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Daily Current Affairs – 22nd Dec. 2020

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Daily Current Affairs

Given below are the daily current affairs for 22nd Dec. 2020. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

Parliamentary Panel report on Covid-19 management

Context:

Report submitted recently by the standing committee on Home Affairs.

Key Recommendations:

  1. Bring a comprehensive public health Act with suitable legal provisions to keep checks and controls over private hospitals in times of a pandemic.
  2. Curb black marketing of medicines and ensure product standardisation.
  3. The government should be proactive by holding awareness campaigns on cheaper and effective repurposed medicines to prevent people from panicking and spending a huge amounts of money on expensive drugs.
  4. There is need to have regulatory oversight on all hospitals working in the country to prevent refusal to accept insurance claims.
  5. A separate wing may be formed in the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) that will specialise in handling /managing pandemics like COVID-19 in future.
  6. Measures should be taken to avoid social stigma and fear of isolation and quarantine, by making people aware and treating them with respect and empathy.
  7. The problems being faced by farmers, non-corporate and non-farm small/micro enterprises in getting loans need to be addressed.

Need for comprehensive measures:

  1. There have been several reported instances of beds reserved for COVID-19 patients in private hospitals being sold at exorbitant rates.
  2. Also, medicines that ‘helped’ in containing the COVID-19 infection were sold at higher rates.
  3. In the initial phase of the pandemic, medical insurance was not extended to patients with COVID-19 infection.
  4. With schools shut down now for more than nine months, many children were deprived of mid-day meal. Many States continued the scheme by delivering dry ration to students at their homes or giving them allowances. But this was not uniform.

HEALTH

Shigella infection

Context:

Health officials in Kozhikode district of Kerala recently convened emergency meetings and kicked in preventive measures after six cases of shigella infection.

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What is shigella infection?

Shigellosis, or shigella infection, is a contagious intestinal infection caused by a genus of bacteria known as shigella.

  1. The bacteria is one of the prime pathogens responsible for causing diarrhea, fluctuating between moderate and severe symptoms, especially in children in African and South Asian regions.

How does it spread?

  1. The bacteria, after entering the body through ingestion, attack the epithelial lining of the colon resulting in inflammation of the cells and subsequently the destruction of the cells in severe cases.
  2. It takes only a small number of shigella bacteria to enter a person’s system and get her sick.
  3. The infection is known to spread person-to-person when the bacteria is swallowed accidentally.

ECONOMY

Suspension of Insolvency Bankruptcy Code extended till March 21

Context:

  • The Government has extended the suspension on the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) till the end of the present financial year (March 31 2021).

Background:

  • Sections 7, 9 and 10 of the bankruptcy law were suspended for six months from March 25 by way of an ordinance in June.
  • Sections 7, 9 and 10 of IBC enable financial creditors to initiate insolvency proceedings against a corporate debtor. Whereas Section 9 grants these powers to operations creditors, Section 10 allows corporate debtors to initiate insolvency proceedings.
  • The Parliament has approved Section 10A under the second amendment to the IBC that permits the government to extend the suspension of insolvency proceedings for up to a year from the date of beginning.

Details:

  • IBC provides for a time-bound process to resolve insolvency. When a default in repayment occurs, creditors gain control over debtor’s assets and must make decisions to resolve insolvency. Under IBC debtor and creditor both can start ‘recovery’ proceedings against each other.
  • COVID-19 has thrown the economy into a tailspin, thus the Government has extended the suspension of IBC till March 31st 2021.

State of economy

  • The suspension of IBC being extended till the end of the year is not a surprise since the economy is still recovering from the pandemic.
  • Though the second-quarter GDP data has shown a decline in contraction when compared to the first quarter, it is still a long way to go.
  • The economy has entered into a recessionary phase, thus resumption of economic activities will take longer than expected.
  • Recession is defined as a fall in the overall economic activity for two consecutive quarters (six months) accompanied by a decline in income, sales and employment.

Counter views to suspension of IBC

  • IBC’s suspension has been justified as a relief measure but actually, the IBC process provides for the revival of the corporate debtor and all stakeholders of the corporate debtor in a time-bound manner.
  • The suspension of IBC will not end the creditors’ attempt to recover their capital, but the alternative means the creditors would resort to might lack the efficiency of the IBC process.
  • Those mechanisms may not lead to an efficient resolution of stress which is the need of the hour during this economic slowdown.

Conclusion

  • The suspension of the IBC appears to be the right move taking into context the current economic landscape in the country, every industry has had to deal with stresses induced on account of COVID-19.
  • The moratorium will give the businesses the much-needed breathing space to get their businesses up and running and not expend their energy worrying about fulfilling creditors requirements.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

Context:

Skill India undertakes Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for workers under Department of Panchayati Raj in Chandauli and Varanasi.

  1. The programme is being implemented under SANKALP Programme of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
  2. The implementing agency for the programme is National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

Significance:

About 70% of our country’s population resides in rural India and hence the inclusion of gram panchayats is crucial for the success of District Skill Development Plans and will provide a huge fillip to the Skill India Mission.

  1. Through RPL, the aim is to align the competencies of the pre-existing workforce of the country to the standardized framework.
  1. Certification builds confidence, brings respect and provides recognition to the candidates, it has the potential to make skills aspirational.
  2. Supporting formalization of the informal learning of youth will supplement their efforts in finding sustainable livelihood opportunities and reduce inequalities based on privileging certain forms of knowledge over others.

What is RPL?

  1. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme recognizes the value of learning acquired outside a formal setting and provides a government certificate for an individual’s skills.
  1. Candidates receive exposure to concepts of digital and financial literacy and an accidental insurance coverage for three years at free of cost.
  2. No fee is charged from a candidate for participating in the RPL program and every successfully certified candidate will receive INR 500.
  3. This initiative is part of a larger programme on ‘Skill Development Planning at the level of ‘Gram Panchayat’ that focuses on introducing Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in a structured manner in GPs of various districts across the country.

SPACE

Jupiter-Saturn conjunction

Jupiter Saturn Conjunction
Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction

Context:

  • In a once-in-a-lifetime coming together, Jupiter and Saturn will cross within 0.1 degrees of each other (a fraction of the width of the full moon), overlapping to form a double planet.
  • December 21st witnessed Jupiter and Saturn appear closer in the Earth’s night sky than they have since 1226.

Details:

  • It is aptly described as a once-in-a-lifetime event and it has been termed as the ‘Great conjunction’ and the next occurrence of this event is estimated to be in the year 2080.
  • The two giant planets of the Solar System will lie a mere six arc minutes (0.1 degrees) apart, only one-fifth of the diameter of the Full Moon, when they become visible in the south-south-western sky or soon after sunset.
  • The planets were separated by just one-tenth of a degree, however, despite the appearance, they were still separated by a distance of 730 million kilometers.

SECURITY

CBI Brings Out Updated Crime Manual After 15 Years

Context:

The agency had set up a task force under Additional Director Praveen Sinha to make necessary changes in the crime manual, a set of guidelines for the investigating officer to follow while probing a case, which was last changed in 2005.

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  1. The changes were proposed after factoring in the changing crime landscape, evidence collection, international treaties, emergence of new avenues to track criminals among others.

What is CBI’s crime manual?

It lays down the standard operating procedures for the agency to implement in matters pertaining to special investigations, economic offences and cyber crimes. The crime manual dictates the working of the investigative agency and lays down procedures on how the agency is expected and supposed to act in its investigations.

New chapters and changes introduced:

  1. Changes in the standard operating procedures — especially to probe digital crimes in the cyber world and those across national boundaries.
  2. Quickening the pace of investigation: Cases at the heads-of-branches level will now have to be completed within six months while those supervised at the senior level of heads of zones will have to be completed within nine months from the earlier deadlines of around one year.
  3. A new chapter on procedures to be followed while conducting investigations abroad and coordinating and operating with Interpol.
  4. A chapter on investigations in the digital world and cyber crime.
  5. A new standard operating procedure for handling digital evidence has been introduced in the chapter.

Significance and implications of the new manual:

The new manual aims to break the silos while handling larger and complex cases by focussing more on team approach in the agency to achieve better results.

  1. The revised manual takes into account the latest laws, Supreme Court judgements and their interpretations which are condensed into manual form, making it easy for the investigating officer to easily refer to and follow them.

About CBI:

  1. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India.
  2. Operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the CBI is headed by the Director.
  3. CBI, India’s first agency to investigate corruption, the Special Police Establishment, was set up in 1941, six years before independence from British rule to probe bribery and corruption in the country during World War II.
  4. In 1946, it was brought under the Home Department and its remit was expanded to investigate corruption in central and state governments under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
  5. The DSPE acquired its popular current name, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), through a Home Ministry resolution in 1963.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Nepal in turmoil

Context:

  • The Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s recommendation to dissolve Parliament has paved way for a constitutional crisis

Details:

  • The PM’s call to dissolve the parliament when the house had two more years to serve, has befuddled many.
  • While the reason may not yet be known behind such a drastic move, it has surely plunged the infant democracy into yet another constitutional crisis.
  • P. Oli has been criticized for putting his greed for power over the interests of democracy and political stability.

Pressure on the Prime minister was mounting

  • Prime Minister K.P. Oli was facing criticism from both within the party and from the opposition.
  • The criticism was relentless especially from the senior leaders in the central committee and standing committee. These committees in conjunction work as a polit bureau of a typical communist party.
  • The growing discontentment was also on the account of poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its spillover problems and also over the handling of the Kalapani issue.

The ordinance issue

  • Mr Oli, whose Nepal Communist Party with a near two-thirds majority in Parliament, took the drastic step as he came under increasing pressure from his own party to withdraw an ordinance his government-issued last week.
  • The opposition to the ordinance that gave unbridled powers in the matters of certain appointments to public office came from different quarters, cutting across the party lines.
  • The ordinance sought to amend the Constitutional Council Act that would undermine the checks and balances in the system and empower the Prime Minister in making crucial appointments.
  • In a party meeting that was convened a few days back, it was reported that the PM was willing to withdraw the ordinance.
  • But there was more drama to unfold when the Cabinet made the unexpected move to recommend dissolution of Parliament. Elections are now scheduled to be held in April-May 2021, a year ahead of schedule.

Legalities of the move to dissolve

  • Constitutional experts have challenged the legality of dissolution order.
  • Nepal’s 2015 Constitution permits the dissolution of the House before its five-year term ends only if there is a hung assembly and no party manages to form a government.
  • Since the President has cleared his recommendation, the issue will now be decided by the apex court.

A promise that failed to fructify

  • The promise that Mr Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and its alliance partners displayed which they came to power in 2017 with a huge majority, has been proved to be false.
  • There were many who hoped that it would be the beginning of a new dawn for the young democracy.
  • Nepal was in a transition from a monarchy to republican democracy, this changeover was a long drawn painstaking journey.
  • In less than a year, the CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), led by former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, merged to form the country’s largest communist force, the NCP.
  • It was a historic opportunity for the NCP, especially for Mr Oli, to steer the nascent democracy out of its many crises. But the merger failed to succeed in dissolving the fundamental differences between the NCP’s two factions.
  • Mr Oli’s authoritarian impulses and refusal to share power with the Maoist faction made matters worse.

PM.Oli’s role

  • The recent months have seen Mr Oli’s support dwindle, he has come under the attack from his own party. The calls for him to quit only grew louder.
  • The loss of internal support was made public when the party asked him to step aside.
  • Mr Oli’s hunger and greed for power have meant that the political dialogue within the Nepal Communist Party has ceased to exist.
  • The PM’s decision to dissolve with some assistance from the President is seen by few as a political manoeuvre to avert a no-confidence motion that was suggested by some of his colleagues.

Conclusion

  • Given the severity of the crisis, a split cannot be ruled out. And if that were to happen, Nepal would be pushed back to political instability, at a time of multiple challenges, from a slowing economy to the coronavirus crisis.
  • Mr Oli could have gone down in history as a statesman that steered the country through a pandemic. Instead, his greed for power and lack of statesmanship is steering the nation into a path of chaos and confusion.

MISCELLANEOUS

Shaheen-IX

It is a bilateral exercise held between the Pakistan Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force since 2011.

“Jal Shakti Abhiyan II: Catch the Rain” awareness campaign

  1. Launched by the National Water Mission in collaboration with Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) to promote rainwater harvesting.
  2. Tagline: “Catch the rain, where it falls, when it falls”.

Status of Leopards report

Released recently by the Environment Ministry.

Key findings:

  1. 60 percent rise in Leopard population across the Country; India now has 12,852 leopards.
  2. The States of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra recorded the highest leopard estimates at 3,421, 1,783 and 1,690 respectively.

Leopard:

  1. Scientific Name- Panthera pardus.
  1. Listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  2. Included in Appendix I of CITES.
  3. Listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
  4. Nine subspecies of the leopard have been recognized, and they are distributed across Africa and Asia.

 India-Japan SAMVAD Conference

Context:

The sixth India-Japan SAMVAD Conference was held.

About the India-Japan SAMVAD Conference:

  • This Samvad Conference revolves around the need to build the future of Asia on the positive influence of traditions of non-violence and democracy in Asia.
  • The first conference, Samvad-I, was held in New Delhi in 2015, at Bodh Gaya.
  • During Samvad I, leading scholars, religious leaders, academics, and political personalities had exchanged views on conflict avoidance and environmental consciousness.
  • During this edition, Mr Modi proposed to create a library of traditional Buddhist literature and scriptures, adding that India would be happy to host the facility and provide appropriate resources for it.
  • He also said that governments must keep “humanism” at the core of its policies.
  • Prime Minister Modi also hailed the forum for the great work it has done to promote the ideas and ideals of Lord Buddha, especially among the youth.

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