20th Nov, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, launched the Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge at an event in New Delhi.
About the challenge
The objective of this challenge is to invite innovative ideas based on Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics, Blockchain and other cutting edge technology to reform Government processes. The platform for the Grand Challenge is the Startup India Portal.
The aim is to make India a 5 trillion dollar economy in the shortest possible time. For this, improvement is necessary in every sector of the economy. It is also necessary to reduce human intervention in processes, and increase the use of modern and digital technologies.
‘Rani Laxmibai’ (GS1: Indian History)
Issue: The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi paid tributes to Rani Lakshmibai on her Jayanti.
About Rani Lakshmibai
She was the queen of the princely state of Jhansi in North India currently present in Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh, India. She was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists.
What led her to revolt?
Manikarnika was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, in May 1842 and was afterwards called Lakshmibai (or Laxmibai) in honour of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. She gave birth to a boy, later named Damodar Rao, in 1851, who died after four months. The Maharaja adopted a child called Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin, who was renamed Damodar Rao, on the day before the Maharaja died. The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer who was given a letter from the Maharaja instructing that the child be treated with respect and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime. After the death of the Maharaja in November 1853, because Damodar Rao (born Anand Rao) was an adopted son, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories. When she was informed of this she cried out “I shall not surrender my Jhansi” (Mein meri Jhansi nahi doongi). In March 1854, Lakshmibai was given an annual pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered to leave the palace and the fort
The 22-year-old queen refused to cede Jhansi to the British. Shortly after the beginning of the mutiny in 1857, which broke out in Meerut, Lakshmi Bai was proclaimed the regent of Jhansi, and she ruled on behalf of the minor heir. Joining the uprising against the British, she rapidly organized her troops and assumed charge of the rebels in the Bundelkhand region. Mutineers in the neighboring areas headed toward Jhansi to offer her support.
The company’s forces surrounded the fort of Jhansi, and a fierce battle raged. Offering stiff resistance to the invading forces, Lakshmi Bai did not surrender even after her troops were overwhelmed and the rescuing army of Tantia Tope, another rebel leader, was defeated at the Battle of Betwa. Lakshmi Bai managed to escape from the fort with a small force of palace guards and headed eastward, where other rebels joined her.
Tantia Tope and Lakshmi Bai then mounted a successful assault on the city-fortress of Gwalior. The treasury and the arsenal were seized, and Nana Sahib, a prominent leader, was proclaimed as the peshwa (ruler). After taking Gwalior, Lakshmi Bai marched east to Morar to confront a British counterattack led by Rose. Dressed as a man, she fought a fierce battle and was killed in combat.
‘World Toilet day’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Prime Minister Modi delivered a message on the occasion of ‘World Toilet day’. His message called for our commitment towards enhancing cleanliness and sanitation facilities across the nation
About World toilet day
World Toilet Day (WTD) is an official United Nations international observance day on 19 November to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Worldwide, 4.5 billion people live without “safely managed sanitation” and around 892 million people practice open defecation. Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to achieve sanitation for all and end open defecation. World Toilet Day exists to inform, engage and inspire people to take action toward achieving this goal.
World Toilet Day was established by the World Toilet Organization in 2001. Twelve years later, the UN General Assembly declared World Toilet Day an official UN day in 2013.
UN-Water is the official convener of World Toilet Day. UN-Water maintains the official World Toilet Day website and chooses a special theme for each year. In 2018 the theme is nature-based solutions. Themes in previous years included wastewater, “toilets and jobs” and “toilets and nutrition”. World Toilet Day is marked by communications campaigns and other activities. Events are planned by UN entities, international organizations, local civil society organizations and volunteers to raise awareness and inspire action.
‘Special Economic Zone’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Baba Kalyani led committee constituted by the Ministry of Commerce& Industry to study the existing SEZ policy of India submitted its report to the Union Minister for Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu
What were the terms of reference for the committee?
The objectives of the committee were to evaluate the SEZ policy and make it WTO compatible, suggest measures for maximizing utilization of vacant land in SEZs, suggest changes in the SEZ policy based on international experience and merge the SEZ policy with other Government schemes like coastal economic zones, Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, national industrial manufacturing zones and food and textiles parks.
What is an SEZ?
- India was one of the first in Asia to recognize the effectiveness of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) model in promoting exports, with Asia’s first EPZ set up in Kandla in 1965. With a view to overcome the shortcomings experienced on account of the multiplicity of controls and clearances; absence of world-class infrastructure, and an unstable fiscal regime and with a view to attract larger foreign investments in India, the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Policy was announced in April 2000.
- This policy intended to make SEZs an engine for economic growth supported by quality infrastructure complemented by an attractive fiscal package, both at the Centre and the State level, with the minimum possible regulations. SEZs in India functioned from 1.11.2000 to 09.02.2006 under the provisions of the Foreign Trade Policy and fiscal incentives were made effective through the provisions of relevant statutes
- The main objectives of the SEZ Act are:
- generation of additional economic activity
- promotion of exports of goods and services
- promotion of investment from domestic and foreign sources
- creation of employment opportunities
- development of infrastructure facilities
- The SEZ Rules provide for:
- ” Simplified procedures for development, operation, and maintenance of the Special Economic Zones and for setting up units and conducting business in SEZs;
- Single window clearance for setting up of an SEZ;
- Single window clearance for setting up a unit in a Special Economic Zone;
- Single Window clearance on matters relating to Central as well as State Governments;
- Simplified compliance procedures and documentation with an emphasis on self certification
The functioning of the SEZs is governed by a three tier administrative set up. The Board of Approval is the apex body and is headed by the Secretary, Department of Commerce. The Approval Committee at the Zone level deals with approval of units in the SEZs and other related issues. Each Zone is headed by a Development Commissioner, who is ex-officio chairperson of the Approval Committee.
‘Government and Reserve Bank of India’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The tension between the government and the Reserve Bank of India appeared to have defused for the time being with both parties agreeing to settle for a middle ground at the end of an over nine-hour board meeting on Monday.
What were the reasons for such a tension?
- The most contentious issue that the central bank and finance ministry locked horn was the issue of RBI’s capital. Now, while RBI has agreed for setting up of an expert committee on the economic capital framework (ECF) its mandate is restricted to future earnings and not the existing reserves. The membership and terms of reference of the committee will be decided by the finance minister and RBI governor.
- On the PCA, Board for Financial Supervision (BFS) of RBI will review the norms and will take a call if some of the parameters like net non-performing asset (NPA) ratio could be relaxed so that some of the banks come out of the PCA. There are 11 public sector banks out of 21 that are on PCA. The BFS consists of governor, four deputy governors and few other board members.
- Another significant decision was relief to the micro, small and medium enterprises – the sector which is badly hit due to twin blows of demonetisation and patchy implementation of Goods and Service Tax (GST).
- On the issue of capital adequacy ratio, after much deliberations to reduce it to 8%, it was finally retained at 9%. However, the deadline for implementing the last tranche of 0.625% under the capital conservation Buffer (CCB), has been extended by one year, that is, up to March 31, 2020.
‘Literacy and migration’ (GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: Literacy levels in rural households of India dip with seasonal migration, the UNESCO global education monitoring report 2019 has observed, bringing out the educational challenges thrown up by migration.
Observations made in the report
- In India, 10.7 million children aged 6 to 14 lived in rural households with a seasonal migrant in 2013. About 28% of youth aged 15 to 19 in these households were illiterate or had not completed primary school, compared to 18% of the cohort overall
- About 80% of seasonal migrant children in seven cities lacked access to education near work sites, and 40% are likely to end up in work rather than education, experiencing abuse and exploitation
- The report says that the construction sector absorbs the majority of short-term migrants.
- Between 65% and 80% of all children aged five to 14 living at the kilns worked there seven to nine hours per day. About 77% of kiln workers reported lack of access to early childhood or primary education for their children
- It also warns of the negative impact on education for children who are left behind as their parents migrate
- The report sees the growth of slums and informal settlements — where schools are often scarce — due to migration as a challenge.
- The report shows there is only one urban planner for every 1,00,000 people in India, while there are 38 for every 1, 00,000 in the United Kingdom.
‘Life expectancy in Delhi’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: During the past two decades, Delhi’s air quality was the “most deadly” in 2016 as it reduced the life expectancy of a resident by more than 10 years, a new study said Monday, asserting that the national capital was the second among 50 most polluted areas of the country.
The impact of particulate pollution on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, twice that of alcohol and drug use, three times that of unsafe water, five times that of HIV/AIDS, and more than 25 times that of conflict and terrorism.
Seventy-five per cent of the global population or 5.5 billion people, live in areas where particulate pollution exceeds the WHO guideline.
‘Igla-S missile’ (GS3: Defence)
Issue: After a series of delays, Russia has been declared the lowest bidder in the Army’s multi-billion dollar deal for man portable air defence systems
About Igla-S missile
It is a Russian/Soviet man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile (SAM). Igla and Igla-1 SAMs have been exported from the former Soviet Union to over 30 countries, including Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria (former producer), Croatia, Cuba, East Germany, Egypt, Ecuador, Eritrea, Finland, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, the Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, North Korea, Peru, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Expected cost of this acquisition
The Request for Proposal (RFP) was first issued in October 2010 for over 5000 missiles, 258 single launchers and 258 multi-launchers estimated to cost ₹6,400 crore and trials began in 2012.
‘Maldives and China’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: The Maldives’ new Government will pull out of a free trade agreement (FTA) with China because it was a mistake for the tiny nation to strike such a pact with the world’s second biggest economy
The Maldives is among a number of small countries where China has invested billions of dollars building highways and housing as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. Through that initiative, Beijing hopes to improve trade and investment flows with much of Asia and parts of the rest of the world.
What is Belt and Road initiative?
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale. The initiative aims to strengthen infrastructure, trade, and investment links between China and some 65 other countries that account collectively for over 30 percent of global GDP, 62 percent of population, and 75 percent of known energy reserves. The BRI consists primarily of the Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China to Central and South Asia and onward to Europe, and the New Maritime Silk Road, linking China to the nations of South East Asia, the Gulf Countries, North Africa, and on to Europe. Six other economic corridors have been identified to link other countries to the Belt and the Road. The scope of the initiative is still taking shape—more recently the initiative has been interpreted to be open to all countries as well as international and regional organizations.
‘Corruption’ (GS2: Governance)
Issue: The perception among U.K. businesses that corruption is a major barrier in doing business in India has halved, according to the latest edition of the U.K. India Business Council’s Ease of Doing Business report compared with what it was in 2015.
Observations made in the report in this regard
- Those identifying ‘corruption’ as a major barrier has declined far more dramatically over the four-year course of this survey among those currently doing business in India [decline of 27% in the last two years] where it is no longer considered a ‘top-three’ barrier compared to those not currently active in India
- The report noted those initiatives such as Aadhaar, electronic submission of government documents, acceptance of electronic signatures, and the push to file taxes online, have all reduced face-to-face interactions where corruption is most likely to take place.
- The extent of digitalization, however, varies markedly across sectors, as does corruption, with those engaging in infrastructure projects still reporting significant issues relating to corruption,”
- Taxation issues’ and ‘price points’ overtook ‘corruption’ as major barriers identified by 36% and 29% of respondents, respectively, the report said. However, the proportion of respondents identifying ‘taxation issues’ was 3% lower in 2018 than 2017, which, the report said, suggests that businesses may be starting to adjust to the GST.
- While most of the respondents agreed that the government’s ‘e-biz’ initiative towards faster clearances would improve the business environment, they also said that there remain significant complaints about around the lack of transparency around business approvals, particularly in the case of statutory approvals for investments.
‘Malaria’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: The World Health Organisation on Monday said global efforts to fight malaria have hit a plateau as it reported there were more cases of the killer disease in 2017 than the previous year.
Malaria, which is spread to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, occurs in 91 countries but about 90% of the cases and deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease killed 435000 people last year, the majority of them children under five in Africa.
Five countries accounted for nearly half of the cases: Nigeria (25 percent), DR Congo (11 percent), Mozambique (five percent), and India and Uganda with four percent each.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Malaria occurs mostly in poor tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In many of the countries affected by malaria, it is a leading cause of illness and death. In areas with high transmission, the most vulnerable groups are young children, who have not developed immunity to malaria yet, and pregnant women, whose immunity has been decreased by pregnancy. The costs of malaria – to individuals, families, communities, nations – are enormous.
‘International Film Festival of India’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: The 49th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2018 will kick-start on Tuesday evening with an opening ceremony that will showcase the theme of New India through a variety of genres of cinema.
The inaugural would entail a 90-minute programme incorporating elements and narratives of the rich and diverse kaleidoscope of the Indian film heritage and industry, which will showcase the themes of history, action and romance.
About film festival
The International Film Festival of India (IFFI), founded in 1952, is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia. Held annually, currently in the state of Goa, on the western coast of the country, the festival aims at providing a common platform for the cinemas of the world to project the excellence of the film art; contributing to the understanding and appreciation of film cultures of different nations in the context of their social and cultural ethos; and promoting friendship and cooperation among people of the world. The festival is conducted jointly by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Directorate of Film Festivals and the Government of Goa