Daily Current Affairs
19 December 2020

General Studies-I

Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society

Topic: Art & Culture

1)Singapore’s Hawker culture

In News

Hawker culture in Singapore has been inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

About Hawker culture

  • Dating far back to the 1800s, hawker culture in Singapore originated from the early migrant population selling quick, affordable meals on street pavements, in town squares and parks.
  • The delicacies being cooked served and eaten on the spot by hungry passers-by.
  • After a couple of centuries and the Singapore, government has sought to bring hawkers under one roof.
  • Hawker centers have now become a safe, clean, open kitchen where customers can watch exactly how their food is being prepared and served.
  • In every direction one can find a dizzying array of dishes and drinks to choose from.
  • Hawker culture is shared by everyone living in the city, regardless of age, ethnicity and nationality.
  • UNESCO describes the hawker centers as community dining rooms where people from diverse backgrounds gather and share the experience of dining over breakfast, lunch and dinner.

UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

  • This coveted list is made up of those intangible heritage elements that help demonstrate diversity of cultural heritage and raise awareness about its importance.
  • The list was established in 2008 when the Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage came into effect.

UNESCO

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture. It has 193 member states and 11 associate members, as well as partners in the nongovernmental, intergovernmental, and private sectors.
  • Headquartered in Paris, France, UNESCO has 53 regional field offices and 199 national commissions that facilitate its global mandate.
  • UNESCO was founded in 1945 as the successor to the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

Topic: Sports

2) Yogasana

In News

The Sports Ministry has formally recognized Yogasana as a competitive sport. The move was made to encourage yoga, spread awareness about its benefits and to help improve physical and mental wellbeing of the people.

Details

  • An International Yogasana Sports Federation was formed under the presidentship of yoga guru Baba Ramdev with DR HR Nagendra as secretary-general in November last year.
  • A National Yogasana Sports Federation of India (NYSFI) was also established for the preservation and development of yoga as a competitive sport. It was recognized by the sports ministry as a National Sports Federation (NSF) last month.
  • Yogasana will be inducted in future Khelo India Games program.
  • For competitions, 51 medals have been proposed in four events and seven categories in the sport.
  • Events proposed include traditional yogasana, artistic yogasana (single and pair), rhythmic yogasana (pair, free flow/group yogasana), individual all round-championship and team championship.
  • A pilot championship — National Individual Yogasana Sport Championship — has also been proposed to be organised in February next year, followed by district, state, national and World Championships.
  • Ministry of Sports and Ministry of AYUSH have also developed an automated scoring system for competitions.

Significance

  • The reason behind making yoga a competitive sport is to encourage its practice and to help improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the people.
  • Having yogasana as a part of international event like Olympics etc. would provide an opportunity to spread the awareness of Indian yoga and its innumerable health benefits.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

Topic: Important National Day

3) Goa Liberation day

In News

Goa Liberation Day is observed on December 19 every year in India. The Goa Liberation Day is celebrated in commemoration of the Indian armed forces freeing Goa from Portuguese rule. Goa, was liberated on December 19, 1961, from around 450 years of Portuguese rule.

History

  • The Portuguese colonized several parts of India in 1510 but by the end of the 19th-century Portuguese colonies in India were limited to Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Anjediva Island.
  • The Goa liberation movement, which sought to end Portuguese colonial rule in Goa, started off with small scale revolts.
  • On August 15, 1947, when India gained its Independence, Goa was still under Portuguese rule. The Portuguese refused to give up their hold over Goa and other Indian territories.
  • Following a myriad of unsuccessful negotiations and diplomatic efforts with the Portuguese, the former prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, decided that military intervention was the only option.
  • The 36-hour military operation, conducted from December 18, 1961, was code-named ‘Operation Vijay’ meaning ‘Operation Victory,’ and involved attacks by the Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Army.
  • Indian troops reclaimed the Goan territory on December 19 with little resistance and the deposed governor-general Manuel António Vassalo e Silva signed the certificate of surrender thus bringing Portuguese rule in the region to an end.
  • This made India completely free from foreign rule.
  • The War Memorial at Indian Naval Ship Gomantak was constructed in memory of seven young gallant sailors and other personnel who laid down their lives on 19 Dec 1961 in the “Operation Vijay” undertaken by the Indian Navy for the liberation of Anjadip Island and Territories of Goa, Daman and Diu.

 

Source: Hindustan Times

 

General Studies-II

Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations

Topic: Polity

4) National Security Committee on Telecom

In News

The Cabinet approved the setting up of a ‘National Security Committee on Telecom’ that will list ‘trusted and non-trusted’ equipment/devices by vendors, to be used by telecom service providers (TSPs).

Background

The government had banned 200 Chinese mobile apps and also restricted the participation of Huawei in the 5G trials because of the tension between the two countries at the border.

Rising cyberattacks

  • India is amongst the top three countries facing cyber-attacks, In 2019, four lakh cyber incidents were handled by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team CERT-In.
  • The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) had told Parliament that till August 2020, Indian citizens, government and business entities faced almost seven lakh cyber-attacks. A sum of ?1.24- lakh crore was lost due to cyber-crime last year.
  • With the increasing use of IoT (Internet of Things) devices, the risk will increase manifold as well with the advent of 5G technologies in telecom networks.

About Committee

  • The Committee will consist of members from relevant Departments/Ministries and will have two members from the industry, and an independent expert.
  • A list of designated sources from whom no procurement can be done may also be created.
  • The present directive does not envisage the mandatory replacement of the existing equipment already inducted in the networks of TSPs.
  • The DoT will notify/modify its guidelines and ensure monitoring of compliance by TSPs.
  • The Committee will create a portal for easy upload of applications by TSPs and equipment vendors.

Significance

  • The government will release at regular intervals new guidelines for effective monitoring and effective control of the network security of the TSPs.
  • The move could potentially make it more difficult for Chinese telecom equipment vendors to supply equipment to Indian telecom players.
  • Mobile applications that either have Chinese origins or have central servers in China may also find re-entry in the market extremely difficult.

Way ahead

In order to maintain the integrity of the supply chain security, the government will declare a list of trusted sources, trusted products for the benefit of telecom service providers.

 

Source: The Hindu Business Line

 

Topic: Social issue/justice

5) Reservation in students’ admissions and faculty recruitment

In News

An eight-member committee appointed by the government for suggesting measures for effective implementation of reservation in students admissions and faculty recruitment in IITs has recommended that the 23 engineering schools should be exempted from reservations under Central Education Institutions Act, 2019, and rather than specific quotas, diversity issues should be addressed through outreach campaigns and targeted recruitment of faculty.

The committee was chaired by IIT Delhi director and had IIT Kanpur director, representatives of secretaries of the departments of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, Department of Personnel and Training, Persons with Disabilities and registrars of IIT Bombay and IIT Madras as its other members.

Recommendations

  • It stated that IITs should be added to the list of “Institutions of Excellence” mentioned in the Schedule to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act 2019.
  • Section 4 of the Act exempts “institutions of excellence, research institutions, institutions of national and strategic importance” mentioned in the Schedule and minority institutions from providing reservation. Currently, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National Brain Research Centre, North-Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Science, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Physical Research Laboratory, Space Physics Laboratory, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing and Homi Bhabha National Institute and all its 10 constituent units are covered under the Section 4 of the law, but not the IITs.
  • If granting full exemption from reservations was not possible, the committee recommended that the implementation of reservation policies for all categories including Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) be restricted just to Assistant Professor Grade I and Grade II and not for levels above.
  • Vacancies not filled in a particular year due to non-availability, be de-reserved in the subsequent year.
  • Conduct of special recruitment drives to attract candidates from reserved categories.
  • To address diversity issues, the report argued that a “system emphasizing targeted goals over a period of time” and not “specific quotas” be followed so that IITs can “compete with other top institutions in the world in terms of excellence, output, research and teaching.”
  • The panel proposes a two-year Research Assistantship for students from reserved categories aspiring to join Ph.D. programs.
  • It highlighted that the enrollment of reserved category students in the Ph.D. program is low and needs to be addressed, which is severely limiting the number of reserved category candidates available to be hired as faculty in the IIT system.

 

Two main recommendations

The panel makes two kinds of recommendations for faculty recruitment:

  • Exempt IITs from caste reservations as they are institutes of national importance.

OR

  • Reservations be applied for all categories including EWS to posts of assistant professor grade I and II filled as a whole during the year. Reservation should be applied to the institute as a whole rather than on individual departments.
  • The panel proposes a two-year preparatory programme for students willing to take admissions in the PhD programmes.

 

Institutions of Excellence

  • Institutes of Eminence (IoE) is a recognition scheme for higher education institutes in India, set by the University Grants Commission in 2017. The plan encompasses twenty institutions, 16 of which have already been declared Institutes of Eminence as of August 2019. Recognised institutes are granted more autonomy, both administratively (e.g. setting fees) and academically, and will enjoy better collaboration opportunities with global universities.
  • The regulatory infrastructure for the Institutes of Eminence (IoE) plan was provided by the University Grants Commission (UGC) through the UGC (Declaration of Government Institutions as Institutions of Eminence) Guidelines, 2017 for public institutions and UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2017 for private deemed to be university institutions.
  • According to these, both categories of institutions are granted more autonomy, both administratively (e.g. setting fees) and academically, and both will enjoy better collaboration opportunities with global universities. Public institutions are also granted up to ?1,000 crore, but no funding is awarded to private institutions.

Reservation norms

According to the Government of India norms, 10% of all positions are reserved for candidates belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS), 27% from other backward class (OBC) category, 15% for scheduled cast (SC) category, 7.5% for scheduled tribe (ST) category and 5% for candidates with physical disabilities.

Criticism of the recommendations

  • The report and its recommendations have been condemned by several student bodies across the country.
  • The committee formed to study the violation of reservation norms in IITs has requested the government to add IITs to the class of reservation-exempted institutions in the country. The recommendation was especially on exempting IITs from fulfilling reservation norms in teaching faculty recruitment. The committee has also blatantly lied about IITs following reservation norms in all academic levels [UG and PG]. A statement by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, demanding that the Ministry of Education reject the demand for IITs to be included in the list of reservation-exempted institutions.

Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019

  • It provides for the reservation of posts in appointments by direct recruitment of persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Scheduled Tribes (STs), the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) and the Economically Weaker Sections (EWSs), to teachers’ cadre in certain Central Educational Institutions established, maintained or aided by the Central Government, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • The Act not to apply in certain cases:
  • The institutions of excellence, research institutions, institutions of national and strategic importance specified in the Schedule to this Act.
  • A Minority Educational Institution.

 

Source: Hindustan Times, Indian Express

 

Topic: IR

6) Chilahati-Haldibari rail link

In News

India and Bangladesh are set to reopen the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link after more than 5 decades to enhance the connectivity between the two countries.

  • Chilahati-Haldibari link was cut off during the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
  • Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh.

 

History

  • The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link was operational till 1965.
  • This was part of the broad-gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during the partition.
  • Trains traveling to Assam and north Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory even after partition. For example, a train from Sealdah to Siliguri used to enter East Pakistan territory from Darshana and exit using the Haldibari-Chilahati link.
  • However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan.
  • So, on the eastern sector of India, the partition of the railways thus happened in 1965.

Advantages

  • With this link, tourists from Bangladesh will be able to visit places like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars, apart from countries like Nepal and Bhutan.
  • Economic activities of these South Asian countries will also be benefitted from this new rail link
  • This rail link will enhance rail network accessibility to the main ports, dry ports and land borders to support the growth in regional trade and encourage economic and social development of the region.

Important Info

  • The railway networks of India and Bangladesh are mostly inherited from the British-era Indian Railways. After the partition in 1947, seven rail links were operational between India and the then East Pakistan (up to 1965).
  • Presently, there are four operational rail links between India and Bangladesh. They are Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)-Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)-Birol (Bangladesh).

 

Source: ND TV

 

General Studies-III

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

Topic: Economy

7) Currency Manipulator

In News

The United States has included India in its monitoring list of countries with potentially “questionable foreign exchange policies” and “currency manipulation”.

  • Other countries in the latest list comprise China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia.
  • India was last included in the currency watchlist in October 2018, but removed from the list that came out in May 2019.

Currency Manipulator

  • This is a label given by the US government to countries it feels are engaging in “unfair currency practices” by deliberately devaluing their currency against the dollar.
  • The practice would mean that the country in question is artificially lowering the value of its currency to gain an unfair advantage over others. This is because the devaluation would reduce the cost of exports from that country and artificially show a reduction in trade deficits as a result.

What are the parameters used?

The United States places a country in the monitoring list when it meets two of these three following criteria in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015

  1. Significant bilateral trade surplus with the US, that is, the country should have a trade surplus of at least 20 billion USD over a twelve-month period.
  2. Current Account Surplus should be equivalent to at least 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over a twelve-month period
  3. Number and size of interventions by the country in forex markets to influence currency value. The US addresses this as a one-sided intervention. In simple words, when the net purchases of foreign currency total at least 2% of the GDP of the country over a twelve-month period.

Once on the Monitoring List, an economy will remain there for at least two consecutive reports “to help ensure that any improvement in performance versus the criteria is durable and is not due to temporary factors.

The administration will also add and retain on the Monitoring List any major US trading partner that accounts for a “large and disproportionate” share of the overall US trade deficit, “even if that economy has not met two of the three criteria from the 2015 Act”.

Impact

The designation of a country as a currency manipulator does not immediately attract any penalties but tends to dent the confidence about a country in the global financial markets.

Why is India put back in the list again?

India for several years has maintained a significant bilateral goods trade surplus. The total trade surplus of India has crossed 20 billion USD and is now 22 billion USD. Also, the net purchases of foreign exchange have been pushed to 64 billion USD which is 2.4% of its GDP. For these reasons, India has been put under the list again.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

Topic: S&T

8) Gateway Treaty

In News

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) finalized an agreement between the United States and Canada to collaborate on the Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon that will provide vital support for a sustainable, long-term return of astronauts to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

Artemis II is the first crewed mission to the moon by NASA since 1972. The mission is to be launched in 2023. This agreement is called the “Gateway Treaty”.

Under this agreement

  • CSA will provide the Gateway’s external robotics system, including a next-generation robotic arm, known as Canadarm 3.
  • CSA also provides robotic interfaces for Gateway modules, which will enable payload installation including that of the first two scientific instruments aboard the Gateway.
  • The agreement also marks NASA’s commitment to providing two crew opportunities for Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions, one to the Gateway and one on Artemis II.
  • CSA will be responsible for end-to-end external robotics, including engineering and operations.
  • Canadarm 3 will move end-over-end to reach many parts of the Gateway’s exterior, where its anchoring "hand" will plug into specially designed interfaces.
  • Delivery to the lunar outpost is targeted in 2026 via a U.S. commercial logistics supply flight.

Gateway

It is an outpost orbiting the moon. It provides vital support for a long-term and sustainable human return to the lunar surface. It will also act as a staging point for deep space exploration.

Lunar Gateway Space Station

  • The Lunar Gateway Space Station is about one-sixth of the size of the International Space Station. It is to be built in the lunar orbit.
  • The space station is expected to play a major role in the Artemis Programme of NASA after its launch.
  • The Gateway is to be developed and utilized by international and commercial partners from CSA (Canadian Space Agency), JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency), European Space Agency.

Artemis Programme

The program will demonstrate new technologies and future explorations (including Mars) on the lunar surface. The astronauts are to be uplifted by NASA’s new Space Launch System. It will send the astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft. The astronauts will dock Orion at the Gateway and will transfer to a human landing system.

Orion Spacecraft

It is a class of partially reusable space capsule. It is capable of supporting a crew of six beyond the Low Earth Orbit. The Orion can last up to twenty-one days undocked and six months docked.

 

Source: NASA