Daily Current Affairs - 26-03-2021

Uttar Pradesh government has announced on March 26, 2021 to start an affordable rental housing scheme for students, urban migrants and poor people living in cities. Uttar Pradesh cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath proposed for Affordable Rental Housing and Complexes (ARHC) scheme.

Affordable Rental Housing and Complexes (ARHC)

Under state government’s ARHC scheme; beneficiaries include poor migrants, students, urban migrants, low-income groups including factory workers, people from economically weaker section (EWS) and people associated with hospitality. Preference will be given to people from widows, working women & minorities, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes. Preference will be subject to provisions made by state government. This scheme will be implemented under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) to promote participation of private and public institutions to construct, operate and maintain rental housing complexes for the beneficiaries.

Implementation of Scheme

ARHC scheme will be implemented in two models. First model will convert vacant houses funded by central or state government into an Affordable Rental Housing and Complexes through an agreement. While, under the second model, public or private entities will build, operate and maintain the ARHC on their available vacant land.

Provision of penalty

All projects under this scheme will be used as rental accommodation for a minimum of 25 years. If it is used for any purpose action will be taken against the concerned agency by competent authority.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)

It is an initiative by Government of India to provide affordable housing to the urban poor. It has a target of building 2 crore affordable houses by March 31, 2022. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin) are two components of the scheme. Scheme has been converged with other schemes. For instance, Swachh bharat Mission for toilet in houses, Ujjwala Yojana for LPG connection, Saubhagya Yojana for electricity connection, access to drinking water and Jan Dhan banking facilities etc.

China has announced sanctions on relevant British individuals and entities on March 26, 2021.

Highlights

As per the statement of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, United Kingdom had imposed unilateral sanctions on relevant Chinese individuals and entity citing human rights issues in Xinjiang. So, this move by China is based on lies and disinformation. As per the official statement from China, sanctions on relevant Chinese individuals breaches international law and basic norms which governs international relations. It also interferes in internal affairs of China and undermines the bilateral relation of China & UK.

China’s Sanction

Chinese Foreign Ministry has summoned British Ambassador to China for solemn representations after expressing its opposition and strong condemnation. China has decided to sanction nine individuals and four entities from UK side who maliciously spread lies and disinformation.

What are the implications of sanction?

Following the Chinese sanctions, nine individuals and their immediate family members have been prohibited from entering Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China. Property of Individuals in China will also be frozen. Chinese citizens and institutions would not be able to do business with them. Further, China has reserved the right to take more measures.

Why China Sanctioned the individuals?

China has announced sanctions on British individuals to safeguard its national sovereignty, development interests, security. China has also warned UK side to not go further down to wrong path.

What is the issue with Xinjiang?

United Kingdom had sanctioned Chinese Individuals citing the human rights violation with respect to Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. UK had alleged that; China represses Uyghurs who are predominantly Muslim ethnic minority living in the western region of Xinjiang. As per an estimate, 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have passed to the detention centres where they were subjected to forced Labour, Torture, political indoctrination, and sexual abuse.

Supreme Court of India, on March 26, 2021, refused to stay sale of fresh set of electoral bonds from 1 April. This decision was taken ahead of assembly elections across four states; Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu and in Union Territory of Puducherry.

Highlights

Supreme Court, while refusing the stay, underlines that these bonds were allowed to be released in 2018 and 2019 without any interruption. There exists no justification to stay these bonds as sufficient safeguards are there. Apex Court also highlighted that; electoral bonds not only benefit the ruling party.

Background

Supreme Court Bench; comprising of Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian; was hearing the plea filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) which was asking to stay the electoral bonds ahead of assembly polls. NGO claimed that any further sale of electoral bonds ahead of upcoming assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will increase illegal and illicit funding for political parties through shell companies.

Arguments made by ADR

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for ADR, argued against electoral bonds. He argued that, electoral bonds had turned into a tool to receive bribes in the name of donations for ruling party. He also cited that misgivings of Reserve Bank of India about these bonds. RBI termed these bonds as the type of weapon or medium for financial scams. He further added that; electoral bonds were proof of real approach to black money as against its official stance.

Electoral Bond

Proposal to issue Electoral Bond was announced in 2017-28. It is a financial instrument similar to promissory note which is used to make donations to political parties and is issued by Scheduled Commercial banks after authorisation from Central Government. It is issued only against cheque and digital payments which is redeemable in designated account of a registered political party within the prescribed time limit.

28th Edition of the Hunar Haat of indigenous products of artisans and craftsmen is being organised at Kala Academy in Panaji, Goa. The event was started from March 26th and will conclude on April 4, 2021. It is being organised under the theme- “Vocal for Local”.

Highlights

According to Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, “Hunar Haat” is a “Perfect, Popular and Proud Platform” to popularise the indigenous artistry and crafts across the country. The event will be formally inaugurated on March 27, 2021.

Hunar Haat

Hunar Haat is being organised by Union Ministry of Minority Affairs where more than 500 artisans and craftsmen from 30 states and UTs have participated. Artisans and craftsmen from states like Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Goa, Bihar, Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh and other states have brought indigenous magnificent handmade products to showcase, sale and display at the event. They will showcase products like Bidriware, Kalamkari, Madhubani Paintings, Udayagiri Wooden Cutlery, products made from cane-bamboo-jute, Tussar silk, Moonga Silk, Marble products, Leather products, Black Pottery, Handloom etc. Visitors will also enjoy traditional foods like Goa, Mughlai, South Indian, Punjabi, Malayali, Bengali food etc at “Bawarchi Khana” in the event.

Significance of the event

“Hunar Haat” is being organised at different places. It has received encouragement because more than 5 lakh 50 thousand artisans, craftsmen and other associated people have been provided employment and employment opportunities.

Next “Hunar Haat”

It will be organised in Dehradun in between April 16 to April 25, in Surat from April 26 to May 5.  Event will also be organised at Mumbai, Kota, Hyderabad, Patna, Jaipur, Prayagraj, Guwahati, Ranchi etc. later in the year.

World’s first ship tunnel is set to be constructed in Norway. Construction on the project will start in 2022 and it will be completed by 2025-2026.

About Ship Tunnel

Norway has planned to construct Ship tunnel underneath the mountains in Stadhavet peninsula of Norway. The tunnel will be 37 meters high, 1,700 metres long and 26.5 metres wide. A total of $315 million would be spent in constructing ship tunnel. Tunnel will burrow through narrowest point of Stadhavet peninsula. Conventional blasting will be employed to build tunnel. It will also use underground drilling rigs and pallet rigs. Tunnel was included in the National Transport Plan for the first time in 2013. Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications approved for preparations to start in March 2021.

Significance of the tunnel

The Ship Tunnel Project has been designed to help in navigation of ships through rough and treacherous Stadhavet Sea in north western Norway. Currently, ships have to wait for few days so that harsh weather conditions and rough tides conditions in Stadhavet Sea is improved before transiting the area.

Stad or Stadlandet peninsula

This peninsula lies in Stad Municipality in north western part of Nordfjord district in Norway. It is considered as the dividing point between Norwegian Sea and the North Sea. It is a 500-metre-high mountain plateau comprising of a 645-metre-tall Tarvaldsegga peak. It plunges into sea in a 497-metre-tall cliff at Kjerringa.

Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh and South Korean Defence Minister, Suh Wook have inaugurated “Indo-Korean Bilateral Friendship Park” in Delhi Cantt on March 26, 2021. Friendship Park has been built to commemorate contribution of Indian peacekeepers in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.

India-South Korea Relations

India-South Korea relations have strengthened in recent years with the convergence of Act East Policy (AEP) of India and New Southern Policy (NSP) of South Korea.  Bilateral ties have frown multi-dimensional in the fields of Maritime security, nuclear disarmament, regional economic cooperation, counterterrorism and energy cooperation.

Background

India had played a crucial role in the Korean wars during 1950 to 1953.  In the year 1947, India’s first foreign secretary, K P S Menon, served as Chairman of United Nations (UN) Commission which was set up to look after elections in South Korea. During the Korean War, warring sides accepted UN resolution which was sponsored by India to call a ceasefire.

Diplomatic ties

The official bilateral and diplomatic ties between both the countries was started in 1962 at the consular level. In 1973, the relation was upgraded to Ambassador-level.

Common Values

India and South Korea can cooperate on fighting global issues/challenges: climate change, freedom of navigation, internet governance, and outer space. Both the nation has also the potential to develop synergies on Sustainable development goals (SDGs), connectivity norms and trade agreements.

Challenges in ties

Economic partnership between both the countries is struck at $22 billion. Defence partnership has also receded from all-round promise to sale and purchase of weapon systems.  Integration of Indians with local South Korean population is also a big challenge. Indians have witnessed racial prejudice or discrimination. Indians are unable to distinguish between cultural and social characteristics of South Koreans from cultural and social characteristics of Japanese or Chinese. Though, Indian Culture Centre (ICC) was established in Seoul to promote people-to-people contacts. But it has to reach an exponentially wider audience yet.

India will send 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines (AstraZeneca Vaccine) to the UN peacekeepers. on March 27, 2021 and then vaccines will be distributed to peacekeeping missions.

Highlights

Announcement to gift 200000 covid-19 doses to UN Peacekeepers was announced by External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, in February 2021. This decision was taken by considering that, UN Peacekeepers operate in such difficult circumstances. External Affairs Minister had announced this while addressing “UN Security Council open debate on implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) on cessation of hostilities” in the line of COVID-19 pandemic.

Contributions across world

India’s gift of 200,000 doses would help in administering required double doses of COVID-19 vaccines for all the UN peacekeepers across missions. As per UN Peacekeeping, a total of 85,782 personnels are serving in 12 peacekeeping operations led by Department of Peace Operations across the globe, as of January 31, 2021. So, a total of 121 nations are contributing uniformed personnel for UN peacekeeping missions. India is the largest troop contributing countries to peacekeeping missions.

UN Peacekeeping

UN Peacekeeping is a role held by Department of Peace Operations. It is a unique and dynamic instrument which has been developed by UN as a way to help conflict-torn countries in a bid to create lasting-peace conditions. This is different from peace-making, peacebuilding, and peace enforcement. The Peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post-conflict areas. They assist ex-combatants to implement peace agreements UN peacekeepers are also called as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets. They include police officers, soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.

Parliament of New Zealand passed the ‘Miscarriage bereavement leave law’.  This legislation provides mothers and their partners a “right to paid leave” after a miscarriage or stillbirth. New Zealand has become the second country, following India, across the world to pass such legislation.

Bereavement Leave Law

The bereavement leave law was passed unanimously in parliament on March 24, 2021. It provides the employees three days leave after a pregnancy ends with a stillbirth. They do not require to tap into sick leave now. Bill will provide women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss. Leave provisions apply to mothers, their partners and the parents who are planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy.

Background

This legislation was passed by considering the fact that, one in four New Zealand women have had a miscarriage. Further, the country has been a pioneer on issues related to woman’s rights. It was the first country to give “voting rights to women”. It also passed a law in 2020 to decriminalise abortion. Government of New Zealand under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is regarded as a global champion for women.

Maternity Leave Law in India

Maternity leave in India is a paid leave in case of absence from work. Thus, this provision allows women employees the benefit to take care of their newborn besides retaining their jobs. Maternity leave Benefit Act 1961 was the first maternity leave law. It provided women employees a paid leave of 12 weeks post-delivery. The act was applicable to establishments with ten plus employees. provisions of this act were applicable to women employees on a permanent basis, contract or engaged with agencies. However, this act was revised as Maternity leave (Amendment) Bill 2017.

Maternity Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017

Maternity leave Act is applicable to establishments such as corporates, mines, factories, shops & establishment act, plantations, and government establishments. To be eligible under this Act, women employee should have completed working for 80 days in current establishment in last 12 months. Paid leave is based on average daily wage during the period of absence. It has extended 12 weeks’ leave to 26 weeks which can be bifurcated as post and pre-delivery leaves.

International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is observed on March 25, annually.

Highlights

Speaking on the occasion, the UN Chief underlined the need of addressing pernicious and persistent consequences of slavery. He also called for renewed commitments for a world where all can live with peace, dignity and opportunity.

International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery

The day was designed for annual international observance on March 25 by United Nations in the year 2007. The day honours and remembers those who suffered and died because of ‘transatlantic slave trade’. This has been called as worst violation of human rights in history. In the event of Transatlantic slave trade, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims for over 400 years. The day also aims at raising the awareness regarding dangers of racism and prejudice today.

Background

The day was first observed in 2008 under the theme “Breaking the Silence, Lest We Forget”. In the year 2015 theme was “Women and Slavery”.

Permanent Memorial

Year 2015 marks the start of UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent. To commemorate this, a permanent memorial was unveiled at UN headquarters in New York entitled “The Ark of Return”. It has been designed by Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon.

Modern slavery across World

Over 40.3 million people are estimated to be enslaved in the modern forms, as of 2016. Out of them, 71 percent are women and girls.  Further, Children account for one in four as slave. The modern slave has further sparked amid the Covid-19 pandemic because of job losses, regular migration, rising poverty and reduced scrutiny of labour standards. Pandemic is making people vulnerable and is pushing more people for such jobs where they are exploited.

Sports Ministry has decided to extend “Khelo India Programme” from 2021-22 to 2025-26. Ministry has also furnished Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) memorandum to Ministry of Finance to extend the annual event.

Highlights

As per the memorandum to Finance Ministry, an amount of 8,750 crore has been estimated as a financial implication of new Khelo India Scheme. This programme is being extended after considering how this initiative has played a significant role in building a sporting culture across the country.

Khelo India Initiative

Khelo India initiative was launched by Indian Government with the aim of building a sporting culture across the country. This initiative plays a significant role in grassroots development of several sports over the years. It organises structured sports competition with the aim of encouraging mass participation from youth. Apart from that, it also focuses on building athletes who can win medal for India at Olympics. The event is organised annually in January month usually.

Significance of the initiative

This initiative will encourage the young athletes to prove their mettle on stage in upcoming edition on a large scale. It will play a significant role of building sporting culture in India in line with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s idea of importance of sports.

First Edition of Khelo India

First edition of the initiative was held in Delhi. Second and third editions were held in Pune and Assam respectively. Fourth edition of Khelo India will be held in Panchkula, Haryana after Tokyo Olympics.

Background

Khelo India initiative was launched on the basis of Gujarat’s Khel Mahakumbh. Gujarat-based sporting event was initiated by Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister of the state.

Parliament passed “National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021” (NBFID Bill) after Rajya Sabha approves it on March 25, 2021. Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on March 24, 2021.

NBFID Bill

The bill seeks to establish a National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development to support ‘infrastructure financing’ across the country. NBFID would work as a principal development financial institution (DFIs). It includes development of bonds and derivatives markets which are required for infrastructure financing.

National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NBFID)

NBFID will be set up as a corporate statutory body. It will have the authorized share capital of one lakh crore rupees along with financial and developmental objectives. It will act as a catalyst for the ecosystem of infrastructure funding. NBFID will be answerable to Parliament. It will be managed by chairman & board nominated professionals who will be appointed by Government. Shares of NBFID can be held by central government, financial institutions, pension funds, insurers, multilateral institutions, Banks, sovereign wealth funds, and other institution prescribed by central government.

Financial objectives of NBFID

Financial Objectives includes- to lend, invest or pull investments directly or indirectly for infrastructure projects entirely or partly in India.

Developmental objectives of NBFID

Developmental objectives include- to facilitate development of market for bonds, loans and derivatives to finance the infrastructure.

Development Financial Institution (DFIs)

DFIs are set up to provide long-term finance for those segments of economy where risks involved are beyond acceptable limits of commercial banks and other financial institutions. DFIs do not accept deposits from people. Instead, they source funds from market, government and multi-lateral institutions.  They are often supported by government guarantees.

Central government has launched second tranche of commercial coal auction on March 25, 2021 following the award given to 19 mines out of 38 in first tranche of auction in November 2020.

Highlights

A comprehensive list of mines will be uploaded along with key technical data.  Following this, bidders will submit their preferences for mines to be included in next round of auction. This will be a continuous process and will result in expediting auction setup. It will also help bidders to plan better and will enhance transparency across the system.

Second round of Auction

In this round, 67 coal blocks will be offered. Out of 67, six are coking coal and rest are non-coking which are used in thermal power plants. Coal blocks are spread across Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh. 37 mines have been fully explored and they could be brought to production immediately while 30 are partially explored.

Commercial Coal Mining

Commercial coal mining will help in bringing new investments and boost socio-economic development. It will also create huge employment opportunities in coal-bearing states.

Background

Coal mining sector was opened for private companies in 2020 following which they started entering the arena of commercial mining and sale of coal. Coal sector was opened for Private companies, 47 years after coal mining was nationalised in India. Government had also amended the ‘Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015’ to open coal auction for non-mining, MSMEs and foreign companies.

Non-end user

Hindalco, Essel Mining of Aditya Birla Group, Adani Enterprises, Vedanta ltd, Jindal Steel & Power ltd, and several new & non-mining companies like Aurobindo Realty, JMS Mining Yazdani International, Boulder Stone Mart etc have won the bid. About 65 per cent bidders were from ‘non-end user’ category where “bidder is not a direct user of coal”.

“MICE Roadshow Meet in India” Brand and Roadmap for Promotion of India as MICE Destination were launched by Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh on March 25, 2021.

Key Points

‘Chhatrasal Convention Centre’ was also launched at Khajuraho which has been developed under Swadesh Darshan Scheme of Ministry of Tourism. The event will mark Keynote sessions and Panel discussions on Responsible Tourism, Iconic Destination and India as a MICE Destination industry experts and senior Government officials.

MICE Roadshow- Meet in India

​MICE Roadshow-Meet in India will be organised at Chhatrasal Convention Centre, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh from March 25 to March 27, 2021. This event is being organised with the objective of promoting India as MICE Destination (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions). It is being organised by Ministry of Tourism in association with Madhya Pradesh Tourism and India Convention Promotion Bureau. This event is an effort under Aatmanirbhar Bharat to realize MICE potential of India. It provides an opportunity to focus on Government’s initiatives for developing India as MICE destination. ‘Meet in India’ is the distinct sub-brand under ‘Incredible India’ in achieving the objective of event.

Significance of event

Event will deliberate a draft Master Plan which was prepared by Ministry of Tourism to develop Khajuraho as Iconic Destination. Several hard and soft interventions have been proposed to develop Khajuraho. This event will provide a huge boost to Khajuraho as an iconic tourist destination. It will help in promoting MICE potential of Khajuraho.

Development of Iconic Tourist Destinations Scheme

This central sector scheme has been framed by Ministry of Tourism to develop nineteen identified iconic destinations across country in a holistic manner. Identified tourist destinations will be developed as iconic destinations under the scheme. Some of the identified destinations are Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Qutub Minar, Colva Beach, Amer Fort, Somnath, Dholavira, Statue of Unity, Khajuraho, Hampi, Mahabalipuram, Kaziranga, Kumarakom, Konark and Mahabodhi Temple.