23-24th September 2018, Current Affairs and News Analysis for UPSC Civil Service Examination, SSC CGL and State Civil Service Examinations.

23-24th September 2018 - Current Affairs for UPSC IAS and State Civil Service Exam

Governance

CAG observe - Drinking water programme is not effecive in Odhisha.

A Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report states that..

  • The implementation of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) has not been effective in Odisha as it has reached only 3.70% households against its target of covering 35% households by March 2017.
  • Digging of tube wells without conducting scientific survey had led to dry wells which deprived the habitations of drinking water and expenditure incurred on them became wasteful
  • the vision of providing safe drinking water to the people living in rural areas at all times could not be achieved in the State.
  • Inefficient fund management, instances of delay in the release of funds by the State government and low utilisation due to the slow pace of execution of works were also noticed.
  • The target fixed under strategic plan was largely not achieved and water quality monitoring and surveillance was inadequate.

About NRDWP

  • The aim of the NRDWP is to provide every rural person with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other basic needs with a minimum water quality standard, which should be conveniently accessible at all times and in all situations.
  • The Centre had launched the NRDWP on April 1, 2009, and the Odisha State Water and Sanitation Mission, under the Rural Development Department, implement the programme in the State.

Science and Technology

Cyclone-30 becomes operational; cancer diagnosis to improve

The country’s biggest cyclotron facility that will produce radioisotopes vital for diagnosis and treatment of cancer became operational last week. The machine – Cyclone-30 — is housed at the Kolkata-based Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and will start regular production by mid-next year after supporting nuclear systems are commissioned and regulatory clearances are obtained.

Cyclone-30

  • It will produce radioisotopes for nuclear imaging specifically for cancer detection.
  • At present, many radioisotopes are imported while some are produced in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and remaining in cyclotrons facilities run by private hospitals.

ISRO setting up launch pad for Gaganyaan mission

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is setting up a third launch pad at Sriharikota to undertake the Gaganyaan manned space flight programme.

ISRO launch pad for Gaganyaan mission

ISRO is scouting for a location on the western sea coast near Gujarat to set up another launch pad for Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLV).

Third launch pad

ISRO has two launch pads currently, which are already full. A third launch pad is being set up for the human space flight. It will be ready in time for the mission.

GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle to be used for Gaganyaan mission

  • ISRO will use its GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle, which can carry the heavier payload of the Gaganyaan, and this will take off from the new launch pad.

ISRO is developing the SSLV to offer affordable launch options for smaller satellites through Antrix, the space agency’s commercial arm. ISRO currently piggybacks smaller satellites on the PSLV and GSLV along with bigger satellites

The SSLV is expected to reduce the launch time as well as cost less to launch small satellites, which are much in demand.

As per statements of ISRO, they(ISRO) have evaluated several locations. The first two SSLV launches will take place from Sriharikota. After that they will move to the new location.

ISRO is ready to transfer the entire SSLV “as a whole” to the private industry while the agency would provide the initial hand-holding. The SSLV is expected to be cleared by next year.

Small satellite launch

  • In addition to the third launch pad at Sriharikota, ISRO is also scouting for a new location near Gujarat for the SSLV.
  • Economy

    SEBI revises KYC norms for foreign portfolio investors

    The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has announced the revised guidelines for know your client (KYC) requirement for foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) allowing non-resident Indians (NRIs), resident Indians (RIs) and overseas citizens of India (OCIs) to be part of such FPIs investing in India.

    SEBI revises KYC norms

    Such NRIs, OCIs and RIs can be part of a FPI if their aggregate holding in such an overseas fund is less than 50% of the corpus of the fund. Further, the individual share of such entities cannot exceed 25% in an FPI.

    The regulator has also laid down that FPIs can be controlled by investment managers that are owned or controlled by NRIs, OCIs or RIs. Such, investment managers, however, need to be properly regulated in their home jurisdiction and also registered with the SEBI.

    Time to fulfill norms

    • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has announced the revised guidelines for know your client (KYC) requirement for foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) allowing non-resident Indians (NRIs), resident Indians (RIs) and overseas citizens of India (OCIs) to be part of such FPIs investing in India.
    • Such NRIs, OCIs and RIs can be part of a FPI if their aggregate holding in such an overseas fund is less than 50% of the corpus of the fund. Further, the individual share of such entities cannot exceed 25% in an FPI.
    • The regulator has also laid down that FPIs can be controlled by investment managers that are owned or controlled by NRIs, OCIs or RIs. Such, investment managers, however, need to be properly regulated in their home jurisdiction and also registered with the SEBI.
    • Existing FPIs will be given two years’ time — from the date the new regulations come into force — to fulfill the new eligibility criteria. Also, in case of a temporary breach of the norms, the entity will get 90 days to comply with the regulations.
    • Meanwhile, FPIs will be subject to periodic review and any change in material information or disclosure would warrant such a review. For category II and III FPIs from high risk jurisdictions, KYC review would be done annually.
    • The new guidelines as laid down by SEBI are largely in line with the recommendations of the H. R. Khan Committee that reviewed the earlier circular issued in April after many overseas investors expressed their discomfort with the conditions stated in the circular.
    • According to a section of foreign investors, the earlier requirements were such that they effectively barred NRIs, OCIs and RIs from managing foreign funds.
    • While an industry body had pegged the potential outflows at $75 billion due to the earlier diktat of SEBI, the regulator had brushed aside those concerns.

    Social Justice

    Ban on adoption by live-in partners lifted

    Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) decides to withdraw circular issued earlier this year

    The Authority would like the children to be placed only with a stable family and individuals in a live-in relationship cannot be considered as stable family. It has now decided to withdraw the circular and applications from prospective adoptive parents will be examined on a case-by-case basis. The decision will benefit both domestic and international applicants.

    Eligibility Criteria

    • The eligibility criteria under Adoption Regulations, 2017, permit single women to adopt a child of any gender, while single men can adopt only boys.
    • When a married couple seeks to adopt a child, it needs to give its consent for adoption and should be stable marriage for at least two years.
    • Applicants have to be physically, mentally and financially stable to raise a child.

    Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)

    • Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
    • It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
    • It is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
    • The eligibility criteria under Adoption Regulations, 2017, permit single women to adopt a child of any gender, while single men can adopt only boys.
    • When a married couple seeks to adopt a child, it needs to give its consent for adoption and should be stable marriage for at least two years.
    • Earlier this year, CARA has issued a circular disallowing individual in a live-in relationship to adopt children.
    • Now, Individuals in a live-in relationship will once again be able to adopt children from and within India.

    International Relations

    Seeking a managed exit

    1. Seeking a managed exit

    Context:

    • Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani visited New Delhi on September 19, 2018 and was there on a day-long working visit.
    • This visit was a low-key visit.
    • The reason attributed to the low-key nature of the visit is the growing sense of uncertainty that prevails.
    • In the month of May, 2018, seven engineers working for KEC International went missing after being kidnapped. It is presumed that during this visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took up the issue of seven engineers with Mr. Ghani, and Mr. Ghani would have assured him about Kabul’s sincere efforts to rescue them.
    • Although, during this visit, Pro-forma references to the Strategic Partnership and the New Development Partnership were made, but there were no new announcements.
    • During this visit, India reiterated its support for ‘an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process’ with the Taliban. .

    Analysis:

    • It is important to note that even a year after U.S. President Donald Trump came out with his new Afghanistan policy, the stalemate continues to exist.
    • Unfortunately, incidents of violence and civilian casualties keep going up.

    The Geo-politics at work:

      • The U.S. had announced a policy in the year 2017. The objectives of this policy were to break the military stalemate on the ground by expanding both the presence and the role of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
      • However, operational constraints were witnessed. These constraints were eased after calling for surveillance and air support.
    • Crucially, the Obama approach of announcing timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan was replaced by a conditions-based approach.

    • Recently, the U.S. even announced that it was cancelling $300 million in military aid to Pakistan. However, it is clear that U.S.’s Pakistan policy, has once again failed to change Pakistan’s behaviour.

    A Conundrum the U.S. Faces

    • Historically, U.S.’s Pakistan policy has oscillated for 17 years between persuasion using pay-offs and punishing by withholding or cancelling pay-offs.
    • It is important to note that the Pakistani military and the ISI do not support the idea of a territorially united, peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
    • Having said this, the ISI is unlikely to support the idea of a complete Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Crucially, the ISI prefers a controlled instability in Afghanistan where the Taliban enjoys some power but wants more as this keeps the group dependent on the ISI.
    • This is a bind which the U.S. is unable to get out of. As long as the U.S. maintains a significant military presence in Afghanistan, it remains dependent on communication and supply routes through Pakistan.
    • The U.S. is unable to take stronger measures such as

    a) directly targeting the insurgent safe havens in Pakistan,

    b) terminating its status as “a non-NATO ally”,

    c) sanctioning specific military officers or

    d) considering placing Pakistan on the list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’.

    • In conclusion, the U.S.’s dependence provides the security establishment in Pakistan a degree of influence in Washington that has enabled it to receive over $33 billion over the last 17 years.
    • This has been witnessed, despite the ups and downs in the relationship between these two countries. In fact, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan can only be described as an unhappy marriage that neither side is able to terminate.

    Concluding Remarks:

    • Currently, the U.S. appears to be seeking a managed exit.
    • In a departure from the norm, the U.S. opened direct talks with the Taliban around two months ago.
    • On seeing the past, we witness that the U.S. had refrained earlier from doing so. They earlier used to maintain that this would undermine the legitimacy of the Kabul government. Therefore, the U.S. had prodded Pakistan to deliver the Taliban to an ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned’ reconciliation process which did not happen.
    • Recently, even Russia entered the fray. Russia used the IS argument to open up direct talks with the Taliban more than a year ago.
    • With encouragement from the U.S., Uzbekistan has also entertained senior Taliban leaders in Tashkent. This was done so in an effort to persuade them to engage in talks with Kabul.
    • China on the other hand is concerned about its Uighur militants problem. In fact, China is planning to train and equip an Afghan brigade to be deployed in Badakshan even as it seeks Taliban help in securing its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.
    • This has given the Taliban a new legitimacy- something being looked upon as something exactly what Pakistan had wanted.
    • With the emergence of the Islamic State, a distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban is no longer necessary.
    • Finally, it is suggested that with so many different players pulling in different directions, peace will remain illusory in the region.

    1. Markets hit the panic button over fear of fresh defaults

    • Driven by fears about fresh defaults from non-banking finance companies and regulatory restrictions on housing finance companies, the stock markets went into panic mode.
    • The sudden fall was such that it triggered stop losses.

    What?

    • The Sensex swung 1,500 points between its high and low points during the day, eventually recovering to end at 36,841.60 points, down by 279.62 points compared with Wednesday’s close.
    • The recovery was driven by institutional buying, led by mutual funds, in select index stocks.

    Why?

    • It was panic selling on the back of market rumours related to housing finance companies.
    • Already brittle investor sentiment due to the news flow on debt defaults was aggravated by the talk about restrictions on housing finance companies.
    • There was also a buzz that the massive intraday fall in the Sensex was on account of a bunch of algorithmic trades that quickly escalated the magnitude of the fall.