Home Current AffairsDaily Current Affairs Daily Current Affairs – 29th Jan. 2021

Daily Current Affairs – 29th Jan. 2021

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Daily Current Affairs

Given below are the daily current affairs for 29th Jan 2021. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

18 Opposition parties to boycott President’s address

Context:

As many as 18 Opposition parties have announced their decision to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session, in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the three farm laws.

President’s Address to the Parliament- Constitutional Provisions:

Article 87(1) says: “At the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons.”

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First Constitutional Amendment: Originally, the Constitution required the President to address both Houses of Parliament at the commencement of “every session”. This requirement was changed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

What is in President’s address?

The President’s speech essentially highlights the government’s policy priorities and plans for the upcoming year. It is drafted by the Cabinet, and provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.

Motion of thanks:

The address is followed by a motion of thanks moved in each House by ruling party MPs. During the session, political parties discuss the motion of thanks also suggesting amendments.

What procedures follow the address?

After the President or Governor delivers the address, a debate takes place not only on the contents of the address but also the broad issues of governance in the country. This then paves the way for discussion on the Budget.

If the President disagrees with the text of the speech, are they still bound to read it?

  • The President or a Governor cannot refuse to perform the constitutional duty of delivering an address to the legislature. But there can be situations when they deviate from the text of the speech prepared by the government.
  • So far, there have been no instances of President doing so. But there has been an occasion when a Governor skipped a portion of the address to the Assembly.
  • In 1969, the Governor of West Bengal, Dharma Vira, skipped two paragraphs of the address prepared by the United Front government. The skipped portion described as unconstitutional the dismissal of the first United Front government by the Congress-ruled central government.

Are there parallels in other countries?

Similar provisions exist in other democracies.

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  1. In the United States, it is referred to as the “State of the Union”. The phrase comes from an article in the US Constitution which specifies that the President, “from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
  2. In the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Queen’s Speech and is part of the ceremony to mark the formal start of the parliamentary year.

Rajasthan becomes the 5th State to complete Urban Local Bodies (ULB) reforms

Context:

Rajasthan becomes the 5th State to complete Urban Local Bodies (ULB) reforms.

Details:

  • Rajasthan has become the 5th state in the country to successfully undertake “Urban Local Bodies (ULB)” reform stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.
  • Thus, the State has become eligible to mobilise additional financial resources of Rs.2731 crore through Open Market Borrowings.
  • Rajasthan has now joined four other states namely, Manipur, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, that have completed this reform.
  • On completion of Urban Local Bodies reform, these five States have been granted additional borrowing permission of Rs.10212 crore.

Objectives/Need for reforms:

  • Reforms in the Urban Local Bodies and the urban utilities reforms are aimed at financial strengthening of ULBs in the states and to enable them to provide better public health and sanitation services. Economically rejuvenated ULBs will also be able to create good civic infrastructure.

The reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure to achieve these objectives are:

  • The State will notify –
    • Floor rates of property tax in ULBs which are in consonance with the prevailing circle rates (i.e. guideline rates for property transactions)
    • Floor rates of user charges in respect of the provision of water-supply, drainage and sewerage which reflect current costs/past inflation.
  • The state will put in place a system of periodic increase in floor rates of property tax/user charges in line with price increases.

Background:

  • 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 11 states)
    • Ease of doing business reform (done by 8 states)
    • Urban Local body/utility reforms (done by 5 states)
    • Power sector reforms (done by 1 state)

ENVIRONMENT

Three States to divert more sugar for ethanol

Context:

Major sugar-producing States — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka are expected to see mills diverting a higher quantity of the commodity (B heavy molasses and sugarcane juice) for ethanol production compared with the previous year.

Details:

  • India had set a goal of 20% ethanol blending with petrol by 2030. Recently, the target was advanced by five years to 2025 as it looks to cut dependence on costly oil imports.
  • As much as 4 billion liters of ethanol will be needed for achieving 10% mixing ratio.
  • The government has proposed the adoption of E20 fuel as an automobile fuel.

Benefits of Ethanol blending:

  • India is 83% dependent on imports for meeting its oil needs. Doping petrol with ethanol will cut down the import requirement.
  • Ethanol being a less polluting fuel will cut down carbon emissions.
  • Ethanol is a green fuel & its blending with petrol also saves the country’s foreign exchange.
  • The move to raise ethanol content in petrol will also provide an alternate source of revenue for sugar mills and help them clear farm dues.

Steps taken by the government:

  • To encourage sugar mills to divert excess sugarcane to produce ethanol for blending with petrol, the government has allowed the production of ethanol from B-Heavy Molasses, sugarcane juice, sugar syrup and sugar; and has also fixed the remunerative ex-mill price of ethanol derived from these feed-stocks.
  • Sugar mills having distillation capacity have been advised to divert B-heavy molasses and sugar syrup for producing ethanol to utilize their capacity to maximum extent; and those sugar mills which do not have distillation capacity should produce B-Heavy molasses and should tie up with distilleries which can produce ethanol from B-Heavy molasses.
  • States have also been requested to ensure smooth movement of molasses & ethanol.

National Marine Turtle Action Plan

What’s in News?

The Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change launched the National Marine Turtle Action Plan and also released the Marine Mega Fauna Stranding Guidelines.

Details:

  • The documents contain ways and means to not only promote inter-sectoral action for conservation but also guide improved coordination amongst the government, civil society and all relevant stakeholders on the response to cases of stranding, entanglement, injury or mortality of marine mammals and also conservation of marine turtles.
  • These two documents highlight actions to be taken for handling stranded animals on shore, stranded or entangled animals in the sea or on a boat, management actions for improved coordination, reducing threats to marine species and their habitats, rehabilitation of degraded habitats, enhancing people’s participation, advance scientific research and exchange of information on marine mammals and marine turtles and their habitats.

Background:

  • India has rich marine biodiversity along a vast coastline of over 7,500 km. From colourful fish, sharks, including whale sharks, turtles and big mammals like whales, dolphins and dugongs to bright corals, marine habitats not only harbour diverse species but also provide resources essential for human wellbeing.
  • Millions of people depend on these resources ranging from maritime trade and transport, food, mineral resources, cultural traditions, spiritual values and inspiration that draw tourists from around the world.
  • Despite the immense economic, ecological and cultural values of marine habitats in India, marine mega fauna species and marine turtles face a wide variety of challenges including stranding and entanglement.
  • Managing such challenging situations requires coordination, action and people’s participation which would help in the long-term conservation of marine species and their habitats.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Jaishankar suggests way forward for China ties

Context:

After a year of exceptional stress in a relationship profoundly disturbed by the border crisis, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that recognition of “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests” was key to repairing India-China relations.

Details:

  • Even before the events of 2020, the India-China relationship had reflected “a duality of cooperation and competition”.
  • While both sides had made a common cause on development and economic issues and common membership of plurilateral groups was a meeting point, there were divergences when it came to interests and aspirations.
  • However, over the years, there has been no significant progress in arriving at a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC.
    • Also, there has been an increasing construction of border infrastructure, especially on the Chinese side.
    • He added that India had made efforts to reduce the considerable infrastructure gap since 2014, including through greater budget commitments and road building.

Way forward:

  • The minister suggested three mutuals and eight broad propositions as a way forward for the relationship.
  • Mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests, he said were determining factors.
  • The first proposition was that agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and spirit.
  • Both sides also needed to strictly observe and respect the LAC, and any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo was completely unacceptable.
  • Peace and tranquillity in border areas was the basis for the development of the relationship in other domains. If that was disturbed, he said, the rest of the relationship would be too.
  • The other proposition was that while both remain committed to a multipolar world, they should recognise that a multipolar Asia was one of its essential constituents.
  • While each state had its interests, concerns and priorities, sensitivities to them could not be one-sided and relations were reciprocal in nature. As rising powers, neither should ignore the other’s set of aspirations.

Conclusion:

While there could be divergence and differences between the two neighbours, their management is essential for stronger ties.

‘India’s UNSC seat a matter of discussion’

Context:

The U.S. President’s pick for UN Ambassador’s response to a question on whether India, Germany and Japan should become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Details:

  • She noted that there were arguments for and opinions against these countries becoming permanent members.
    • China opposes permanent membership for India and Japan.
    • The Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group — Pakistan, South Korea, Italy and Argentina also oppose the G4 (Brazil, Germany, Japan and India) becoming permanent members.
  • Recognizing India’s growing role on the world stage, the Obama-Biden Administration formally declared U.S. support for India’s membership in a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council.
  • The U.S. has for some years supported India’s permanent membership to the Council — with former President Barack Obama declaring his country’s support in his address to Parliament in 2010.

Note:

  • India, along with Brazil, Japan and Germany are pressing for urgent reform of the UN Security Council and for a permanent seat in it.
  • Also, India officially began its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with the beginning of the year 2021.

Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group:

  • Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group is an informal club that developed at the UN in the 1990s.
  • The group developed in opposition to the possible expansion of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.
  • Under the leadership of Italy, it aims to counter the bids for permanent seats proposed by G4 nations (Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) and is calling for a consensus before any decision is reached on the form and size of the Security Council.
  • The thesis of the Uniting for Consensus group is that any increase in permanent seats would further accentuate the disparity between the member countries.
  • Italy along with Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt, in 1995 founded the “Coffee Club“.
  • They were soon joined by other countries, including Spain, Argentina, Turkey, Canada, and South Korea, and in a short time, the group came to include about 50 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Indo-French Alliance

Context:

2021: Year of Indo-French alliance towards a Greener Planet.

Details:

  • The Union Environment Minister, along with his French counterpart, launched the Indo-French Year of the Environment.
  • The basic objective is to strengthen Indo-French cooperation in sustainable development, increase the effectiveness of actions in favour of global environment protection and give them greater visibility.
  • The Indo-French Year of the Environment over the period 2021-2022 would be based on five main themes:
    • Environmental protection
    • Climate change
    • Biodiversity conservation
    • Sustainable urban development
    • Development of renewable energies and energy efficiency
  • It is also a platform for engaging in discussions on critical areas of collaboration relating to environment and allied areas.
  • From the French side, it will be held under the aegis of the Ministry of Ecological Transition, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs with the support of the Embassy of France in Delhi and its partners.
  • From the Indian side, it will be coordinated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) along with the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and other concerned Ministries/Departments/Organisations.
  • A joint screening committee will also be set up to finalise the calendar of events for the Indo-French Year of the Environment.

MISCELLANEOUS

Kala Utsav

Context:

Kala Utsav 2020 concluded.

About Kala Utsav:

  • Kala Utsav is an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (now called Ministry of Education) under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, to promote arts in education by nurturing and showcasing the artistic talent of school students at the secondary stage in the country.
  • In the context of education of arts (music, theatre, dance, visual arts and crafts), the initiative is guided by the recommendations of the National Curriculum Framework 2005 (NCF-2005).
  • Kala Utsav 2020 was launched online in January 2021 through a digital platform.
  • Many teams from various states/UTs participated in the competitions which included dancing, singing, instrumental music, visual arts, etc.

Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan:

  • This scheme was launched in March 2009 with the objective to enhance access to secondary education and to improve its quality.
  • It is envisaged to achieve an enrolment rate of 75% from 52.26% in 2005-06 at secondary stage of implementation of the scheme by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of any habitation.
  • The other stated objectives include improving quality of education imparted at secondary level through making all secondary schools conform to prescribed norms, removing gender, socio-economic and disability barriers, providing universal access to secondary level education by 2017, i.e., by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan and achieving universal retention by 2020.
  • It is a centrally sponsored scheme and implemented by the State government societies established for implementation of the scheme.
  • Physical facilities provided under the scheme:
    • Additional class rooms
    • Laboratories
    • Libraries
    • Art and crafts room
    • Toilet blocks
    • Drinking water provisions
    • Residential hostels for teachers in remote areas
  • Quality interventions undertaken:
    • Appointment of additional teachers to reduce PTR to 30:1
    • Focus on Science, Math and English education
    • In-service training of teachers
    • Science laboratories
    • ICT enabled education
    • Curriculum reforms
    • Teaching learning reforms
  • The Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan was formed by subsuming the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Teacher Education schemes.

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