A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations
1. Vijay Diwas 2020
- “Vijay Diwas 2020” was celebrated on 16 December 2020 with the customary pomp and fervor at National War Memorial, Southern Command, Pune.
- This day marks splendid victory achieved by India over Pakistan in 1971 war.
- The war saw the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation and India rose as a regional power to reckon with.
2. New Development Bank (NDB) (PIB)
Context: The Government of India and the New Development Bank (NDB) signed a loan agreement for lending $1,000 million for ‘supporting India’s economic recovery from COVID-19’ by supporting expenditures on rural infrastructure related to natural resource management (NRM) and rural employment generation under Government of India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
- The New Development Bank (NDB) is a multilateral financial institution established in 2015 by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
- Its purpose is to fund infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging market economies and developing countries.
- The Bank has an initial authorized capital of 100 billion dollars, and an initial subscribed capital of 50 billion dollars.
- The NDB is not meant to challenge the Western banks, but rather to complement them.
- The Bank has its headquarters in Shanghai, China and an Africa Regional Centre is being established in Johannesburg, South Africa and one regional centre in Brazil.
- During the sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (2014), the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB).
How is the NDB governed?
- The NDB was founded by the five BRICS countries, though membership is open to any member of the United Nations.
- The Bank is governed by a Board of Governors made up of the finance ministers of the five BRICS countries, and a Board of Directors.
- Voting power within the Board is based on each country’s shares in the bank.
- While new members can join the NDB, the five BRICS countries will retain a minimum of 55% of total shares and hence of voting power.
- At present, all the BRICS nations have equal share-holding and equal voting rights.
- The NDB’s management includes a presidency which rotates among BRICS members, and four vice presidents who are selected from the remaining BRICS countries.
- As of now, NDB’s approved loan proportion to India is 28%, the second highest after China amongst the BRICS countries.
- NDB can lent to both public sector entities as well as the private sector.
- Projects may be located within NDB member countries or outside, as long as the projects in some way benefit the member countries.
- NDB aims to provide local currency financing options in its member countries and it is expected that NDB will be able to provide rupee financing in India soon.
- NDB aims to support the Indian public and private sector for infrastructure development through innovative means such as loans in local currency, guarantees, credit enhancement and equity investments.
3. States to get additional borrowing permission on completion of citizen centric reforms
- Context: The Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, has extended the deadline to 15thFebruary, 2021 for the States to complete citizen centric reforms in various sectors.
- In view of the resource requirement to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of India had decided in May, 2020 to raise the borrowing limit of the States by 2 percent of their GSDP.
- This was aimed at enabling the States to mobilise additional financial resources of up to Rs.4.27 lakh crore.
- Half of this special dispensation was linked to reforms. The purpose was to motivate the States to carry out reforms in various citizen centric areas.
- The Government of India has identified four critical areas for reforms by the States:
- Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System,
- Ease of doing business reform,
- Urban Local body/ utility reforms and
- Power Sector reforms.
- States successfully completing the reforms are eligible to get two benefits.
- Such States get the facility of additional borrowing equivalent to 0.25 percent of their Gross States Domestic Product (GSDP) for completing each reform.
- The second benefit available to the States completing three out of the four reforms is additional funds assistance under the “Scheme for Financial Assistance to States for Capital Expenditure”.
- The scheme was announced by the Finance Minister in October, 2020 as part of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package 2.0.
- It is aimed at boosting capital expenditure by State Governments who are facing difficult financial environment this year due to the shortfall in tax revenue arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
4, Currency Manipulation (TH)
- Context: The United States has once again included India in its monitoring list of countries with potentially “questionable foreign exchange policies” and “currency manipulation”.
- Currency manipulation is when a country is artificially lowering the value of its currency to gain an unfair advantage over others.
- S. Treasury said that in the year through June 2020 India, Switzerland and Vietnam had intervened heavily in currency markets to prevent effective balance of payments adjustments.
- Other countries in the latest list comprise China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Singapore & Malaysia.
- India was last included in the currency watchlist in October 2018, but removed from the list that came out in May 2019.
What does the term ‘currency manipulator’ mean?
- This is a label given by the US government to countries it feels are engaging in “unfair
- currency practices” by deliberately devaluing their currency against the dollar.
- Artificially lowering the value of its currency is done to gain an unfair advantage over others.
- This is because the devaluation would reduce the cost of exports from that country and artificially show a reduction in trade deficits as a result.
- The designation of a country as a currency manipulator does not immediately attract any penalties, but tends to dent the confidence about a country in the global financial markets.
C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
5. Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS)/ Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) (PIB)
Context: 2nd Conference on Good Practices in CCTNS and ICJS organized by NCRB.
- CCTNS is a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of Govt. of India.
- It was conceptualized by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Originally approved in 2009, the Project aims to:
- a) deliver various web-based police related services to citizens.
- b) facilitate a pan-India search of crime and criminal records of individuals through a national database.
- c) generate crime and criminal reports at the state and central level to inform policy interventions and
- d) computerise police processes.
- In 2015, an additional objective of establishing a basic platform for an Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) was added to the Project.
- The Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) aims to integrate the CCTNS project with the e-courts and e-prisons databases in the first instance and with the other pillars of the criminal justice system – Forensics, Prosecution, Juvenile homes and a nationwide Fingerprint data base of criminals in a phased manner.
- CCTNS is a 100% centrally funded project.
Scope of coverage
- The scope of CCTNS spans all 35 States and Union Territories and covers all Police Stations (15,000+ in number) and all Higher Police Offices (6,000+ in number) in the country.
- The CCTNS project includes vertical connectivity of police units (linking police units at various levels within the States – police stations, district police offices, state headquarters, SCRB and other police formations – and States, through state headquarters and SCRB, to NCRB at GOI level) as well as horizontal connectivity, linking police functions at State and Central level to external entities.
Impact of the CCTNS Project:
- Citizen portals in all states and Centre will facilitate transparency and speed in police service delivery, online registration of complaints and reporting and search of missing persons and stolen goods in self-service mode.
- Pan-India search on complete National Crime and Criminal database that is accessible to the Investigating Officers throughout the country.
- Search facility will be available to Police in regional languages for improved inter-state tracking of criminal movement.
- Reliable network connectivity to all Police Stations in the country.
- National level crime analytics will be published at increased frequency to help policy and law makers in taking data backed timely actions and in making appropriate policy interventions.
- Integration with various e-Governance projects such as Aadhaar, National Population Register, Vahan Project of the Ministry of Surface Transport, Passport Seva and National Emergency Response System Project thus increasing the synergies and benefit accrued from these individual systems. It will expedite various kinds of police verification requests and investigation.
- Advanced features such as biometric based identification, trend and pattern analytics etc. that will be incorporated to enhance hi-tech investigation capability.
6. Project Rupee Raftar (PIB)
- In January 2019, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation published a report, ‘Project Rupee Raftar’, that provided a roadmap to developing an aircraft financing and leasing industry in India.
- The report identified International Financial Services Centre (GIFT city, Gandhinagar in Gujarat), India’s Financial Special Economic Zone, for developing aircraft leasing and financing eco-system in the country.
- In October, 2020, Government of India notified ‘Aircraft lease which shall include operating and financial lease and any hybrid of operating and financial lease of aircraft or helicopter and engines of aircraft or helicopter or any part thereof’ as a financial product under International Financial Services Centres Authority Act, 2019.
7. National Hydrology Project (PIB)
- Context: Union Minister of Jal Shakti reviews progress made under National Hydrology Project in its mid-term.
- National Hydrology Project (NHP) was started in the year 2016 as a Central Sector Scheme with 100% grant to Implementing agencies on pan India basis with a budget outlay of Rs 3680 Crore to be spent over a period of 8 years.
- The project aims at improving the extent, reliability and accessibility of water resources information and to strengthen the capacity of targeted water resource management institutions in India.
- Under the NHP, a nationwide repository of water resources data – NWIC has been established.
- ‘National Hydrology Project’ (NHP) is a World Bank assisted central sector scheme with pan India coverage.
- The objectives of National Hydrology Project are:
- to improve the extent, quality, and accessibility of water resources information, decision support system for floods and basin level resource assessment/planning and
- to strengthen the capacity of targeted water resources professionals and management institutions in India.
- National Water Informatics Centre has been established under National Hydrology Project.
- The subject of flood management including erosion control falls within the purview of the States.
- The flood management & anti-erosion schemes are planned, investigated and implemented by the State Governments with their own resources as per priority within the State.
- The Union Government renders technical guidance and promotional financial assistance to States.
- The central schemes are divided into central sector schemes and centrally sponsored schemes (CSS).
What is a Central Sector Scheme?
- Central sector schemes are schemes with 100% funding by the Central government and implemented by the Central Government machinery.
- The central sector schemes are formulated on subjects mainly from the Union List.
- Besides, there are some other programmes that various Central Ministries implement directly in States and UTs which also come under Central Sector Schemes.
- In these schemes, the financial resources are not shifted to states.
What are Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS)?
- CCS are schemes that are implemented by state governments but are largely funded by the Central Government with a defined State Government share.
- Historically, CSS is the way through which central government helps states to run its Plans financially.
- They are basically special purpose grants (or loans) extended by Central Government to states to encourage them to plan and implement programmes that help attain national goals and objectives.
- CSS are basically extended by the Central Government to States under Article 282 of the Constitution.
- It mainly covers items listed in states list.
D) International Relations
8. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (TH)
- Context: Turkish PM criticised Washington for sanctioning a NATO ally.
- US has imposed sanctions targeting NATO member over its acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defence systems.
All about NATO
- Formed in 1949 with the signing of the Washington Treaty.
- NATO is a security alliance of 30 countries from North America and Europe.
- It’s fundamental goal is to safeguard the Allies’ freedom and security by political and military means.
- POLITICAL – NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defence and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.
- MILITARY – NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under the collective defence clause of NATO’s founding treaty – Article 5 of the Washington Treaty or under a United Nations mandate, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organisations.
- Article 5 of the Washington Treaty— that an attack against one Ally is an attack against all — is at the core of the Alliance, a promise of collective defense.
- Article 4 of the treaty ensures consultations among Allies on security matters of common interest including new threats to security such as cyber-attacks, and global threats such as terrorism and piracy that affect the Alliance and its global network of partners.
- In addition to its traditional role in the territorial defence of Allied nations, NATO leads the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and has ongoing missions in the Balkans and the Mediterranean.
- It also conducts extensive training exercises and offers security support to partners around the globe, including the European Union in particular but also the United Nations and the African Union.
- At present, NATO has 30 members.
- In 1949, there were 12 founding members of the Alliance: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- The other member countries are: Greece and Turkey (1952), Germany (1955), Spain (1982), the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Albania and Croatia (2009), Montenegro (2017) and North Macedonia (2020).
- NATO Headquarters is the political and administrative centre of the Alliance. It is located in Brussels, Belgium.