Daily Current Affairs : 17-Jan-2020

Major Topics Covered :

  1. “OFF-BUDGET”

  2. SATELLITE GSAT-30

  3. IBBI AMENDS THE INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY BOARD OF INDIA

  4. “STRENGTHEN ETHNIC UNITY”

  5. SAKSHAM

  6. ASSAM INLAND WATER TRANSPORT PROJECT (AIWTP)

  7. K9 VAJRA-T GUN

  8. ASER REPORT

  9. 2019 WAS THE SECOND WARMEST YEAR EVER

  10. CARD TRANSACTIONS

“OFF-BUDGET”

Part of GS-3 Economy


Why in news?

On the face of it, India’s fiscal deficit, which essentially maps how much money the Indian government has to borrow to make up the gap between its expenditure and its revenues, was just 3.4 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for 2018-19.


Highlights:

• For the current year, the Union Budget presented in July expected the fiscal deficit to be 3.3 per cent of the GDP.

• However, for long, it has been suspected that the official figures hide the true fiscal deficit.

• That’s because some of the government’s expenditure was funded by the so-called “off- budget” items.

• As a result, while this extra expenditure did not figure in the official calculations, it did mean that the true fiscal deficit or borrowing by the public sector was higher than the level presented in the Budget.

• Now, former Economic Affairs Secretary S C Garg has stated, in his blog dated January 14, that the true fiscal deficit for 2018-19 is 4.7% — more than a full percentage point than the number claimed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam’s Budget in July.

• According to Garg, for the current financial year, too, the actual fiscal deficit is likely to range between 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent of GDP.


What is the significance of fiscal deficit?

• In the economy, there is a limited pool of investible savings. These savings are used by financial institutions like banks to lend to private businesses (both big and small) and the governments (Centre and state).

The significance of fiscal deficit is that if this ratio is too high, it implies that there is a lesser amount of money left in the market for private entrepreneurs and businesses to borrow.

• Lesser amount of this money, in turn, leads to higher rates of interest charged on such lending.

• So, simply put, a higher fiscal deficit means higher borrowing by the government, which, in turn, mean higher interest rates in the economy.

• This concern becomes even more significant when, like today, Indian businesses are facing high interest rates. A high fiscal deficit and higher interest rates at a time like this would also mean that the efforts of the Reserve Bank of India to reduce interest rates are undone.


What is fiscal deficit?

• The Union Budget’s “Budget at a Glance” document explains what fiscal deficit is. It states: “Fiscal Deficit is the difference between the Revenue Receipts plus Non-debt Capital Receipts (NDCR) and the total expenditure”.

• In other words, fiscal deficit is “reflective of the total borrowing requirements of Government”.

• In India, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act requires the central government to reduced its fiscal deficit to 3 per cent of GDP. India has been struggling to achieve this mark.


Source: Indian Express



SATELLITE GSAT-30

Part of GS- 3 S&T


Why in news?

India's high power communication satellite GSAT-30 was successfully launched onboard Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana early on 17th January's morning.


Highlights:

• Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said the GSAT-30 is aimed at providing high- quality television, telecommunications and broadcasting services.

• The 3,357-kg GSAT-30 derives its heritage from ISRO's earlier INSAT/GSAT satellite series, and is equipped with 12 C and 12 Ku band transponders.

• GSAT-30 will serve as replacement to the aging INSAT-4A spacecraft services with enhanced coverage.

• The satellite will provide Indian mainland and islands coverage in Ku-band and extended coverage in C-band covering Gulf countries, a large number of Asian countries and Australia.

• With a mission life of 15 years, GSAT-30 is an operational communication satellite for DTH, television uplink and VSAT services.

• ISRO said the communication payload of GSAT-30 is specifically designed and optimized to maximize the number of transponders on the spacecraft bus.

• According to the space agency, the spacecraft will be extensively used for supporting VSAT network, television unlinking and teleport services, digital satellite news gathering (DSNG), DTH television services, cellular backhaul connectivity and many such applications. Source: AIR



IBBI AMENDS THE INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY BOARD OF INDIA

Part of GS-3 Economy

Why in news?

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has notified the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Voluntary Liquidation Process) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 on 15th January. 2020.


Highlights:

IBBI amends the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Voluntary Liquidation Process) Regulations, 2017

• The aforesaid amendment provides that a Liquidator shall deposit the amount of unclaimed dividends, if any, and undistributed proceeds, if any, in a liquidation process along with any income earned thereon into the Corporate Voluntary Liquidation Account before submission of an application for dissolution of the corporate person.

• It also provides a process for a stakeholder to seek withdrawal from the Corporate Voluntary Liquidation Account.


Source: PIB



“STRENGTHEN ETHNIC UNITY”

Part of GS-2 IR


Why in news?

The People’s Congress of Tibet passed a law that makes ethnic unity in the region mandatory, reflecting the significant role that the autonomous Himalayan region plays in its economic and social development.


Highlights:

• These regulations will come into effect from May 1 and are meant to “strengthen ethnic unity”.

• The law makes it clear that Tibet has been an inalienable part of China since ancient times and that it is the common responsibility of the people of all ethnic groups to safeguard national reunification and take a clear stand against separatism.

There are more than 40 ethnic minorities in the region, which account for 95 per cent of Tibet’s population of over three million.

• Like Tibet, Xinjiang is another region of China that houses multiple ethnic minorities. A similar legislation was passed there four years ago and in recent times, China has faced criticism for detaining at least a million Uighur and other Muslims, along with some ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, a region that has been claimed by China since 1949.

• The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is a province-level autonomous region in southwest China. It is the second-largest province-level division of China by area after Xinjiang.

It is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the highest region on earth. Mount Everest is located on Tibet's border with Nepal.

• In 1951, the Tibetan representatives signed a 17-point agreement with the Central People's Government affirming China's sovereignty over Tibet and the incorporation of Tibet.

Ethnic Unity in China:

This is not the first time that the phrase ethnic unity has been mentioned by China.

• In October 2019, the General Offices of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee published a guideline for enhancing ethnic unity, which stressed on efforts to improve the governance of ethnic affairs, guaranteeing the legal rights and interests of citizens of ethnic groups and cracking down on “criminal acts” that sabotage ethnic unity or cause ethnic separation, Xinhua Net reported at the time.

• Before this, in 2016, China began a campaign in the autonomous territory of Xinjiang to promote ethnic unity and called for people to respect the cultures of the minorities who call the region home.


Source: Indian Express



SAKSHAM

Part of GS-3 Economy


Why in news?

Saksham, an annual one-month long fuel conservation mega campaign of Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, was launched today by Dr. M.M Kutty, Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum& Natural Gas in a function held in Delhi.


Highlights:

• Through SAKSHAM we intend to deliver a strong message that sustainable future demands conservation of natural resources.

• The campaign is inaugurated by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas’s.

• By mid-2020s India will be the world’s largest growth market accounting for 25 percent of global energy demand growth.

Today 83 percent of India’s crude oil requirement is met through import. The earnest efforts for petroleum conservation can help us to reduce the huge import burden.

• Every drop of oil saved will contribute to the saving of foreign exchange.

• We also require addressing the issues of climate change.

• Through SAKSHAM we intend to deliver a strong message that sustainable future demands conservation of natural resources.


Source: PIB



ASSAM INLAND WATER TRANSPORT PROJECT (AIWTP)

Part of GS-3 Economy


Why in news?

The Government of India, the Government of Assam and the World Bank signed a loan agreement of $88 million to help modernize Assam’s passenger ferry sector that runs on its rivers including the mighty Brahmaputra.


Highlights:

• A majority of Assam’s more than 361 ferry routes cross the Brahmaputra or serve its islands, providing a crucial means of transport to thousands of commuters in both the urban and rural areas of the Brahmaputra Valley.

• The project will support the Government of Assam’s efforts to corporatize its own ferry activities.

The Assam Shipping Company (ASC) will operate the government ferries and the Assam Ports Company (APC) will provide terminals and terminal services on a common-user basis to both public and private ferry operators.

Inland Water Transport is also a more sustainable mode of transport. It provides low- carbon and low-cost options when compared to the cost of constructing and maintaining flood-resilient roads and bridges across the long stretches of the Brahmaputra River.

• The Assam Inland Water Transport Project (AIWTP) will help Assam improve the passenger ferry infrastructure and its services and strengthen the capacity of the institutions running the inland water transport.

Technically better designed terminals and energy-efficient vessels (both new and retrofitted) will make the ferry services more sustainable with least disruption to nature.

• Loan of $88 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a final maturity of 14.5 years including a grace period of five years.


Source: PIB



K9 VAJRA-T GUN

Part of GS-3 Defence and Security


Why in news?

Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh flagged off 51st K9 VAJRA-T Gun from Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Armoured System Complex at Hazira in Gujarat on 16th January, 2020.


Highlights:

• The goal of modernisation and indigenisation in defence under 'Make in India', conceptualised by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has started to take shape.

• Shri Rajnath Singh termed K9 VAJRA-T Gun as the best example of ‘Make in India’ in Defence.

K-9 Vajra-T Gun is a 155-mm, 52-calibre self-propelled artillery gun with a maximum range of 40 km.

• The fire control system has been customised for desert conditions.

• Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Defence is currently executing the ‘K9 VAJRA-T’ Tracked, Self- Propelled Howitzer Guns program - the contract awarded to the company by Ministry of Defence through global competitive bidding.

• The gun weighs 50 tonnes and can fire 47kg bombs at 43-kilometre distant targets. It can also turn around at zero radius.

• In 2017, the Indian engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin signed a contract to make 100 K9 Vajra-T guns. All 100 guns will be delivered by November 2020. Source: PIB


ASER REPORT

Part of GS-Education


Why in news?

Only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognise letters, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019, released by NGO Pratham on 14th January, 2020.


Highlights:

• The survey shows that among Class 1 children who could correctly do none or only one of the tasks requiring cognitive skills, about 14% could read words, while 19% could do single digit addition.

• However, of those children who could correctly do all three cognitive tasks, 52% could read words, and 63% could solve the addition problem.

• Only 41% of these children could recognise two digit numbers.

• However, ASER found that the solution is not to spend longer hours teaching children the 3Rs.

They asked each child to do a variety of tasks testing cognitive skills — sort images by colour and size, recognise patterns, fit together a four-piece animal puzzle — as well as simple literacy and numeracy tests.

Social and emotional development was tracked through activities using cards with faces showing happiness, sadness, anger and fear.

• ASER data shows that children’s performance on tasks requiring cognitive skills is strongly related to their ability to do early language and numeracy tasks.

Global research shows that 90% of brain growth occurs by age 5, meaning that the quality of early childhood education has a crucial impact on the development and long-term schooling of a child.

• The ASER report shows that a large number of factors determine the quality of education received at this stage, including the child’s home background, especially the mother’s education level; the type of school, whether anganwadis, government schools or private pre-schools; and the child’s age in Class 1.


ABOUT PRATHAM NGO:

Pratham is an innovative learning organization created to improve the quality of education in India.

• As one of the largest non-governmental organizations in the country, Pratham focuses on high-quality, low-cost, and replicable interventions to address gaps in the education system.

Established in 1995 to provide education to children in the slums of Mumbai, Pratham has grown both in scope and geographical coverage.

• Pratham means 'first' in Sanskrit. True to its name, it is the first major organization to achieve lasting, wide-scale success in India's educational landscape.

• This has been made possible due to various policies and strategies adopted by the organization.


Source: The Hindu


2019 WAS THE SECOND WARMEST YEAR EVER

Part of GS- 1 Geography



Why in news?

The past decade was the hottest on record, government researchers announced, the latest sign of global warming’s grip on the planet. And 2019 was the second warmest year ever, they said, just shy of 2016.


Highlights:

According to World Meteorological Organization (WMO), The past decade (2010-2019) was the hottest on record and 2019 was the second warmest year ever, just shy of 2016, since records began.

• Analyses by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that global average surface temperatures last year were nearly 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average from the middle of last century, driven in large part by emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

• That much warming means the world is far from meeting goals set to combat climate change.

“These trends are the footprints of human activity stomping on the atmosphere,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which conducted the NASA analysis.

• The average for 2019 was only a small fraction of a degree lower than in 2016, a year with a strong El Niño, when changes in the ocean and air in the equatorial Pacific Ocean led to shifting weather patterns worldwide — and pumped a lot of heat from the Pacific into the atmosphere.

Since the 1960s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one, by significant amounts. While the 2010s continued this trend, the second half of the decade was especially warm — the five hottest years ever have occurred during that span.

• NASA and NOAA do independent analyses but use most of the same temperature data, which is gathered at sea from ships and buoys and on land from tens of thousands of observing stations coordinated by government meteorological agencies. This exhaustive data set is then combed for errors and less obvious factors — like the moving of a weather station from one year to the next — that might bias the analysis.


Source: Indian Express



CARD TRANSACTIONS

Why in news?

Tightening the rules for credit and debit card issuance and use in the wake of rising frauds related to card transactions, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) asked banks to allow only domestic card transactions at ATMs and point of sale (PoS) terminals in India at the time of issuance or reissuance of a card.


Highlights:

• The RBI has also asked banks to offer all cardholders the facility to switch on or off and set or modify transaction limits within the overall card limit.

• The RBI has asked banks to offer three facilities to customers after issuance of card. Issuers should provide cardholders the facility for enabling ‘card not present’ (domestic and international) transactions, ‘card present’ (international) transactions and contactless transactions, it said in a notification to banks and cards issuers.

‘Card not present’ transactions involve furnishing of card number and CVV (card verification value) in transactions executed online.

‘Card present’ transactions need the card for use in PoS or ATM terminals.

Contactless transactions are done using RFID technology or near-field communication (NFC).

• “At the time of issue or re-issue, all cards (physical and virtual) should be enabled for use only at contact based points of usage like ATMs and point of sale (PoS) devices within India,” the RBI said. The new changes will come into effect from March 16, 2020.


Source: Indian Express

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