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Daily Current Affairs – 20th March 2021

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Daily Current Affairs

Given below are the daily current affairs for 20th March 2021. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

‘State resolutions on Central laws are fine’

Context:

The Supreme Court prima facie found no harm in State Legislative Assemblies passing resolutions against Central laws.

Background:

The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a Rajasthan-based NGO, Samta Andolan Samiti, that said State Assemblies, such as of Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab and West Bengal, have no business passing resolutions against Central laws that come under the Union List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

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Details:

  • The SC was referring to the State Legislative Assemblies of Kerala and West Bengal passing resolutions against laws such as the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act or the new agriculture laws.
  • A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India, said that these resolutions are merely opinions of the majority members of a Legislative Assembly and do not have the force of law.

Centre asks HC to stop WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

Context:

The Centre asked the Delhi High Court to restrain WhatsApp from implementing its new privacy policy, which is likely to take effect on May 15, 2021.

Background:

  • WhatsApp recently updated its privacy policy.
  • As per the new policy, WhatsApp may share information of any of its users with its family of companies including Facebook.
  • With the updated privacy policy, WhatsApp can share user’s metadata, essentially everything beyond the conversation’s actual text.
  • The update has become a cause of concern over privacy for the users of this app.

Issues raised:

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), in an affidavit, said the policy was not in tune with the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011.
    • Notably, the rules require a body corporate who collects, stores or otherwise deals with data to issue a privacy policy providing for certain safeguards, in addition to imposing various other obligations.
  • According to MeitY, the impugned privacy policy violates the 2011 Rules.
  • The Ministry also pointed out that WhatsApp’s policy fails to specify types of sensitive personal data being collected, highlighting that there was no distinction between personal data or sensitive personal data which would be collected.
  • It added that WhatsApp also failed to notify users of details of the collection of sensitive personal information.
  • Further, the new privacy policy fails to provide an option to withdraw consent retrospectively.

ECONOMY

LS passes MMDR amendment Bill

Context:

Lok Sabha passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021.

Provisions:

  • The Bill amends the MMDR Act, 1957, which provides a framework for the regulation of the mining sector in India.
  • The Bill removes the distinction between captive and non-captive mines and seeks to introduce an index-based mechanism by developing a National Mineral Index (NMI) for statutory payments.
  • The National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) would see the functioning of the sector, and will be made an autonomous body.
  • The bill shall remove restrictions of end-use for future auctions of mineral mining rights, allow operators of existing captive mines to sell up to 50 per cent of minerals extracted in a year.
  • It empowers the central government to conduct an auction of mines if state governments do not conduct auctions in a timely manner.

Details:

  • The Coal and Mines Minister stated that the amendments will create jobs and allow private players with enhanced technology into the mining sector.
  • The Minister said that the mining sector right now contributes 1.75% to the country’s GDP but the proposed reforms will raise the contribution to 2.5% as it seeks to make a large number of mines available for auctions by resolving legacy issues.
  • He said that the amendment will lead to an increase in the production level of minerals and generate employment, increase revenues and ensure private participation in the exploration and mining activities.

The Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act:

  • The Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act (1957) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to regulate the mining sector in India.
  • It was amended in 2015 and 2016.
  • This act forms the basic framework of mining regulation in India.
  • This act is applicable to all minerals except minor minerals and atomic minerals.
    • Mining minor minerals comes under the purview of state governments.
  • It details the process and conditions for acquiring a mining or prospecting licence in India.

Note:

  • India produces 95 minerals and has the same potential as South Africa and Australia but the mining sector was under-explored and India still had to import minerals like gold and coal.
  • The contribution of the mining sector to the GDP is only 1.75 per cent.
  • One per cent growth in the mining sector generates almost 1 lakh (jobs) in direct employment and 5 lakh (jobs) in indirect employment

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

U.S., China spar at Alaska meet

Context:

U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Adviser’s meet with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska, in the first face-to-face interaction between the Biden administration and China.

Details:

  • The Biden administration’s first bilateral engagement with China got off to a rocky start.
  • The U.S. side opened with remarks that included references to China’s actions in Tibet, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and accused Beijing of economic coercion.
  • The Chinese side questioned the U.S. narrative of China’s role in the world and expressed its own concerns about U.S. actions — domestic and international.
  • The U.S side spoke about the rules based-international order, stating that China’s actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.
  • The Chinese side, in a counter-argument, said that the international community were following a UN-led order, not the so-called ‘rules-based’ international order.
  • Concerns were raised that the U.S. was wanting to create an advantage for itself going into the talks by imposing sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials.
    • The U.S State Department had announced sanctions on March 16, 2021, in response to Beijing’s move to decrease the proportion of democratically elected lawmakers in Hong Kong’s legislature.

Key takeaways:

  • The main takeaway from Alaska is that any reset in ties from the turbulent Trump era is unlikely.
  • There are signs of cautious engagement between the two countries.  Both sides are still seeking spaces to work together amid the rancour.
    • Both, for instance, could still agree to cooperate on issues like climate change, the global economic recovery, and Afghanistan.

How would it affect India’s diplomacy?

  • There is an emergence of a drawing of battle lines between Washington and its allies on one side, and Beijing and its main ally when it comes to the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia, Russia on the other side.
  • This will particularly pose a test for India’s diplomacy.
  • It would affect India’s defence supplies from Russia, with the U.S. making it clear that importing Russian equipment like the S-400 missile defence system will attract sanctions as well as the U.S. withholding high-tech exports.
  • While India confronts its own problems with China amid the disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), it has still made clear it does not want to be part of any alliances.
  • India’s balancing act is reflected in India’s varying multilateral engagements, ranging from the Quad to groupings like RIC (Russia-India-China), the BRICS, and the China and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
  • The U.S.-China divide will also mean a tightrope walk for India at the UN Security Council, where it is serving a two-year term as a non-permanent member, as the split between the U.S., the U.K. and France on the one hand and Russia and China on the other grows ever wider, as seen in response to the Myanmar coup.

MISCELLANEOUS

‘Advanced nations failing world on climate change’

What’s in News?

The Finance Minister of India admonished advanced countries for failing to keep their financing commitments to help emerging economies cope with climate change.

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  • She pointed out the recent Uttarakhand disaster as an example of the vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.
  • It was argued that advanced economies had failed to fulfil their ‘quantitative commitment’ to provide $100 billion a year to help smaller countries. She also pointed out that this amount itself was meagre, to begin with.
  • It was said that the government of India was committed to building infrastructure that would not only revive the economy but also prove resilient to the risks of climate change.
  • At the International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, she said, “We are looking at innovative systems that can certify [that] the resilience of the infrastructure is established. A global standard for certification for resilient infra is also something we are thinking of.”

COVID may have doubled poverty in India

What’s in News?

A Pew Research study report that uses World Bank projections of economic growth to estimate the impact of COVID-19 on Indian incomes has been released.

Key Findings:

  • India’s middle class may have shrunk by 1/3rd due to 2020’s pandemic-driven recession, while the number of poor people earning less than Rs 150 per day more than doubled.
    • In comparison, Chinese incomes remained relatively unshaken, with just a 2% drop in the middle-class population.
  • Meanwhile, the number of people who are poor in India (with incomes of $2 or less a day) is estimated to have increased by 7.5 crores because of the COVID-19 recession.
    • This accounts for nearly 60% of the global increase in poverty.
  • It also noted the record spike in MGNREGA participants as proof that the poor were struggling to find work.
  • It warned that the situation may actually be worse than estimated.

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