• Current Affairs, 17th January 2020

     

     

     

    NATIONAL NEWS

     

    1. Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020

    • The Union Cabinet has approved the promulgation of Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020that will amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 and Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act 2015. 
    • Allocation of coal/lignite blocks for composite prospecting licence cum mining lease has been provided.
    • Requirement of previous approval in cases where allocation of blocks was made by Central Govt has been dispensed with.
    • This will speed up the process of implementation of projects, ease of doing business, simplification of procedure and benefit all the parties in areas where minerals are located.
    • In 2018, the government had allowed commercial mining by private entities but non-coal companies couldn’t participate in the auction.
    • In August 2019, the government announced 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) under the automatic route in coal mining for open sale, besides creating associated infrastructure, such as washeries.
    • In 2018, the government allowed commercial mining by private entities and set a mining target of 1.5 billion tonnes by 2020. Out of this, 1 billion tonnes was set to be from Coal India, while 500 million tonnes was to be from non-Coal India entities. This target has now been revised to 1 billion tonnes by 223-24.

     

     

     

    1. Nepal’s Seke ‘near-extinct’

    • Recently, The New York Times reported that the “near-extinct” Nepalese language Seke has just 700 speakers around the world.
    • According to the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA),Seke is one of the over 100 indigenous languages of Nepal.
    • In recent years, Seke has been retreating in the face of Nepali, which is Nepal’s official language and is considered to be crucial for getting educational and employment opportunities outside villages.
    • According to ELA, difficult conditions at home and job prospects elsewhere have brought speakers of Seke to places such as Pokhara, Kathmandu and even New York. Therefore, the vulnerability of the language is linked to the migration of people to places where Seke is not spoken,which has reduced the intergenerational transmission of the language. Furthermore, the younger generation does not find much use in learning the language, giving preference to Nepali and English.

    UNESCO has six degrees of endangerment. These are:

    • Safe, which are the languages spoken by all generations and their intergenerational transmission is uninterrupted.
    • Vulnerable languages, which are spoken by most children but may be restricted to certain domains.
    • Definitely endangered languages, which are no longer being learnt by children as their mother tongue.
    • Severely endangered are languages spoken by grandparents and older generations, and while the parent generation may understand it, they may not speak it with the children or among themselves.
    • Critically endangered languages are those of which the youngest speakers are the grandparents or older family members who may speak the language partially or infrequently.
    • Extinct languages, of which no speakers are left.

     

     

    1. Curative Petition: Nirbhaya Case convicts file Curative pleas in Supreme Court

     

    • A curative petition, which follows the dismissal of a review petition,is the last legal avenue open for convicts in the Supreme Court.
    • Came into Existence:It is a rare remedy devised by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in its judgment in the Rupa Ashok Hurra case in 2002.
    • Grounds of Filing Curative Petition:A party can take only two limited grounds in a curative petition —
      • One-that he was not heard by the court before the adverse judgment was passed, and
      • Two- the judge was biased.

     

     

    1. Tiger Reserves: Demand to notify certain areas of Wildlife Sanctuaries in Goa as Tiger Reserve

     

    • MahadayiNetravaliand Cotigao sanctuaries and some part of Mahaveer National Park in Goa has seen the presence of Tigers that has pushed Politicians & activists to demand Tiger Reserve status in these areas
    • Sanctuaries and National Parks are areas of significant ecological, floral, faunal or natural significance. They are notified by State Governments and protected by the Forest Department under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • A National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary that is considered significant for protecting tigers can be additionally designated as a Tiger Reserve
    • A Tiger Reserve consists of a ‘Core’ or ‘Critical Tiger Habitat’, which is to be managed as an inviolate area, and a ‘Buffer’ or Peripheral area immediately abutting a Core area, which may be accorded a lesser degree of habitat protection.
    • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory bodyformed in 2005-06, with an overarching supervisory/coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

     

    1. Tenth foundation day of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences

    • The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, graced and addressed the tenth foundation day of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) and the seventh convocation ceremony in New Delhi today (January 15, 2020).
    • the President said that In India, we need about two lakh liver transplants a year, while only a few thousand are done every year. There is need to establish liver transplant programs in more public hospitals and ILBS can provide necessary expertise in this regard. But perhaps most crucial is to encourage organ donation and spread awareness about it. There is a huge gap between the requirement and availability of organs needed for saving lives.
    • The dearth of donors results mainly from lack of awareness about organ donation. He urged ILBS to prepare a roadmap suggesting ways and means to encourage Liver donation, to improve the related procedures and protocols, and to strengthen the infrastructure needed to support a higher number of Liver transplants than is currently possible.
    • The President said that the growing incidence of liver diseases is also linked to our unhealthy lifestyles. He noted that, at present, nearly one out of four Indians have fatty liver and may be ten per cent of them have liver diseases due to excessive body fat. He said that this condition is known to be a precursor to development of diabetes and heart disease. And diabetics have greater incidence of liver disease than others. It is for institutes like ILBS to take up research that can clarify the linkages between our lifestyle and liver diseases. That would help in developing a preventive care system based in lifestyle changes.

     

    1. Ministerial delegation calls on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on the sidelines of Raisina Dialogue

     

    • Ministerial level delegates from 12 countries called on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at his residence today, on the sidelines of Raisina Dialogue.
    • Edgars Rinkevics, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, Mr. Peter Szijjarto, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, National Security Advisor of Afghanistan, Mr. Tomas Petricek, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic, Mr. Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, Minister of Information of Bangladesh, Mr. Urmas Reinsalu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Dr. Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Mr. Jeppe Kofod, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Ms. Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of The Commonwealth, Mr. Vladimir Norov, Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, were the delegates who called on the Prime Minister.
    • Prime Minister welcomed the leaders to India and appreciated their participation at Raisina Dialogue 2020. The Prime Minister spoke about the large-scale efforts undertaken by the Government for rapid and inclusive socio-economic development and highlighted their significance for alleviating major global developmental challenges and attaining Sustainable Development Goals.
    1. Army Day 

     

     

    • Army Dayis celebrated on 15 January every year in India, in recognition of Field Marshal Kodandera M. Cariappa‘s (then a Lieutenant General) taking over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from General Sir Francis Butcher, the last British Commander-in-Chief of India, on 15 January 1949.[1][2]
    • The day is celebrated in the form of parades and other military shows in the national capital New Delhias well as in all headquarters.[3] On 15 January 2020, India celebrated its 72nd Indian Army Day in New Delhi.[4][5] Army Day marks a day to salute the valiant soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect the country and its citizens.
    • While celebrations take place across the country, the main Army Day paradeis conducted in Cariappa Parade ground in Delhi cantonment. Gallantry awards and Sena medals are also awarded on this day. In 2020, 15 soldiers were presented with bravery awards. Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra awardees participate in the Army Day parade every year.[7][8] Military hardware, numerous contingents and a combat display are part of the parade.

     

     

    1. India’s Foreign Trade: December 2019

     

     

    • India’s overall exports (Merchandise and Services combined) in April-December2019-20* are estimated to be USD 397.48 billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 0.93 per cent over the same period last year. Overall imports in April-December 2019-20* are estimated to be USD 455.14 billion, exhibiting a negative growth of (-)5.82 per cent over the same period last year.
    • MERCHANDISE TRADE
    • EXPORTS (including re-exports)
    • Exports inDecember 2019 were USD27.36 billion, as compared to USD27.86 billion in December 2018, exhibiting a negative growth of (-)1.80 per cent. In Rupee terms, exports were Rs. 1,94,764.74 crore in December 2019, as compared to Rs. 1,97,044.76 crore in December 2018, registering a negative growth of (-)1.16 per cent.
    • In December 2019, major commodity groups of export showing positivegrowth over the corresponding month of last year are
            •  
    • Cumulative value of exports for the period April-December 2019-20 was USD239.29 billion (Rs.16,84,558.61 crore) as against USD244.08 billion (Rs.17,02,261.31 crore) during the period April-December 2018-19, registering a negative growth of (-) 1.96 per cent in Dollar terms (negative growth of (-)1.04 per cent in Rupee terms).
    • Non-petroleum and Non Gems and Jewellery exports in December 2019 were USD21.05 billion, as compared to USD21.16 billion in December 2018, exhibiting a negative growth of (-)0.54 per cent. Non-petroleum and Non Gems and Jewellery exports in April-December 2019-20 were USD177.81 billion, as compared to USD177.65 billion for the corresponding period in 2018-19, anincrease of 0.09 per cent.
    • IMPORTS
    • Imports in December 2019 were USD38.61 billion (Rs.2,74,883.64 crore), which was 8.83 per cent lower in Dollar terms and 8.24 per cent lower in Rupee terms over imports of USD42.35 billion (Rs.2,99,553.40 crore) in December 2018. Cumulative value of imports for the period April-December 2019-20 was USD357.39 billion (Rs.25,14,783.82 crore), as against USD392.31 billion (Rs.27,37,092.01 crore) during the period April-December 2018-19, registering a negative growth of (-)8.90 per cent in Dollar terms (negative growth of (-)8.12 per cent in Rupee terms).
    • Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in December 2019 over the corresponding month of last year are:
          •  
    • CRUDE OIL AND NON-OIL IMPORTS:
    • Oil imports inDecember 2019 were USD10.69 billion (Rs. 76,136.69 crore), which was 0.83 percentlower in Dollar terms (0.18 percent lower in Rupee terms), compared to USD10.78 billion (Rs. 76,275.54 crore) in December2018. Oil imports in April-December 2019-20 were USD95.69 billion (Rs. 6,73,447.56 crore) which was 11.78 per cent lower in Dollar terms (11.13 percent lower in Rupee terms) compared to USD108.47 billion (Rs. 7,57,772.55crore), over the same period last year.
    • In this connection it is mentioned that the global Brent price ($/bbl) has increased by 16.63% in December 2019 vis-à-vis December 2018 as per data available from World Bank.
    • Non-oil imports inDecember 2019 were estimated at USD27.92billion (Rs. 1,98,746.95 crore) which was 11.56 per cent lower in Dollar terms (10.99 percent lower in Rupee terms), compared to USD31.57billion (Rs. 2,23,277.86 crore) in December 2018. Non-oil imports in April-December 2019-20 were USD261.70 billion (Rs. 18,41,336.26 crore) which was 7.80 per cent lower in Dollar terms (6.97 percent lower in Rupee terms), compared to USD283.84 billion (Rs. 19,79,319.46 crore) in April-December2018-19.
    • Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports wereUSD25.45 billion in December 2019, recording a negative growth of (-)12.24 per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold importsof USD 29.00 billion in December 2018. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports wereUSD238.64 billion in April-December 2019-20, recording a negative growth of (-)7.90 per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold importsUSD 259.11 billion in April-December 2018-19.
    • TRADE IN SERVICES
    • EXPORTS (Receipts)
    • As per the latest press release by RBI dated 15thJanuary 2020, exports in November2019 were USD 18.00 billion (Rs. 1,28,584.48 crore) registering a positive growth of 7.91 per cent in dollar terms, vis-à-vis November2018. The estimated value of services export for December 2019* is USD 17.92 billion.
    • IMPORTS (Payments)
    • As per the latest press release by RBI dated 15thJanuary 2020, imports in November 2019 were USD 11.47 billion (Rs. 81,969.39 crore) registering a positive growth of 13.48 per cent in dollar terms, vis-à-vis November 2018. The estimated value of service Import for December 2019* is USD 11.32 billion.
    • TRADE BALANCE
    • MERCHANDISE: The trade deficit for December 2019 was estimated at USD11.25 billion as against the deficit of USD14.49 billion inDecember 2018.
    • SERVICES: As per RBI’s Press Release dated 15thJanuary2020, the trade balance in Services (i.e. Net Services export) for November, 2019 is estimated at USD6.52 billion.
    • OVERALL TRADE BALANCE:Taking merchandise and services together, overall trade deficit for April-December 2019-20* is estimated at USD57.66 billion as compared to USD89.46 billion in April-December 2018-19.
    • *Note: The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for November 2019. The data for December 2019 is an estimation, which will be revised based on RBI’s subsequent release. 
    • MERCHANDISE TRADE
    EXPORTS & IMPORTS  : (US $ Billion)
    (PROVISIONAL)
    DECEMBERAPRIL-DECEMBER
    EXPORTS(including re-exports)
    2018-1927.86244.08
    2019-2027.36239.29
    %Growth 2019-20/ 2018-19-1.80-1.96
    IMPORTS
    2018-1942.35392.31
    2019-2038.61357.39
    %Growth 2019-20/ 2018-19-8.83-8.90
    TRADE BALANCE
    2018-19-14.49-148.23
    2019-20-11.25-118.10
    EXPORTS &IMPORTS: (Rs. Crore)
    (PROVISIONAL)
    DECEMBERAPRIL-DECEMBER
    EXPORTS(including re-exports)
    2018-191,97,044.7617,02,261.31
    2019-201,94,764.7416,84,558.61
    %Growth 2019-20/ 2018-19-1.16-1.04
    IMPORTS
    2018-192,99,553.4027,37,092.01
    2019-202,74,883.6425,14,783.82
    %Growth 2019-20/ 2018-19-8.24-8.12
    TRADE BALANCE
    2018-19-1,02,508.64-10,34,830.70
    2019-20-80,118.90-8,30,225.21
    • SERVICES TRADE
    EXPORTS & IMPORTS (SERVICES) : (US $ Billion)
    (PROVISIONAL)November 2019April-November 2019-20
    EXPORTS (Receipts)18.00140.27
    IMPORTS (Payments)11.4786.44
    TRADE BALANCE6.5253.83
    EXPORTS & IMPORTS (SERVICES): (Rs. Crore)
    (PROVISIONAL)November 2019April-November 2019-20
    EXPORTS (Receipts)1,28,584.489,86,225.58
    IMPORTS (Payments)81,969.396,07,776.64
    TRADE BALANCE46,615.093,78,448.94
    Source: RBI Press Release dated 15thJanuary 2020
    • *Note: The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for November 2019. The data for December 2019 is an estimation, which will be revised based on RBI’s subsequent release.

     

     

    1. Green Credit Scheme

     

     

    • In the current system, industry needs to compensate the loss of forest acquired for its commercial activity by paying the Forest department a fee. The department is then responsible for reforesting on other patch of land acquired by industry.
    • It allows agencies to identify land and begin growing plantations. After three years, they would be eligible to be considered as compensatory forest land
    • An industry needing forest land could then approach the agency and pay it for parcels of such forested land, and this would then be transferred to the Forest Department and be recorded as forest land.
    • This allows “forests” to be traded as a commodity.
    • The Scheme allows the Forest Department to outsource one of its responsibilities of reforesting to non-government agencies.
    • It thus fast tracks industrial projects and enhances ease of doing business without compromising on the environmental assets of the Nation.

     

     

     

    1. Coal Sector in India: Norms liberalised for entry and regulations relaxed

     

    • The Cabinet approved the promulgation of Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020.
    • It allows Coal mining by any Companies
      • Earlier: Only those in Power, Iron & Steel and Coal washery Business could bid for Mines
    • It also does away with captive end-use criteria i.e. Coal can be commercially mined and sold to any buyer in an open market
      • Earlier: The Coal mined by a licensee could be used for only specified purpose like for its own Thermal power plant i.e. they could not be sold in Open market like that of Coal India Ltd (Public Sector Enterprise)
    • Expands the pool of Potential bidders: This will lead to better competition during auctions thus fetching better revenues for the government.
    • Development of Coal market: End use restriction inhibited the growth and development of the market thus driving down the Coal production and also distorting free price discovery of the mined coal.
    • Reduces Coal imports: India imported 235 million tonnes worth 1.71 Lakh Crore Rupees. Of these 135 million tonnes could have been substituted by domestic Coal production. Reduction in Coal imports leads to saving on foreign exchange reserves and also betters our trade balance.
    • Brings an end to Monopoly of Coal India Ltd.: Movement from State controlled system to free-market economy which incentivizes the private sector to act as engines of growth.
    • Efficient use of resources: Enhanced competition will inevitably lead to better utilization of the natural resources available in the country.
    • Employment: Large investments in mining will create jobs in the country.
    • Demand creation for other Sectors: Opening up of the sector will set off demand in critical sectors such as mining equipment and Heavy commercial vehicle industries.
    • Infusion of Modern technologies into CoalSector: The move will also help India gain access to sophisticated technology for underground mining used by global miners
    • Helps achieve government targetof 1.5 billion tonnes of domestic coal production by 2023-24.
    • Procedural Delays: Government should ensure that approval and compliance procedures are not archaic & draconian which will increase the upfront cost thus deterring private players to enter the sector.
    • Climatic Concerns: When countries across the world are moving away from fossil fuel resources this step to enhance Coal production is criticized by environmentalists
    • Health Concerns: Coal burning releases Carbon dioxide, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury- thus damaging the health of many people around the region.
    • Interest of Coal India Ltd:This is a Maharatna PSU which is considered as a National asset and is listed in the stock exchanges. Opening up of the sector should not compromise the capability of CIL and avoid the way BSNL went down in telecom market.
    • Employers of CIL:Nearly 3 Lakh people are employed in CIL. Opening of the sector should not endanger the growth prospects of CIL and the livelihood aspects of the employers.
    • Labour Standards: Private companies in order to reduce their input costs and maximise their profits may subvert labour guidelines which may have detrimental effect on workers engaged in those enterprises.

     

     

     

     

    INTERNATIONAL NEWS

     

     

    1. India- Russian Federation

     

    ·       Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation who is on a visit to India to participate in the Raisina Dialogue, called on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi .

    • Foreign Minister Lavrov conveyed to the Prime Minister greetings from H.E. Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. The Prime Minister warmly reciprocated, the greetings and conveyed his best wishes for peace and prosperity of the Russian people in the New Year.
    • The Prime Minister referred to the wide-ranging conversation he had with President Putin over telephone on 13 January 2020, and noted the progress in the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between the two countries in the previous year.
    • Foreign Minister Lavrov conveyed that President Putin looked forward to the visit of the Prime Minister to Russia in May 2020 to participate in the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Victory Day, and in July 2020 for the BRICS and SCO Summits. Prime Minister welcomed multiple occasions this year to meet President Putin, and said that he also looked forward to hosting President Putin in India for the Annual Bilateral Summit later this year.
    • The Prime Minister noted that several important decisions and outcomes were reached between the two countries in 2019. He suggested that the year 2020, which is also the 20th anniversary year of the establishment of strategic partnership between India and the Russian Federation, should be the ‘year of implementation of those decisions’.
    • Foreign Minister Lavrov briefed the Prime Minister on Russia’s position on key international and regional issues.

     

    1. India Islamic Republic of Iran

     

    ·       Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is visiting India for the Raisina Dialogue 2020, called on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

    • Welcoming Dr. Zarif to India, the Prime Minister recalled his warm and cordial discussions with President Rouhani in September 2019 on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly in New York. He reiterated India’s continued commitment to developing her strong and friendly relations with Iran. He thanked Iranian leadership for the progress in Chabahar project, including through designating it as Special Economic Zone.
    • The Foreign Minister shared his perspectives on the recent developments in the region. The Prime Minister mentioned India’s strong interest in peace, security and stability in the region.

     

     

     

    1. Australia’s devastating fire season 

     

     

    • Australia’s devastating fire season that began in August 2019 continues unabated and caused large scale destruction particularly in New South Wales and Queensland region
    • Although Australia has always had bushfires, this season has been a lot worse than normal with nearly 12 million acres burned by the fires
    • Very high temperatures(averaging 42O C), extended drought period(driest spring on record) and strong winds (spreads the bushfires) have converged to create disastrous fire conditions.
    • Australia is normally hot and dry in the summer, but climate change, which brings longer and more frequent periods of extreme heat, worsens these conditions and makes vegetation drier and more likely to burn.
    • Australia’s bush fires will become now more frequent and more intense as climate change worsens.

    Impact of Such wildfires

    • Agricultural Production impacted
    • Loss of Human lives
    • Loss of Flora and Fauna- Loss of Biodiversity
    • Leads to evacuation of communities – Temporary migration to other places
    • Economic disruption
    • Frequent wildfires in near future will make the region uninhabitable and thus catalysing environmental migration.
    • Questions the developmental Model of the Country (Dependence on Coal Sector for its economic development which leads to GHG emissions)
    • Questions the commitment of World towards battling Climate Change especially its impact now being clearly felt. This will pressurize US (which has withdrawn from the Paris deal) and other Countries to increase their Paris Deal commitments

    Impact on India

    • Strengthen the voices of people who argue against India’s dependence on fossil fuels like Coal & petroleum
    • India’s ability to import high quality of Coal from Australia will be impacted.
    • Indian investment in Australia’s coal sector will be endangered Ex: Adani Carmichael Coal mine project in Galilee Basin in Queensland, Australia
    • Moral Pressure on India to take up leadership of fighting climate change in the Asia-Pacific region.

     

    SPORTS NEWS

     

    1. Indian wrestler Sunil Kumar reaches gold medal bout of Rome ranking series

    • In Wrestling, twenty-year-old Greco-Roman grappler Sunil Kumar sprung a huge surprise by reaching the gold medal round on his maiden senior level appearance at the first ranking series event of the season in Rome.
    • In the 87-kg category, Sunil began with a 2-1 win over American Patrick Anthony Martinez and followed it up with a commanding victory by fall over Venezuala’s Luis Eduardo Avendano Rojas in the semifinals.
    • He will now fight it out with Hungary’s Viktor Lorincz for the top prize. Two more Indians are in medal contention with Ashu (67kg) and Sachin Rana (60kg) reaching the bronze play-offs.

     

    1. Tennis: Divij Sharan-Artem Sitak oust top seeds at Auckland Open to move into quarters

      

    • In Tennis, Divij Sharan and his partner Artem Sitak shocked top seeds John Peers and Michael Venus in two close sets to move to the quarterfinals of the ATP ASB Classic in Auckland.
    • The Indo-Kiwi pair edged out the Australian-Kiwi pair 7-6, 7-6.
    • Left-handed Sharan and Sitak next face Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, who got a walk over from Leonardo Mayer and Joao Sousa. Also moving to the last-eight stage were third seeds Rohan Bopanna from India and Finland’s Henri Kontinen, who beat wild card entrants Cameron Norrie and Rhett Purcell 6-4, 6-2. They are now up against Luke Bambridge and Ben McLachlan.

     

     

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