Current Affairs Analysis

18th January 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Indo-Japanese joint exercise ‘Sahyog-Kaijin’ counducted; Blcokchain CoE; Blockchain technology; Z- Morh Tunnel; How are race and ethnicity defined under the US Census? Biggest airborne exercise ‘Winged Raider’ conducted; Integrated Battle Groups (IBG); ‘Development Support Services to States for Infrastructure Projects (D3S-i)’; ‘The Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics’ report; Project 39A of NLU; Australian Bushfires; etc.
By IASToppers
January 27, 2020

Contents

Social Issues

  • Death sentence for rape-murder in 2019 highest in 4 years: NLU report

Economy

  • India needs structural reforms to boost growth: UN Report
  • MoU between NITI Aayog and Ladakh for Development of Infrastructure Projects
  • Govt awards over Rs 2000 cr for completing Z Morh tunnel

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Australian Bushfires

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Sikhs to Be Counted as a Distinct Ethnic Group in 2020 US Census

Defence & Security Issues

  • Biggest airborne exercise ‘Winged Raider’ conducted
  • Indo-Japanese joint exercise ‘Sahyog-Kaijin’ counducted

Science & Technology

  • India launches centre of excellence in blockchain technology

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Integrated Battle Groups (IBG)

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Social Issues

Death sentence for rape-murder in 2019 highest in 4 years: NLU report

A report ‘The Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics’ published by Project 39A of National Law University (NLU) says that the higher number of death sentences awarded in India in recent years relate to cases of sexual offences.

Death sentence for rape-murder in 2019 highest in 4 NLU report

Highlights of the report

  • The number of death sentences awarded for murders involving sexual offences in 2019 was at the highest in four years.

criminal-justicejpg

  • The trial courts in India imposed 102 death sentences in 2019, a significant drop from 162 death sentences in 2018.
  • However, the percentage of sexual offences in these cases increased from 41.35 (67 out of 162) in 2018 to 52.94 in 2019 (54 out of 102 sentences).
  • This trend was also seen at the High Court’s where 65.38% (17 out of 26) cases of confirmations of death sentences involved sexual offences along with murder, the highest in four years.
  • The Supreme Court (SC) in 2019 dealt with 27 capital punishment cases, highest number since 2001, primarily under former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s tenure. The reason could be linked to the priority given to such cases by CJI.
  • The SC last year confirmed the death penalty of seven cases out of which four were of murder involving sexual offences. It commuted a total of 17 cases of death penalty.
  • The report observed that amendment to The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, introducing stringent mandatory minimum punishments and death penalty for penetrative sexual assault on children was a major development in this direction.

Project 39A of NLU

  • Project 39A is inspired by Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, a provision that furthers the intertwined values of equal justice and equal opportunity by removing economic and social barriers.

Project 39A of NLU

  • Using empirical research to re-examine practices and policies in the criminal justice system, Project 39A aims to trigger new conversations on legal aid, torture, DNA forensics, mental health in prisons, and the death penalty.              
  • Researching the criminal justice system often forces to confront harsh individual and systemic realities and issues of legal representation and intervention also lie at the core of Project 39A’s mandate.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Economy

India needs structural reforms to boost growth: UN Report

In the face of an economic slowdown, India needs to continue structural reforms necessary to boost growth, said a United Nations report.

ezgif.com-webp-to-jpg (3)

Highlights of the report

Specific to India

  • The title of the report was ‘World Economic Situation and Prospects 2020 (WESP)’.

ezgif.com-webp-to-jpg (4)

  • The report expressed hope for consumption boost through combination of fiscal stimulus and financial sector reforms but it lowered India’s GDP growth estimate.
  • India may be among a few countries where the per capita GDP growth rate could exceed 4 per cent level in 2020.

Global Scenario

  • East Asia remains the world’s fastest-growing region and the largest contributor to global growth.
  • The report noted the shift in global economic decision-making power from the EU, the US and other developed countries towards China, India and other developing countries.
  • one in five countries will see per capita income stagnate or decline this year.
  • there could be setbacks for sustainable development if prolonged weakness in global economic activity continues and this may further impact the goals to eradicate poverty and create decent jobs for all.
  • In the European Union will see a modest rise in GDP growth from 1.4 per cent in 2019 to 1.6 per cent in 2020.
  • In China, GDP growth is projected to moderate gradually from 6.1 per cent in 2019 to 6.0 per cent in 2020 and 5.9 per cent in 2021.
  • Climate change risks and its impact on the economy and livelihood of people featured prominently in the report.
  • Extreme events that once were considered remote tail risks, such as hurricanes, flooding and droughts, have become much more probable, with potentially catastrophic outcomes.
[Ref: The Indian Express]

 

MoU between NITI Aayog and Ladakh for Development of Infrastructure Projects

To promote the development of key infrastructure sectors in the newly constituted Union Territory of Ladakh, NITI Aayog entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UT’s administration on 17 January 2020.

NITI Aayog and Ladakh Union Territory

  • Under this MoU, NITI Aayog will be supporting the UT’s administration through its key initiative ‘Development Support Services to States for Infrastructure Projects (D3S-i)’.

About Development Support Services for States/UTs (DSSS) for Infrastructure Projects

  • NITI Aayog has been implementing this initiative.
  • The vision of the initiative is to achieve transformational, sustained delivery of infrastructure projects with state of art capacity disseminated at all levels of governance.
  • The key objective behind the objective is creating PPP success stories and rebooting infrastructure project delivery models so a sustainable infrastructure creation cycle is established.
  • The DSSS Infrastructure initiative involves providing project level support from Concept plan till financial closure to State Governments / UTs. 
  • NITI Aayog has appointed M/s Ernst & Young LLP (EYLLP) as its consultant to formalize the initiative and to engage with states to identify a project shortlist and providing transaction management for implementing selected infrastructure projects on ground.
  • Phase I of the initiative was completed in FY 2018, wherein 10 projects were selected from out of over 400 projects received from States based on a multi-staged project selection framework based on certain selection criteria.
  • Phase II of the initiative was completed during 2018- 19 and the selected projects have progressed onto the transaction stage.
  • As part of Phase II, the project preparation activities and implementation planning were carried out.
  • Under DSSS Infrastructure, mandate for additional seven island projects was given to EY LLP (Consultant) for Phase III milestones. 
[Ref: PIB, NITI Aayog]

 

Govt awards over Rs 2000 cr for completing Z Morh tunnel

A Concession Agreement for completing the 6.5-kilometre long Z-Morh tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir was signed.

Govt awards over Rs 2000 cr for completing Z Morh tunnel.

About the Agreement

  • Under the agreement, the two-lane bi-directional tunnel with parallel escape tunnel will be completed in 3.5 years at a cost of 2379 Crore rupees. 
  • The project includes construction, operation and maintenance of the tunnel with approaches on NH-1 at Srinagar-Sonmarg-Gumri Road from 61 kilometres to 89.30 kilometres on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) Annuity basis.

About Z- Morh Tunnel

  • The tunnel length is 6.5 km.
  • Z-Morh Tunnel will provide all-weather road connectivity to Sonmarg tourist spot in Jammu and Kashmir. 
  • The tunnel gets its name from its Z formation between Sonamarg and Gagangir.
  • Along with Zozi-la Tunnel, the Z- Morh Tunnel will ensure year-long road connectivity between Srinagar and Kargil.
[Ref: All India Radio]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Australian Bushfires

Australia was recently ravaged by the worst wildfires seen in decades, with large swaths of the country devastated since the fire season began.

Australian Bushfires

[For all about Australian Bushfires, read IASToppers’ Current Affairs Analysis of 5th & 6th January 2020 at https://www.iastoppers.com/5th-6th-january-2020-current-affairs-analysis-iastoppers/]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

Sikhs to Be Counted as a Distinct Ethnic Group in 2020 US Census

Sikhs in the US will be counted as a separate ethnic group for the first time in the 2020 census.

Sikhs in the US will be counted as a separate ethnic group in the 2020 census for the first time.

  • United Sikhs, the organisation that has spearheaded the demand for inclusion as a separate ethnic group, called the decision “historic”.

What is the issue?

  • For over two decades, the United Sikha has advocated for a separate coding for Sikhs and has filed commentary with the US Federal Register asking for Sikhs to be added as an ethnic group.
  • It would address major Sikh issues such as bullying, intimidation and hate crimes against the community.
  • With a distinct unified appearance, culture, language, food and history, Sikhs fulfilled the criteria for representation in the US Census as a distinct ethnic group.
  • US authority said that this was necessary to recognise the unique identity of Sikhs and institute a separate code to ensure that an accurate count of Sikhs in the US.

How are race and ethnicity defined under the US Census?

  • The US Census Bureau considers race and ethnicity as two distinct and separate concepts.
  • According to the US Census Bureau website, it adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards on race and ethnicity.

the 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards on race and ethnicity

  • There are five broad categories under which race is categorised. These are White, Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
  • The racial categories included in the census questionnaire reflect “a social definition of race recognised in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.”
  • Ethnicity determines whether a person is of Hispanic origin or not. For consideration under the US Census, ethnicity is broken down into two categories: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino.

How are ethnic groups classified in the US

Benefits of this move:

  • Ensure an accurate count of Sikhs in the United States.
  • Help in tracking and measuring hate crimes against the community.
  • Ensure an equal and accurate representation of Sikhs.
  • Useful in providing access to members of Congress and other essential government services for the needs of the community.

Are there other such demands?

  • Apart from the US, Sikhs in Britain have also demanded inclusion as a separate ethnic group.
  • In November 2019, British Sikhs took the government to court over the “unlawful” refusal to treat them as a separate ethnic group.
  • It is estimated that there are over 800,000 Sikhs in the UK.
  • Furthermore, Sikhs are one of the fastest-growing religious minorities in New Zealand, where they are considered to be a distinct ethnic group.
[Ref: Indian Express, The Wire]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Biggest airborne exercise ‘Winged Raider’ conducted

The Indian Army conducted its biggest airborne exercise called the ‘Winged Raider’ comprising of more than 500 special forces troops in the North –Eastern theatre.

Winged Raider

About the ‘Winged Raider’ exercise

  • The exercise conducted on January 10 had over 500 soldiers of the Special Forces parachuting from C-130 Hercules and C-17 globemaster transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force, besides Dhruv helicopters during the day and night.
  • Exercise Winged Raider demonstrated the operational readiness of Indian Paratroopers and Air Warriors to undertake airborne missions.
  • The exercises indicate the shift in the army’s focus towards the frontier with China.

 [Ref: The Economic Times]

 

Indo-Japanese joint exercise ‘Sahyog-Kaijin’ counducted

Indian and Japanese coast guards participated in a joint exercise ‘Sahyog-Kaijin’ on January 16 off Chennai coast.

‘Sahyog-Kaijin’

About Sahyog – Kaijin

  • A joint coast guard exercise between India and Japan.
  • The aim behind ‘Sahyog-Kaijin’ is to strengthen the bond between the two countries.
  • One ship of the Japanese Coast Guard and four ships and an aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard participated in the joint exercise.
  • The drill is a five-day event.
  • It is the part of the cooperative arrangements between two Coast Guards for the last 15 years.
  • It is also as part of the memorandum on cooperation (MoC) signed between the two countries in 2006.
  • It is a biennial bilateral exercise held once in two years.
[Ref: The Economic Times]

 

Science & Technology

India launches centre of excellence in blockchain technology

Recently, National Informatics Centre (NIC) set up the centre of excellence (CoE) in blockchain technology in Bengaluru, Karnataka.

Block-Chain-Technology

About the Blcokchain CoE

  • The centre aims to provide blockchain as a service and allow all stakeholders to benefit from shared learning, experiences, and resources.

THE BLCOKCHAIN COE

  • It was launched by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • The centre will facilitate government departments to build proofs-of-concept for uses of blockchain technology in different dimensions of governance, which will lead to the large-scale deployment of tech-based applications. NIC provides a robust and agile infrastructure for that.
  • It will also provide blockchain as a service (BaaS) for the efficient hosting of blockchain networks.

About Blockchain

  • Blockchain is a chain of blocks in which blocks comprises of digital information and chain is referred to the public database.

What are Blockchains

  • Blocks have three parts which are made up of digital information:
  1. Blocks store information about transactions like the date, time, and dollar amount of the most recent purchase.
  2. Blocks store information about who is participating in transactions.
  3. Blocks store information that distinguishesthem from other blocks. Each block stores a unique code called a “hash” that allows us to tell it apart from every other block.
  • A single block on the blockchain can actuallystore up to 1 MB of data.

How does it work?

  • Blockchain consists of multiple blocks strung together. 
  • When a block stores new data it is added to the blockchain and when that new block is added to the blockchain, it becomes publicly available for anyone to view.
  • Anyone can view the contents of the blockchain, but users can also opt to connect their computers to the blockchain network.
  • The computer receives a copy of the blockchain that is updated automatically whenever a new block is added.
  • With blockchain, there isn’t a single, definitive account of events that can be manipulated. It means once a block is added to the blockchain it becomes very difficult to edit and impossible to delete.
  • Although transactions on the blockchain are not completely anonymous, personal information about users is limited to their digital signature or username.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

Integrated Battle Groups (IBG)

  • The IBG comprises an integrated mix of infantry, tanks, artillery, air defence, signals and logistics.

Integrated Battle Groups (IBG)

  • In October, 2019, the Indian Army carried out Exercise ‘Him Vijay’ under the 17 Corps in Arunachal Pradesh to test its new fighting concept of IBG.
  • This restructure in combat tactics has been tested to meet emerging threat matrix and challenges in India’s Eastern Sector. Therefore, the forward air bases have been built to check any hostile intent.

 

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