Q.1 EX TSENTR is recently seen in news, it is:
(a) An asteroid which might strike the Earth surface in recent future.
(b) Part of the annual exercises of the Russian Armed Forces’ annual training
(c) A military exercise between India and Thailand.
(d) A vaccine to prevent Malaria in tropical countries.
Q.2 Saffir-Simpson scale is used to measure
which one of the following?
(a) Intensity of earthquake
(b) Size of hurricane
(c) Height of rainfall
(d) To estimate the loss during forest fires
Q.3 Which of the following statements is a feature
of gig economy?
(a) An economy whose gross national product or gross domestic product to a large extent comes from natural resources.
(b) An economy that has no trade activity with outside economies.
(c) An economy that is too dependent on unreliable foreign investment to finance its growth ambitions.
(d) An economy where flexible jobs are common place and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.
TATA MISTRY DISPUTE
The multi-billion salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Sons Private Limited on Thursday appealed to the Supreme Court saying the December 18 decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) to reinstate Cyrus Mistry as its chairman is a blow to corporate democracy and rights of the Board of Directors.
Mr. Mistry’s tenure as chairman and director of Tata Sons expired in March 2017. The NCLAT decision to restore him to his “original position” for the “rest of his tenure” is contrary to company law, a recipe for disaster and sets a dangerous precedent in law, it said.
Besides, Mr. Mistry had never sought his reinstatement. The NCLAT had gone beyond its jurisdiction, the appeal by Tata Sons, filed through Karanjawala & Co, said.
- National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) was constituted under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013 for hearing appeals against the orders of National Company Law Tribunal(s) (NCLT), with effect from 1st June, 2016.
- NCLAT hears appeals against the orders passed by NCLT(s) under Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC).
- NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY BOARD OF INDIA under Section 202 and Section 211 of IBC.
- NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction issued or decision made or order passed by the COMPETITION COMMISSION OF INDIA (CCI).
AIR QUALITY INDEX
The air quality of the city continued to be in the ‘severe’ category on Thursday and is likely to improve to ‘very poor’ category on Friday, said government-run monitoring agency System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).
The air pollution has been in the ‘severe’ category for five out of the past six days, according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
ABOUT AIR QUALITY INDEX:
Air Quality Index is a number used by the government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted air currently is and how polluted it is expected to become.
There are six AQI categories, namely Good (0-50), Satisfactory (51-100), Moderately polluted (101-200), Poor (201-300), Very Poor (301-400), and Severe (401-500).
AQI considers eight pollutants
- PM 2.5,
- NH3, and
Air Quality Index was launched in 2014 by Central Pollution Control Board under Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change.
- SAFAR stands for System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research
- It is a research program to build Air-Pollution mitigation strategies in consonance with nation’s economic development
- It is launched in greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location specific information on air quality in near real time
- SAFAR was developed indigenously by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and operationalized by India Meteorological Department (IMD).
- Comes under Ministry of Earth Sciences
- Pollutants monitored: PM1, PM2.5, PM10, Ozone, CO, NOx (NO, NO2), SO2, , Methane (CH4), Non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), VOC’s, Benzene, Mercury.
- Monitored Meteorological Parameters: UV Radiation, Rainfall, Temperature, Humidity, Wind speed, Wind direction.
NEWS: An investigating committee formed by IIT-Kanpur is not going to probe whether the recital of Hum Dekhenge, a poem by Pakistani revolutionary Faiz Ahmad Faiz, during a campus protest last month had hurt sentiments or not.
The poem was written in 1979 as a form of protest against Pakistani military dictator Zia-ul-Haq. These are the lines that have caused heartburn: “Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se, sab buut uthwaaye jaayenge…Bus naam rahega Allah ka…”
Commentators have pointed to the allegorical nature of the poem, through which the Communist Faiz spoke out against a dictator using conservative Islam as a tool of repression. The poem became a popular protest anthem following its 1986 rendition by Pakistani ghazal singer Iqbal Bano.
Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress Party (YRSCP) on Thursday shared a video that it claimed revealed the extent of corruption in the form of “insider trading” that had taken place in the Amaravati capital region during the 2014-19 period.
Detailing the allegations, senior YSRCP leader and Sattenapalli MLA Ambati Rambabu asserted that the ‘insider trading’ had taken place between June and December 2014, during which the TDP leaders and their benamis had bought land to the extent of 4,069.65 acres in the region’s Thullur, Mangalagiri and Tadepalli mandals.
ABOUT INSIDER TRADING
Insider trading is the trading of a public comapny’s stock or other securities (such as bonds or stock options) by individuals with access to non public information about the company.
In various countries, some kind of trading based on insider information is illegal. This is because it is seen as unfair to other investor’s who do not have access to the information.
TIGER DEATH IN INDIA
For the first time in the past three years, the number of tiger deaths in a year in the country has been less than 100. According to data from the Ministry of Forest Environment and Climate Change (MoEFCC), there were 84 cases of tiger deaths in the country and 11 cases of seizures (in which a tiger is presumed dead on the basis of body parts seized by authorities). Both put together, the number of tiger deaths in 2019 was 95.
In 2018, the number of tiger deaths recorded was 100 (93 mortalities and seven seizures). The number was 115 (98 mortalities and 17 seizures) in 2017, and 122 (101 mortalities and 21 seizures) in 2016.
The last tiger census report, released in July 2019, had placed the number of tigers in India at 2,967, up by a third when compared with the numbers reported in 2014.
Madhya Pradesh, which has the highest number of tigers in the country (526, as per the last census), recorded the most number of cases (31) of tiger deaths. This was followed by Maharashtra, which reported 18 deaths. Karnataka, another State with high tiger population, recorded 12 deaths, and Uttarakhand recorded ten deaths.
ABOUT NTCA:- The National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) was established in December 2005 following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force.
The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was amended to provide for constituting the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger plan to protect endangered tigers.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority is set up under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Environment and Forests.
It approves the State Govt. Plans for Tiger Conservation.
Lays down Standards and Measures.
Also Prepares Report to be laid down in front of Parliament.
Project Tiger was Launched in 1973.
NTCA at Present is a Statutory Body under MOEF.
It conducts Tiger Census every 4 year.
107TH SCIENCE CONGRESS
On the eve of the 107th Indian Science Congress (ISC), set to commence in Bengaluru, organisers said they had taken “special care” to ensure that ‘pseudo-scientific’ articles or talks did not creep in.
At last year’s ISC at Lovely University, Jalandhar, G. Nageswara Rao, the then vice-chancellor of Andhra University, asserted that the Kauravas of the Mahabharata were born of the stem-cell technology and test-tube baby science, and that Rama and Ravana had fought with ‘guided missiles.’
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to inaugurate the congress, which is scheduled to take place between January 3-7, at the Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (University of Agricultural Sciences) in Bengaluru on Friday.
The theme for the congress this year is ‘science and technology: rural development’.
About Indian Science Congress Association:
Indian Science Congress is organised by the Indian Science Congress Association every year in the first week of January.
The Indian Science Congress Association was started in the year 1914 in Kolkata and has a membership of more than 30,000 scientists.
Origin: It owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P. S. MacMahon. It occurred to them that scientific research in India might be stimulated if an annual meeting of research workers somewhat on the lines of the British Association for the Advancement of Science could be arranged.
- To advance and promote the cause of science in India.
- To hold an annual congress at a suitable place in India.
- To publish such proceedings, journals, transactions and other publications as may be considered desirable.
- To secure and manage funds and endowments for the promotion of Science including the rights of disposing of or selling all or any portion of the properties of the Association.
- To do and perform any or all other acts, matters and things as are conductive to, or incidental to, or necessary for, the above objects.
LEAD ARTICLE: DECLINING UNILATERALISM
Author highlights that 2019 clearly showed the decline of unilateralism.
2019 saw some defining trends in geopolitics as well such as China’s growing assertiveness both in trade and foreign policy, Iran’s dangerously aggressive, yet calculated, behaviour, and the rise of Turkey as a new power pole in West Asia. The most important of them all, however, was the relative decline in America’s power, which was manifested through a number of crises during the year.
PROOF OF US’S DECLINING INFLUENCE
At least three developments in 2019 suggested that the U.S.’s ability to shape global politics is clearly receding.
AFGHANISTAN DISASTER: The U.S. went to Afghanistan in October 2001, with a vow to destroy al-Qaeda and topple the Taliban regime. Seventeen years later, the U.S., desperate to get out of a stalemated conflict, started direct negotiations with the Taliban. The talks almost led to a settlement last year, with both sides agreeing to a draft agreement under which the U.S. would pull out most of its troops from Afghanistan in return for assurances from the Taliban that it would not allow Afghan soil to be used by transnational terrorists. The agreement, however, was not signed as President Donald Trump cancelled the peace process in September after an American soldier was killed in a Taliban attack. A few weeks later, Mr. Trump resumed the talks.
IRAN FIASCO:The latest spell in the U.S.-Iran tensions was triggered by President Trump’s unilateral decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. Mr. Trump’s plan was to put “maximum pressure” on Iran through sanctions and force Tehran to renegotiate the nuclear deal. But Iran countered it through “maximum resistance”, instead of giving in.
The year 2019 saw Iran repeatedly provoking the U.S. and its allies. It shot down an American drone over the Gulf in June, captured a British tanker in July and is believed to have either carried out or orchestrated multiple attacks on oil tankers that pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway that connects the oil-rich Gulf with the Arabian Sea through the Gulf of Oman. In September, two Saudi oil facilities came under attack, which temporarily cut the kingdom’s oil output by half. Iran was blamed for the attacks.
CRACKS IN NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Cold War alliance that was formed as a counterweight to the Soviet Union, continued to act as a vehicle of Western military dominance under the leadership of the U.S. in the post-Soviet order. The alliance has come under pressure in recent years with the rise of nationalist-populist leaders, including Mr. Trump, who have a favourable view of Russian President Vladimir Putin and are critical of NATO. These contradictions sharpened in 2019, suggesting that there are growing cracks in the alliance. In October, Turkey invaded northeastern Syria’s Kurdish held-territories, which had housed U.S. troops during the war against the Islamic State. Ankara practically forced the Trump administration to pull back troops from the areas before it started air strikes. The U.S. was relegated to the role of a spectator when a determined Turkey first captured some towns on the border and then struck a deal with Russia to create a buffer between Turkey and the Kurdish-held territories of Syria, which will be manned by Russian and Turkish troops.
These incidents do not mean that the U.S.’s dominance over global politics is over. But they do show that America’s long wars and its inability to shape post-war outcomes are impacting its stature in an international system that centres around it.
The relative decline in America’s power coupled with the rise of new and old powers point to a structural churning in the post-Cold War order.
SECOND ARTICLE: DEFECTION
Author highlights that Karnataka byelection results have widely put to display the ineffectiveness of the Anti-Defection Law. Of the 17 defecting Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs, 11 were re-elected on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket. Not only did this set of events lay down a well-structured framework to sidestep the law, it even set a dangerous precedent for neutralising the consequences of the law altogether.
The phenomenon of defections is not new to Indian politics. It has been plaguing the political landscape for over five decades. The most prominent case was that of Haryana’s Gaya Lal, originally an independent MLA who, in 1967, juggled between the Congress and Janata Party for two weeks, during which he switched his loyalty thrice. The recurrence of this evil phenomenon led to the 1985 Anti-Defection Law, which defined three grounds of disqualification of MLAs — giving up party membership; going against party whip; and abstaining from voting.
Author highlights that the spectacle of MLAs hoarded in a bus, and being sent to a resort, openly exposed not just the absence of ideological ties between a leader and his party, but also her/his weak moral character. It was also upsetting to see public acceptance of such malpractices as part of politics, with some even calling it Chanakya niti!
The main issue, as witnessed in Karnataka, is that the defectors treat disqualification as a mere detour, before they return to the House or government by re-contesting. This can only be stopped by extending the disqualification period from re-contesting and appointment to Chairmanships/Ministries to at least six years. The minimum period limit of six years is needed to ensure that the defectors are not allowed to enter the election fray for least one election cycle, which is five years.
SECOND EDITORIAL: SWACHH SARVEKSHAN 2020
The NDA government’s Swachh Survekshan, the ranking system for clean cities, was rolled out four years ago as the answer to a problem that municipal law failed to solve.
Sanitation and public health are responsibilities of State governments, and it is no secret that they have spectacularly failed at managing growing volumes of municipal and hazardous waste.
Ahead of the launch of Swachh Survekshan 2020, the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is once again trying to stir up competition among cities, by pre-ranking them for their performance during 2019 and assigning points to be added this year.
As an idea, unleashing the competitive spirit among States may seem appealing, but in reality, the problems confronting urban India require large-scale infrastructure creation, full adherence to legal requirements on waste management, and transparent technical audits.
Many cities remain clueless on handling their waste, one shocking example being the rising mountain of garbage at the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi.
Ironically, Bhopal, which figures among the top five cleanest cities under the just-released list, continues to live with the effects of the gas disaster of 1984.
Ranks and prizes clearly cannot solve the national waste management crisis.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
The emphasis worldwide is on creating a circular economy centred at the principle of material recovery from all kinds of waste, reuse, recycling and reduced pressure on natural resources.
Retooling Swachh Survekshan 2020 to go beyond perception management and adopt sustainability is essential to make it a genuine contest.
FRIDAY DISCUSSION: SHOULD THE FINANCE MINISTER TWEAK THE DIRECT TAXES TO REVIVE THE ECONOMY
Among the continuing slowdown government revenues are also decreasing.
In this atmosphere of declining revenue government is in conflict. The conflict is that if government tends to reduce the income tax rates and bring them, at least the highest rate, in alignment with the lower CIT (corporate income tax) rate, then there would be a revenue loss. At the same time, there would be some additional disposable income in the hands of middle-income groups, who may increase their consumption, which would be a benefit.
As such, the options available for the government may be very limited and in that sense, whatever income tax reforms may have to be undertaken will have to be modulated to recognise the constraints that are operating on the Indian economy.
Roughly about 6 crore people file income tax returns. Within that 6 crore almost 5 crore pay practically no tax. So it’s a very small proportion of your population which is going to be affected by any reduction in income tax. And the problem for the economy today is that its demand base is too narrow. So if you try and expand demand only in that narrow base, that’s not necessarily a resolution of the problem of the slowdown that you’re facing.
Overall personal income taxes account for less than 2.5% of the GDP. So even if you make a small reduction in that, it’s really not going to have any significant impact on the slowdown.
CHIEF OF DEFENSE STAFF
In his first meeting with the officials of the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, outlined priorities towards creating an air defence command and common logistics support pools as part of measures to create jointness and synergy among the three services.
The areas identified for jointness and synergy include creation of common logistics support pools in stations where two or more services have their presence.
Gen. Rawat directed various branch heads to come up with recommendations for inter-service synergy and jointness in a time bound manner.
The broad mandate of the CDS includes bringing about jointness in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three services “within three years of the first CDS assuming office”.
CDS will be the single-point military adviser to the government as suggested by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999. CDS will head the department of military affairs with salary equivalent to Service Chiefs.
The broad mandate of theCDS includes bringing about jointness in “operations, logistics, transport, training,support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three Services,within three years of the first CDS assuming office.”“He will act as the Principal Military Adviser to Defence Minister on all triServices matters.
However, the three Chiefs will continue to advise the Minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services.
Interestingly, the sources said the CDS would also evaluate plans “for ‘Out ofArea Contingencies’, as well other contingencies such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).”
The government also recently informed Parliament that the CDS would come in the ambit of ‘Right to Information Act’, in accordance with the provisions of theRTI Act, 2005
Nepal and India will resolve the Kalapani border issue through dialogue, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.
At the weekly press interaction, the official spokesperson of the Ministry said the latest political map of India reflects the sovereign territory of India.
- Background: Kalapani is a valley that is administered by India as a part of the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. It is situated on the Kailash Mansarovar route.
- The Kali River in the Kalapani region demarcates the border between India and Nepal.
- The Treaty of Sugauli signed by the Kingdom of Nepal and British India (after Anglo-Nepalese War) in 1816 located the Kali River as Nepal’s western boundary with India. The discrepancy in locating the source of the river led to boundary disputes between India and Nepal, with each country producing maps supporting their own claims.
- It is also known as Sharda river or Kali Ganga in Uttarakhand.
- It joins Ghagra river in Uttar Pradesh, which is a tributary of Ganga.
- River Projects: Tanakpur hydro-electric project, Chameliya hydro-electric project, Sharda Barrage.
CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT
NEWS: The Union government pursued a rigorous “two-pronged” strategy on conveying its explanation on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) controversy in India, the External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday, stressing that the Act merely speeds up citizenship applications for communities mentioned in it and is not seeking to change the Constitution.
The government’s brief mentioned that the CAA was an internal process, which did not seek to strip any community members of citizenship. Nor did the CAA alter the basic structure of the Constitution, Mr. Kumar said.
WHAT DOES THE ACT CONTAINS?
The ACT seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.
The ACT says the six non-Muslim communities “shall not be treated as illegal migrant” for violating provisions under Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946 that pertains to foreigners entering and staying in India illegally.
The ACT shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP).
ACT has reduce the time period required for naturalization from 11 years to 5 years for members of these communities.
BHARAT BOND EXCHANGE TRADED FUND
Bharat Bond Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) made its debut on the bourses on Thursday with the units closing marginally above the issue price of ₹1,000.
While the units of Bharat Bond ETF maturing in 2023 closed at ₹1,000.75, those with a 10-year maturity in 2030 settled the day at ₹1,002.
Further, about 45,000 units of the ETF were traded on Thursday.
Exchange Traded Fund
- An Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) is a basket of securities that trade on an exchange, just like a stock.
- ETF reflects the composition of an Index, like BSE Sensex. Its trading value is based on the Net Asset Value (NAV) of the underlying stocks (such as shares) that it represents.
- ETF share prices fluctuate all day as it is bought and sold. This is different from mutual funds that only trade once a day after the market closes.
- An ETF can own hundreds or thousands of stocks across various industries, or it could be isolated to one particular industry or sector.
- Bond ETFs are a type of ETFs which may include government bonds, corporate bonds, and state and local bonds—called municipal bonds.
- A bond is an instrument that represents a loan made by an investor to a borrower (typically corporate or governmental).
- Besides being cost efficient, ETFs offer a diversified investment portfolio to investors.
Features of Bharat Bond ETF
- The ETF will comprise a basket of bonds issued by the CPSEs, CPSUs, CPFIs, and other government organisations.
- The unit size of the bond has been kept at just ₹1,000 so that even retail investors can invest.
- Each ETF will have a fixed maturity date and initially they will be issued in two series, of 3 years and 10 years. Each series will have a separate index of the same maturity series.
- Index will be constructed by an independent index provider – National Stock Exchange.
- The Bharat Bond ETF will ensure broader investor base through the participation of retail and High Networth Individuals (HNI).This will lead to an increase in the demand for bonds, thus reducing the cost of borrowing for borrowers i.e. government organizations.
- The Bond ETF will provide safety, liquidity and predictable tax efficient returns.
- The launch of this ETF is expected to eventually increase the size of bond ETFs in India leading to achieving key objectives at a larger scale – deepening bond markets, enhancing retail participation and reducing borrowing costs.
Regulator IRDAI on Thursday issued guidelines on standard individual health insurance, asking general and health insurers to offer a product that can take care of basic health needs of customers with a maximum sum insured of ₹5 lakh and a minimum of ₹1 lakh.
The product will be named Arogya Sanjeevani Policy, succeeded by the name of the insurance company.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory body tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India.
It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999, an Act of Parliament passed by the Government of India.
The agency’s headquarters are in Hyderabad, Telangana.
INDIA’S ARABICA OUTPUT
India’s Arabica production has hit an all-time low this coffee-picking season, which commenced a fortnight ago.
Coffee Board chairman M.S. Boje Gowda said this year’s Arabica yield would fall more than 50% after the torrential rains, floods and landslides during August-September last year washed away a sizeable chunk of plantations and destroyed coffee plants in Chikkamagaluru, Hassan, Kodagu and Wayanad districts.
Coffee is a tropical plantation crop.
Its seeds are roasted, ground and are used for preparing beverage.
Three varieties of Coffee
Indian coffee is known in the world for its good quality. The Arabica variety initially brought from Yemen is produced in the country. This variety is in great demand all over the world. Intially its cultivation was introduced on the Baba Budan Hills and even today its cultivation is confined to the Nilgiri in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Coffee requires warm and wet climate and well drained loamy soil. Hill slopes are more suitable for growth of this crop