Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups – News Analysis from THE HINDU (January 10, 2019)
1. Parliament passes Bill to provide 10% quota for poor
Parliament on Wednesday cleared the Constitutional Amendment Bill guaranteeing 10% quota in education and employment to economically weaker sections in the general category, following an approval by the Rajya Sabha.
The Upper House nod came following an over nine-hour-long heated debate, during which the Opposition accused the government of bringing the Bill in haste with an eye on the coming Lok Sabha election.
The Bill was passed with a majority of 165 against seven votes. It will be now sent for Presidential assent.
The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill was introduced by Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, who later in his reply said that the existing reservation to the SCs, STs and OBCs would not be touched by the amendment.
Clarifying the Bill’s provisions, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the reservation would be applicable to jobs in both Central and State governments, adding that the legislation gave powers to States to determine the economic criteria for identification of beneficiaries. He responded to the Opposition’s charge of political intent by terming the government move a “slog-over six”, with many more to come.
2. N. Ram is chief of media body
N. Ram, chairman, THG Publishing Private Limited, has been appointed president of the Alliance for Media Freedom (AFMF), a cross-media advocacy and action group of media organisations, promoters and journalists.
While appointing him as president of the Alliance, his role in thwarting the efforts of governments and authoritarian elements to impede the independent functioning of the media was commended, a press release said.
The AFMF, in a meeting attended by 16 editors, media promoters and journalists on January 7, also welcomed the judgment of the Madras High Court upholding the order passed by the Chennai Metropolitan Magistrate refusing to remand Nakeeran Gopal in a case booked under Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code.
The Alliance, which is dedicated to work for the cause of media freedom, media independence and the safety of the last journalist, adopted a charter that underlines the importance of creating enabling conditions to safeguard free speech guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
3. Why the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is so contentious in the Northeast
What is the Bill about?
More than 33 years after an anti-foreigners’ agitation from 1979 to 1985, Assam is in turmoil again — this time because of the Modi government’s bid to get the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 passed in Parliament. Assam and the rest of the Northeast shut down on Tuesday after the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha.
Seeking to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955, the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016 for granting citizenship to minority Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who came to India on or before December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The Bill requires such immigrants to spend at least six years to be eligible for citizenship, instead of 12 years as is currently applicable.
Why is there opposition to the Bill in Assam?
The Assamese and other indigenous communities in Assam say that the Bill is against the spirit of the Assam Accord as well as the National Register of Citizens being updated. The Assam Accord, signed in August 1985, prescribed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for detecting and deporting illegal migrants irrespective of religion. The same date applies for NRC inclusion. Some locals argue that the Bill, if passed, will make those who entered India after March 1971 eligible for citizenship overnight. They say that Assam has been bearing the burden of migration even before 1971, and cannot accept any more people.
4. China’s recent achievement could trigger yet another rivalry with the U.S., this time in outer space
There are several reasons why China’s achievement in landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon could trigger a rivalry with the U.S. in outer space. For starters, China’s January 3 landing on the mysterious “dark” side of the moon, the first by any country, gives Beijing a leg up on Washington over big ticket space exploration. Unlike the near side, the far side of the moon is shielded from radio transmissions from earth. The Chang’e-4 mission got around the problem of lack of communication with those on earth by using a relay satellite. The data that China obtains on the moon’s craters could help it acquire an edge over other countries, including the U.S., in the highly competitive domain of space research.
The Chinese could also steal a march over the Americans by launching advanced rockets, which would explore new frontiers in space. Unlike earth, the moon has an abundance of helium-3. In the far future, this can serve as the ideal fuel to power a new generation of spaceships, with the moon as the launchpad, instead of earth.
The Chinese may have also taken the lead over peers in exploring the possibilities of human habitation on the moon. The Yutu-2, the rover of the ongoing Chang’e-4 mission, is programmed to explore the South Pole-Aitken Basin. This vast impact region, 13 km deep and 2,500 km wide, has copious reserves of ice. The promise of water has persuaded international space scientists to peg the site as suitable for a permanent lunar outpost, which is on China’s radar.
The promise of the moon’s natural resources can add another layer of rivalry between the Chinese and the Americans. Space exploration buffs have considered asteroids as lucrative sources of precious metals such as gold, platinum, silver and iridium in the future. But if the relatively more accessible surface of the moon could yield precious resources, the race for lunar colonisation would begin, providing China a substantial early-mover edge.
So far, NASA has congratulated its Chinese counterpart on the impressive success of the Chang’e-4 mission. But its graceful applause is unlikely to yield step two: an offer of active space collaboration between the two countries. The popular mood within Washington’s political class has been soured by the sentiment to contain China’s rise. In China, an intense techno-war, furthered by the U.S.-inspired arrest in Canada of the scion of the telecom giant, Huawei, has bruised the country’s nationalistic psyche.
A new generation of Chinese and American peace advocates, global citizens and cyber-activists have their task cut out — to step up their game and prevent outer space from becoming another arena of a budding Cold War between Washington and Beijing.
5. Biological immortality
This refers to the biological state where certain organisms like the bristlecone pine and the jellyfish can live forever. These organisms can be killed by external causes like injuries caused by harmful predators, catastrophic changes in their environment and fatal diseases, but they do not get fatally affected by the ageing process like in the case of other organisms. They are considered to be biologically immortal as they can possibly live forever by endlessly replicating their dying cells. Some scientists, however, have argued that such resistance to ageing may decrease over time.
6. Tehran proposes a new regional forum for West Asia
In a diplomatic initiative to address the lingering conflicts and mistrust in the Gulf region, Iran on Wednesday proposed a new platform for regional peace building. Delivering a major speech at the Raisina Dialogue here, its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said such a forum should offer membership to countries based on a set of general principles to address real issues that affect people of the region and the world.
The announcement of Persian Gulf Regional Dialogue Forum is significant as it comes in the wake of continued erosion of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which in the recent years has been divided between the Iranian and the Saudi spheres. Mr. Zarif suggested that the new forum could focus on promotion of peace and prosperity in the region.
7. U.K. to test immigration proposals in India
British officials are set to test India’s reaction to proposals for a new post-Brexit immigration system unveiled in December. Home Office officials are set to meet with counterparts in India next week, as well as others, for discussions on the ‘Immigration White Paper’ unveiled by Home Secretary Sajid Javid last year, a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official has said.
The immigration plans aim to create a level playing field for EU and non-EU workers, basing immigration opportunities on skills levels rather than which part of the world workers have come from. “It is important to us as we finalise [immigration policy] to get a clear view from the Indian government, and Indian students and others,” said the FCO official, adding that they believed the nature of the discussions that were set to take place were “unique at this stage”, highlighting the huge importance the country placed on getting its relationship with India right.
The government has positioned the new planned immigration system as a positive one for partners such as India, with Mr. Javid telling the House of Commons that when it came to doctors seeking to work in the U.K., for example, “It shouldn’t matter if they are from India or if they are from France”.
Among the changes proposed are the removal of the current annual cap on the number of Tier 2 visas for skilled workers, as well as the requirement that employers demonstrate that they attempted to fill the role domestically before bringing in a person from abroad (the resident labour market test).
The government will also allow international students six months after they graduate to find permanent skilled work and work temporarily during that period, while PhD graduates will have a whole year to do so. There will be no post-study visa, however, as many student and university bodies have been lobbying for.
8. RBI makes changes in gold scheme
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made some changes in the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS) by including charitable institutions and the Central government, among others.
Apart from individual and joint depositors, the scheme could now be availed by charitable institutions, the Central government, the State government or any other entity owned by the Central government or the State government, the RBI said in a notification.
In 2015, the government launched the GMS to mobilise the gold held by households and institutions.
GMS allows bank customers to deposit idle gold holdings for a fixed period in return for interest.
9. NADA awareness on dope-testing
The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) is riding on the Khelo India Youth Games to create mass awareness programmes for competitors from across the nation on drug use and abuse. It is learnt the agency has collected 19 out-of-competition samples from weightlifting, judo and wrestling. Tests would be conducted during the Games, to be conducted across venues.
The indoor stadium for wrestling saw announcements blaring across the public address system, asking young grapplers to be ready for dope testing. They were warned that if they did not appear for tests after competition, they will be banned along with the respective State coach at the Games.
Indian Science Congress (ISC)
Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA)
11. Things to Remember:
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat
12. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning 1 – A structure of stone or brick built against a wall to strengthen or support it
Example – ‘the cathedral’s massive buttresses’
Synonyms – prop, support, abutment, shore, pier, reinforcement, stanchion, stay, strut