Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 21 July 2020

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 21 July 2020


EC not to extend postal ballot to those aged 65 years and above citing logistical reasons

  • With more than 70 lakh electors above 65 years of age, the Election Commission has decided against extending postal ballots to them in the upcoming Bihar Assembly election due to the logistical challenges posed, an EC source said.
  • The EC had recommended extending the postal ballot facility to electors over 65 years as the age group had been termed most vulnerable to COVID-19. The Law Ministry notified the change to the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 on June 19, extending the facility to electors above 65 years, as opposed to the existing provision for above 80 years.
  • However, on July 16, the EC announced that it would not be extending the facility to electors of age 65 and above due to logistical, staff and safety protocol-related constraints.
  • The source said that while reviewing the preparations for the poll, the EC decided that it would not be possible to arrange the facility for about 72 lakh electors, about 10% of the total 7.19 crore voters in the State.
  • The source said the facility for this category of electors is not the conventional postal service. The system works as a polling station on the move, with the polling staff visiting the homes of senior citizens.

Parliament to bring in new norms ahead of monsoon session

  • For the monsoon session of Parliament, to ensure that the members adhere to physical distancing norms, a plan is being mulled over, whereby members of both Houses will sit spread out in the RajyaSabha and LokSabha halls.
  • One House will meet in the morning and the other in the afternoon, with enough time in between to sanitise both the halls.
  • This plan was arrived at following a meeting between RajyaSabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and LokSabha Speaker Om Birla.



India looks into privatisation of more banks

  • India is looking to privatise more than half of its state-owned banks to reduce the number of government-owned lenders to just five as part of an overhaul of the banking industry, government and banking sources said.
  • The first part of the plan would be to sell majority stakes in Bank of India, Central Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, UCO Bank, Bank of Maharashtra and Punjab & Sind Bank, leading to an effective privatisation of these state-owned lenders, a government official said.
  • The official said that such a plan would be laid out in a new privatisation proposal the government is currently formulating, and this would be put before the Cabinet for approval.
  • The Centre is working on a privatisation plan to help raise money by selling assets in non-core companies and sectors when the country is strapped for funds due to lack of economic growth caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Several government panels and the RBI have recommended a maximum of five state-owned banks.
  • The divestment may not happen in this financial year due to unfavourable market conditions, the sources said.India expects bad loans at its banks could double after the crisis brought the economy to a standstill.

Centre and Telcos assure supreme court on non re-assessment of AGR dues

  • The Centre and telcos on Monday assured the Supreme Court that they would not conduct any re-assessment or re-calculation of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues.
  • A Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said it would not tolerate “even for a second” any attempt to re-assess the AGR dues which now stands at ₹1.6 lakh crore. The Bench, however, reserved its verdict on the timeline for the staggered payments.
  • The Bench observed that 15 or 20 years was not a reasonable time period and the telcos must come forward with an appropriate time frame. The Centre had earlier urged the court that up to 20 years be given to the firms for the payments.


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U.S accuses China of undermining Myanmar sovereignty

  • The US has accused China of undermining the sovereignty of Myanmar through its actions in states like Kachin bordering China.The US Chargé d’Affaires in Myanmar George N. Sibley has said in an article on Saturday that China has tried to intimidate, threaten and undermine Myanmar sovereignty by encouraging unregulated banana plantation in the Kachin state, non-demarcation of fisheries and similar other acts.
  • He has also said that China aided in unregulated investment and corruption in the mining and forestry sector. The infrastructure and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) promoted by China lead to piling up of debts and ceding of regulatory control benefitting China at the cost of Myanmar.
  • Referring to the human trafficking from Myanmar, the US embassy official says that nearly 80 percent of Myanmar’s reported human trafficking cases in 2019 involved women being trafficked to China. Law enforcement in China often looks the other way and fails to help these vulnerable victims.
  • The US embassy Chargé d’Affaires also referred to the illicit drug trade. He said billions of dollars worth drugs and chemicals have been seized by the Myanmar authorities. Most of these came from China. The Chinese embassy in Myanmar refuted the allegations and said that the statement was intended to drive a wedge with its neighbours.

Global demand for cancelling debts of developing countries takes root

  • The burden of debt on the developing countries that amounts to over $11 trillion should be cancelled in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of global notables has demanded.
  • Led by former Brazil President DilmaRousseff the group says the debt should go in meeting the public health requirements in these challenging times.
  • “This debt has ballooned over the past several decades, leaving most developing countries in an unsustainable financial situation. Defaults and debt adjustments seem to be a permanent fixture amongst developing countries, coming for reasons that are often external to the fundamentals of their economies,” said the statement on debt cancellation.
  • Apart from Ms.Rousseff, the statement was also backed by former Greek Finance MinsterYanisVaroufakis and Argentine lawyer and activist Juan Grabois among others. 



Giant cockroaches discovered from eastern Indian Ocean

  • A new species of cockroach has been found deep in the Indian Ocean by a team of researchers from Singapore.The researchers found the species when they were working on the unexplored waters of Indian Ocean in Banta. Bantan is in the southern coast of West Java in Indonesia.The newly found cockroach species has been named “Bathynomusraksasa”.
  • The cockroach belongs to the genus Bathynomous. It has 14 legs and uses them to crawl along the bed of oceans in search of food.It measured 50 centimetres in length and is big for isopods. 
  • In general, the isopods that reach to a length of 50 centimetres are generally referred to super giants.The raksasa eats dead marine animals such as fish and whales. It can also go for long periods without food. This is a common trait the raksasa shares with cockroaches.



T20 cricket worldcup put off to 2022

  • The T20 World Cup, scheduled to be played in Australia in October-November this year, has formally been postponed to 2022.
  • The announcement after Monday’s International Cricket Council (ICC) Board meeting has cleared the decks for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to reschedule the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the same window.
  • Besides deferring the T20 World Cup to October-November, 2022, the ICC Board also decided to push the 2023 ODI World Cup in India to October-November that year from February-March.
  • India was awarded the 2021 tournament, but its host status was threatened after it did not meet the first deadline for securing tax exemptions from the Central government. As of now, India still retains hosting rights, with the ICC extending the deadline to Dec. 31.


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