Daily Current Affairs - 12-03-2021

Department of Financial Services (DFS), under finance ministry, has sent a memorandum to the chairman of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and has asked it to withdraw a rule treating AT1 bonds (perpetuals) which is having 100-year maturity.

Highlights

The circular was issued by SEBI on March 10, 2021 regarding the AT1 bonds and this will take effect from April 1, 2021. This circulation has generated significant apprehension in mutual fund industry for which the losses would result from the consequential revaluation of AT1 bonds.

About AT1 Bonds

AT1 bonds are the hybrid products which offer a fixed return which can be reset. These bonds are however risky as equities. These are unsecured instruments and are complex in nature. the investors are required to read the fine print before they put money in them. The bonds do not have fixed maturity. However, the banks which are issuing them can repay them at certain dates. These specified dates are regarded as the maturity dates historically.

What was the issue?

The AT1 bonds with the 100 years of maturity was being regarded as a risk. A change in the maturity to 100 years had the potential to increases the interest rate sensitivity of the portfolio of the fund. This, the investors were vulnerable to losses in case of even a small increase in interest rates. Thus, the mutual funds have expressed fears of increase in redemptions by investors because of fear of such losses. On the other side, the bonds are of relatively low liquidity because of which it is hard to sell them.

The commerce and industry ministry stated on March 12, 2021 that the central government is working to develop a portal called “Atmanirbhar Niveshak Mitra Portal” for information dissemination, hand-holding, and facilitation of the domestic investors.

Highlights

The portal Atmanirbhar Niveshak Mitra is currently is in the testing phase. It will be launched by May 1, 2021. The ministry is also working on a webpage which will be available in regional languages and mobile app. This portal is being developed in order to strengthen efforts to promote domestic investments. It is being developed by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

Significance of the portal

The portal will help in providing daily updates on several things including the policies and new initiatives by the central and state governments, information regarding the approvals, licenses, clearances several schemes & incentives. It will also be providing information regarding the manufacturing clusters and land availability. The portal will provide its support to the investors throughout their business journey and will help them in getting all the information ranging from finding the investment opportunity, exploring incentives & taxes which are applicable to their businesses, raw material availability, sources of funding, training, tender information and management requirement.

Salient features of Atmanirbhar Niveshak Mitra Portal

The app will provide daily updates on the Policies and New Initiatives of the Central and State Government. It will hold One on one Meetings & Discussions with Invest India experts. They will ensure adequate facilitation for the domestic investors. It has the feature of AI based Chat Bot to resolve queries. The portal will work as a one-stop-shop in order to access all MSME portals such as MSME Samadhaan, Champions portal and MSME Sampark.

The central government has launched the “Mera Ration Mobile App” in the country on March 12, 2021. This app was launched in order to facilitate the ‘One Nation-One Ration Card’ system.

About Mera Ration Mobile App

The app was developed by the government in association with the National Informatics Centre (NIC). It was developed in order to facilitate several “one nation-one ration card” system related services among the National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries. It will facilitate several services to migrant beneficiaries, FPS dealers and other relevant stakeholders. The app will also help in identifying nearest fair price shop. It will benefit those ration card holders who will move to new areas for livelihoods. Mobile application will be launched in 14 languages. Currently it is available in English and Hindi. The languages are identified on the basis of places where most migrant people move. With the help of the app the beneficiaries can easily check details of food grain entitlement, recent transactions and Status of their Aadhaar seeding. The migrant beneficiaries can also register their migration details with the help of application. Beneficiaries can also enter their suggestions or feedback.

One Nation-One Ration Card

The One Nation-One Ration Card system ensures the availability of ration to the beneficiaries in accordance with the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare schemes. It benefits especially the migrant workers and their families. The benefits under the system can be availed at any fair price shop (FPS) across the nation. This system was started initially in 4 States in August 2019. It has now been rolled in 32 States and UTs by December 2020. However, integration of remaining 4 States and UT namely Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal will be completed soon.  The system covers around 69 crores NFSA beneficiaries which accounts for 86 % of the NFSA Population.

Yogi Aditya Nath led Uttar Pradesh government has ordered to remove all the religious structures on public roads on March 11, 2021.

Highlights

The Home Department released the official notification which stated that no structure or construction of religious nature shall be allowed on the public roads, streets, roadside or pavements. The official press release also states that, if any such construction of the structure has come up on or after January 1, 2011 it shall be removed with the immediate effect. These instructions were issued by state government in line with the order of supreme court.

What does the home department direct?

The home department of the Uttar Pradesh government has directed the district magistrates and Mandalayukt across all the districts to remove all religious places that have encroached the roads. The senior administrative and police officials at district level have also been informed that if any such religious construction or encroachment has been done on public roads on or after January 1, 2011, then those constructions should be shifted to land offered by followers of that religion or any private land proposed by people who are responsible for its management within six months. The order further states that, the concerned officials will be personally responsible if these instructions are not followed. Disobedience of the orders will be taken up as the contempt of orders of high court and it will be considered as criminal contempt. The district magistrates have been asked to submit the report by March 14 stating the number of religious places that were removed after the order.

Background 

In April 2016, the Supreme Court of India had put the states in questions for not removing the encroachments in public places because of illegal religious structures. The court had stated that such unauthorised religious structures on roads or near drains is an insult to God.

The veteran Indian women’s cricketer Mithali Raj has become the first Indian woman cricketer that has completed 10,000 international runs in all the cricket formats. She also become the second woman cricketer at the international level to complete 10000 runs.

Highlights

Mithali Raj leads the One Day International (ODI) team of India has joined the Charlotte Edwards of England in elite club. She achieved the milestone of 10,2000 after she hit a boundary off the Anne Bosch in 28th over of Indian innings in ongoing third ODI match against South Africa. However, after reaching the milestone she departed in the very next ball. She scored 36 runs on 50 balls and hit 5 boundaries during the inning.

Background

Before the game was started, the cricketer was short of 35 runs from reaching 10000 runs. She had scored 663 runs in 10 test matches while she has scored 2364 runs in 89 t-20s matches. She has scored an average of 37.53 runs. Majority of the runs she has scored from the 50-over cricket. She has scored 6,974 runs in the ODIs as of March 12, 2021.

India-South Africa Match

India and South Africa have been organising a series of five ODI matches. The first match was won by the South Africa. But with the win in 2nd ODI, India has levelled the five-match series with 1-1.

Achievements of Mithali Raj

Mithali Raj is the highest run-scorer in the women’s international cricket. She is also the only female cricketer who have surpassed the score of 6,000 in ODIs. The cricketer is the first player who have scored 7 consecutive 50s in ODI Cricket. She has been the Captain of the Women’s Indian cricket team since 2005. She is the only female cricketer who have captained in more than one ICC ODI World Cup Final that is in the year 2005 and 2017. She also become the first woman to complete 20 years in International cricket in the year 2019.

Awards

The cricketer is the recipient of several National and International awards. She won the Arjuna Award in the year 2003 and Padma Shri in the year 2015.

The government’s think tank, NITI Aayog has submitted the first list comprising of 12 Public Sector Undertakings that will be privatized under the centre’s privatisation drive.

Highlights

The list submitted by the NITI Aayog includes the PSUs in strategic sectors. This list will now be reviewed by Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) and Core Group of Secretaries on Divestment (CGD) which is headed by cabinet secretary. The list comprises of the PSUs and insurance companies which will first follow the centre’s ambitious drive of privatisation.

Background

The plan to privatise the PSUs was announced by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Budget 2021. This will clear the ways for centre to complete the target of Rs 1.75 lakh crores of disinvestment in the financial year 2021-2022. FM Sitharaman had announced to privatise two PSBs and one general insurance company in the year 2021-22. The NITI Aayog has been entrusted with the task to suggest names of PSUs in strategic sectors that are needed to be merged, privatised or made subsidiaries of other PSUs in accordance with the new Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) policy of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat.

What are the strategic sectors?

The strategic sectors comprise of the petroleum, power, atomic energy, coal, and other minerals, space, defence, insurance, banking, financial services, transport and telecommunications. In these sectors, centre wants to keep the bare minimum presence. However, the PSEs which are functioning as the autonomous organisations such as Food Corporation of India (FCI) and Airports Authority of India (AAI) have been kept out of the policy. The PSUs in the non-strategic sectors like steel and hospitality will either be privatised or closed.

China has formally approved its 14th five-year plan for 2021-2025 on March 11, 2021. The draft outline was passed by the National People’s Congress.

Key Points

The new five-year plan highlights a number of key strategic projects that the country will pursue as a priority. The project also includes:

  1. Construction of the first hydropower dam in Tibet on lower reaches of Brahmaputra or Yarlung Zangbo. This section refers to a section of river in Tibet just before entering into India.
  2. Constructing the Sichuan-Tibet railway line near the border with India.
  3. The plan also pushes for attaining a self-sufficiency in emerging industries including the Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  4. The plan also emphasised to open up the access to the key border highways including the G219 national highway which runs along entire length of India-China border in Xinjiang and Tibet region.

India’s concern

China had also approved four dams on the upper and middle reaches.  The Hydropower dam in Tibet will be the first dam on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra. However, India has expressed its concerns on the four previously announced dams on upper and middle reaches of the Brahmaputra River.  The first of the dam called, Zangmu, was operationalised in the year 2015. The Indian side is also monitoring the flows of river and construction of the dam on lower reaches using the hydrological data that China provides in accordance with the bilateral arrangement between India and China. The officials have however highlighted that, the Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on the upstream flows. 35% of the basis is in India.

Issues with the newly announced dam

China has announced to construct the Dams possibly on lower reaches and at Great Bend of river Brahmaputra near border. This is a cause of worry because this location across the border from Arunachal Pradesh in an ecologically sensitive region.

Sichuan-Tibet railway

The five-year plan also highlighted that the railway from Ya’an in Sichuan to Nyingchi in Tibet is a key infrastructure project. China has also called to advance the preparatory work in order to build a railway line from Xigaze in Tibet along Tibet-Nepal border.

The European Parliament has declared whole of the European Union as “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone” on March 11, 2021.

Highlights

This symbolic resolution was passed in the answer to local authorities in Poland who were labelling themselves as “LGBT ideology-free zones” in recent times. Poland had also planned to close the loophole that allowed same-sex couples to adopt. But the Polish government announced its proposal to adopt the ban before the European Parliament passed the declaration to support the rights of LGBT.’

What was the issue?

In Poland, the same-sex relationships are not legally recognised. It has already banned the same-sex couples to adopt the children together. Though, single people are permitted to adopt the child, some of the same-sex couples had managed to overthrow the ban by applying to adopt the child as single parents.

What does the new law say?

The new law proposes that, now the authorities are required to perform background checks on anyone who are applying to adopt a child even as a single parent. The new law also prescribes that, if any person is found to apply as a single parent when they are in same-sex relationship, they will be treated as criminal.

About EU Resolution

The European Union resolution declares that the “LGBTIQ persons anywhere in European Union will enjoy the freedom to live and publicly show their sexual orientation & gender identity without any fear of intolerance, persecution or discrimination”. The resolution further adds that, the authorities at all the levels of the governance across the European union shall protect and promote the equality and fundamental rights of all including the LGBTIQ. This resolution was supported by 492 MEPs, 141 MEPs voted against it while 46 abstained from voting.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reviewed their cooperation, on March 11, 2021, in the space arena including the earth observation, lunar cooperation and satellite navigation.

Highlights

The space agencies from both the countries also agreed to explore the opportunities regarding the cooperation in “space situational awareness and professional exchange programme”. The agencies signed the Implementing Arrangement in order to collaborate for activities on rice crop area and air quality monitoring using the data from satellites.

LUPEX mission

LUPEX mission is the joint Lunar Polar Exploration Mission on which India and Japan are already working. Both the agencies are working on the mission and have aimed to send a lander and rover to the south pole of the Moon by the year 2024 or so.

India’s Collaborations on Moon Missions

Recently, India had collaborated with Italy in order to explore the opportunities in space science, earth observation, robotic & human exploration. In the month of February 2021, India had signed an agreement with Australia which amended the existing MoU. The agreement will build on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. India and Australia are also discussing that Australia should host the vital tracking infrastructure to provide its support for the Gaganyaan manned space flight mission.

About Gaganyaan

It is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft of Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. It is being designed so as to carry three people. It will also carry a planned upgraded version equipped with the rendezvous and docking capability. This will be the first crewed mission of Indian Space Research Organisation. The spacecraft will orbit the Earth at 400 km altitude for up to seven days with two or three-person on board. The mission was planned to be launched on ISRO’s GSLV Mk III in December 2021 but it has been delayed to 2023. The crew module is being manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) while it has been designed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). DRDO will also provide support for critical human-centric systems and technologies such as crew healthcare, space grade food, parachutes for safe recovery, radiation measurement and protection and fire suppression system.

A Japanese-Australian venture has started producing hydrogen from brown coal. Japan and Australia have collaborated for a $500 million pilot project which aims to show that liquefied hydrogen can be produced commercially and can be safely exported overseas.

Highlights

The countries have planned to create the first international supply chain for the liquefied hydrogen. In the next they also planned for shipping a cargo on the first liquefied hydrogen carrier of the world. The project will produce the hydrogen by reacting coal with oxygen and steam under high heat and pressure with carbon dioxide & other gases as the by-products.

Significance of project for Japan

The project is located in the Brown Coal Reserves in the state of Victoria and is run by Kawasaki Heavy industries. This project is significant because it will help Japan to meet its “net zero emission” target by 2050. Japan, which is the fifth largest energy consumer of the world, has aimed to boost the annual hydrogen demand by ten times amounting to 20 million tonnes by 2050. It is equal to 40 percent of the current power generation in the country.

Significance of project for Australia

Australia dominates the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade. So, the country further hopes that the “liquefied hydrogen” will provide a greener market for its gas and coal.

About Brown coal

It is also known as Lignite. It is a soft, brown, combustible, sedimentary rock which is formed from the naturally compressed peat. This coal is the lowest rank of coal because of its relatively low heat content. The coal comprised of the carbon content of around 25 to 35 percent. The coal is mined all across the world. It is exclusively used as a fuel for steam-electric power generation. It is the most harmful coal to human health.

Recently, the Bamiyan Buddhas were brought back to life with the help of 3D projection in the event held in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan. The event called “A Night with Buddha” was held on the anniversary of annihilation.

Background

The statues of Bamiyan Buddha, which find the place among the tallest statues of the world once, were broken into small pieces by Taliban. Taliban started to blowing up the two of the Buddha statues of Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan in the month of March 2001.

About Bamiyan Buddhas

Bamiyan Buddhas were two 6th-century monumental statues of Gautama Buddha. The statues were carved into the side of a cliff located in the Bamyan valley of central Afghanistan. The smaller buddha or the Eastern Buddha had the height of 38 m while the larger buddha or the Western Buddha was 55 m in height.

Gandhara Art

The statues represented a classic blended of Gandhara art style or the blend of artistic style of Guptas, Sassanian & Hellenistic style.  The statues were called by local as male “Salsal” meaning “light shines through the universe” and female “Shamama” meaning “Queen Mother”.

Significance of Bamiyan

The Bamiyan Buddhas were situated in high mountains of Hindu Kush in central highlands called Bamiyan Valley of the Afghanistan. The Bamiyan valley, along the line of the Bamiyan River, was once integral part of the ancient Silk Roads. It provided passage for merchants, religion, culture and language. The region became a major cultural, religious and trade centre when Buddhist Kushan Empire spread. The countries like India, China and Rome asked for passage through Bamiyan, Kushans developed a syncretic culture. The monastic quality of the valley also reflects faith.

The BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI) held their first meeting under the Chair ship of India. The meeting was held from March 9 to March 11, 2021. The meeting was held under the Theme BRICS @15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation, and Consensus”.

Highlights

India under its Chair ship for 2021, presented a calendar of events for BRICS CGETI 2021. Those events comprise of priority areas for deliverables, schedule and scope of MSME roundtable conference workshop on Services Statistics and BRICS Trade Fair. It was followed by several presentations made by the concerned department on proposed deliverables during the India’s Chair ship under BRICS CGETI track.

Proposed Deliverables

The deliverables proposed includes:

BRICS 2021 –13th BRICS Summit

BRICS 2021 or the 13th BRICS Summit will be held under the chair ship of India under the theme ‘BRICS @ 15: Intra-BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus.’ The summit will hold discussions around three pillars including:

  1. Political and Security – The members will hold discussions over global and regional security for which the priority sectors include- counter terrorism cooperation & reform of multilateral system.
  2. Economic and Financial – The members will focus on the intra-BRICS cooperation in sectors including agriculture, trade, infrastructure, energy, finance & banking and small & medium enterprises.
  3. Cultural and People to People – The cultural and people to people exchanges will enhance the bonding among the members.

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi will participate in the first Leaders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework along with the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison; Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga and President of United States of America, Joseph R. Biden. The summit will take place virtually on March 12, 2021.

Highlights

The QUAD Leaders will discuss the regional and global issues which are of shared interest. They will also exchange their views on several practical areas of the cooperation to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The virtual summit will also provide the countries an opportunity to exchange their views on the contemporary challenges like resilient supply chains, maritime security, climate change and emerging & critical technologies.
Leaders will also discuss the ongoing efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. They would also explore the opportunities to collaborate so as to ensure a safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in Indo-Pacific region.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)

QUAD is also known as the Asian NATO. It is an informal strategic forum comprising of India, United States, Japan, and Australia. The forum is maintained by semi-regular summits, military drills and information between member countries.

Background

This forum was initiated in August 2007 by the then Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe with the support of Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh; Vice President of US, Dick Cheney and Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard. This diplomatic and military arrangement is taken as a response to increasing Chinese economic and military power.

Quad Nations vs China

USA sees this grouping as an opportunity to regain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region in a counter to China’s increasing influence in the East Asia. Australia also shows concerns regarding China’s growing interest in the land, infrastructure, politics and universities in Australia. Japan expresses concerns with respect to China’s territorial transgression in the south China Sea and Indo-Pacific region. China continuously violates the international norms by constructing military facilities on reclaimed islands in South China Sea pose strategic challenges to India.