs to Tame Inflation

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India on raised the benchmark lending rate by 25 basis points (bps) to 6.5% as the RBI targets persistently high core or underlying inflation that it sees as a risk to the improving outlook for the economy.


  1. Observing that the rate increases since May were still working their way through the system.
  2. “The MPC was of the view that further calibrated monetary policy action is warranted to keep inflation expectations anchoredbreak the persistence of core inflation and thereby strengthen the medium-term growth prospects”.
  3. The MPC, which lowered its CPI inflation forecast for the current fiscal year to 6.5% from the 6.7% it projected and raised its growth estimate for Q1 of the fiscal year beginning in April by 70 bps to 7.8%.

Banking System

  1. The Indian banking system, including the NBFC sector, continues to be resilient and strong. Based on our assessment, the large exposure guidelines of the RBI have been fully complied with by all the banks.
  2. The strength, the size and the resilience of the Indian banking system is now much larger and much stronger to be affected by an individual incident or a case.
  3. “When banks lend money to a company, they do not lend on the basis of the market capitalization of that particular company. They lend on the basis of the strength of that company and fundamentals.”
  4. “The Indian economy remains resilient... it has withstood successive global shocks over the last three years”.


  1. Noting that inflation had shown signs of moderation and the “worst is behind us”.
  2. The RBI could not afford to take its eyes off inflation. “We need to see a decisive moderation in inflation.
  3. RBI to remain unwavering in our commitment to bring down inflation... monetary policy has to be tailored to ensuring a durable disinflation process”.
  4. The RBI chief said the real policy rate had moved into positive territory and the banking system had exited from the ‘chakravyuh’ of excess liquidity without causing any disruption.
  5. The cut in the size of the rate increase to 25 bps also provided elbow room to the RBI to weigh all incoming data and forecasts to determine appropriate actions and policy stance.

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