• Current Affairs,4th February 2020

    NATIONAL NEWS

     

    1. E-flows in River Ganga: 4 hydropower projects in upper Ganga violating e-flows

    • According to the Central Water Commission(CWC), the hydropower projects violating Ganga ecological flow (e-flow) norms.
    • Vishnuprayag Hydroelectric project – Alaknanda
    • Srinagar Hydroelectric project – Alaknanda
    • Maneri Bhali Phase 2 – Bhagirathi
    • Pashulok – Ganga Mainstream
    • Centre’s ecological flow notification(under Environment Protection Act of 1986) mandates that project developers ensure a minimum supply of water all through the year
    • CWCis the designated authority responsible for the supervision, monitoring, regulation of flows in the rivers
    • Central Water Commission is a premier technical organization of India in the field of Water Resources, formed via notification in 1975
    • It is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Jal Shakti

     

     

     

    2. President of India to inaugurate New Global Headquarters of Ram Chanda Mission

    • President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind will visit Telangana to inaugurate the new global headquarters Kanha Shanti Vanam.. of Shri Ram Chandra Mission in Rangareddy District
    • Kanha Shanti Vanam is the global headquarters of the Heartfulness Institute. It is a spiritual retreat center or Ashram spread across in a sprawling 1,400-acre campus. It is located in Kanha village, near Chegur village of Ranga Reddy district, about 50 km from Hyderabad, India. The retreat center is still under construction set to inaugurate in Feb 2020.

     

    1. IR Undertakes RFID project for Automatic Identification & Data Collection of Rolling Stock

     

    • The Indian Railways(IR) undertook the Radio-frequency identification (RFID) projectwhich aims for automatic identification & data collection of rolling stock with focus on improving the safety and reliability. Two works for the RFID project have been sanctioned by the Railway board worth 112.96 Crores. The project is spearheaded by the Rolling Stock Department of IR and will be implemented fully by 2021.
    • Make in India initiative: The Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS, the Information Technology arm of the Indian Railways), GS1 India and the Indian Industry have come up to implement in the Indian Railways(IR) in alignment with ‘Make in India’ initiative.
    • RFID tag testing: Across all locations of the country the RFID tags will be used with GIAI-202 standard designed by CRIS. this GIAI-202 encoded tags were successfully tested at a speed of 182.7 kmph.
    • GS1 & CRIS work:The GS1 will ensure the work quality and proper adoption of international standards while development and validation of solutions based on GS1 has been done by the CRIS.
    • Project features: Real time visibility of railway wagons through the National Rail Network(NRN) with the help of RFID technology with GS1 global standards for unique & universal identification will be enabled. The project will also enhance operational efficiency.
    • The other features include RFID readers with equipment such as Train Presence Detectors (TPDs), trackside condition monitoring equipment etc.
    • Automating information capture about assemblies and components is a key element in the Indian Railways implementation of Industry 4.0(next level automation trend).
    • Nearly 3,50,000 rolling stocks are expected to be tagged by 2021. So far approximately 22,000 wagons and 1200 coaches have been fitted with RFID tags.
    • Additionally, around 3500 fixed RFID readers are expected to come up where communication will be done to a central control center using GS1’s LLRP (low level reader protocol) standard.
    1. Union Govt plans to raise funds through LIC IPO

     

     

    • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman that union government plans to sell a partial stake in LIC through IPO or an initial public offer.
    • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamanthat union government plans to sell a partial stake in LIC through IPO or an initial public offer.
    • The union budget she proposed that the government will sell its stake in IDBI Bank to private investors and also amend the Banking Regulation Act to strengthen co-op banks.
    • The finance minister that the deposit insurance coverage against bank failure will be increased to ₹5 lakh from ₹1 lakh.
    • She proposed to expand exchange-traded funds by floating a Debt ETF, consisting primarily of government securities.

     

    1. Safety, security and integrity of India are non-negotiable

    • The Vice President of India, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu today asserted that India would not accept any outside interference in its internal matters. He stressed that the safety, security and integrity of India are non-negotiable.
    • Addressing participants of Kautilya Fellows Programme (KFP) organized by India Foundation, he said that the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir State into two union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh was meant to fast-track the development of the region.
    • Pointing out that India believes in the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam that treats the whole world as one family and that it believes in sharing knowledge and wisdom, the Vice President said that this very ideal had shaped its interaction and outreach.
    • He said that the same philosophy guided India’s external relations with other countries, both near and far. Bemoaning the attempts of one of India’s neighbors to promote cross-border terrorism by aiding, abetting and funding terror, Shri Naidu said that India always believed in peaceful co-existence with all its neighbors. He said that India was never an aggressor and never attacked any country.
    • Describing the menace of terror as the enemy of entire humanity and that it has nothing to do with religion, Shri Naidu said that mixing of religion with terror was problematic.
    • The Vice President urged the world community and multinational organizations such as the UN to conclude discussions on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism proposed by India which has been pending before the UN since 1996. He said that it was the duty of the world community to put an end to terror in all its forms and manifestations.
    • Stating that secularism was ingrained in the DNA of all Indians’ because of its age-old civilizational values, Shri Naidu said all minorities were safe and secure in India.
    • Shri Naidu said that despite the global economic slowdown, India continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and is poised to become the third-largest economy if the series of reforms were continued at the same pace.
    • Shri Naidu said that India with its tremendous youth population could become the global hub for Human Resources. He opined that the programs like Make in India, Digital India, and Skill India were empowering the youth and creating enterprises. “If we manage to educate and skill our vast youth population, we can very well become a global business hub,” he added.

     

     

     

     

    1. Hallmark of Union Budget 2020-21 is the highest priority it accorded to the overall development of North Eastern Region

     

    • The Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region (I/C), Prime Minister’s Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh today said that the hallmark of Union Budget 2020-21 is the highest priority it accorded to the overall development of North Eastern Region keeping in tune with the vision and declaration of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014. He said that there is a constant and progressive rise in funds for the development of the North-Eastern Region since 2014.
    • Dr Singh said that in case of Ministry of DoNER, the budgetary allocation for 2020-21 is Rs. 3049 Cr as against Rs. 2670 Cr in the RE 2019-20 (increase of 14.2%).  Out of this, the provision for development of infrastructure is around Rs.2900 Cr. Compared to AE 2014-15 of Rs. 1719 Cr, the budget allocation of Ministry of DoNER in 2020-21 is higher by 77.26%.  In case of schemes being implemented by North Eastern Council (NEC), the current year’s budgetary allocation is Rs.1474 Cr, an increase of 19.23 % over RE 2019-20 allocation of Rs.1237 Cr.
    • He said, besides policy of 10% Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) to North Eastern Region, the
    • Gross Budgetary Support to 54 non-exempt Ministries increased by 12.62% in BE 2020-21 at Rs.60112 Cr over RE 2019-20 at Rs.53375 Cr. The Minister highlighted that in 2014-15, actual expenditure on 10% GBS – Rs.23819 Cr.  In 2020-21, BE Rs.60112 Cr, thus an increase of 142% over the period.
    • Moreover, the Ministries with an allocation of more than Rs.1000 Cr for NER, include Ministry of Agriculture & Farmer’s Welfare (Rs.13380.98 Cr), Department of Telecommunication (Rs.1332 Cr), Department of Health & Family Welfare (Rs.5000 Cr), Department of School Education & Literacy (Rs.4705.66 Cr), Department of Higher Education (Rs 2721.30 Cr), Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation (Rs.2149.40 Cr), Ministry of Labour & Employment (Rs 1137.16 Cr), Ministry of Power (Rs 2067.50 Cr), Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (Rs 6780 Cr), Department of Rural Development (Rs 5608.35 Cr) and Ministry of Women & Child Development (Rs. 2972 Cr).
    • Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Department of Posts have seen significant increase in their NER Budget. The expenditure of Ministry of Railways and several other Ministries are not included in the above figures.  Railways itself has spent Rs.31,849 Cr in NER from 2014-15 to 2019-20.  Similarly, Airport Authority of India spends a substantial portion of its budget for upgradation of airports in the North East.
    • Dr Singh said that the archaeological site at Shivsagar (Assam) to be developed as an iconic heritage site with on-site Museums in addition to four other sites in the country. Inland Waterways received a boost in the last five years. The 890 Km NW-2 on Brahmaputra between Dhubri-Sadiya would be completed in all respects by 2022. Air traffic has been growing rapidly in the country as compared to global average.  One hundred more airports would be developed by 2024 to support Udaan scheme. In NER, one new and 10 non-operational airports are likely to be operationalized in this period. Krishi Udaan will be launched by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on international and national routes. This will immensely help improve value realisation especially in North-East and tribal districts.
    • The Minister said that to build a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables, inclusive of milk, meat and fish, the Indian Railways will set up a “Kisan Rail” – through PPP arrangements.  There shall be refrigerated coaches in Express and Freight trains as well.  This would enable perishable agri-horticultural produce of the North East to be transported to the rest of the country, thus contributing to the Government’s target for increase in farmer income.
    • Dr Jitendra Singh also informed that the Budget for North East Council just doubled from Rs 700 crore to Rs 1474 crore in the last five years. He said, Union Cabinet on 28thJanuary, 2020 accorded its approval for allocating 30% of NEC’s allocation for new projects under the existing “Schemes of North Eastern Council” for focused development of deprived areas; deprived/neglected sections of society and emerging priority sectors in the North Eastern States. The balance allocation shall be bifurcated in the existing two components (State component-60% and Central component-40%).
    • He said this would not only lead to balanced socio-economic development of North East and reduce inter region and inter-tribes/community disparities, but would also lead to preservation of cultural diversity of North East and save the scripts/languages which are gradually becoming extinct.  The development of sustainable agriculture practices like organic farming in place of Jhum Cultivation would lead to Green North East.

     

     

    1. DST launches SATHI Initiative for building shared, professionally managed strong S&T infrastructure

    • The Finance Minister in her speech yesterday said “Intellectual property creation and protection will play an important role. A digital platform will be created which will facilitate seamless application and capture IPRs and also in an institute of excellence, a centre will be established that will work in the field of intellectual property. Knowledge translation clusters will be set up across different technology sectors including in new and emerging sectors for designing, fabrication and proof of concept and further scaling up technology clusters harbouring such testbeds and small scale manufacturing facilities would be established.”
    • To address the need for building shared, professionally managed and strong Science and Technology infrastructure in the country which is readily accessible to academia, start-ups, manufacturing, industry and R&D labs, the Department of Science & Technology has launched a unique scheme called “Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes(SATHI)”.
    • These Centres are expected to house major analytical instruments to provide common services of high-end analytical testing, thus avoiding duplication and reduced dependency on foreign sources. These would be operated with a transparent, open access policy.
    • DST has already set up three such centres in the country, one each at IIT Kharagpur, IIT Delhi and BHU at a total cost of Rs 375 Cores. It is planned to set up five SATHI Centres every year for the next four years. SATHI will address the problems of accessibility, maintenance, redundancy and duplication of expensive equipment in our Institutions, while reaching out to the less endowed organizations in need, e.g., industry, MSMEs, startups and State Universities. This will also foster a strong culture of collaboration between institutions and across disciplines to take advantage of developments, innovations and expertise in diverse areas.
    • Besides SATHI initiative, support to 100 top-performing departments in universities and IITs etc will be provided this year with an investment of Rs. 500 crores for augmentation of their research facilities to global benchmarks. The research profile of the supported Departments will align with the national priorities of excellence in manufacturing, waste processing, clean energy and water, and Start-up India, etc. This will empower our Scientific Community to gain global leadership in select frontier areas of Science.

     

    1. Cabinet Secretary holds review meeting on Novel Coronavirus

    • Cabinet Secretary held a high level review meeting on the preparedness for Novel Coronavirus with Secretaries of Health and Family Welfare,External Affairs, Home Affairs, Civil Aviation, Dept of Health Research, and representatives fromITBP, AFMS and NDMA, here today. Cabinet Secretary has held six review meetings so far.
    • A new Travel Advisory has been issued urging everyone to refrain from travel to China; travellers on return could be quarantined. Also, anyone with travel history of China since 15thJan 2020 and from now on could be quarantined.
    • As of today, 58,658 passengers from 445 flights have been screened. Total of 142 symptomatic travellers picked up by the IDSP have been referred to the isolation facilities. 130 samples have been tested of which 128 have been found to be negative. The two positive cases found in Kerala are being monitored and areclinically stable.
    • The second batch of 330 passengers (including 7 Maldivan citizens)from Wuhan have arrived in India. Of these, 300 (including 7 Maldivan citizens)  are housed at ITBP Chawla Camp and 30 are in Manesar. They are being effectively monitored.

     

    1. Slump in Sale of Automobiles

     

    • There are cyclical slowdowns in many economies. 17.1 million vehicles (all categories) were sold during April – December, 2019 as against 20.3 million vehicles sold during the same period in 2018. Retrenchment of temporary workforce has been reported by the industry. However, no confirmed data on job loss is available with the Government.

    The Government, as a policymaker, always attempts to keep and improve momentum of the economy through a package of measure for comprehensive and continued development of the auto sector as and when required. Some of the steps taken by the Government to counter automotive slowdown can be summarized as under:

    • Reduction in Corporate Tax to 22%
    • Continuation of registration of ICE and EV in future
    • Scrappage policy under consideration
    • Proposed increase in registration of new cars deferred till June 2020
    • Funds worth Rs. 70,000 crores released to PSU banks
    • Linking of repo rate to interest charged for vehicle purchased

     

    1. Under PMAY-G, centre aims to achieve objective of housing for all by 2022

     

     

    • The Central Governmenthas aimed to achieve objective of Housing for all by 2022 (which coincides with 75 years of Indian independence) under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Grameen (PMAY-G)
    • For the past 5 years, more than one crore 50 lakh rural houses have been sanctioned & completed by the government.
    • Under the 2ndphase of the scheme ,the eligible people will get one crore 95 lakh houses. Government has set a target of 60 lakh houses for the current financial year-FY 20.
    • It is an initiative by the Government of India in which affordable housing will be provided to the urban poor with a target of building 20 million affordable houses by 31 March 2022.
      It has 2 components:
    • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) (PMAY-U) for the urban poor. It is run by Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation. and
      Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin) (PMAY-G or PMAY-R) for the rural poor. It is run by Ministry of Rural Development.

     

     

     

     

    1. 12th South Asia Conference

     

     

    • Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh addressed the 12thedition of the South Asia Conference at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) in New Delhi from January 28-29, 2020. The conference deals with issues related to economic cooperation for development, changing political context in India’s neighbourhood etc.
    • The theme of the conference was India’sNeighbourhood First” Policy: Regional Perceptions.
    • The Govt’s commitment of about $13.14 billion in credit-lines and about $4 billion in assistance to the neighbouring countries over the last decade were discussed.
    • All members of SAARC and Myanmar participated in the conference. Members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)countries were called for cooperation to end terrorism.
    • The IDSA Director General Ambassador Shri Sujan R Chinoy and other senior military & civil officials of the Ministry of Defence(MoD) were present on the occasion.

     

     

     

    INTERNATIONAL NEWS

    1. USA declares public health emergency over spread of coronavirus

     

    • USA declared a public health emergency over the spread of the coronavirus. Foreign nationals who have visited China in the past two weeks.  US citizens returning from Hubei province, where the outbreak started, will be quarantined for 14 days. World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency over the new virus.
    • The novel coronavirus known as the Wuhan coronavirus, It is a contagious virus that causes respiratory infection identified as the cause of the ongoing 2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Genomic sequencing has shown that the coronavirus is a positive-sense, single-stranded RNA coronavirus.

     

     

    1. India-Australia Relationship

     

     

    • India-Australia relationship has been traditionally characterised as one of the perpetually unfulfilled promises

    Historically, India-Australia relations suffered from at least four deep structural impediments. They are:

    1. The logic of the Cold War
    • After the end of Cold war, Australia aligned with USA & sided with Pakistan whereas India adopted Non-alignment policy (at times tilting towards USSR).
    • This prevented the growth of India-Australia bilateral relationship

    Progression in recent times

    • With the end of Cold war in 1991 (disintegration of USSR) and simultaneous opening of the Indian economy, the logic of cold war has vanished
    • India’s adoption of a free-market economic model and India’s growing closeness with the USA has enabled both India & Australia to come out of cold war closet and nurture their relationship
    1. India’s nuclear status outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
    • This resulted in Australia taking a particularly strong stance against India’s 1998 nuclear tests, which came soon after French nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

    Progression in recent times

    • However, the 2008 waivergranted to India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the subsequent lifting by Australia of its uranium ban against NPT non-signatories, and a bilateral civil nuclear agreement between India & Australia in 2014-2015 largely addressed the matter.
    1. Absence of people-to-people content– “
    • The backdrop to this was the “White Australia” policy, which discouraged immigration from Asia

    Progression in recent times

    • In recent years, however, Indian immigrants have been among the largest contributors to Australia’s population growth.
    • In addition to the massive influx of Indian students, Indian tourists are also visiting Australia in larger numbers.
    1. Lack of economic content – It is here that both Nations are yet to exploit the full potential
    • The trade between the two countries has been at a modest $31 billion, largely composed of resources like coal and other minerals.
    • Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement, which began in 2011, have not moved forward significantly.

    Weak Spots in Trade relationship

    The weakest link in India’s exports to Australia is in merchandise. India needs to look at three broad areas

    • First, despite globalisation, markets are country-specific and culturally sensitive. Therefore, Indian companies need to research on Australian consumer expectations and lifestyles before entering the Australian market
    • Second, Australia is a brand-conscious marketwhile India has not created a single consumer brand of international acceptance.
    • Third,innovation is emerging as the single-most-important factor for sustained success in every sphere. Innovation in Cricket like 20/20 format has kept the game alive and popular. Global trade cannot be different.

    Brighter Prospects in Future with regard to Trade

    • India-Australia trade has been steadily evolving into a new architecture underpinned by developments in digital technology. There has been a noticeable shift in the trade basket from resources to services.
    • Young Australians, like young Indians, carry the compelling vision of 21st-century globalisation, multiculturism and quality education.
    • As a result, the young can see issues like immigration and outsourcing with far more equanimity than the older generation.
    • India Economic Strategy 2035 Reportprepared by Peter Varghese, a diplomat and former Australian High Commissioner to India. It observes that no single market over the next 20 years will offer more growth opportunities for Australia than India.

     

     

    1. Hong Kong economy plunges into recession, shrank 1.2% in 2019

     

    • Hong Kong confirmed yesterday that it plunged into recession in 2019, suffering its first annual contraction in a decade as the city buckled under the twin pressures of the US-China trade war and months of furious pro-democracy protests.
    • The data was released as the semi-autonomous city began the lunar new year facing another economic crisis — the outbreak of a deadly Novel Corona virus strain which started on the Chinese mainland and is compounding Hong Kong’s economic woes.
    • Last year was the worst for Hong Kong’s growth since 2009, when the financial hub was hit hard by the global financial crash. The crisis was initially sparked by the trade war between Beijing and Washington, hitting the export-heavy economy.But, the hard times were made worse by months of seething and often violent protests seeking greater democracy and police accountability.
    • Official figures showed Hong Kong’s gross domestic product shrank 1.2 per cent on-year for 2019. The fourth quarter — which witnessed the worst violence between police and protesters — clocked a 2.9 per cent contraction, the third straight quarter of declines.
    • Hong Kongers are rattled by the feeling that an increasingly assertive Beijing is clamping down on their city’s freedoms.        The protests were first sparked by a proposal to allow extraditions to the mainland and its opaque, Communist Party-controlled legal system.
    • But, they soon morphed into a popular revolt against Beijing’s rule.
    • The extradition bill was eventually killed off after months of unrest, but the movement has achieved few of its other demands, which include an inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested and fully free elections.

     

    SPORTS NEWS

     

    1. Australian Open: Novak Djokovic wins his record 8th Men’s singles title

    • In tennis, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic won his record 8th Men’s singles title in Australian Open at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
    • He beat first-time Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem  of Austria.
    • The men’s doubles title was clinched by Joe Salisbury of UK and American Rajeev Ram who beat Australia’s Luke Saville and Max Purcell.

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