Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 21 November 2019


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 21 November 2019


::NATIONAL::

President hails government’s aim of improving Ease of living Index

  • President Ram NathKovind says the government has made concerted efforts to improve India’s ranking on the Ease of Doing Business Index. Now, it aims to improve the Ease of Living for all citizens.
  • Addressing the concluding session of the Conference of Directors of IITs, NITs and IIEST at RashtrapatiBhavan today, Mr Kovind expressed confidence that institutions like IITs, NITs can make the most crucial contribution to Ease of Living for the citizens, from the technology perspective.
  • He said improving urban infrastructure, making water supply systems efficient and making healthcare delivery more effective are some of the countless ways technology can make a dramatic difference in the life of an average Indian.
  • Our correspondent reports that the Conference is a part of regular interactions of the President with such institutions in his capacity as Visitor to 152 Central Universities and institutions of higher learning. 
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  • The conference was attended by Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh PokhriyalNishank, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Sanjay Dhotre, the Secretary, Higher Education, the Secretary, Department of Science and Technology and the Chairman of AICTE.

LokSabha passes Chitfund amendment bill2019

  • The LokSabha today passed the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by voice vote. The bill seeks to amend the Chit Funds Act, 1982, which regulates chit funds and prohibits a fund from being created without the prior sanction of a State Government.
  • The amendments have been made to facilitate the orderly growth of the chit fund sector to remove bottlenecks and enable greater financial access to people.
  • Under the legislation, the prescribed ceiling of aggregate chit fund amount for individuals has been raised from one lakh rupees to three lakh rupees and in case of firms, the limit has been raised from 6 lakh to 18 lakh rupees.
  • Besides, words chit amount, dividend and prize amount have been substituted with terms gross chit amount, the share of discount and net chit amount. The legislation also increases the maximum commission of a foreman from five per cent to seven per cent and also allows the foreman a right to lien against the credit balance from subscribers.
  • Replying to a debate on the bill in the House, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur said, the bill has been brought with an intention of protecting the interests of investors belonging to the poor and marginalized section of the society.
  • He said, the government also wants that the invested money should be returned on time to those investors who have been cheated in such schemes.

::ECONOMY::

Govt.to move forward with disinvestment of BPCL and other PSU’s

  • The government kicked off a blockbuster disinvestment plan on Wednesday, lining up the sale of five public sector units (PSUs), including majority stakes in bluechip oil company Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Shipping Corporation of India. Also on sale will be a 31% stake in Container Corporation of India (Concor) along with management control.
  • Based on current market prices, the sale of stakes in these three companies will fetch the government about Rs 78,400 crore, taking it close to the disinvestment target for the fiscal year.
  • The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA), which met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister NarendraModi, also cleared the sale of its entire stake in Tehri Hydro Development Corp of India and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (Neepco) to NTPC.
  • The government will retain a 24% stake in Concor given that it is “integrally linked” with Indian Railways.
  • The Taxation Amendment Bill, which was also approved by the cabinet, will replace the September 20 ordinance that had cut corporate tax rate cut to 22%, without any incentives and holidays, and instituted a new 15% rate for greenfield manufacturing. The bill also proposes certain changes to the Income Tax Act, beyond the ordinance, to provide greater clarity on the lower tax regime.

SEBI approves disclosure norms for listed companies

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India, SEBI, has approved stricter disclosure norms for listed companies.
  • Accordingly, in case of default in repayment of loans beyond 30 days, listed companies will have to disclose the fact of such default within 24 hours.SEBI Chairman Ajay Tyagi hoped that the move will help investors make informed choices.
  • Secondly, SEBI has amended Portfolio Managers (PM) Regulations, 2019 following which net worth requirement of portfolio managers has been enhanced from two crore to five crore rupees.
  • The regulator has informed that existing portfolio managers will have to meet the enhanced requirement within 36 months.
  • After a board meeting in Mumbai today, SEBI announced that it has approved a proposal to reduce the overall time taken for a rights issue from 55 days to 31 days.
  • Besides, SEBI has also extended the Business Responsibility Report requirement to top 1,000 companies, from 500 currently.
  • Speaking to reporters, Mr.Tyagi said the regulator perhaps needs to be more muscular to build trust among whistle-blowers. This was after a whistle-blower approached the US watchdog, Securities and Exchange Commission with a complaint against IT major Infosys instead of SEBI.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

China condemns U.S passage of HongKong rights bill

  • China's foreign ministry today summoned a top US diplomat over the Senate's passing of a Hong Kong rights bill, warning of strong countermeasures against the United States should the legislation be signed into law.
  • China's Foreign Ministry in a statement said that Vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu called in acting charge d'affaires William Klein to lodge a strong protest.
  • The US Senate, on Tuesday, has unanimously passed The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 that would also require the Secretary of State to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong still retains enough autonomy to warrant the special US trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial center.
  • The US treats semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which has its own legal and political systems, differently from the Chinese mainland when it comes to trade and export controls.The bill - if it becomes law - will demand greater scrutiny of the city's special status.
  • The bill,which among other things prohibit the commercial export of certain munitions to the Communist party-controlled Hong Kong Police Force, would provide sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

Palestine questions U.S decision to legitimise Israeli settlements

  • Palestine has condemned the US decision to abandon its four-decades-old position that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are inconsistent with international law.
  • Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the US does not have the right to give any legitimacy to Israeli settlement.Chief negotiator SaebErekat said the decision threatened to replace international law, with, what he called, the law of the jungle.
  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States no longer views dozens of Jewish settlements established by Israel in the occupied West Bank as inconsistent with international law.
  • Pompeo said the US decision should not be used as a precedent for any other part of the world or interpret it as an attempt to prejudge the ultimate status of the West Bank.
  • The US embassy in Jerusalem has issued a travel warning for the Palestinian territories following Mike Pompeo's announcement
  • Unlike Israel and the US, the international community sees the presence and expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem as illegal and considers it to be one of the major obstacles on the way to peace.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

Scientistspotray evidence of life in Mars

  • As scientists scramble to determine whether there is life on Mars, a researcher from Ohio University in US believes that there is evidence of insect-like creatures on the red planet.
  • Courtesy photographs from various Mars rovers, Professor Emeritus William Romoser's research found numerous examples of insect-like forms, structured similarly to bees, as well as reptile-like forms, both as fossils and living creatures.
  • Romoser said that while the Martian rovers, particularly the Curiosity Rover, have been looking for indicators of organic activity, there are a number of photos which clearly depict the insect- and reptile-like forms.
  • An exoskeleton and jointed appendages are sufficient to establish identification as an arthropod. Three body regions, a single pair of antennae, and six legs are traditionally sufficient to establish identification as 'insect' on Earth.
  • "The presence of higher metazoan organisms on Mars implies the presence of nutrient/energy sources and processes, food chains and webs, and water as elements functioning in a viable, if extreme, ecological setting sufficient to sustain life," Romoser said.

::SPORTS::

India’s Saritadevi elected member of AIBA athletes commission

  • LaishramSarita Devi of Manipur is among the six boxers from 5 continents who were elected as members of AIBA Athletes Commission. LaishramSarita Devi was inspired by Muhammad Ali's achievements, and turned professional in boxing in the year 2000. She is DSP in Manipur Police.
  • The election of the Athletes Commission members was organized during AIBA Men and Women World Boxing Championships 2019 in Russia. Boxers from all over the world voted for new members - one per continent, except Europe which has two representatives.

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