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Daily Current Affairs : 16-Nov-2019

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Part of GS- 3 IR

Why in news:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for an early opening of New Development Bank's regional office in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Brasilia, Addressing the Dialogue with BRICS Business Council and New Development Bank (NDB) in Brasilia, Brazil on 13th - 14th November 2019 to attend the 11th BRICS summit, this will give a boost to projects in our priority areas.

The Prime Minister offered full backing to the multilateral finance institution in promoting global growth.


  • Mr Modi urged the BRICS Business Council to create a roadmap to achieve the 500 billion dollar intra-BRICS trade target by the next summit.

  • He said that the identification of economic complementarities among member countries will be important in this effort.

  • The BRICS countries are a ray of hope for the world's economic growth.

  • According to the BRICS joint statement, the five countries look forward to the opening of the two remaining NDB Regional Offices in Russia and India in 2020.

  • To building upon the core functions of the bank's headquarters, its Regional Offices shall contribute to expanding its operations and striving for a more robust project portfolio for all member countries.

  • While addressing the dialogue, also requested BRICS countries and the NDB to join the global Coalition for Disaster-Resilient Infrastructure.

  • The partnership agreement between the New Development Bank and BRICS Business Council will be useful for both the institutions.

  • To address the challenges facing the universal health coverage, the BRICS Business Council may consider organising a Hackathon in India on the use of digital health applications.

  • Referring to several agrotech start-ups that have emerged in the five countries, Mr Modi said that their network will be useful for sharing experiences and taking advantage of BRICS' large markets.

  • The BRICS Summit a very productive one.

  • The BRICS leaders had fruitful dialogues on cementing ties in trade, innovation, technology and culture.

  • The focus on futuristic subjects will surely lead to deeper cooperation that will benefit the people of our respective nations.


  • BRICS is the acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

  • BRICS brings together five major emerging economies comprising 42 % of the world's population, having 23 % of the global GDP and around 17 % of the share and world trade.

  • Originally the first four were grouped as "BRIC" (or "the BRICs"), before the induction of South Africa in 2010.

  • Since 2009, the BRICS nations have met annually at formal summits.

  • The New Development Bank (NDB), formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, is a multilateral development bank operated by the BRICS states.

  • The BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) is a framework for providing protection against global liquidity pressures

Source: AIR


Part of GS- Award and Recognitions

Why in news:

Two women are among the six who bagged the 11th 'Infosys Prize 2019' that was announced by Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) on 14 November.


  • ISF announced the winners of the Infosys Prize2019 in six categories - Engineering and Computer Sciences, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences.

  • The prize celebrates the success of the recipients in science and research by recognising their achievements in each category, the foundation said.

  • The prize for each category comprises a gold medal, a citation and a prize purse of USD 100,000 (or its equivalent in Rupees) this year.

  • Sunita Sarawagi and Manjula Reddy are the two women who won the Infosys Prize under Engineering and Computer Science and Life Sciences category respectively.

  • Sarawagi, an Institute Chair Professor, Computer Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, is awarded for her research in databases, data mining, machine learning and natural language processing,and for important applications of these research techniques.

  • Infosys Limited is an Indian multinational corporation that provides business consulting, information technology and outsourcing services.

  • It has its headquarters in Bangalore, Karnataka.

Source: Business Standard


Part of GS- 3 S&T

Why in news:

In a fitting tribute to the farthest flyby ever conducted by spacecraft, the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 has been officially named Arrokoth, a Native American term meaning “sky” in the Powhatan/Algonquian language.


  • About 6.6 billion km from Earth in the Kuiper Belt beyond the orbit of Neptune, a rock moves in slow orbit around the Sun, once every 297 years. Its odd shape consists of two lobes, respectively measuring 21 km and 15 km across, which create an appearance of a doughnut.

  • Provisionally named 2014 MU69 based on the year of its discovery, it was given the nickname ‘Ultima Thule’ last year following public suggestions made to NASA. Now, it has got an official name- Arrokoth.

  • Ultima Thule is a Latin expression that means “beyond Thule (borders of the known world)” and, as such, is used to denote a mythical, distant and unknown land.

  • However, it is also associated with controversy, which is the reason the name has been changed.

  • NASA proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union and Minor Planets Centre, the authority responsible for naming objects that lie in the Kuiper Belt.

  • The Belt consists of a mass of icy objects that include Pluto, the dwarf planet.

  • NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft – launched in January 2006 – sped past the object in January this year. It is the most primitive and distant object to have been encountered by a spacecraft.

Source: Indian express


Part of GS-3 IR

Why in news:

King Abdullah II of Jordan announced that Jordan has decided to terminate annexes of ‘Baquoura and Ghumar’ in the peace agreement signed between Jordan and the Israeli.


  • Under the 1994 Wadi Araba Peace Treaty with Israel, Jordan leased Baqura and Ghumar areas, formally under Jordanian sovereignty, to Israel for a period of 25 years that allowed Israeli farmers to cultivate in two pieces of agricultural land.

  • Baqura is a border area of six square kilometers in Jordan's northern Irbid province, while Ghumar covers four square kilometers in the southern Aqaba province.

Source : The Hindu


Part of GS- 3Economy

Why in news:

New Zealand emerges as the country with lowest bribery risk.

India has been placed in a better position than neighbouring China in a global list that measures business bribery risks while, New Zealand has emerged as the country with lowest bribery risk.


  • The list by TRACE, an anti-bribery standard setting organisation, measures business bribery risk in 200 countries, territories, and autonomous and semi-autonomous regions.

  • With a total risk score of 48, India is ranked higher than neighbouring China whose score is 59.

  • Apart from India, Azerbaijan, Ghana, the Bahamas, Panama, Samoa and Thailand, also have a score of 48 in the matrix.

  • The score is based on four factors- Business Interactions with Government, Anti-Bribery Deterrence and Enforcement, Government and Civil Service Transparency, and Capacity for Civil Society Oversight, including the role of the media.

  • Among the BRICS nations, South Africa is ahead of other countries with a score of 42.

  • The scores of Brazil and Russian Federation are 53 and 55, respectively.

  • “Somalia, South Sudan, North Korea, Yemen and Venezuela presented the highest risk of bribe demands. New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland presented the lowest bribery risk,” TRACE said in a statement on its website.

  • TRACE President Alexandra Wrage said the matrix provides multi-dimensional, actionable insights about business bribery risk that can be used by companies to develop more targeted compliance procedures.

Source: Business Line


Part of GS-3 Economy

Why in news:

The Reserve Bank of India released on its website, guidelines on the criteria for registering institutions, organisations and associations 'on tap' for grant of financial assistance from the Depositor Education and Awareness Fund.


  • The eligible entities desirous of registering with DEA Fund may apply in the prescribed format along with necessary information as per the list of documents indicated in the application form.

  • The Banking Laws (Amendment) Act, 2012, Section 26A has been inserted in the Banking Regulation Act, 1949.

  • The Section empowers the Reserve Bank to establish a fund called Depositor Education and Awareness Fund (DEA Fund).

  • The Scheme envisages registration of institutions, organisations and associations and grant of financial assistance to them for promotion of depositors' awareness.

  • Based on the scrutiny of applications received, 25 entities were found suitable for registration.

  • With a view to widening and deepening depositor awareness efforts, it has now been decided to invite applications 'on tap' for registration of eligible entities.

Source: Business Standard


Part of GS-3 Economy

Why in news:

RBI panel proposes stricter rules for core investment companies.

Core investment companies (CICs) will have to form board level committees, appoint independent directors and conduct internal audits, if the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decides to accept the recommendations of a working group formed to improve their corporate governance standards.


  • Firms may have to form board-level panels, appoint independent directors and conduct internal audits

  • Unlike NBFCs, which need to have board-level panels, no such rule is mandated for CICs

  • The recommendations were made by the Working Group to Review Regulatory and Supervisory Framework for Core Investment Companies set up by the central bank on 3 July and headed by Tapan Ray, former secretary of the corporate affairs ministry.

Recommendations of the WG are as follows:

  • Capital contribution by a CIC in a step-down CIC, over and above 10% of its owned funds, should be deducted from its Adjusted Networth, as applicable to other NBFCs.

  • Further, step-down CICs may not be permitted to invest in any other CIC.

  • The number of layers of CICs in a group should be restricted to two.

  • Every Group having a CIC should have a Group Risk Management Committee (GRMC).

  • Constitution of the Board level committees viz., Audit Committee and Nomination and Remuneration Committee should be mandated.

  • Offsite returns may be designed by the RBI and may be prescribed for the CICs on the lines of other NBFCs.

  • Onsite inspection of CICs maybe conducted periodically.

Core Investment Companies (CICs):

  • Core investment companies are non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) holding not less than 90% of their net assets in the form of investment in equity shares, preference shares, bonds, debentures, debt or loans in group companies.

  • In August 2019, there were 63 CICs registered with RBI.

  • Experts have been seeking a review of CIC guidelines ever since defaults by Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS), a large systemically important core investment company.

Source: Live mint


Part of GS-3 Environment and Ecology

Why in news:

Union Environment Ministry said that Roadside air purifiers (WAYU) have failed to address air pollution at traffic intersections and dense traffic zones in Delhi.


  • The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a Nagpur-based laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), had developed WAYU to address air pollution at traffic intersections and dense traffic zones.

  • Prototypes of the device had been installed at the ITO Junction and Mukarba Chowk in north Delhi. Minister for Science and Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan unveiled the prototypes in September 2018.

  • It comprises a fan that sucks in air and sieves out dust and particulate matter using three filters of varying sizes.

  • The air then moves into another chamber where carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons are oxidised into the less harmful carbon dioxide using activated carbon coated with titanium dioxide.

  • The purified air is then released back into the atmosphere.

  • Developers of WAYU claimed that the devices could reduce PM10 values from 600 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) to 100 ug/m3; and PM2.5 values from 300 ug/m3 to 60 ug/m3 in 30 minutes.


  • Along with WAYU, former Environment Minister Dr. Vardhan had, last December, also launched Pariyayantra in Delhi.

  • These were a fleet of 30 buses with air filter units mounted on the roof.

  • As the vehicle moves, air passes through the holes in front of the device.

  • The filters inside the unit trap the pollutants. What comes out is clean air.

Source : The Hindu


Part of GS-2 Polity & Governance

Why in news:

Transparency does not undermine judicial independence. Judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand. [Updated with judgment] In a historic judgment, the Supreme Court on 13th Nov 2019 held that the office of Chief Justice of India is a public authority under the Right to Information Act.


  • The Constitution Bench upheld the the 2010 judgment of Delhi HC which had held that RTI Act was applicable to CJI's office.

  • Transparency does not undermine judicial independence.

  • Judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand. Disclosure is a facet of public interest", said Justice Sanjiv Khanna who wrote the majority opinion on behalf of the bench.

  • Justices Ramana and Chandrachud wrote separate but concurring judgments.

  • The Court has however underlined the importance of maintaining confidentiality in some aspects of judicial administration, and has qualified the right to information on the grounds of public interest.

  • "Confidentiality may have some bearing and importance in ensuring honest and fair appraisals, though it could work the other way around also and, therefore, what should be disclosed would depend on authentic enquiry relating to the public interest, that is, whether the right to access and the right to know outweighs the possible public interest in protecting privacy or outweighs the harm and injury to third parties when the information relates to such third parties or the information is confidential in nature", stated the Court. (through J Khanna's judgment).

  • As to what may constitute public interest, the Court mentioned certain parameters which could be applied to test. In the words of Justice Khanna :

  • The public interest test in the context of the RTI Act would mean reflecting upon the object and purpose behind the right to information, the right to privacy and consequences of invasion, and breach of confidentiality and possible harm and injury that would be caused to the third party, with reference to a particular information and the person.

  • The delicate balance requires identification of public interest behind each exemption and then cumulatively weighing the public interest in accepting or maintaining the exemption(s) to deny information in a particular case against the public interest in disclosure in that particular case.

  • Further, under Section 11(1), reference is made to the 'possible' harm and injury to the third party which will also have to be factored in when determining disclosure of confidential information relating to the third parties Referring to Section 6(2) of the RTI Act, the judgment stated that the motive of the seeker of information is not a relevant consideration at all while considering the application.

  • The Constitution bench comprising of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna had heard the appeal.

Other key findings:

  • The key findings in the judgment authored by Justice Khanna (for himself, CJI Gogoi and Justice Ramana) are :

  • The Supreme Court of India and the office of the CJI are not two different public authorities. The SC would necessarily include the office of CJI and other judges in view of Article 124 of the Constitution.

  • Ordinarily the relationship between the Chief Justice and judges would not be that of a fiduciary and a beneficiary.

  • However, it is not an absolute rule/code for in certain situations and acts, fiduciary relationship may arise.

  • Details of personal assets of judges would not amount to personal information and disclosure of the same will not violate right to privacy of judges.

  • Justice Ramana observed that the following non-exhaustive considerations need to be considered while assessing 'public interest' under Section 8 of the Act :

  • Nature and content of the information.

  • Consequences of non-disclosure, dangers and benefits to public.

  • Type of confidential obligation.

  • Beleifs of the confidant; reasonable suspicion.

  • Party to whom information is disclosed. Manner in which information acquired. Public and private interests.

  • Freedom of expression and proportionality.

  • As per Justice Ramana, there are certain factors which needs to be considered before concluding whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy of the person concerned.

These non-exhaustive factors are; .

1. The nature of information.

2. Impact on private life.

3. Improper conduct.

4. Criminality

5. Place where the activity occurred or the information was found.

6. Attributes of claimants such as being a public figure, a minor etc and their reputation.

7. Absence of consent.

8. Circumstances and purposes for which the information came into the hands of the publishers.

9. Effect on the claimant.

10. Intrusion's nature and purpose.

About the RTI Act

  • The Right to Information Act, simply known as RTI, is a revolutionary act that aims to promote transparency in government institutions in India.

  • The Act came into existence in 2005, after sustained efforts of anti-corruption activists.

  • It opens government organizations up for scrutiny as a common man can demand any government agency to furnish information.

  • The organization has to provide the asked information within 30 days.

  • All the constitutional authorities come under this Act, making it one of the most powerful laws of the country.

  • Successes of RTI

  • A number of significant disclosures have been made through the RTI such as the 2G scam, Commonwealth Games and so on.

  • It also led to the demand for several other important rights like the right to employment guarantee, the right to education and the right to food security.

  • The RTI has had the effect of loosening the tight hold of the government and its officials on both the information and instrumentalities of the state.

Problems the RTI is facing

  • Long pendency in most information commissions, some even for a year or more have hampered the successful implementation of the Act.

  • In many cases, errant government officials were not penalized which also contributes to decreasing of confidence in people regarding the Act

  • The appointment of information commissioners in the states has not been up to the mark which seriously undermined the citizen’s trust in information commissions.

  • The absence of enforcement provisions in the law has made the information commissions inefficient.

  • Poor record-keeping makes retrieval of information difficult.

  • The civil service’s indifference and hostility towards the RTI have not subsided.

  • The civil society’s enthusiasm for the RTI has declined.

  • Many individuals have started to use RTI to make a living or settle personal scores, giving it a bad reputation.

  • Failure to digitize records and make proactive disclosure of their information is the ultimate nail in the coffin.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that gave the government powers to decide salary and service terms of the statutory body head and its members has been seen as an attempt to take away the freedom of these bodies.

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