Daily Current Affairs
17 December 2020

General Studies-II

Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations

Topic: Report & Indices

1)Human Development Index

In News

India dropped two ranks in the United Nations’ Human Development Index this year, standing at 131 out of 189 countries.

Key Highlights

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the first time, introduced a new metric to reflect the impact caused by each country’s per-capita carbon emissions and its material footprint, which measures the amount of fossil fuels, metals and other resources used to make the goods and services it consumes.

Key Findings of the HDI

  • Norway topped the index, followed by Ireland and Switzerland. Hong Kong and Iceland complete the top five.
  • India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia, Kenya, and Pakistan were ranked under countries with medium human development with a rank in between 120 and 156 among the 189-counties.
  • In the BRICS grouping, Russia was 52 in the human development index, Brazil 84, and China 85.
  • India’s gross national income (GNI) per capita on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP), too, fell from $6,829 in 2018 to $6,681 in 2019, it said.
  • India’s HDI value for 2019 is 0.645, which put the country in the medium human development category, positioning it at 131 out of 189 countries and territories.
  • Between 1990 and 2019, India’s HDI value increased from 0.429 to 0.645, an increase of 50.3%.
  • Between 1990 and 2019, India’s life expectancy at birth increased by 11.8 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.5 years, and expected years of schooling increased by 4.5 years. India’s GNI per capita increased by about 273.9% between 1990 and 2019.
  • Under the Paris Agreement, India pledged to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP from the 2005 level by 33-35% by 2030 and to obtain 40% of electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

Purchasing power parity

Purchasing power parity (PPP) is a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries’ currencies.

Human Development Index

  • The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education (Literacy Rate, Gross Enrollment Ratio at different levels and Net Attendance Ratio), and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development.
  • The origins of the HDI are found in the annual Human Development Reports produced by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • These were devised and launched by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq in 1990, and had the explicit purpose to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting to people-centered policies.


Source: The Hindu


Topic: Government Schemes

2) Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS)

In News

AICTE has decided to release the installment of Rs 20,000 per month as maintenance allowance under Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) for the students of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The decision has been taken to support and empower students for completing their online studies.


An Expert Group was constituted by the Prime Minister for enhancing employment opportunity among youths of J&K and Ladakh and formulate job opportunities in public and private sectors. Subsequently, Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) is being implemented by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

PMSSS Scheme

  • Under the PMSSS Scheme, the youths of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are supported by way of scholarship in two parts namely the academic fee and maintenance allowance.
  • The Scheme aims to build the capacities of the youths of J&K and Ladakh by Educating, Enabling and Empowering them to compete in the normal course.
  • The academic fee is paid to the institution where the student is provided admission after on-line counselling process conducted by the AICTE.
  • The academic fee covers tuition fee and other components as per the ceiling fixed for various professional, medical and other under-graduate courses.
  • In order to meet expenditure towards hostel accommodation, mess expenses, books & stationary etc., a fixed amount of Rs.1.00 Lakh is provided to the beneficiary and is paid in installments @ Rs. 10,000/- per month directly into student’s account.    

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)

  • AICTE is the statutory body and a national-level council for technical education, under Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education.
  • Established in November 1945 first as an advisory body and later on in 1987 given statutory status by an Act of Parliament, AICTE is responsible for proper planning and coordinated development of the technical education and management education system in India.
  • The AICTE accredits postgraduate and graduate programs under specific categories at Indian institutions as per its charter.


Source: PIB


Topic: IR

3) Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU)

In News

Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Sekhar Vempati elected as Vice President of Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.

Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU)

  • ABU, formed in 1964, is a non-profit, professional association of broadcasting organisations.
  • ABU is one of the largest broadcasting associations in the world.
  • The ABU's role is to help the development of broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific region and to promote the collective interests of its members.
  • One of the ABU's activities is Asiavision, a daily exchange of news feeds by satellite among television stations in 20 countries in Asia.
  • The ABU provides a forum for promoting the collective interests of television and radio broadcasters, and encourages regional and international co-operation between broadcasters.
  • The ABU Secretariat is located in Angkasapuri, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Source: News On Air


Topic: IR

4) Kingdom of Eswatini

In News

PM Modi expressed grief over the demise of Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini.

  • Although officially renamed Eswatini in 2018, the landlocked country in southern Africa, is more well-known in India by its former name Swaziland.
  • Eswatini means ‘land of the Swazis’ in Swazi language.


Eswatini has the world’s highest prevalence rate for HIV/Aids with low life expectancy for both men and women.


Why did Swaziland change its name to Eswatini?

  • In April 2018, King Mswati III of Swaziland announced that he was renaming the country ‘the Kingdom of eSwatini’. The name is sometimes also spelled as ‘Eswatini’.
  • The announcement for the name change occurred during celebrations for 50 years of Swazi independence from British rule, that coincided with those for the king’s 50th birthday.
  • The most prominent use of this name occured when the King referred to the country as ‘Eswatini’ during his address at the UN General Assembly in 2017.


Country’s name changes

In modern history, following the decolonization of Africa, several countries decided to rename themselves. For instance,

  • Nyasaland in central Africa was renamed Malawi
  • Bechuanaland became the Republic of Botswana in 1966
  • The Republic of Upper Volta was renamed Burkina Faso
  • Gold Coast became Ghana

In 1989, Burma’s name was changed to Myanmar by the country’s military junta, in a move that was justified as an attempt to align the country’s name with one in the Burmese language, simultaneously divesting it of its colonial legacy.


Source: Indian Express




Topic: Report & Indices

5) UNESCO’s 2020 State of Education for India Report

In News

The ‘State of the Education Report for India 2020: Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), was launched virtually by UNESCO New Delhi.

  • The strategy is in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goal and Education 2030 Framework for Action.
  • The second edition of the State of Education Report focuses on technical and vocational education and training (TVET).


Report aims to serve as a reference tool for enhancing and influencing the policies and programs related to skills development in India.


  1. Place learners and their aspirations at the center of vocational education and training programmes
  2. Create an appropriate ecosystem for teachers, trainers and assessors
  3. Focus on upskilling, re-skilling and lifelong learning
  4. Ensure inclusive access to TVET for women, differently abled and disadvantaged learners
  5. Massively expand the digitalization of vocational education and training
  6. Support local communities to generate livelihoods by engaging in the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage
  7. Align better with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  8. Deploy innovative models of financing TVET
  9. Expand evidence-based research for better planning and monitoring
  10. Establish a robust coordinating mechanism for inter-ministerial cooperation

About the Report

  • The substance of the Report has been developed by an experienced team of researchers from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, under the guidance of UNESCO New Delhi. 
  • The technical and financial partner - American India Foundation (AIF), is a leading not-for-profit organization committed to improving the lives of India’s underprivileged, with a special focus on women, children, and youth.


  • UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
  • It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture.
  • UNESCO's programmes contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.
  • In this spirit, UNESCO develops educational tools to help people live as global citizens free of hate and intolerance. UNESCO works so that each child and citizen has access to quality education.


Source: UNESCO


General Studies-III

Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management


Topic: Environment

6) Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Summit

In News

Recently, the inaugural session of the 12th Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Summit was organised virtually. The theme of the 12th GRIHA Virtual Summit is ‘Rejuvenating Resilient Habitats’.

Key Highlights

  • Its purpose is to serve as a platform to deliberate on innovative technologies and solutions which shall help in creating robust mechanisms for developing sustainable and resilient solutions for the benefit of the entire community.
  • Vice President launched the SHASHWAT magazine and the book '30 Stories Beyond Buildings' during the event, documenting the extensive collaboration between GRIHA Council and the Public Works Department, Government of Maharashtra.


  • GRIHA is an acronym for Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment.
  • GRIHA is a Sanskrit word meaning – ‘Abode’. Human Habitats (buildings) interact with the environment in various ways.
  • Throughout their life cycles, from construction to operation and then demolition, they consume resources in the form of energy, water, materials, etc. and emit wastes either directly in the form of municipal wastes or indirectly as emissions from electricity generation.
  • GRIHA attempts to minimize a building’s resource consumption, waste generation, and overall ecological impact to within certain nationally acceptable limits / benchmarks.
  • GRIHA attempts to quantify aspects such as energy consumption, waste generation, renewable energy adoption, etc. so as to manage, control and reduce the same to the best possible extent.

GRIHA Council

  • Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Council is an independent, not-for-profit society jointly setup by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India to promote and administer green buildings in India.
  • GRIHA was adopted as the National Rating System for Green Buildings in India by MNRE in 2007.
  • GRIHA evaluates the environmental performance of a building holistically over its entire life cycle, based on quantitative and qualitative criteria, thereby providing a definitive standard for green buildings and sustainable habitats.
  • It seeks to minimize resource consumption, waste generation and overall ecological/environmental impact of buildings and habitat.

Other Initiatives by Government

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs had organised Global Housing Technology Challenge India (GHTC-India) in January 2019 which aimed to identify and mainstream best available and proven construction technologies that are sustainable, green and disaster-resilient to enable a paradigm shift in housing construction”.
  • The Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators – India (ASHA-India) initiative, five Incubation Centers have been set up for identifying innovative materials, processes and technology for resource-efficient, resilient and sustainable construction.


Source: PIB


Topic: Environment

7) National Hydrology Project

In News

Review of the National Hydrology Project (World Bank supported initiative of Ministry of Jal Shakti) was carried out by Minister of Jal Shakti.

National Hydrology Project (NHP)

  • NHP was started in the year 2016 as a Central Sector Scheme with 100% grant to Implementing agencies on pan India basis.
  • The project aims at improving the extent, reliability and accessibility of water resources information and to strengthen the capacity of targeted water resource management institutions in India.
  • NHP is facilitating acquisition of reliable information efficiently which would pave the way for an effective water resource development and management.
  • The Project has made significant progress in the fields of Water resource monitoring system, water resource information system (WRIS), water resource operation and planning systems and institutional capacity enhancement.
  • Under the NHP, a nationwide repository of water resources data- NWIC has been established. NHP is focusing on establishment of real time data acquisition system (RTDAS) on pan India basis.
  • The Real time data acquisition system, the near real time data acquisition system and the manual data acquisition stations would complement each other and would lay a strong foundation for informed decision making for better water resources management. All such data would be available through web enabled India WRIS which is being upscale under the NHP.


Source: PIB


Topic: Defence

8) Russian S-400 Air defence system

In News

The United States has imposed sanctions on Turkey over Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems.


  • Ankara acquired the Russian S-400 ground-to-air defenses in mid-2019 and says they pose no threat to NATO allies.
  • Washington has long been threatening sanctions on Turkey and had removed the country from an F-35 jet program last year.
  • India set to get the consignment of the S-400 air defence system early next year.


  • The S-400 Triumf, (NATO calls it SA-21 Growler), is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM) designed by Russia.
  • It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
  • The system can engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 400 km, at an altitude of up to 30km.
  • The system can track 100 airborne targets and engage six of them simultaneously.
  • It represents the fourth generation of long-range Russian SAMs, and the successor to the S-200 and S-300.
  • The S-400’s mission set and capabilities are roughly comparable to the famed US Patriot system.
  • The S-400 Triumf air defence system integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and command and control center.
  • It is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defence.
  • The S-400 is two-times more effective than previous Russian air defence systems and can be deployed within five minutes.
  • It can also be integrated into the existing and future air defence units of the Air Force, Army, and the Navy.
  • The first S-400 systems became operational in 2007 and is responsible for defending Moscow.
  • It has been deployed in Syria in 2015, to guard Russian and Syrian naval and air assets. Russia has also stationed S-400 units in Crimea to strengthen Russia’s position on the recently annexed peninsula.
  • From India’s point of view, China is also buying the system. In 2015, Beijing signed an agreement with Russia to purchase six battalions of the system. Its delivery began in January 2018.

What is CAATSA, and how did the S-400 deal fall foul of this Act?

  • Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was passed unanimously by the US Congress and signed reluctantly by US President Donald Trump.
  • Enacted on August 2, 2017, its core objective is to counter Iran, Russia and North Korea through punitive measures.
  • Title II of the Act primarily deals with sanctions on Russian interests such as its oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions, in the backdrop of its military intervention in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US Presidential elections.
  • Section 231 of the Act empowers the US President to impose at least five of the 12 listed sanctions — enumerated in Section 235 of the Act — on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
  • CAATSA, if implemented in its stringent form, would have affected India’s defence procurement from Russia.
  • Russian maker of S-400s — Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation JSC — is on the list of 39 Russian entities.
  • Apart from the S-400 air defence system, Project 1135.6 frigates and Ka226T helicopters will also be affected. Also, it will impact joint ventures, like Indo Russian Aviation Ltd, Multi-Role Transport Aircraft Ltd and Brahmos Aerospace. It will also affect India’s purchase of spare parts, components, raw materials and other assistance.


Source: Indian Express