Daily Current Affairs - 28-01-2021

Rajasthan has become the 5th state in the country to successfully complete the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) reforms. This was specified by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.

Benefits

Other States to complete the reforms

Other states that have completed the Urban Local Bodies Reforms include- Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. In total, these five states have been granted a total additional borrowing permission of 10,212 crore rupees after completing the reforms.

Reforms in ULBs

The Reforms in the Urban Local Bodies and urban utilities reforms were done with the aim of strengthening the finance of the ULBs in the States. It also seeks to enable the states to provide better public health and sanitation services. Once the ULBs are economically rejuvenated it will be able to create good civic infrastructure.

What are those reforms?

The reforms that have been put forward by the Department of Expenditure are:

  1. State is required to notify floor rates of property tax in ULBs as well as the floor rates of user charges with respect of the provision of water-supply, drainage and sewerage.
  2. State needs to place a system of periodic increase in floor rates of property tax or user charges with respect to the price increases.

Background

In the light of covid-10 pandemic, the government had identified Four citizen centric areas for reforms in order to meet the demand of resources. Those areas include- the Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System, Ease of doing business reform, Urban Local body or utility reforms and Power Sector reforms. 10 States have implemented the One Nation One Ration Card System, 7 States have worked on the ease of doing business reforms while 5 States have implemented the local body reforms; so far.

The Reliance Jio venture of billionaire Mukesh Ambani has become the fifth strongest brand globally. It now stands behind the brands like Ferrari and Coca-Cola.  This venture has achieved this milestone in just four-odd-years.

Key Facts

How this ranking was decided?

The assessment of stakeholder equity was done through the original market research data. The data was analysed for over 50,000 respondents in 30 countries and across 20 sectors.

Reliance Jio

It is an Indian telecommunications company and a subsidiary of Jio Platforms. It is headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The company operates a national LTE network and is covering all the 22 telecom circles. The operator does not provide 2G or 3G service. It only uses voice over LTE to provide the voice service on its 4G network. It was launched in December 2015 with a beta for partners and employees. In September 2016 it was launched for public. Jio also launched a fiber to the home service which offers broadband, television, and telephone services.

Brand Finance

It is an independent branded business valuation consultancy that advises branded organizations on how to maximize their value through effective management.  It has been certified with ISO 10668:2010.

The United Kingdom has launched a New Global Platform to track the new COVID-19 variants. The platform will provide world-leading genomics expertise from the country to identify the new variants of the virus.

Highlights

New Variant of Corona Virus

The Variant of Concern 202012/01 is the new variant of the Corona virus (SARS-CoV-2). The new variant is also known as lineage B.1.1.7, 20I/501Y.V1 and it is commonly known as UK coronavirus variant since the virus emerged in the UK. The new variant is 36%–75% more transmissible than wild-type SARS-CoV-2. The virus was first detected in November 2020 from a sample taken in September 2020.  The virus started to spread quickly in mid-December.

SARS-CoV-2 virus

SARS-CoV-2 is the abbreviation for “Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”. The virus caused the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

It is a contagious disease which is caused by SARS-CoV-2. The first case of the disease was identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The disease spread across the world from which the world is still recovering. Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable which begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus.

The Union Cabinet has cleared the policy on the privatization of public sector undertakings (PSUs). The details regarding the policy will be announced in the upcoming Union Budget that will be presented on February 1, 2021.

About the Policy

Strategic sectors

The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management had classified 18 sectors as strategic sectors. It includes- fertilisers, telecom, power, banking, defense, and insurance. These sectors have been categorized as the mining & exploration, manufacturing & processing and services.

Pubic Sector Undertaking (PSU)

The state-owned enterprise is called a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) or a Public Sector Enterprise in India. The PSU is owned by the union Government or one of the state or territorial governments. It can also be owned by both in parts. The majority of the stock of the company in a PSU owned by the government. PSUs are of two types- central public sector enterprises (CPSUs, CPSEs) or state level public enterprises (SLPEs). PSUs are administered by the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.

Number of PSUs in India

Till the year 1951, there were just 5 enterprises in the public sector. Over the time the number has increased. As of March 2019, the number has increased to 348.

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, will address the Davos Dialogue of World Economic Forum on January 28, 2021 virtually.

Highlights

About Davos Dialogue 2021

Great Reset Initiative

The Great Reset Initiative is the 50th annual meeting of WEF that was organised in June 2020. The initiative had brought together the high profile political and business leaders who were convened by WEF and Prince of Wales. The meeting was organised under the theme of Rebuilding the society and economy in a sustainable way for the post-COVID-19 world.

World Economic Forum (WEF)

WEF is an international NGO. It was founded on January 24, 1971. The NGO was established with the objective of improving the condition of the world. It seeks to improve the condition by engaging the academic leaders, business leaders, political leaders and other such leaders of the society. The leaders help in shaping the industry and regional agendas. The annual meeting of WEF is held in Davos, Switzerland every year at the end of the month January.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed on January 27 at the Bengaluru International Centre. A small ceremony was organised and memorial candles were lit by clergy of various religious communities to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The ceremony was organised in accordance with the UN’s theme: “Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution after the Holocaust”.

About International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Background

During 1941-1945, Nazi regime and its collaborators led to the killing of 6 million Jews and 11 million others.

Nazi Germany

Nazi Germany was a German State in between 1933 and 1945. It was officially known as the German Reich and also Greater German Reich.

United Nations General Assembly Resolution

The resolution is a declaration that is voted on by all member states of the United Nations in the General Assembly. The resolution usually requires a simple majority to pass. The General Assembly resolutions are non-binding towards member states. However, the internal resolutions may be binding on the operation of the General Assembly.

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

It is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN). It serves as the main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the UN. The body is responsible for the UN budget. It is also involved in appointing the non-permanent members to the Security Council. UNGA is the only UN organ where all member states have equal representation.

India has signed a Framework for strategic partnership agreement with the International Energy Agency (IEA), recently.

Highlights

International Energy Agency (IEA)

IEA is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organisation that was established in the year 1974 in the aftermath of 1973 oil crisis. It was established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Functions of IEA

Why IEA is criticized?

IEA is criticized for providing a highly inaccurate forecasts of both fossil fuel and renewable energy. It is also criticized for failing to comply and create the 1.5°C scenario. All the members of IEA have signed the Paris Agreement that seeks to limit warming to 1.5°C but, IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario projects for net-zero emissions in 2070 two decades later the 2050 target set by the Paris Agreement.

The most active volcano of Indonesia, Mt Merapi, recently erupted with a river of lava and searing gas clouds. The lave and clouds flown for 1,600 meters down its slopes.

Highlights

Mount Merapi

About Indonesia

Indonesia, the archipelago of 270 million people, is situated in the Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It comprises of more than seventeen thousand islands, including Java, Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, parts of Borneo (Kalimantan) and New Guinea (Papua). It is considered as the world’s largest island country and the 14th-largest country with respect to area. The country is also the 4th-most populous country in the world. It is also the most populous Muslim-majority country. The most populous island of Indonesia is Java which is also the most populous island in the world. The country is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity as it sits along the “Pacific Ring of Fire”.

Pacific Ring of Fire

The region sits around rim of the Pacific Ocean which is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. It is a horseshoe-shaped belt which is about 40,000 km in length. It includes the Pacific coasts of South America, North America and Kamchatka apart from the western Pacific Ocean areas.

United Nations have released its report titled ‘Ageing water infrastructure: An emerging global risk’ on the ageing of the dams in India. The report was compiled by compiled by United Nations University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health. The analysis was done on the dam decommissioning or ageing from the USA, Canada, France, Japan, India, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Findings of the report

What are the ageing signs?

Some of the signs of ageing include:

  1. Increase in the cases of dam failures,
  2. Increasing costs of dam repair and maintenance,
  3. Increase in the reservoir sedimentation, and
  4. Loss of functionality and effectiveness of the dams “strongly interconnected” manifestations.

Mullaperiyaru Dam

It is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in Kerala. It is located 881 m above mean sea level. It stands on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats in Idukki District of Kerala. The dam was constructed between 1887 and 1895 by John Pennycuick. The Periyar National Park is alsp located around the dam’s reservoir. It is built at the confluence of Mullayar and Periyar rivers. The dam is located on the river Periyar in Kerala but is operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu.

The National Non-Communicable Disease Monitoring Survey (NNMS) was recently released in India by the Ministry of health. The survey was conducted for the period of 2017-18. This is the first of its kind of a comprehensive survey on NCDs. It covers the age groups of 15-69 years, males and females from the urban and rural areas.

Findings of the NNMS report

About NNMS

It is the largest comprehensive national Survey on risk factors and health systems preparedness of non-communicable disease (NCD). It also provides framework on the use of telemedicine for cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, and stroke. The survey was conducted with the purpose of collecting the reliable baseline data on key indicators such as select NCDs, risk factors and health systems response related to the National NCD monitoring framework and its Action Plan. The survey also highlights the need of improving the comprehensive multi-sectoral approaches that focussed on both prevention and management of NCDs.

World Health Organisation (WHO) survey on NCDs

The WHO survey found that 45% of NCDs are caused due to physical inactivity.

Government Measures to tackle NCDs

The government launched the Fit India Movement that gained momentum to raise awareness. More gyms and exercise centers will also help inn reducing the need for hospital infrastructure. A Framework for Telemedicine use in Management of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in India was also released. Telemedicine comprising of the tele-consultation, tele-monitoring and tele-triage will help in building the continuum of care model for major NCDs.

The Department of Expenditure of Ministry of Finance has recently released Rs 12,351 crore to 18 States in order to provide grants to the Rural Local Bodies.

Highlights

Why this grant has been released?

Local bodies (LBs)

LBs are institutions of the local self-governance. It looks after the administration of an area or small community like villages, towns, or cities. The Local bodies in India are classified into two categories:

  1. Rural Local bodies (RLBs)- RLBs are constituted for local planning, development and administration in the rural areas. These are called Panchayats.
  2. Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)- ULBs are constituted for local planning, development and administration in the urban areas. These are also called as Municipalities.

Grants to Rural Local Bodies

As per the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, there are two types of grants for the Rural Local Bodies:

  1. Basic Grants– Such grants can be used by the Rural local bodies for the location-specific needs. However, such grants cannot be used for the salary or any other establishment expenditure.
  2. Tied Grants– Such grants are used by the Rural Local Bodies to maintain the Open Defecation Free Status and sanitation, supply of clean drinking water, rainwater harvesting and water cycling.

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) recently released its report on Cost Overruns of the Infrastructure Projects. The ministry monitored the infrastructure projects worth Rs 150 crore.

Key Findings of report

Why there are cost overruns?

The project implementing agencies cited several reasons for time overruns. The reasons include- delay in land acquisition, delay in obtaining forest and environment clearances and lack of infrastructure support and linkages. Further, the report highlights that these projects were delayed because of state-wise lockdown due to COVID-19.
However, the report cited that the Project agencies are not reporting their revised cost estimates and commissioning schedules for many projects. So, time and cost overrun figures are under-reported.

What is Cost Overrun?

Cost overrun is also called as cost increase or budget overrun. It simply means the unexpected incurred costs. Such costs exceed the budgeted amounts because of underestimation of the actual cost during budgeting.  The Cost overrun is different from the cost escalation. Cost escalation is an anticipated growth in a budgeted cost because of factors like inflation.

The Government of India is all set to present the Union Budget 2021 on February 1, 2021. This year, the focus of the budget will be on off-budget borrowings so as to reduce the Fiscal Deficit.

What are off-budget borrowings?

How the borrowings are raised?

What is the importance of off-budget borrowings?

The fiscal deficit in the Union Budget is the most wanted details. Fiscal deficit is the gap between what the central government spends and what it earns. It helps in understanding the financial health of the government. This figure is highly watched by the rating agencies across the world. As a result, the government always wants to restrict the fiscal deficit at certain number. This can be restricted by “off-budget borrowings”.

Implications

There are various sources of the off-budget borrowings. Thus. It becomes difficult to calculate the true debt.