Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 30 December 2020
Over 4,000 left-wing extremists have surrendered in three States
- Over 4,000 left-wing extremists (LWEs) have laid down their arms in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh in the past seven years, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
- In response to an RTI the MHA said as many as 4,122 extremists had surrendered in the three States, which share borders, between 2014 and 2020.
- The outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) has been active in the border areas of these States.
- Of those who surrendered, 3,185 returned to the mainstream in Chhattisgarh, while Andhra Pradesh and Odisha recorded 617 and 320 surrenders respectively.
- 656 LWEs were killed in encounters with security forces in the three States. Chhattisgarh continued to be the worst-affected, as far as encounters between security forces and ultras are concerned.
- 533 extremists were killed in Chhattisgarh in the past seven years, followed by 105 in Odisha and 18 in Andhra Pradesh. In 2016, Chhattisgarh recorded killings of 135 ultras, the highest single-year mortality.
- Incidentally, not a single casualty was reported on the part of LWEs in Andhra Pradesh in 2020. While 31 ultras were killed in Chhattisgarh, 13 died in Odisha.
AB-PMJAY SEHAT scheme
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Saturday launch the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) SEHAT scheme for the residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The scheme will benefit as many as 21 lakh eligible people on the basis of Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011.
- The beneficiaries will get the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) as per the SECC 2011database.
- It would operate on insurance mode in convergence with PM-JAY and would be portable across India.
- PM-JAY is the world's largest health insurance scheme fully financed by the Centre which provides a cover ofRs 5 lakh per family annually for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.
- Ayushman Bharat program (two pillars: Health and Wellness Centres and PM-JAY) is envisaged to achieveUniversal Health Coverage (UHC).
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Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
- The Turkish parliament passed a bill that would increase the monitoring of civil society groups.
- The act is called “Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction” and was proposed by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development party in order to comply with UN Security Council’s recommendations to keep terror financing and money laundering in check.
- Critics are seeing certain provisions of the bill as arbitrary and believe that it violates the provisions under the Turkish constitution since it interferes with the right to freedom of association.
What does the Bill say?
- The Bill has come following the 2019 report on Turkey prepared by the intergovernmental body Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meant to fight money laundering and terror financing.
- The bill consists of 43 articles and has made changes to seven laws on Turkey’s Law of Associations and is meant to keep Turkey from being blacklisted by the Paris-based watchdog of terror financing.
- The FATF is an inter-governmental body that is now in its 30th year, working to “set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system”.
What are the implications of the Bill being passed?
- The Bill gives the Turkish government the power to appoint trustees to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to suspend their activities, seize their assets and monitor their sources of funding.
- Critics and human rights activists are seeing this move as a way to crackdown on dissidents in a country where civil society is already not very free.
Tremors felt across Croatia at 6.3 magnitude level
- Croatia suffered its worst earthquake in 140 years — for the second time in 2020 — with the tremor killing at least seven people, devastating the city at its epicenter and rattling Europeans as far away as Rome and Vienna.
- Measured at 6.3 by the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre on Tuesday, it was more powerful than both a 5.2 quake on Monday and a similar-sized tremor that caused $6 billion in damage when it hit the capital of Zagreb in March.
- The earthquake brought down buildings near its epicenter in the town of Petrinja, killing seven people, deputy Prime Minister Davor Bozinovic told state TV. Among the dead were a girl who was about 13 years old and a father and son.
Maintaining 4% Inflation Appropriate for India: RBI Paper
- According to Reserve Bank recommendation, maintaining 4 per cent inflation is appropriate for India as targeting a lower rate could impart deflationary bias to the monetary policy.
- Under the current dispensation, the RBI has been mandated by the government to maintain retail inflation at 4 per cent with a margin of 2 per cent on either side.
- The paper, authored by RBI Deputy Governor Michael Debabrata Patra and another official Harendra Kumar Behera, has found a steady decline in trend inflation to 4.1-4.3 per cent since 2014.
- A target set too below the trend imparts a deflationary bias to monetary policy because it will go into overkill relative to what the economy can intrinsically bear in order to achieve the target.
- A target that is fixed above-trend renders monetary policy too expansionary and prone to inflationary shocks and unanchored expectations. Hence, maintaining the inflation target at 4 per cent is appropriate for India.
- Section 45ZA of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 mandates that the Central Government shall, in consultation with the Bank, determine the inflation target once in every five years.
- The paper notes that estimating trend inflation with regular updates is important for the formulation of monetary policy, irrespective of the country setting.
- In India, this exercise acquires priority in the context of the flexible inflation targeting formally instituted in June 2016, which commits the central bank – the RBI – to a consumer price inflation target of 4 per cent with a symmetrical tolerance band of +/- 2 per cent around it.
- The inflation target has to be reviewed by end-March 2021. In this context, trend inflation provides the metric to gauge the appropriate level of the target going forward.
Science and Technology
5% of COVID-19 cases to be tested for genome sequence
- National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19, has concluded that while there was no need to change the existing treatment protocol in view of the mutations emerging in the SARS-CoV-2 strain, 5% of the positive cases from all the States and Union Territories would now be sent for whole genome sequencing (WGS).
- The NTF also recommended the setting up of a ‘Genomic Surveillance Consortium’ (INSACOG) to map the various strains circulating in India.
- Only those testing negative in the RT-PCR test are permitted to exit the airports.
- The NTF recommended that in addition to the existing surveillance strategies, it is critical to conduct enhanced genomic surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 specially in incoming passengers from the U.K.
- The meeting was convened to discuss evidence-based modifications in testing, treatment and surveillance strategies with the emergence of the new virus variant in the U.K.
- The Ministry noted that the variant has 14 non-synonymous (amino acid altering) mutations, 6 synonymous (non amino-acid altering), and 3 deletions.
- Eight mutations are present in the Spike (S) gene which carries the binding site (Receptor Binding Domain) of the ACE2 receptors, which are the point of entry of the virus into the human respiratory cells.
- NTF recommended that in addition to the existing surveillance strategies, it is critical to conduct enhanced genomic surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 specially in incoming passengers from UK.
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- PCT is the percentage of points won out of total number of points contested. For example, India are playing a four-Test series in Australia and the two teams are contesting for 120 points. For a four-Test series, points allotted per Test are 30, 15 and 10 for a win, tie and draw respectively.
- The series is tied at 1-1 at the moment which means that both Australia and India have secured 25 per cent each of the total points on offer.
Why is PCT so important?
- Last month, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Cricket Committee headed by Anil Kumble decided to make the Covid-forced cancelled matches null and void and determine the WTC league standings only from the matches played.
- Under the changed system, the WTC league standings are being determined by the percentage of points earned instead of absolute points, with top two teams qualifying for the final.
- The current WTC cycle ends on March 31, 2021 followed by the final in June.