Daily Current Affairs : 20th and 21st August 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. National Recruitment Agency
  2. Cabinet approves leasing of 3 airports
  3. Survey on Use of Mobile Phones for Learning
  4. Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology
  5. National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE)
  6. Swachh Survekshan 2020
  7. Science and Technology Indicators (STI)
  8. Teesta Agreement
  9. Facts for Prelims

1 . National Recruitment Agency

Context: The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of a National Recruitment Agency (NRA) for conducting a Common Eligibility Test (CET) for various government jobs.

What is National Recruitment Agency?

  • NRA is a testing agency. NRA would conduct an online CET (Common Eligibility Test) which would serve as a screening or a preliminary examination for various non-gazetted government jobs including the RRBs, IBPS (banking jobs) and the SSC jobs (CGL, CHSL, etc.).
  • The National Recruitment agency will be set up under the Societies Registration Act and would have representatives of the Ministry of Railways, Department of Financial Services, the SSC, RRB and IBPS.
  • Initially, the Union Cabinet has approved an amount of Rs 1517.57 crore for the NRA, for a period of 3 years. The money will be used for setting up of NRA, and examination centres in ‘aspirational districts’.

About Common Eligibility Test

  • CET conducted by NRA would only be the first level of examination. If qualified, candidates would then have to appear for the Tier 2 and 3 of the examinations, which would consequently be conducted by the NRA.
  • Separate CET’s would be conducted for the different levels of eligibility – 10th pass, 12th pass and graduates.
  • The curriculum for CET would be common.
  • The CET score of the candidate shall be valid for a period of three years from the date of declaration of the result. The best of the valid scores shall be deemed to be the current score of the candidate
  • There will be no restriction on the number of attempts to be taken by a candidate to appear in the CET but it will be subject to the upper age limit.
  • The relaxation in the upper age limit shall be given to candidates of SC/ST/OBC and other categories as per the extant policy of the Government.
  • The examination would be conducted twice every year and in online mode.
  • NRA would conduct CET in 12 languages that are in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • A special focus will be on creating examination infrastructure in the 117 ‘Aspirational Districts’.

Benefits of NRA

  • NRA will mitigate the hardships for candidates from appearing in multiple exams of multiple agencies with similar eligibility conditions. “A common eligibility test would enable these candidates to appear once and apply to any or all of these recruitment agencies for the higher level of examination.
  • NRA will provide better access to rural, underprivileged candidates and women.
  • NRA will benefit crores of young people who apply for various government jobs every year. About 2.5 crore to 3 crore candidates applied for the 1.25 lakh Group B and C jobs advertised by three agencies every year, with separate schedules and fees.
  • NRA would benefit the poor candidates as the single examination would reduce the financial burden on them. As in the current system, the poor students have to appear in multiple examinations conducted by multiple agencies and have to incur expenditure on examination fees, travel, boarding, lodging and other things.
  • The single eligibility test would also significantly reduce the recruitment cycle.

2 . Cabinet approves leasing of 3 airports

Context: The Union Cabinet has approved leasing of three airports — Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthpuram through public-private partnership (PPP) for a period of 50 years.


  • The government had invited bids from private players to operate airports for 50 years on a PPP basis.
  • The AAI adopted the per-passenger fee model this time, which is a modification of the revenue-sharing model that was used earlier in the privatisation of airports such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
  • Cabinet had approved a proposal to manage as many as 6 airports- Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram and Mangaluru through public-private partnership (PPP).
  • This will include operation, management as well as development of these airports and would be done through Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee (PPPAC).

What are the conditions of the agreement?

  • As per the agreement, after running the airports for 50 years, the private operator would hand over the airports back to the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
  • AAI will receive ₹1,070 crore as an upfront amount from the private operator for leasing the airports and this fund will be used to develop airports in smaller cities.
  • These three airports were among a total of six where Adani Enterprises Limited emerged as the highest bidder during the privatisation process initiated by the AAI.
  • As per the lease terms of the PPP agreement, Adani group is responsible for operations and management of the existing airport assets as well as for designing, engineering, financing, construction and development of the additional air-side, terminal, city-side and land-side infrastructure for the airport.

Per Passenger Fee Model

  • Under the per-passenger fee model, the airport operator needs to pay fixed charges per passenger on a monthly basis to AAI.
  • For instance, if 1 lakh passengers use a particular airport in a year, the operator pays the charge multiplied by the number of passengers for the entire year to AAI.
  • Charges are paid on a monthly basis. This provides an incentive for the airport operator to grow revenue as there is no sharing while AAI benefits from the growth in passengers.


  • PPP model is expected to enhance the revenue of Airports Authority of India and will also focus on airports development and boosting air navigation infrastructure across the nation.
  • It will also increase economic development in these areas in terms of creation of jobs and related infrastructure.
  • PPP will bring efficiency in service delivery, expertise, enterprise as well as professionalism other than harnessing the needed investments in the public sector.
  • With the PPP model many airports will be provided with world-class infrastructure.
  • Adoption of PPP model will help in attracting foreign direct investment in the airport sector. As the airport sector is the top contender among infrastructure sectors in terms of international interest and the iternational investors and operators prefer brownfield airport expansion, having more than 3-4 million passenger capacity.

3 . Survey on Use of Mobile Phones for Learning

Context: A survey was conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) on the use of mobiles for learning.

About the survey

  • The survey was done using a sample of 18,188 students from Classes 8-12 from Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalaya Samitis and schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education.
  • More than 16,000 parents, teachers and principals also took part.

Findings of the survey

  • School education on Mobile phones: School education in the time of COVID-19 is heavily dependent on mobile phones. Around 80-90% of older students in Central government schools use mobiles more than laptops to access digital schooling.
    • In Kendriya Vidyalayas, 84% of students used mobiles, while 19% used laptops for learning, similar to the ratio in CBSE schools.
    • In the Navodaya Vidyalayas, less than 10% of learners used laptops, while 88% were dependent on mobile phones and less than 6% used TV or radio.
    • Situation is likely to be far grimmer at state-funded schools and the poorer private schools where the majority of students study.
  • Hindrances in learning: Almost 30% faced hindered learning due to absent or intermittent electricity connections. Almost half the students also did not even have access to their textbooks.
  • Online Learning : According to the NCERT survey, most of 40% of students in CBSE schools said they found online learning difficult or burdensome, compared to 28% at NVS schools.
    • Poor Internet connectivity and the difficulty of using mobile phones to share and access content were some of the hindrances.
    • 27% did not have either laptops or smartphones. Half the surveyed students did not have textbook access, and 28% faced electricity problems.
    • Paucity of devices among teachers and their unfamiliarity with the devices and online teaching methods also created roadblocks.


  • Unless the unique requirements of every learner are taken care of, and the same learning experiences are provided to the have-digital-device and have-not-digital-device learners, along with tracking and monitoring of each learner’s progress, the pandemic may result in the beginning of a vast learning gap/divide in such learners


  • Community volunteer Shiksha teams may be drafted to deliver worksheets at students’ homes or set up peer learning groups among students without devices
  • It is very important to complete mapping of the devices available to students — smartphone, basic mobile, radio, TV, personal or community computer as only four States have completed the exercise so that there is a clear picture on the efficiency and practicality of online classes

4 . Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology

Context : BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has accused the Congress party’s Shashi Tharoor, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, of violating Committee rules when he wrote to Facebook asking it to appear before the committee.

Dubey’s Argument

  • Dubey, a member of the panel, has argued that Tharoor did not follow the rule that an order signed by the Secretary-General of Lok Sabha is required to summon a witness.
  • Tharoor has rejected as “extraordinary” the idea that the panel should not take up a matter of “such great public interest” —allegations in The Wall Street Journal that Facebook’s top public policy executive in India had opposed applying hate-speech rules to BJP politicians because it could damage the company’s business prospects in India. 

What is the Committee Tharoor heads?

  • Parliamentary Committees are considered an extension of Parliament and do a good deal of legislative business as both Houses of Parliament have limited time.
  • Standing Committees, whose tenure is continuous throughout the tenure of the House, are appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Lok Sabha Speaker or Rajya Sabha Chairman.
  • They work under the direction of the presiding officers. There are 24 department/ministry-related Standing Committees of which 16 are serviced by Lok Sabha and eight by Rajya Sabha.
  • The IT Committee chaired by Tharoor has 20 more MPs from Lok Sabha and nine from Rajya Sabha. The ruling BJP has a majority representation in most of the committees.
  • The 30-member IT panel has 15 MPs from BJP, four from Congress including Tharoor, two each from Trinamool Congress and YSRCP, two independents, and one each from Shiv Sena, TRS, CPM, LJSP and DMK.

What is this committee supposed to do?

  • Committees formed to see that Parliament functions effectively, discuss Bills referred to them by the presiding officers. These MPs assemble during and between sessions, invite officials as well as experts, and are not bound by the party whips when it comes to discussion of a Bill, unlike in the House. Department-related Standing Committees consider demands for grants for the ministry, and take up any subject based on Annual Reports and long-term policy documents relating to the ministries/departments under their jurisdiction
  • The Committee on IT, which was constituted in April 1993 (then the Committee on Communications), has jurisdiction over subject matters dealt with by the Ministry of Communications including the Department of Posts, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Electronics & IT, and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

So, does it have the powers to summon Facebook?

  • The committee has the powers to send a letter to Facebook — or any institution — asking it to appear and give an explanation on a subject. The committee or chairman does not have executive powers, but calling a particular person or an institution as witness is possible.
  • An invitation to appear before a Parliamentary Committee is equivalent to a summons from a court: If one cannot come, he or she has to give reasons which the panel may or may not accept.
  • However, the chairman should have the support of the majority of the members. Any member can call for a meeting to discuss this, and if the majority of the members do not agree, the chairman may have to cancel the summoning

5 . National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE)

Context : The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recently released the National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE): 2020-2025 document.


  • Strengthening Financial Inclusion in the country has been one of the important developmental agendas of both the Government of India and the four Financial Sector Regulators (viz. RBI, SEBI, IRDAI and PFRDA).
  • Financial literacy supports the pursuit of financial inclusion by empowering the customers to make informed choices leading to their financial well-being.

About National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE): 2020-2025

  • NSFE 2020-2025 is a revised strategic document for altering the economic landscape and promoting financial literacy through out the country. This is the second NSFE after the 2013-18 NSFE.
  • It has been prepared by the National Centre for Financial Education (NCFE) in consultation with all the Financial Sector Regulators (RBI, SEBI, IRDAI and PFRDA), DFS and other Ministries of Govt. of India and other stakeholders (DFIs, SROs, IBA, NPCI) under the aegis of the Technical Group on Financial Inclusion and Financial Literacy under the Chairmanship of Deputy Governor, RBI. 
  • The NSFE document has been approved by the FSDC-SC in its 24th meeting
  • It has recommended a ‘5 C’ approach for dissemination of financial education in the country.
    • The five Cs highlighted by NSFE 2020-25 are Capacity, Content, Communication, Community, and Collaboration.
    • “Content” refers to the curriculum in schools, colleges and training establishments
    • “Capacity” is used for developing capacity in intermediaries involved in financial services.
    • “Communication and Community” are used to create a community led model for financial literacy using communication strategy.
    • “Collaboration” is used to enhance the partnership/collaboration among various stakeholders.
  • The strategy has recommended adoption of a multi-stakeholder approach to achieve financial well-being of Indians.

Objective of NSFE

  • Empowering population: The NSFE: 2020-2025 intends to support the vision of the Government of India and the Financial Sector Regulators by empowering various sections of the population to develop adequate knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviour which are needed to manage their money better and to plan for the future.
  • Improve digital financial services in a safe and secure manner.
  • Create awareness about rights, duties and avenues for grievance redressal
  • Encourage active savings behaviour and developing credit discipline.

National Centre for Financial Education (NCFE)

  • National Centre for Financial Education (NCFE) is a Section 8 (Not for Profit) Company promoted by Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) and Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).

Objects of the Company

  1. To promote Financial Education across India for all sections of the population as per the National strategy for Financial Education of Financial Stability and Development Council.
  2. To create financial awareness and empowerment through financial education campaigns across the country for all sections of the population through seminars, workshops, conclaves, trainings, programmes, campaigns, discussion forums with/without fees by itself or with help of institutions, organisations and provide training in financial education and create financial education material in electronic or non-electronic formats, workbooks, worksheets, literature, pamphlets, booklets, fliers, technical aids and to prepare appropriate financial literature for target based audience on financial markets and financial digital modes for improving financial literacy so as to improve their knowledge, understanding, skills and competence in finance.

6 . Swachh Survekshan 2020

Context: Swachh Survekshan 2020 report was released by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry recently.

About Swachh Survekshan Survey

  • Swachh Survekshan is an annual ranking exercise taken up by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India to assess urban areas of country on their levels of cleanliness and active implementation of Swachhta mission initiatives in a timely & innovative manner.
  • The objective of survey is to encourage large scale citizen participation and create awareness amongst all sections of society about the importance of working together towards making towns & cities a better place to live in.
  • In addition, survey also seeks to promote a spirit of healthy competition between towns & cities; to improve the quality of their services to people, and create cleaner cities and towns.
  • MoHUA started an annual ranking of cities in the year 2016. First Swachh Survekshan conducted that year covered 73 cities and in subsequent years number of cities were added to expand its coverage. The second survey held in 2017 included 434 ULBs, third survey held in 2018 covered 4203 ULBs and fourth edition of survey held in 2019 covered 4237 ULBs. This year in 2020 the coverage of survey was 4242 cities (including 62 Cantonment Boards).

Swachh Survekshan 2020

  • Swachh Survekshan 2020 is the 5th edition of the survey.
  • Swachh Survekshan 2020 was carried out across 4242 ULBs from 4th to 31st January, 2020.
  • The data collected through multifarious sources for 57 indicators (40 – Service Level Progress, 9 – Direct Observation and 8 – Citizen Feedback) have been compiled for ranking the cities.
  • In a bid to sustain on ground performances & efforts of cities and ensure continuous monitoring of service level progress, MoHUA introduced Swachh Survekshan league 2020 in the fifth edition.
  • Marks obtained by the cities in Quarter 1 (Q1) and Quarter 2 (Q2) of league were combined with Quarter 3 (Q3) marks. MoHUA, through a competitive Quality and Cost Based Selection (QCBS) linked bidding and evaluation process, hired a third party research agency, Ipsos – a global market research company to undertake the Swachh Survekshan 2020.

Findings of the survey

  • Indore has been ranked the cleanest city in the country for the fourth year in a row.
  • Cities with over 1 lakh population: Indore was ranked number one, followed by Surat, Navi Mumbai, Ambikapur, Mysore, Vijayawada, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Chandrapur and Khargone.
  • Smaller cities with population under 1 lakh: The top three cities — Karad, Sasvad and Lonavala — were all from Maharashtra.
  • Cleanest State among those with over 100 cities: Chhattisgarh was ranked the cleanest State.
  • Cleanest State those with fewer than 100 urban local bodies (ULBs) or cities: Jharkhand was the cleanest.
  • Ganga Towns: In the category of “Ganga towns”, Varanasi, was ranked the cleanest.
  • Jalandhar got the top rank among cantonments and New Delhi was the cleanest capital city.

7 . Science and Technology Indicators (STI)

Context : According to Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 2018 India’s private sector research companies appear to employ a larger proportion of women in core research and development activities  than  government-funded major scientific agencies do.

About STI

  • Science and Technology Indicators (STI) is a periodic compendium of the state of scientific research in India
  • The STI is prepared by National Science and Technology Management Information System, a division of the Department of Science Technology, the.
  • It is based on data provided by a range of scientific establishments across the country.

Key Points

  • India had 341,818 scientists in R&D with nearly 2,03,759 employed by government institutions or in the higher education sector.
  • Of the 20,351 women employed in private R&D companies about three in four  were involved in “R&D activities” and the rest in “auxiliary or administrative activities”.
  • Of the 23,008 women in “major scientific agencies”, fewer than half — or 10,138 — were in the same ‘R&D activities’ category.
  • For every one female scientist there are six male scientists in private sector R&D establishments however that proportion improves to about one in four in major scientific agencies
  • According to STI, private sector companies had a greater commitment to ensuring that women scientists were fairly represented in recruitment, promotions and appraisal processes than in many scientific organisations.
  • Historical trend is being reiterated by the 2018 indicators of India’s scientists being overwhelmingly men.

Reasons for lesser women representation in the R&d

  • Social pressure: The large drop in the number of women between the doctoral and professional stages appears to be in part due to social pressure on women to have a family which is seen as incompatible with a professional career.
  • Patriarchal attitudes: There are still patriarchal attitudes in hiring practices.

8 . Teesta Agreement

Context : With the India-Bangladesh water-sharing deal stuck, Dhaka has begun to discuss a Chinese loan to manage the river


  • The Teesta River originates in the Himalayas and flows through the Indian States of Sikkim and West Bengal before entering Bangladesh, where it flows into the Brahmaputra.
  • Historically, the root of the disputes over the river can be located in the report of the Boundary Commission (BC), which was set up in 1947 under Sir Cyril Radcliffe to demarcate the boundary line between West Bengal (India) and East Bengal (Pakistan, then Bangladesh from 1971).
  • In its report submitted to the BC, the All India Muslim League demanded the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts on the grounds that they are the catchment areas of Teesta river system.
  • It was thought that by having the two districts, the then and future hydro projects over the river Teesta in those regions would serve the interests of the Muslim-majority areas of East Bengal.
  • Members of the Indian National Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha opposed this. Both, in their respective reports, established India’s claim over the two districts.
  • In the final declaration, which took into account the demographic composition of the region, administrative considerations and ‘other factors’ (railways, waterways and communication systems), the BC gave a major part of the Teesta’s catchment area to India.
  • The main reason to transfer major parts of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri to India was that both were non-Muslim-majority areas. Darjeeling had a 2.42% Muslim population while Jalpaiguri had 23.02% Muslims. The League’s claim was based on ‘other factors’.

Current Teesta Issue

  • India claims a share of 55 percent of the river’s water. Bangladesh wants a higher share than it gets now. Currently, its share is lower than that of India’s.
  • Negotiations on how to share the water have been going on since 1983. A 2011 interim deal – that was supposed to last 15 years – gave India 42.5 percent of the Teesta’s waters and gave Bangladesh 37.5 percent. Banerjee opposed this deal so it was shelved and remains unsigned.
  • Bangladesh wants 50 percent of the Teesta’s waters between December and May every year, because that’s when the water flow to the country drops drastically.
  • India says it has its own compulsions like lack of water flowing into the Teesta to meet irrigation needs, Increasing the area of irrigation under North Bengal etc
  • Hydropower on the Teesta is another point of conflict. There are at least 26 projects on the river mostly in Sikkim, aimed at producing some 50,000MW.

Alternate solution proposed by West Bengal Chief Minister

  • An alternate solution was proposed sharing the waters of other rivers, like the Torsa river. As north Bengal is completely dependent on the Teesta, she said, rivers like the Torsa, which are closer to the border of India and Bangladesh, are good options.
  • The Torsa, in fact, has connectivity with Bangladesh’s Padma river. The West Bengal CM proposed that the two countries set up a commission to ascertain the level of water flowing through the Torsa and the quantum of water that can be shared.

China’s Interference

  • Bangladesh is discussing an almost $1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river. The project is aimed at managing the river basin efficiently, controlling floods, and tackling the water crisis in summers.
  • India and Bangladesh have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over water-sharing in the Teesta. More importantly, Bangladesh’s discussions with China come at a time when India is particularly wary about China following the standoff in Ladakh.


  • The success of the deal on the Teesta is considered to be a political necessity for both governments. The deal, as anticipated, will help New Delhi get more political leverage, which, it thinks, is necessary to check the rising influence of an extra regional power – China – in the Bay of Bengal region.

8 . Facts for Prelims

Intra-Court Appeal

  • Under Section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, an intra-court appeal is provided where the order is passed by the single Judge of the High Court and in case it is by the Division Bench, appeal lies to the Supreme Court of India”
  • Such appeals are not available in case of proceedings where contempt is charged suo motu by the Supreme Court

India, Bangladesh to monitor projects

  • India and Bangladesh have decided to set up a high-level monitoring mechanism to monitor bilateral projects.
  • The monitoring mechanism is expected to assist in timely completion of several ongoing projects, including the Rampal Maitree Power Plant, India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, and rail links between Akhaura-Agartala, Chilahati-Haldibari and Khulna-Mongla rail line that are to be completed by 2021.

Offer for sale

  • The GoI intends to disinvest a part of the paid-up equity capital of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp (IRCTC) out of its shareholding through Offer for Sale. The Centre now holds 87.4% in IRCTC.
  • To meet SEBI’s public holding norm, the government has to lower stake to 75%.
  • Offer for sale (OFS) is a simpler method of share sale through the exchange platform for listed companies.
  • The mechanism was first introduced by India’s securities market regulator Sebi, in 2012, to make it easier for promoters of publicly-traded companies to cut their holdings and comply with the minimum public shareholding norms by June 2013.
  • The method was largely adopted by listed companies, both state-run and private, to adhere to the Sebi order.
  • Later, the government started using this route to divest its shareholding in public sector enterprises.

Information security audit

  • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is all set to direct telecom companies to undertake an “information security audit” of their networks and submit the report by October end.
  • As the name suggests, an information security audit is a step-by-step assessment of the complete network infrastructure which checks for the equipment installed and the latest upgrades done in order to prevent any data leakages. 
  • The auditors also check the data storage and security policies of the company and check whether all sections of the company adhere to the norms set by the company itself.
  • Apart from that, some auditing agencies also launch a controlled bug into the network of the company to check for vulnerabilities, and see what all systems are being impacted.
  • The objective of the audit is also to check for ‘backdoor’ and ‘trapdoor’ vulnerabilities. A ‘backdoor’ or a ‘trap door’ is a bug installed in the telecom hardware which allows companies to listen in or collect data being shared on the network.
  • One of the main reasons for the DoT asking telecom companies to get this external audit done by an agency empanelled with the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-IN) is to check for any ‘backdoor’ or ‘trapdoor’ bugs installed on their networks.
  • The audit is likely to increase the scrutiny on Chinese vendors Huawei Telecommunication Company and ZTE, which have been alleged to spy for the Chinese government. For example, in January 2020, the US had released a report in which it had said that Huawei had inserted ‘backdoors’ in telecom networks it had helped build in mobile phone networks in the US and across the world.
  • Apart from the US, other countries such as the UK and Australia have also banned both the Chinese companies on “national security” concerns with the same allegations.

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