Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 22 MARCH 2019

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 22 MARCH 2019


Despite CIC order, political parties not complying with RTI

  •  In a time of deep political polarisation, refusing to comply with the RTI Act seems to be one of the few issues that has united national parties across the ideological spectrum.
  •  Despite a June 2013 ruling from the Central Information Commission (CIC) that they fall within the ambit of the transparency law, parties insist that they cannot be considered public authorities under the Act.
  •  Six years on, with another LokSabha election in the offing, the Supreme Court is set to adjudicate on the issue, with a petition filed jointly by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal coming up for hearing on March 26.
  •  “We are in favour of transparency, but we don’t get any government funding, so how can we be considered public authorities under the Act,” said D. Raja, RajyaSabha MP. He added that internal discussions of the party could not be made public. “With regard to finances, we have nothing to hide. We provide information to the Election Commission and the Income Tax authorities,” he said.
  •  The issue goes back to October 2010, when ADR filed an RTI request seeking information on donations and contributions received by political parties. Of the six parties then recognised by the Election Commission as national parties, only one, the CPI, accepted that it was a public authority under the Act.
  •  ADR complained to the CIC, the highest appellate body under the RTI Act.In June 2013, a full bench of the CIC ruled that the national parties are public authorities under Section 2(h) of the Act, and directed them to make voluntary disclosures, appoint public information officers and respond to RTI applications.

IWDRI workshop on disaster management concludes

  •  The two-day International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) successfully concluded here . Experts from 33 countries representing a wide variety of development and disaster risk contexts, multilateral development banks, the United Nations, the private sector, academia, policy think tanks and other stakeholders participated in the workshop.
  •  The Workshop identified good practices of disaster risk management in key infrastructure sectors such as Transport, Energy, Telecom and Water. It also discussed emerging technologies and nature-based innovation in the context of climate change and its impact on creation, operation and maintenance of infrastructure.
  •  The need and practical issues concerning finance and insurance for infrastructure were also discussed during the workshop.It set the stage for taking the dialogue on the proposed Coalition for DRI (CDRI) forward at the global level.
  •  The CDRI is envisaged as a knowledge exchange and capacity development partnership. India had announced the creation of a CDRI soon after the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which was held in New Delhi in 2016.
  •  Various international agreements have also reiterated the importance and long-term benefits of investing in resilient infrastructure. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), 2015-2030, which is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, identifies investing in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for resilience and to build back better in reconstruction as priorities for action towards reducing disaster risk.
  •  Similarly, Goal 9 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognizes disaster resilient infrastructure as a crucial driver of economic growth and development.


Dollar-Rupee swap decision likely to boost FPI

  •  The RBI’s decision to infuse rupee liquidity through long term foreign exchange swap, a first of its kind in liquidity management policy, is likely to boost investments by foreign portfolio investors under the voluntary retention route (VRR).
  •  The central bank will conduct dollar-rupee buy/sell swap action of $5 billion for a three-year tenor, on March 26. Such a swap route has been explored by various emerging market economies as an effective tool to manage liquidity.
  •  Apart from liquidity infusion, the move will boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves and is likely to support the exchange rate.
  •  Introduced on March 1 by RBI, the VRR for investments by foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) is subject to a minimum retention period of three years from the date of allotment.
  •  According to SoumyaKantiGhosh, Group Chief Economic Adviser, SBI, the new tool could have several implications, including lowering cost of hedging for the importers, with forward premia taking a dip.
  •  There is no liquid market for three-year forward cover. Three-year forward cover is not easily available in the market and here, RBI is providing that cover and the premium could be lower. And the premium will be market determined.
  •  “Also, this move will complement the recently announced VRR route, wherein the stated objective of the regulator is to attract long-term and stable FPI investments in the debt market while providing FPIs with operational flexibility to manage their investments,” Mr. Ghosh said.

Jet airways to cut more domestic flights

  •  After pulling out of Abu Dhabi, Manchester and Hong Kong over the past 48 hours, Jet Airways on Thursday slashed its domestic schedule by cutting departures from Delhi to all metro cities, except Mumbai.
  •  A look at the schedules from Delhi showed that, on Thursday, there were no domestic departures to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata. The cash-strapped airline has also stopped accepting bookings for the Mumbai-Hong Kong flight beyond March 22. The Delhi-Hong Kong service was cancelled overnight.
  •  The NareshGoyal-led Jet is facing its worst financial crisis, with debt exceeding $1 billion. The carrier, which is struggling to stay aloft, has delayed payments to banks, suppliers, and aircraft lessors resulting in some of them moving to terminate lease deals and take back their aircraft.
  •  At Chennai, 16 departures were cancelled. Of the four flights that operated, 3 were to Mumbai and one to Paris. From Hyderabad, two flights were operated to Mumbai, compared with the 6 departures it normally operates. In Kolkata, 8 out of 10 departures were cancelled, with just one each to Guwahati and Mumbai taking off.
  •  Flights to airports like Mangalore, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhuj, Coimbatore were not being operated, data showed.
  •  Jet’s services to Amsterdam, Paris and London have not been hit. All flights are available for booking through the entire schedule and are operating normally.

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U.S sends Pakistan notice over terror attack

  •  The United States has asked Pakistan to take sustained, verifiable and irreversible action against the perpetrators of terrorism and warned the country that another terror attack on India will prove to be “extremely problematic.”
  •  Asked about steps being taken by Pakistan after the Balakot airstrike, the official said the U.S. and the international community needed to see “irreversible and sustained” action against the terror groups. “It’s early to make a full assessment,” the official said.
  •  In the recent days, the official said, Pakistan had taken some “initial” actions. It had frozen the assets of some terror groups and made some arrests. It had taken administrative control of some of the JeM facilities. “But we clearly need to see more. We need to see irreversible action,” the official said.
  •  Meanwhile,The eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Wednesday offered to smoothen a bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan so that the two countries can resolve their differences, following last month’s terror attack in Kashmir.
  •  At his first press conference after taking over as the SCO Secretary-General, Vladimir Norov offered “mediation,” to support direct talks between both countries. He said the SCO member-states were ready “to offer mediation as there is an intention [by India and Pakistan] to resolve the differences in a bilateral format”.

EU agrees to extend Brexit beyond March deadline

  •  European Union leaders have agreed on a plan to delay the Article 50 process, postponing Brexit beyond 29 March. The United Kingdom will be offered a delay until May 22, if MPs approve the withdrawal deal negotiated with the European Union next week.
  •  After a meeting, the EU said Britain could postpone its departure until May 22 if the UK Parliament approves Prime Minister Theresa May's divorce deal with the bloc next week.
  •  In a press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk said that Mrs May has accepted an offer of two options for short delays to the date of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.
  •  Meanwhile, a petition started just on Wednesday, following her comments, calling for Article 50 to be revoked and for the U.K. to remain in the EU rapidly gained thousands of signatories, with the website crashing at one point because of the activity. By early afternoon on Thursday, signatories had crossed 9,00,000. The petitions committee said that nearly 2,000 signatures were being added each minute.
  •  Public pressure for the government to either revoke Article 50 or hold a referendum has continued to grow amid concern that the conditions under which the EU are set to offer the U.K. an extension to Article 50 to avoid crashing out of the EU are impossible to fulfil.


Indigenous bridge inducted into the Army

  •  In another inspring example of indigenisation of defence equipment, 5 Metre Short Span Bridge was formally handed over to the Indian Army in a ceremony at the Talegaon facility of Larsen & Toubro Limited.
  •  The Bridge is indigenously designed & developed and is the result of close coordination between the Corps of Engineers and the DRDO laboratory at Pune R&DE (Engineers).
  •  The equipment has been manufactured by Larsen & Toubro Limited and has been delivered three months ahead of schedule. All stakeholders have put in concerted efforts to overcome challenges and realise the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government, which aims to ensure self sufficiency in our defence needs.
  •  The Bridge will meet the important requirement of providing mobility to own forces by speedy establishment of bridges. The Bridge is one of the numerous indigenous projects of Corps of Engineers which have made significant progress and are nearing induction and will soon join the units of Corps of Engineers.


Olympic torch for 2020 unveiled

  •  Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics today unveiled a cherry-blossom shaped torch for the Games as the city prepares for the famed flower season to begin in coming days.
  •  The top part of the torch is shaped in the traditional emblem of the sakura, or cherry blossom using the same cutting-edge technology as in production of Japan's bullet trains, the organisers said.
  •  Fukushima was chosen as the starting point for the Olympic torch relay. The passing of the flame is scheduled to start on March 26, 2020, and the torch will head south to the sub-tropical island of Okinawa the starting point for the 1964 Tokyo Games relay before returning north and arriving in the Japanese capital on July 10.

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