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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 21st AUGUST 2020

  • IASbaba
  • August 21, 2020
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Turkey-Greece Stand-off

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II – International Relations 

In News:

  • Recently, France has deployed its military in the eastern Mediterranean Sea amid tensions between Greece and Turkey over recently-discovered gas reserves in the region. 

Key takeaways 

  • The EU and its allies in West Asia and North Africa made plans to build a gas pipeline from the Mediterranean to Europe’s mainland to transport the gas.
  • The gas transport would help reduce the EU’s dependency on Russia.
  • However, they have kept Turkey out of it.
  • Turkey has challenged the EU pipeline project. 
  • It has reached an agreement with Libya to form an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from its southern shores to Libya’s northern coast across the Mediterranean.
  • Greece’s claims: 
    • Turkish zone violated its maritime sovereignty
    • It has announced its EEZ with Egypt, which clashed with Turkey’s zone.
  • As a reaction to the deal, Turkey has sent its survey ship near the island of Kastellorizo area. 
  • The area is mentioned in the Greece-Egypt agreement.
  • Over the past four decades, Greece and Turkey have gone to war at least three times.
  • They disagree over overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources. 
  • Now, France, the EU’s most powerful military force, has thrown its weight behind Greece and Cyprus.
  • An alliance is also emerging among Greece, Cyprus, Italy and France, which is backed by Egypt, Israel and the UAE.
  • Turkey stands almost isolated, but remains a key power in the Mediterranean.

Image Source: Click here


Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal Project

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-I – Water Resources & GS-II – Inter-State Relations; Dispute Redressal Mechanisms 

In News:

  • Recently, Center’s proposal to proceed with Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal Project may cause political unrest in Punjab.

Image source: Click here 

Key takeaways 

  • The dispute can be traced back to the Indus Water Treaty (1960) between India and Pakistan. 
  • It allowed India free and unrestricted use of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.
  • 1966: Creation of Haryana from the old (undivided) Punjab threw up the problem of giving Haryana its share of river waters.
  • Recently, SC has directed the Chief Ministers of both states to negotiate and settle the SYL canal issue at the highest political level to be mediated by the Centre.
  • However, Punjab has asked for a tribunal for fresh time-bound assessment of the water availability. 
  • Punjab is unwilling to share water because it is facing severe water crisis due to over-exploitation of its underground aquifers for the wheat/paddy monocycle. 

Civil rights lawyer found guilty of criminal contempt of court

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II – Judiciary

In News:

Key takeaways 

  • The judgment: 
    • The tweet scandalised the SC as an institution.
    • It held that being the epitome of the Indian judiciary, an attack on the SC can lead to ordinary litigants and judges of High Courts across the country losing the confidence in the SC. 
    • It acknowledged that its contempt powers could be used only to uphold the majesty of law and 
    • The powers cannot be used to vindicate an individual judge against whom a defamatory remark is made.
    • It said that the prior consent of the Attorney General (AG) is not required to suo motu initiate the inherent contempt powers of the SC. The suo motu contempt powers are drawn from Article 129 of the Constitution.
  • The SC has also asked Prashant Bhushan to reflect on his actions and possibly modify a statement in which he refused to apologise for his tweets.

Important value additions 

Suo Moto Cognizance

  • It is a Latin term. 
  • Meaning: An action taken by a government agency, court or other central authority on their own apprehension.
  • A court takes a Suo Moto Cognizance of a legal matter when it receives information about the violation of rights or breach of duty through media or a third party’s notification.

UAE connects first Arab nuclear plant to power grid

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II – International relations & GS-III – Energy Resources

In News:

  • UAE has recently connected its Barakah nuclear power plant to the national grid in a new first for the Arab world.
  • UAE will be able to meet its 25% of electricity needs from nuclear power.
  • The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves. Alongside, it has made huge investments in developing clean alternatives, including solar energy.
  • Besides, Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has plans to build up to 16 nuclear reactors. 
  • Barakah was built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation at a cost of some $24.4 billions. 

Swachh Survekshan 2020 announced 

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-I – Social Issues 

In News:

  • Awards for Swachh Survekshan 2020 was recently announced. 
  • It is the fifth edition of the annual cleanliness urban survey. 
  • Conducted by: the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA). 
  • Cleanest City of India  (> 1 lakh population category):
    • Indore (1st)
    • Surat  (2nd)
    • Navi Mumbai (3rd) 
  • Indore has created record by winning title of cleanest city fourth time in a row.
  • Cleanest State of India (> 100 Urban Local Bodies category) : Chhattisgarh.
  • Cleanest State of India (<100 ULB category) : Jharkhand 
  • Cleanest town along the banks of river Ganga: Varanasi 
  • Cleanest capital city: New Delhi
  • Cleanest city with over 40 lakh population: Ahmedabad 

Private firms employ more women in R&D: STI

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III – Science and Technology

In News:

  • Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 2018, a periodic compendium of the state of scientific research in India was recently released. 
  • Prepared by: The National Science and Technology Management Information System (division of the Department of Science Technology). 
  • Based on: Data provided by a range of scientific establishments across India.
  • Findings: 
    • India’s private sector research companies appear to employ a larger proportion of women in core research and development activities as compared to government-funded major scientific agencies. 
  • The large drop in the number of women between the doctoral and professional stages may be due to:
    • Social pressure on women to have a family and sacrifice professional career.
    • Patriarchal attitudes in hiring practices. 

(MAINS FOCUS)


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive 

National Recruitment Agency (NRA)

Context: Recently the government has approved the creation of a national recruitment agency.

What is NRA?

  • NRA is a testing agency which would be responsible for conducting the Common Eligibility Examination (CET) for non-gazetted Group B and C(non-technical) posts
  • To begin with, NRA CET would cover recruitment examinations for Railway Recruitment Board (RRB), Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS Clerk, PO) and Staff Selection Commission (SSC CHSL, CGL, Steno Group C, D, JHT, etc.).
  • Gradually, all Central government recruitment agencies would be brought under the NRA.
  • NRA will be set up under the Societies Registration Act
  • It would have representatives of the Ministry of Railways, Department of Financial Services, the SSC, RRB and IBPS.

About Common Eligibility Test

  • Objective: It would merely check the eligibility of the candidates to appear for the recruitment process and is not same as a recruitment examination. 
  • Nature of Exam: It is like a preliminary or Tier 1 examination where the general and basic aptitude of the candidate is tested. 
  • Mode: This would be an online examination and would be time bound.
  • Frequency: NRA would release the schedule for the CET, which would be conducted twice every year. 
  • Language: Candidates would be able to choose the medium of instruction from 12 major Indian languages, which will be expanded to other languages in future.
  • Validity: Once the exam is conducted, the candidates would be provided with their CET score, that would be valid for a period of three years. 
  • Differentiated: Separate CET’s would be conducted for the different levels of eligibility – 10th pass, 12th pass and graduates
  • Utility: Based on CET Score level, final selection for recruitment shall be made through separate specialised Tiers (II, III, etc.) of examination which shall be conducted by the respective recruitment agencies

Would NRA also cover UPSC Exams?

  • No. UPSC conducts the recruitment examinations for Group A and Group B posts. These examinations do not come under the ambit of NRA.

Merits of NRA & CET

  • Leveraging Technology to enhance Integrity of exam: A standardised question bank with multiple questions of similar difficulty levels will be created in a central server. An algorithm will be used to jumble and dole out different questions, so that each candidate receives a different question paper, reducing the chances of cheating and paper leakage.
  • Reduces Recruitment Cycle: Scores will be generated quickly, delivered online and be valid for a three-year period. Presently these exam cycle process takes on an average 6-12 months
  • Increases Access to Exams: To make it easier for candidates, examination centres would be set up in every district of the country
  • Huge Savings for recruiters & candidates: For the recruiting agencies, the savings in terms of logistics will be huge. Also, candidates would no longer have to travel to urban centres at considerable expense and hardship to take an employment test
  • Applicant Friendly: The candidate may qualify the CET once and then appear for multiple recruitments directly for a period of 3 years (provided he meets the other criteria)

Challenges Ahead 

  • Unfilled Vacancies: New posts are sanctioned periodically, but a large number of vacancies remain unfilled. Around 7 Lakh Government Posts Remained Unoccupied till March 2018, according to government sources
  • Growing Privatisation: With growing emphasis on transferring core railway services to the private sector, there may be fewer government jobs on offer in the future. 
  • Similar reform needed at State level: Only 14% of public employment comes under the purview of Centre (predominantly in railways & defence), with the rest falling within the purview of States. 
  • Needs Sustained Political Commitment: The long-term relevance of such reforms will depend on the commitment of governments to raise the level of public employment and expand services to the public

Connecting the dots:


INTERNATIONAL / SECURITY

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
  • India and its neighborhood- relations

China twist in Teesta challenge

Context: Bangladesh is discussing an almost $1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river.

About Teesta River

  • Teesta river is a tributary of the Brahmaputra (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh)
  • It originates in the Himalayas in Sikkim and flows to the south through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh, where it merges with Brahmaputra
  • India and Bangladesh have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over water-sharing in the Teesta.
  • The two countries were on the verge of signing a water-sharing pact in September 2011, when PM Manmohan Singh was going to visit Bangladesh. But, West Bengal CM objected to it, and the deal was scuttled.
  • Bangladesh has sought an “equitable” distribution of Teesta waters from India, on the lines of the Ganga Water Treaty of 1996 (an agreement to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border), but to no avail.

How has India’s relationship with Bangladesh played out over the years?

  • New Delhi has had a robust relationship with Dhaka, carefully cultivated since 2008, especially with the Sheikh Hasina government
  • Security Cooperation: India has benefited from its security ties with Bangladesh, whose crackdown against anti-India outfits has helped the Indian government maintain peace in the eastern and Northeast states.
  • Economic and development partnership: Bilateral trade has grown steadily over the last decade: India’s exports to Bangladesh in 2018-19 stood at $9.21 billion, and imports from Bangladesh at $1.04 billion.
  • People to People ties: India grants 15 to 20 lakh visas every year to Bangladesh nationals for medical treatment, tourism, work, and just entertainment. 

What are the irritants in Indo-Bangladesh Relations?

  • NRC and CAA: Bangladesh had cancelled visits by ministers, and PM Hasina has expressed reservations about Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • Trade Imbalance: Bangladesh has trade deficit ($8.20 billion in 2018019) with India which it wants to reduce.
  • Growing China: Bangladesh has courted Chinese investments for its infrastructural projects. Despite India’s pressure, Bangladesh attended the Belt & Road Forum hosted by Chinese President Xi

How have relations between Bangladesh and China been developing?

  • China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports. 
  • In 2019, the trade between the two countries was $18 billion and the imports from China commanded the lion’s share.
  • Recently, China declared zero duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh. The concession flowed from China’s duty-free, quota-free programme for the Least Developed Countries. 
  • This move has been widely welcomed in Bangladesh, with the expectation that Bangladesh exports to China will increase.
  • China has promised around $30 billion worth of financial assistance to Bangladesh.
  • China is the biggest arms supplier to Bangladesh and it has been a legacy issue — after the liberation, officers of Pakistan Army — who were well-versed with Chinese arms — joined Bangladesh Army and that’s how they preferred Chinese weapons

Cause of Concern about recent move on Teesta

  • The project is aimed at managing the river basin efficiently, controlling floods, and tackling the water crisis in summers.
  • It has come at a time when India is particularly wary about China following the standoff in Ladakh.
  • This shows that China is making major inroads into India’s dominant and strategic space in the subcontinent (Nepal raising Kalapani issue and Pakistan releasing new map)

Way Ahead

  • While the Teesta project is important and urgent from India’s point of view, it will be difficult to address it before the West Bengal elections due 2021.
  • In the meantime, Delhi can address other issues of concern like
    • Implementation of announced projects in a timely manner
    • Bangladesh sought return of the Tablighi Jamaat members impacted by the lockdown in India, which can be looked into
    • Reopening of visa issuance from the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, which helps many Bangladeshi patients to visit India for medical check-ups.
    • Reopen travel through Benapole-Petrapole land port which has been halted by the West Bengal government in the wake of the pandemic.
    • Collaborate in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, including its trial, 

Connecting the dots:

  • BCIM Corridor
  • Microfinance Model by Muhammad Yunus

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note: 

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers. 
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1 Turkey is located between:

  1. Black Sea and Caspian Sea
  2. Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea
  3. Gulf of Suez and Mediterranean Sea
  4. Gulf of Aqaba and Dead Sea

Q.2 The suo motu contempt powers are drawn from which of the following Article of the Constitution?

  1. Article 120
  2. Article 127
  3. Article 128
  4. Article 129

Q.3 Barakah nuclear power plant recently seen in news is situated in which of the following country?

  1. Saudi Arabia
  2. Iran
  3. Iraq
  4. United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Q.4 Govind Sagar Lake is a Reservoir situated on which of the following rivers? 

  1. Sutlej 
  2. Indus 
  3. Beas 
  4. Jhelum

ANSWERS FOR 20th August 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 D
3 D
4 A
5 A

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