Daily Current Affairs : 17th and 18th January

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. China-US First Phase Trade deal
  2. Myeloma
  3. Telecommunication Consumers Education and Protection Fund (TCEPF).
  4. Right to Business Bill
  5. Suspension of Internet
  6. Blue Dot Network
  7. GSAT 30
  8. New Monsoon Dates
  9. Facts for Prelims

1 . China-US First Phase Trade deal


Context : The US on Wednesday signed the first phase of a trade deal with China

Details of the Trade Deal

  • The first phase of the trade deal includes Intellection Property (IP) Protection and Enforcement, ending forced technology transfer, dramatic expansion of American agriculture, removing barriers to American financial services, ending currency manipulation, rebalancing the US-China trade relationship and effective dispute resolution.
  • Centerpiece of the deal is a pledge by China to purchase at least an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. farm products and other goods and services over two years, over a baseline of $186 billion in purchases in 2017.
  • The deal commits China to do more to crack down on the theft of American technology and corporate secrets by its companies and state entities,
  • The US has dropped plans to impose tariffs on an additional $160 billion in Chinese imports, and it cut in half, to 7.5%, existing tariffs on $110 billion of good from China.
  • Beijing agreed to significantly increase its purchases of US products. According to the Trump administration, China is to buy $40 billion a year in U.S. farm products — an ambitious goal for a country that has never imported more than $26 billion a year in U.S. agricultural products.
  • China has made substantial and enforceable commitment to protecting American ideas. At the same time punitive tariffs on China would remain in place till the time the second phase of the trade deal is agreed.

2 . Myeloma


About Myeloma

  • Myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells.
  • Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in your body.
  • Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving your body’s immune system weakened and susceptible to infection.
  • The multiplication of myeloma cells also interferes with the normal production and function of red and white blood cells.
  • An abnormally high amount of these dysfunctional antibodies in the bloodstream can cause kidney damage.
  • Additionally, the myeloma cells commonly produce substances that cause bone destruction, leading to bone pain and/or fractures.
  • Myeloma cells are produced in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside your bones.
  • Sometimes myeloma cells will travel through your blood stream and collect in other bones in your body.
  • Because myeloma frequently occurs at many sites in the bone marrow, it is often referred to as multiple myeloma.

3 . Telecom Consumer Education Protection Fund


Context : The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday said telecom service providers will need to deposit all unclaimed money of consumers, including excess charges and security deposit, in the Telecommunication Consumers Education and Protection Fund (TCEPF).

About TCEPF

  • Telecommunication Consumers Education and Protection Fund Regulations of 2007 offers a basic framework for depositing unclaimed money of consumers by service providers, maintenance of the fund and other aspects.
  • The income from the fund is utilised for programmes and activities relating to consumer education and protection.
  • Any excess charges revealed in the billing audit should be refunded to consumers. However, if a service provider is not able to refund the amount despite its attempt within the time period permitted by the regulations, it has to deposit the unclaimed/unrefunded amount to the fund. Accordingly, service providers have been depositing such unclaimed amounts to the fund.
  • However, Trai had noticed that certain inconsistency on the grounds on which money is being deposited by operators.

About the Amendment

  • The TCEPF Regulations, 2007, which have now been amended, provide the basic framework for depositing unclaimed money of consumers by service providers, maintenance of the TCEPF and other related aspects.
  • With this amendment service provider will deposit any unclaimed consumer money of any form such as excess charges, security deposit, plan charges of failed activations, or any amount belonging to a consumer, which service providers are unable to refund to consumers, to the fund after providing time of twelve months or period of limitation specified under law whichever is later

4 . Right to Business Bill


Context : The Punjab Cabinet this week gave its approval to a Punjab Right to Business Bill, 2020, a law aimed at ensuring ease of doing business for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.

Does the law promise approvals in a specified timeframe?

  • Under the law, an MSME unit can be set up after ‘In-Principle’ approval from the District Bureau of Enterprise, headed by the Deputy Commissioner, working under the guidance of the State Nodal Agency, headed by the Director, Industries.
  • Approval for units in approved Industrial Parks will be given in three working days.
  • For new enterprises outside approved Industrial Parks, the decision on the “Certificate of In-Principle Approval” shall be taken by the District Level Nodal Agency within 15 working days, as per the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee.

What is the timeframe for unit owners to comply?

  • Unit owners will have three and a half years after setting up the unit to obtain seven approvals from three departments: the sanction of building plans; issuance of completion/occupation certificate for buildings; registration of new trade licences under
  • The Punjab Municipal Act, 1911 and The Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1976; change of land use under The Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act, 1995; application for No-Objection Certificate under The Punjab Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Act, 2004; approval for factory building plan under The Punjab Factory Rules, 1952; and registration of shops/establishments under The Punjab Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1958.
  • The industries involving hazardous processes will have to obtain a Fire NOC and get approval for the factory building plan before setting up the unit. All units will have to get environmental clearance from the Pollution Control Board beforehand.

Why was a law needed, rather than an executive order?

  • According to the government, the Act will have overriding powers over various Acts of different departments that make approvals necessary before the setting up of small and medium units — this purpose could not have been achieved by an executive order.

5 . Suspension of Internet


Context : Supreme Court significantly strengthened checks on the government’s power to shut down the Internet. A major aspect of the verdict relates to the Rules passed in 2017 that outline how and when the government can enforce shutdowns. Before The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules were notified, there were no codified processes to block telecom services and the Internet in the country.

What do the Rules say?

  • The Rules, issued under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, stipulate that only the Home Secretary of the Union or a state can pass an order, and that the order must include the reasons for the decision.
  • The order should be forwarded to a review committee the day after it is issued, and must be reviewed by the committee within five days to assess its compliance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act, under which the government has the power to block the transmission of messages during a public emergency or for public safety.
  • In the case of the central government, the review committee comprises the Cabinet Secretary and the Secretaries of the Departments of Legal Affairs and Telecommunications.
  • In the case of states, the committee comprises the Chief Secretary, Secretary, Law or Legal Remembrancer In-Charge, Legal Affairs, and a Secretary to the state government (other than the Home Secretary).
  • In “unavoidable circumstances”, the order can be issued by an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary or above, authorised by the Centre or the state Home Secretary.
  • Telecom service providers must designate nodal officers to handle such requests.

What laws governed this area before the 2017 Rules were notified?

  • Internet shutdowns were ordered under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which gives District Magistrates broad powers during dangerous situations. Even after 2017, many local shutdowns are issued under this law.
  • Section 69(A) of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 gives the government powers to block particular websites, not the Internet as a whole.
  • The Centre has never ordered a nationwide Internet shutdown. Still, India tops the list of Internet shutdowns globally.

How did the Rules figure in the Supreme Court case?

  • Petitioner Vrinda Grover argued that the Internet shutdown in Kashmir was not compliant with the Rules. The Rules require the suspension to be temporary; also, the orders did not provide reasons for the restrictions. The petitioner contended that the order claims a law-and-order danger, as opposed to a public order danger specified in the Rules.
  • The court said that because the Rules require the order to be in accordance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act, the order must be during a “public emergency” or in the “interest of public safety”. Also, the suspension must be “necessary” and “unavoidable”.
  • “In furtherance of the same, the State must assess the existence of an alternate less intrusive remedy,” the court said. “Having said so, we may note that the… Suspension Rules have certain gaps, which are required to be considered by the legislature.”
  • The Bench also said that the State should make the orders freely available, even though the Suspension Rules do not specify this. The Rules also don’t specify a time limitation for the shutdown, the use of “Temporary” in the title notwithstanding. The Bench decided that an indefinite suspension is “impermissible”.
  • Ultimately, the court ordered the government to review its order, ruling that the freedom of speech and trade on the Internet is a fundamental right.
  • “Law and technology seldom mix like oil and water. There is a consistent criticism that the development of technology is not met by equivalent movement in the law. In this context, we need to note that the law should imbibe the technological development and accordingly mould its rules so as to cater to the needs of society. Non recognition of technology within the sphere of law is only a disservice to the inevitable.”

6 . Blue Dot Network


About Blue Dot Network

  •  US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade launched a new initiative codenamed the ‘Blue Dot Network’ (BDN) for global infrastructural development.
  • It is a multi-stakeholder initiative that will coalesce like-minded governments, the private sector, and civil society under shared standards of global infrastructure development.
  • By providing a globally recognized seal of approval signifying adherence to high standards, the program will promote market-driven, transparent, and financially sustainable infrastructure projects.
  • The BDN is a “rating mechanism” that would grade infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region on different parameters like debt, environmental standards, labour standards, etc.
  • Given that it involves citizen participation, it will ensure transparency in infrastructure development and is planned as a direct counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, unlike the BRI, the BDN would not offer public funds or loans for the project.
  • With India refusing to join China’s BRI, there have been efforts to get India to join the U.S.-led BDN.
  • Given India’s increasing prominence and stakes in the region, India would have an important role in BDN.

7 . GSAT 30


Context : The communication satellite, GSAT-30, was launched into space from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana.

About GSAT 30

  • The 3,357-kg satellite will replace INSAT-4A which was launched in 2005 and marks the first mission of the year for Indian Space Research Organisation.
  • The high-power satellite is equipped with 12 normal C band and 12 Ku band transponders.
  • The satellite was put into geosynchronous orbit.

Uses

  • GSAT-30 will provide DTH (direct to home) television services, connectivity to VSATs (that support working of banks’) ATMs, stock exchange, television uplinking and teleport services, digital satellite news gathering and e-governance applications.
  • The satellite will also be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications.”
  • Its unique configuration provides flexible frequency segments and flexible coverage.
  • The satellite will provide communication services to Indian mainland and islands through the Ku band and wide coverage over Gulf countries, a large number of Asian countries and Australia through the C band.

Why Foreign Launch Vehicle

  • ISRO hired a foreign launcher as GSAT-30 is much heavier than the 2,000-kg lifting capacity of its geostationary launch vehicle GSLV-MkII.
  • As for the newer and more powerful GSLV-MkIII that can lift up to 4,000 kg, the space agency plans to save the two or three upcoming MkIIIs mainly for its first human space flight Gaganyaan of 2022 and two preceding crew-less trials

8 . New Monsoon Dates


Context : Earth Sciences Secretary M Rajeevan announced that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had decided to revise the normal onset and withdrawal dates for the monsoon in some parts of the country from this year.

Background

  • The four-month southwest monsoon season, which brings as much as 70 per cent of the country’s annual rainfall, officially begins on June 1, with the onset over Kerala, and ends on September 30. It takes about a month and half after onset on the Kerala coast to cover the entire country; and about a month, beginning from the northwestern parts of the country on September 1, to withdraw completely.
  • Although the June 1 date for the onset of the monsoon on the Kerala coast is unlikely to be changed, the dates for onset in many other parts of the country are expected to be revised.
  • Effectively, the monsoon is now expected to have later arrival and withdrawal dates in most parts of the country.

Why was this revision needed?

  • The main reason for the revision in the normal dates is the changes in precipitation patterns that have been taking place over the last many years. In the last 13 years, for example, only once has the onset over the Kerala coast happened on June 1. While two or three days of earlier or later onset falls within the yearly variability, in several years the onset happened five to seven days late.
  • Similarly, the commencement of withdrawal has happened in the first week of September only twice during this period, and last year, the withdrawal started as late as October 9 — and was completed in around just a week.
  •  Effectively, the monsoon is now expected to have later arrival and withdrawal dates in most parts of the country.

Significant Changes observed

  • Within the four-month season too, rainfall has been observed to deviate from normal expected patterns very frequently.
  • One of the significant changes being noticed is that rainfall is getting increasingly concentrated within a narrow band of days within the monsoon season. So, there are extremely wet days followed by prolonged periods of dry days.
  • IMD data to show that over several previous years, nearly 95 per cent of monsoon precipitation in 22 major cities of the country had happened over a period of just three to 27 days. Delhi, for example, had received almost 95 per cent of its monsoon rainfall over just 99 hours. And half of Mumbai’s monsoon rain had fallen over just 134 hours, or five and a half days, on average.
  • Patterns of regional variations in rainfall are also changing. Areas that have traditionally received plenty of rainfall are often remaining dry, while places that are not expected to get a lot of monsoon rain have sometimes been getting flooded. Climate change could be one of the factors driving these changes, but there could be other reasons as well.

What will be the impact of IMD’s move?

  • The revisions are meant to reflect the changes in precipitation patterns in recent years. They will help the IMD track the monsoon better, and improve its “impact-based” forecasts. But the revisions will have implications beyond IMD’s operations, too.
  • New dates will likely nudge farmers in some parts of the country to make slight adjustments in the time of sowing their crops. “It would definitely have an impact on our agriculture practices — when to start sowing, when to harvest. Farmers would probably have to make small adjustments. Agro-meteorologists, however, agree that more than the onset, it is the information about the spatio-temporal distribution of rainfall that will be more helpful for farmers.

Effects on Agriculture

  • A timely onset of rainfall followed by a prolonged break in the rains would mean that the sown seeds would not benefit. So, even if there is a delay in the arrival of monsoon by three to four days over a region, it would not matter much if there is a fairly good rainfall distribution thereafter,” said Kripan Ghosh, head of the agrimeteorology division at IMD, Pune.
  • Ghosh said crops that need transplantation, such as rice, require advance knowledge about the arrival of rain. “If the rainfall over the rice-growing regions occurs very late, then the transplantation of rice would be affected, which in turn could hit the crop yield. However, sometimes, a slight delay in sowing can save the crop

Effects on Water Management Practices

  • Change in dates would affect water management practices as well. “Water management agencies, for example those managing the dams in the central plains, should now expect more rain only in the latter part of June. Instead of planning only until the start of June, they would now be prompted to preserve and hold on to some water until later in the month. Similar adjustments would need to be made towards the end of the monsoon season as well
  • The planning that goes to beat the heat — several cities execute heat action plans — just ahead of the monsoon would have to factor in the need to be prepared for longer periods of heat.
  • Many other activities including industrial operations, the power sector, or those using cooling systems, would also need to change their behaviour. The power grid can, for example, have more realistic planning for peak periods of electricity consumption in certain months.

Conclusion

  • Ultimately, the change in normal dates of the onset and withdrawal of the monsoon would help people understand when to expect rains, and to plan their activities accordingly.
  • The changed dates are expected to be announced in April, when the IMD makes its first forecast for the monsoon.

9 . Facts for Prelims


Shanghai Council Meet

  • India will host the 19th Council of Heads of Government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation next year, the first such high level meeting of the eight-member grouping to be organised by New Delhi after its admission to the bloc in 2017, SCO Secretary General Vladimir Norov said on Tuesday.
  • The SCO is a China-led eight-member economic and security bloc, in which India and Pakistan were admitted as full members in 2017. Its founding members included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  • As per the established practice and procedure within SCO, all eight members of the SCO, four observer states, and other international dialogue partners will be invited to attend the meeting

Facts about Parliament Building

  • Parliament building was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker who were responsible for the overall construction and planning in Delhi.
  • The foundation stone was laid on February 12, 1921 and the building was formally inaugurated by the then governor-general Lord Irwin on January 18, 1927. It took 6 years to complete and the whole project cost around Rs 83 lakh.
  • The official transfer of power from UK to India took place in the Central Hall of the Parliament on 14-15th August (midnight) in 1947.
  • The Parliament library is the second largest in India. (FYI: The National Library in Kolkata is the largest)
  • The unique circular structure of our parliament stands out from the other government buildings around the world, and is considered to be amongst the best architectural designs. The circular aspect out the Indian Parliament represents “continuity”.
  • Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha halls are horseshoe-shaped.
  • Carpet of Lok Sabha is green in color which represents that India is an Agriculture Land and people elected in lok sabha is from grass root level.
  • Carpet of Rajya Sabha is red in color which signifies Royalty and also tells about the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters of India.

Article 256 in The Constitution Of India

  • Obligation of States and the Union The executive power of every State shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament and any existing laws which apply in that State, and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose

World Economic Situation and Prospects report

  • The World Economic Situation and Prospects is an annual UN flagship publication on the state of the world economy, viewed through the lens of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • It is a joint product of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the five UN regional commissions.

Yada Yaad Virus

  • Yada Yada is an alphavirus, a group of viruses that the researchers described as “small, single-stranded positive-sense RNA viruses (that) include species important to human and animal health, such as Chikungunya virus and Eastern equine encephalitis virus… (and which) are transmitted primarily by mosquitoes and (are) pathogenic in their vertebrate hosts”.
  • Unlike some other alphaviruses, Yada Yada does not pose a threat to human beings.
  • The virus was detected in mosquitoes trapped as part of the Victorian Arbovirus Disease Control Programme in Encephalitis Virus Surveillance traps set up overnight in three locations in Victoria, Australia, for seven weeks in late 2016

National Population Register as a document for opening Bank Account

  • The Reserve Bank of India has included the National Population Register letter as an officially valid document (OVD) for Know Your Customer (KYC) verification for opening bank accounts or applying for credit cards. The Reserve Bank of India has also allowed a video based customer identification process for verification.
  • According to the Reserve Bank’s KYC Master Direction on KYC, updated on January 9, 2020. OVD means the passport, the driving licence, proof of possession of Aadhaar number, the Voter’s Identity Card issued by the Election Commission of India, job card issued by NREGA duly signed by an officer of the State Government and letter issued by the National Population Register containing details of name and address.

National Book Trust

  • The National Book Trust (NBT), India is an apex body established by the Government of India (Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development) in the year 1957.
  • The objectives of the NBT are to produce and encourage the production of good literature in English, Hindi and other Indian languages and to make such literature available at moderate prices to the public and to bring out book catalogues, arrange book fairs/exhibitions and seminars and take all necessary steps to make the people book minded.
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