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Daily Current Affairs – 16th Jan. 2021

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Daily Current Affairs

Given below are the daily current affairs for 16th Jan 2021. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

Ease of doing business reforms

Context:

Kerala becomes the 8th state to complete ease of doing business reforms.

Details:

  • Kerala has become the 8th state in the country to successfully undertake “Ease of Doing Business” reform stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.
  • Thus, the state has become eligible to mobilise additional financial resources of Rs. 2,261 crore through Open Market Borrowings.
  • Kerala has now joined the seven other states namely, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, who have completed this reform.

Background:

  • The ease of doing business is an important indicator of the investment-friendly business climate in the country.
  • Improvements in the ease of doing business will enable faster future growth of the state economy.
  • Therefore, the government of India had in May 2020, decided to link the grant of additional borrowing permissions to states who undertake the reforms to facilitate ease of doing business.
  • The reforms stipulated in this category are:
    • Completion of first assessment of ‘District Level Business Reform Action Plan’
    • Elimination of the requirements of renewal of registration certificates/approvals/licences obtained by businesses under various Acts.
    • Implementation of computerized central random inspection system under the Acts wherein allocation of inspectors is done centrally, the same inspector is not assigned to the same unit in subsequent years, prior inspection notice is provided to the business owner, and inspection report is uploaded within 48 hours of inspection.
  • To meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, GOI had enhanced the borrowing limit of the states by 2 percent of their GSDP.
  • Half of this special dispensation was linked to undertaking citizen-centric reforms by the states.
  • The four citizen-centric areas for reforms identified were:
    • Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System (done by 10 states)
    • Ease of doing business reform (done by 8 states)
    • Urban Local body/utility reforms (done by 4 states)
    • Power sector reforms

DEFENCE

Army inks $20 mn deal with ideaForge for UAV

Why in News:

The Indian Army has signed a contract to buy high-altitude drones from ideaForge for USD 20 million.

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  • ideaForge is a start-up founded and incubated by the alumni of Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B).
  • The contract is for a high-altitude variant of SWITCH UAV, an indigenous system used in surveillance operations.

Key Points:

  • Significance of the Contract:
    • It marks a strategic shift of focusing on indigenous technologies in the Indian Defence procurement process.
    • This is an example of how government-funded start-ups can help the country grow.
    • This is the biggest such order in terms of the contract value, for any Indian equipment manufacturer for drones.
  • Importance of UAV for the Army:
    • The Army has placed an order for the advanced high-altitude version of SWITCH UAV, a vertical take-off and landing drone. It is a fixed-wing hybrid Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Its features include:
    • Advanced flight time with a range of 15 km.
    • Around 2.6m long and 1.8m wide and weighs less than 6.5 kg.
    • Higher safety and simple operation with additional fail-safe redundancies.
    • Used for long-duration operations in harsh environments for day and night surveillance in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
    • Used in Photogrammetry – the technology of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment through the process of recording, measuring and interpreting photographic images and patterns of electromagnetic radiant imagery.
  • Other Uses: Crowd Monitoring, Disaster Management, Precision Agriculture, Mining, etc.

ECONOMY

Trade with China shrank in 2020, deficit at five-year low

Context:

India’s trade with China declined last year to the lowest level since 2017.

Details:

  • India’s trade deficit with China narrowed to a five-year low in 2020.
  • India’s imports from China shrank by 10.8% marking the lowest level of inbound shipments since 2016.
  • India’s exports to China, however, jumped 16%, crossing the $20 billion mark for the first time to a record high.

What does the trade deficit imply?

  • The drop in India’s imports from China largely mirrored a decline in overall inbound shipments in 2020 as domestic demand slumped in the wake of the pandemic.
  • This makes it difficult to determine whether 2020 is an exception or marks a turn away from the recent pattern of India’s trade with China.
  • As yet, there is no evidence to suggest India has replaced its import dependence on China by either sourcing those goods elsewhere or manufacturing them at home.

Note:

  • 2020 saw a surge in demand for iron ore in China. Total iron ore imports in Asia’s largest economy rose 9.5% in 2020.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

After U.S., Russia pulls out of Open Skies treaty

Context:

Russia has announced that it is pulling out of the Open Skies treaty (OST).

Details:

  • Russia said that the pact, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, had been seriously compromised by the withdrawal of the United States.
  • Russia said in a statement that Moscow had made specific proposals to other members to mitigate against the impact of the U.S. exit but that those proposals were not backed by Washington’s allies.
  • It has raised concerns that despite leaving the treaty Washington could potentially retain access to overflight intelligence gathered by allies who remain members in the treaty.

Open Skies Treaty:

  • The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 and came into effect in 2002.
  • The agreement allows its 34 signatories to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territory of treaty countries to monitor signatories’ arms development activities.

Concerns:

  • Arms control tensions have been rising between Moscow and Washington.
  • The New Start Treaty is set to expire in February 2021.
    • New Start Treaty is an agreement that caps Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenal.
  • The United States left the Open Skies arms control and verification treaty in November 2020, accusing Russia of violating it.
  • The U.S.’s exit from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and its departure from the OST have raised the strong possibility that the U.S. administration may not renew the New Start Treaty.
  • The U.S. administration has been worried that extending New Start without including China would help China increase its nuclear arsenal.
  • The U.S. intends to establish a new arms control regime which would include China.

Nepal raises Kalapani boundary issue with India

Context:

During the Joint Commission meeting, Nepal’s Foreign Minister has raised the Kalapani boundary dispute with India.

Details:

  • The Minister said that the Indo-Nepal boundary dispute existed in two segments and Kathmandu wished to find a solution to the matter urgently.
  • This is the first time that the Foreign Minister of Nepal has presented the dispute on the boundary front from the Indian capital since the issue erupted in November 2019 following which Nepal unveiled a new political map that showed the Kalapani-Lipulekh-Limpiyadhura region of Pithoragarh district as part of the country’s sovereign territory.
  • Noting that there were ups and downs in the India-Nepal relations and differences on some issues, the foreign minister said that the overall partnership and relations moved smoothly.
  • The statement from Nepal said that both the teams “discussed the review of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950”.

MISCELLENOUS

World’s largest vaccination programme begins today

What’s in News?

The Prime Minister of India will flag off the first phase of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive.

  • Covishield and Covaxin vaccines have been delivered across the country.
    • The beneficiaries currently will not have a choice between the two vaccines.
  • The world’s largest vaccination programme will begin at a total of 3,006 session sites across all the States and the Union Territories, which will be connected virtually throughout the exercise.
    • It has been planned in a phased manner after identifying the priority groups.
    • Healthcare workers, both in the government and private sectors, including Integrated Child Development Services workers, will receive the vaccine in the first phase.
  • A dedicated 24×7 call centre — 1075 — has been set up to address queries related to the pandemic and the vaccine roll-out.
  • The CoWin platform will facilitate real-time information of vaccine stocks, storage temperature and individualized tracking of beneficiaries for COVID-19 vaccine.

National Innovation Portal

Context:

Union Minister dedicates the National Innovation Portal to the nation.

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What is the National Innovation Portal?

  • The portal is a database of innovations and traditional knowledge by the people, for the people and of the people.
  • It is currently home to about 1.15 lakh innovations scouted from common people of the country, covering engineering, agriculture, veterinary and human health.
  • In terms of domain areas, currently, the innovations cover energy, mechanical, automobile, electrical, electronics, household, chemical, civil, textiles, farm/cultivation practice, storage practice, plant variety, plant protection, poultry, livestock management, nutraceuticals, etc.
  • The portal has been developed by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) – India, an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.

About the National Innovation Foundation (NIF):

  • An autonomous body under the DST, the NIF was established in 2000.
  • It is India’s national initiative to strengthen the grassroots technological innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge.
  • Its mission is to help India become a creative and knowledge-based society by expanding policy and institutional space for grassroots technological innovators.
  • NIF scouts, supports and spawns grassroots innovations developed by individuals and local communities in any technological field, helping in human survival without any help from formal sector.
  • NIF helps grassroots innovators and outstanding traditional knowledge holders get due recognition, respect and reward for their innovations.
  • It also tries to ensure that such innovations diffuse widely through commercial and/or non-commercial channels, generating material or non-material incentives for them and others involved in the value chain.

NIF Achievements:

  • NIF has also set up an augmented Fabrication Laboratory (Fab Lab) for product development and strengthening in-house research.
  • NIF has filed about 1200 patents, including eight filed in the USA and 28 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications, on behalf of the innovators and outstanding traditional knowledge holders.
    • Of these, 184 patents have been granted in India and 5 in the USA.
  • NIF has filed 24 Design registrations (of which 20 are granted) for innovations of the grassroots and student innovators.
  • In addition to this, 10 trade mark applications have also been filed, of which 7 have been granted.
  • Micro Venture Innovation Fund (MVIF) at NIF, with support from Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), has provided risk capital to 230 innovation based enterprise projects, some of which are at different stages of incubation.

NIF Mission: To help India become inventive and creative, and to become a global leader in sustainable technologies without social and economic handicaps affecting the evolution and diffusion of green grassroots innovations.


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