THE HINDU CURRENT AFFAIRS ANALYSIS 20TH FEBRUARY 2020

Q.1 With reference to the Simon Commission, consider
the following statements:
1. It recommended the replacement of dyarchy
with responsible government in the provinces.
2. It was boycotted by all political parties in India.
3. Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood
to protest against Simon commission.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 1, 2
c) 2, 3
d) 1, 2, 3
Solution: a)

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding North
Indian Temple Style.
1. In North India it is common for an entire temple
to be built on a stone platform with steps
leading up to it.
2. It does usually have elaborate boundary walls
or gateways.
3. The garbhagriha is always located directly
under the tallest tower.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 2, 3
c) 1, 3
d) 1, 2
Solution: c)

Q.3 The countries that border Red Sea are
1. Saudi Arabia
2. Yemen
3. Oman
4. Sudan
5. Eritrea
Select the correct answer code:
a) 1, 2, 3, 4
b) 2, 3, 4, 5
c) 1, 2, 4, 5
d) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Solution: c)

DELAY IN US INDIA TRADE DEAL

An Indo-U.S. trade deal has been delayed but is not “stuck”, the government said on Wednesday, hours after President Donald Trump confirmed that negotiations will not be completed in time for his visit next week.

However, government sources said expectations on trade would not overshadow the larger context of the visit, which will be a massive roadshow for Mr. Trump and his wife Melania from the Ahmedabad airport to Motera as well as a joint rally with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the stadium (billed as the world’s biggest cricket stadium), the “key deliverable” of the visit.

The comments come days after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer cancelled a trip to India — as reported in The Hindu — to finalise a mini-trade deal that the two countries were hoping to finalise during the visit.

On trade, the government conceded that talks between Mr. Lighthizer and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal had not been able to conclude even a “mini-deal” yet but held out the hope that Mr. Lightizer might still travel as part of Mr. Trump’s delegation, and also held out the possibility that talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) will soon begin.

The 36-hour visit to India will begin on Monday when Air Force One touches down in Ahmedabad and the Presidential couple will then fly to Agra to see the Taj at sunset, before flying into Delhi. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump will hold talks with Mr. Modi.

RAM TEMPLE TRUST

The Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, set up to oversee the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, held its first meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday, and elected Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas’s Mahant Nritya Gopal Das as chairman and Champat Rai, described as a social activist and also associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, as general secretary.

The meeting also decided that Nripendra Mishra, former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will head a committee to take decisions regarding the actual construction of the temple.

A State Bank of India account will be opened at the Ayodhya branch of the bank in the trust’s name. Swami Govind Dev Giriji Maharaj will be the treasurer of the trust. Signatures of Swami Govind Dev Giriji Maharaj, Mr. Rai or Dr. Anil Mishra (two of three) will suffice to operate the account.

Delhi-based chartered accountancy firm V. Shankar Aiyyar and Company will be the accountants for the trust.

SMOG TOWER

NEWS: 

The Delhi government has written two letters this month to IIT-Bombay seeking assistance in building a ‘smog tower’ in Connaught Place to control air pollution.

After being asked by the Supreme Court to check the feasibility of the tower in November, a High-Level Committee (HLC), comprising experts and government officials, had submitted in December a proposal for a 20-metre ‘smog tower’ fitted with air purifiers to clean the air.

On January 13, it was approved by the top court and the court gave the Delhi government three months to install the tower in Connaught Place.

ABOUT SMOG TOWER

What is Smog Tower?

It is a structure of concrete that has multiple layers of filters. The size of this structure would be 40 feet in height and 20 feet on each side. In total it requires a compound of around 30×30 metres.

The device will be able to take in air from all 360-degree angles and generate 1,300,000 cubic metres of clean air per hour.

Although its capacity would have the capacity to clean 32 million cubic metres of air per day.
This giant purifier will have 48 fans to keep the flow of clean air going. The manufacturer of this device claims that it could provide clean air to 75,000 people living in the 3 kilometre radius around it.

How does it filter the air?

The smog tower sucks the polluted air, which is purified by the multiple layers before re-circulated into the atmosphere.

To purify the air; the highly effective H14 grade Highly Effective Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filter would be used.

This filter can clean up to 99.99% Particulate Matter (PM) present in the air with the help of pre-filter and activated carbon.

Cost of the Smog Tower

The cost of each smog tower is to be around Rs. 10 to 12 crore which includes filtering equipment, monitoring system and construction of the tower.

CHANGE IN PRADHAN MANTRI FASAL BIMA YOJANA
NEWS: 

The Centre has almost halved its contribution to its own flagship crop insurance schemes, slashing its share of the premium subsidy from the current 50% to just 25% in irrigated areas and 30% for unirrigated areas from the kharif season of 2020.

The Union Cabinet approved the revamp of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and the Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme at its meeting on Wednesday.

In another significant step, enrolment in the two schemes has also been made voluntary for all farmers, including those with existing crop loans. When the PMFBY was launched in 2016, it was made mandatory for all farmers with crop loans to enrol for insurance cover under the scheme.

Flak for PMFBY

PMFBY has come in from flak from a wide variety of stakeholders. Farmers groups and opposition politicians have claimed that private insurance companies have made windfall gains on the scheme. Several major insurers, including ICICI Lombard and Tata AIG, have opted out of the scheme in 2019-20, reportedly due to losses because of high claims ratios. Several States, including Punjab and West Bengal, have refused to participate in the scheme as well.

The Centre has made changes to the scheme based on consultations with States and inputs from all stakeholders, said Mr. Tomar.

Farmers pay a fixed share of the premium: 2% of the sum insured for kharif crops, 1.5% for rabi crops and 5% for cash crops. Currently, the Centre and State split the balance of the premium equally. However, the revamp now reduces the burden on the Centre and increases the share of States.

ABOUT PM FASAL BIMA YOJANA

Ministry/Department : Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare

Objective: To provide comprehensive insurance coverage against crop loss.

SCHEME:

Launched in2016 PMFBY will replace the existing two crop insurance schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and Modified NAIS

The scheme covers kharif, rabi crops as well as annual commercial and horticultural crops

The scheme proposes mandatory use of remote sensing, smart phones and drones for quick estimation of crop loss to speed up the claim process.

It also provides insurance benefits to Landless labourers.

There is no capping in premium and one premium rate on pan-India basis. It is 1.5%, 2% and 5% for all Rabi, Kharif and annual horticultural/ commercial crops, respectively.

PMFBY covers the localized risks such as hailstorm, landslide, inundation etc. Earlier schemes did not cover inundation.

PMFBY provides post-harvest coverage. The NAIS did not cover while the modified NAIS covered only coastal regions.

Union Government has decided to cover damages to crops in wild animal attacks under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna in select districts on an experimental basis.

SHIVAJI

NEWS:

The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government will allot ₹23 crore for the preservation and development of Shivneri Fort, the birthplace of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji, said Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar on Wednesday.

When Uddhav Thackeray assumed office as Chief Minister, his first decision following the swearing-in was to allot ₹20 crore for the preservation of Raigad Fort [Shivaji’s capital].

ABOUT SHIVAJI

  • Some records claim Shivaji’s date of birth as 6 April 1627 but 19 February 1630 is the official version. Shivaji Jayanti is observed on this day.
  • Shivaji was born to Shahaji Bhonsle, a Maratha general who held the jagirs of Pune and Supe under the Bijapur Sultanate. Shivaji’s mother was Jijabai, a pious woman whose religious qualities had a profound influence on him. Shahaji had also served the Ahmednagar and Deccan sultanates.
  • Shivaji was given excellent training in military warfare and administration. He was married for the first time in 1640 to Saibai.
  • Shivaji displayed his military zeal for the first time in 1645, when as a teenager, he successfully got control of the Torna Fort which was under Bijapur.
  • He also acquired the Kondana Fort. Both these forts were under Adil Shah of Bijapur. Shah then got Shahaji imprisoned in a bid to contain Shivaji. Some accounts say that Shivaji surrendered these forts to get his father released. Shahaji died in 1664-65 in an accident. After this, Shivaji resumed his raids and extended his territories.
  • He achieved great name when he defeated Afzal Khan, a veteran general of Adil Shah.
  • In the Battle of Pratapgarh in 1659, Shivaji’s forces vanquished the Bijapur Sultanate’s army. From this victory, he acquired a large quantity of weapons and horses which greatly added to his growing Maratha army’s strength.
  • In the same year, another battle was fought with the Adilshahi camp at Kolhapur where Shivaji’s outnumbered army defeated the enemy force. Shivaji displayed great military prowess during this battle. This victory now alarmed Aurangzeb.
  • Shivaji raided Mughal territory near Ahmednagar and in Junnar. Aurangzeb’s forces under Nasiri Khan did defeat Shivaji at Ahmednagar in 1657 but the Mughal prince soon became engaged with his own battles with his brothers for the possession of the Mughal throne upon his father’s illness.
  • Shivaji defeated a large force of Shaista Khan (Aurangzeb’s maternal uncle) and the Bijapur army in Pune. In 1664, the wealthy Mughal trading port of Surat was sacked by Shivaji.
  • In June 1665, the Treaty of Purandar was signed between Shivaji and Raja Jai Singh I (representing Aurangzeb). Shivaji signed this agreement realising that a war with the Mughals would cost him men and money. As per this treaty, many forts were relinquished to the Mughals and it was agreed that Shivaji would meet Aurangzeb at Agra. Shivaji also agreed to send his son Sambhaji as a Mughal general.
  • At Agra in 1666, when Shivaji went to meet the Mughal emperor, the Maratha warrior felt he was insulted by Aurangzeb and stormed out of the court. He was arrested and kept prisoner. The clever escape of Shivaji and his son from imprisonment in disguise out of Agra is legendary today.
  • After that there was peace between the Marathas and the Mughals until 1670. After that, the jagir of Berar which was granted to Sambhaji by the Mughals was taken back from him. Shivaji in response, attacked and recovered many territories from the Mughals in a short span of four months.
  • In October 1670, he also harassed the English forces at Bombay for their support of the Mughals.
  • Through his military tactics, Shivaji now acquired large part of land in the Deccan and western India. He was crowned as the king of the Marathas on June 6, 1674 at Raigad. He took on the title of Chhatrapati, Shakakarta, Kshatriya Kulavantas and Haindava Dharmodhhaarak.
  • The Maratha Kingdom founded by Shivaji was about 4.1% of the Indian subcontinent but it grew larger over time and became the dominant Indian power in the early 18thcentury.
  • Shivaji fell ill and died of ill-health on 3 April 1680 at Raigad.
  • Shivaji laid the foundations of a great empire which played significant parts in modern Indian history. He established a strong army and a navy across the Konkan coast. His admiral Kanhoji Angre is called the ‘Father of Indian Navy’. Shivaji was also considered a master of the guerrilla warfare.
  • Shivaji is today considered a national hero in India and especially in the state of Maharashtra.

SWACHH BHARAT MISSION: SECOND PHASE

The Centre will begin implementing the second phase of its Swachh Bharat mission in rural areas from April, focusing on solid and liquid waste management and the sustainability of the abolition of open defecation.

On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved an allocation of ₹52,497 crore for the scheme from the budget of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation over the next four years, according to an official statement.

The scheme will be implemented by the States, with a fund sharing pattern of 60:40 between the Centre and the States.

In the northeastern and Himalayan states, the Central share will be 90%.

Phase II of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) [SBM (G)] till 2024-25, will focus on Open Defecation Free Plus (ODF Plus), which includes ODF sustainability and Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM). The program will also work towards ensuring that no one is left behind and everyone uses a toilet.

 

FIRST EDITORIAL : SECRECY HURTS

Editorial was written in the backdrop of Chinese authorities initially hiding the data related to spread of Corona Virus and denying existence of any such epidemic.

Editorial highlights that this short of secrecy hurts and if Chinese authorities had been more open this spread could have been controlled and handled in a more efficient way.

As on Wednesday, mainland China had 74,185 cases and 2,004 deaths.

Apparently, China did not apply the lessons it learnt from the SARS outbreak despite strident global criticism. Downplaying and being secretive about public health issues, particularly novel virus outbreaks, as it found out during SARS, and then now, can be very counterproductive.

Eight doctors who sounded an early alarm were detained for “spreading rumours”.

The lesson is that in the event of an outbreak, secrecy is a killer and transparency the saviour.

SECOND EDITORIAL: AFGHAN ELECTIONS
WHY IN NEWS?
Afghan Independent Election Commission’s has declared President Ashraf Ghani winner of the September 28 Presidential election.
PROBLEMS AFTER DECLARATION OF REUSLTS
Ahsraf Ghani’s main rival Abdullah Abdullah has declared his team to be winner.
Mr. Abdullah has called the results fraudulent and vowed to form a parallel government. If he does so, it would undermine the already feeble Afghan administration whose writ does not stretch beyond the main urban centres. For the Afghan voter, this is a déjà vu moment.
WHY THIS INFIGHTING IS BAD?
Infighting comes at a time when the U.S. is near a Taliban agreement. Initial reports suggest that U.S. President Trump has given the go-ahead to its signing if the insurgents reduce violence for a seven-day test period. The deal would see the U.S.’s Afghan troop pullback, winding down America’s longest war and leaving the Taliban and the Afghan government to start direct talks for a final settlement.
CONCLUSION
The U.S. just wants to get out of a lost war. Mr. Ghani wants to retain his presidency. Mr. Abdullah may want to make sure there is power sharing with the Opposition. What is lost in these narrow, self-interest-driven moves is the collective quest for defeating the extremists and rebuilding Afghanistan.

LEAD ARTICLE: WHAT INDIA CAN DO TO IMPROVE ITS DEFENSE STRATEGY?

Author highlights that India occupies the fourth place in military expenditure across the world, behind the U.S., China, and Saudi Arabia. This does not mean that India has no further need to increase its stock of state-of-the art weapons. What is needed, nevertheless, is sober reflection and a cost-benefit analysis, to ensure that the amounts expended are in tune with our strategic requirements.

LATEST DEFENSE SYSTEMS BOUGHT BY INDIA

The first lot of Rafale fighter jets are expected shortly.

The final deal on the 200 Kamov Ka-226 light utility helicopters from Russia is in advanced stages and expected to be signed soon.

Speculation is rife that India and the U.S. would sign a deal for the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS-II), intended as part of a multi-layered missile shield to protect Delhi.

Today, one of India’s major concerns is that China is attempting to intrude into its sphere of influence in South Asia, and the first and second concentric circles of India’s interest areas, such as Afghanistan and parts of West Asia.

China has invested heavily in artificial intelligence, robotics and bio-technology, and perhaps, India needs to recognise that rather than blacklisting Chinese technology Tech firms, (which could prove counter-productive) there exist avenues for cooperation, paving the way for better state-to-state relations.

Author concludes by highlighting that along with external issues we need to focus on internal issues as well.  An impression that the country is facing internal strains could encourage an adversary, to exploit our weaknesses. This is a critical point that the defence white paper needs to lay stress on.

22nd LAW COMMISSION

NEWS: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has approved Twenty-second Law Commission of India for a period of three years from the date of publication of the Order of Constitution in the Official Gazette.

The Law Commission shall, on a reference made to it by the Central Government or suo-motu, undertake research in law and review of existing laws in India for making reforms therein and enacting new legislations. It shall also undertake studies and research for bringing reforms in the justice delivery systems for elimination of delay in procedures, speedy disposal of cases, reduction in cost of litigation etc.

Background

The Law Commission of India is a non-statutory body constituted by the Government of India from time to time. The Commission was originally constituted in 1955 and is re-constituted every three years. The tenure of twenty-first Law Commission of India was upto 31st August, 2018.

The various Law Commission have been able to make important contribution towards the progressive development and codification of Law of the country. The Law Commission has so far submitted 277 reports.

The 22nd Law Commission will be constituted for a period of three years from the date of publication of its Order in the Official Gazette. It will consist of:

  1. a full-time Chairperson;
  2. four full-time Members (including Member-Secretary)
  3. Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs as ex-officio Member;
  4. Secretary, Legislative Department as ex officio Member; and
  5. not more than five part-time Members.

ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY BILL 2020

NEWS:

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has approved a historic Bill for the welfare of Women in the Country – the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill 2020.  This follows the introduction in Parliament of the Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2020, and the approval of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020.

Once the Bill is enacted by the Parliament, the Central Government shall notify the date of the commencement of the Act. Consequently, the National Board will be constituted.

The National Board shall lay down code of conduct to be observed by persons working at clinics, to set the minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory and diagnostic equipment and expert manpower to be employed by clinics and banks.

The States and Union Territories shall constitute the State Boards and State Authorities within three months of the notification by the Central Government.

The State Board shall have the responsibility to follow the policies and plans laid by the National Board for clinics and Banks in the State.

The Bill also provides for National Registry and Registration Authority to maintain a Central database and assist the National Board in its functioning.  The Bill also proposes for a stringent punishment for those practising sex selection, sale of human embryos or gametes, running agencies/rackets/organisations for such unlawful practices.

BACKGROUND OF THE BILL

The bill makes provisions for safe and ethical practice of assisted reproductive technology services in the country. Through the bill, the National Board, the State Boards, the National Registry and the State Registration Authorities respectively will regulate and supervise assisted reproductive technology clinics and assisted reproductive technology banks.

India has one of the highest growths in the ART centers and the number of ART cycles performed every year. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), including In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), has given hope to a multitude of persons suffering from infertility, but also introduced a plethora of legal, ethical and social issues.

The need to regulate the Assisted Reproductive Technology Services is mainly to protect the affected Women and the Children from exploitation.

 

KIRAN MAZUMDAR SHAW

NEWS: 

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon, has been named the EY Entrepreneur of Year 2019.

She will now represent India at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Award (WEOY) in Monte Carlo scheduled between June 4 and 6.

Ms. Mazumdar-Shaw was recognised ‘for being at the forefront of innovation in bio-technology and contributing towards research and development of affordable life-saving medicines’.

EY awards were also announced for nine other categories, with the winners representing both mature industries and unicorns, who are riding the wave of change and transforming India’s business landscape, as per an EY press statement.

Adi Godrej, chairman, Godrej group was felicitated with the Lifetime Achievement Award, for having transformed the 120-year old Godrej brand of consumer products and home utilities into a onglomerate that employs 28,000 people people today.

K.B.S. Anand, MD and CEO, Asian Paints, was honoured as the Entrepreneurial CEO.

BANKS BOARD BUREAU

NEWS:

The Banks Board Bureau (BBB) has recommended G.R. Chinatala as the next chairman of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard).

The current chairman, Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, is due to retire in June. Mr. Bhanwala took charge of Nabard in December 2013. In December last year, the government extended his term by six months.

Mr. Chinatala is currently MD of Nabfins, a subsidiary of Nabard, which is a non-deposit taking NBFC.

ABOUT BANKS BOARD BUREAU

  • BBB is super authority (autonomous body) of eminent professionals and officials for public sector banks (PSBs).
  • It was announced by Union Government in August 2015 as part of seven point Indradhanush Mission to revamp PSBs and started functioning in April 2016.
  • It had replaced Appointments Board of Government.
  • It is housed in Reserve Bank of India’s central office in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
  • BBB is considered as the first step towards Bank Investment Company as recommended by P J Nayak committee.
  • The first BBB was set up in February 2016 under chairmanship of former CAG Vinod Rai for two-year term that ended in March 2018.
  • Current Chairman: Bhanu Pratap Sharma

Functions

  • Give recommendations for appointment of full-time Directors as well as non-Executive Chairman of PSBs.
  • Give advice to PSBs in developing differentiated strategies for raising funds through innovative financial methods and instruments and to deal with issues of stressed assets.
  • Guide banks on mergers and consolidations and governance issues to address bad loans problem among other issues.

Composition: BBB comprises of three ex-officio members (from government) and three expert members, two of which are from private sector in addition to Chairman.

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