Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS: 11th November 2020

Daily Current Affairs for Government Exams:

Today Current Affairs: 11th November 2020 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc

Contents:

  1. National Education Day:
  2. Armenia Azerbaijan Peace Deal:
  3. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade privilege:
  4. The 20th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):
  5. Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)::
  6. Annual Meeting of IBA:
  7. Other important current affairs:

1.National Education Day:

Since 2008, we celebrate National Education Day on November 11, the birth anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to honor his contributions to education in India.

About Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and his key contributions:

  • He served as the first Minister of Education of independent India.
  • An Indian scholar and independence activist, he was one of the senior leaders of the Indian National Congress.
  • He organized a national education system during his tenure as education minister.
  • His focus was on free primary education to all.
  • Azad was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1992 for his contributions towards the field of education.
  • He was also a pioneer for the establishing of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the foundation of the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • In 1912, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad started a weekly journal in Urdu called Al-Hilal which played an important role in forging Hindu-Muslim unity after the bad blood created between the two communities in the aftermath of Morley-Minto reforms.
  • The government regarded Al- Hilal as a propagator of secessionist views and banned it in 1914.
  • Maulana Abul Kalam Azad supported the Non-Cooperation Movement started by Gandhiji and entered Indian National Congress in 1920.
  • In 1923, he was elected as the president of the Indian National Congress. He again became the president of Congress in 1940.
  • Secularism for Azad rested on the principle of wahadat-e-din on the one hand and disregarding the intermediaries the priestly class and institutionalization of religion.
  • He captured the true essence of secularism and placed the highest stakes in education and development of the human mind and man’s consciousness about himself.
  • As the education minister Azad desired that religious education be imparted along with secular education as the serious business of religious education cannot be left to the respective religious leadership of the communities as they tend to take supremacist and communal stand.
  • Azad desired that common values of all religions should be taught to the students so that they do not develop prejudices against each other.
  • Secularism, according to Azad was not in confining religion to observances of certain rituals within the home, but in religion inspiring followers to live a righteous path and seeking the guidance of almighty in understanding what that right path is.
  • Therefore every human being has to struggle to become a better follower of their respective religions.

 

2.Armenia Azerbaijan Peace Deal:

Russia has brokered a new peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both counties have been in a military conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus.

Nagorno-Karabakh Region:

  • The region extends across western Asia and Eastern Europe.
  • It has been part of Azerbaijan territory since the Soviet era and is being internationally recognized so but most of the region is controlled by Armenian separatists who have declared it a republic called the “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”.
  • While the Armenian government does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as independent, it supports the region politically and militarily.

Conflict:

  • When the Soviet Union began to collapse (with the end of the Cold War) in the late 1980s, Armenia’s regional parliament voted for the region’s transfer to Armenia but the Soviet authorities turned down the demand.
  • Clashes and the violence lasted till 1994 when Russia brokered a ceasefire, by which time ethnic Armenians had taken control of the region.
  • In 2016, the region saw a Four-Day War before Russia mediated peace.
  • The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, chaired by France, Russia and the USA, has also tried to get the two countries to reach a peace agreement for several years.
  • OSCE is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization.
  • Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections.
  • OSCE Minsk Group was created in 1992 by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • In October 2020, both countries agreed to a Russia brokered ceasefire agreement, however, it also proved to be unsuccessful.

Reason for the Conflict:

  • Decades-old Ethnic tensions have a crucial role in the dispute. While the Azeris claim that the disputed region was under their control in known history, Armenians maintain that Karabakh was a part of the Armenian kingdom.
  • Currently, the disputed region consists of a majority Armenian Christian population, even though it is internationally recognized as a part of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan.

New Peace Deal:

  • Both sides will now maintain positions in the areas that they currently hold, which will mean a significant gain for Azerbaijan as it has reclaimed over 15-20% of its lost territory during the recent conflict.
  • All military operations are suspended and Russian peacekeepers will be deployed for a period of five years, along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor which links the Karabakh capital, Stepanakert, to Armenia.
  • Refugees and internally displaced persons will return to the region and the adjacent territories and the two sides will also exchange prisoners of wars and bodies.
  • A new corridor will be opened from Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan, which will be under Russian control.

 

3. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade privilege:

India is likely to press Biden Administration for early restoration of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade privilege for India.

  • The privilege was withdrawn by outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration in Washington DC in June 2019 and India has been prodding the United States to restore it.

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP):

  • It is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.
  • GSP was instituted on January 1, 1976, by the Trade Act of 1974.
  • GSP has been given on a non-reciprocal basis. Yet the US has linked it with market access and tariff reduction which is against the basic tenets of GSP.
  • The objective of GSP was to give development support to poor countries by promoting exports from them into the developed countries.
  • GSP promotes sustainable development in beneficiary countries by helping these countries to increase and diversify their trade with the United States.

Benefits of GSP:

  • Indian exporters benefit indirectly – through the benefit that accrues to the importer by way of reduced tariff or duty-free entry of eligible Indian products
  • Reduction or removal of import duty on an Indian product makes it more competitive to the importer – other things (e.g. quality) being equal.
  • This tariff preference helps new exporters to penetrate a market and established exporters to increase their market share and to improve upon the profit margins, in the donor country.

 

4.The 20th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):

The 20th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State was held recently via Video Conferencing.

  • The Meeting was chaired by Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin.

Significance of SCO Meet:

  • 20th Summit of SCO Heads of State is important as it brought President Xi Jinping of China and Mr. Modi together in the virtual format even as both sides are caught in the high tension confrontation in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • This was the first SCO Summit held in Virtual Format and the third meeting that India participated after becoming a full member in 2017.
  • The Republic of Tajikistan assumed chairmanship of SCO for 2021-22.
  • India has proposed to set up a Special Working Group on Innovation and Startups and a Sub Group on Traditional Medicine within SCO.
  • The Prime Minister of India indirectly referred chinese infrastructure projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and India China standoff at line of actual control and urged members of the SCO to respect “territorial integrity” and “sovereignty” of each other.
  • Connectivity: PM highlighted India’s role in supporting infrastructure and connectivity development projects in the SCO region. Examples: Chabahar port,
  • The International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a multi-modal connectivity project to establish transport networks (ship, rail, and road route) for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • Responsible Global Governance: Bringing changes in global governance will be the focus of India as a non-permanent member of the United Nation (UN) Security Council. From 2021 India will take part in the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member.
  • In the context of the fallout of the pandemic and the economic downturn, India sought support of the SCO members in attaining a reformed multilateralism.
  • India highlighted the challenges posed by the smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money laundering.
  • The National Museum of India will hold an exhibition on the Buddhist heritage of the SCO countries and India will host a food festival reflecting the culinary traditions of the SCO region.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation:

  • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation.
  • It’s a Eurasian political, economic and military organization aiming to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.
  • It was created in 2001.
  • The SCO Charter was signed in 2002 and entered into force in 2003.
  • The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
  • SCO has two Permanent Bodies
    • SCO Secretariat in Beijing, and
    • Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) in Tashkent.
  • The Chairmanship of SCO is by rotation for a year by the Member States

 

5.Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT):

Indian astronomers collaborated with Nobel laureate on Thirty Meter Telescope Project.

  • 2020 Physics Nobel Laureate Prof. Andrea Ghez had worked closely with Indian astronomers on the design of back-end instruments.

About TMT:

  • It is an astronomical observatory with an extremely large telescope (ELT).
  • It is an international project being funded by scientific organizations of Canada, China, India, Japan and USA.
    Planned location: Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii in the US state of Hawaii.
  • The TMT is designed for near-ultraviolet to mid-infrared observations, featuring adaptive optics to assist in correcting image blur.
  • Significance:
    • TMT will enable scientists to study fainter objects far away from us in the Universe, which gives information about the early stages of the evolution of the Universe.
    • It will give us finer details of not-so-far-away objects like undiscovered planets and other objects in the Solar System and planets around other stars.

 

6.Annual Meeting of IBA:

The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has held its 73rd annual general meeting virtually. In the meeting, the Finance Minister of India suggested the banks bring new reforms and implement the existing ones in a timely manner.

  • IBA is an association of Indian banks and financial institutions, formed on 26th September 1946 and is based in Mumbai.
  • EASE (Enhanced Access and Service Excellence) Reforms Agenda, launched in January 2018, was commissioned through IBA.

Key Points

On Linking Aadhar:

  • Aadhaar-seeded bank accounts are needed to reach people by Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
  • Banks should link every account with the customer’s Aadhaar number by 31st March 2021 in order to stop the duplication of accounts as well as verify the unverified accounts.
  • On Widening Financial Inclusion: Even though there are 42 crore Jan Dhan bank accounts in India, there is a need to widen financial inclusion by adding more people.
  • Banks should promote RuPay cards over others now that the card network has become global and also make sure that all Indian customers have it.
  • RuPay is the first-of-its-kind domestic Debit and Credit Card payment network of India.
  • It was launched by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), an umbrella organisation for operating retail payment and settlement systems in the country.

On Digitisation:

  • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) should be a common parlance word in all the banks.
  • UPI is a single platform that merges various banking services and features under one umbrella, established by the NPCI together with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and IBA.
  • Non-digital payments should be discouraged in order to give impetus to the Digital India Initiative.

On Amalgamation of Banks:

  • There is a need for more large banks that can finance large projects and for that more amalgamation as big as State bank of India (SBI) are needed.
  • Amalgamation should not just remain as an exercise to bring two or three banks together, it should now become an organic mechanism to grow, and to grow to such scales that the new demands from the industry, economy, and businesses can all be met up in a changing world.
  • Large banks are also needed as much as the smaller finance companies, smaller banks, and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
  • While India has only about 500-600 banks, including the regional rural ones, the USA has around 26,000 banks with a fourth of India’s population.
  • There is only one Indian bank (SBI) in the top 100 globally, against 18 in China.

On Lending:

  • Banks must not shy away from lending, especially when the economy is facing major challenges and as lending is their principal business and they must lend after undertaking prudent risk management rather than avoid lending altogether.

 

Other important current affairs:

1.The air quality of Delhi and Noida continued to be in the ‘severe’ category for the sixth consecutive day.

  • So, the newly formed Commission on Air Quality Management, as an interim measure, has given the CPCB powers to operationalize measures under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) on air pollution.
  • The GRAP is a set of emergency measures to be implemented to control air pollution depending upon the air quality.
  • Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016.
  • The plan was prepared by the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority.
  • It works only as an emergency measure.
  • When the air quality shifts from poor to very poor, the measures listed have to be followed since the plan is incremental in nature.
  • The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas).
  • At the head of the table is the EPCA, mandated by the Supreme Court.
  • Before the imposition of any measures, EPCA holds a meeting with representatives from all NCR states, and a call is taken on which actions have to be made applicable in which town.

2.The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has included the Panna Biosphere Reserve (PBR) in its World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).

  • The PBR is the third in Madhya Pradesh to be included in the list after Pachmarhi and Amarkantak.
  • Along with PBR, the Fuvahmulahand Addu Atoll in the Maldives has also been included in the WNBR.
  • Established in 1981, PBR is located in the Panna and Chhatarpur districts of Madhya Pradesh with an area of around 540 km. sq.
  • It is situated in the Vindhya mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Ken River (one of the least polluted tributaries of the Yamuna River) flows through the reserve and the KenBetwa river interlinking project will also be located in it.
  • The region is also famous for Panna diamond mining.
  • Conservation and Recognition:
    • 1994: The Panna National Park got the status of Project Tiger Reserve as India’s 22nd tiger reserve.
    • 2011: It was notified as a Biosphere Reserve by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
    • 2018: By 2018, it witnessed a remarkable turnaround in the tiger population by increasing their numbers remarkably from zero estimated a decade ago.
      Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers in the country followed by Karnataka and Uttarakhand.
    • 2020: UNESCO included it in the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB).

3.The Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation of the Ministry of Jal Shakti is organizing the 2nd National Water Awards (NWAs) for the year 2019.

  • The awards are organized by the Department of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • The NWAs were launched in 2007 for the first time along with the Ground Water Augmentation Awards and the winners in different categories are given a citation, trophy, and cash prize.
  • These focus on the good work and efforts made by individuals and organizations across the country, and the government’s vision for the path to ‘Jal Samridh Bharat’.
  • Objectives:
    • To motivate individuals/organizations who are doing commendable work in the field of water resources conservation and management.
    • To create awareness among the people about the importance of water and encourage them to adopt the best water usage practices.

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