Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 22 February 2020

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 22 February 2020


Government moots public-private fund for R&D sector

  • In an effort to stimulate investment in research and development (R&D), the Department of Science and Technology is mooting a fund that will match the contributions made by private companies in R&D.
  • A major beneficiary of such private sector funds, Mr. Sharma noted, could be the Indian Institutes of Technology.
  • The scheme will be coordinated through the department’s Science and Engineering Research Board, which funds a variety of basic science projects in several universities.
  • Though India is among the top five countries in terms of its output of scientific publications, it doesn’t match up in investments.
  • Public sector institutions form the lion’s share of India’s investment in R&D. In 2004-2005, private sector accounted for 28% of India’s research spend and in 2016-17 this increased to 40%. In most advanced economies, private R&D accounts for the bulk of investment in R&D.
  • Moreover, while the government is the major source of funds for R&D, it’s also the major user — in terms of money consumed by public sector enterprises or Central institutions.
  • “As a lower middle-income country, it is not surprising that India’s spending on R&D lags upper-middle income and high-income countries such as China, Israel, and the U.S. However, it currently underspends even relative to its income level. In fact, in 2015, there was a sizeable decline in R&D spending even as GDP per capita continued to rise,” the EAC report notes.

Serious flaws detected in payment of maternity benefit scheme

  • One in three Aadhaar-based payments for the Centre’s maternity benefit scheme, or PradhanMantriMatruVandanaYojana (PMMVY), was credited to a wrong bank account, according to a progress report on PoshanAbhiyaan (Nutrition Mission) released by the NITI Aayog on Saturday.
  • The report says a telephone survey of 5,525 beneficiaries, conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, revealed that only 60% were aware of the receipt of the benefits and the bank accounts to which the money was transferred.
  • Under the PMMVY, pregnant women and lactating mothers receive ₹5,000 for their first child in three instalments. Each tranche is released upon the beneficiaries meeting some conditions. The money is meant to compensate women for loss of wages, and is aimed at ensuring a healthy nutritional development of the newborn.
  • The NITI Aayog has called for “simplification in documentation and operational rules” to avoid delays. It has proposed to “rationalise” the mandatory waiting period of 180 days before the second instalment is released as well as the compulsory birth certificate for the release of the third instalment.
  • It calls for the training of auxiliary midwives who fill up the mother-child protection card and data entry operators.
  • This is the second report released by the government on the implementation of PoshanAbhiyaan. It scores the States and Union Territories to measure their readiness to execute the programme across four themes: governance and institutional mechanism; strategy and planning; service delivery and capacities; and programme activities and intervention coverage. The States were divided into large and small categories for a better comparison.
  • Among the 19 large States, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh scored the top three ranks, followed by Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. All these States had an implementation score of over 70%. Karnataka, Assam and Kerala were at the bottom, with a score below 55%.


Finance ministry suggest need to enhance global risk monitoring

  • Finance Minister NirmalaSitharaman on Saturday emphasised on the need to enhance global risk monitoring and explore the scope for policy co-ordination to deal with such risks.
  • Speaking at the G-20 Finance Ministers and central bank governors meeting in Riyadh, she called upon all member countries to enhance their efforts aimed at empowering women, youth and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
  • A tweet by the Finance Ministry said that the Finance Minister had called upon the G20 to enhance global risk monitoring and explore the scope for policy co-ordination to deal with such global risks.
  • It added that she had also emphasised that growing inequality had slowed down the pace of inter-generational mobility globally. She pointed out that identifying the causes and developing solutions require coordinated policy solutions, the tweet said.
  • Ms.Sitharaman held bilateral talks with her counterparts from other countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development officials on the sidelines of the G20 event.
  • U.S surpasses China to become top business partner
  • The United States has surpassed China to become India's top trading partner. According to the Commerce Ministry data, the bilateral trade between the US and India stood at nearly 88 billion dollars in 2018-19 fiscal. During the period, India's trade with China was at 87.1 billion dollars.
  • Similarly, during April-December 2019-20, the bilateral trade between the US and India stood at 68 billion dollars against a nearly 65 billion dollars trade with China in the same period.
  • America is one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. On the other hand, India has a huge trade deficit with China. In 2018-19, India has a trade surplus of 16.9 billion dollars with America, while it has a deficit of 53.6 billion dollars with the neighbouring country. The data showed that China was India's top trading partner since 2013-14 till 2017-18.

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Conservatives claim victory in Iran general elections

  • In Iran, conservatives have claimed victory in a general election marked by the lowest turnout since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. 
  • Interior Ministry announced results of 95 per cent of the 208 constituencies in Friday's election. It declared the names of the winning candidates but without specifying their political affiliation.
  • Conservative candidates have secured at least 219 seats in the 290-strong parliament, also known as the Majlis. 17 women were elected, the same number as in the outgoing 290-seat parliament. 
  • Interior Minister AbdolrezaRahmaniFazli announced that 42.6 per cent voters took part in the polling which is the lowest in four decades. 
  • A low participation had been widely forecast, as a conservative-dominated electoral watchdog disqualified about half of the 16,000-odd candidates, mostly moderates and reformists.

Italy brings in extraordinary measures to tackle corona virus

  • In Italy, the government has introduced extraordinary measures to tackle the spread of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the emergency plan late yesterday as the number of confirmed cases rose to 79. 
  • The measures were imposed after two Italian citizens were confirmed to have died from the virus. Italy on Friday became the first country in Europe to report the death of one of its own nationals from the virus in Veneto. A 77-year-old woman died yesterday near the small town of Codogno in Lombardy.
  • A dozen towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto have been effectively quarantined under the plan. Around 50,000 people from towns in two northern regions have been asked to stay at home by authorities.
  • Since December, COVID-19 has killed more than 2,200 people in China, the epicentre of the virus.


Climate experts claim longer monsoons in Sunderbans

  • The monsoon in Sunderbans is likely to last longer and get more intense, according to a fact sheet titled The Sunderbans and Climate Change, which was made public during the ongoing Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.
  • Conversely, drought conditions will also become more pronounced, presenting further challenges for agricultural producers in particular and ecosystems in general, said the document released during the Conference of Parties being held at Gujarat.
  • The document highlights the need for "long term coastal planning to ensure that these critically important intertidal habitats with their unique flora and fauna and local inhabitants have a space to retreat inland". The paper also points out that the habitat of the Bengal tiger (Pantheratigristigris) in the Sunderbans is also affected by the storm due to a decline in the availability of prey.
  • While the fact sheet puts the rise in the sea level at 3.2 mm per year currently, it states that an estimated rise of 28 cm above the sea levels registered in the year 2000 would result in a 96 % decline of the habitat of the Bengal tiger in Bangladesh.
  • The fact sheet points out that large parts of Sunderbans, which are designated as ‘Ramsar Sites’, are highly susceptible to flooding.
  • “Due to this, any swelling of ocean water is going to dramatically affect the area. Although mangroves are somewhat resistant to submersion in water, they can die when tidal inundation occurs too frequently or lasts too long,” the document stated.


Indian grandmaster D Gukesh wins Cannes open

  • In Chess, India's 13-year old Grandmaster D Gukesh emerged champion in the 34th Cannes Open in France. Gukesh defeated HarutyunBargseghyan of the host nation in the final round to end with 7.5 points. 
  • Gukesh, who last year became the world's second youngest Grandmaster ever, beat the Frenchman in 50 moves to emerge clear winner on Saturday.
  • The Tamil Nadu player had last week won his first open tournament, bagging top honors in the Hillerod 110th Anniversary Open event in Denmark.He remained unbeaten in the tournament and posted wins over top-seeded ChongshengZeng of China and Bargseghyan among others.

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