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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 10th January 2022

  • IASbaba
  • January 10, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India

Part of: Prelims and GS-I -Social issues 

Context: The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) released the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India 2021 through its website in December 2021. Key takeaways

  • The guidelines are a revision of the Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier-Free Built Environment for Persons with Disabilities and Elderly Persons.
  • Ministry: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) 
  • Drafted by a team of the IIT-Roorkee and the National Institute of Urban Affairs of the MoHUA, the revised guidelines aim to give a holistic approach.
  • Earlier, the guidelines were for creating a barrier-free environment, but now the focus is on universal accessibility
  • The guidelines say ramps are extremely crucial for providing an accessible mobility option, but it is equally important to understand that ramps have to adhere to given guidelines.
  • The guidelines provide the gradient and length of ramps.
  • The guidelines are not just for persons with disabilities (PwD), but for those involved in planning projects, from the construction of government buildings to master-planning cities.

Citizenship (Amendment) Act , 2019

Part of: Prelims and GS-II Citizenship

Context The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) did not notify the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 rules, the third extended deadline after the Act was passed.

Key takeaways 

  • January 9 was the last day of an extension sought from the two parliamentary committees in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to frame the rules.
  • Without rules, the Act cannot be implemented.
  • As per the Manual on Parliamentary Work, in case the ministries/departments are not able to frame the rules within the prescribed period of six months after legislation is passed, “they should seek extension of time from the committee stating reasons” which cannot be more than for a period of three months at a time.

About CAA

  • The CAA was passed by Parliament on December 11, 2019 and the Act was notified on December 12. 
  • In January 2020, the Ministry notified that the Act will come into force from January 10, 2020.
  • It amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 by providing a pathway to Indian citizenship for persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians, and arrived in India before the end of December 2014.
  • The law does not grant such eligibility to Muslims from these Muslim-majority countries.
  • The act was the first time that religion had been overtly used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian law and attracted global criticism
  • It exempts the members of the six communities from any criminal case under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport Act, 1920. 
  • The two Acts specify punishment for entering the country illegally and staying here on expired visas and permits.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – International Relations 

Context:  Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel has been appointed as a vice-president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

About AIIB

  • It is a multilateral development bank with headquarters in Beijing, China.
  • It is a development bank with a mission to improve the economic and social outcomes in Asia.
  • It has 103 approved members.
  • It focuses on investment in sustainable infrastructure and developmental projects.
  • Membership to the bank is open to all members of the Asian Development Bank or the World Bank.
  • India has emerged as AIIB’s biggest beneficiary by obtaining $6.8 billion funding for 29 projects.
  • As of October 22 2021, AIIB has overall approved 147 projects in 31 countries valued at $28.97 billion.

(News from PIB)


Veer Baal Diwas:

26th December; in the honour of the supreme sacrifice made by Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh, the younger sons of the 10th Sikh Guru Govind Singh Ji, for their supreme and unparalleled sacrifice on 26th December, 1705 at the tender age of 9 and 6 years respectively to defend the dignity and honour of Sikhism.


Parkash Purab of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-1

The auspicious occasion of Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti is also known as the Prakash Parv of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It is the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh and falls every year in December or January.

  • Born as Gobind Rai, was the tenth Sikh Guru, a spiritual leader, warrior, poet and philosopher. 
  • He formally became the leader and protector of the Sikhs at the age of nine after his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru, was killed by Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam.
  • Guru Gobind Ji led the Sikh community through his teachings and philosophy and soon gained historical importance.
  • He was responsible for institutionalising the Khalsa, who played a significant role in protecting the Sikhs after his death. 
  • Guru Gobind Singh Ji declared Guru Granth Sahib as Sikhism’s holy scripture in 1708, before his death.
  • Guru Gobind Singh Ji was a great warrior. He was known for his inclination towards poetry and the philosophies and writings he stood by. He refused to answer the Mughal invaders and fought alongside the Khalsa to protect his people. Under his guidance, his followers adhered to a strict code. His philosophies, writings, and poetry inspire people to this day.
  • To celebrate Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti, Sikhs around the world visit Gurudwaras, where prayer meetings take place in honour of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. 
  • People participate in processions organised by the Gurudwaras, hold kirtans and also do Seva, a significant part of the Sikh religion, for the community.

(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ INTERNATIONAL

  • GS-3: Indian Economy & its challenges
  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

The Devas Arbitration

Context: On January 3, Devas shareholders said they had won an order allowing seizure of $30 million worth of properties of Air India and the Airports Authority of India after a Canadian court’s order in connection with the arbitration award it had won against the Indian government. 

  • Both Indian entities have sought quashing of this order and the court has reserved its decision.

What happened in Canada?

  • A court in Canada had ordered seizure of amounts collected by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on behalf of Air India and AAI. 
  • This is the latest attempt by Devas shareholders to enforce the arbitration awards it won at international tribunals after India cancelled the Devas-Antrix deal in 2011.
  • So far, Devas has moved to seize U.S. $17.3 million of ticketing fees collected on behalf of Air India and U.S. $12.76 million of air navigation and aerodrome charges international airlines owe to AAI. 

What was the Antrix-Devas deal and why was it cancelled?

  • Telecommunications firm Devas Multimedia signed a contract with Antrix (ISRO’s commercial arm) in 2005 under which Antrix would build and launch two ISRO satellites and lease the corresponding S-band satellite spectrum to Devas, which in turn would use it to provide its Internet services. 
  • Following a leaked draft CAG audit report that pointed to a number of potential irregularities in the deal, including alleged financial mismanagement and violation of standard operating procedures the UPA government cancelled the Antrix-Devas deal in February 2011.
  • However, the final CAG report and a number of other panel probes did not find any evidence of quid pro quo or bribery. 
  • Questions have also been raised about the calculation of losses by the CAG in the Antrix-Devas deal as it compared satellite spectrum with telecom spectrum.

Why has Devas sought to attach AAI and Air India assets overseas?

  • After the Devas-Antrix deal was cancelled in 2011, Devas Multimedia Private Limited and its shareholders won three arbitration awards at international tribunals. 
  • Despite the compensation awarded to Devas shareholders, India has not paid any money yet and challenged the awards multiple times. 
  • Devas says that in 2020 the BJP government agreed to a negotiated global financial settlement, but walked away from it and until India returns to the negotiating table, it has no alternative but to move against India’s assets globally.
  • The first award on September 14, 2015 by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Tribunal, seated in New Delhi, unanimously rejected Antrix’s cancelling the deal and awarded Devas U.S. $562.5 million in damages plus 18% interest per annum. 
    • ISRO’s commercial arm, Antrix, has filed a petition to set aside the ICC award which is currently under adjudication before the Delhi High Court. 
  • In 2012, shareholders of a Devas arm incorporated in Mauritius moved the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against India, alleging violation of the obligation to protect their interest as guaranteed under the India-Mauritius Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). 
    • The PCA Tribunal, seated at The Hague, on July 25, 2016 found India liable for breaching its obligations. On October 13, 2020 the PCA Tribunal awarded Devas shareholders over U.S. $111 million plus interest as compensation. 
  • A third arbitration by one of the other shareholders of Devas —Deutsche Telekom (DT)—under the India-Germany Bilateral Investment Treaty at the PCA, won DT more than $132 million plus interest (in December 2017 and May 2020).
  • Meanwhile, in January 2021, after a plea from Antrix, the National Company Law Tribunal ordered winding up of Devas on grounds of being fraudulent, which was upheld by NCLAT in September, 2021. 
  • NCLAT has also held the Antrix-Devas agreement to be illegal. Devas has moved the Supreme Court and its appeals are pending.

What about Air India’s sale to the Tatas?

  • Devas’s move to seize Air India assets comes just weeks before Tata Sons is set to take over the airline.
  •  However, the events in Canada are unlikely to hamper the transfer of the airline as Tata Sons has been granted indemnity from past legal claims in the shareholder’s agreement. 

Connecting the dots:

  • Tax Terrorism
  • Bilateral Investment Treaties

SCIENCE & TECH/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life. 

Microchip Infused E-Passports

Context: The Ministry of External Affairs on January 7 signed an agreement with Tata Consultancy Services Limited for the second phase of the Passport Seva Programme (PSP).

  • The $1 billion agreement will focus on faster delivery of passports to the citizens and create a more effective integration between various wings of the Government like the MEA and the local police network that can work in harmony for verification of applicants and quick tracing in case of emergency situations. 

What are the features of the new passport initiative programme? 

  • The present passport application and processing continues to involve manual sections and these are expected to go digital in the new phase. 
  • The Ministry of External Affairs said that the PSP-V2.0 is a “continuation and enhancement” of PSP-V1.0. 
  • The new initiative is aimed at creating a digital platform that would be “transparent, more accessible and reliable” and that it would be backed by a trained workforce. 
  • This will create a state-of-the-art digital ecosystem, overhaul existing processes and integrate various wings of Government that are involved in issuance of passports. 
  • The issue of training of the employees in the new process is however, yet to begin which is expected to take some time. 

What will be the nature of partnership with TCS? 

  • Tata Consultancy Services according to the MEA will ensure “support functions” like “citizen interface, technology backbone, call centres, training and change management”. 
  • The Government will exercise “all sovereign and security related functions” in the process of issuing of passports. 
  • Strategic assets like Data Centres, Database and the application software will be owned by the Government and access would be controlled through biometrics. 
  • The programme also plans to have a Data Centre, Disaster Recovery Centre and Government Secure Repository which would be networked with all the Passport Seva Kendras and the Post Office Passport Seva Kendras (POPSK). 
  • The overall system would be connected to all the Indian diplomatic missions abroad and will allow monitoring and supervision through state-of-art Network Operation Centre, and Security Operation Centre . 
    • The programme has recently been connected to more than 176 Indian Missions/Posts through Global Passport Seva Programme (GPSP), providing seamless delivery of passport services to Indian diaspora.
  • The public private partnership however, is required to address the issue of shortfall of Government employees in the passport offices across the country. 
  • The announcement highlighted that the Government is gearing up for starting Seva Kendras in all the Lok Sabha constituencies of the country. 
  • But, according to the employees in the Passport division, there remain a large number of vacancies in the Government positions in these offices and a full spectrum “monitoring and supervision” will require more staff members from the side of the Government. 

What will be the new features of PSP-V2.0?

  • The new programme is expected to have technology upgrade including the use of latest biometrics technology, Artificial Intelligence, Advance Data Analytics, Chat-Bot, Auto-response, Natural Language Processing, Cloud Enablement. 
  • The newest feature under the PSP-V2.0 will be the issuance of the new generation of passports called e-passports
  • Under this, new and renewed passports will be fitted with a microchip that will hold all biometric information regarding the applicants. 
  • The next gen e-passports will ease immigration process across the world and will also increase digital safety for the passport holders.

How different will e-passports be from the current passports?

  • Current passports are scanned at the immigration counters to reveal the travel record of the citizen using the same document and the e-passport is also expected to perform the same function. 
  • However, unlike the current passports, the e-passport users will have physical storage of their biometric data in a chip which will reduce risk of data leakage. 

Is the public private partnership without any shortcoming? 

  • The MEA-TCS collaboration has been a part of the passport process since 2008 and has helped in increasing digitisation of the complex process that requires multiple stakeholders across the spectrum of the vast Government network. 
  • However, it is understood that more harmony between them will help citizens acquire passports without delays. 

(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Dec 8: Contribution of Indian Diaspora – https://youtu.be/-GaS1S-7Asw 

TOPIC:

  • GS-2- Indian Diaspora

Contribution of Indian Diaspora

Diasporas are symbol of a nation’s pride and represent their country internationally. 

  • They help in building country’s value internationally through their huge success stories. The diaspora’s ability to spread Indian soft power, lobby for India’s national interests, and contribute economically to India’s rise is now well-recognized. 
  • One of the greatest economic contributions of Indian diaspora has been in terms of remittances. According to a World Bank Report, India received approximately 87 billion dollars in remittances in 2021 with USA being the biggest source, accounting for over 20% of these funds.
  • To mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated on 9th January every year.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD)

  • January 9 was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, led India’s freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever.
  • Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention is celebrated once in every two years to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government of India and reconnect them with their roots.
  • During the Convention, selected overseas Indians are also honoured with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award to recognize their contributions to various fields both in India and abroad. 

Role of Indian Diaspora

There are over 32.1 million NRIs and PIOs residing outside India. The Indian diasporic communities are “unnamed ambassadors” promoting and maintaining the rich Indian culture and interests on foreign lands.

Indian diaspora as a biggest strategic asset for India:

  • Global labour source: With one of the largest pools of relatively low wage semi-skilled and skilled labour, India can become a critical centre of global labour sources. The past few decades has seen an upsurge of migration from India to the Gulf and, to North America. Given these emerging realities, India take advantage of these future trends to not only maximise the welfare of Indians outside the country, but also those within the country Can international migration and the Diaspora be a strategic asset for the country instead of just depleting its best and brightest.
  • Influential Positions: From Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Nobel laurete scientist Har Gobind Khorana and Microsoft CEO Sathya Nadella to world’s one among the leading music conductors Zubin Mehta, the list of NRIs and their contribution to the world goes endlessly. 
  • As a Pressure groups: The influential Indian diaspora affects not just the popular attitude, but also government policies in countries where they live, to the benefit of India. India benefits tremendously through these people in luring large multinational companies as well as entrepreneurial ventures. 
  • Agents of change: Diaspora acts as ‘agents of change’ facilitating and enhancing investment, accelerating industrial development, and boosting international trade and tourism. Another tangible long-term advantage in nurturing ties with an active Diaspora is an accelerated technological sector.
  • Soft Power:  The spread of Yoga, Ayurveda, Indian spiritualism, Bollywood, Indian cuisine across the world has made India famous. It has even led to revival of many lost relationships with many countries.
  • Humanitarian Assistance: There are many instances where diaspora has stood up for their Indian kins in times of disaster. Successful diaspora groups are among the largest contributors to the CMDRF. They are invaluable in mobilising resources, talent, and knowledge which will be integral in rebuilding the State. Diaspora communities will also inevitably shape political and economic responses to a disaster. The linking of social capital between diaspora, civil society organisations, advocacy groups and government institutions, although necessary during rehabilitation, is bound to lead to unanticipated and undesirable outcomes.
  • Political power: Many people of Indian origin hold top political positions in many countries, in the US itself they are now a significant part of Republicans and Democrats, as well as the government. The three ministers Rishi Sunak, Alok Sharma, and Priti Patel have held top roles in the UK government currently. Let’s not forget Kamala Harris.
  • Stimulate the economy: When they visit India, they tend to spend more lavishly than the locals, thereby helping economic activity. NRIs are more prone to donating to domestic charities because of the strong cultural and emotional feelings that they nurse. They bring technical and domain expertise to domestic startups and often act as angel investors. Diaspora Indian faculty abroad volunteer time and resources to help faculty on Indian campuses improve the quality of education — as in the case of member institutions of the Indo Universal Collaboration of Engineering Education.

Way forward – 

  • Deepening links within existing Diaspora: India needs to court two important, but untapped, segments of the existing Dia-spora: the young, second generation of overseas Indians; and those approaching retirement.
  • Diversify: Currently, Indians migration is concentrated in English-speaking countries for obvious reasons. The EU, Japan, Latin America and Russia should also be targeted over the next few decades. Also, there is greater scope for jobs at all skill levels in global transportation, health and home care. This requires major investments in specific educational services.
  • Increase investment engagement: Diaspora should be treated at par with other Indian citizens, including the right to work, both in the private and public sectors, and the right to buy and sell property to attract talented persons into the public sector.
  • Make them a part of the development process: The government should launch various win-win schemes to make it more attractive for its diaspora to step up participation in India’s development. India should formalise a rotation program wherein top NRI scientists, engineers, doctors, managers and professionals serve Indian public sector organizations for a brief period, lending their expertise. This kind of lateral induction of senior staff can do wonders to both host and contributing personnel as was evidenced by the tenure of Dr. Rajan at the RBI. Many NRIs would be willing to serve for no compensation if living expenses, travel and accommodations are paid for.

The Indian diaspora is the bridge between their nation and India where they can grow simultaneously for betterment of their citizens. With the versatile role of Diaspora, India could fulfil its cherished dream of being a super power and it could make much head way in its international and foreign affairs. The diaspora can provide the requisite strategic impulse, which makes it all the more important to unlock their potential.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Indian Diaspora is India’s asset in disguise. Elaborate with suitable examples

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Which of the following is/are true regarding Pravasi Bhartiya Divas? 

  1. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated every year
  2. Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was launched in 2014.

Select the correct answer:

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Guru Gobind Singh :

  1. He was responsible for institutionalising the Khalsa, who played a significant role in protecting the Sikhs after his death.
  2. Guru Gobind Singh Ji declared Guru Granth Sahib as Sikhism’s holy scripture in 1708, before his death.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 nor 2 

Q.3 Starting this year, ‘Veer Baal Diwas’ shall be observed to mark the martyrdom of Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh on which of the following date?

  1. 26th July
  2. 26th December
  3. 15th August
  4. 13th January

ANSWERS FOR 10th Jan 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 C
3 B

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