Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups – News Analysis from THE HINDU (December 21, 2018)
1. Centre seeks ₹41,000 crore more to recapitalise banks
The government on Thursday moved a proposal in Parliament for an additional ₹41,000 crore to recapitalise public sector banks, over and above the already budgeted ₹65,000 crore, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told a press conference.
If approved by the House, this would take the total recapitalisation package for the current financial year to ₹1,06,000 crore, of which the government plans to utilise ₹83,000 crore over the remaining portion of the year.
The government also said the recognition of loans that are non-performing assets (NPAs) was nearly complete and the recovery process was progressing strongly, with ₹60,726 crore recovered in the first half of this financial year.
2. Indigenous gun trials of Army to enter next stage by June
The development of the indigenously-designed heavy artillery gun, the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), has advanced to a stage where user-assisted trials of the gun are likely to start by June and the Army has begun finalising the Preliminary Specifications Qualitative Requirements (PSQR), a defence official said.
“Two guns are currently undergoing trials and another two guns will join the trials in a month,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. “User-assisted trials will begin from May-June while the PSQR should be ready by July,” the official added.
The ATAGS is a 155mm, 52 calibre gun being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation on two parallel tracks: one prototype is being built in partnership with Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division), and the other is in collaboration with Bharat Forge. There is a sanction for production of 10 guns as part of the development process.
The Army, which is in the process of drawing up the PSQR that details the essential and desired parameters for the gun, has already flagged a few concerns related to weight and accuracy. The gun currently weighs about 18 tonnes while the ideal weight for the army would be 14-15 tonnes. While the development team wanted the weight, accuracy and firing parameters to be relaxed in the PSQR, the Army has said that would be looked into after the user-assisted trials commence.
Once the PSQRs are approved, the process for formulating the final Qualitative Requirements would begin. Guns from both Bharat Forge and Tata Power would be evaluated and based on the commercial bids, the order would be split between them with the lowest bidder getting a larger order. The Defence Ministry has already approved the in-principle purchase of 150 of these guns at an approximate cost of ₹3,365 crore.
The gun has several significant features including an all-electric drive, high mobility, quick deployability, auxiliary power mode, advanced communications system, automated command and control system. It also sports a six-round magazine instead of the standard three-round magazine. This necessitates a larger chamber and is a major factor pushing up the overall weight of the system.
The Army, which has been seeking to modernise its weaponry, recently inducted its first modern pieces of artillery in 30 years: the M777 Ultra-Light Howitzer from the U.S. and the K9 Vajra-T self-propelled artillery gun from South Korea.
3. Hamid Ansari returns home after 6 years
Six years after he left home to be with a female friend he had connected with on Facebook, 33-year-old Hamid Ansari finally returned to on Thursday.
In November 2012, Mr. Ansari had run away to Pakistan to meet a woman he had befriended on Facebook. Two days after his arrival in Pakistan, he was arrested. In 2015, a Pakistani court sent him to jail for three years.
4. CDSCO issues safety norms for acne drug
The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has issued safety guidelines for Isotretinoin, an oral drug, which is used in the treatment of severe acne.
Drug Controller General Dr. S. Eswara Reddy has directed Drug Controllers of all the States and the Union Territories to monitor the sale, manufacture and distribution of Isotretinoin, which can cause birth defects in progeny if taken without proper guidance. The directions have been given after taking recommendations from the Subject Experts Committee with CDSCO.
The public notice states: “Pack of drug should carry box warnings including, ‘The medicine may cause severe birth defects; You must not take this medicine if you are pregnant or may likely become during treatment. You should also avoid pregnancy for six months after stopping the treatment.’”
5. Relative deprivation
This refers to a theory of social change that attributes drastic events like social and political revolutions to the desire among a group of people within society to acquire the privileges that are enjoyed by other privileged groups. In other words, social change is seen as the result of the feeling of deprivation or other forms of serious discontent experienced by a group of people. Relative deprivation could be caused by economic or other social inequalities among various social groups. It is believed that group members who were earlier dispersed may find common ground in a cause that leads them to ignore their individual interests and unite under a single cause.
6. India rejects Pakistan’s claim over Jinnah House
India on Thursday strongly rejected Pakistan’s claim of ownership of the Jinnah House in Mumbai and said the property belongs to it.
“Pakistan has no locus standi as far as this property is concerned. It is government of India’s property and we are in the process of renovating it,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
The Jinnah House on Malabar Hill in Mumbai was designed by architect Claude Batley in European style and Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah lived there in the late 1930s.
Pakistan has been demanding that the property be handed over to it for housing its Mumbai consulate.
Mr. Kumar said the government is considering putting the Jinnah House into use on the lines of the Hyderabad House here.
The MEA spokesperson’s comments came on a day Pakistan asserted that the Jinnah House belonged to it and any attempt by India to take the building under its control will not be accepted.
The property would be used to host government events, the Ministry of External Affairs announced on Thursday.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had communicated earlier to Maharashtra BJP leader Mangal Prabhat Lodha that the plan to convert the property into a venue for government events has been sanctioned by the Prime Minister’s Office.
7. All computers now under govt. watch
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday issued an order authorising 10 Central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.”
The agencies are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation; National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
According to the order, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies and failing to do will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.
The MHA gave the authorisation under 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which says that the Central government can direct any agency after it is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so in the “interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence.”
8. Indian, Chinese Foreign Ministers to meet today
Foreign Ministers of India and China will preside over a high-level meeting for people-to-people exchange on Friday. The meeting, formally designated as the first High Level Mechanism on People to People Exchanges, is aimed at maintaining all-weather ties between the two countries.
9. Harsh Vardhan Shringla new envoy to the U.S.
The government has appointed senior diplomat Harsh Vardhan Shringla as the new ambassador of India to the United States. Mr. Shringla is the current High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh where he has overseen several developmental projects.
10. China’s Pak. investments take a military turn
When U.S. President Donald Trump started the new year by suspending billions of dollars of security aid to Pakistan, one theory was that it would scare the Pakistani military into cooperating better with its U.S. allies.
The reality was that Pakistan already had a replacement sponsor lined up.
Just two weeks later, the Pakistani Air Force and Chinese officials were putting the final touches on a secret proposal to expand Pakistan’s building of Chinese military jets, weaponry and other hardware.
The confidential plan, reviewed by The New York Times, would also deepen the cooperation between China and Pakistan in space, a frontier the Pentagon recently said Beijing was trying to militarise after decades of playing catch-up.
All those military projects were designated as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a chain of infrastructure development programmes stretching across some 70 countries, built and financed by Beijing.
Chinese officials have repeatedly said the Belt and Road is purely an economic project with peaceful intent. But with its plan for Pakistan, China is for the first time explicitly tying a Belt and Road proposal to its military ambitions.
Since the beginning of the BRI in 2013, Pakistan has been the programme’s flagship site, with some $62 billion in projects planned in the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In the process, China has lent more and more money to Pakistan at a time of economic desperation there, binding the two countries ever closer.
A Chinese-built seaport and special economic zone in the Pakistani town of Gwadar is rooted in trade, giving China a quicker route to get goods to the Arabian Sea. But it also gives Beijing a strategic card to play against India and the U.S. if tensions worsen to the point of naval blockades as the two powers increasingly confront each other at sea.
A less scrutinised component of BRI is the central role Pakistan plays in China’s Beidou satellite navigation system. Pakistan is the only other country that has been granted access to the system’s military service, allowing more precise guidance for missiles, ships and aircraft. The tightening China-Pakistan security alliance has gained momentum on a long road to the Arabian Sea. In 2015, under BRI, China took a nascent port in the Pakistani coastal town of Gwadar and supercharged the project with an estimated $800 million development plan that included a large SEZ for Chinese companies.
The public vision for the project was that it would allow Chinese goods to bypass much longer and more expensive shipping routes through the Indian Ocean and avoid the territorial waters of several U.S. allies in Asia.
Military analysts predict that China could use Gwadar to expand the naval footprint of its attack submarines, after agreeing in 2015 to sell eight submarines to Pakistan in a deal worth up to $6 billion. China could use the equipment it sells to the South Asian country to refuel its own submarines, extending its Navy’s global reach.
11. Raman appointed women’s team coach
Tamil Nadu head coach (2006-09, 2013-15)
Bengal head coach (2010-2013)
Kings XI Punjab assistant coach (2013)
Kolkata Knight Riders batting coach (2014)
India Under-19 interim coach (since 2017)
National Cricket Academy batting coach (since 2015)
W.V. Raman, the former India opening batsman who is at present a key member of the BCCI’s player-development programme, has been announced as the Indian women’s cricket team head coach despite the two CoA members continuing to be at loggerheads over the process adopted for the appointment.
The women’s coach position had been vacant ever since Ramesh Powar’s tenure expired on November 30.
12. BCCI to expand ACU
The BCCI is all set to expand its Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU). Candidates were interviewed here on Thursday by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji, former Director General of Police, Maharashtra and former Police Commissioner of , Anami Narayan Roy, and the BCCI’s ACU chief Ajit Singh.
According to people privy to the development, candidates were being interviewed for the post of five zonal officers and as many special investigative officers for each zone. The interview process will continue on Friday.
Seven months ago, the BCCI had appointed Ajit Singh, a former DGP from Rajasthan, as the head of the ACU. Apart from Mr. Singh, the BCCI has an ACU Manager in Dheeraj Malhotra.
13. A GM plant that cleans indoor air
Researchers have genetically modified a common indoor plant, pothos ivy, to remove pollutants inside the house, according to a new study.
They put modified plant and normal pothos ivy in glass tubes and added either benzene or chloroform gas into each tube. They found that the concentration of either gas did not change for normal plants. However, for the modified plants, the concentration of chloroform dropped by 82%, and it was almost undetectable by day six.
14. Astronauts return safely to Earth from ISS
Three astronauts landed back on Earth on Thursday after a troubled stint on the ISS marred by an air leak and the failure of a rocket set to bring new crew members. A Soyuz spacecraft ferrying Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, NASA’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos landed safely in Kazakhstan, the Russian space agency said.
15. The Hindu Explains: Consumer Protection Bill, 2018
The Bill, originally introduced in January 2018 in the last winter session of Parliament, seeks to replace the three-decade-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986, which was amended thrice but is still found wanting in tackling the challenges posed by online transactions, and tele-, multi-level, and digital marketing.
The Corporate Affairs Ministry states that the objective of the Bill is ‘‘to provide for the protection of the interests of consumers and for the said purpose, to establish authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumers’ disputes.’’
The Bill seeks to set up a central consumer protection authority (CCPA) to “promote, protect and enforce the rights of the consumers.” The CCPA can act on complaints of unfair trade practices, issue safety guidelines, order product recall or discontinuation of services, refer complaints to other regulators, and has punitive powers such as imposing penalties.”
The Bill also seeks to provide Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions at national, State and district-levels to look into consumer complaints. Consumer Protection Councils will also be set up at the district, State, and national level, as advisory bodies. Consumer mediation cells will be set-up on the same lines.
16. ISRO’s GSAT-7A to add more heft to Air Force
Military communication satellite GSAT-7A, due to be launched on December 19 evening from Sriharikota, is expected to add a new space-based dimension to the way Indian Air Force interlinks, operates and communicates with its aircraft as they fly and with command centres on ground, according to multiple sources.
Although all Indian communication satellites offer capacity to the armed forces, GSAT-7A will be the first one built primarily for the IAF to qualitatively unify its assets and improve combined, common intelligence during operations. With integrated action being a buzzword it will also support aerial activities of the Army and the Navy where required.
“About 70% of it would be for the Air Force and the rest for the needs of the Army,” said a source in Delhi. The ground force’s Army Aviation Corps operates many helicopters, uses UAVs and will acquire fixed wing aircraft in future — all for surveillance and rescue missions.
Multiple sources said the satellite using Ku band will enable superior real time aircraft-to-aircraft communication; and between planes that are in flight and their commanders on the ground.
It would enhance by many times the coverage now provided by ground communication systems such as radars and stations of the Army.
Out-of-sight and remote areas where ground infrastructure and signals are difficult would get into the critical information loop.
17. In numbers: Tiger deaths in India
According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) records till December 15, 2018, there were 95 cases of tiger deaths in the country. Of this, 41 cases of tiger deaths outside tiger reserves have been reported.
The NTCA maintains the official database of tiger mortality in the country and compiles figures from reports sent by different States on the basis of recovery of bodies or seizure of body parts.
National Rifle Association of India (NRAI)
Preliminary Specifications Qualitative Requirements (PSQR)
19. Things to Remember:
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur
20. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – Wild and noisy disorder or confusion; uproar.
Example – ‘there was complete pandemonium—everyone just panicked’
Synonyms – turmoil, disorder, confusion, chaos, commotion, disturbance, tumult, turbulence, mayhem, havoc, bedlam, all hell broken loose, bedlam, chaos, mayhem, uproar, madness, havoc, turmoil, tumult, commotion, confusion, disorder, anarchy, furore, frenzy, clamour, din, hubbub, hue and cry, babel, rumpus, fracas, hurly-burly, maelstrom