Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - July 15, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

India, Bangladesh cooperation can help overcome the economic effects of COVID-19

Focus: GS2.

Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.


Context

  • Cooperation between India and Bangladesh can help overcome the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Since 2014 the bilateral relation with Bangladesh has seen major developments like the ratification of land boundary agreement, settlement of maritime boundary and other agreements on connectivity.

About the Background

  • India has also implemented the agreement to supply 1076 MW of power to Bangladesh and issued 7.4 million visas to Bangladesh nationals.
  • In a tweet, the Minister said that India Bangladesh cooperation stands out as an example for the region. He said that Bangladesh is the largest trading partner of India in South Asia.
  • It is also the largest development partner with a project portfolio of dollar 8 billion at uniquely concessional terms.

About the Highlights

  • The multimodal connectivity between the two countries provides opportunity to elevate business ties.
  • Bangladesh railways had increased its monthly allocation of freight trains to Indian railways by approximately thirty-three percent for the month of June which was very positive.
  • India Bangladesh bilateral relationship today touches almost every aspect of activity including political, trade, investment, security, border, water management, power, cultural exchanges and others.

Source: AIR News.

China-Iran strategic partnership

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.


Context

  • China and Iran are reported to have quietly drafted a comprehensive military and trade partnership.
  • The deal would make way for about $400 billion worth of Chinese investments into Iran’s key sectors, such as energy and infrastructure, over the next 25 years.
  • According to US officials, the agreement could also make way for Chinese military bases in Iran, fundamentally changing the region’s geopolitics.

About the Background

  • An 18-page draft of the proposed agreement talks about expanding Chinese presence in Iran’s “banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects”.
  • In return, Iran is to provide regular and “heavily discounted” supply of oil to China for 25 years.

About the agreement

  • In the strategic realm, the proposed draft talks about deepening military cooperation, with “joint training and exercises”, “joint research and weapons development”, and intelligence sharing.
  • This deepening military cooperation would be intended to fight the “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes”.
  • The deal is reported to have been first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his 2016 visit to Tehran, and the proposed draft was approved by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over the last couple of weeks.
  • These moves come at a time when the Iranian economy has been crippled by sweeping US sanctions, which have ensured that any company in the world that deals with Iran would be cut off from the global financial system.
  • The deal has not been presented to the Iranian parliament yet, and Beijing is still to disclose the terms of the deal, though Iranian officials have publicly acknowledged that there is a “pending agreement with China”.

Source: Economic Times.

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Reservation for the disabled

Focus: GS1.

Topic: Social empowerment.


Context

  • The Supreme Court, in a significant decision, confirmed that persons with disabilities are also socially backward.
  • They are entitled to the same benefits of relaxation as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates in public employment and education.

About the Background

  • It upheld a 2012 judgment of the Delhi High Court in Anamol Bhandari (minor) through his father/Natural Guardian v. Delhi Technological University.
  • In that, the High Court held that people suffering from disabilities are also socially backward.
  • They are therefore, at the very least, entitled to the same benefits as given to the Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe candidates. 

About the Judgement

  • The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s notification proposing amendment of the Right of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016, to de-criminalise “minor offences for improving business sentiment and unclogging court processes’’ has met with protests from the community of disabled persons, activists and organisations.
  • While representatives of the disabled community contend that the strong 2016 Act has, for the first time, given their marginalised community robust protection under punitive measures included in the law, ministry officials point out that the Act is being examined to make laws commensurate with the offence, which may not be the case under the 2016 law.
  • In its notification issued, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, under the ministry, stated that decriminalisation of minor offences will alleviate the risk of imprisonment for actions which do not necessarily have “mala fide intent’’.
  • It stated that the risk of jail is a hurdle in attracting investments – from both domestic and foreign investors.
  • It has become more pertinent after the Covid-19 pandemic in order to revive the economy.

Source: The Hindu.

Shashi Kant Agarwal Commission

Focus: GS1.

Topic: Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.


Context

  • The Uttar Pradesh government has set up an independent one-member commission to investigate the death of gangster Vikas Dubey.
  • The commission will be headed by retired Allahabad High Court judge Shashi Kant Agarwal.

About the Panel

  • The panel will probe the incidents and submit a report within two months, according to a government notification.
  • The panel was set up under the Commission of Inquiries Act, 1952 and it will be based in Kanpur.

About the Highlights

  • The one-member commission will also probe the gangster’s relationship with police and people from various departments.
  • Besides, it will suggest ways so as to prevent such repetition in the future.
  • A government spokesperson said the killing of cops by Vikas Dubey and his henchmen and the gangster’s encounter is a subject of public importance. Hence, their probe is essential.
  • The panel will also investigate all encounters in the period from July 2-3 to 10.
  • The decision to set up a commission comes in the backdrop of the opposition leaders’ demand for a judicial probe by a sitting Supreme Court judge into the entire episode to bring out the truth and identify those who had granted protection to Vikas Dubey.
  • Earlier Uttar Pradesh government had constituted an SIT to probe all aspects related to Vikas Dubey besides the alleged laxity and role of the local police.

Source: Economic Times.

NATGRID

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.


Context

  • National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has signed an MoU with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to access the centralised online database on FIRs and stolen vehicles. 
  • The MoU will give NATGRID access to  the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) database. 

About NATGRID

  • NATGRID is a post Mumbai 26/11 attack measure.  
  • It aims to mitigate a vital deficiency — lack of real time information, which was considered to be one of the major hurdles in detecting US terror suspect David Headley’s movement across the country during his multiple visits between 2006 and 2009. 
  • NATGRID is an ambitious counter terrorism programme, which will utilise technologies like Big Data and analytics to study and analyse the huge amounts of data from various intelligence and enforcement agencies to help track suspected terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks. 
  • NATGRID is an online database for collating scattered pieces of information from more than 20 organisations in the field of telecom, tax records, bank, immigration, etc. to enable the generation of intelligence inputs. 
  • At least 10 central agencies like IB, R&AW and others will have access to the data on a secured platform for counter-terror investigations. 
  • NATGRID is exempted from the Right to Information Act, 2005 under sub-section (2) of Section 24. 
  • The project aims to go live by December 31 and all State police are mandated to file FIRs in the CCTNS. 

About NCRB

  • NCRB was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators, based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981).
  • It was set up by merging the Directorate of Coordination and Police Computer (DCPC), Inter State Criminals Data Branch of CBI, Central Finger Print Bureau of CBI, and Statistical Branch of BPR&D. 
  • NCRB was entrusted with the responsibility for monitoring, coordinating and implementing the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project in the year 2009.  
  • CCTNS connects 15000+ police stations and 6000 higher offices of police in the country. 
  • In 2017, NCRB launched National Digital Police Portal- It allows search for a criminal/suspect on the CCTNS database apart from providing various services to citizens like filing of complaints online and seeking antecedent verification of tenants, domestic helps, drivers. 

Source: The Hindu.

Indian Railways on mission mode of becoming 'Green Railway' by 2030

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Context

  • The Ministry of Railways is on a mission mode with the goal of transforming Indian Railways into Green Railways by 2030 and has taken a number of major initiatives towards mitigation of global warming and combating climate change. 
  • Railway Electrification, improving the energy efficiency of locomotives and trains and fixed installations, green certification for installations/stations, fitting bio-toilets in coaches and switching to renewable sources of energy are parts of its strategy of achieving net-zero carbon emission.

About the Background

  • Indian Railways has completed electrification of more than 40,000 Route km (RKM) (63 per cent of Broad Gauge routes) in which 18,605 km electrification work has been done during 2014-20.
  • Previously, only 3,835 km electrification work was completed during the period 2009-14. Indian Railways has fixed a target of electrification of 7000 RKM for the year 2020-21.

About the Highlights

  • All routes on Broad Gauge (BG) network have been planned to be electrified by December 2023.
  • Indian Railways is focusing on electrification of last-mile connectivity & missing links.
  • With this in mind, 365 km major connectivity work has been commissioned during COVID-19 period.
  • Indian Railways has also taken a number of initiatives to promote solar energy.
  • Indian Railways is working to harness the potential of 500 Mega Watt (MW) energy through rooftop Solar panels (Developer model).
  • Till date, 100 Mega Watt (MW) of solar plants have been commissioned on roof-tops of various buildings including 900 stations.
  • Solar plants with a combined capacity of 400 MW are under different stages of execution.
  • Tenders are already awarded for 245 MW and target for completion of these plants is December 2022. 
  • Total 505 pairs of trains have been converted to Head On Generation(HOG), unleashing approx 70 million litre diesel/ Rs 450 crore per annum potential of saving. 
  • Energy Efficiency Studies of all 8 Production Units & 12 workshops have been completed under MOU with CII resulting in 15 per cent improvement in energy efficiency.
  • In the field of Green Initiatives, a total of 69,000 coaches have been fitted with more than 2,44,000 bio-toilets in Indian Railways.

Source: Times of India.

Series of mystery blasts in Iran

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Disaster and disaster management.


Context

  • A series of unexplained fires and explosions at several different, geographically separated places in Iran since June 26 have given rise to fresh concerns for the stability of the volatile region.
  • The most serious of these mysterious incidents was on July 2, at Natanz, where Iran’s main nuclear facility is located.

About the Background

  • Iran initially played down a fire and explosion at the nuclear enrichment plant.
  • Later, it acknowledged that the damage was serious.

About the causes and impact

  • It is not clear if all these incidents were linked, or if all or some of them were the result of sabotage.
  • But many western analysts are of the view that the explosion in the Natanz site was an attack, caused either by a bomb or through a cyber attack.
  • They also believe that there has been more severe damage at the facility than the Iranians are conceding so far.
  • The New York Times said it occurred inside the centrifuge assembly centre, where Iran is said to be building its most advanced centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel in greater quantities and faster than its previously known capabilities.
  • The online portal The Hillsaid the facility had been entirely destroyed, likely by a bomb, and that it would be years before Iran could resume its centrifuge project again.
  • The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said the explosion had finished Iran’s nuclear capabilities for “years to come”.

Source: Indian Express.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Consider the following statements wrt APTTA:
  1. The Afghanistan–Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (also known as APTTA) is a bilateral trade agreement signed in 2010.
  2. It was signed by Pakistan and Afghanistan that calls for greater facilitation in the movement of goods amongst the two countries.
  3. The 2010 APTTA allows for both countries to use each other's airports, railways, roads, and ports for transit trade along designated transit corridors.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

      A. 1 and 2 only
      B. 2 and 3 only
      C. 1 and 3 only
      D. AOTA

Solution: D

  1. Press Trust of India (PTI) has its headquarters in:

      A. Mumbai
      B. Bengaluru
      C. Kolkata
      D. New Delhi

Solution: D

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