23 FEBRUARY 2021
Daily Current Affairs based on ‘The Hindu’ newspaper as per the syllabus of UPSC Civil Services Examination (Prelims and Mains) compiled by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri.
|1.||GS II: POLITY – STATES||Congress-led govt. falls in Puducherry|
|2.||GS III: MULTILATERAL||Xi may visit India for BRICS summit|
|3.||GS II: POLITY – STATES||Kerala govt. annuls agreement with U.S. firm|
|4.||GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY||SC nod for NLCT process on Rs.24,713 crore RIL-Future deal|
|5.||GS III: CYBER SECURITY||Railways stung by IT ‘breaches’|
|6.||GS II: POLITY – JUDICIARY||SC raps govt. for not replying to Jairam’s plea on RTI Act|
|7.||GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA – ASIA||India in trade, defence pacts with Mauritius|
|8.||GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA – ASIA||Maldives Parliament debates defence deal with India|
|9.||GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA||China firm slams ‘third-party’ interference in Lanka project|
|10.||GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA||Iran, IAEA reach deal on inspections|
|11.||GS III: ECONOMY||DHFL auditor Grant Thornton reports further fraud of Rs. 6,182 cr.|
GS II: POLITY – STATES
Congress-led govt. falls in Puducherry
- The Congress-led government in Puducherry fell after Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy submitted his resignation to Lieutenant-Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan as it became apparent that he had lost the confidence of the House.
- A motion of confidence moved by Mr. Narayanasamy in the Assembly was not put to vote.
- Spate of resignations : Resignations by half-a-dozen legislators — five from the Congress, including two Ministers, and one from the DMK — in recent weeks and the disqualification of a Congress legislator last year had reduced the government to a minority.
- The House strength came down to 26 from 33 due to which the Opposition outnumbered the ruling alliance — Congress (9, including the Speaker), DMK (2) and Independent (1).
- BJP leaders said the National Democratic Alliance would not stake claim to form the government before the election..
- Addressing reporters after submitting his resignation, Mr. Narayanasamy said they had staged the walkout as the Speaker did not clarify on their demand on the voting rights of the nominated legislators. He said the Speaker did not agree to “our view” that only members elected by the people had voting rights.
GS III: MULTILATERAL
Xi may visit India for BRICS summit
- China’s President Xi Jinping may visit India in the second half of this year to attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) leaders’ meeting, if a physical summit is held as is increasingly expected.
- The visit will come in the aftermath of the most serious border crisis between the neighbours in decades.
- China expressed its “support” for India hosting this year’s meeting, and said the meet would not be impacted by the border crisis.
- “We will work with India and other members to strengthen communication and dialogue, and consolidate the three-pillar cooperation,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
GS II: POLITY – STATES
Kerala govt. annuls agreement with U.S. firm
- The Kerala government has invalidated a controversial agreement that the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) had reached with a U.S.-based firm, EMCC International, to build and operate a deep-sea trawling fleet to harvest the marine wealth off the State’s coast.
- In one stroke, the government has attempted to stymie the Opposition’s political gambit to stir up resentment against the ruling front for entertaining an investment proposal that seemed at odds with the vast coastal community’s inalienable right to harvest their traditional fishing grounds exclusively.
- KSINC Managing Director N. Prasanth and Shiju Varghese, president of the firm, recently inked the ₹2,950-crore pact for building 400 deep-sea fishing trawlers and new harbours and port development activities.
- The government found that the agreement contravened the Left Democratic Front’s policy to allow only traditional fishers to own or operate deep-sea trawlers. Only they would receive new boat permits.
- stand :The government felt the KSINC had “missed” the critical proviso when inking the agreement. The KSINC “failed” to vet the firm before inking the memorandum of understanding. The company “lacked” the financial heft to build a vast fleet and allied infrastructure. Its seed money was less than ₹10 lakh, an official said.
- The government found the firm had attempted to take advantage of its programme to modernise the State’s ageing fishing fleet incrementally.
GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY
SC nod for NLCT process on RS. 24,713 crore RIL-Future deal
- The Supreme Court allowed National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) proceedings in connection with the proposed ₹24,713-crore deal between Future Group and Reliance Industries to go on, but directed the Tribunal to refrain from passing any “final order of sanction of the scheme”.
- E-commerce major, Amazon, which opposes the multi-crore deal, had recently moved the NCLT against Future Group’s plea to hold a meeting of its shareholders or creditors to approve the deal with Reliance.
- A Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman also issued notice on a petition filed by Amazon, to stay the operation of a Delhi High Court order of February 8.
- The order had revoked an earlier direction to Future Group to maintain ‘status quo’ on the sale of its retail assets to Reliance Industries.
- In its order, the Bench, while issuing notice to Future Retail and other parties arraigned by Amazon as respondents, said they would get two weeks to file their counter while Amazon was given a week to file its rejoinder thereafter. The case would next come up for hearing after three weeks.
- “In the meantime, the NCLT proceedings will be allowed to go on but will not culminate in any final order of sanction of scheme,” the apex court directed.
- In its petition challenging the February 8 order of the High Court, Amazon, represented by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, had said the order was “ex-facie arbitrary and illegal”.
GS III: CYBER SECURITY
Railways stung by IT ‘breaches’
- Following instances of cyber attacks during the ongoing pandemic across its network, the Ministry of Railways has roped in the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) to educate its officials on Internet ethics, cyber hygiene and best practices in the use of IT equipment, including mobile phones. This is a part of its National Cyber Security Strategy.
- In a note to the General Managers, production units and other major establishments recently, the Railway Board said a number of incidents had come to notice regarding breaches in various IT applications as electronic working has got further proliferated.
- A majority of them were applications related. Incidents occurred due to “improper handling of the IT assets by the personnel”.
- According to sources, the IT Wing of the Computerisation & Information System Directorate sends out periodic alerts on cybersecurity vulnerabilities and threats to the staff directly handling IT-based systems. One of the major IT functions is the Passenger Reservation System (PRS).
- The Railways also uses its IT infrastructure for Unreserved Ticketing System which served 2.11 crore passengers in January 2019 earning ₹58.83 crore each day.
- The Board said in the note the pandemic had introduced a greater reliance on electronic modes of communication in official working. Hence, it was necessary that all officials took responsibility and followed adequate procedures when using IT infrastructure for ensuring confidentiality, privacy etc in dealing with official information.
GS II: POLITY – JUDICIARY
SC raps govt. for not replying to Jairam’s plea on RTI Act
- The Supreme Court criticised the Union government for having not filed a reply to a petition by parliamentarian Jairam Ramesh challenging the amendments made to the Right to Information Act for over a year.
- The court, in January 2020, asked the Centre to file its reply to Mr. Ramesh’s plea that the amendments gave the Centre unparalleled powers to dictate the tenure, salaries and service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners as per its “whims and fancies”.
- The Bench gave the government two weeks to file its reply.
- Ramesh, through advocate Sunil Fernandes, has contended that the RTI Amendment Act of 2019 and its Rules cripple the objectivity and independence of the Central Information Commission (CIC), the top adjudicatory body under the Act, by bringing under the yoke of the government.
- The Amendment Act received the President’s assent on August 1, 2019.
GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA – ASIA
India in trade, defence pacts with Mauritius
- India and Mauritius signed a $100 million Defence Line of Credit agreement.
- It was a part of several understandings, including the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) that was signed between the two countries during the ongoing visit by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
- Using the new framework under the CECPA, India and Mauritius would provide preferential access to a number of items like surgical equipment, medicine, and textile products that would cater to market requirements on both sides.
- “Just to illustrate some of the benefits, Mauritius will get preferential access for export of 40,000 tonnes of sugar into India at an early time frame,” said Mr. Jaishankar.
GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA – ASIA
Maldives Parliament debates defence deal with India
- A day after Male and New Delhi signed an agreement to jointly develop the Maldives National Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour, Maldives’s Parliament, ‘the People’s Majlis’, took up an emergency motion, demanding greater transparency on the bilateral pact.
- Ahmed Shiyam, an MP from the Opposition Progressive Party of Maldives submitted an emergency motion in the House, objecting to the signing of the pact, linked to the “independence and sovereignty” of the Maldives, without the approval of Parliament, Male-based media reported. A total of 51 legislators in the 87-member House voted in favour of a debate on the motion.
- Maldivian Defence Minister Mariya Didi said the project was “vital” to the effective functioning of the Maldivian Coast Guard.
- The harbour development agreement, effectively a defence pact, was signed following a request from the government of Maldives — since former President Abdulla Yameen’s term in 2013 — for Indian assistance to enhance the capability of the Defence Forces, according to a Joint press statement issued by the two governments on Sunday. Subsequently, Male made requests in 2015 and 2016.
- Concerns over “Indian military presence” were flagged in 2018 too, when the Yameen government asked India to take back two helicopters it had gifted, with a crew and support staff, causing a major strain in bilateral ties.
- Following the September 2018 defeat of the Yameen administration, which was known for its China tilt, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government has been pursuing an “India first” policy.
- Last year, New Delhi welcomed the Maldives’s decision to sign a military agreement with the U.S.
GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA
China firm slams ‘third-party’ interference in Lanka project
- A Chinese firm, which had won the bid to execute a renewable energy project in Sri Lanka’s northern islands, has objected to “outrageous interference” by a “third party”, apparently referring to India voicing concern recently.
- In a statement Sinosoar-Etechwin Joint Venture said it learned from media reports that “a third party” had protested against Sri Lanka’s Cabinet decision clearing the project, on grounds of “so-called self-security”. “We firmly oppose any outrageous interference by any third party without legal and factual basis,” the firm said.
- On January 18, Sri Lanka took a Cabinet decision to engage a Chinese firm to install hybrid renewable energy systems in Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu, and Analaitivu, off Jaffna Peninsula, located in the Palk Bay, some 50 km from the Tamil Nadu coast.
- Although New Delhi did not officially comment on the move, official sources confirmed that India had offered a $12-million grant, to execute the same. The project’s proximity to India’s coastline reportedly set off security concerns in New Delhi.
- ADB loan : Colombo had originally obtained a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the project. Sri Lanka’s Minister of Power Dullas Alahapperuma told local media that the government would consider India’s proposal, for it was a grant rather than a loan. But there is no change yet to the January 18 decision.
- Outlining the tendering process in 2019, through which it obtained the project, the Chinese consortium said the “third party” — intervention “seriously affected” its reputation and legitimate rights, and “damaged the credibility and image” of the Government of Sri Lanka.
- The consortium is only responsible for the construction and handover of the project, it said, adding the firm would “strictly abide” by the laws and regulations of the ADB and the Ceylon Electricity Board.
- A group of Sri Lanka’s Tamil parties have objected to the Chinese project in the northern islands, noting that India’s concerns are “legitimate”.
GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA
Iran, IAEA reach deal on inspections
- The UN nuclear watchdog chief announced a “temporary solution” to allow Iranian facility inspections to continue after days of talks with officials, giving some much-needed breathing space for diplomatic negotiations.
- However, Rafael Grossi admitted that under the new three-month arrangement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would not have the same level of access after a law comes into force limiting some inspections.
- Grossi said that under the new “temporary technical understanding… there is less access, let’s face it”.
- “But still we were able to retain the necessary degree of monitoring and verification work,” he added.
- No real-time access :“What we agreed is something that is viable — it is useful to bridge this gap that we are having now, it salvages the situation now,” Mr. Grossi told reporters after landing back in Vienna, after a meeting with Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran on Sunday.
- They confirmed that Iran will continue to allow access to UN inspectors to its declared nuclear sites.
- But Iran will temporarily suspend so-called “voluntary transparency measures” — notably inspections of non-nuclear sites, including military sites suspected of nuclear-related activity.
- Tehran will also deny the IAEA real-time access to footage from surveillance cameras installed at some sites and, if sanctions are not lifted within three months, delete it, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization has said.
- Zarif had signalled the Islamic republic wanted to avoid an “impasse” over inspections, but also warned it could further step away from its commitments if Washington does not lift sanctions.
- Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi acknowledged on Saturday that his country’s inspection capability would be “reduced by about 20-30%” when the law came into effect.
- Iran hails agreement :Iran’s Foreign Ministry hailed the outcome, saying it complied with Parliament’s demands and “resulted in a very significant diplomatic achievement and a very significant technical achievement”.
- However, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the Islamic republic could boost uranium enrichment to 60% if needed, vowing to “not back down on the nuclear issue”.
- That would be far above the 3.67% limit Iran had accepted under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but still short of the around 90% required to make an atomic bomb.
GS III: ECONOMY
DHFL auditor Grant Thornton reports further fraud of Rs. 6,182 cr.
- Dewan Housing Finance Corporation (DHFL) said its transaction auditor, Grant Thornton, had reported further fraudulence amounting to ₹6,182 crore in the company.
- The administrator of the company received an initial report from the agency appointed as the transaction auditor indicating there were certain transactions that were “undervalued, fraudulent and preferential in nature”, DHFL said in a regulatory filing.
- These transactions happened over a period of time. The management of DHFL is currently being run under an administrator appointed under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code after frauds were detected in the company. The administrator later appointed GT as the transaction auditor to conduct an investigation of the affairs of the firm.
- Based on the observations by the auditor, the Administrator has filed an application before the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in respect of disbursement made to certain entities as other large project loans, against Kapil Wadhawan, Dheeraj Wadhawan, Creatoz Builders Pvt. Ltd., Ikshudip Fincap Pvt. Ltd., Rite Developers Pvt. Ltd. and some other entities.
- DHFL said the application to NCLT has been filed against 33 respondents, including Kapil Wadhawan, Dheeraj Wadhawan, Creatoz Builders, Ikshudip Fincap, and Rite Developers.